December 26, 2005

UK Peace Activist Convicted

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 8, 2005 @ 9:46 pm
Filed under: Free Speech?, Courts, Howard

A woman was arrested and convicted for reading — in a public square in London — the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq.

From the BBC website:

Maya Anne Evans, 25, a vegan cook from Hastings, (UK) was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

The UK has made it illegal to have an unauthorized protest of any size within a kilometer of the Parliament building.

From the UK Mirror:

[She] was found guilty of breaching a one kilometre exclusion zone for unauthorised protests around Westminster.

She had been arrested in October as she read out names of 97 British soldiers who died in Iraq.

She said: “I just think it’s a shame you can’t voice your freedom of speech any more.”

Who really committed a “serious organised crime?” Maya Anne Evans or Prime Minister Tony Blair? The latter misled the UK into a war with hype about WMDs.

Read more: “War is a racket.




Christian Science Monitor Published Lie That Promotes Samuel Alito

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 6, 2005 @ 11:20 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Courts

Samuel Alito was nominated by George W. Bush to the Supreme Court.

Bush said about Samuel Alito , “I know he’s thinking about his late father. Samuel Alito Sr. came to this country as a immigrant from Italy in 1914. And his fine family has realized the great promise of our country.”

The Christian Science Monitor uncritically quoted a family friend on this matter:

“His father came [from Italy] as a 14-year-old immigrant, and by the time he was in his 20s he was teaching high school English,” says Jack Lacy, a former Hamilton Township councilman and family friend for 50 years. “To me that is quite an accomplishment, considering he came here speaking Italian.”

Note how the year 1914 got turned into age 14 by someone trying to sell Alito to the public.

But according to his military records, Samuel Alito’s father (also named Samuel) was born in 1914 in New Jersey.

Samuel Alito, the nominee, didn’t set the record straight. He should have spoken up after Bush’s statement or after the Christian Science Monitor article. Instead , it took a blogger to report the truth.

« The dishonesty and corruption of Samuel Alito »

Previously, Samuel Alito lied to the Senate in 1990, saying he would recuse himself from cases involving Vanguard, a company whose mutual funds he owns. Alito didn’t recuse himself. Instead, he ruled in favor of the company.

Alito has also said that his job application for the Reagan Administration, in which he said that the US Constitution doesn’t protect a right to an abortion, shouldn’t be taken seriously as a reflection of his views. Alito said the statements were part of his attempt to land a job.

The Christian Science Monitor isn’t the only media organization to provide Supreme Court nominee Alito with dubiously positive coverage. On December 1, PBS had two law professors as guests on “The News Hour” to discuss Alito. Both praised Alito and didn’t discuss why he’s controversial.

Samuel Alito is a dishonest man. He doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. He should be filibustered.

Parts of this article come via Crooks and Liars.




Right-Wing Bias on “The News Hour” on PBS

Posted by Eric Jaffa
December 1, 2005 @ 9:32 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Courts

Samuel Alito is Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

Tonight on PBS’ “The News Hour,” two law professors discussed Alito: Lillian Bevier of the University of Virginia Law School, and Akhil Amar of Yale Law School.

Both talked about how wonderful Alito is. They told the public how he’s so careful and he cares about the facts, etc.

The guests acted like Alito isn’t controversial.

They didn’t criticize Judge Alito’s rulings against workers’ rights and civil liberties.

Akhil Amar declared that Alito is a conservative and that there is nothing wrong with that.

My answer is that if you’re the one whose rights were violated by the police or an employer, and you’re not even allowed to present your case to a jury because Alito threw your case out of court, then there is something wrong.

Samuel Alito should be filibustered. He should not be put on the Supreme Court.

Update of December 6, 2005: the transcript.




Bookstore Can Appeal Obscenity Case to Canadian Supreme Court

Posted by Chris Zammarelli
November 22, 2005 @ 5:42 am
Filed under: Obscene!, Government, Indecency, Courts

The Canadian Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium. The bookstore had requested government subsidies to fund its fight with Canadian Customs over gay- and BSDM-themed materials seized on the basis of obscenity. The request was previously denied.

Little Sisters co-owner Jim Deva said that it was impossible for the store to pay the $500K to $1m that it would cost to challenge Customs in court.




Reasons Bloggers Should Support the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 21, 2005 @ 6:52 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

EFF argues for civil liberties in court, and “EFF Needs Your Support in the Fight for Bloggers’ Rights!




“A Personal Opinion”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 16, 2005 @ 6:44 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Government, Media Watch, Courts

Samuel Alito is Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

In 1985, Alito wrote in a job application that “the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”

Conservative columnist John Podhoretz said yesterday in the NY Post: “This is going to be fun. Let’s see if Democrats in the Senate are willing to stage an all-out assault on a nominee simply because he has expressed a personal opinion on whether the Constitution protects ‘a right to an abortion.’”

« Language watch »

Al Franken responded on his radio show yesterday that every opinion is a personal opinion.

However, an opinion about the Constitution expressed by a lawyer is also a professional opinion, Franken said.

« Samuel Alito’s explanation »

Via Think Progress:

Alito is now dismissing the document, claiming he was just saying what he needed to say to ingratiate himself with his potential bosses in the Reagan administration. Here’s what Alito told Sen. Diane Feinstein this afternoon.

It was different then. I was an advocate seeking a job. It was a political job.

Translation: those weren’t my personal views, I was just lying to get a job.

If Alito was lying then, it doesn’t say much about his trustworthiness now. Alito’s trustworthiness is already at issue; he lied during confirmation hearings for his present seat when he told the Senate that he’d recuse himself from cases involving the Vanguard Group, investment company whose mutual funds he owns.

If Alito was telling the truth then, and he’s lying now, that doesn’t say much about his trustworthiness, either.

Alito should not be given a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

More in a Supreme Court Watch pdf.

Note: Sometimes people express an official opinion for an organization, and say that they weren’t expressing their personal opinions. Samuel Alito’s letter stating that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion was his personal and professional opinion. Alito wasn’t writing on behalf of an organization.




Hong Kong Man Sent to Jail for Sharing Three Movies

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 11, 2005 @ 10:10 am
Filed under: Government, Courts

From the New York Times:

A Hong Kong judge sentenced a 38-year-old unemployed man to three months in jail Monday for using an Internet file-sharing system to make three Hollywood movies available for others to download free.

Chan Nai-ming stored three Hollywood movies on his computer and let others download them at no charge. The jail sentence was the first ever meted out against a person copying movies using the BitTorrent file-sharing technology, industry and government officials said. BitTorrent, which is made to handle very large files, cuts the time it takes to download movies and TV shows from hours to minutes.

[…]

“The message is one that is best heeded by Internet pirates the world over, namely that you can and will be found, prosecuted and punished for the theft of intellectual property,” said Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Free file-sharing should be a civil matter, not a criminal matter that lands people in jail.

Dan Glickman’s lack of compassion here doesn’t speak well of him.




Letter to a Senator Condemned for “Plagiarism”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 8, 2005 @ 10:55 am
Filed under: Media Watch, Courts

When writing for publication, a person should be original — or give credit for others’ work.

When writing a politician, however, no originality is needed. The point is to communicate a political position.

I regularly write Congress using form letters at advocacy websites.

« Accusations of plagiarism in Ohio »

Last week George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Alito has a record of denying workers and other people claiming injury a chance to present their case to a jury.

Blogger Nathan Newman wrote about the problems with Alito’s record on workers.

A staffer for Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) similar to that blog post by Nathan Newman.

Reporter Steven Koff wrote an article in today’s Cleveland Plains Dealer condemning the Sherrod Brown letter as “plagiarized.”

The newspaper article is oblivious to the difference between writing for publication and writing a politician. It is equally ignorant of the fact that sending a letter to a politician is different from making a political speech.

Nathan Newman, who wrote the original blog post, calls the newspaper article “ridiculous.”

Newman asks:

…what about the real victims, the workers denied minimum wage, family leave, or a day in court to challenge racial and gender discrimination because of Alito’s decisions?

Who the hell cares if a Brown staffer copied a factual listing of legal cases into a letter? This was hardly a literary blog post using deathless prose for the ages. It was the facts that made this post interesting, not it’s [sic] literary value.

« Plagiarism, defined loosely »

This isn’t the first dubious accusation of plagiarism.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was accused of plagiarism for publishing passages in book — and giving credit to the original author.

« Update »

The end of the newspaper article refers to Sherrod Brown’s “letter to DeWine, which he released to reporters Friday.”

Maybe it was for publication. The reporter should have put that earlier in the article.

The reporter, Stephen Koff, doesn’t quote a response from Nathan Newman, the man allegedly harmed by the plagiarism (apparently because of deadline constraints). The only expert quoted is a conservative blogger, Daniel Drezner.

« Politicians and plagiarism »

Politicians don’t write most of their speeches. Politicians also don’t write most their letters.

While reporter Stephen Koff writes that “Students can be flunked for copying others’ words without attribution, and journalists can be fired,” Sherrod Brown is neither a student nor a journalist. The newspaper article quotes Daniel Drezner as condemning Brown by comparing this act to Joe Biden taking part of a 1987 stump speech from a British politician. I agree in so far that I didn’t think Biden’s actions were a big deal, either.

Unless we’re going to demand that politicians write their own letters and speeches, exactly what is the issue?




Judge Alito and Spin

Posted by Eric Jaffa
November 4, 2005 @ 11:36 am
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Courts

George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court on Monday.

Liberal Oasis says the White House is trying to spin Alito as a moderate by setting up interviews between newspaper reporters and third parties.

However, we should not believe the hype:

We must show that he is a
” target=”_blank”>protect the environment
, provide
” target=”_blank”>machine guns off the streets
.

He will deny citizens their day in court such as when corporations
” target=”_blank”>discriminate against employees
.

And he is so tied to corporations that he once « We deserve our day in court »

What bothers me most about Alito is his willingness to stop citizens who say they were wronged from even presenting their case to a jury.




Alito Laughs at Statistics Regarding All-White Jury That Put Man on Death Row

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 31, 2005 @ 10:14 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

From an editorial in the New York Times on Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, referring to Riley v. Taylor, 2001 (pdf, page 13).

When lawyers for a black death-row inmate sought to demonstrate bias in jury selection by using statistics, Judge Alito dismissed that as akin to arguing that Americans were biased toward left-handers because left-handed men had won five out of six of the preceding presidential elections.

A black defendant, James Riley, faced an all-white jury in a part of Delaware with an 18% black population, but a 9% black jury pool. This is a relevant fact for the defendant, not something to brush off by writing about left-handed presidents.

It shows a warped sense of humor that Alito can laugh off a death row appeal by citing a coincidence that supposedly invalidates all statistics — unless he was being perfectly serious, and he believes a coincidence of left-handers winning recent elections disproves all statistics (which is just as bad). A tiny statistical sample having an irrelevancy in common proves nothing.

This shows a problem with Alito’s judgement, and shows he should not rule on civil rights, free speech cases, and other important issues.

Here are Samuel Alito’s own words.

Draw your own conclusions as to whether Alito is trying to be funny or clever, or if he believes he’s making a serious argument.

“An amateur with a pocket calculator,” the majority writes, can calculate that “there is little chance of randomly selecting four consecutive all white juries.” Id.

Statistics can be very revealing — and also terribly misleading in the hands of “an amateur with a pocket calculator.” The majority’s simplistic analysis treats the prospective jurors who were peremptorily challenged as if they had no relevant characteristics other than race, as if they were in effect black and white marbles in a jar from which the lawyers drew. In reality, however, these
individuals had many other characteristics, and without taking those variables into account, it is simply not possible to determine whether the prosecution’s strikes were based on race or something else.

The dangers in the majority’s approach can be easily illustrated. Suppose we asked our “amateur with a pocket calculator” whether the American people take right- or left-handedness into account in choosing their Presidents. Although only about 10% of the population is left-handed,
left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections.15 Our “amateur with a calculator” would conclude that “there is little chance of randomly selecting” left-handers in five out of six presidential elections. But does it follow that the voters cast their ballots based on whether a candidate was right- or left-handed?

A description of the issue from Salon.com:

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Riley is black. All of the jurors who heard his case were white; prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove all three African-Americans on the panel from which Riley’s jury was chosen. There were three other first-degree murder trials in Kent County (Delaware) the year Riley was sentenced. Prosecutors struck all the black jurors from those trials, too.

Coincidence? A majority of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit didn’t think so. “An amateur with a pocket calculator can calculate the number of blacks that would have served had the state used its strikes in a racially proportionate manner,” the majority wrote. The majority did its own math and concluded that if the prosecutors in the four cases had used their peremptory challenges in a race-blind way, five of the 48 jurors in those cases would have been black. “Admittedly, there was no statistical analysis of these figures presented by either side in the post-conviction proceeding,” the majority wrote. “But is it really necessary to have a sophisticated analysis by a statistician to conclude that there is little chance of randomly selecting four consecutive all white juries?”




Doing the Unexpected = “Disorderly Conduct?”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 31, 2005 @ 4:10 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

From an article at CounterPunch by Nikki Robinson:

On October 19, the Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC) stood around the Army recruiters, who had brought a rock-climbing wall to entice students over to talk with them. A member of KSAWC and former Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran, David Airhart decided to show his opposition against the war by exercising his rights of free speech. After filling out liability forms Airhart climbed the rock wall. Once he reached the top he took out a banner, which he held under his jacket, and draped it over the wall. The banner read: Kent, Ohio for Peace. Airhart was forced to climb down the back of the wall because a recruiter was coming up the front, yelling at him.

As he was climbing down another recruiter came up the back and proceeded to assault Airhart both verbally and physically by pulling his shirt, forcing him off the wall. Airhart was fined $105 by city police for disorderly conduct and told that he will have to go to judicial affairs at the university where he will face probation or expulsion.

When asked why he wanted to counter-recruit against the military Airhart responded, “I do not feel that the administration should allow the military to recruit their students for an unjust war that is taking the lives of innocent people. They should be protecting their students, not using them for cannon fodder.” The recruiter who assaulted Airhart was never charged with disorderly conduct; nor was the bigot who came by screaming profanities and spitting at KSAWC members fined for being disorderly.

Somehow an Iraq War veteran hanging a banner, which called for peace, was disorderly and the others were not.

If the definition of “disorderly conduct” in Ohio lets police charge people for non-crimes like unfurling a banner, the concept of “disorderly conduct” needs to be re-examined or dropped altogether.

There shouldn’t be a catchall to arrest people for unexpected but otherwise legal behavior.




Nominee Samuel Alito’s Cases on Free Speech

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 31, 2005 @ 7:27 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Courts

George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court this morning.

For an overview of his hostility to liberty, visit Think Progress. Samuel Alito believes that police should be able to strip search us for drugs — even if our names aren’t in search warrants.

Regarding free speech, Alito seems to rule in favor of it when conservative speech is at issue, and against it otherwise.

In “Saxe v. State College Area School District” (2001), a case in which the plaintiffs wanted to speak out against homosexuality, he ruled in favor of free speech:

Two high school students challenged a school district’s anti-harassment policy, contending it violated their First Amendment rights. The students believed that the policy prohibited them from voicing their religious belief that homosexuality was a sin.

The policy provided several examples of harassment, including: “any unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct which offends, denigrates or belittles an individual” because of “race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.” The district court ruled the policy constitutional. The students appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Issue: Whether a high school anti-harassment policy that prohibits a broad range of speech offensive to others violates the First Amendment.

Holding: In a 3-0 decision, a Third Circuit panel held that such a broadly worded policy prohibits too much speech and violates the First Amendment.

This ruling against the broad harassment policy was proper, but Alito was ruling for conservative plaintiffs and it’s easy to defend the free speech of your own.

Samuel Alito cases against free speech

In “Sanguigni v. Pittsburgh Board of Education” (1992), Alito ruled that a teacher, Ms. Sanguigni, could be fired from her position as a coach for writing in a faculty newsletter that there was a problem of low morale among teachers. ( From People for the American Way. See page 19 of the pdf document.)

In “Banks v. Beard” (2005), Alito wrote in dissent that prisoners don’t have the right to access most newspapers and magazines, nor photographs of friends and family. (From PFAW. See page 20 of the pdf document.)




Another Look at Putting Judith Miller in Prison

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 30, 2005 @ 1:27 pm
Filed under: Free Press, Courts

New York Times reporter Judith Miller deserves the worst for helping start a war.

My heart doesn’t bleed for her over her 85 days in prison.

But was it actually necessary to the indictments against Lewis “Scooter” Libby to send her to prison?

The blogger Billmon says no.




The ACLU

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 29, 2005 @ 1:18 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Courts

The “American Civil Liberties Union” fights for freedom of speech and the due process of law.

I donated to them tonight.

The ACLU.




Bush: “Each Individual Is Presumed Innocent”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 28, 2005 @ 7:45 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

Today, George W. Bush said about Lewis Libby, “In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.”

That is how our system should work.

But what about Jose Padilla, the US citizen Bush is claiming he can have imprisoned for the rest of his life without trial?

If Bush wins the Padilla case when it goes to the US Supreme Court, he will have the power to label as many of us as he wants “enemy combatants,” and imprison us for life without trial.

Some people will be afraid to engage in dissent if Bush’s bizarre twist on American values in the Padilla case is affirmed by the Supreme Court.




Tell a Teenage Girl Where to Get an Abortion, Go to Prison?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 28, 2005 @ 7:13 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

Abortion law in Missouri:

A Jackson County judge’s decision on the constitutionality of a law setting new limits on teenagers’ abortions appears to hinge on concerns that the legislation might infringe on First Amendment rights.

Circuit Judge Charles Atwell heard arguments yesterday from attorneys on both sides of the law, which was passed during a special session this year and allows lawsuits against those who help minors obtain abortions without parental consent.

The debate between Eve Gartner, representing Planned Parenthood, which sued to block the law, and Assistant Attorney General Vickie Mahon appeared to boil down to a conflict over just a few words in the statute. That passage, which says lawsuits can be pursued against those who “intentionally cause, aid or assist” girls’ abortions, is what caused the concern over free speech rights.

Gartner said she was worried that even offering advice to a pregnant minor, regardless of whether she went through with an abortion, could be seen as unlawful under the statute.

“This law would prohibit us from doing what we do every day,” she said. “There’s a chilling effect on our speech.”

Mahon said it was unfair to look only at one passage of the law.

“You can’t piecemeal this and cut it up and look at ‘aid and assist’ by itself,” she said. “You have to employ common sense in what was the legislature’s intent.”

Still, Mahon acknowledged that First Amendment issues were raised, though only if someone provided information on crossing state lines to obtain an abortion elsewhere.

“In limited circumstances, counseling could be violative of this statute,” she said. “I think it has to be counseling that incites imminent lawlessness.”

There is a great article on parental notification at Pandagon.




How Corporations Can Shut Down Blogs

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 28, 2005 @ 5:27 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

A Forbes Magazine article advises corporations to silence bloggers who criticize them:

Find some copyrighted text that a blogger has lifted from your Web site and threaten to sue his Internet service provider under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That may prompt the ISP to shut him down.

Or threaten to drag the host into a defamation suit against the blogger. The host isn’t liable but may skip the hassle and cut off the blogger’s access anyway. Also: Subpoena the host company, demanding the blogger’s name or Internet address.

Given the ease with which corporations can abuse the DMCA to interfere with free speech, the act should be changed.

The law’s structure encourages web-hosting companies to take websites offline immediately after receiving a complaint, before even hearing the website owner’s side.

Regarding blogger’s identities, a corporation should have to prove to a judge that a blogger probably violated the law before the corporation can request the blogger’s identity from the web-hosting company.




Rosa Parks, Activist

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 27, 2005 @ 9:50 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Courts

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks died Monday.

There was a march in her honor in Tuskegee, Alabama, yesterday:

TUSKEGEE, Ala. - More than 200 people linked arms and marched through Rosa Parks’ hometown to pay tribute to the late civil rights pioneer.

Organizers said Wednesday’s march represented the 50,000 who took part in the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott after Parks’ historic act of defiance sparked the modern civil rights movement.

“Today we wanted to march one more time for Rosa,” Mayor Johnny Ford said.

The memorial was one of a series of events scheduled to commemorate Parks, who died Monday at the age of 92. On Dec. 1, 1955 she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system.

Finally, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that declared Montgomery’s segregated seating laws unconstitutional. The effort highlighted persistent bias against blacks across the nation.

Almost no one would argue today that transit companies should be able to insist the blacks stand so whites can sit.

But the Supreme Court case on this issue, Gayle and City of Montgomery v. Browder (1956) was controversial in its day.

On Mar. 13, 1957, “The Joint Resolution of the Georgia General Assembly” was issued, calling for “IMPEACHMENT OF CERTAIN U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICES” based mostly on racial integration cases:

That the said above named Justices, without warrant in the Constitution, extended their above pro-communist racial integration policy and decrees so as to apply the same to intrastate bus transportation and similar cases, on November 7, 1955, in the case of Baltimore City v. Dawson, 350 U.S. 877; Holmes v. Atlanta, November 7, 1955, 350 U.S. 879, and Gayle and City of Montgomery v. Browder, November 13, 1956, 352 U.S. 903, 77 S. Ct. 10, in spite of the fact that the Court in various consolidated cases, in October, 1883, reported in 109 U.S. 18, held that an Act of Congress which had provided for interracial accommodations on public conveyances on land or water was unconstitutional because Congress was not vested with power to legislate upon such subjects which are within the domain of State legislation, nor authority to create a code of municipal law for the regulation of private rights.

However, in said recent cases, said Justices Warren, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas and Clark usurped legislative power which the Court in a better day when manned by lawyers had held to be beyond the reach of the constitutional powers of Congress, and thereby actually amended or nullified the applicable provisions of the United States Constitution in furtherance of their undertaking by judicial decrees to carry out communist policies advocated by the so-called sociological authorities cited and adopted by them in the foregoing cases.

By their said unlawful acts, said Justices violated Article I, Sections 1 and 8; Article III, Section 3; Sections 3 and 5 of Amendment fourteen and the Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

Conservatives were accusing judges of violating the Constitution by issuing “judicial decrees” for “communist policies.”

This shows a reason not to be nostaligic for the 1950s.

There was obnoxious conservative rhetoric then, as now.




Harriet Miers Withdraws — We May Do Worse

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 27, 2005 @ 5:41 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Opinion, Courts

“Things just go from bad to worse.” — Jim Carroll

Harriet Miers won’t be a Justice on the US Supreme Court.

My hunch about her was that she would vote against civil liberties for the last three years of Bush’s term, in deference to him as her former boss. But that after those three years, she would be independent and occasionally rule in favor of civil liberties.

The next nominee will probably be someone who will vote against civil liberties 99% of the time during his or her entire term on the Court.

Harriet Miers had a positive but thin record on free speech.

Possible nominee Janice Rogers Brown consistently rules against the free speech of individuals and in favor of the free speech of corporations.

Why Harriet Miers was nominated in the first place

I don’t believe that Bush planned all along for her nomination to fail (as a distraction or to help someone more right-wing get through).

Bush wanted her on the Court to expand his power.

Bush saw Harriet Miers as an enthusisatic supporter who would rule to give him unlimited power, including the power to label any one of us an “enemy combatant” and imprison us for life without trial (see Jose Padilla).




Share Movies Over the Internet, Get Four Years in Prison?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 26, 2005 @ 6:56 pm
Filed under: Government, Courts

The Motion Picture Association of America has influence over the government of Hong Kong:

The long arm of the Motion Picture Association of America has caught up with a Hong Kong man who had been using the BitTorrent service to distribute at least three Hollywood films online. Thirty-eight year old Chan Nai-ming, who was arrested in January by Hong Kong authorities acting in cooperation with the MPAA, was found guilty on Tuesday of copyright infringement.

He had been accused of distributing Miss Congeniality, Daredevil and Red Planet on the Internet. He is due to be sentenced on Nov. 7 and faces a possible four-year prison sentence and a fine of about $6,000.

Copyright infringement should be a civil matter, not a criminal matter.

Perhaps the copyright owners should be allowed to sue him — depending on the circumstances — but locking him in prison is disproportionate to the infraction.




‘With Friends Like These’ Department

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 23, 2005 @ 2:40 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch, Courts


Jeff Jarvis still from a TV appearance, smiling, white beard and glasses.
Jeff Jarvis, Commentator

Self-described “liberalJeff Jarvis on the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court (on CNN’s media analysis TV show “Reliable Sources“) via Crooks and Liars:

JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: …on the right…they have been shrill and they can’t figure out how the heck to get out of this mess that their boss got them into.

But I’ll criticize my end of the spectrum on the left, and say that I think the left has been cynical about this and say, well, maybe we should just back her because who is going to come later is worse.

Liberals considering whether to oppose Miers may suspect that Bush will nominate someone worse if she’s rejected.

Wow, what cynics!

People who consider the consequences of their actions are so cynical!

Jarvis continues:

What everyone should have done is said, Bush, this is the best you can do? So rather than saying that, rather than saying that we should be asking for the best of our president and our government and our Supreme Court, we try to find little nit-picky stuff to get out of this embarrassing mess. It is an embarrassing mess, and Harriet Miers should just perform career suicide at this point and do her boss a favor and say, never mind.

In other words, we need someone with more judicial experience, and if it’s Janice Rogers Brown who will vote against civil liberties 99% of the time (while Harriet Miers might vote against civil liberites 80% of the time but who knows), that is the price which Americans will have to pay for experience.

Personally, I don’t know whether it will be better in the long run if Miers is confirmed or rejected. I object to Jarvis slamming liberals trying to weigh that issue.




Patricia Schroeder Opposes Google Scanning Books

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 21, 2005 @ 3:28 pm
Filed under: Libraries, Courts


Patricia Schroeder with grey hair and gold earings, showing white teeth but not exactly smiling
Patricia Schroeder, president
of the Association of American Publishers

For centuries, books have gone out-of-print and disappeared.

Now Google is doing something about that.

But not if Patricia Shroeder has her way.

The former Congresswoman from Colorado doesn’t want Google to create a digital library.

Google today faced a new legal challenge to its plans to digitise library books, as major publishers sought to block it from scanning copyrighted works.

Five publishing houses - McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons - filed a suit in New York yesterday, claiming that Google’s plans would infringe their copyrights.

“If Google can make … copies, then anyone can,” Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, told Reuters. “Anybody could go into a library and start making digital copies of anything.”

If the idea of someone making copies in a library is supposed to fill me with fear, it doesn’t. Besides…

…Supporters of the Google Print project claim… scanning of the full text of the books is necessary to create a searchable catalogue of the books located within the five libraries’ collections. Google says it has no plans to make full copies of copyrighted works available without their owners’ permission.

Sounds like technology which will sell more books.

Just as the video-cassette recorder which the movie industry tried to stop in court resulted in more movie sales.




Federal Shield Law for Reporters

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 21, 2005 @ 9:05 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

Under current law, a reporter is sometimes given a choice between revealing a source or going to prison.

The US Senate is holding hearing into whether the law should be changed.

ABC News President David Westin admitted Wednesday that “some information is not being told to the American people, despite the fact that the information is true and it otherwise deserves to be told” because of fear that prosecutors will target reporters as witnesses about the stories they have written about and demand that they reveal their sources. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Westin said that the decisions by some prosecutors to go after journalists “now influences editorial decisions we make at ABC News. More than ever, our decision whether to report a story depends on more than simply whether we are confident of the truth of our story and its importance. Increasingly, we have to consider as well whether — even if we’re sure we’re right and we believe the story worth reporting — it’s worth someone potentially going to jail.”

Westin supported a proposed shield law (Reporter’s Privilege Legislation) that would also limit government’s access to non-published material for use in legal proceedings. He told the committee: “If those with whom we deal were to conclude that we were, in effect, acting as potential fact-finders for the government, they would be far less willing to tell us what they know.”

There can be an abuse of power in this area, whether or not the law is changed.

On the one hand, the government can abuse its power under current law by jailing reporters who don’t deserve it.

On the other hand, Judith Miller deserved to go to jail.

I don’t want government officials to be able to use classified information to smear with impunity.

Or for people in the private sector with access to private information to be able to leak it with impunity.

There should be a risk to a leaker, as there is under current law. That way, the risks and benefits can be balanced by a potential leaker, instead of him of her just having impunity.




Judith Miller Misled About Scooter Libby

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 17, 2005 @ 9:15 am
Filed under: Media Watch, Free Press, Courts

Scooter Libby wearing a dark suit and a red tie with a design on it, not smiling

“Irving Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr. (born August 22, 1950) is a lawyer and Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States as well as the Vice President’s assistant for National Security Affairs.” - wikipedia

New York Times reporter Judith Miller describes her testimony to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald regarding the outing of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and how she cited Libby:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked about a notation I made on the first page of my notes about this July 8 meeting, “Former Hill staffer.”

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a “senior administration official.” When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a “former Hill staffer.” I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don’t recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

This morning, radio host Al Franken said that for Judith Miller to mislead her readers this way about where the attack on Joseph Wilson was coming-from (”former Hill staffer”) is akin to if she said “a former Little League pitcher.” Franken said even if an official isn’t named, readers of the New York Times should still be given some real information about who is being quoted.

Wonkette has coined a new slogan for the New York Times: “The Paper of Off the Record.”

That is a play on “The paper of record.” Wonkette context: “Miller apparently felt that she owed more to Libby than she did the public; of course, the public never had breakfast with her at the St. Regis, so fuck them. ‘Miss Run Amok’ appears to have done just that, hijacking the New York Times into the Paper of Off the Record and leveraging her own jail stint into de facto censorship, killing one story on administration’s role in leaking a CIA agent’s name and refusing to assign others. “

Wonkette may have gotten ‘Miss Run Amok’ from: “Doug Frantz, former chief investigations editor at (The New York Times), said that Miller called herself ‘Miss Run Amok,’ meaning, she said, ‘I can do whatever I want.’”

Update of November 11, 2005

Judith Miller implied on NPR today that she never actually used the phrase “former Hill Staffer” in her artices on wmd.




A Court That Stands Up for Our Rights

Posted by Eric Jaffa
October 16, 2005 @ 8:31 pm
Filed under: FCC, Free Speech, Government, Indecency, Courts

… or a court that lets the excecutive branch do whatever it wants to us?


The Right to Freedom of Speech

The FCC has been fining radio stations for airing “indecency” since the 1970s.

The most famous case involving “indecency” is FCC vs. Pacifica (1978). It involved a radio station that played a routine by comedian George Carlin, “Seven Dirty Words,” which included expletives.

Five Supreme Court justices (including Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion and is still on the court) ruled that the FCC can fine for a new class of speech: Speech that is indecent but not obscene.

Four Supreme Court justices wrote in dissent that there is no such thing as “indecency” as a separate legal category from “obscenity,” and therefore the FCC can’t fine for mere “indecency.”

Rights of the People in General

The issue of a court that protects our rights or that lets other branches of government take them away is the issue in a letter published in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The letter isn’t about free speech in particular, but the protection of our rights in general:

William Cooper (Op Ed, Oct. 9) undermines his own argument. He writes that the Constitution was “constructed mainly to limit the role of government in the lives of citizens,” and that a doctrine of a “living Constitution” subjects citizens’ rights to a “dictatorship of the court.”

He then applies this theory to Supreme Court jurisprudence on abortion. Specifically, the court “took away the rights of the states” to limit abortion based on a “so-called” privacy right. Another interpretation might be that the court limited government’s role in citizens’ lives by preventing interference in private matters.

A “living Constitution” may or may not be a good thing and may or may not be what the Founders envisioned. But if the court uses that doctrine to protect my fundamental right to be left alone by government, I don’t see how Cooper can call it “dictatorship.” A dictator might come into my home and school, telling me how and whom to worship. A dictator might try to control my wife’s body by telling her what she can and cannot do with it.

It would be a unique dictator indeed who expansively interpreted limits on government’s power and protections of citizens’ freedoms.

Ivan Ludmer, Minneapolis

The letter is in response to an op-ed by William A. Cooper, “a banker and a former chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.”

This Republican writes “There is no right of privacy in the Constitution. In fact, the word privacy is nowhere to be found in our Constitution. This so-called right was somehow divined out of our Constitution by a court interpreting contemporary standards into our Constitution, without the inconvenience of amending the Constitution.”