Down the Memory Hole: Google on Censorship

Google censorGoogle Blogoscoped caught the behemoth red-handed:

Incredible. Google removed their help entry on censorship, as Gary Price discovered. Here’s what it used to read:

“Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results. To learn more about Google’s search technology, please visit …”

This is what the page reads now:

Document Not Found

Sorry, the document you requested is not available. You can visit the main page.”

The document at this time was still accessible through the Google cache (I’ve made a screenshot).

Is Google’s motto of “don’t be evil” becoming a cynical relic of a doe-eyed web startup now that they’ve finally become an international megacorp? Well, public pressure and exposure may may them think twice about their responsibility to their users.

However any government inquiry is probably a really bad idea, since even for Google to be wrong doesn’t justify government intervention. After all, in a free market, some new company could come along selling services in China and knock their block off in a few years with better social policies and a more competitive product (in this case, one without censorship, like say Yahoo! someone else?).

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Thomas to Bush: Some Answers, Please

According to Drudge, Helen Thomas is in a tizzy because Bush ignored her again. Thomas was quoted as wishing to ask Bush two questions. On Iraq:

“I wanted to ask about Iraq: ‘You said you didn’t go in for oil or for Israel or for WMDs. [So] why did you go in?’ ”

Reasonable question and I’d like the answer, too. It’s a shame that none of the other members of the White House press pool thought to ask. The other intended question was related to the FISA:

“You keep saying it’s a 1978 law, but the Constitution [is] 200 years old. Is that out of date, too?”

Helen, we applaud your attempts to ask the right questions. These are the questions that millions and millions of Americans also wish answered, as well. Bush keeps evading us, as he evaded you. We will keep asking the questions until we get reasonable answers to them — even if we have to ask them in impeachment hearings.

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NSA on 4th Amend: Probable Lapse of Memory

WARNING: This post contains a suspected malware URL listed on Google’s list of malware sites. The URL is: http://www.stoptheaclu.com/2006/01/25/essential-liberties/ – More info available at Google Safe Browsing diagnostic page.

Hayden 4th amendmentThis video of Gen. Hayden (a high-ranking military dude who vowed to uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights, speaking for the NSA) botching the fourth amendment is crazy delicious orwellian. From the Keith Olbermann Countdown transcript:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My understanding is that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American’s right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use…

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well, actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That’s what it says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But does it not say probable…

HAYDEN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: … the court standard…

HAYDEN: The amendment says…

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: … the legal standard…

HAYDEN: … unreasonable search and seizure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: … the legal standard is probable cause.

HAYDEN: Just o be very clear — and believe me, if there’s any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it’s the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: To quote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in its entirety, the one the general and the NSA folks are so familiar with and know is about reasonableness and not about probable cause, quote, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Well, maybe they have a different Constitution over there at the NSA.

And conservatives are kicking on the Georgetown demostrators for getting a Ben Franklin quote a little wrong?

I mean, if we’re talking context, we might as well call a spade a spade.

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What’s a Hypocrite Look Like?

Well, if your name is James Lileks and you write an article lambasting people who make fools of themselves on the Internet by their use of hyperbole, name-calling and vileness…

James Lileks

…then you probably wanna make sure you don’t have a case study in hypocrisy floating around.

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Illegal Wiretaps: Saving Us From Terrorist Bees

Fafblog has some sharp satire on the whole wiretapping thing (I’d say I saw this over at Boing Boing, but the reality is that I religiously read the Fafnir because it’s so damned funny, and I like pies):

Q. Can the president spy on me without a warrant?
A. The president would never, ever spy on you, unless you’re talking to a terrorist.
Q. That sounds reasonable!
A. Or an associate of a terrorist or a suspected associate of a terrorist or a possible suspected relative of a member of an affiliate of a terrorist or someone with a name that’s spelled like a terrorist’s or someone who’s been mistakenly identified as a terrorist by an NSA algorithm.
Q. That sounds like I should look into switching to smoke signals.
A. Well if you want, the president can stop the illegal wiretapping just for you.
Q. Really? Well thanks, that’d be great!
A. And then the terrorists can come and eat you.
Q. Wait! What?
A. Cause without the wiretaps there’s nothin to stop the terrorists from eatin you, yknow. The terrorists and their army of bees.
Q. Oh no! I’m allergic to terrorists AND bees!
A. Oh that’s too bad, cause now the president hasta stop the illegal wiretaps and let alllll those terrorist bees eat you.
Q. Quick! Put the wiretaps back, put the wiretaps back!

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Curling for Democracy

What does Democracy have to do with the sport of Curling and the Winter Olympics? If you ask the newly formed District of Columbia Olympic Committee (DCOC), a lot.

The DCOC was formed by Mike Panetta with the purpose of bringing the status of D.C.’s citizens to the attention of other Americans:

There are over 600,000 residents in the District of Columbia. We pay our taxes and fight and die in every war. But the citizens of the the District of Columbia do not have the same represenation in Congress as Americans in the 50 states.

People living in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have just as much of a voice in our represenative arm of government as we do. These territories, and the District of Columbia, each have a single, non-voting delegate instead of two Senators and a proportionate number of Represenatives.

According to a January 2005 poll commissioned by DCVote.org “82 percent of Americans believe citizens of Washington, DC, should have equal congressional voting rights – in both the Senate and the House – a number that is 10 percentage points greater than a similar poll conducted in 1999.”

The DCOC believes they have a chance to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because there are “all sort of odd recognitions” such as Hong Kong which still sends a team even though they are now part of the People’s Republic of China. Or Palestine’s Olympic Committee despite the fact that they are not technically a state.

And why the sport of Curling?

We figured that it was the only sport that really fit our collective athletic ability, plus there’s usually beer at the end of the games. Plus, nobody really wanted to wear the tight outfits you need for luge. We’re pretty sure you didn’t want to see that either.

The DCOC setup a form for those interested in supporting their effort to be recognized by the IOC and to further their efforts to be represented in Congress.

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The Terrorists Have Won (An Election)

There’s much gnashing of teeth going on over Hamas, an admitted terrorist organization, winning political majority in Palestine:

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who apparently was re-elected on a moderate platform, said the Hamas victory was a dramatic turning point. She said she is concerned the militants will now impose their fundamentalist social agenda and lead the Palestinians into international isolation.

She said Fatah’s corruption, Israel’s tough measures and international indifference to the plight of the Palestinians were to blame for Hamas’ strong showing.

Washington miscalculated in pushing for the vote, as part of its pro-democracy campaign in the Arab world, she said. “The Americans insisted on having the election now, so they have to respect the results of the election, as we all do,” she said.

If you were listening closely to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this morning, you might have heard the sound of several palms connecting with their owner’s foreheads.

Update: This is going to be a weird one folks. Hotline Blog quotes Bush:

Bush called yesterday’s high turnout election a referendum on the “status quo”. Bush: “Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo.” He said the Palestinian people didn’t think the “old guard” was able to provide them with basic services and security. Bush said he likes the “competition of ideas.” He said he talked to NSA Sec. Rice twice this a.m. and would continue to monitor the situation. He hinted he would not engage Hamas until they recognized Israel’s right to exist. Since no gov’t has yet formed, though, Bush refused to say what his exact posture toward Hamas would be. Bush: “If there is corruption, I’m not surprised that people say, let’s get rid of corruption.”

If that’s not hedging and political posturing, I sure as hell don’t know what to call it. So like, what happens if Hamas is all like “Yeah, we allow Israel to exist and we have negotiations?”

Another Update: Ok, so it seems there’s this thing called real analysis (whatever that means). We’ll let Volokh do the heavy lifting:

Meanwhile, in my view, the gloves are off. If Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel (and, more important, renounce terrorism) right away, I can’t see any reason why Israel wouldn’t be perfectly within its rights to destroy all PA government buildings, given that they are now the assets of a terrorist group that demands Israel’s destruction. There may be practical reasons (let Hamas implode on its own accord), but Israel has no reason to treat Hamas as a legitimate government [update: or, as a reader suggests, perhaps Israel should treat Hamas as a legitimate government at war with Israel]. You say they were elected? So if Hamas runs a terrorist state bent on its destruction Israel should refrain from treating it as an enemy because it’s an elected terrorist government bent on Israel’s destruction? Please. By that logic, the U.S. shouldn’t have responded to the Nazis’ declaration of war.

Wait, so the theory here is that terrorists getting elected as the majority of Palestine’s government isn’t going to lead to a magical peace accord sprinkled with fairy dust? I’m shocked… SHOCKED!

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Iraq Zinger for Democratic Party

dogs of war

This is one of the most amazingly accurate slap-upside-the-head editorial cartoons I’ve seen on the Democratic Party’s stance on the Iraq war. Big thanks to Mike who pointed out another cartoon by the artist Mr. Fish which led me to this one.

Oh and for the obsessive compulsive among you: how many?

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Eminent Domain: Separation of a Black Church and Their Land

Eminent domain

No longer satisfied with just taking your house, they want your church, too. Especially if you are poor and black…

From The NY Times
:

With bulldozers churning up the earth at the front door, the small Centennial Baptist Church in this struggling industrial hub west of Tulsa seems about to fall to the wrecker.

But the construction is just roadwork, for now. And that is all it will ever be if the congregation has its way.

“The Lord didn’t send me here to build a minimall,” said the longtime pastor, the Rev. Roosevelt Gildon.

In what a local newspaper called “a battle between God Almighty and the almighty dollar,” Sand Springs is moving ahead with a redevelopment plan to clear the church and other occupants from the rundown district near downtown to make way for superstores like the Home Depot.

Surely the U.S. Constitution provides the solution for this one:

No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Because the Kelo decision makes it even easier for the local government to underbid, the following should not surprise us:

He said the offer of $142,000 for the church and two extra lots was not enough to move to a new location where he could serve his 50 or so regular members. He said he was “praying over” the question of a counteroffer. “If I have to move,” he said, “we’re not going out of existence.”

This is not an issue of Democrat v. Republican or black v. white. It’s a matter of government v. you, and it has to stop right now!

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You Can Kill a Person; Martyrs Never Die

I have been following with great interest, and much displeasure, the recent legal travails of Steve Kubby and his family.

If I put on rose-colored glasses, I suppose I would say that it’s really a blessing that Steve and his family have been granted five extra years together in Canada. Yes, I’m glad that the Kubby family had a place to go for refuge from the persecution they endured in California, but it was hardly a vacation, since legal issues have been an ever-present fact of their life since going to Canada. The simple fact of the matter is that the U.S. government prosecuted Steve Kubby originally to make an example of him, since he had gained prominence through his political activities, including his role in helping to pass Proposition 215, the very law that should have prevented the government from prosecuting him for growing and using the medicine he needs to stay alive.

This is not unprecedented. The government successfully persecuted, er, prosecuted, writer Peter McWilliams, not un-coincidentally after he had joined the Libertarian Party on nationally-broadcast TV at the 1998 national convention. In fact, they did such a good job of persecuting him that they killed him. I, probably like some of you reading this, wrote a letter to Judge King, the man charged with determining what would happen to Mr. McWilliams, a man living with cancer and AIDS who, like Steve Kubby, needed medical marijuana to stay alive. The Judge ignored our letters and kept the bond in place that McWilliams’ mother had posted for her son’s release (that is, her home), with the stipulation that if McWilliams were to test positive for marijuana use the bond would be forfeited. He abided by the Court’s stipulation, and wound up choking on his own vomit because he couldn’t keep down the numerous pills required for his illnesses. The Court, and the government, could have reasonably foreseen that this would happen. Okay, I’m being generous; I believe that they actually intended that this should happen. They succeeded. They killed a man who happened to be skilled in conveying libertarian ideas and who also happened to need the medicinal properties of a plant to stay alive. see more…

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TSA and Reality

first class ticketStories of mothers forced to drink the breast milk out of their babies’ bottles are not new. Neither are stories of the elderly persons subjected to humiliating strip searches. Stories like those solidified my belief that the TSA was an inefficient agency, but this month, my fourteen year old daughter was “randomly” selected for an additional security search- on each leg of our ski trip. Thankfully, the little SSSS marking on the ticket gave us a big flashing clue, so we checked the skis under her name to avoid being detained to watch TSA sift through smelly ski socks and underwear. It saved us some time, but I found out when we arrived home, that they had sifted though that stuff anyway.

My family talked about the futility of the searches that day. The boarding card alerts you with that SSSS mark well before you clear security. Does that make the search “voluntary” and akin to the NYC subway searches? If you are carrying a prohibited item, what would stop you from just walking out of the terminal? I guess that TSA supporters would say that they stopped a crime and inconvenience be damned. After all, it doesn’t matter if you are searched like a criminal- if you are not a criminal, it should not bother you. It is the price of security. But after being detained for additional search on four occasions (during 5 flights), my daughter and I wondered how far our fellow Americans would let our government go in the name of security. (We try to do our part here at home.) How much would people allow this administration take from them? And then, something of a biblical nature happened. David loaded his sling, and focused on Goliath.

People started fighting back. At Georgetown, there was the most effective protest that America has seen of late. Librarian, Kathy Glick-Weil, thwarted the FBI and her local police in their attempt to gain information without a warrant. And, one of our country’s financial institutions has pledged to act in a manner consistent with American freedom with regard to property rights.

They said, in the aftermath of 9/11, that Al Qaeda had awakened the sleeping giant. I think that they were right. But the sleeping giant was our very own government- and we can choose to be David or dinner.

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Liberty Dollar “Larcenists” Land in Lockup

liberty coinsSome of you have probably never heard of Liberty Dollars, in fact I myself am pretty skeptical of this odd currency that is backed by silver, yet is only distributed and exchangeable through a single institution (calling it a bank would be a stretch).

Not so for Daniel and Shane Buczek, both of Derby, New York. The two men are believed to be the first people to be charged for passing Liberty Dollars as real currency when they tried to buy beer with them at a at a Buffalo Sabres game (the vendors rejected the coins, shock). However it seems the two got a little pushy with vendors and the cops came to see what the deal was (via Hit & Run).

That’s when Shane Buczek allegedly pulled out a badge and falsely identified himself as a federal agent. After getting both their asses thrown in jail, the Secret Service came to check things out, determined that indeed these guys were probably a little drunk and stupid and now the charges have been lowered from felonies to attempted petit larceny and misdemeanor criminal impersonation.

Now, I’m not one to defend these boneheads from the law for trying to pass off Liberty Dollars (or Liberties as they are often called) as real currency to unsuspecting businesses who have no idea how to convert them to more accepted federal reserve notes. However, the story also included some interesting blurbage about how widely accepted they actually are:

[Karl J. Reile of Elma, the regional distributor of Liberties] identified several area businesses – mostly in the Southtowns – as being among those that accept Liberties. Two of the businessmen he named told a reporter they accept Liberties.

“About 20 of my regular customers use them. They pay me with silver, and they accept silver as change,” said Daniel Hyman, owner of the Red Apple convenience store on Route 78 in Strykersville. “With inflation and government deficits, I see more and more people who don’t trust paper anymore. Eventually, I hope the banks will accept Liberties for deposits.”

“We take it at par with dollars,” said Shawn Clawges, owner of Opener’s Grille, a restaurant on Seneca Street in East Aurora. “They’re a pretty coin, and they’re backed by silver. It’s a commodity that’s going up in value, unlike the U.S. dollar.”

So the lesson here is check with your local Liberties distributor for where you can spend them, because while the U.S. dollar may very well be going in the shitter, it’s probably not worth ending up in the klink over a beer.

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Cindy Sheehan: No President Left Unbashed

Cindy SheehanFrom an interview in CounterPunch (via Instapundit):

And about Bill Clinton . . . . You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don’t understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it’s been held by a long line of monsters.

I still don’t have a favorable libertarian view of her, since some of the things she’s said about the troops is a bit over-the-top and sensationalist, even for anti-war hyperbole (calling insurgents “freedom fighters”). Yet, it’s one thing to disagree with her point for point and it’s another to dismiss her as a caricature of the anti-war left.

She may not speak for my views against the Iraq war (her quotes smack of attention whoring), but at least she’s not holding punches against Democrats involvement in previous interventionalism that spawned the current situation.

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BB&T Bank Refuses Eminent Domain Loans

John AllisonBB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison may have a bright orange libertarian streak running through his company (via Volokh, who sees it as an Atlas Shrugging moment):

BB&T, the nation’s ninth largest financial holdings company with $109.2 billion in assets, announced today that it “will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain.”

In a press release issued today by the bank, BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison, said, “The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it’s just plain wrong. One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.”

The argument is actually pretty clear-cut that they see eminent domain as having a negative financial impact on their industry. Still, I’m willing to bet the bank will be taken to court over alleged discrimination in lending practices in some not-too-distant point in the future, probably by a local government city council to boot.

Update: Hit & Run has more:

Is this an attempt to improve BB&T’s image among home buyers looking for mortgage lenders, or a plain, old-fashioned stand on principle? Maybe a little of both. If BB&T is doing well by doing good, it could hardly be faulted by shareholders. But what if it actually stands to lose more money by turning down developers’ business than it gains by taking a stand in defense of property rights?

This seems more like a shrewd business move rather than pandering to public opinion. After all, they could have led the way in stealing property from other banking institutions, but then the banking industry probably wouldn’t do so well if everyone was only trying to fuck the other guy over.

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White House Sees Shadow — Six Weeks of Impeachment Predicted

Apparently 1600 Pennsylvania is getting ready for the second impeachment hearings in ten years. We suspected that an impeachment was in the winds, but there’s really no better confirmation of this than President Bush himself getting antsy and preparing for it.

Like I’ve said before, I hope this goes through. But I also wonder what this portends for American politics. There have been three impeachment hearings in American history-the first one was for Andrew Johnson in the late 1860s, and it was a time when the nation was still deeply polarized after the Civil War. The second one was for Richard Nixon, when we were polarized by Vietnam. The third one was for Bill Clinton, when we were, um, polarized by a cigar. Or something.

My point is that impeachments have become more common in the modern era, and that is because of the increasing number of independent voters, I suspect. Less and less fealty is granted to the main two parties, meaning that the net amount of hostility to any given President is much greater than in previous years.

Is this a watershed? Is this permanent? The only solutions to this “problem” we’ve cooked up in times previous are some major decades-long struggle with a foreign power (Cold War), the emergence of a single powerful party for a few decades (1820s-1850s dominance of the Democrats). “Terrorism” just won’t work as the next Big Bad Threat, and both parties are currently equally despised. I think that, in America’s new political system, we’ll find impeachments a regular feature, as well as at least one more regular party (the Libertarians, I hope). But, when Hell freezes over, the Devil gives free sleigh rides and a Libertarian is sitting in the White House, expect him/her to get impeached over something or another. It’s just the new political reality.

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Can Government Save Ford? They Already Did

In case anyone was wondering about the Ford layoffs (around 30K, or a 1/3rd of their workforce), Sploid gives us a one-two punch in the gut:

The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 makes Ford’s massive layoffs incredibly profitable for Ford

Government to the rescue? Too late, they already did.

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Libertarian Pop Media: South Park Creators Interviewed by GQ

GQ just interviewed Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park, and it’s great. To illustrate, here are the opening lines of the article:

You did an episode about Paris Hilton, in which she opens up a retail store called Stupid Spoiled Whore. Why pick on Paris?

Trey Parker: Okay, for me, she’s a whore. Whatever. She’s a dumb, ugly whore. But then I walked into a Guess store, and she was all over the place. I’m like, Wait a minute, they’re treating her like a glamorous model now? Does anyone notice how dangerous this could be to little girls?

On-screen she eventually competes with Mr. Slave in a “whore-off.” How do you come up with an idea like that?

TP: I think she came up with that idea, actually. We just made a cartoon out of it.

Normally, its pretty easy to either smackdown an article or provide a bit of snark to liven it up. As they left absolutely nothing to bitchslap, I’m relegated to merely reproducing a few quotes. On libertarianism:

see more…

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Google Bows Down to the Chinese

I said fairly nice things about Google the other day, and I might have to take some of them back. While Google had balls enough to tell the US government where to stick it, they are apparantly now playing ball with China.

According to the AP, Google is cutting a deal to censor China’s 100 million Web surfers:

To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country’s government finds objectionable. Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials.

Although China has loosened some of its controls in recent years, some topics, such as Taiwan’s independence and 1989′s Tiananmen Square massacre, remain forbidden subjects.

Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted “don’t be evil” as a motto. But management believes it’s a worthwhile sacrifice.

“We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China,” said Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s senior policy counsel.

While I certainly understand McLaughlin’s argument, I don’t agree with him. As long as standardized Internet routing practices exist, innovative methods to gain access to government blocked sites will pop up — just ask any offshore e-mail or domestic blog comment spammer.

In the meantime, let me put on my super secret NSA-proof Flash Gordon decoder ring and slip a message past Google to the Chinese: “1 kn0w n0t whot c0urse 0thers mae taik; butt as 4 m3, giv3 m3 l1bertee 0r giv3 m3 d3ath!”

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Jon Stewart on the Democrats and Republicans: “Holy sh&^ these can’t be the only two options!”

Daily Show 20060123Reader Rob D. pointed out that last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart was characteristically non-partisan when it came to talking about the similarity of Democrats and Republican corruption entrenched in Washington (torrent link, info). Stewart had conservative guest Fred Barnes on the show to pimp his book, but the interview took a turn where the topic was unfettered contempt for both parties. Stewart succinctly laid out the problem most rational third party observers have with scandal-ridden Washington:

“This idea that there’s this entrenched Washington establishment, that if you don’t… if you stick a finger in their eye, you’re not creating a different entrenched Washington establishment that’s just as perhaps corrupt or bubbled than the old one. It’s not… I guess it’s hard to give credit to someone just for coming in and going ‘that doesn’t work, let me bring in my own not-working thing’” [Applause]

A few moments later, the two talked about the (lack of) choice in politics:

see more…

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The producer of “Trading Places” and “The Rose” to screen “America. …From Freedom To Fascism”

UPDATE: Due to what appears will be an overflow crowd, the location of the Phoenix event has been changed to Grand Ballroom Three of the Phoenix Airport Hilton.

Aaron Russo cut a swath through the entertainment industry as a club owner, concert promoter, manager and award-winning producer of such film hits as “The Rose,” “Trading Places” and “Teachers.” His latest feature could be a horror flick … if it wasn’t a true story.

“America: From Freedom to Fascism” — a documentary on the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Reserve and the creeping tentacles of authoritarianism in American political life — begins showing to selected audiences of political activists next Friday in Phoenix and Saturday in Tucson.

On Friday, January 27 at 7:30PM, accomplished Russo will test screen his new feature film, “America…From Freedom To Fascism” in the Palo Verde Room of the Phoenix Airport Hilton. On Saturday, January 28 at 1 PM, the film will show at the Grand Cinemas Crossroads theater complex in Tucson.

Both screenings are free and open to the general public.

“America: From Freedom to Fascism” isn’t Russo’s first venture in politics: A decade ago, he produced and starred in the critically acclaimed series pilot “Mad As Hell” — a scorching demarche which proved too hot for the networks but sold briskly on video. He later sought the GOP nomination for governor of Nevada, beating the sitting lieutenant governor in the primary and losing the nomination at a convention orchestrated by a frightened party establishment; fought successfully to see Nevada’s voter-approved medical marijuana law implemented; and sought the Libertarian Party’s 2004 presidential nomination.

Like many of Russo’s projects, the new film addresses life-or-death issues for America. “I’ve watched my country become less and less free for the last 40 years,” he says. “But figuring out why has been a lifelong project. I’m more proud of this work than any other I’ve produced — it goes to the root of what America means and what obstacles we face in redeeming our heritage of freedom.”

Plans for a general theatrical release, following the official premier at the Cannes Film Festival in May, are in progress.

Local contact information after the jump… see more…

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Men (and Women) in Black Defend the Constitution – comment overflow

Due to the overwhelming number of comments for this post, we’ve had to overflow them into a new entry.

Thanks everyone for your outpouring of support for this protest. We’re in 100% agreement with them as well.

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Men (and Women) in Black Defend the Constitution

Gonzales protestors

Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech to Georgetown University regarding the legality of Bush’s wiretapping program. It was shaping up to be the usual fascist-justifying affair until some hooded folks came in. (No, not these guys, but people to actually be proud of.)

These black-hooded protesters raised a banner with Benjamin Franklin’s immortal words inscribed; “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Gonzales, intellectually outclassed by a dead man and a sheet, resorted to the only course available to him-ignoring the protest. Not just the four hoodeds holding the sheet, but the 22 other protesters who had their backs facing him.

So yeah… go Hoyas!

Update by Nicholas Sarwark: Gonzales was also interviewed by NPR today. In the interview, he claims that the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) authorized all activities “incident to war.” Basically, when we’re fighting an enemy, the President is authorized to spy on and detain the enemy. I’m with him that far.

The part that makes me wonder how he looks in the mirror at night is that, in advancing this argument to justify warrantless surveillance of American citizens, he’s conveniently sidestepping the Constitution and the FISA Act. And what level of proof does it take to authorize this magical transformation of an American citizen into an enemy? The “determination of career professionals at the NSA,” that’s what. But that shouldn’t bother us, because the Inspector General of the same agency has been reviewing the program to make sure it’s okay. I’m not a lawyer (yet), but I’m pretty sure there’s a reason why the Fourth Amendment requires warrants to be issued by a neutral magistrate.

The interview gets even more maddening when he tries to justify not using the FISA courts because he’s have to be sure that there was sufficient probable cause to justify the surveillance to said courts before his office could apply for the warrant. Seriously, he said on national radio that he wasn’t using the FISA courts because he couldn’t come up with sufficient justification (for a court that has only turned down ten warrants in the course of its entire existence) for the surveillance ahead of time, or even be sure that they could round up the justification within the 72-hour emergency provision.

There’s a word for fishing expeditions like that: illegal.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: DailyKos has more photos from the event in this comment thread. This wide shot is really good.

Another Update by Stephen VanDyke: Here’s a bigger, better version of that wide shot photo. I’d love to get ahold of the original size and use it as my desktop if anyone knows how to contact the photog from the event.

Update by Stephen Gordon: Scoplaw was one of the original participants, and has some updates here. Lyco, another of the participants, explains the black hoods. Perhaps Stuart shouldn’t have linked to the KKK, but rather to the White House. The visual explanation of what the hoods are for is right after the jump.

Update by Stuart Richards: As has become obvious by now, the protesters themselves are on here and seeing this. This was listed on Google News as one of the few articles dealing with this protest early on, so everyone pretty much came here to give the protesters support. So if you want to say anything to the protesters, rest assured it’ll reach them through this medium. Even if what you have to say is like this guy’s, it’ll still get through. see more…

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Emory Study: Left/Right Equally Brain-Damaged

political ad braindeadA new study by Emory University scientists has unveiled the make-up of the political brain (semi-via Sploid). As it turns out, ignoring reality is actually a rush “similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix.” Conducted in the run-up to the 2004 election, researchers monitored the brain activity of hardcore partisans as they were asked to consider information that could prove harmful to their candidate:

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”

“None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged,” says Westen. “Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.”

Summary: both Democrats and Republicans (and I’d venture to say some Libertarians and other third party partisans) ignore facts that don’t jibe with their world-view and focus only on snippets that can be used to reinforce their views. Surprising? Not really considering political strategists from both major parties continue to focus on fear and emotional stress as a tool of voter coercion.

[image credit: editorial cartoon from USNews]

Update: NYT is also covering this — “Liberals and conservatives can become equally bug-eyed and irrational when talking politics, especially when they are on the defensive.” (via Marginal Revolution)

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