Be Prepared

I’m not so sure this was a riot. For me, a riot should involve tear gas and fire. Which we may still see if – as I suspect he will – President Bush turns aside British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s entreaties to reduce Africa’s debt.
No, I’d say yesterday’s Edinburgh street-scuffle was your average Euro-student protest summertime run-in with the cops. But Josh Trevino, in search of a Wifi connection stumbled right into it. Actually, Josh was looking for a Starbucks but as any San Franciscan can tell you – we may be the only city in America that has breathing self-proclaimed anarchists still roaming the streets – anarchists love to trash Starbucks and Mickie Dee’s. It’s their hobby.
In any event, Josh’s posts from Scotland – as always – are well worth your time. To quote Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
And check out the picture of the horses in riot gear. This is now my screensaver, I love this photo so much. The Boy Scouts got nothing on the Scottish police.
Here’s another great photo to warm my old news hound’s heart: Riot cops at the ready with the nonplussed Scot in the background.

Supreme Bank Shots

Judge Janice Rogers Brown may have one of the shortest Appellate Court tenures on record. Barely confirmed to a seat on the D.C. Circuit by the U.S. Senate last month as part of the filibuster deal, Brown’s name is showing up with some regularity on the list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
It’s a good bet she’ll get the nod. Brown is conservative and she’s an African American. That doesn’t make it hard for Liberals to object to her legal opinions but it makes it hard for Democrats in the U.S. Senate to vote against her. Brown’s nomination would also take pressure off the Bush administration – losing its edge with women voters – to keep at least two women on the court.
The public signs are good for Brown, too. Her name was floated last week by Jay Sekulow, head of the conservative American Center For Law and Justice in Atlanta. Even he admitted that Justice Sandra Day O’Conner’s resignation from the court has uh, kind of surprised everyone and that, with “reality setting in” woman judges would advance up the list of nominees. Brown’s name showed up front and center in the Wall Street Journal’s early rundown. When you consider that it’s a woman lawyer making the list, it’s looking safer and safer for Brown.

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What’s He’s Looking For

The president’s on vacation so maybe that’s it. But is there some reason no one in the Bush administration has said “boo” about the approaching G8 Summit?
British Prime Minster Tony Blair can’t shut up. If it’s not African debt relief – the focus of the conference, courtesy of Bono and Bob Geldof – he’s talking about helping the Chinese and Indians better manage auto emissions. Yes, he’s hosting and yes, it’s an extension of “Cool Britannia” and yeah, this one’s for the history books. But there’s something else going on here. The Brits are winning the political PR war and, to some extent, they’re doing it by imitating the tried and true U.S. approach to solving problems. First, they’ve racheted up the high-minded rhetoric.
All the Bush folks want to talk about is the “last throes” of the Iraqi resistance, a clear piece of wishing aloud as you’re liable to see in public these days. They’ll fill your ears with talk about the administration’s AIDs relief efforts, too. But that’s about it. They’re saving their energy for the war on terror; a semi-permanent state of world affairs that’s not going to be changed anytime soon and which most Europeans – particularly the English and the Irish who haven’t forgotten the IRA – see as a regrettable fact of modern life.

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Rattle and Hum

Those of you with Geek tendencies may have noticed two things – not unrelated – about this site in the past few days. One, I haven’t written much and two, there’s another writer’s name appearing on the RSS feed for Politics From Left to Right.
As I said, not unrelated. I’ve made several references in the past few months to the work we’re doing here behind the “magic curtain.” Well, it’s time to raise it a bit.
Please welcome Josh Trevino to Politics From Left to Right. Josh knows how to make an entrance: he is one of a handful of writers or bloggers going to Edinburgh, Scotland today to cover Live8 at the G8, the International Media Extravaganza of the Summer. Our pals at Technorati hooked us up. So we thank Mr. Sifry and Mr. Hirshberg.
Josh started his on-line career as the pro-Iraqi war blogger Tacitus and was one of the co-founders of He thinks Ronald Reagan is one of our greatest presidents. He’s conservative, anti-abortion and thought Congress did the right thing in the Terri Schiavo case. In short, there’s almost nothing about which Josh and I agree politically.
But here’s what matters: He writes honestly and well; he is smart and sincere. His coverage of the events in Scotland – he started yesterday with a good, solid post about the purpose of these sort of mega-events — is both smart, original and dead-on. Josh has traveled extensively in Africa as part of his work in public health so he doesn’t just know the issues, he’s seen them first hand. Oh, and did I mention that he’s not much on movie stars?
Josh will be filing through the week and I can’t wait.

A Loud Silence

Last week, in the debate over Microsoft’s involvement in China and its decision to work with the Chinese government to censor some aspects of the web logs put up by customers, Robert Scoble made one of the more techy-boneheaded comments I’ve ever seen.
Scoble, who runs Microsoft’s “official” blog and has visited China where, he said, he was assured by a group of Chinese that they have no need for the Western concept of “freedom of speech.”
In the words of former CNN’s former Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon: Horseshit.
Today’s New York Times brings us even more evidence of the accuracy of MacKinnon’s insight. A story about a teacher who allegedly raped 26 of his female pupils contains this chilling paragraph:

It is the sort of horrific case that in many countries would be a national scandal but in China has disappeared into the muffled silence of state censorship. That silence matches the silence at the heart of the case: the fact that students considered a teacher so powerful that they did not dare speak out.

That’s freedom of speech, Chinese-style: Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Things We Knew: CA Politics Edition

Here’s a run-down of stuff that’s in the news that you, dear readers, have already seen and which, in the interest of, er, blatent self-promotion and subscriber loyalty, are worth pointing out.
Steve Westly is running for California governor and no less an authority than celebrity Republican Dan Schnur notes that Westly’s attempt to capture the political middle ground is great for the general election but probably not that great for the Democratic primary. Dan’s a regular reader – or he says he is, anyway – and it shows, huh?
Sen. Deb Ortiz has lost her show-down with the stem cell folks at the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine but the stem cell folks have decided to um, give careful and full consideration to her comments – almost a ballot initiative – on their conflict-of-interest rules and their open meetings. Looks like someone, someplace has decided to start playing their politics a little more smartly. Finally. The last thing state Democrats needed was a show-down over stem cells which, along with the parental notification initiative expected to be on the November ballot, could have brought out a rash of conservative voters to defeat the anti-union measures designed to weaken Democrat’s strong-hold over state government.
Maybe the reason the FBI is so focused on harassing teen-agers is because the folks in charge don’t know anything about terrorism. Looks that way, no?
Salon is getting wackier and even more isolated than ever. Marc Cooper joins me in wondering what they’re drinking down on 4th Street. I’ve been wondering about the editing for a while now, ever since the site ran a breathless piece by former San Francisco Weekly writer Peter Byrne. In that story, Byrne (whom I have criticized before) repeatedly – and I think inaccurately – said that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had “invested in” Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, and that Gov. Terminator’s investment presented a conflict-of-interest with the bank’s state bond business.
I’m not so sure. It’s more likely that the governor, like a lot of wealthy men (including Steve Westly) has invested in funds, trusts, REITs and other money-making vehicles managed, run and yes, backed by the bank. That’s not the same – and it’s not the same conflict of interest — that Byrne tried to draw in his story. To my business-reporters’ eye, Byrne didn’t seem to know the difference between buying stock in the bank (from which Schwarzenegger would, in fact directly benefit if he gave Goldman the state’s bond business), investing with the bank in various vehicles it has established (a less direct involvement) and investing alongside the bank’s funds in third-party entities (even less direct). These may seem like differences without distinction to the average checking-acount Joe. But that’s exactly the point and it’s more evidence of the weak editing that Cooper is decrying on his site.
Rich folks invest their money – that’s how they stay rich and while Byrne and Salon are right to keep an eye on Schwarzenegger, that story, like the recent piece on the coming Democratic Party revival (as if) lacked any sort of substance in the laundry list of allegations. Will Byrne or Salon ask the same questions about Westly, also a Goldman Sachs client because of his status as an eBay employee – or his equally wealthy rival for the governor’s seat, Phil Angelides?
Bet they don’t.

The Great Wall of Chinese Excuses

Today’s eWeek column is about Microsoft and the bad PR it’s getting since Reporters Without Borders fingered it for co-operating with the Chinese government’s censorship efforts.
This is the latest chapter in a larger story that’s not likely to go away. Remember Nike and all those shoe factories in Indonesia that were alleged to employ children working for pennies a day? That campaign didn’t start overnight but it took the shoe company years to get past the allegations. A similar fate may well befall some well-meaning tech company.
Advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch have been critical of how tech companies conduct themselves in China. Yahoo, Google, Cisco and Sun are the ones mentioned most frequently. And you can’t really envy the Hobson’s choice they have to make here. But you do wonder where oh where the U.S. government is on these and other issues having to do with how this country deals with the Chinese. The lack of leadership – or even a decision or two – on this issue in Washington is appalling for a host of reasons.

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Skepticism, Please

For much of the last week, my local newspaper – sigh – the San Francisco Chronicle, has been dominated by headlines about the arrests of some local men accused of – but not charged with — having ties to terrorist organizations.
Not charged, just “said to have.” That’s the important part. And it makes your heart sink just reading the stories and watching the coverage particularly in this community where it’s virtually impossible to go for more than a day without meeting someone who was not born in this country. More than almost any other part of America, Northern California is filled with immigrants at all social and economic levels who – in this day of jet travel and internet-based instant communication – no longer forsake their native lands when they come here. For better or worse, and if you’re a Muslim it probably seems like worse, these immigrants integrate their two worlds.
And that, it seems, is at the root of the charges lodged against Mohammad Adil Khan, his son, Muhammad Hassan Adil and Shabbir Ahmed, all Pakistani immigrants. Two other men, Hamid Hayatt and his father, Umer, both U.S. citizens have also been arrested. The men are all residents of Lodi, a rural farming town in the northern part of the San Francisco bay area where the landscape is very much like that of Northern India: flat, with rolling tracts of farmland. It’s famous for being part of a John Fogerty lyric and, back when it was home to Italian immigrants, it was where the Mondavi family wine empire began.

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The Man Behind the Curtain

A few days ago, a local consultant here in San Francisco sent me a note. He’s been thinking: the Internet is a much “hotter” medium than TV. So the kind of people being attracted to politics aren’t the cool-headed TV-types but brawlers. The consultant was thinking of Howard Dean, of course, but also about a little round of fisticuffs that had almost broken out between one of DailyKos’s apparatchiks and Democratic Party activist Donnie Fowler.
Dean, of course, is embroiled in an argument with the Republican Party over who has more white people: Us or them. As far as I can see, politics, media and most business – most social and economic power in this country – is mostly in the hands of white folks. So I’m not exactly sure what this fight is all about or where it’s leading. But it serves as a nice prelude to another heated exchange.
It seems that The Great and Powerful Progressive Blogger Markos Moulitsas – Daily Kos to you, “media” to himself and, a bona fide jerk as far as I can tell – is threatening Carol Darr and George Washington University’s Institute for Politics Democracy and the Internet. Why? Because Darr made some typical D.C-generated “middle of the road” comments to the Federal Elections Commission about its proposed rules on campaigns, campaign finance and the Internet.
Moulitsas didn’t like what Darr said. So, of course he mocked her on his site. Then, in an email to IPDI’s annual conference director, The Great and Powerful Progressive Blogger got ugly.

Carol Darr and you guys fucked up with your FEC comments. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure you don’t get a single netroots individual at your conference next year. Just thought I’d let you know.
Have a good day.
Markos Moulitsas
Daily Kos

Oh, I can feel the hot wind of “progressive” inclusiveness, can’t you? You’re either with Kos or you’re a fuck-up. Good thing I never thought of myself as perfect, eh? Naturally, the Great and Powerful Progressive followed up with more unkind remarks about Darr – a long-time Democrat who served in the Clinton Administration – on his site. Darr’s no dummy; she forwarded the message on to the commission.
UPDATE:: The Great and Powerful Progressive has written to the commission. It is not an apology.

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Good For the Tippler, Not for the Toker

Maybe I’m missing something but didn’t the idea of “Liberal federalism” just take a hit? You know, the idea that the state can set their own (more liberal) laws, different from the feds, the idea that a lot of folks think will mean that same-sex marriages can become legal without a lot of political wailing and gnashing of teeth?
With the U.S. Supreme Court saying Monday that interstate commerce is interstate commerce, regardless if what’s being sold is legal or not, it seems to me that they haven’t left a lot of room for reconsideration on other issues that might be decided by the states. Like gay marriage. Or maybe even stem cell funding. Or, I dunno, dope smoking for sick folks. These things have become state issues because conservatives think state government is a better tactical arena for them (they’re right, by the way). Liberals like the states because they’ve gotten nowhere at the federal level on these issues.

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