Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bush: "I broke the law? Find the whistleblowers!"

So the illegal wiretaps bypassing the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) are so grave that FISA court judge James Robertson resigns in protest:
The action by U.S. District Judge James Robertson stemmed from deep concern that the surveillance program that Bush authorized was legally questionable and may have tainted the work of the court that Robertson resigned from, the newspaper said in Wednesday's editions.
Robertson was one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees government applications for secret surveillance or searches of foreigners and U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism or espionage.

Quoting colleagues of Robertson, the Post said the judge had indicated he was concerned that information gained from the warrantless surveillance under Bush's program subsequently could have been used to obtain warrants under the FISA program.
How does Bush respond? By launching an inquiry into the people who leaked the story to the media of course:
"The Justice Department has opened an investigation of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information related to the NSA," a Justice Department official told CNN.
It's a classic Bush move. For more facts, don't miss the debunking of 12 media myths propegated by the Bush supporters, including these:
  • Timeliness necessitated bypassing the FISA court
  • Congress was adequately informed of -- and approved -- the administration's actions

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Death Penalty

This story shows how Europeans differ from Americans in their views on the death penalty:
Arnold Schwarzenegger's name has been expunged from the websites of his Austrian hometown in the latest chapter of the row over the US death penalty.
Local politicians berated Mr Schwarzenegger - one of Graz's most famous sons - after he refused to pardon a prominent US death row inmate.
Graz assembly members condemned Mr Schwarzenegger's support for the death penalty, which is illegal in Austria.
By contrast, even the American liberal (although super-moderate) blogger Kevin Drum is not opposed to the death penalty in principle:
I'm not opposed to the death penalty qua death penalty, but I long ago became convinced that it was impossible to administer fairly or reliably and thus should be abandoned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sullivan: 2005 - Accountability at Last

A truly great essay by Andrew Sullivan. Money quote:
Democracy is rooted in the impertinent belief that our rulers are no better than we are and that they are answerable always. We're occasionally amazed to discover that people who are used to power forget that. That's why, every now and again, we have to remind them. In that sense, 2005 was a great year for democracy. Because it was reborn this time after the votes were counted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why Americans Trust Republicans

Over at Andrew's blog, Ross Douthat makes a point about Bush's wiretapping that prominent Democrats should think long and hard about:
[It is] almost always better to be tagged as "the party that might go too far" than as "the party that won't go far enough" - which is how the Democrats are perceived these days. This explains why the GOP can weather controversy after controversy, from Iran-Contra down through Iraq War intelligence and the secret prisons and CIA waterboarding, and still hang on to the public trust on foreign affairs - because in each case, they're perceived as having gone too far with good intentions, 24-style, and in an arena that most Americans perceive as being slightly outside the law anyway.
White Americans in the "heartland" vote Republican because it is the "patriotic" thing to do. A little torturing here and some illegal wiretapping there is only going to make them respect Bush and Cheney even more. "Making the world a better place" is just not a vote-winner in today's America.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Holy cow - conservative uber-blogger actually seems to feel bad about his role as a defender of Bush's torture policies:
GREG DJEREJIAN chides me on the torture issue, and I have to say that he makes a strong case.
Who says conservative Bush-apologists can't do the right thing? It just takes them a while.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Europeans and Innovation

Unfortunately the really don't get it:
legislation [has been] proposed by the European Commission that would criminalize all intellectual property infringements, including patents.
I agree with Atrios:
Innovators generally don't work in isolation, they build upon previous work. In fact, part of the patent bargain is that in exchange for getting temporary monopoly rights to the use of your innovation you have to make public just what that innovation is. Patent issues are almost never 100% clear and any inventor is potentially going to be inadvertently violating patents. If they do it make sense that they should have to compensate the original patent holder, but criminalizing such activity would put half the tech community, including the makers of Blackberry, in jail.
Americans have a much more fluid notion of what "the law" is. The upside of the European tendency to respect the law is that people don't try to cheat the system as much as Americans do. The downside is that innovation and entrepreneurship can be stifled by Europeans who have too much respect for bogus laws, companies and bureaucrats.

Another great example involving patent laws is the "first-to-file" versus "first-to-innovate" rule. In patents class in college I learned that in Europe the patent protection system is built around the "first-to-file" system. A files a patent for invention X, then B comes around and says he invented X before A did. In Europe B is out of luck. In America the patent agency will consider the evidence and award the patent to B if the evidence holds up. The American system favors inventors, even if they don't have access to a lot of resources. The European system favors powerful organizations.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Norwegian Boards: Get 40% Women Directors or Dissolve

Starting January 2006 the Norwegian government will require all publicly listed companies to have 40% female representation on the Board of Directors or risk steep fines or outright dissolution. (Norwegian article).

My take: You think Ted Kennedy is a liberal? He's a ultra-conservative fascist compared to the center-left coalition that currently runs Norway!