April 27, 2006

Tom DeLay Says Goodbye

Posted by Eric Jaffa
April 3, 2006 @ 7:05 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

We all have free speech to talk about our political opinions.

But Republican leader Tom DeLay worsened a situation in which corporate lobbyists are the ones who are listened to by Congress.

DeLay loosened ethics rules on letting corporate lobbyists buy meals for Congressional staff.

Now it looks like DeLay won’t be a politician much longer:

Rep. Tom DeLay will drop out of his re-election race, two Republican congressional sources told CNN Monday.

DeLay was forced to step down as House majority leader last year after being indicted in his home state of Texas.

DeLay told Time magazine Monday that he and his wife, Christine, had been prepared for an election battle, but that he decided Wednesday to spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come.

“This had become a referendum on me,” he told the magazine. “So it’s better for me to step aside and let it be a referendum on ideas, Republican values and what’s important for this district.”

It is a Republican value to put corporate management above workers and consumers. If someone with Republican values takes Tom DeLay’s seat, then DeLay’s dropping out won’t help ordinary people.

Will the Texans in that district choose another corporate whore? We’ll find out in November.

« Update Later in Evening »

Time Magazine’s Mike Allen has confirmation from Tom Delay himself that he’s not seeking re-election.

Ministry of Truth

Posted by Eric Jaffa
April 3, 2006 @ 6:37 am
Filed under: Government, Free Press

PsyOps=Military Psychological Operations=Propaganda

From a summary of “The Information Operations Roadmap” Pentagon plan:

“Military forces must be better prepared to use psyops in support of military operations.” The State Department, which carries out US diplomatic functions, is known to be worried that the rise of such operations could undermine American diplomacy if uncovered by foreign states. Other examples of information war listed in the report include the creation of “Truth Squads” to provide public information when negative publicity, such as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, hits US operations, and the establishment of “Humanitarian Road Shows”, which will talk up American support for democracy and freedom.

The dystopian novel “1984″ had a Ministry of Truth.

During the next scandal about torture, our tax dollars may pay for military Truth Squads to lie and spin about it.

Maybe they will tell us that torture chambers are run by the Ministry of Love.

cartoon about spread of freedom and democracy by George W. Bush

« Bottom Line »

It’s the job of the military to deter a foreign invasion.

Not to convince us of anything.

Hooray for Monarchy?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
April 2, 2006 @ 8:13 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

An anonymous AFP reporter writes:

Saudi King Abdullah pledged to annihilate Al-Qaeda-linked militants who have plagued the oil-rich kingdom with a wave of terrorist attacks.

“We renew our pledge to annihilate the deviant group of the terrorist killers,” he said using a term that refers to Al-Qaeda network in Saudi Arabia.

He also vowed to “combat the ideology of those who accuse others of infidelity,” as he addressed the kingdom’s Shura (consultative) Council at the beginning of its term.

…”There is no place for extremism in the land of the two (Muslim) holy sites” of Mecca and Medina, he added.

I guess the Saudi royals are wonderful since they’re against Al-Qaeda just as I am.

Then again, maybe the Saudi royals aren’t so wonderful.

What this AFP story lacks is a counter-point to the propaganda of a dictator. Al-Quaeda is a form of “extremism” and so is monarchy.

Al Qaeda’s existence is largely based on hatred of the Saudi royals, who can’t be driven from power through a democratic process, since there is no democracy in Saud Arabia.

The best thing a royal can do against extremism is to renounce the idea of royalty and advocate the idea that “all men are created equal” and have “inalienable rights.”

I wish the press and Western governments would stop kowtowing to dictators. Jourmalists shouldn’t quote monarchs without quoting someone opposed to monarchy.

Fashion Freedom, Fashion Lawsuits

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 31, 2006 @ 12:55 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

Corporate Possessiveness vs. the Public Good

Do you like lawsuits over rap albums which sample seconds from a prior recording?

How about lawsuits over novel based on a novel written decades earlier, like “Gone with the Wind”?

I don’t like these lawsuits. I want books, songs, and recordings to become public domain much faster, and an expansive definition of fair use.

Some clothing designers, however, want more copyright lawsuits. Specifically, lawsuits between clothing companies who allegedly steal each others fashion ideas:

Designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Zac Posen have been journeying there to lobby for copyright protections like those governing books, music and other creative arts. Mr. Posen was in Washington on Tuesday with Steven Kolb, the executive director of the council, who said a bill could be introduced in Congress as early as today by Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

Mr. Rodriguez designed the white slip wedding gown worn by Caroline Bessette Kennedy in 1996, a style that inspired innumerable brides to don copies, and Ms. Von Furstenberg’s signature wrap dresses have been copied so many times that she may no longer wish to be associated with them. They are asking lawmakers to support a proposed fashion design anti-piracy act.

From Eric Wilson of the New York Times to Lindsay Beyerstein to Evan Derkacz to here.

Lobbying Bill: Fake Reform

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 30, 2006 @ 7:21 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

We all have free speech to express our political opinions.

However, some can legally bribe those in power.

A Senate bill passed yesterday doesn’t change this. Senators and Reps can still accept meals and trips from private individuals.

Lobbyists are technically banned from giving meals and trips.

However, a lobbyist can take a Congressman to dinner and then have the someone from the lobbying company who isn’t a registered lobbyist pay.

Members of Congress could still use corporate jets for the price of a first-class ticket and accept free lodging, travel and meals from non-lobbyists.

« What the Bill Should Have Said »

A real reform bill would have said:

Senators cannot ride in corporate jets.

No one is allowed to buy a meal for a Senator. No one is allowed to pay for a plane ticket and/or a hotel room for a Senator.

Senators and their staff shall pay for all of their own meals and travel, or let the taxpayers pay.

Big Brother Is Watching from Unmanned Aircraft

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 30, 2006 @ 6:41 am
Filed under: Government

From Declan McCullagh of CNET:

A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using [unmanned aerial vehicles] for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities. Private companies also hope to use UAVs for tasks such as aerial photography and pipeline monitoring.

“We need additional technology to supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective monitoring of United States territory,” Michael Kostelnik, assistant commissioner at Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Bureau, told the House Transportation subcommittee.

Kostelnik was talking about patrolling U.S. borders and ports from altitudes around 12,000 feet, an automated operation that’s currently underway in Arizona. But that’s only the beginning of the potential of surveillance from the sky.

In a scene that could have been inspired by the movie “Minority Report,” one North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred feet in the air–close enough to identify faces–and many more uses, such as the aerial detection of marijuana fields, are planned.

There should be a complete ban on UAVs in the United States. The loss of privacy isn’t worth any supposed gain.

If motorcycle enthusiasts want to meet, good for them. The police have no business spying on them with UAVs.

Kos Claims Victory…

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 29, 2006 @ 10:46 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

…against attempts to regulate political blogs.

The owner of the popular blog The Daily Kos writes that HR 1606, for broad protection of the internet from regulation, has been set aside, but that is fine:

The bill became obsolete when the FEC issued regulations that gave bloggers all the protections we had sought.

The FEC was incredibly responsive during these deliberations, clearly considering all the feedback all of us provided over the past year. Their initial draft regulations were dramatically overhauled and the final results were everything we hoped for and more (like granting us the media exemption).

People-powered politics has been legally validated.

HR 1606 isn’t going away. It’s being held in reserve. And if the reformer groups change gears and decide to challenge the new regs in court, it’ll be whipped out again.

Related SpeakSpeak article: Good News for the Internet

FCC Bullshit

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 29, 2006 @ 6:16 am
Filed under: FCC, Government, Indecency

Jeff Jarvis writes:

In its latest batch of nannyisms, the FCC declared shit and all its variants, including bullshit, not merely indecent — which is where the case law stood after the Supreme Court washed the seven dirty words out of George Carlin’s mouth in 1978 — but also now profane. Since outmoded broadcast censorship legislation was passed in 1927 — giving the government this constitutionally dubious authority — the FCC had not once found any word to be profane until 2004, when it ruled against Bono’s joyful utterance of “fucking” at the Golden Globes. Now “shit” et al join this devil’s dictionary. And the FCC warns that they are not merely profane but “presumptively profane,” which means that except in “rare” and “unusual circumstances,” to speak these words on the air will guarantee you a penalty.

…So now imagine a protestor at a televised rally against the war railing that “this war is humbug!” Doesn’t cut it. If, instead, she said that “Bush’s war is bullshit” and that were broadcast across the country, every station that carried it and the speaker herself could be fined per utterance, even into bankruptcy. If, fearing this, she censored herself, that is evidence of the chill the FCC has imposed on free political speech. If, because of that chill, a station decided to time-delay the news — a journalistically and constitutionally offensive but pragmatic necessity of the age — it could dump her words: “Bush’s war is ‘bleep.’ ” But unquestionably, that detracts from the power of her statement and that is done only because the FCC threatens fines, presumptively, for the use of the word.

Thus, the FCC chills and censors political speech and warns that it will penalize and fine Americans for political speech. And that, I believe, is a violation of our civil rights and a violation of our First Amendment protections. Gotcha.

: When I attended one of the many confabs on news in the blog age — this one in an august hall at Harvard under the auspices of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism — various leading lights of the news profession were pondering the question: Why does the nation trust Jon Stewart more than us? After considerable consideration, the group agreed that it could be summed up thusly: “He calls bullshit.”

Indeed, calling bullshit should be the highest calling of journalism.

My position has been that the worst thing about FCC indecency rules is their vagueness; that if the FCC were instead to get specific and tell TV stations don’t use these seven words and don’t show nudity, and you won’t get fined, that would be OK.

But Jarvis argues that the word “bullshit” is so valuable that it should be allowed on broadcast television.

Bullshit and “Bushit”

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 28, 2006 @ 7:06 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

A woman in Georgia was fined $100 for a bumper sticker saying “I’m Tired Of All The BUSHIT.”

Apparently, DeKalb has “an ordinance about lewd decals.”

Firstly, people should be able to display any words on their bumper stickers it would be legal for them to write on the internet.

Late comedian Lenny Bruce has been quoted as saying that if you can’t say “Fuck” then you can’t say “Fuck the Government.” The same principle applies to “BUSHIT.”

Secondly, the fact that the newspaper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided against printing the word “BUSHIT” in an article about this story adds to the absurdity.

Instead, Chandler Brown writes, “As it turns out, the decal was an anti-Bush bumper sticker [Denise] Grier slapped on her 2001 Chrysler Sebring last summer. The bumper sticker — ‘I’m Tired Of All The BUSH—’ — contains an expletive.”

« Vague Newspaper Reporting and Scalia »

The decision at the AJC not to print the word “BUSHIT” is as annoying as the decision at UPI to write that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made an obscene gesture without describing the gesture. Was it his middle finger? A flick under his chin? Perhaps we’ll never know.

(Update of March 30, 2006: It was a flick under his chin.)

« Update Afternoon of March 28, 2006 »

A letter to the editor from the driver:

Wow! I was driving in Atlanta (DeKalb County) and I got pulled over by the police. Imagine my utter surprise when the cop told me I had a “lewd decal” on my bumper! Those darn kids of mine… must have put something terrible on my car. I am an 47-year-old female, mostly conservative person, so it could not possibly be one of MY bumper stickers that caused the police to pull me over… how wrong was I! The police told me that my anti-Bush sticker that reads “I am tired of all the Bushit” was lewd according to DeKalb standards; he then proceeded to give me a lecture. My kids would have been so proud of me. I told the police officer in my most motherly voice that if he was going to give me a ticket to do so, but I did not want to discuss my politics with him and that I would see him in court. So there we are. I go to court in DeKalb County on Apr. 18 and have written up some petitions that my children will help me to get signed. I am amazed that the police officer did this. There are four or five stickers on my vehicle and other than the Blue Sky sticker, all are political in nature and all anti-Bush. I have done my research and the police haven’t met the Miller test for obscenity as defined by the Supreme Court, so this should be interesting. I am of the belief that I was ticketed for my political beliefs and not any sense that I was offending the public with my lewd decal. Be outraged… it seems this is happening all over the country. Bush is out to abolish our civil rights… one at a time.

Denise Grier

Support Lobbying Reform

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 27, 2006 @ 4:46 pm
Filed under: Action, Free Speech, Government

We all have free speech in the US to talk about politics.

But lobbyists get to do so while buying a Senator a meal, and most people don’t.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) wants to pass a law that both lobbyists and their lobbying firms are barred from paying for a Senator’s meal.

If it were up to me, the bill would go further and ban ANYONE EXCEPT THE SENATOR from paying for a Senator’s meal, but apparently my idea isn’t under consideration at this time.

Anyway, I filled out a Common Cause form to support the Feingold measure, and I hope you will, too.

Liking Common Cause & Public Citizen, Again

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 27, 2006 @ 3:49 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

I didn’t like it when those organizations endorsed the HR 4900 bill which would regulate blogs.

But they have responded to the new regulations proposed by the FEC by apparently withdrawing a call for that bill to be passed:

Statement of Reform Groups on the Internet
Regulation Adopted Today by the FEC

The following statement is being issued by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG:

Throughout this process, our organizations have supported both protecting the free speech rights of bloggers and other individual Internet users, and protecting the federal campaign finance laws against the opening of new loopholes that would return corrupting soft money to federal elections.

The regulation adopted by the FEC today strikes the right balance in advancing these goals.

These groups still oppose the HR 1606 bill for internet deregulation. In light of the good new FEC rules, I’m against HR 1606, too, though I once supported it (when it seemed necessary to protect blogs.)

New Yorkers Being Watched by Police Cameras

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 27, 2006 @ 1:45 pm
Filed under: Government

From the New York Daily News:

The NYPD also has applied for $81.5 million in federal aid to install surveillance cameras, computerized license plate readers and vehicle barriers around lower Manhattan, [Police Commissiner Raymond] Kelly said.

The security measures would be similar to London’s “ring of steel,” which gained worldwide recognition after that city’s terror attacks of last July, when police cameras provided images of the suspected bombers.

The NYPD has no comprehensive system to monitor the Financial District - considered the nation’s No. 1 terror target - and a team of five NYPD experts visited London in September to get a look at the “ring of steel.”

Aboveground, London has cameras posted at 16 entry points and 12 exits from the City of London, an enclave that includes that city’s financial district and landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The cameras capture images of license plates and drivers’ faces. Officials then run the license plates through a database of stolen cars and terrorism suspects. Last year, the system read 37 million cars and got 91,000 hits, leading to 550 arrests.

When they read a license plate which doesn’t match anything, then what happens to the data?

Via James Wolcott.

FBI Spying on Peace and Environmental Activists

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 27, 2006 @ 1:23 pm
Filed under: Government, Free Speech?

From the LA Times via Raw Story:

The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters, and activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency’s internal memos show.

For years, the FBI’s definition of terrorism has included violence against property, such as the window smashing during the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. Those activities have led the FBI to investigate the online chat rooms, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups. Officials say that international terrorists pose the greatest threat to the nation, but they cannot ignore crimes committed by some activists.


The FBI’s encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. Details have steadily trickled out over the past year, but newly released documents provide a fuller view of some FBI investigations.

“Any definition of terrorism that would include someone throwing a bottle or rock through a window during an antiwar demonstration is dangerously overbroad,” said Ben Wizner, an attorney with the ACLU. “The FBI will have its hands full pursuing antiwar groups instead of truly dangerous organizations.”

ACLU attorneys say that most violence during demonstrations is minor and is better handled by local police than federal counterterrorism agents. They contend that the FBI, which spied on antiwar and civil-rights leaders during the 1960s, appears to be investigating activists solely for opposing the government.

“They don’t know where Osama bin Laden is, but they’re spending money watching people like me,” said environmental activist Kirsten Atkins. Her license plate number showed up in an FBI terrorism file after she attended a protest against the lumber industry in Colorado Springs in 2002.

I agree with Ben Wizner of the ACLU. Leave vandalism like someone breaking windows at a protest to the local police. The FBI should be devoting its rescources to murderous terrorists.

The Los Angeles Times article by Nicholas Riccardi notes:

An FBI counterterrorism official showed the class, at the University of Texas in Austin, 35 slides listing militia, neo-Nazi and Islamist groups. Senior Special Agent Charles Rasner said one slide, labeled “Anarchism,” was a federal analyst’s list of groups that people intent on terrorism might associate with.

The list included Food Not Bombs, which mainly serves vegetarian food to homeless people, and — with a question mark next to it — Indymedia, a collective that publishes what it calls radical journalism online. Both groups are among the numerous organizations affiliated with anarchists and anti-globalization protests, where there has been some violence.

The FBI has an overly broad notion of groups whose members should be suspected of being terrorists, including peaceful groups. This kind of thinking is why Congress shouldn’t pass the bill of Senator Mike DeWine (D-OH) to let the White House write its own list of terrorist groups, whose members can be wiretapped without warrants.

« The Lesson of September 11 »

The FBI learned should have learned from 9/11/2001 to concentrate on murderous terrorists. Instead, they seem to have concluded that they should spy on whomever they feel like.

No Peace Signs, No Dollar Signs

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 27, 2006 @ 8:34 am
Filed under: Government, Free Speech?

A high school in Washington State has a bizarre notion of free speech.

Students at South Whidbey High School made t-shirts with anti-war messages.

This included listing names of soldiers killed in Iraq, with slogans and symbols.

School officials forced the students to use masking tape to cover peace signs, dollar figures and statements such as “How many more?”

School principal Mike Johnson made the following justifications:

“We want to avoid political statements that can cause unrest and unease. Some students may not agree with the message…”

“A peace sign by itself is not the issue…A peace sign with the list of names of soldiers who have died during the Iraq war there is the issue.”

“The combination could possibly create a distraction,” he added. “My responsibility is protecting the populace.”

Oh no!, what if a student reads a message he disagrees with. Thank goodness Principal Mike Johnson is on the job “protecting the populace.” (end sarcasm)

Personally, if I were sitting in a classroom in which students had masking tape on their t-shirts, I’d find that more distracting than anything they had written.

Glancing at an anti-war t-shirt, I’d quickly conclude that the student is anti-war. Glancing at a t-shirt with masking tape, I’d be like, “Why is that guy wearing masking tape?” and keep looking over for an answer.

The ACLU isn’t pleased with the masking tape thing:

A spokesman from the American Civil Liberties Union said the high school’s decision violates the students’ rights to free speech.

“The decision can’t be based on speculation,” said Paul Honig, spokesman for the ACLU. “Courts have consistently said school administration can’t speculate that an instance might be disruptive. They have to prove that what the students are doing will materially interfere with the educational process.”

The article at michaelmoore.com is by Gayle Saran of the South Whidbey Record.

FEC Rules for the Internet

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 26, 2006 @ 3:10 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

From the Washington Post:

The Federal Election Commission…released proposed new rules that leave almost all Internet political activity unregulated except for the purchase of campaign ads on Web sites.

“My key goal in this rule-making has been to make sure that the commission establish clear rules to exempt individuals who engage in online politics from campaign finance laws,” said Chairman Michael E. Toner, a Republican.

“We tried to craft a regulation that would allow the maximum amount of freedom for people as possible,” said Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democrat.

Most bloggers, individual Web users, and such Web sites as Drudge Report and Salon.com are exempted from regulation and will be free to support and attack federal candidates, much as newspapers are allowed.

For the most part, leading advocates of the blogger community welcomed the proposed rules.

“As a whole, these are rules that I think those who have been fighting regulations are going to be cheering,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who runs the Election Law blog. The rules provide “broad exemptions for most political activity on the Internet, and expand the media exemption to the Internet,” he said.

Hasen and others noted that as technology advances, the regulations will have to be modified.

In particular, Hasen said, “as the Internet and TV converge, the FEC or Congress will eventually need to rethink these rules to see if they make sense.”

I like the new rules.

The fact that the FEC has crafted good rules under existing law means that Congress should not pass new campaign laws for the internet, unless some problem with the rules which hasn’t been widely reported yet emerges.

« The Distant Future »

Professor Hasen says that as more video is online, that may require new regulations on top of the ones the FEC recently proposed.

Maybe, maybe not.

I view the emergence of the internet as a video platform as a positive development to balance the corporate media.

« Update of March 27, 2006 »

The Daily Kos’ Adam B. has been closely monitoring this issue for a year.

He writes, “The Netroots Win:

What will be regulated: Paid advertising. If a communication is placed for a fee on someone else’s website, the FEC rules regarding disclosure and coordination will apply.

What’s protected: So much. It starts with explicit, broad protections for uncompensated individual or group activities for the purpose of influencing a federal election. In short, if you’re using the Internet and aren’t being paid by a campaign or party to do so, nothing you do will be considered a contribution to a campaign on an expenditure on its behalf. Even if you’re in a group. Even if it’s not a “blog” but some other form of internet participation, even ones that have yet to emerge. Even if it’s not “news, media, or commentary” but just activism and organizing. Even if you’ve incorporated for liability purposes. Even if you’re doing all that and are selling advertising space on your site to defray its costs. Even if you’re making a profit. Even if you’re using someone else’s computer. Even if you’re republishing a campaign’s materials on your own site. All explicitly protected.

Oh, yeah: and websites are eligible for the same media exception available for print/radio/tv sources engaging in news, commentary and editorial activities. No matter how partisan, biased or imbalanced the site is. No matter - and they say this explicitly - if encourages readers to make donations to various candidates.

…Congress is set to reconsider HR 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act, this week. Honestly? I don’t believe it’s necessary now.

Writer in Iraq Jailed

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 26, 2006 @ 7:13 am
Filed under: Government, Free Press

From Reuters:

A Kurdish writer was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison on Sunday for defaming Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, in a case that has raised questions about the freedom of the press in postwar Iraq.

Kamal Karim, an Iraqi-born Kurd with Austrian citizenship, was originally sentenced to 30 years in jail for defaming Barzani but was retried.

“I swear by God I am not guilty. I am not satisfied with this verdict. I am a victim,” Karim said after the sentence was pronounced.

The judge said the court had been lenient.

“This sentence is fair and it is proportionate to the charges against him,” Faridoun Abdullah told Reuters. “We helped him. We took into consideration that he is an academic and has served in the education field. So we sentenced him to a year and a half. Otherwise we would have sentenced him to five years.”

Karim was convicted by a state security court in Arbil after an hour-long trial on Dec. 19 on charges of defaming Barzani and public institutions. He was arrested in October.

Karim had published articles on a Kurdish website accusing Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of corruption and abuse of power.

Thank goodness the US has brought democracy to Iraq (sarcasm.)

Punk Rock Band

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 25, 2006 @ 12:39 pm
Filed under: Government, Media Watch

Anti-Flag says that “Depleted Uranium is a War Crime.”

That is the title of a song on their new album, “For Blood and Empire.” You can listen to the song at AfterDowningStreet.org.

Depleted uranium is used in US military artillery shells. It’s dangerous even after the initial explosion. Punknews.org notes:

Some scientists have argued that Depleted Uranium causes kidney damage in large doses and has proven to cause reproductive, neurological, and immunological harm in mammals.

The song starts with audio of Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) saying “Depleted Uranium is used on the ends of bullets and on the ends of shells because it is so hard (that) almost any armament is vulnerable to something that is tipped with Depleted Uranium.”

Then Anti-Flag sings:

In the cities and towns of Afghanistan
In the heart of the Balkans – the heart of Iraq
Not your Grandfather’s style of deadly munitions
It’s silent and deadly years after the mission

Depleted uranium is a war crime

Gonna cut through their armor, then cut through your lungs
If you make it home alive you’ll still die young
A greedy gang of liars, yeah we’ve seen it all before
A moneymaking scheme led by war-profiteering whores

The band wants us to contact our represtantives with this form.

Good News for the Internet

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 25, 2006 @ 9:33 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

The FEC has proposed regulations which would affect paid political advertisements on the internet, while leaving the rest of the internet alone.

That is exactly the type of FEC regulation which I support.

How do the new rules affect Internet political activity by individuals?
The new rules explicitly exempt from regulation the Internet activities of unpaid individuals or groups of individuals. An individual or group of individuals ability to develop webpages, send electronic messages, provide hyperlinks, forward material that has been cut and pasted from political websites, or otherwise use computer or Internet resources for political activity are all exempt from regulation. (§ 100.94 and § 100.155)

As lawyers examine the new regulations, perhaps they will find a problem, but right now this seems good.

In the meantime, I don’t want Congress to pass either internet-regulation bill (HR 4900 or HR 1606.)

The FEC seems to have written good regulations, and:


You’re Jewish!

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 24, 2006 @ 4:13 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Religion

Garance Franke-Ruta is a supporter of government regulation of blogs.

Matt Stoller opposes that.

This is her latest retort to Stoller:

As for Matt Stoller, who for some unfathomable reason has decided that calling me “elitist” — and, dude, you know I’m on the list-serve where you focus-group these things, right? — is the proper approach to intimindating me into bloggy solicitude, I’d happily put my G.E.D. from the state of New Mexico up against your prep school education at St. Paul’s anyday if you want to measure what it means to be a member of the American elite. As for college, we both went to Harvard, so I don’t really see that charges of elitism fly. Certainly middle-class Jewish twenty-something guys who went to prep school and Harvard didn’t have all that much trouble finding a home in Democratic politics before the internet, at any rate.

I responded in the Comments at Tapped:

Matt Stoller seems to be calling you an elitist because you think that multi-million dollar operations like the Washington Post and Fox News should be free of FEC regulations, while blogs which cost much less should subject to FEC regulations.

You respond by calling Matt Stoller “Jewish.”

As a Jew, I found this offensive. His religion has nothing to do with this, but you inserted it into the discussion.

Regarding internet-regulation bill HR 4900, it’s ambiguous and shouldn’t be passed.

The bill is unclear about which websites would be regulated as political committees and which would get the media exemption.

I consider all websites to be media and entitled to the media exemption.

The Job of the FBI…

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 24, 2006 @ 7:04 am
Filed under: Government

… is to enforce laws, not to investigate critics.

For example, if the president of Common Cause attends a meeting of the League of Women Voters and criticizes the Patriot Act, that shouldn’t be investigated by the FBI:

On March 14, [Common Cause President Chellie] Pingree participated on a panel on open government sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan that received news coverage in the local newspaper on March 17.

A week after the panel, an FBI agent contacted the local League president, Susan Gilbert, to raise questions about Pingree’s published remarks at the panel. In her brief comments addressing the law, Pingree raised some privacy and secrecy concerns about the USA PATRIOT Act, and praised Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for their leadership on Freedom of Information issue.

According to Gilbert, FBI agent Al Dibrito said that Pingree’s comments on the USA PATRIOT Act were “way off base,” and that the League should have invited someone from the federal government to be on the panel and to respond. DiBrito then told Gilbert that she would be contacted by someone from the assistant U.S. attorney’s office in Grand Rapids to give her the real story on the Patriot Act.

…”Citizens can be intimidated when an FBI agent calls and questions their activities,” said Pingree.

The FBI is so powerful that Congress has continued the PATRIOT Act which lets FBI agents violate our civil liberties.

A meeting of citizens on the PATRIOT Act doesn’t need to include an apologist for this awful law; the FBI has enough power on its own to get its message to Congress.

Nor is it the proper role of the FBI to tell the League of Women Voters whom they should invite to speak at a meeting.

« Questions »

Is the FBI compiling a list of critics of the PATRIOT Act?

Does the FBI have one or more agents working full-time on promoting the PATRIOT Act (someone who could be catching criminals)?

When the Press and the Politicians Are Too Buddy-Buddy

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 23, 2006 @ 7:26 pm
Filed under: Government, Free Press

I hate dinners in which journalists and editors laugh it up with government officials.

The following writer doesn’t like these dinners, either:

From GENE KRZYZYNSKI: Washington’s annual Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association dinner is Wednesday night, after which it might not be a bad idea to put the event on hiatus for a few years. Along with the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and, yes, even the white-tie granddaddy of them all, the Gridiron. Out of respect for the troops. At least until the wholesale bloodshed subsides in Iraq.

If we are to take what the president of the United States said this week at face value, the carnage in Iraq will extend beyond when his administration folds up its tent in 2009. It’s unseemly, then, for these unctuously self-congratulatory schmoozathons of government and media elites to blithely continue amid a protracted war caused largely by their own collective shortcomings.

It was at the Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association dinner two years ago this week, in fact, that the low-water mark in tastelessness was reached when the president was interrupted by laughter and applause nearly three dozen times in 10 minutes for purported humor such as:

“Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere.
(Laughter and applause.) …

“Nope, no weapons over there. (Laughter and applause.) Maybe under
here. (Laughter.) …”

Bet those lines went over big with loved ones of soldiers who have been
killed or maimed.

No wonder the Gridiron doesn’t allow camera coverage.

C-SPAN’s telecast of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last year put the government-media commingling in especially high relief, including periodic glimpses of the Washington Post executive editor and the secretary of state sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and, in a most unbecoming way, repeatedly forcing stage-like laughter at the efforts of a comedian who, while at least tasteful, was, for the most part, in over his head and, well, bombing. Politesse, I guess.

What lingers is the question of whether shoulder-to-shoulder is exactly what the framers of freedom of the press had in mind or whether the public interest might be better served by a little more detachment.

The press should be adversarial to the government.

Corporate Jet

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 21, 2006 @ 8:08 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

If you want a change from Senator Joe Lieberman, then donate to primary challenger Ned Lamont.

« The Gap »

Everyone in America has the freedom of speech to express our political opinions.

However, some people get to ride in a corporate jet while chatting face-to-face with a Senator.

The rest of us get to phone a Senator’s office and talk to a staffer.

« A Lousy Solution »

Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) has a mediocre proposal to deal with this gap. He supports legislation which would require Senators who ride in corporate jets to reimberse the corporations more generously.

The problem with this proposal is that Senators are wealthy. It’s the convenience of travelling by corporate jet instead of boarding a big plane like the rest of us which makes them owe a favor to the corporation; price isn’t the issue to these wealthy ladies and gentlemen.

We should ban Senators from riding in corporate jets.

Instead, Lieberman just wants to raise the price.

With mediocre proposals like this, it’s time for Senator Joe Lieberman to be replaced.

Please donate to his Democratic primary challenger, Ned Lamont.

Bogus Lobbying Bill?

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 19, 2006 @ 3:02 am
Filed under: Government

While eveyone in the US has freedom to express political opinions, lobbyists get to express them in person to a Congressman while paying for his lunch.

Congress may pass a law about that. But it may be a bogus law:

“If meals are heavily restricted, we’re likely to see executives from the home office picking up checks, because they’re not lobbyists,” added J. Steven Hart of Williams & Jensen, a major lobbying firm. “And there are lots of other ways we can still get our cases before members of Congress.”

It should be illegal for anyone to buy a meal for a Congressperson. It should be illegal for anyone to buy a meal for Congressional staff.

It should also be illegal for anyone to pay for the travel of a Congressperson, and/or Congressional staff.

There should be no exceptions for people who aren’t lobbyists. No exceptions for charitable and educational organizations.

Album Banned

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 18, 2006 @ 3:37 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government, Courts

From the AP:

A judge halted sales of Notorious B.I.G.’s breakthrough 1994 album “Ready to Die” after a jury decided the title song used part of an Ohio Players tune without permission.

The jury Friday awarded $4.2 million in punitive and direct damages to the two music companies that own rights to Ohio Players recordings.

The sales ban imposed by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell affects the album and the title song in any form, including Internet downloads and radio play.

The jury decided that Bad Boy Entertainment and executive producer Sean “Diddy” Combs illegally used a part of the Ohio Players’ 1992 song “Singing In The Morning.”

It’s one thing for a judge to order a company to pay another.

But halting all album sales? The judge is way out-of-line. There is a Constitutional concept that free speech bars the government from prior restraint.

Atrios on Why Blogs Shouldn’t Be Regulated

Posted by Eric Jaffa
March 18, 2006 @ 3:06 pm
Filed under: Free Speech, Government

The bloggger Atrios writes:

…the purpose of regulation isn’t to regulate for regulation’s sake.

The purpose isn’t to make sure the FEC is monitoring all political activitiy.

The purpose of campaign finance regulation and federal election law is to try to minimize the corrupting influence of concentrated money. If we have a space where the corrupting influence of concentrated money has yet to be demonstrated, then the default position should be to stay away.

Atrios also gives examples of fundraising for the Republican Party in a Washington Post article by Charles Krauthammer, and fundraising for Republican candidate Jean Pirro by Sean Hannity on Fox News.

There is fundraising at some blogs. There is fundraising in some newspapers and on some TV channels as well.

The Washington Post and Fox News don’t have to register as “political committees.” The blog The Daily Kos shouldn’t have to, either.

Websites are media, and should have the media exemption of newspapers and TV channels.

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