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Current Topic: Politics and Law

U.S. journalist says she was delayed at Canadian border, questioned about speech - The Globe and Mail
Topic: Politics and Law 9:02 am EST, Nov 30, 2009

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now , a radio and television show aired by public and college broadcasters across North America, was entering Canada around 6 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday evening, set to speak at the Vancouver Public Library in an event co-ordinated by a campus radio station at Simon Fraser University.

“When I handed our passports over the border guard, they told us to pull over. We had to go over to the border facility. And they started asking me questions about what I was going to be speaking about. I was totally taken aback. They wanted to see my notes,” Ms. Goodman told the Globe Thursday, recalling the encounter...

She claimed the officer persisted in questioning her about Vancouver's upcoming Games...

They began to search her notes and computers and those of her two colleagues, Ms. Goodman alleged. They then photographed the journalist and gave her a stipulation to leave the country by Friday night. They were delayed over an hour...

“There's supposed to be a separation between the state and the press. The fact that the state was going through my documents, that they were rifling through notes, that they were asking me what I was planning to speak about, is a very serious issue,” she said.

“If journalists fear they will be…monitored, it's more difficult for the public to get information. And information is the currency of a democracy.”

For several years the ACLU has been fighting a U.S. policy that empowers CBP to exclude foreign nationals for ideological reasons. As the US has failed to take the right position on this issue, we cannot be terribly offended when our allies take a similar position to our own. Even when it includes potentially excluding our journalists from their countries...

This case also highlights the risk of allowing suspicionless border searches of laptops. These laptops were not searched for child pornography. They were searched in order to determine what the journalists planned to speak about. As U.S. policy provides for ideological exclusion of foreign nationals, it is reasonable to expect that laptops of foreign nationals might be inspected to determine their thoughts and views. This puts the term "politically correct" in a whole new light.

U.S. journalist says she was delayed at Canadian border, questioned about speech - The Globe and Mail

A very clear argument against staying in Afghanistan
Topic: Politics and Law 11:31 am EDT, Oct 28, 2009

Matthew Hoh, in September:

It is with great regret and disappointment I submit my resignation from my appointment as a Political Officer in the Foreign Service and my post as the Senior Civilian Representative for the US Government in Zabul Province.

Success and victory, whatever they may be, will not be realized in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations.

Karen DeYoung, yesterday:

While he did not share Hoh's view that the war "wasn't worth the fight," Holbrooke said, "I agreed with much of his analysis."

George Packer:

Richard Holbrooke must know that there will be no American victory in this war; he can only try to forestall potential disaster. But if he considers success unlikely, or even questions the premise of the war, he has kept it to himself.

DeYoung continues:

Late last year, a friend told Hoh that the State Department was offering year-long renewable hires for Foreign Service officers in Afghanistan. It was a chance, he thought, to use the development skills he had learned in Tikrit under a fresh administration that promised a new strategy.

The Economist on Obama, from last November:

He has to start deciding whom to disappoint.

Ahmed Rashid, last month:

For the first time, polling shows that a majority of Americans do not approve of Obama's handling of Afghanistan. Yet if it is to have any chance of success, the Obama plan for Afghanistan needs a serious long-term commitment -- at least for the next three years. Democratic politicians are demanding results before next year's congressional elections, which is neither realistic nor possible. Moreover, the Taliban are quite aware of the Democrats' timetable. With Obama's plan the US will be taking Afghanistan seriously for the first time since 2001; if it is to be successful it will need not only time but international and US support -- both open to question.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, in 2005:

The Army will need this lieutenant 20 years from now when he could be a colonel, or 30 years from now when he could have four stars on his collar. But I doubt he will be in uniform long enough to make captain.

If you keep faith with soldiers and tell them the truth even when it threatens their beliefs, you run the risk of losing them. But if you peddle cleverly manipulated talking points to people who trust you not to lie, you won't merely lose them, you'll break their hearts.

Andrew Lahde:

Today I write not to gloat. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Frank Sandoval:

My heart swells in my chest and while I laugh,
I feel fear, smell a faint stench of insanity.

A very clear argument against staying in Afghanistan

E-borders - the new frontier of oppression
Topic: Politics and Law 8:36 am EDT, Mar 19, 2009

There is a thrill in switching off the mobile, taking the bus to somewhere without CCTV and paying cash for your tea. You and your innocence can spend an afternoon alone together, unseen by officialdom.

That used to be the kind of sentiment you'd read in a science fiction novel. This is a newspaper.

E-borders - the new frontier of oppression

The End of Privacy
Topic: Politics and Law 10:03 am EDT, Mar 13, 2009

Jed Rubenfeld, in the Stanford Law Review:

This Article is about the Fourth Amendment. It is an attempt to recover that amendment’s core meaning and core principles.

By revitalizing the right to be secure, Fourth Amendment law can vindicate its text, recapture its paradigm cases, and find the anchor it requires to stand firm against executive abuse.

Julian Sanchez, on Rubenfeld's essay:

Rubenfeld's essay is not another catalog of privacy threats, but rather a provocative reexamination of the meaning of the Fourth Amendment—one that manages to be simultaneously radical (in the sense of "going to the root"), novel, and plausible in a way I would not have thought possible so late in the game.

Rubenfeld's big apple-to-the-noggin idea is this: mainstream jurisprudence regards the Fourth Amendment as protecting an individual right to "privacy"—which in the late 20th century came to mean the individual's "reasonable expectation of privacy"—with courts tasked with "balancing" this against the competing value of security. This, the good professor argues, is basically backwards: the Fourth Amendment explicitly protects the "security" of our personal lives. Excavating a neglected 17th and 18th century conception of "security" leads to a new reading that both avoids well-known internal problems with the "reasonable expectation" view and helps us grapple with the thorny privacy challenges posed by new technologies.

This new conception of the 4th amendment is potentially very important - In my view the combined effect of the third-party doctrine, which states that what you tell Google you've told the government, and the notion that machines cannot violate your privacy, will enable the rise of a total surveillance society in which everyone is watched by law enforcement all the time. We are very close to the point where the 4th amendment will be an anachronism - a technicality that has very little impact on everyday life - and a radical reconsideration will be necessary in order to re-establish it.

The End of Privacy

As Data Collecting Grows, Privacy Erodes
Topic: Politics and Law 11:11 am EST, Feb 27, 2009

Noam Cohen's friend:

Privacy is serious. It is serious the moment the data gets collected, not the moment it is released.

Echoing my thoughts on Arod. Glad it was said.

As Data Collecting Grows, Privacy Erodes

Memeorandum Colors: Visualizing Political Bias with Greasemonkey
Topic: Politics and Law 8:32 am EST, Nov  7, 2008

Andy Baio:

Like the rest of the world, I've been completely obsessed with the presidential election and nonstop news coverage. My drug of choice? Gabe Rivera's Memeorandum, the political sister site of Techmeme, which constantly surfaces the most controversial stories being discussed by political bloggers.

While most political blogs are extremely partisan, their biases aren't immediately obvious to outsiders like me. I wanted to see, at a glance, how conservative or liberal the blogs were without clicking through to every article.

With the help of founder Joshua Schachter, we used a recommendation algorithm to score every blog on Memeorandum based on their linking activity in the last three months. Then I wrote a Greasemonkey script to pull that information out of Google Spreadsheets, and colorize Memeorandum on-the-fly. Left-leaning blogs are blue and right-leaning blogs are red, with darker colors representing strong biases. Check out the screenshot below, and install the Greasemonkey script or standalone Firefox extension to try it yourself.

Memeorandum Colors: Visualizing Political Bias with Greasemonkey

Shifting The Debate: Political Video Barometer
Topic: Politics and Law 9:55 am EDT, Oct 30, 2008

Morningside Analytics discovers and monitors online networks that form around particular ideas and identifies thought leaders with standing in these audiences.

Really cool!

Shifting The Debate: Political Video Barometer

Wiretapping's true danger
Topic: Politics and Law 4:19 pm EDT, Mar 18, 2008

Julian Sanchez:

As the battle over reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act rages in Congress, civil libertarians warn that legislation sought by the White House could enable spying on "ordinary Americans." Others, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), counter that only those with an "irrational fear of government" believe that "our country's intelligence analysts are more concerned with random innocent Americans than foreign terrorists overseas."

But focusing on the privacy of the average Joe in this way obscures the deeper threat that warrantless wiretaps pose to a democratic society. Without meaningful oversight, presidents and intelligence agencies can -- and repeatedly have -- abused their surveillance authority to spy on political enemies and dissenters.

Wiretapping's true danger

A declaration on independents
Topic: Politics and Law 12:10 pm EST, Feb 18, 2008

These independents are younger and better educated than the average American. They are pragmatic, anti-ideological and results-oriented, hostile to both Big Labour and Big Government but quite prepared to see the government take an active role in dealing with problems like global warming.

Over the past decade or so, independents have been forced to act like either “soft” Republicans or “soft” Democrats—reluctant conscripts into one or other of America's armies. But in this election the opposite is happening—more and more partisans are thinking and acting like independents.

A declaration on independents

Phantom Menace: The Pyschology Behind America's Immigration Hysteria
Topic: Politics and Law 10:26 am EST, Feb  3, 2008

Like much of the nation, New Hampshire is in a frenzy over illegal immigration. In 2005, a police chief from New Ipswich, a sleepy small town near the Massachusetts border, arrested an illegal immigrant, who had pulled over on the side of the road, on the grounds that he was trespassing in New Hampshire. "We're applying a state law to illegal aliens, instead of federal law, because the federal government refuses to enforce its own laws. Someone needed to bring it, so I brought it," the chief told the Concord Monitor. The courts threw out the case, but the police chief became a statewide celebrity.

Phantom Menace: The Pyschology Behind America's Immigration Hysteria

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