Read This Book

If you’re looking for a scary but very realistic scenario about how we could see a further erosion of civil rights in the name of keeping us safe, check out Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  Set in the here-and-now, it details how another attack on U.S. soil – in the Bay Area this time – triggers a rapid and dramatic increase in the use of monitoring and surveillance technology by the Department of Homeland Security and how innocents could easily get caught up in the system of hidden detention and interrogations that has made us reviled by many in the world.  As the story points out with great effect, the next time the disappeared might be our sons and daughters instead of brown- and black-skinned foreigners.

What I found most disturbing about the book is that – unlike most of what I read – there was no science fiction required.  All of the technology described in the book pretty much already exists.  In fact, the only part of the book I found unrealistic was a scene in which the president’s chief aide conspires with the military leadership in the Bay Area to use continued “terrorism” and plans for an October surprise to swing the election.  Even I don’t believe that happens.

The book gets a little preachy and predictable at times, but it’s a fast, easy read (it’s actually published as a “young adult” book).  Highly recommended.

– Austin commercial banks fine

OK, Maybe a Little Partying Will Be OK…

Via CNN, word off the convention floor this evening is that the GOP will have a more classic schedule of events over the next couple of days.  I don’t know exactly what that means but the sigh of relief that Gustav wasn’t as bad as originally feared (even though FEMA is still saying parts of Louisiana remain in “grave danger”) is audible all the way across the metro area to my little corner of the People’s Republic of Minneapolis.

Of course, the convention and the talking heads covering it are tying themselves in knots trying to be politically correct and still talk about the Bristol Palin story so they are still going to have a bit of challenge getting back on message.  I just heard CNN frame their upcoming segment as, “What did John McCain know and when did he know it?”

– Austin small business software fine

This Is Leadership?

Minnpost’s Steve Berg just published a thought-piece of the GOP’s ability to win elections on the presidential level.  While I agree with much of the analysis, one statement pulled me up short:

“Hurricane Gustav provides the party a dramatic backdrop for drawing sharp contrasts between McCain’s abilities and President Bush’s perceived incompetence in facing Katrina three years ago.”


John McCain and his team have demonstrated good political instincts over the last 24 hours by removing the potential juxtaposition of tragedy in Louisiana with partying Republicans in Minnesota.  They have shown themselves to be decent human beings (with good political instincts) with their call for everyone to do whatever they can to help folks affected by Gustv.  While important precursors to leadership, neither trait is actually leadership.

To listen to the Republican spin corps (and comments like Steve’s), you might think John McCain has assumed personal oversight of the federal government’s planning and response to the hurricane, elbowing his incompetent predecessor out of the way to take charge:

“Get me Chertoff…now!”

“Nagin, McCain here.  I want you to get your residents out of town now!”

Of course, that’s not happening any more than Senator McCain is overseeing the deployment of the National Guard, the delivery of supplies or the storm tracking.  He didn’t sit in on the planning in advance of the hurricane and I can’t find any evidence that he took a legislative leadership position in securing funding for the rebuilding efforts.

That would have been leadership.

– Austin

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune back taxes help fine