I want to personally thank David Erdman, former chairman of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party, for reading CL's blog. Erdman resigned his lofty position last Wednesday, soon after this writer suggested in the CL blog, or CLog, that Erdman was the central offender in the sheriff debacle and should step down (See "A case of serious slack-assedness" at www.theclogblog.com). We're all happy to know that the CLog has already become a major player in local politics.
OK, I'm kidding. I doubt that Erdman read the blog entry, and I know the new, improved CLog is a fledgling media presence. But Erdman's resignation is as good a time as any to let you, our beloved readers, know that the CLog has been beefed up with more news and commentary from various CL writers including yours truly. Where else in Charlotte will you find gutsy insights such as, "Amid all the talk about qualifications, let's be honest here: considering the past two or three goobers who've held the job of Mecklenburg County Sheriff, how hard can it be?"
Check it out and tell us how we're doing.
Now, on to our regularly scheduled column. The hoopla and intense media focus surrounding the presidential campaign means that other important stories tend to fall through the cracks. The result? Everyday folks don't get to hear or read about things they need to know. To partially remedy the situation, from time to time I'll alert you to recent events that didn't get nearly enough local press coverage. Here are four things you may have missed:
• Blackwater Protesters' Secret Trial: A couple of weeks ago in Currituck County, N.C. -- home of Blackwater Worldwide -- Superior Court Judge Russell Duke upheld the secret trial and five-day sentences of seven nonviolent activists. The activists, now being called the Blackwater 7, were arrested on Oct. 20 at the gates of Blackwater's 7,000-acre private military base, where they, and 40 others, protested the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square by Blackwater employees last September. The protesters re-enacted the Nisour Square massacre, using fake blood.
At their Dec. 5 trial, District Court Judge Edgar Barnes suddenly, and without any disruptions having occurred, cleared the court of all spectators, family members, journalists and defense witnesses, and tried six of the seven activists in secret, behind closed doors. Needless to say, the judge's move was completely unconstitutional, as the U.S. Constitution guarantees all of us public trials. As AlterNet reporter Jeremy Scahill put it, "It was as though Currituck [County] became Gitmo For a Day." The activists appealed their convictions, which were upheld, secret trial and all, by Judge Duke. Blackwater issued a statement drenched in unintended irony: "... If laws are violated, it is the court system's responsibility to hold them accountable."
The ruling's meaning? Re-enact a Blackwater massacre, go to jail. Actually commit a massacre, and walk away a free man.
• Buffett Blasts Banks: Warren Buffett, the legendary billionaire investor, ripped into banks that spearheaded the subprime lending crisis, which has rocked the U.S. economy. "It's sort of a little poetic justice," Buffett said, "in that the people that brewed this toxic Kool-Aid found themselves drinking a lot of it in the end." Bank of America and Wachovia shareholders, take note.
• The FBI Wants Your Body: The FBI announced that it will create a gigantic computer database of people's physical characteristics. It's all in the interests, of course, of fighting terrorism, the favorite excuse of civil liberty abusers worldwide. The bureau will soon award a $1 billion contract to help build the database, which will collect biometric information about, well, everyone. FBI Biometric Services honcho Kimberly Del Greco said the bureau wants to start with palm prints, a scar registry, facial shape index, optical eye scans and "tattoo mapping." In a scene right out of the film Minority Report, Del Greco explained that the bureau's latest privacy-busting project was "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children ..." Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, warned the FBI database could be the beginning of "the surveillance society, where you can be tracked anywhere, any time."
• Yahoos Never Give Up: Thirty-two Republican members of Congress are sponsoring a bill that would set up an official American Religious History Week, with the express purpose of pounding into Americans' heads the outright lies that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, that the Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that "fact," and that Thomas Jefferson "urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes ... and declared that religious schools would receive 'the patronage of the government.'" The good news here is that the bill has no chance of being passed, but it's also a reminder that the the religious right won't go away quietly.