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Archive for the ‘constitution’ Category

The AP has a nice little story about the CIA’s kidnap and torture squad, re-posted here at Talking Points Memo:

Four of the nation’s most highly valued terrorist prisoners were secretly moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2003, years earlier than has been disclosed, then whisked back into overseas prisons before the Supreme Court could give them access to lawyers, The Associated Press has learned.

It amazes me that someone can write an entire article about an illegal secret government program that was designed to kidnap and torture people while hiding them from the courts and the public … without using the words “illegal,” “kidnap,” or “torture.”

But holy hell, what is this next bit about?

Worse for the CIA, if the Supreme Court granted detainees rights, the entire covert program was at risk. Zubaydah and al-Nashiri could tell their lawyers about being waterboarded in Thailand. Al-Nashiri might discuss having a drill and an unloaded gun put to his head at a CIA prison in Poland.

“Anything that could expose these detainees to individuals outside the government was a nonstarter,” one U.S. official familiar with the program said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the government’s legal analysis.

Let me unpack that logic a bit.  Individuals in the Bush CIA had to hide these imprisoned men from the courts and anyone else outside the government … because … if the prisoners were allowed to talk to anyone, they might complain about being tortured … by the CIA?  Which would, you know, look bad on their annual GS-14 performance reviews.  Or something.  It’s not like they could have been worried about being charged with crimes.  John Yoo and Jay Bybee told them it was all OK! (Guess which one of those two names is missing from the article.)

So instead, everyone in the Bush administration who learned about the illegal secret torture and kidnapping program just… went along with the conspiracy to cover it all up, because hey, why rock the boat?  And the AP is granting anonymity to a source who is “familiar” with “the program” because … if we knew the source’s name, presumably he could be charged with a crime, either in the US or somewhere else.

Glad we’ve cleared that up.

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So Boingboing, among several others, tells me that the Pentagon wants to take their ball back:

In a briefing at the Defense Department, Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell ordered Wikileaks to remove classified documents and return them to the U.S. government.

For reals?  I might be wrong here*, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the internet works.  See, e.g., the Tom Cruise scientology video saga for just one example of what happens when powerful people with expensive lawyers decide to attack random people on the internet.  And if you think the Department of Defense is more web-savvy than the Church of Scientology, I suppose you’re entitled to that opinion… but short of nuking Iceland, what are they going to do?

I pose that question in all seriousness.

This isn’t about being “nice” or some kind of contest between DoD and Wikileaks about the meaning of “the right thing” in this context.  It’s almost universally accepted that the U.S. government is spending a ton of money  to murder innocent people in Afghanistan for no reason that can be articulated.   Wikileaks, majorities of the American public, and most of the rest of the world clearly wants it to stop.  To the extent that words like “good” or “right” have meaning here, any action that moves U.S. policy towards an end of the occupation is unquestionably “the right thing,” and so far Wikileaks has done more towards that end in just a few short weeks than the US military apparatus has been able to accomplish in nearly ten years.  DoD has significantly less credibility than Wikileaks does at this point- agents of the US government are in no position to be making demands.

The ultimatum the DoD has issued here, “Do the right thing and return our files…[implied OR ELSE!]” is essentially nonsense.  Even if Wikileaks wanted to comply (they don’t) or were going to try to comply (they won’t), what does it even mean to “return” a digital file?  I’m put in mind of those people who send emails via Outlook and then try to “recall” them… by sending a second email.  Exchange server might work like that, but *email* doesn’t.  And pretending that it does just makes the pretender look silly.  Or stupid.  Once something is on the web, you can’t take it back.

Over the last five years or so, we’ve witnessed the birth of that awareness in the collective consciousness of our more intelligent political leaders.  As applied to politicians, the long memory of the net is a positive- any tools that help the electorate to screen out people who are crazy or habitual liars are a good thing.  I guess this sample of DoD’s ideas about their power over the net is an indicator that the bureaucracies haven’t quite figured it out yet.

* I’m not wrong.

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Arizona turns off its photo ticket contract.

The cameras, which included 76 units either mounted near the shoulder or operated from vans, were adept at snapping speeders as they whizzed past sensors, but getting offenders to pay after the tickets were mailed to them was another matter. Less than a third of the 1.2 million tickets issued were paid, and the state collected $78 million, far below the projected $120 million annual revenue. Some of those tickets, typically $181 apiece, no doubt were lost in the mail…

no doubt.

… others no doubt were not paid as violators tested a legal theory that they needed to be served in person.  Process servers who were supposed to follow up could hardly keep up with the load.

Oh.  That’s much more likely.  Wonder what it costs to hire a cut-rate process server in Arizona?  $80 per attempt?  $50?  What with the vendor’s rake-off for running the system, I bet nobody did the math to figure out whether they’d ever break even.
But WTF is this about?

Lawmakers at the hearing were concerned with more than just accident statistics. State Representative Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) was also upset to learn that the Redflex freeway cameras have been recording video twenty-four hours a day to track the movements of drivers not accused of any crime. Last September, TheNewspaper first reported the plan to link all continuously recording photo enforcement cameras into a nationwide surveillance network.

Jesus on fishhooks.  Sometimes when I read stuff like this I wish I was actually MORE paranoid than I am.

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Everyone in patent law (and in software, and in pension management) is waiting breathlessly for the Supreme Court to issue an opinion in Bilski.  Everyone agrees that it’s probably Justice Stevens (who is regarded as a patent minimalist) authoring the opinion.  Likewise everyone agrees that the decision, when it comes,  will be bad for business-method patents.  People with idiot business-method patents, like Jeff Bezos and his infamous Amazon 1-click patent, are sad about this.  On the other hand, most people who actually create and invent stuff are genuinely happy.  The only real controversy at this point is how far the court will go: will it strike only business method patents, or will it rule that no software should be included in the list of patentable subject matter.  But the thing is, it’s (at least nominally) Bilski bringing this fight, trying to keep his ridiculous business method patent alive!  If it seems so clear that he’s going to lose, why not just give up now and avoid setting precedent?

I make no bones about my position- I’m anti-patent in general, and anti-biz-method / software patent in particular.

So when I saw this post from George Washington Law Prof John Duffy at Patently-O, I was afraid at first that he was giving Bilski to escape being hoist on his own flawed petard.  But when you get to the end of the article you find this gem:

I had previously thought that “irrational exuberance” provided the best answer—that the Bilski petitioners were likely to remain unrealistically optimistic about their chances for success right up to the end. But the presence of a multibillion-dollar corporation controlling the litigation decreases the chances that the strategy is due to simple inventor over-optimism.

It seems that Bilski sold the patent at issue … to a corporation that apparently wants to have business method patents killed off entirely.

Oops.

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I guess that depends whether you are (a) someone who enjoys music and art and culture, or (b) a parasite

Peer-to-peer file-sharing on the Internet has certainly weakened copyright, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless one equates “stronger copyright” with “better copyright.” According to the US Constitution, copyright is about promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”; it’s not about enriching authors […]

[T]he most pertinent question to ask is […] Has file-sharing reduced creators’ incentives?

My knee-jerk answer is– of course not!  More people are creating and publishing creative works today than at any other point in history.  But I didn’t have any data to back that up, and knee-jerk reactions only work as a basis for policy when Republicans are in power, so anyone who hopes for meaningful change in the US copyright framework is going to need more ammunition.  Fortunately, someone has actually done a bit of research now, and you can read more about it here.

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The Israeli attack on 6 Turkish ships carrying aid to Gaza, which has left 19 dead and 36 wounded according to latest estimates by Israel’s Channel 10 TV, has drawn a wave of global outrage, resulting in “widespread international condemnation of Israel, with Israeli envoys summoned to explain their country’s actions in several European countries” according to the NYT.

via Global Community Condemns Israeli Actions As Crowds Of Protesting Turks Scream “Long Live Global Intifada” | zero hedge.

This should end well.  Of course the US can’t seriously object, since we’ve been using drone attacks to murder random people all over the middle east.

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“Federal attorneys this week gave the first indication of how the government might plan to defend the Florida state-led lawsuit challenging the health care reform law.”

via Legal defense forms against Florida health care lawsuit – Jacksonville Business Journal.

Since the suit is entirely frivolous, I suppose the answer could simply say “Go fuck yourself.” and they could just wait for the district court to dismiss sua sponte.  I mean, seriously, why waste the court’s time by making the clerks read 30 pages of answer, check cites, and write a brief to the judge?  The complaint is wrong on the law and wrong on the facts.
So I guess a better answer would be, “GFY.  And rule 11 sanctions and recommend disbarrment for plaintiffs’ counsel, because they could not have a reasonable belief this lawsuit would succeed– so either they have betrayed their oath to the court, or they are too stupid to be allowed to continue practicing law. “

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