Thursday, July 29, 2004

or those of you interested, there's an interesting discussion of the Patriot Act, spurred on by this comment:

The USA Patriot Act has so far been used to fine PayPal $10 million dollars in an effort to crack down on internet gambling, it's been used to intimidate a New York artist's collective, and most recently to shut down a Stargate fan site.
here with a follow up here over at the The Volokh Conspiracy. Kerr says, "Unless I'm missing something, only one of the three claims is a fair statement supported by the facts."
Posted JUL 29 2004, 4:48 PM CDT (link here)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I don't think this picture is anything like a "Duakakis in a tank" moment. He looks like he's having a good time, doing something interesting.
Posted JUL 28 2004, 7:12 AM CDT (link here)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A world gone mad:

A few weeks after Martin moved into her new villa-style home in June on Republic Lane, she received a letter from the Heritage Place Homeowners Association requesting that she remove her U.S. flag. The letter said the flag violated efforts "to preserve and maintain the property values" in the subdivision...

After Martin received the letter dated July 6, she said, she approached board members at a meeting. They told her that if she wanted to fly an American flag, they would have to allow her neighbors to fly any flags, even Nazi or Ku Klux Klan ones, she said.

Somebody tell me I'm not crazy.
Posted JUL 27 2004, 3:49 PM CDT (link here)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Gah! The infection that started in Big Sis' eye travelled to her sinuses, out her nose and was coughed or sneezed into Tech Support's throat and chest; it snuck through Snort's little trachia and bronchi,and slitherd back into my throat, where it waits, ready to pounce on its next victim. Where will it strike? Papa? Great-grandma, whom we visited this past weekend? Time will tell for there is no escape from the early winter virus!

Of course it's late July, but you wouldn't have known that yesterday, spending any time outside, where temperatures only reached 80 degrees, 16 below normal. We hit the disappointing Gainesville outlet mall on our trip home from Okla, and spent only $10. Well, $15 if you count the carmel-covered apples.

NYT's Ombudsman Daniel Okrent asks the question: Is the NYT's a liberal paper? "Of course it is," he says. He cites for example only happy stories in the Times about gays getting married. Comments Roger L. Simon,

But I think the Times' stand on gay marriage, which I support, and similar social issues are weirdly stunted by their foreign policy position, which can be construed as reactionary. In their fusty anti-anything-Republican text and subtext, they do their best to ignore what is far and away the best argument for the War in Iraq and the War on Terror in general -- to preserve and extend to the rest of the world those very freedoms (for women, homosexuals and everybody else) that the paper trumpets in its "urban-ness."
I think more telling is thi s observation from WaPo Media Critic Howard Kurtz,

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's allegations that President Bush misled the country about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Africa was a huge media story, fueled by an investigation into who outed his CIA-operative wife. According to a database search, NBC carried 40 stories, CBS 30 stories, ABC 18, The Washington Post 96, the New York Times 70, the Los Angeles Times 48.

But a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicts some of Wilson's account and supports Bush's State of the Union claim hasn't received nearly as much attention. "NBC Nightly News" and ABC's "World News Tonight" have each done a story. But CBS hasn't reported it -- despite a challenge by Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie on CBS's "Face the Nation," noting that the network featured Wilson on camera 15 times. A spokeswoman says CBS is looking into the matter.

Newspapers have done slightly better. The Post, which was the first to report the findings July 10, has run two stories, an editorial and an ombudsman's column; the New York Times two stories and an op-ed column; and the Los Angeles Times two stories. Wilson, meanwhile, has defended himself from what he calls "a Republican smear campaign" in op-ed pieces in The Post and Los Angeles Times.

Hat tip Instapundit. It's an interesting question: how much space and time to give to answered allegations. They're certainly not as sexy as the allegations themselves.

Blah. Back to some hot tea and a change of diaper for Snort, who at three months is about ready for his six-to-nine month clothes.
Posted JUL 26 2004, 11:49 AM CDT (link here)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Thank you valued reader. As you said, "it is not."
Posted JUL 21 2004, 8:17 PM CDT (link here)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Cathy Seipp nails it:

I used to resent the unwritten law, made clear to me practically every time I left the house, that nubile young women are not allowed to walk down the street without displaying a cheerfully vapid, "And Wendy Has Wings To Fly" expression of sexual availability. "Smile!" men would demand if I dared to look lost in thought. "It can't be that bad!" I don't hear that anymore. I guess they figure it is that bad.
It is.
Posted JUL 19 2004, 3:10 PM CDT (link here)

Sunday, July 18, 2004

WaPo editorial echoes Bystander:

...the report [on the Patriot Act released last week by the Justice Department] is more of a cheerleading exercise than a comprehensive account. It cites numerous instances in which Patriot Act authorities were used in important investigations. This is useful material, because it suggests which provisions are offering the biggest dividends to investigators: those that facilitate information-sharing within the government and allow more streamlined wiretapping and search procedures. But reasonable observers never doubted that unshackling investigators would aid them in catching bad guys. The question is what else it would do -- what the civil liberties impact would be and how these powers would be used in cases that don't lead to high-profile prosecutions.
But ...

Former deputy attorney general Larry D. Thompson suggested last year that a biparti- san commission be appointed to study the law in detail. This seems like a good idea, particularly if such a commission could have access to the sort of detail that would permit a systematic evaluation. A policy decision of this importance should not be made on the basis of competing press releases.
I have no other objection, except that I'm sick of commissions.
Posted JUL 18 2004, 8:49 AM CDT (link here)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Update to Patriot Act post below: Yes. I agree. It's awfully suspicious for Republicans to deny that the library angle is a big deal, and then nearly "pass a bill to bar the government from demanding records from libraries and booksellers in some terrorism investigations," eeking out a "no" vote after some calls from the White House. In defense of the legislators, though at the end of the day enough toed the party line, it was Ashcroft who has been saying it's no big deal; on the other hand, clearly Delay agrees.

The Bush administration defended the Act in a report released yeserday:

The report says between the Sept. 11 attacks and May 5, Justice Department terrorism investigations led to charges against 310 people, of whom 179 were convicted or pleaded guilty. The Patriot Act, it says, was instrumental in many of these cases.

The report provides 35 examples of how the law was used to prosecute alleged terror cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia and elsewhere; how it updated law enforcement tools to track such technology as cell phones and the Internet; and how provisions are used for other criminal probes including child pornography, computer hacking and illegal weapons sales.

At what cost security?

The report did not mention some more controversial powers, such as the FBI's ability to obtain library and bookstore records in terrorism cases or the so-called "sneak and peek" search warrants in which agents need not immediately tell suspects their home or business had been searched.
We don't know how many people have had their reading lists snooped at, or how many times the sneak-and-peak law has been enacted (except once on Law & Order!). In my mind that's the problem with the Pat Act. The law has potential to be abused, as do all things man made, but since this one relies on secrecy, for reasons I'm not entirely clear, we don't know whether it's being abused or not. No transparency.

I think my larger point has been that libraries were never specifically mentioned in the Act itself though, as I've said before, not excluded either. But since they weren't specifically mentioned, I didn't understand the reaction from the ALA.
Posted JUL 14 2004, 4:56 PM CDT (link here)
Pot calls kettle black: The argument that John Edwards is unqualified for the position of president was the same one used against George W. Bush in the 2000 elections, though as Richard Brookhiser notes at the end of his column, "This is not, however, an argument that John Edwards is likely to make, or that John Kerry will make on his behalf."
Posted JUL 14 2004, 4:22 PM CDT (link here)

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Hey, did everyone notice that Joseph P. Wilson may have lied! Or as he puts it misspoke:

"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.
Hmmmm...the Plame-Wilsons lost credibiltiy with me after their photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair. But where credibility is concerned, isn't there always more to lose? Hmmm...maybe not.
Posted JUL 11 2004, 11:29 AM CDT (link here)
Yikes. Very little editing in this post, but yesterday it was shoe-shopping or blog? Shoe-shopping won out of course and today it's "I'm up at 5 anyway, and I've got to get out by 7:30." So apologies for the less than crystal-clear writing below.

A valued reader suggests I may have missed the big Patriot Act story Friday and sends me a link from the NYT's. I caught the story in the WSJ, and scanned it for hard information regarding the act itself and found none. If I'd been a better blogger I'd have checked the other papers. Let's look at what the Times has to say.

An effort to bar the government from demanding records from libraries and booksellers in some terrorism investigations fell one vote short of passage in the House on Thursday after a late burst of lobbying prompted nine Republicans to switch their votes.

The vote, a 210 to 210 deadlock, amounted to a referendum on the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act and reflected deep divisions in Congress over whether the law undercuts civil liberties. Under House rules, the tie vote meant the measure was defeated...

The library proposal, tacked onto a $39.8 billion spending bill, would have barred the federal government from demanding library records, reading lists, book customer lists and other material in terrorism and intelligence investigations. The antiterrorism law expanded the government's authority to secure warrants from a secret intelligence court in Washington to obtain records from libraries and other institutions, using what many legal experts regard as a lesser standard of proof than is needed in traditional criminal investigations.

Federal law enforcement officials say the power to gain access to such records has been used sparingly. Still, the provision granting the government that power has become the most widely attacked element of the law, galvanizing opposition in more than 330 communities that have expressed concern about government abuse. Critics say the law gives the government the ability to pry into people's personal reading habits.

(Italics added.) That's the rub too. Is it or isn't it a lesser standard than a normal criminal investigation? Going back to my March 9 posting (scroll down) I cite Ramesh Ponnuru:

It's true that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which Patriot modified) does not require a showing of probable cause of a crime. But it does require a showing of probable cause that the target is a foreign power, terrorist group, or agent of one.
That's not the same standard as in a criminal investigation, but on the other hand, to show probable cause of a crime, it would have had to have been already committed. Should we have (if we could have) stopped the 9/11 hijackers before they flew their jets into the WTC and the Pentagon under FISA? On the other hand, how many innocent people are having their booklists perused by Uncle Sam?

I also cite in that same post from WaPo

Section 215 does not specifically mention bookstores or libraries, but permits secret warrants for "books, records, papers, documents and other items" from businesses, hospitals or other organizations...

Warrants obtained under Section 215 must be approved by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees investigations of individuals or groups the United States believed to be terrorists or spies. Those served with such documents are barred from disclosing the fact.

This court has been around since the 1970's. Is it a secret court to keep the investigation from becoming public record, so that querulous Qaeda members will be kept in the dark about what the government knows about them? Seriously, this spy stuff is all new to me. If you have any thoughts or answers, please send.

So, valued reader, are my sources wrong? Tough to say. There was certainly a flurry of activity at the House last week, as reported in the NYT's:

Frustrated Democrats shouted "Shame, shame!" and "Democracy!" as the voting continued, but Republicans defended their right as the majority party to keep the vote open to "educate members" about the dangers of scaling back government counterterrorism powers.
Even so, it seems to be a "yes-it-is!--no-it isn't!" type argument right now. Are we getting a complete picture of the Patriot Act? I doubt it. Another valued reader at the time of my March posting commented that legislation is hard to write and even harder to read. He suggested giving it time to see how it plays out. What worried me, is will the public be able to see how it plays out, given that it's all done in secrecy?

PS Send me your links to your arguments that say I'm reading all this wrong. I don't mind being wrong here!
Posted JUL 11 2004, 7:19 AM CDT (link here)

Friday, July 09, 2004

It can't be a good sign that the most romantic conversation I've had with my husband since Snort's birth was over instant messenger using emoticons. :0
Posted JUL 9 2004, 4:18 PM CDT (link here)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

We are suffering from colds, sore throats and coughs here at Bystander lair, mostly I think due to sleeplessness. (Snort--are you listening?) More when health and time allow.
Posted JUL 8 2004, 8:05 PM CDT (link here)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Some of my friends are off to see Farenheit 9/11, prompting me to reflect on whether I'm being too narrow-minded in avoiding it. David Brooks convinces me that I'm not:

Like Hemingway, Moore does his boldest thinking while abroad. For example, it was during an interview with the British paper The Mirror that Moore unfurled what is perhaps the central insight of his oeuvre, that Americans are kind of crappy.

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned. "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."...

Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."

Posted JUL 1 2004, 8:31 AM CDT (link here)