Saturday, February 21, 2009

A News Trifecta: Nadya, the Banks and the RNC

The clippings have been piling up lately, so I thought I would do a bit of a rant on several topics.

Nadya Suleman with a litter of chihuahuas
Going to the dogs -- Today's Star Tribune, from the short teasers on the front page: "Animal shelters say they've been inundated with Chihuahuas discarded by fashion-conscious owners emulating pup-carrying Paris Hilton."

A sad, sad statement about shallowness and pure stupidity. This makes me think of Nadya Suleman... only she's emulating Angelina Jolie rather than Paris Hilton, and it's not dogs, it's children.

US Bank debit card modified to say US FIRST, Usury Guaranteed
Robbing the poor to give to the rich -- Associated Press, printed in both dailies over the last few days: Thirty states have made deals with banks to distribute their unemployment benefits as debit cards, rather than as cash or checks. Seems like a good idea until you realize that the banks are charging these people -- who obviously are not rolling cash -- when they withdraw money from the cards, and even for calling to ask questions or check their card balance.

As the story said, "Some [banks] even charge overdraft fees of up to $20 -- even though they could decline charges for more than what's on the card." This is all in addition to the 1 to 3 percent banks charge to the merchant for each transaction.

Police in St. Paul firing percussion grenades. Smoke and sparks everywhere.
Charges dropped -- Minnesota Public Radio, both dailies and the Twin Cities Daily Planet yesterday and today: All charges have been dropped against 323 people who were arrested on the final day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul... or, as we here like to affectionately remember it, "our little police state." (These were the people who were not allowed to leave a march and were instead herded with percussion grenades onto two bridges, where a number were maced just for asking if they could leave, and numerous journalists were arrested.) So far, 75 percent of all charges that week have been dropped. As I wrote in an earlier post,

[Star Tribune columnist Nick] Coleman points out that, given the $50 million spent on security for the convention, each arrest cost $61,125, and the cost per conviction is likely to be a lot higher (I predict they'll be lucky if they come out of it with a million dollars per, and that's not counting what will be paid out in wrongful arrest lawsuits).
Let's do the math. Each remaining arrest now carries a price tag of about $245,000 (not counting prosecution costs), and I'm still betting we'll get up to at least $1 million per arrest for each conviction. Eight of the remaining cases that have not been dismissed are those against the RNC8, young people who were arrested prior to the convention, based on informants and paranoid raids.

Ramsey County sheriff Bob Fletcher has since had to admit he hid even more spending on paramilitary operations and espionage. Fletcher went on record saying he hid the spending because he didn't trust the St. Paul City Council. Welcome to America.

I can't wait for the next election to see if the people of Ramsey County can hold this guy accountable for his actions.

Sheriff Bob Fletcher displaying the 'evidence' confiscated from the RNC8
Update on the RNC8, Monday, Feb. 23: The Star Tribune's Feb. 18 issue carried a story about the recent arrest of one of the confidential informants in the RNC8 case. Andrew Darst, who was working for the FBI while participating in the protest planning, was arrested for breaking into a house in the western suburbs and assaulting two men. There is some speculation that this could undermine his credibility as a witness at the RNC8 trials.

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