Why not just give them your front door key?

AP (in the New York Times): In a stunning show of proof that idiocy knows no party line, “Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., formally proposed legislation that would give the industry unprecedented new authority to secretly hack into consumers’ computers or knock them off-line entirely if they are caught downloading copyrighted material.”

Under the provisions of the bill, there would be little or no legal recourse for consumers if they are so attacked.

I somehow doubt (well, hope) that wiser heads in Congress will not allow this unfettered delegation of executive and judicial power to corporations. But stranger things have happened.

Dave feels pretty strongly about this. George thinks we should wait and see. I think we should show Berman (and his RIAA and MPAA cronies) the bum rush.

Conservatives: Ashcroft must go

Greg Greene blogs a few articles I missed reporting conservative views on one of the Bush administration’s big embarrassments. From the New York Times:

“Most striking, however, is how some conservatives who were Mr. Ashcroft’s biggest promoters for his cabinet appointment after he lost his re-election to the Senate in 2000 have lost enthusiasm. They cite his anti-terrorist positions as enhancing the kind of government power that they instinctively oppose.”

And Matthew Yglesias goes further:

Ultimately, Ashcroft is George Bush, just as the rest of Bush’s cabinet is. It’s really time for conservatives (who, unlike we liberals, might be able to exercise some influence on the administration) to name names and say that Bush — not Ashcroft, not Powell, not Mineta, not Ridge, not Rove — is doing bad things and ought to stop.

Holy smokes, look at it go

Salon: Dow roars back, up 488 points. Boy, you gotta love the market. Arrest a few executives and look what happens! Now if we could just nail a few more people in a meaningful way. Like a conviction on Enron (not their accounting partners). Or a few real Al Qaeda spooks, not their addled American “followers.” Or maybe a few former executives from Halliburton.

BTW, thanks and a shout to Scott Rosenberg at Salon. Quickly becoming a must-read blog.

Prelinger archive for all

Looks like the Internet Archive has part of the Prelinger archive online. This is really cool. I guess I can stop worrying if I’m no longer able to use the “Ephemeral Films” CD-ROMs that Prelinger put out a few years ago—after all, you can now stream such wonders as “A is for Atom,” “Personal Hygiene” (parts I and II!), and “This is Coffee” as well as tons of old newsreel footage and commercials. Very cool.

Don’t mess with the Muppets

Yahoo: HIV-Positive TV Muppet Worries U.S. Lawmakers. The article quotes a letter sent to PBS as saying “We look forward to working with you to ensure that only age and culturally appropriate programs air on PBS” and says that the letter “gives [the president of PBS] until Friday to answer such questions as the amount of money PBS dedicates to ‘Sesame Street,’ how much is being earmarked for the new Muppet, whether she will be introduced to the United States and whether corporate underwriters might participate in the decision-making process.”

I can’t see straight, I’m so angry about this foolishness.

  • First of all, the new HIV-positive Muppet is on the South African version of Sesame Street, where 1.1 million young people are HIV positive. At what age, precisely, is it time to educate kids in an environment like that about what it means to live with someone who is very sick but still needs support?
  • Second of all, what a caring attitude from our lawmakers, who have nothing better to do than to worry about the lives of children in South Africa. Bullshit. This is a transparent stroke-the-archconservative move that makes Quayle’s taking on Murphy Brown look like kid stuff.
  • Besides, the Committee on Energy and Commerce does have something better to do: worry about the continuing fallout from Enron, Worldcom, and other corporate meltdowns, and address the painful question of whether Dick Cheney and George Bush have been guilty of the same ethical lapses they’re now reluctantly calling the business community on.

Please, take a second and fax the idiots behind this boondoggle:

Update: Greg makes some cogent points about the motivations behind stirring up this noise–like an invite to Washington Week in Review…

Happy birthday

The 226th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, also known as Independence Day. Did the Founding Fathers really know what they were getting into? Today should be a day of quiet reflection as well as celebration, especially after everything that’s happened in the last year.

Why are the Dodgers, Ikea, and CNA all criminals?

… because, according to the Wall Street Journal, they violated the Trading with the Enemy act. We’re just now finding out about this thanks to a FOIA lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and the Corporate Crime Reporter. According to the Journal, “Treasury is planning to make such settlements public on a regular basis.”

Unusually for the Journal, they also point out who’s not been charged: Dick Cheney.

The Treasury’s latest list didn’t include Halliburton Co., Dallas, the oil-services company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton opened an office in Tehran in 2000, when Mr. Cheney was chief executive officer. When the news became public last year, the company denied its office violated the U.S. law.


Bush: Who said that, again?

Washington Post: A Sound Bite So Good, the President Wishes He Had Said It. The Post catches Bush lifting from Al Gore, of all people, in his famous comment about not allowing the budget to go into deficit “except during war, recession, or national emergency”:

In this space last week, it was noted that President Bush often tells audiences that he promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would allow the federal budget to go into deficit in times of war, recession or national emergency, but he never imagined he would “have a trifecta.” Nobody inside or outside the White House, however, had been able to produce evidence that Bush actually said this during the campaign.

Now comes information that the three caveats were uttered before the 2000 campaign — by Bush’s Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore.


Score one for due process

New York Times: Case Against Seven Tied to Group Labeled Terrorist Is Dismissed. The judge ruled that the Justice Department’s case against seven people accused of sending charitable donations to an Iranian military group that the State Department labels “terrorist” is “unconstitutional on its face.” This is a major repudiation of a 1996 antiterrorism law that criminalizes providing “material support” to “any foreign organization that the State Department deems a threat to national security.” Judge Robert M. Takasugi cites erosion of due process as the reason for the ruling:

…the law gives these groups “no notice and no opportunity” to contest their designation as a terrorist organization, a violation of due process, Judge Takasugi ruled.

“I will not abdicate my responsibilities as a district judge and turn a blind eye to the constitutional infirmities” of the law, Judge Takasugi wrote.

Because the government made its list of terrorist organizations in secret, without giving foreign groups a chance to defend themselves, the defendants “are deprived of their liberty based on an unconstitutional designation that they could never challenge,” he said.


Bush 1, First Amendment 0

Glad to see that Bush can take the heat. At Ohio State, police escorted students who turned their backs on Bush from the auditorium and told them they would be charged with disturbing the peace (via Boing Boing).

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised to see continued erosion of civil liberties from this presidency. What’s surprising is how shameless he and his handlers are about it (from Yahoo:

Bush was invited to speak at the Ohio State commencement by representatives of the graduating class. But immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university’s speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling would be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged that Bush be greeted with a “thunderous” ovation.


More power, Mr. Ashcroft?

Washington Post: Government Will Ease Limits on Domestic Spying. Here’s a nice little erosion for your morning coffee: “Mr. Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, plan to announce on Thursday a broad loosening of the guidelines that restrict the surveillance of religious and political organizations, the officials said.”

Thank God for that voice of sanity, the ACLU (and no, that’s not sarcastic):

Officials at the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the new guidelines, saying they represent another step by the Bush administration to roll back civil-liberties protections in the name of improving counterterrorism measures.

“These new guidelines say to the American people that you no longer have to be doing something wrong in order to get that F.B.I. knock at your door,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the national office of the A.C.L.U., said. “The government is rewarding failure. It seems when the F.B.I. fails, the response by the Bush administration is to give the bureau new powers, as opposed to seriously look at why the intelligence and law enforcement failures occurred.”

Seems to me that after the leaks about what the government knew before the September 11 attacks, giving the FBI more data to analyze is the last thing we need to do, regardless of whether it impinges on our personal freedoms or not (and it does, it does!).

How about this: the FBI gets ZERO new powers until it proves it can get useful data from the ones it already has.

The wheels of law grind slowly…

…but exceedingly fine. Washington Post: Judge Rejects Jailing of Material Witnesses: Ruling Imperils Tool in Sept. 11 Probe. Since September 11, Ashcroft’s Justice Department has been throwing people in jail who are not accused of any crime “to guarantee that [they] will testify before a grand jury.”

Thank goodness for those “unelected judges” who keep sticking their nose into the law and upholding niceties of American justice like “probable cause.”

Free speech (if you say something I like)

Salon: Killing the Messenger. Consider William Harvey: arrested for peacefully carrying a sign and handing out leaflets in New York City. Okay, so his message was that the US brought 9/11 on itself with its handling of relations with Islamic countries, and he was bringing it within a few blocks of Ground Zero.

Naturally there was a crowd and it got ugly. Harvey was arrested for disorderly conduct, although his conduct was apparently pretty calm. Harvey filed a motion to dismiss, which was struck down in mid-February. The judge doing so, Judge Neil Ross of the Criminal Court of the City of New York, argued that disorderly conduct could be charged given “the reaction which speech engenders, not the content of the speech.”

Thanks, judge, for giving the crowd the power to criminalize my speech. I thought protection from that was what the First Amendment was about.

You can avoid Congress, but not the civil service

New York Times: Landscapes Under Siege. The administrative review board for the Interior Department has halted oil exploration in Utah’s Dome Plateau, and “suggested that the bureau had ‘capriciously’ ignored environmental reviews mandated by federal law.” The editorial concludes:

Nobody expects the administration to retreat from its basic theology that aggressive exploration of the public domain is necessary to achieve independence from the energy-producing nations of the Persian Gulf. Perhaps, though, as part of the larger debate over a national energy strategy, the Senate will force the administration to proceed with much greater care.

Yeah, somehow I doubt that the administration that doesn’t even invite the Democratic leadership of Congress to national security meetings will pay much heed to the Senate. I think that the best chance we have for protection against the strong-arm anti-environmental tactics of the Bush administration is the civil servants who have to carry out the policy. Based on this action, they have shown they can do the job.

Shadow government

The New York Times: 60 Feet Under. Maureen Dowd makes some good points here and gets some great zingers:

“Mr. Cheney is Lord of the Rings, ruling over his very own Moria, an underground kingdom of bureaucratic hobbits and orcs….

Without Democrats or journalists, the underground executive branch can operate the way the real executive branch would like to, and frequently does — without a lot of second-guessing, Freedom of Information Act requests, complaints from civil libertarians and attention to the rights of Marin County hot-tubbers.

Nothing will be transcribed. So there will be no reason to clean up the language in President Bush’s transcripts, as the White House has done routinely since 9/11.”

Interesting question. We’ve always assumed that we get full access to the running of our government, with the exception of stuff that we really don’t want to know about (national security). There’s the rub–this administration thinks everything it does is “national security.” And it doesn’t want to share anything with the people’s representatives in the Congress, either.

Maybe Tom Daschle should talk to Bill Clinton, who came back from being made almost irrelevant by Newt Gingrich. He might have some advice on how to restore checks and balances on a political power hellbent on eliminating them.