Archive for the 'politics' Category
omg, government secrets not safe!

“I do think it’s true that the large contours of national and international policy are much harder to keep secret today,” said Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It would not be possible to conduct a secret war in Cambodia, as took place in the Nixon administration.”NYT 2010/12/12

Indeed. That’s kind of the point.

electoral consequences : fair use and intellectual freedom

DRAFT

A few big losses.

Russ Feingold, the only Senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act, lost.

Rick Boucher, Representative from Virginia, a regular supporter of fair use, lost.

DRAFT

“looks an awful lot like a political assassination”

I was interested to read this review of the new documentary, ‘Client 9′, about the Eliot Spitzer takedown. The reviewer, O’Hehir, describes it as, “an act that in retrospect looks an awful lot like a political assassination.” Ya think?

“Politician caught with pants down” and “White knight has feet of clay” are stories we’re all drawn to, almost by primal instinct. They satisfyingly confirm all our worst suspicions about human nature. But that primal satisfaction was used, in this case, to distract our attention from the takedown of one of the few American politicians devoted to fighting corporate power and ruling-class privilege, an act that in retrospect looks an awful lot like a political assassination.

stem cell research standing

The judge also finds that the two adult stem cell researchers who brought the case would suffer imminent and irreparable harm without the injunction because they would have to compete with embryonic stem cell researchers for research funds. That is absurd. Adult stem cell research is funded far more generously than work with embryonic stem cells. And there is no firm limit on the amount of money that can be spent on each. NYT editorial

How did this case not get knocked out on standing? Competing for funding? In two different fields ??? Absurd.

But for this absurdity we have to blame the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not Judge Lamberth; it was the D.C. Circuit Ct. which granted the researchers “competitor standing”.

The Guidelines, by allowing federal funding of [embryonic stem cell] research, increases competition for NIH’s limited resources. This increased competition for limited funds is an actual, imminent injury. See Sherely, 2010 WL 2540358 at *5 (explaining that the increased competition that plaintiffs face is “substantial enough to deem the injury to them imminent”). There is no after-the-fact remedy for this injury because the Court cannot compensate plaintiffs for their lost opportunity to receive funds. Sherley v. Sebelius, D.D.C. 2010

Stacking the D.C. Circuit for years with pro-life Republicans has finally paid off!

The mind boggles: Any agency that funds more than one thing is open, now, to scrutiny by the possible fund-ees for potential legal suit. I suddenly see a future for all those laid-off New York law firm associates.

And, a fine example of how Congress works: Default BS caving in to lobbyists. In this instance, the “Dickey-Wicker amendment, that has been attached to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1996″ — i.e., more absurd religious BS around abortion and fetal rights, affecting science and medicine.

And did the Obama administration tackle this problem directly? No, they avoided the problem the same way the other administrations have.

Disgraceful all around.

cite: quotes from NYT Editorial 8/25. opinion available at uscourts.gov (PDF).

libertarianism, state action, and private discrimination

Some great commentary coming out in the wake of Rand Paul’s floundering attempts to dodge explaining his philosophy. For instance, this from No More Mister Nice Blog:

Here’s the thing: segregation at lunch counters didn’t exist because individual privately owned businesses were determining for themselves that they would not serve black people. They relied on the local government to enforce this discrimination. Otherwise it would have been possible for non whites to sue white businesses for physical assault. Just because something isn’t statutory doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking place with government aid. A truly libertarian stance on the Civil Rights Act that wasn’t covertly conservative/racist would be to argue that the government must withdraw all legal aid, police help, and rights to sue for damages from discriminatory businesses *and then* leave the business free to discriminate. … The line between public and private property is guaranteed by government action and its something we all pay for and no private business has the right to take our money and then refuse service to us.

Rand Paul, weasel extraordinaire

Oh man, Rand Paul was on Rachel Maddow weaseling around a straight-up answer on his views of whether the federal government can prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.

A, I thought this guy was supposed to be glib and personable? This was one of the least smooth, least adept weaseling’s I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s all just due to Rachel Maddow, who is a far more kick-ass journalist than most in terms of straight-up asking for a yes/no answer (and still not getting it).

B, wow, is he just stupid, or completely disingenuous, about the differing rationales that might justify (a) a ban on guns in establishments serving alcohol versus (b) a ban on racial discrimination?

C, again, is he just stupid? Or did he not realize that by picking on the ADA that he was also picking on the rationale underlying all civil rights laws? and that his ass would be busted on this issue? not because it’s “hypothetical” but because it’s real, live, and current — as even he must concede, since he’s picking on the ADA!

D, He’s seriously confused about law and regulation. Nobody has ever explained to this guy one of the fundamental rationales underlying the permissibility of banning some forms of private behavior — that state action would in fact otherwise be involved in enforcing those private behaviors. If someone is trespassing on your private property, you can call the police and get them to bust heads for you. That’s state action. You can sue the trespassers and get the courts involved. That’s also state action. So allowing “private businesses” to ban Black people or gay people necessarily involves state action, since the definition of a “civil right” involves the possibility of invoking the law to enforce the right. He’d like to hand that right not to individuals of color (or queer folks, or disabled folks) but instead to racist, homophobic, short-sighted business-people. Nice.

Along with other areas of law, Paul must also be unfamiliar with the long tradition, far predating the Civil Rights Act, enforcing different rules on hospitality and traveler businesses and such public accommodations. (eta: that’s common carriage, folks, although the wikipedia article is woefully inadequate on the history.)

E, Entirely unsurprisingly, he is also seriously confused about what “institutional racism” is, apparently thinking it is just state action.

F, I like how Paul pulls out the “It’s interesting…” line just before he weasels. I myself have a tendency to pronounce that things are “interesting” but not, I think, when I’m weaseling; more when I think there’s some contradiction or something a little surprising that piques my interest.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see if Rand Paul & his libertarian policies really get him up to the U.S. Senate. How backwards-ass are my old neighbors in Kentucky? I guess we’ll find out come November.

attack ads turn surreal

Wow, the Alabama Education Association has hit a new low: shelling out half a million dollars to a Republican PAC to run attack ads against a gubernatorial candidate … for supporting evolution. Yikes.

take 5 minutes — Congressmember hilariously questioned on Constitution

Yesterday Rep. Alan Grayson questioned Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia on the meaning of Bills of Attainder, in regards to one of the anti-ACORN bills / amendments floating through Congress. Delightful. I’m linking to it through Glenn Greenwald’s blog, who brought it to my attention, because Greenwald is almost always worth reading.

resurrecting my old abortion rights button

“I’m pro-choice and I shoot back.”

It’s not strictly true since I don’t own a gun.

I love how Bill O’Reilly freely tosses around incendiary rhetoric (arguably, “inciting violence”) but is so incapable of taking responsibility or acknowledging his own words. Why is he a frickin’ pundit talking head if he thinks his words are so meaningless? Other than his ginormous ego? War Room has relevant excerpts and links to O’Reilly’s non-apology.

update: More informative is Rachel Maddow’s review of anti-abortion violence.

wtf with gary kamiya at salon.com

Just venting.

While innocently reading the news this morning I was confronted with utter stupidity. Gary Kamiya, who isn’t normally a total idiot, wrote this article in salon.com about how Obama is improving race relations by not talking about them. Hmm, I thought, and went to check it out. With an open mind.

Pretty early I realized that this article was fairly stupid, but, completist that I am, I read it to the bitter end.

Here’s the article in a nutshell, in this particularly infuriating and ignorant and just utterly self-centered paragraph:

By not talking about race, by just being who he is, Obama may be helping Americans move away from racial self-consciousness, at least on an interpersonal level, and toward a meritocratic ethos in which their abilities matter more than the color of their skin. Obama’s America feels more like a sports team than a diversity training session. No one cares if a linebacker is black or white: He just has to be able to play. It’s the same with Obama and his team. Most of the time, who even remembers that Obama is black

geez. black people, i’m guessing? and other people who are proud of this symbolic victory over racism? and racists, of course.

Obama’s FCC pick

Obama has appointed Julius Genachowski to head the FCC, which I think is pretty good. Genachowski is on the record as supporting network neutrality. Also, there’s a fair amount of eco-friendliness and tech-savviness in his background — he headed up the Obama team’s internet campaigning, and also worked on Obama’s tech plan.

And, to boost his media credentials, he has worked with “Common Sense Media”, a media group that “believe[s] in media sanity, not censorship. … [S]ince we can’t always cover our kids’ eyes, we have to teach them how to see.” That last bit’s a little airy-fairy, but I like the strong first sentence. When investigated a little further, it still mostly looks pretty good:

Five Internet Challenges for Parents:

1. Keeping up is hard to do.

The Internet gets more portable every day, which makes it easier for our kids to be online more of the time. Today your kid may go online from a computer or even a mobile phone. But tomorrow? Who knows! It could be via something not yet invented. New sites appear and become “hot” overnight, replacing old ones. Parents need to help their kids learn about safe and appropriate behavior, not just safe and appropriate sites. Because teaching them about the dangers of one site or form of access today will be outdated information tomorrow.

….

4. … We need to help our kids think critically about what they post, read, and see online. ….

And then there’s also a lot of “Hey parents! Those crazy kids nowadays, huh? We may not always understand ‘em, but they sure do need us!” I find this sort of thing patronizing, personally, which is a little ironic for a site targeting parents about parenting. But, anyway, I love the media literacy bits, which, when all is said and done, is what this whole 5-point “Internet challenges” boils down to: “Teach them media literacy because it’s more effective.” Which I can totally get behind.

The Obama tech plan that Genachowski worked on includes a significant broadband access component, which the FCC will play a significant role in.

Some trivia: Interestingly, I note that he was on the board of TicketMaster, which I mostly think of in context of their various attempts to stifle database harvesting (e.g., Ticketmaster v. Tickets.com (C.D. Cal. 2003). Of course, it seems unlikely that he would have had any input or interaction with that particular business decision. I can’t help that my first association with TicketMaster is this sort of thing. My second association — annoying ticket fees and the memory of feeling ripped off by their high-priced stadium rock concert tickets back in the day — isn’t much better.

Some other trivia: His wife is a documentary filmmaker. Score one for content re-users! Take that, cell phone ring tone incidental capture cease-and-desist senders!

And — I love this — “He worked on the select committee investigating the Iran-Contra Affair”.WP Ah the glory days when Congress investigated executive wrongdoing — even before they felt safe in the knowledge that the wrong-doing president & his party had been ousted in ignominy from governance. Seriously, this is probably my favorite part of his resume. I love a good Iran-Contra investigator.

h/t: bradfox.com

see also: Washington Post 3/3

Speechless

Just like Maddow after Jindal, I am rendered speechless by the DOJ memos released on Monday. Most were by my former Con Law professor; among the notable exceptions was the repudiation of these policies last October.

Holy Constitutional Law, Batman.

* DOJ – Office of Legal Counsel memos

* NYT (3/3)
* LAT (3/3)
* links to the memos with brief annotations at salon.com

* Jack Balkin @ Balkinization (3/3 7am)
* Scott Horton @ Harper’s (3/3 716am)
* Dan Froomkin @ the Washington Post (3/3 12:52 pm)
* Glenn Greenwald, 3/3

Obama’s ongoing copyright industry promotion: FTC edition

aka, “the copyright industry suckup continues”, this time with the elevation of FTC commissioner Jon Leibowitz to Chair. Leibowitz is a former MPAA lobbyist (well, “vice president for congressional affairs”).

egg rights: South Dakota’s latest ventures into unintended consequences

South Dakota is at it again, with a new egg rights bill that defines “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” as a person under the South Dakota Constitution. Man it’s hard to keep up with all the really poorly thought out legislation from that state!

Broadsheet has the simplest quickest coverage, and links to Feministe “Even More Questions for Pro-Lifers”, always a good read.

Anyway, inspired by the Broadsheet post title “Eggs are people, too”, henceforth I will be referring to this sort of thing as “egg rights”. (A phrase which I now see has already gained some traction.) Egg rights activists, egg rights bills, and so forth.

The DOJ and current copyright conflicts of interest

The Dept. of Justice is threatening to weigh in on one of the numerous cases relating to the Constitutionality of statutory damages in copyright law. In case anyone hasn’t heard this, the Obama Administration has larded the DOJ with numerous copyright litigators and lobbyists.

I just sent the following letter to whitehouse.gov:

I’m writing in regard to the Department of Justice’s stated intent to intervene in the case, Sony BMG Entertainment Media v. Cloud. This case is one of several seeking Constitutional review of the egregious statutory damages available to copyright plaintiffs, which can be up to $150,000 for a single instance of copyright infringement, regardless of any actual damages.

I strongly urge the Department of Justice NOT to intervene in this and similar matters, based on clear conflicts of interest of top decision-makers at the Department of Justice.

The Administration has appointed numerous officials at the DOJ who have been formerly active in the issue precisely at stake — copyright enforcement and damages. Unfortunately, however, the appointments have not been representative of all sides of this issue, and have resulted in an imbalance in the nominees for decision-making positions at the DOJ. Neil MacBride, Thomas Perrelli, and Donald Verrilli, in particular, have all represented the trade associations for the copyright industry.

Thomas Perrelli, Managing Partner at Jenner & Block, has been nominated for Associate Attorney General of the United States. At Jenner & Block, he has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Sony BMG — the very client at issue in this litigation.

Donald Verrilli, another partner at Jenner and Block, is President Obama’s nominee for Associate Deputy Attorney General, and has stated that he is likely to have a civil portfolio. Mr. Verrilli directly represented the recording industry in the “Jammie Thomas” case, the infamous case that resulted in an almost quarter-million dollar judgment against a single mother for making 24 songs available on a P2P network. Moreover, he was the lead attorney for the RIAA, personally delivering oral argument at the hearing in which the Court threw out the verdict.

Clearly, all former Jenner & Block attorneys now at the Department should recuse themselves from the decision-making process, as should any other attorneys who directly represented clients on matters adverse to either of the parties in this important Constitutional case.

Unfortunately, however, because the Department of Justice has so many appointments representing one side of copyright-related matters, any intervention by the Department on behalf of Sony BMG in this case carries not just the appearance, but the actual risk, of violation of President Obama’s conflicts of interest policy. An ethical firewall will not suffice to remedy the conflict of interest when multiple top decision-makers are similarly conflicted.

Therefore, I strongly discourage intervention by the Dept. of Justice in this case and urge President Obama to consider balance in copyright and information policy in his future nominations. I also inquire specifically as to whether Mr. Perrelli and Mr. Verrilli have committed to recusing themselves in this and related matters, and what steps they plan to take to create an ethical firewall between themselves and the relevant decision-making processes.

Best regards,

etc.

Thanks to Jonathan Band for flagging the issue on a list, Mike Masnick at techdirt for the brief summary & relevant links, and Kevin Donovan at freeculture for his submission (which I took as my starting point).

sweet (day 1: stop the bush regulations)

sweet:

Obama halts all regulations pending review

17 hours ago AP 2009/01/20

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Barack Obama’s first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama’s White House, and it came from deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The waning days of former President Bush’s administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

(also? i loved that whitehouse.gov flipped over right about noon. badgerbag tells me that the old robots.txt was like 2500 lines long, but the one is only a couple of lines long. heh.)

new US Trade Rep; same bad Hollywood favoritism

see below for update 12/19

Obama has appointed the next US Trade Representative, current U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31); see also Becerra’s House site. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s going to be in the pocket of tank for Hollywood, just as prior USTR’s have been.

A few notes from some fast research (“googling”):

* He’s a Dem from LA. That’s almost saying enough right there.
* The Washington Times (crazy! but it’s what news.google.com pointed me to) reports:

With strong ties to Hollywood, Becerra fought to have the film industry included in the $137 billion tax bill. He wanted to stem the exodus of film production overseas and to Canada with tax-code changes.

* Google shows him on many, many events with, for, or about Hollywood, P2P, etc.
* He’s taken money from copyright maximalist PACs, e.g., $3000, Jan-June 1995, which went waaay up over the next decade: $38,750, 2005-06 (plus $3000 printing, for a total of $41,750 from copyright industries, against $12,000 from telcos & Internet companies). In ’07-’08, he took $47,500 from Hollywood, plus $5,000 from printing & publishing. Cost-of-lobbying increases, I guess. open secrets

But, while it may be bad on the copyright-front (did we expect anything good?), it’s not necessarily all bad. Like I’ve noticed before, Hollywood copyrightists who can’t see the public interest in copyright can definitely see it in patent law. Becerra cosponsored the “Genomic Research & Accessibility Act” to ban gene patents. Michael Crichton, Patenting Life, NYT, 2/13/2007

Last Friday, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat of California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican of Florida, sponsored the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature. Mr. Becerra has been careful to say the bill does not hamper invention, but rather promotes it. He’s right. This bill will fuel innovation, and return our common genetic heritage to us.

He’s also done some pro-librarian work, for example, seeking to add librarians to loan forgiveness plans, e.g., by introducing the Librarian Education & Development Act of 2003 (HR 2674).LIS News 2004/6/9

And of course in other areas — human rights not dealing with access to knowledge — he’s pretty good. So, the task is to get the access to knowledge message to him …

update 12/19 So Becerra turned down the job on Monday (12/15), and instead Obama has appointed Ron Kirk, former Mayor of Dallas, and supported by tech. tech daily dose, from private list

reasonable limits on presidential pardoning power

I’m contemplating Bush’s potential pardon of his various underlings for their roles in torture or other illegal actions, and I’m angry.

The Presidential pardoning power can be and should be used for humanitarian reasons — for mercy, or for justice, when for whatever reason those are not available through ordinary means. There’s also a good argument for using it for “national reconciliation” — e.g., pardoning the Viet Nam draft dodgers, or (gag) pardoning Nixon. (Those situations are clearly distinguishable, obviously, but even though I firmly disagree with the Nixon pardon, it’s a reasonable argument.)

But the pardoning power should not be available for use to eliminate responsibility for one’s own misdeeds, and for members of the government that includes actions committed on orders. Members of the government already receive a wide variety of protections for “following orders”. Use of the Presidential pardon power to pardon those who followed one’s own illegal orders is the worst kind of self-dealing, and it places the President above the law. Since “[t]he President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it’s clear that impeachment for such crimes was envisioned. Yet pardoning one’s underlings for their illegal activities render it virtually impossible to prosecute the superior that ordered the actions — the President thus protects himself from any such impeachment or other prosecution.

It’s regularly stated that the Presidential pardon power is “plenary” and virtually unlimited, but there must be some level of absurdity. Can the President pardon himself for, say, ordering the massacre of Congress and the suspension of the Constitution? Or bribe an investigative commission and then pardon himself for doing so? Well, yeah. Bush I showed us that they can, with his Iran-Contra pardons. So here we go again. There is just no fucking justice or accountability for members of this administration. God that makes me angry.

update 2/28: See, this is why I should save my wrath until after the fact. I could have used it so much more effectively ….

middle-rite nation

Lately annoyed by all the (conservative & mainstream) pundits asserting confidently that the US is “a center-right nation”. What? When did that happen? As long as I’ve watched these things, people’s positions on issues trend ever leftward — although the Right has successfully managed terminology such that feminists hate the “f-word”, liberals hate the “l-word”, socialists hate the “s-word”. (Anarchists and atheists are apparently so lost to reason that they can’t even be brought to disavow those terms.)

And happily David Sirota noted the same thing:

[Conservatives] contend that no matter how big progressives may win on election day, this is nonetheless a center-right nation. Indeed, a LexisNexis search shows this poll-tested term — “center-right nation” — is lately among the Punditburo’s most ubiquitous Orwellian buzzwords. From a Newsweek cover story by conservative dittohead Jon Meacham to a Wall Street Journal screed by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to a Politico.com diatribe by former Rudy Giuliani aide John Avlon, the “center-right nation” phrase is being parroted with the propagandistic discipline of Cuba’s Ministry of Information.

The proof of this center-right nation? Republicans cite polls showing more Americans call themselves conservative than liberal. While that data point certainly measures brand name, those same surveys undermine the right’s larger argument because they show majorities support progressive positions on most economic issues.

Sirota, Mandate ’08: Reagan vs. FDR, SF Chronicle, 2008/10/31.

Yes, not only are these pundits wrong, but indeed, there is a concerted push this year on this term — the latest conservative talking point. Has anyone tracked the origin and dispersal of these phrases? I’d really like to know.

eta 2008/11/09: Lots of other folks have noticed this as well. See, e.g., Frank Rich 11/9, ….

doing some old school css & ca…

doing some old school css & cackling about ted stevens. still. even after 24 hours.