Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Second Debate Tonighta

Okay, I know you're probably tired of hearing about it but the second Presidential debate is tonight at Hofstra University.  We've heard all the details by now (town hall format, the worry from both sides over moderator Candy Crowley, etc), so let's focus on what we do know will have to happen tonight.

As we all know Obama lost the first debate even though Romney interrupted everyone and basically changed every position he had in the past.  That the challenger would win the first debate is a TV staple since every incumbent president uses loses the first debate as they run for re-election (though Clinton in 96 was an exception; the rule also includes Ronald Reagan.  Hopefully he realizes that he can't appear absent or focused on some other thing.  Yeah, Biden's performance in the VP debate helped a bit (though he basically did what should've been done the first time around) but Obama will still have to call Mitt when he tries to lie about his record (which he will do).  Will the war on women or the 47% quote will come up?  Who knows.  What we do know is that talking points will come up and that regardless of what happens, the mainstream media will still probably gloss over the real issues we have to deal with.

In a truly just world, there would be third party candidates to offer their views and give the public a real choice.  Unfortunately, we don't have that in this country or election cycle.  Thus, we're dealing with the few undecided voters and some likely voters trying to decide the next four years to some degree off of these performances.

What happens from this is anyone's guess. We'll have to wait until tonight to find out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Justice Still Denied For Pussy Riot

Yesterday three members of the punk rock activist collective Pussy Riot (Nadezhda “Nadia” Tolokonnikova, Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Yekaterina “Katya” Samutsevich) appealed their two year convictions for “hooliganism” in a Moscow court.   Like the last trial, the defendants weren’t fully allowed to make their case though there was a twist as Samutsevich, with new lawyers, was released on either probation or a suspended sentence (depending on which article you read) while Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina’s two year sentences on a penal colony were upheld (the original sentence was from time of arrest so seven months have already been served according to some sources).

With that decree, three Russian judges (most likely under orders from Putin – who made a TV appearance a couple days before denying a role but supporting their conviction) managed to make Pussy Riot into martyrs for freedom of expression and focused attention on the flaws in the Russian legal system that aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Supporters of the sentence claim the members of Pussy Riot were motivated by religious hatred, yet  given the protest appeared in the midst of a crack down of opponents of the Putin regime,it is safe to say that this wa a political show trial (especially since only one side got to fully state their case).  All of this over a protest of church/state comingling that, if the regime and the church had let it slide or treated with a fine, wouldn't be in the news right now.  

In the most recent print issue (and a piece I shared online) I pointed out  the obvious - that with the conviction they lost the war on perception internationally,. By sending Nadia and Masha to a remote penal colony (Russia is reported to have some of the roughest prisons in the world), Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church aimed for a short goal only to turn much of the world's attention to how things actually are in Russia.  

As for Katya Sanutsevich's release, some people think this is a  game of "divide and rule.."  A fact that Samutsevich herself has attacked the game and promises to keep up the fight.  It can be said that Katya's release is intended as a possible reestablishing of independence for the courts.  However, with PUtin's approval of the verdict just before appeal, the appearance of independence remains just that - an appeareance that means little.

Meanwhile, the case isn't going away.  They remain prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and Pen International is calling for their unconditional release.  Pussy Riot's legal team claims they will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary.  

Time will tell how this tale unfolds.  However, as Nadia and Masha prepare to be sent to remote penal colonies, the fight to have them release looks to continue as an overreaction to an action that was previously punished with a fine has made Pussy Riot a symbol of dissent and freedom of expression.  

VP Debate Tonight

As almost anyone in the U.S. knows (whether they want to or not) the Vice Presidential candidates debat eis happening tonight in Dan ville, KY.  While every one of these things could go any number of ways one can only hope that Biden doesn't let Paul Ryan get away with what Obama let Romney do via a ton of lies. 

It will be far from perfect.  The lack of third party candidates is a definite downer on these.  I know most people in this country are only going to vote for Obama or Romney, but I do feel people should kow all their options.  Also, third party candidates could keep the two main guys honest, putting things in perspective and let people know how things really are. 

However, that ain't going to happen this year (or likely in the near future).  While Romney did win last week (Obama wasn't expecting Willard's moderate pose plus, in all fairness, incumbent presidents running for re-election usually lost the first debate historically anyway) one can only hope that they learned from that and are ready to attack before more people start to believe the perforance rather than the actual positions. 

What will happen?  Who knows.  However, even when expecting a tough race, this should be easier than it is now.