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66 posts from August 2008

August 30, 2008

Inside an RNC raid

[As many of you know, I'm in Minneapolis-St. Paul covering the RNC for Firedoglake. Here's my first dispatch.]

Thanks to the miracle of cellular technology, I was able to talk to a homeowner while his home was surrounded by police conducting an RNC-related raid.

I reached Mike Whelan, a waiter and army veteran, by phone at his duplex at 951 Iglehart Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Whelan invited independent observers from the group LegalWatch stay in one half of his side-by-side duplex while they monitor RNC protests.

Whelan describes himself as a supporter of the RNC demonstrations, but says he is not affiliated with any particular group. "I want to build a country that's based on good social values," he said. 

When I spoke to him, Whelan was waiting in one half of the duplex with his roommates, Dan and Julian. The three were afraid to go outside because the police were still there. Whelan said he thought that the police were inside the opposite side of the duplex, where the legal observers were staying. "I think they are detaining people," he added.

Whelan, who sounded remarkably calm for a guy whose flower garden had just been trampled by police brandishing automatic weapons, said he'd just gotten home from a morning of garage sale shopping when the commotion started. That would have been about one o'clock local time.

He described what happened:

"About an hour and a half ago 20 to 30 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house," Whelan said. "One of my roommates said 'I want to see a warrant' and she was immediately detained."

"Are they still outside?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, they're still outside," Whelan replied cheerfully, "The streets are blocked off."

"How you did figure out there was a raid going on?" I asked.

"It sounded like people were falling down on my porch," he said, "Cops were running up both sides of the house onto the porch. 

Whelan says his roommate, Erin Stalmaker, went out to talk to talk to the police. She asked the officers why they were there. The officers asked why people were running away from them. Erin reportedly told the officers that their drawn automatic weapons probably had something to do with it. She was detained after asking to see a warrant.

"Are you scared," I asked."

"No, I'm a veteran," he said, "I was in the army. I was a military police officer. I wouldn't have done this."

Whelan said it was especially perplexing that the police would target his home.

"There's nothing here," he said, "These are the "checking" people. They're not even going to be in the demonstration. Some are lawyers."

Whelan was watching a large crowd of legal observers gathering across the street, many wearing red or green hats. The police officers he could identify were from St. Paul, but he thought there might be other forces on the scene as well. The officers were wearing black uniforms. Their vehicles were "non-descript" vans, not police cruisers. TV cameras were also on the scene.  Whelan couldn't be sure because a tree was blocking his view, but he thought City Council member Melvin Carter had arrived. Whelan called him when the raid started. (Talk about constituent service.)

"You figure this would be going on in South Africa, or Russia, not in St Paul," Whelan said, marveling at the incongruity of it all,"St. Paul is nice."

Blackwater gearing up for Hurricane Gustav

Blackwater is recruiting in advance of Hurricane Gustav's U.S. landfall.

This will be the first time Blackwater has mobilized under its Homeland Security Contracts, according to RJ Hillhouse, and expert on private military and intelligence.

August 29, 2008

McCain VP pick Sarah Palin's ethics scandal

John McCain picked a fellow "maverick" for a running mate: Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Josh Marshall explains:

As mentioned earlier, Gov. Palin is embroiled in her own trooper-gate scandal up in Alaska. In short, she's accused of using her pull as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired as a state trooper. The brother-in-law is embroiled in an ugly divorce and custody with Palin's sister. And after his boss wouldn't fire the brother-in-law, she fired the boss. Palin originally insisted there was nothing to the story. More recently, she was forced to admit the one of her top deputies had pushed to get the guy fired.

Here's one our recent reports on the story.  And we'll be bringing you an updated report shortly.

Palin initially claimed that no one in her administration pressured anyone to fire her ex-brother-in-law's boss. Now, she admits that one of her staffers made a call, trying to get the boss canned:

At least Barack Obama had the good sense not to pick Eliot Spitzer as his running mate.

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Anderson Cooper at Invesco Field.


, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Another scene from Obama's big speech at Invesco Field.

Delegates at Invesco Field


The final night of the Democratic National Convention was an emotionally charged event.

August 28, 2008

Joe Biden and Beau Biden


Joe Biden and his family put on a great show at the Pepsi Center last night.

That said, I'm watching the news about Biden's lobbying connections with great interest.

Bill Clinton Addressing the DNC


Best line from Bill Clinton's speech, "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of [America's] example than by the example of our power."

Bill Clinton and the Crowd at the Pepsi Center


Bill Clinton delivered a barn burner of a speech at the Pepsi Center last night.

August 27, 2008

Scenes from the Big Tent: Lilly Ledbetter

Lilly Ledbetter, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Longtime Goodyear employee Lilly Ledbetter and equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter said a few words before Christy Hardin Smith and Pam Spaulding's panel discussion on Obama and the Courts.

Sen. Ben Cardin was on hand to introduce Christy, Pam, and moderator Nan Aron of Alliance for Justice.

Topics included the role of the progressive blogosphere in educating the public about the importance of court picks in the average person's life, FDL's FISA activism, and beyond.