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."
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. ...
I'm going to be moving back to Australia, probably at the beginning of February 2004. I plan to continue working on this blog, although it's very likely that my focus will shift a little, so there will be more postings directly about Australian topics. But I certainly won't cease writing about those American issues which have ramifications for Australia and the other small countries (politically speaking) of the world. American domestic laws and politics, whether we like it or not, have a great effect on Australia. ...
It was interesting to read this article from today's New York Times. Here are a couple of thoughts about it:
- Had Diebold not cracked down in such an unethical way on their legitimate critics, this controversy would not have grown in the way that it has - and the New York Times certainly would not have printed today's story. In the same way that Fox's laughable lawsuit only served to boost the sales of Al Franken's book, Diebold's copyright cudgel has been a PR nightmare for them. When will people and companies learn not to make this mistake again and again?
- This ultimately comes down to constitutional law. Both copyright and freedom of speech are grounded in the US constitution. If I were a hard core DMCA supporter, I'd also be very mad at Diebold. Their actions are hastening a collision between the DMCA and the First Amendment. If the DMCA is going to be used in this manner to stifle legitimate debate about the heart of the political process (voting), there is a chance that it will be held unconstitutional. Maybe this is a slim chance, maybe not, but if I were one of the DMCA's beneficiaries, I'd be worried about this gamble. So long as the debate about the DMCA was framed as whether people should be able to download music for free - it was never really going to get anywhere. But this Diebold case is different - in the post Florida 2000 world, it's really struck a nerve.
He mentions O'Reilly's appearance on Fresh Air, Dave Winer's "funky RSS" comments, and takes the media to task for giving the Bushies a free ride over the most outrageous claims - and wonders why this might be. He uses the RIAA as an example of using the media to popularize outrageous claims.