Daypop is one of my favourite tools for finding information on really current topics. Because it crawls a smaller number of websites (just blogs and news sources), it can be more responsive than Google.
Anyway, I did a quick & dirty search on Daypop concerning the topic which I wrote about yesterday. Here's a digested version of my results, listed in loosely chronological order.
This is truly frightening. The Red Pencil Diaries has reported, linking to a San Antonio Current article, that much of the dreaded Patriot Act II has been stealthily reconstituted into the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2004, which was signed into law on the day that Saddam Hussein was captured.
"...it appeared that the Bush Administration was waiting for the start of the Iraq war to introduce Patriot Act II, and then exploit the crisis to ram it through Congress with little public debate.
The leak and ensuing public backlash frustrated the Bush administration's strategy, so Ashcroft and Co. disassembled Patriot Act II, then reassembled its parts into other legislation. By attaching the redefinition of "financial institution" to an Intelligence Authorization Act, the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies avoided public hearings and floor debates for the expansion of the Patriot Act. [David Martin, "With a whisper, not a bang: Bush signs parts of Patriot Act II into law — stealthily", San Antonio Current (Dec. 24, 2003)]
This is so outrageous that I've tried to confirm it from other sources.
Here is a press release from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) mentioning that he voted against the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2004, H.R. 2417. His main reason: "However, under this provision the FBI no longer needs a court order to serve a subpoena on a new and lengthy list of ‘financial institutions.’ With this legislation we eliminate the judicial oversight that was built into our system for a reason - to make sure that our precious liberties are protected."
Don't get me wrong - this is a good thing. Unless you're a Tolkien fan or have studied Contract law, you probably won't find this link to be funny. I'm both and even found the voluminous comments worth a read.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm returning to Australia on February 1. I have my tickets, I'm now in the process of working out what things I should take with me, and which things I should sell, give away or throw out. I was thinking that I might as well give away my small DVD collection, because it was going to be too difficult for me to view them in Australia, thanks to DVD region encoding (the link is a good summary - albeit slightly biased in favour of regioning). It is so frustrating that a technological solution is deliberately blocked like this.
Here are my thoughts about this:
- these are the results for only 1 state
- there could be under-reporting of FBI visits because of section 215's gag-order
- even if John Ashcroft is not lying (and here's an interesting Salon article about the acceptance of lying in public life), and section 215 has not yet been used against librarians, this law is still a concern -
- it is based on a flawed & dangerous premise, that there is a connection between reading about certain things and acting on them
- even if the law is never used, while it's on the books, it has a chilling effect on how people use libraries - or purchase books
[update on 28 March 2005: This article has been followed-up on and partially retracted here]
Among constitutional scholars there was a big divide between those who think that the best safeguard of democracy and human rights is to have a strong written constitution - and those who prefer an unwritten constitution.
I tend to think that when things are going well, a good written constitution will almost always be better. It can help provide a good check on goverment by those without power. But any written constitution is only as strong as a nation's citzenry, courts, law makers, and law enforcement willingness to be bound by it, even when it goes against their immediate wishes. It is so easy for a written constitution to be misinterpreted and marginalized and ultimately ignored. There are numerous examples where a country's constitution's is not so much of a fundamental binding legal document, but a wish list. For example, look at Part II chapter one of the Sudanese constitition. Such a huge gap between the words and the reality! I worry that the US has started to head in this direction.
I could name countless examples , but I'll limit myself to three, concerning each of the branches of goverment. ...
There is a very interesting debate going on in Steven Cohen's Library Stuff about the role of blogs as an alternative medium for academic publishing. Although Steven Bell has makes some reasonable points, I tend to agree more with Steven Cohen. Speaking for myself, it's a fallacy to think that if I transferred all the time & effort that goes into my blog into more traditional writing - that a couple of publishable articles would come from it. Writing an article/paper for publication is a such a big & intimidating undertaking that it deters most ideas from ever reaching any audience.
I think that the differences in the two media tend to make web logs postings and journal articles very different from each other. This isn't an absolute, just a tendency.
So are web logs and journal articles different but equal? Well, in terms of pure prestige - generally not. Because there being no gate keeper and editor, because of the existing permanency and stability problems. Of course there can be exceptions.
But does that make web logs useless? Far from it! In the same way, an encyclopaedia has more prestige than a journal article yet that doesn't make journal articles useless - because journal articles are more current and can cover wider range of subjects. I think that blogs are to journal articles what journal articles are to encyclopaedia.
Blogs are also rougher, generally shorter and less formal than journal articles (although they certainly don't have to be). The thing is that although there is a LOT of rubbish in web logs (including this one, see my Matrixy post), there are also some pearls which cannot be found anywhere else. Another advantage blogs have is their spontaneity and vitality, which are good things. Bloggers are still a very elitist group, but when compared with the select few who are published authors - we are the unwashed masses who deserve a voice.
This is not a zero sum game. Blogs already have a place in the corpus of knowledge, and this place is growing. They're not going to replace journals, encyclopaedia and books, which is also reassuring.
I've finally got around to making some changes to this blog which I've been putting off for months. The most obvious change is that I've switched from a 2 column template to a 3 column template. This makes my blog a little more cluttered, but it will hopefully make some of the content in the side columns more visible. Before I felt that some things were quite buried in that one long narrow column. I've finally added some law blogs (blawgs) to my blog roll. They presently don't have any descriptions, but I'll be adding those later. Then there are a few other minor changes.
I wrote the previous post at home without having the benefit of having the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) volume with me. I've just checked to see if my recollection of LCSH was correct, and as a result, I need to make a minor clarification. In LCSH, miscegenation is preferred over equivalent terms such as "hybridity of races", "racial amalgamation", and "racial crossing". More importantly, it says that if one is using "Miscegenation -- Law and Legislation", it is actually better to use "Interracial Marriage -- Law and Legislation" instead. So it's quite possible that the book in my anecdote could have been catalogued as "Interracial Marriage -- Law and Legislation" and still been fully compliant with LCSH.
Still, my main concern remains valid. Miscegenation should be less preferred in all instances, not just for "-- Law and Legislation". The presence of the exception shows that LCSH is aware of the problem with using miscegenation. Now they need to implement a full replacement - or replacements - for the term.