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Category: Politics

Fastrak Fever

The San Francisco Bay Area automated toll system, Fastrak, may be used to collect traffic flow data. Basically, they’re adding sensors along the highways which can pick up passing Fastrak boxes. They promise to keep the data separate from driver info, but since the existing Fastrak system is designed to track the passage of specific cars through toll plazas, you gotta figure the capability will be there. I figure the first time there’s a high-profile man hunt, the new sensors get used to track cars, for perfectly understandable reasons. Who’d want to tell the public “No, we’re not using every possible method to track that kidnapper and his victim.”? Not me. Better not to have the capability.

More Biden, more Feinstein

Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden; Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner; Virginia Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott; Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers; North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble; and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. What do they have in common? Those are the Congressmen who signed a letter asking the Justice Department to aggressively prosecute people who download copyrighted music files. Cause jail time for MP3 downloading is so very appropriate.

Judge Kessler's decision

While I’m on the subject, Judge Kessler’s decision is now available from FindLaw. It’s a PDF document. It warms my heart:

“Difficult times such as these have always tested our fidelity to the core democratic values of openness, government accountability, and the rule of law. The Court fully understands and appreciates that the first priority of the executive branch in a time of crisis is to ensure the physical security of its citizens. By the same token, the first priority of the judicial branch must be to ensure that our Government always operates within the statutory and constitutional constraints which distinguish a democracy from a dictatorship.”

What she said.

Joe Biden's week for news

It must be Joe Biden’s (D-Del) week for attacking civil liberties. This time round, he’s sponsoring a bill that would criminalize raves. It’s already a felony to knowingly house and profit from a drug enterprise; OK, I have no real issues with that other than my general feelings about the War on Drugs (which are negative).

However, extending that law to cover people who throw raves seems sketchy — yes, there are going to be drugs at raves. But there have also been drugs at every rock concert I’ve ever been to in my life. You can’t hold promoters responsible for drug use in the culture; they didn’t create the culture.

Prosecutors in related cases have argued that the venues sell items associated with rave drug culture. Glow sticks. But glow sticks don’t cause drug use, nor are they drug paraphenalia. Both drugs and glow sticks are part of rave culture. What’s next — going after clothing stores that sell rave fashion?

Assassination for fun and victory

Time to go to the the assassination strategy, apparently. Rumsfeld has reportedly given the U.S. Special Ops command direct orders to go after the top leadership of al Qaeda, under their own guidance rather than under the authority of Central Command. It makes a sort of sense, for a country traumatized by civilian deaths; now is probably the best time to switch to an assassination strategy, because we’re so aware of collateral damage (and are finding out that we inflict quite a bit ourselves).

Of course, one still assumes that we would become distressed if England sent SAS into the US to take down IRA leaders living over here. Our leadership continues to neglect the acid test: would we mind if someone else did that to us?

Free the 9/11 thousand!

Judge Gladys Kessler just ruled that the federal government must release the names of everyone who’s been arrested and detained in the course of the September 11th investigations. I can’t find the decision itself online, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

I'm not a huge Salon fan

I’m not a huge Salon fan, but they have the occasional strong article. Today, there’s a very good discussion of the Left Behind series. (If you haven’t seen them, they’re the Christian apocalyptic series of books which is selling like hotcakes.) The article is a good primer on the nature of the books, and is pretty fair. It doesn’t mention that the Left Behind comic books are the best selling comic books in the US right now, but I’ll go ahead and mention it for them. It’s more important, and more interesting, to discuss the author’s connection to conservative politics without making too much of it, and the article does that.

The liberal media

There’s a popular belief that the media is liberal. Interestingly, the media is apparently more likely to label a liberal politician as liberal than they are to label a conservative politician as conservative. Geoffery Nunberg did a study on this.

It’s not clear to me that this proves anything; you could say that the qualifying adjective (in this case, liberal) only needs to be used when the subject noun is not mainstream. That’s kind of what Nunberg is saying. I don’t know if I believe it, though; you could also say that the liberal media is calling attention to the fact that politicians with admirable policies are liberal.

But it’s a nice little dose of fact-checking. Nunberg was inspired to do the study by a conservative pundit’s claim that the results were precisely the opposite. Ooops.

I picked this one up on the Daniel Keys Moran announcements-only mailing list. It’s not exactly an announcement list, despite the billing. Anything DKM posts to the discussion list goes directly to the announcement list as well.

I left the main discussion list when I got tired of reading Robert Hansen’s conservative rants. (Why not use the name? It’s not as if there’s more than one person going all libertarian asshole in that neck of the woods, so if he happens to read this, he’s gonna know anyhow.) DKM finds him to be enjoyable conversational company, though, so every now and then I get a message from the announcement list which is just DKM responding to Hansen.

For some reason this is way more enjoyable than reading the original source. I was thinking it might be that the Hansen always comes complete with rebuttal, but DKM doesn’t always rebut. Sometimes he agrees, creating a small slice of that macho hard SF John Wayne con environment I miss so little.

So I don’t know. Anyway. Nice little bit of fact-checking.