Tag Archive for 'civil liberties'

In Soviet Minneapolis, a thought crime lands you in jail

Reports are pouring in from the site of the 2008 Republican National Convention that protesters are being rounded up by local law enforcement raids prior to the convention. “Anarchists” are raided, handcuffed, jailed and then released without any charges being filed. If there are charges filed, they are for things like fire code violations. That, of course, is an age old Soviet tactic for shutting up dissent.

The targets of the arrests are calling the raids as blatant attempts to intimidate and stop them from protesting during the convention. This sort of crap belongs in Soviet Russia and has no place whatsoever in the US.

It’s interesting that this is exactly the same sort of stuff that landed the NYPD and New York City in hot water during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. A Supreme Court Judge fined New York City $1,000 per detainee back then. I guess the police in Minneapolis thinks they can get away with it this time.

It is also very interesting that stuff like this doesn’t seem to happen during the Democratic National Conventions. What is it about the Republicans that cause everyone involved ignore things like The Constitution? Oh, wait…never mind.


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/us/politics/30arrests.html
  2. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/30/police_raids/index.html
  3. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/31/raids/index.html
  4. http://www.startribune.com/local/27703754.html

Russian opposition leaders to be arrested

The Other Russia opposition leaders, Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, have found out the Russian authorities are planning on arresting them to prevent them from attending the Other Russia coalition’s National Assembly in two weeks.

These “tactical” arrests are nothing new in the neo-Soviet Russia, of course, but what’s new is going after these high profile leaders in such a manner. Garry Kasparov, of course, is well known around the world for being the grand master chess player.


Everyone crossing the border to the US is guilty until proven innocent

The Washington Post is writing about an alarming development in the “war on terror”.

It seems that instead of being content on just searching people’s electronic devices, without a warrant or other grounds, the US Customs officers are now copying information out of travelers’ laptops, cell phones, mp3 players and other electronic devices that store information on them.

Nobody’s been able to find out what they’re actually doing with the data after it’s been copied. Where is it stored, who sees it, what is done with the information. Nobody knows.

Everything seems to be free game. Call logs from cellphones, browsing histories from browsers, Word documents, etc.

Naturally companies whose employees travel out or into the US often are quite concerned. The Washington Post article lists several real concerns about this “policy”. How are they to protect trade secrets, sensitive information about clients or journalistic sources when the information can be copied at will by minimum wage flunkies on the US border.


Stolen Elections – Only on PBS

I just watched a really interesting segment of Now on PBS. It was about problems with voting in the United States and how the Department of Justice is no longer interested in enforcing laws that guarantee every eligible voter gets to vote.

Instead it seems the Department of Justice has been co opted by the neo-conservative arm of the Republican Party to work on making sure non-Republican voters can not vote. As a result the arm of the DOJ that is supposed to protect Americans’ right to vote has seen half of its career lawyers leave during the Bush Administration years. During the past five years the DOJ hasn’t brought on a single lawsuit in favor of voters whose right to vote have been illegally denied. It’s the first time in history that’s happened.

The Republican Party is actively engaging in several different practices that aim to remove seemingly “unrepublican” voters from the voter registries across the country but specifically in battleground states. What kind of a democratic institution would do that? China does that. Russia does that. Saddam Hussein did that.

What’s even more sad than catching the Republicans with their pants down giving it to the American public while they’re on their knees is that nobody but the PBS is covering it. Not a single mainstream media outlet is reporting on the issue other than in passing. Here you have the ruling party actively, and almost certainly illegally, preventing eligible voters from voting, for years, and people don’t even know, because nobody is talking about it.

What the hell.


Russian Politics Takes To The Street

[by Kerkko Paananen, originally published in Finnish]

My brother, Kerkko Paananen, who is a board member of the Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum, offers his personal observations on the recent events in Russia and some recommendations to those looking at Russia from the outside:

The political situation in Russia is turning ever more tense. In the following, I offer of my personal observations and recommendations to those looking at Russia from the outside.

Despite the high media visibility of the recent demonstrations on the streets of Russia’s largest cities, it must be noted that the opposition is totally incapable of challenging the position of the ruling regime, even if there were truly honest and open elections.

Putin’s regime has almost infinite financial resources at its disposal, completely outshadowing those of the opposition. Any outside assistance is also largely ineffective. The fact remains that power in Russia will not change until the people so wish.

True, a regime that flouts its own laws repeatedly is inherently unstable. Yet its actions in quelling opposition demonstrations cannot be seen as signs of its ultimate weakness. For as long as people’s material well-being continues to grow faster than people’s shame at their own political apathy, democratic pressure will not lead to Putin’s ouster.

The regime is currently fully engaged in its most important project to date: the question of Putin’s successor and division of power after he leaves office. What is at stake are the property rights of Russia’s ruling, moneyed elite. It is inconceivable that the regime would neglect or mismanage the very issue that it was established for.

The regime is depriving the opposition of any influence in the legitimate political process. When organs of representative democracy cease to fulfil their constitutional functions, political opposition moves outside of the system, where it will inevitably radicalise. By evicting opposition from the parliament and local councils, the regime is trying to delegitimise all alternatives to its own policies.

The fact that there have been several opposition demonstrations so early ahead of the coming watershed of Russian politics — next year’s presidential elections — does give rise to a certain degree of hope of a change in Russia’s direction. Ordinary cityfolk in Moscow, St Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod have witnessed these events, and the regime’s brutal reaction, firsthand.

The demonstrations showed that the extraparliamentary opposition has managed to unite those opposed to Putin’s regime behind a set of clearly defined political demands. This is something that the “established” opposition parties consciously avoided throughout.

The diversity of the “street opposition” (ranging from extreme leftists to avowed capitalists) shows that Russia’s political landscape is no longer divided according to societal models; the main political divide relates to the legitimacy of the political system itself. Historically speaking, this is a very dangerous situation indeed.

Russia’s ruling regime is quite immune to outside pressure; in contrast, support from outside Russia is vital to the opposition, which needs to know that Russia has not been abandoned outside the family of modern interdependent nations.

We must realise that there are very many Russians, who are not prepared to sacrifice the future of their children on the altar of imperialist cleptocracy; who do not regard rational thought as high treason. They need our support.

Russia’s “Third Way” Is A Road To Nowhere

[by Kerkko Paananen, originally published in Finnish]

The situation of NGOs has gone from bad to worse in Russia during President Vladimir Putin’s reign. The authorities are doing their utmost to eliminate the emergence of a free civil society. The government is trying to subjugate any signs of civil expression, subordinate public opinion to state interest, and incorporate civil society into the government’s statial strategy.

Many NGOs in Russia defend those most vulnerable, and it is exactly these organisations that suffer the most from government repression. Those at the receiving end of this repression are thus the weak and the helpless. If we close our eyes from this, and choose to cooperate with “front” organisations enjoying state blessing, we are not only wasting our financial support, but are doing real damage to the very people we wish to help.

Stating a few obvious facts: The Russian Federation is a state, which engages in an open war of terror against its own citizens. Authorities at both federal and local level attack, terrorise, and kill their own fellow citizens. Russia is no state governed by law.

Government pressure on NGOs does not depend on the NGOs themselves, but on the political and economic interests of the ruling elites. Authorities do not react to the actions of NGOs, but create themselves the conditions, in which NGOs are left with no way out; in which NGOs cannot avoid an open confrontation.

It is the moral duty of Finland and other free nations, especially in the EU, to help our partners in Russia to survive. We cannot let the authorities intimidate our friends, drive them into a corner, and destroy everything we have achieved together in the past ten years. It is vital to continue the work and support one another.

Finnish experts often highlight the “uniqueness” of Russia’s development; most likely, this is because we wish to monopolise the expertees on Russia. It seems that Finns have stressed Russia’s uniqueness for so long that we have begun to believe in it ourselves. The end result of this is that the average Finn has a very hazy knowledge of our eastern neighbour; even those who have visited Russia only see what they want to see.

Many are simply unable to regard Russia with common sense, according to the same human standards that we regard other states and cultures. Instead, many choose to spread all sorts of fictitious legends and metaphysical constructions about Russia. It often seems that economists have the clearest idea of what is going on in Russia, because they usually understand the value of money. And money is the only thing Russia’s ruling elite is ever interested in.

The uniqueness of Russia’s development, the so-called “Third Road”, is the artificial ideological construct that the notion of a “Sovereign Democracy” that Putin’s regime has declared is based on. This “Sovereign Democracy” is ruled by the “Power Vertical” — the authoritarian power apparatus of Putin’s presidential administration. By stressing Russia’s uniqueness, we are, in fact, lending support to the development of authoritarianism that lies behind the troubles Russia is facing today.

Finnish-Russian Citizen’s Forum established

I’m proud to report news about the birth of the Finnish-Russian Citizen’s Forum by a group of human rights activists from Finland and Russia. Founding members include, among others, a Finnish Member of Parliament and my brother.

The press release about forming the organization follows.



A group of persons worried about the development of democracy and the state of human rights in Russia has established a non-governmental organisation, Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum.

The organisation’s aim is to “promote cooperation between citizens and different peoples in Finland and the Russian Federation by supporting non-governmental organisations in their effort to strengthen democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in Russia”.

The murder of the Russian journalist and civil rights activist, Ms Anna Politkovskaya, acted as a catalyst for establishing the Citizens’ Forum. This sad event served to consolidate cooperation between people concerned about Russia’s current development, prompting several appeals, public discussions, and demonstrations in autumn 2006.

The Citizens’ Forum supports Russian non-governmental organisations, which are now facing difficulties in their work due to Russia’s new draconian law on NGOs. The Citizens’ Forum will invite representatives of Russian organisations to Finland, organise visits to Russia, and distribute information about the situation in Russia.

The Citizens’ Forum will soon open its web site at www.finrosforum.fi.

The Chairperson of the Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum is Ms Heidi Hautala, MP (The Greens). The organisation’s Deputy Chairman is Mr Jukka Mallinen, Chairman of the Finnish PEN Club. The Citizens’ Forum has a nine-member Board. Mr Mikael Storsjö, entrepreneur, serves as the board’s Secretary, and Ms Iida Simes, producer, as the Board’s spokesperson.

The name of the new organisation translates into Swedish as “Finsk-ryska medborgarforumet”, and its domicile is in Helsinki. The Citizens’ Forum carries an unofficial name in Russian: “Finsko-rossiyskiy grazhdanskiy forum”.

The founding members of the Finnish-Russian Citizens’ Forum are:

Rolf Büchi, Nils-Erik Friis, Anu Harju, Heidi Hautala, Frank Johansson, Pekka Koponen, Henrik Lax, Laura Lodenius, Anna-Stiina Lundqvist, Jukka Mallinen, Elisabeth Nordgren, Theresa Norrmén, Kerkko Paananen, Marja Pulkkinen, Elina Rahimova, Ville Ropponen, Iida Simes, Anni Sinnemäki, Mikael Storsjö.

More information:

Ms Heidi Hautala, Chairperson
+358 50 511 3129

Mr Jukka Mallinen, Deputy Chairman
+358 9 135 2791

Ms Iida Simes, spokesperson
+358 40 720 5985

Mr Mikael Storsjö, Secretary
+358 41 524 2373

Dickishness aplenty

Dickishness is my favorite word (can you tell?).

It’s the perfect word to describe what the Republicans just did to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was designed to guarantee Republicans^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hracist bigots wouldn’t manage to keep minority voters (blacks) out of the polls come election day.

The act is set to expire next year unless it’s renewed.

Speaker Dennis Hastert was to introduce the renewal, but he was overrun by his fellow Republicans, who refused to support the renewal, because, apparently, it would encourage hispanic voting.

The Republicans couldn’t have said it any clearer: Republicans don’t want any brown people in the US.

And, if by any chance all of them illegal immigrants manage to con the US Government to give them US citizenship, by God, it’d be quite awful, if they all voted. They wouldn’t vote for us racist bigots, that’s for damn sure. So let’s make sure we don’t lift a finger to help making voting easier for Spanish speaking voters.

Democracy! Ah, such a wonderful thing.