National Security Politics The War on Terrorism

Pinhead of the Week: NJ Dem Frank Lautenberg

From the Associated Press:

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who was briefed on the arrest, said authorities found Jiang with “sheer, hard police work” of sifting through records and following leads. But he expressed anger that Jiang faces a charge he described as a “slap on the wrist” and will only be given a fine of about $500.

“This was a terrible deed in its outcome — it wasn’t some prank that didn’t do any harm — it did a lot of harm because it sent out an alert that people can get away with something like this,” Lautenberg said.

The senator called Jiang’s actions “premeditated” and said even though the his actions were relatively benign, “what he did was a terrible injustice” to the thousands of people who were inconvenienced. [my emphasis]

Follow this train of logic:

A guy wanted to kiss his girlfriend goodbye at the airport. Security was so lax, he was able to slip past to be with her in the secure zone. Many people were inconvenienced by this as the entire airport was briefly shut down. But the headline statement Lautenberg makes is that this man should be punished more harshly and that the deed “did a lot of harm because it sent out an alert that people can get away with something like this!”

There are two subjects here:

  1. The guy knowingly broke the rules to kiss his girlfriend goodbye – and this breach caused the airport to shut down. For this, it would make sense to levy a significant fine to ensure that others are less likely to do such things.
  2. Security was unconscionably lax to allow this to happen. This isn’t the guy’s fault – and it’s not his fault that his getting by security so easily “sent out an alert that people can get away with something like this.” The way to fix this is to fix security – and not to attack this guy for acting on an understandable impulse.

[Image by Bob F. licensed under Creative Commons.]

Criticism Law The Opinionsphere

Mining Right Wing Critiques for Some Honesty

I’ve gotten tired of being outraged at every self-serving lie and every new line crossed and picking apart idiotic arguments by right wingers. This served some purpose during the campaign – and I believe it is important to do when disinformation campaigns are being waged (as during August of the health care debate). But it is not what I feel most comfortable doing.

At the same time, I believe Republicans are undermining the two-party system and our democratic institutions by using their considerable clout to promote fantastical claims and lies about the efforts of their opponents instead of engaging in more pragmatic or fair-minded criticisms. Right wingers who back the Republicans have likewise mainly fallen into this trap – aside from a few notable exceptions (Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, David Brooks.)One of my goals then will be to not only promote these individuals – as Andrew Sullivan for example is – but to read the propagandist crap from more mainstream right wingers and mine it for legitimate criticism.

I’ve had this thought in my head for a few weeks – and have been reading wit this in mind. But when reading items like this by Steve Huntley in the Chicago Sun Times, it becomes very difficult:

Someone’s brain is clearly addled – for there is nothing contradictory about claiming you inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression (which it technically was) and that it is even worse than was thought (especially as several weeks after Biden’s remark, the Department of Commerce released the official statistics revising its statistics down for the past year as it periodically does.)

It amazes me that such paragraphs get past an editor.

Other concerns – while perhaps legitimate – are so self-serving they are hard to reconcile with past views. For example, Wesley Smith over at National Review‘s The Corner did not from my reading of him bring up the subject of the “rule of law” at all during George W. Bush’s presidency. However, now he brings it up with a hard criticism of the Obama administration’s position on medical marijuana:

Part of the sleight of hand here is a subtle mischaracterization of the change. Obama is not “refusing to enforce federal marijuana laws” but rather shifting resources away from targeting these groups, or as Devlin Barrett of the Associated Press described it, prosecutors will be told that “it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.” And Smith doesn’t acknowledge the long tradition (he refers only to Andrew Jackson) of presidents refusing to enforce laws as part of the checks and balances described in most textbooks on the Constitution. Smith also ignores the far more serious violations of the rule of law that Bush committed in actually ordering the law be broken and declaring it void when it violated his duty to protect Americans.

This sudden concern for the rule of law – concern suggesting it was incredibly fragile and can be destroyed in an instant – seems to reinforce the point I made earlier – that the strong positions taken by conservatives regarding curbing executive power and discretion are entirely unprincipled. They have everything to do with the fact that a liberal is now in power and will be abandoned again when they have power.

However, I did find one conservative critique I could endorse: Marie Gryphon’s piece in the National Review that makes the case against scapegoating Ken Lewis of Bank of America. To blame him for accepting the deal he did – especially given the amount of pressure he was under from Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and those working with them is ridiculous. Whether or not there is a legal case against him, it should not be pursued.

Criticism Politics The Media

David Bauder Passes On Bernard Goldberg’s Dubious Claim

I wonder how an inane comment like this can get reprinted in a news story (written by David Bauder of the Associated Press):

Since Fox is already the network of choice for conservatives, the ratings indicate it must be drawing in more moderates and even liberals, said Bernard Goldberg…

The claim being made here is ridiculous – that because ratings arae increasing, it must mean Fox News is attracting “moderatates and even liberals.” Fox News’s audience number in the millions; the number of conservatives and right wingers in America number in the tens of millions at least. I can see why a propagandist list Goldberg would want to make every disingenuous claim he can get away with – but why would David Bauder of the Associated Press pass on such a clearly dubious claim?

[Image by arellis49 licensed under Creative Commons.]

The Media The Web and Technology

Apologizing to the Associated Press

Earlier this week, I wrote that the Associated Press had “jumped the copyright shark” in  demanding a licensing fee from anyone emailing an article to more than five people or posting excerpts of any size.

I was wrong.

When this new program comes out – in which the Associated Press turns all of the images, text, and other content into a giant trojan horse type program, then they will have officially – and entirely – “jumped the shark.”

Criticism The Media The Web and Technology

The Associated Press Jumps the Copyright Shark

[digg-reddit-me]The Associated Press has apparently jumped the shark. In a headlong rush to protect their business model from the Future, the Associated Press has in the past year launched lawsuits against bloggers for posting the full text or excerpts of their articles without advance permission, against Shepherd Fairey for being inspired by an image of Barack Obama that was published by the Associated Press (though the photographer who took the photo alleges he was not an employee of the Associated Press and thus has independent rights to the photo), and against news aggregators for posting the titles and first sentence of Associated Press stories.

Clearly, the Associated Press feels under siege. So, at some point Associated Press has launched what I think is the most pervasive use of iCopyright by a major news organization. While a normal web page offers you buttons to format for printing, embedding, emailing, or social bookmarking a news story, if you click on the equivalent link on an news story, it launches its iCopyright page. (Given its wariness about this scary web, its of little surprise that the page offers no social bookmarking links.) For example, here’s the range of options I found on an article entitled “Obama challenges GOP critics on health care.”

Under “Post,” it does offer is a handy way to embed the article on your site – or a portion of the article. Now, I can understand the AP wanting some way to make money off of embedding a whole article on your site – or objecting to people doing so. This undeniably detracts from their revenues. But I love the fact that they expect people to pay $12.95 to embed an EXCERPT of one of their articles. Then at the bottom of the page, it warns you against piracy. The Associated Press seems to be asserting that Fair Use does not exist at all!

But this is where they really jumped the shark. They offer to allow you to email the article to “6 or more recipients” for a fee. Seriously:

I’m a bit surprised that the Associated Press does not have a section on who is allowed to link to their site or this article – demanding some form of payment for incoming links.

Latin America Law

The Collateral Damage in Honduras

The Associated Press sums up perfectly the factual case against the coup d’etat by the military and other elements in Honduras:

Despite a Supreme Court ruling, Zelaya had also pressed ahead with a referendum on whether to hold an assembly to consider changing the constitution. Critics feared he might press to extend his rule and cement presidential power in ways similar to his ally Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

But instead of prosecuting him or trying to defeat his referendum idea at the ballot box, other Honduran leaders sent masked soldiers to fly Zelaya out of the country at gunpoint, and congress installed Micheletti in his place. [my emphases]

These Honduran leaders feared what Zelaya might be intending – and so send soldiers to expel him from the country. The right-wingers defending these actions as “defense of democracy” are ignoring (or are ignorant of) these basic facts:

  1. These critics did not know Zelaya was proposing to amend the constitution to allow him to run again which would unconstitutional – they feared he was. (With good reason – but it is important to make the distinction.)
  2. Despite a range of options for blocking or removing Zelaya within the realm of law, they chose to go outside of this, thus subverting the law itself. They could have prosecuted him. They could have created some type of impeachment proceedings. Instead they asked the military to act against their commander-in-chief.

Another relevant fact is that the only Zelaya was not “removed” from office in a lawful proceeding. The military claims that Zelaya resigned – after being presented with the option of being imprisoned or resigning. Zelaya claims his signature on this document is fraudulent. This is a far different proceeding than – for example, Richard Nixon’s – when he resigned. The fact that all of this was done outside of legal channels makes it, by definition a coup, and as such, especially given the role of the military, it undermines any future executive as well as the institutions of democracy itself. Zelaya himself seemed to have little respect for these institutions – but they were collateral damage in these attempts to “defend democracy” and remove him as well.

Politics Scandal-mongering

‘DC Madam’ Dead in ‘Suicide’

[digg-reddit-me]The “DC Madam”, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, was found dead this morning by Florida police near her mother’s home. According to the police, she committed suicide. She was found guilty of money laundering and racketeering just over two weeks ago.

Just a tad bit suspicious.

The Dallas Morning News asks:

As surely as this is a tragic outcome, there are some sighs of relief inside the Beltway this afternoon. Can the conspiracy theories be far behind?

The Associated Press has expended it’s initial bulletin to include these relevant details:

[Her] trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients…

Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

I give reddit about 30 minutes – at most – until “Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam” headlines appear…

Update: Almost there

Suicide…. Riiiiiiight.

I’m sure there are no very powerful people who are signing in relief right now.

And the awe-inspiring follow-up:

very powerful people… signing in relief

Funnily enough – exactly how she used to make her money

Update II: Really close:

Cheney was CEO of Halliburton during the time of his liaisons with the DC Madam escort firm.

Update III: So freaking close:

Gee, couldn’t see that one coming a mile away… Mess with neocons, commit “suicide”, surprise, surprise.

And Florida’s likely the best place for such a “suicide”, what with the stellar reputation of its police apparatus.

Hopefully she’s got it set up so someone will publish the list to the web upon event of her death.

Update IV: And there it is:

Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam

Snaxion is the winner of the “Dick Cheney killed the DC Madam” contest.

Congratulations snaxion!
You win…nothing. Sorry.

Update V: Drudge is now linking to the AP’s new snippet of information:

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: “I guess I’m made of something that Brandy Britton wasn’t made of.”