Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

December 29, 2005

Dogmatic Inconsistency

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:06 pm

Dr. Sanity quotes Stephen Hicks in Explaining Postmodernism on one of my favorite subjects — which I call syllogistic hypocrisy:

Using contradictory discourses as a political strategy

In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consisteny can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims.

  • On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is.
  • On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.
  • Values are subjective–but sexism and racism are really evil.
  • Technology is bad and destructive–and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others.
  • Tolerance is good and dominance is bad–but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.

There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next.

And to be a right-thinking (which is to say, left-thinking) person in they eyes of NPR, the New York Times, or a typical university faculty, you have to believe all those pairs of things.

You also have to believe a lot of other odd things, like:

  • Homosexuality is genetic, but gender is socially constucted.
  • A woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body — unless she wants to get breast implants.
  • A woman is capable of choosing whether to allow her child to be born or have an abortion, but can’t be trusted with deciding where to send that child to school.
  • Christmas is religious, but Hannukah is merely cultural.
  • Tolerance of diverse viewpoints is important — and everyone who doesn’t believe that should be silenced!

Please add more examples in the comments!

UPDATE (1/1/06):

James R. Ament at Cave of the Curmudgeon links here and adds this example:

I remember listening to a comedian, some years ago, cracking a joke about how those hypocritical conservatives want to protect every fetus but then can’t wait to kill people by engaging the death penalty. He got the audience to laugh; which is to say, he knew his audience. I remember thinking at the time… Didn’t this joker see the corollary – The hypocricy of wanting to save some child rapist murderer while advocating the killing of 1.5 million innocents per year? Yea, funny.

2005 is a Leap Year?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:44 pm

Well, sort of. The last minute of 2005 will be 61 seconds long, as a leap second is added to the year. To keep all the time zones in sync, that will be the “last minute of 2005, coordinated universal time” (which is the new name for Greenwich mean time) — which will be right before 7pm on the U.S. erast coast (for example).

Remember to reset your watches! Or, as Samantha Burns puts it, “That’s just great. Now my whole year is going to be thrown off schedule.”

Why does this have to happen? Because the earth doesn’t rotate at exactly hte same speed every day. A few years ago I heard a scientist quoted as saying, “We have to synchronize our super-accurate atomic clocks with our llousy earth clock.”

“Terrorism Assistance”?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:05 pm

Here’s some grist for the government-is-incompetent mill. AP reports:

WASHINGTON – Most companies interviewed about the government-backed Sept. 11 loans they received have told investigators they weren’t hurt by the suicide attacks and didn’t know they were getting terrorism assistance, an internal government investigation found. The Small Business Administration’s inspector general also reported Wednesday that lenders who doled out billions of dollars in such loans failed _ 85 percent of the time _ to document that recipients were actually hurt by the terrorism attacks and therefore eligible for the federal aid.

The IG, the agency’s internal watchdog, concluded only nine loan recipients in the 59 cases sampled appeared to be qualified for the special disaster loans. The report said SBA officials told lenders they would not be questioned on how they gave out money.

The AP found that terrorism recovery loans went to businesses including a South Dakota radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique, and more than 100 Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway sandwich shops in various locations.

So, Congress and the president gave the SBA a bunch of money to help small businesses hurt by the 9/11 attacks — and the SBA gave that money to, well, to just about any small businesses. Your taxpayer dollars at work!

And, of course, the bureacrat at the SBA is not getting fired or anything, like, say, anyone employed in a private business who was given money to do one thing and did something else entirely. In fact, he is mounting a defense that would be laughable anywhere outside bureaucracy:

SBA Administrator Hector Barreto put the best face on the findings, saying the audit did not find that loan recipients were unqualified for the program, although he did note that lender documentation could have been better.

And in this case, you can’t even blame the folks who got the money they weren’t supposed to get:

The [Inspector General]‘s report found:

  • Only 2 of 42 borrowers interviewed were aware they had obtained a STAR loan.
  • In cases where eligibility could not be established, 25 of 34 borrowers interviewed said they were not adversely affected by the terrorist attacks.
  • Thirty-six of 42 borrowers questioned said they were not asked, or could not recall if they were asked, about the impact of the attacks on their businesses.

You know something’s wrong when the government has a program called “terrorist assistance.” They are supposed to be impeding terrorists, not assisting them!

Government Micromanagement

I find it quite curious and fascinating (in a morbid sort of way) that the same side of the political aisle that is so eager to “get the government out of the bedroom” when it comes to things like abortion and homosexuality, is so eager to set up a government-run and government-paid-for health care system, which will put government into not only your bedroom, but your kitchen, living room, and anywhere else you go.

As Coyote Blog puts it, it’s a “Health Care Care Trojan Horse“:

I get email and comments from time to time that my language deriding government’s intervention into every aspect of our lives is overblown and exaggerated. My answer: Oh yeah, well how about this:

Mike Huckabee, the Governor of Arkansas, now requires annual fat reports. These are sent to the parents of every single child aged between 5 and 17; a response, he says, to “an absolutely epidemic issue that we could not ignore” in the 1,139 schools for which he is responsible.

As I have argued many times in the past, a large part of the blame for these initiatives is public funding of health care. Beyond the efficiency and choice arguments, I have tried to point out that publicly funded health care is a Trojan horse for a number of truly intrusive nanny-state government controls of our lives.

When health care is paid for by public funds, politicians only need to argue that some behavior affects health, and therefore increases the state’s health care costs, to justify regulating the crap out of that behavior. Already, states have essentially nationalized the cigarette industry based on this argument.

And later he writes:

The logic is that by paying for your health care, the government can argue it has a financial interest in your not eating fatty foods, not smoking, wearing a bike helmet, exercising, etc, decisions that would otherwise only affect the individual themself.

For those who often accuse me of exaggerated paranoia when it comes to government intervention, check out this from the UK:

People who are grossly overweight, who smoke heavily or drink excessively could be denied surgery or drugs following a decision by a Government agency yesterday. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which advises on the clinical and cost effectiveness of treatments for the NHS, said that in some cases the “self-inflicted” nature of an illness should be taken into account.

Sorry, but I told you so. What’s next? Is an unwanted pregnancy “self-inflicted”? How about an STD from unprotected sex?

Well, there’s a way to get the Left’s attention…

There’s got to be a word for this…

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:22 pm

“This,” being: taking an occassional glance at the Carnival of Cordite (gun-related blog posts) and discovering a nice (apparently) Orthodox Jewish blogging couple who like to shoot.

That is, Leah Guildenstern, whose husband Jack just signed on as a co-blogger.

Not surprisingly, one of the links on their blogroll is to the blog of the special-forces-turned-Orthodox-Rabbi “Rabbi Rambo,” that is, Rabbi Lazer Brody. As if to bring things full circle, Rabbi Brody links to this post on the modern-day implications of Hannuka by Steven Plaut, to whom Rabbi Brody says he has just been introduced. Believe it or not, I actually had dinner with Steven Plaut once, at a now-defunct kosher Thai restaurant in Skokie, Illinois. Where, Leah Guildenstern would presumably be disappointed to discover, it is very difficult to legally own a gun.

Until today, I had never heard of anyone mentioned above except Steve Plaut — and the proprietor of the Carnival of Cordite, Gullyborg. Who, it just so happens, is getting married today! Congratulations!

So much for this “six degrees of separation” stuff. Try three.

Leah also links to this article about Robert Aumann, who co-won this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics, who applies economic analysis to thinks like war and gun control. Nice.


Filed under: — Different River @ 4:21 pm

As usual, I’m behind in linking the blog carnivals. Here we go:

If conservatives were muggers…

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:33 pm

I just got this joke in the (e-)mail … imagine if there were politically conservative muggers:

Late one night, a mugger wearing a ski mask jumped into the path of a well-dressed man and stuck a gun in his ribs. “Give me your money,” he demanded.

Indignant, the man replied, “You can’t do this – I’m a United States Congressman!”

“In that case,” replied the mugger, “give me MY money.”

December 28, 2005

Update from The Religion of Peace

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:30 pm

AP reports this story from the dar al-Islam:

Pakistan – Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year old stepsister to salvage his family’s “honor” — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

Ahmed’s killing spree — witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3 month-old baby son — happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province.

Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls — Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 — pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm.

“I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters,” Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. “I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, ‘If you make a noise, I will kill you.’”

“The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me,” she said.

But he had a reason, you see:

Speaking to AP in the back of police pickup truck late Tuesday as he was shifted to a prison in the city of Multan, Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had [allegedly] committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn’t want them to do the same when they grew up.

“I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated,” he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven.

Read that last paragraph again. He killed his own 8-, 7-, and 4-year-old daughters, because they might, someday in the distant future, commit adultery.

This is utter insanity — in the name of the “religion of peace,” no less!

Even in case of the older daugher — the one who was actually married and therefore theoretically capable of committing adultery — the adultery accusation sounds like a hoax:

Despite Ahmed’s contention that Muqadas had committed adultery — a claim made by her husband — the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.

Police have said they do not know the identity or whereabouts of Muqadas’ alleged lover.

But don’t worry! Like any good leftist, Ahmed endorses the standard liberal line on the “root causes” of crime:

“We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor.”

Now all he has to do is write a childrens’ book about “honor,” and the Tookie-supporters will set up a legal defense fund and demonstrate for his release.

(Hat tip: Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, who blames President Bush and his “Religion of Peace” rhetoric.)

European ‘Reflections’

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:00 pm


Part of a series called “euroPART” and created by artists from all 25 member countries of the European Union, the posters were meant to “reflect on the different social, historical and political developements in Europe”, said art project 25peaces, which commissioned the posters.

To see how European Union artists “reflect on the different social, historical and political developements,” read the full story.


Photo-Blogging an Airplane Accident

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

An Alaska Airlines plane sprung a foot-long hole and depressurized in mid-air, and one passenger named Jeremy Hermanns took some pictures and posted them, along with his version of the story, on his blog.

Then, some people posted nasty comments about his story and pictures — from IP addresses registered to Alaska Airlines!

Not exactly a way to increase confidence in their airline after a harrowing, if ultimately not terribly harmful, accident.

They even accused him of selling the pictures to the media — and thinking only of money during the emergency landing. But, he didn’t sell them; he just posted them on his blog.

December 27, 2005

If it happened now….

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:13 am

A new (I think) blog called Something Ain’t Right has a feature called “This Week in History” — in which is reported not just something that happened years ago in the same week of the year, but how it might have happened if this were then the way they are now. The result is hilarious:

WEEK 4, DEC 1937

“Snow White,” the first US feature length color and sound cartoon premieres. It is immediately picketed by a number of protest groups. Feminists accuse the prince of sexual harassment when he kisses the sleeping Snow White and also take offense at the song, “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Blacks protest the all-white cast. Midgets protest the stereotyped dwarves. Seniors protest the evil, old hag witch. Homosexuals protest the use of the term “Fairy Tale.” And Wiccans protest the use of magic for evil purposes. It is three years before Disney recovers and releases is next full length cartoon film Pinocchio, in 1940.

And there is also “This Week in the Future”:

WEEK 3, NOV 2017

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia announces his retirement. President Hillary Clinton announces that she has a nominee in mind. The as yet named nominee is described as an illiterate, minority, illegal immigrant lesbian who lacks health care and once had an abortion. She is a former teacher, actress, union member, and was once overlooked for promotion while working at Wal-Mart. She is an environmentalist who protested every war the Republicans ever started, drives a hybrid, and maintains a strict vegetarian diet. She is described by the Presidential Press Secretary as a moderate who represents mainstream American values.

“Christmas” and “Holiday”

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:21 am

I wish I’d seen this before Sunday. James Taranto:

Cease-Fire’s Greetings

While we weren’t looking, apparently they resolved the “war over Christmas.” Christmas will be this Sunday, and Monday, Dec. 26, will be a “holiday.” Fine by us–we’ll see you Tuesday.


December 26, 2005

Is this Religious Neutrality?

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:02 pm

Richard John Neuhaus’ column “While We’re At It” in the back pages of the journal First Things is basically a “printed blog” that pre-dated the online blogs. In the January 2006 issue (not online yet), he writes:

Student from Christian high schools are having a hard time getting accepted at the University of California, Riverside. The university deems some of the high school courses to be biased in favor of Christianity. The curricular review extends to religion classes. “Religion and ethics courses are acceptable,” says the university, “as long as they do not include among its [sic] primary goals the personal religious growth of the student.” If only we were makeing this up.

In 1968, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote: “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and non-religion.”

The University of California, Riverside is a public — that is, government — university. And this does not look like “neutrality … between religion and non-religion” to me. Where is the ACLU when you need them?

More detail on the controversy — and the lawsuit — here and here. The issue is not limited to Riverside, but to all 10 branches of the University of California. From this article by Mark Earley:

Calvary[ Chapel Christian School]’s science classes are also not up to snuff, according to UC. A textbook by Prentice Hall, Conceptual Physics, is considered acceptable—which is why Calvary is using it. But the textbook they used to use, titled Physics for Christian Schools, contains exactly the same information. The difference? There’s a Bible verse and theological preface for every chapter. And according to UC chemistry professor Barbara Sawrey, the verses alone disqualify the textbook.

Talk about condemning yourself out of your own mouth! These comments make it clear that shutting down the Christian viewpoint is indeed what UC is up to.

They’re All Wrong!

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:30 pm

Back in October, the California Legislature passed, and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed, a law banning the sale or rental of “extremely violent video games” to children. The law ws supposed to take effect on January 1, 2006. Two video game industry groups sued, and U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law, on freedom-of-speech grounds.

Not only can I not take sides on this, but I think all the sides have got it wrong.

1. The law’s proponents: I can’t side with the law’s proponents, because this law will have absolutely no effect on the problem they are trying to solve. I’m not saying kids should be playing “extremely violent video games” — but there is no reason to believe that this law will stop them. For one thing, those kids whose parents think they ought to have a game like this will just buy it for them, and those kids whose parents provide so little supervision that they can sneak the games in against their parents (weakly communicated) wishes will be able to obtain it anyway, perhaps by ordering it online. (No credit card? They can just buy a Visa, MC, or Amex “gift card” with cash.) Note that this is different from the case of laws prohibiting underage purchase of alcohol and tobacco — those products easily purchased and consumed away from home; video games have to be played somewhere where you can set up the equipment. That’s harder to hide. As for parents who don’t think their kids should have those games, and provide proper supervision — well, those kids already don’t have those games, so the law won’t affect them, either.

2. The judge: Sorry, but I can’t agree with the judge on this one, either. There is a right to “freedom of speech,” but no one who understands the English language (which may not, of course, include the federal courts) would conclude that a video game is “speech.” It may be a “form of expression,” but no one seriously believes that the First Amendment protects every “form of expression.” If you “express” your hatred of someone by strangling them, you will not be able to claim at your murder trial that this is allowed by the First Amdendment — no matter how much your desire to strangle that person was occassioned by your desire to disagree with what he was saying.

3. The video game industry: I can’t take the side of the video game industry, either. I haven’t seen any of the games in questions, but I have trouble endorsing the games if descriptions like this are accurate:

The ruling comes as the $25-billion global game industry faces sharp criticism for sex and violence in some of its titles. Much of the furor has focused on “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” a game that allows players to shoot cops, run over pedestrians and have sex with prostitutes.

Now, putting on my economist hat, I have to ask two questions:

First, I wonder if they are really making that much money off this stuff. If they didn’t make “extremely violent” video games, but made more “other” video games (“a bit violent”?) would their total sales of all video games drop? Or is a substantial percentage of the market for video games made up of consumers who, would buy no video games if they couldn’t get “extremely violent” ones?

Second, are we sure what effect violent video games have on behavior? Apparently, some people think if you do it in a video game, you’re more likely to do it in real like. But isn’t it possible that if you take out your agressions on video, you won’t feel as much of a need to do it in real life? Sort of like the advice to “punch a pillow” when you get so angry you want to punch a person? Having not seen the games in question, or any empirical study of their effects, I can’t say for sure, but I think we might want to consider the possibility that these games reduce, rather than increase, players’ propensity to violence in real life.

Jack Kervorkian is Sick?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:30 pm

Wesley J. Smith reports:

Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer is upset–and issued a press release to let the rest of us know–that the Michigan Parole Board refused to recommend clemency or pardon, based on Kevorkian’s supposed ill health. But why should it? Kevorkian is an utterly unrepentant murderer who would spend his time as a free man justifying his crime and his assisted suicide campaign. He is right where he belongs.

Now given what Jack Kevorkian is in jail for, wouldn’t it be more consistent with his principles for his “ill health” to result not in clemency, but in execution?

A Year of Different River

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:32 pm

Today marks one year since Different River opened for business with this post. Happy Blogiversary!

Thanks to everyone who’s visited over the past year! I had no idea a year ago that y’all would have visited here 49,114 times in a year! I’m very gratified and inspired by all those who come here, read what I have to say, and leave comments. Please keep reading, leave comments, and tell your friends!

December 22, 2005

More on Cory Maye

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:30 pm

Radley Balko is continuing to dig up more information on the case of Cory Maye case, the man who shot someone who broke down his door and rushed his daughters bedroom — and is now facing the death penalty because that someone turned out to be a policeman serving a “no-knock” warrant on the drug dealer next door.

He has posted PDF files of the trial transcripts.

One of the main issues in the case — in fact, perhaps the only issue — is if Mr. Maye knew, or even could have known, that the guy breaking down his door was a police officer. The other police testified that they were in uniform and annonced “Police!” as (before?) they broke down the door; Maye, who was asleep at the time, said he didn’t hear anything until they burst into the room in which he and his daughter were sleeping. Now, Radley Balko found the following interesting fact, which really seems to back up Maye’s version of the event:

As it turns out, only one officer from the narcotics task force went along on the raid. Jones seems to have assembled an ad-hoc team of eight police officers to conduct the raid, including himself; a volunteer police officer from Bassfield named Phillip Allday; Darryl Graves, the task force officer; another Prentiss police department officer; and officers from both the Jefferson Davis County Sheriff’s department and the Bassfield department.

I think this reflects even more poorly on the way the raid was handled. Only one of the eight officers — the officer from the task force — had any narcotics training at all. He was on the four-man team who executed the warrant for the other apartment, that of Jamie Smith. Which means none of the officers who raided Maye’s home had training in serving a high-risk narcotics warrant.

Here’s another troubling tidbit — it was the ununiformed volunteer cop who kicked down Maye’s door. Also, given his volunteer status, Allday wasn’t authorized to announce “police” prior to entering the apartment. [Italics his, boldface mine. --DR]

So, the one officer who normally is required to announce “Police” did not have they authority to do so — and was not in uniform. This means that either (1) the police are not following their own rules, or (2) they are lying, or (3) both.

Which makes the following even more disturbing:

The jury retired to deliberate at 10:38am on January 23 [2004]. By 11:49am, they had returned with a guilty verdict. At 2:20pm, the death penalty phase of the trial began. The jury retired for death penalty deliberations at 4:35pm. By 6pm they had returned with a death sentence. By 6:27pm, Maye was senteneced to death by the judge. So it took the jury just an hour and ten minutes to convict him, and just an hour and twenty-five minutes to sentence him to death. All in the same afternoon. [Emphasis mine -DR]

Sorry, but I don’t see how, in such a short amount of time, anyone can truly consider whether a person truly should be put to death for a crime — especially for an act which is arguably justifiable to the point that it might not even be a crime. Something is fishy here. Very, very fishy.

Keep in mind that I support the death penalty — but only for people who are actually murderers!

It Seems to be Legal

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 pm

Lots of folks with the right experience — both Democrats and Republicans — seem to be coming out with convincing arguments that President Bush’s “impeachable” executive order authorizing certain eavesdropping of terrorist suspects and contacts without a court order is in fact perfectly legal.

First John Schmidt, Associate Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, writes:

President Bush’s post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents.

In the Supreme Court’s 1972 Keith decision holding that the president does not have inherent authority to order wiretapping without warrants to combat domestic threats, the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president’s authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad.

Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant.

In the most recent judicial statement on the issue, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, composed of three federal appellate court judges, said in 2002 that “All the … courts to have decided the issue held that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence … We take for granted that the president does have that authority.”

In other words, even the court that grants the warrants concedes that in certain situations, the warrants are not needed — and these situations are those under discussion now.

Schmidt also noted, as I did earlier, that Jamie Gorelick, who was Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, and more recently a member of the “9/11 Commission,” testified before Congress on July 14, 1994:

“The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes, and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General.”

Liberal Law Professor Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago is not entirely decided, but he seems to think it’s likely the President has the authority to wiretap people against whom he also has the right to use military force. The alternative is truly bizzarre — he can order a terrorist bombed, but can’t listen to his phone calls?

(Libertarian?) Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (and who also teaches at the University of Chicago Law School) writes in the Washington Post contends that this type of surveillance is not a threat to civil liberties. When a libertarian federal judge is willing to say something like that in public, I think it means he thinks it’s legal, also.

John Hinderaker, also a lawyer, quotes Schmidt, and adds additional case citations to make that case that it’s legal, and takes the New York Times to task for ignoring the relevant court decisions:

This morning, I sent the following email to New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and Adam Liptak (other Times reporters who have participated in the NSA stories do not publish their email addresses):

In your reporting in the Times you appear to have tried to create the impression that the NSA’s overseas intercept program is, or may be, illegal. I believe that position is foreclosed by all applicable federal court precedents. I assume, for example, that you are aware of the November 2002 decision of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, in Sealed Case No. 02-001, where the court said:

“The Truong court [United States v. Truong Dinh Hung, 4th Cir. 1980], as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. *** We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.”

In view of the controlling federal court precedents, I do not see how an argument can be made in good faith that there is any doubt about the NSA program’s legality. Therefore, I wonder whether you are somehow unaware of the relevant case law. If you know of some authority to support your implication that the intercepts are or may be illegal, I would be interested to know what that authority is. If you are aware of no such authority, I think that a correction is in order.

And, the Justice Department has issued a five-page statement explaining why it’s legal.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times carries the allegation that the New York Times has been sitting on this story for a long time, and brought it up now to either (1) influence Congress’ vote on renewing the PATRIOT Act (which has nothing to do with the eavesdropping here), or (2) to bring attention to the issue ahead of the publication next month of a book by a New York Times reporter on the Bush Administrations spying programs.

Britain to Monitor All Cars, All the Time

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:04 am

A few years ago, I thought of an idea for a futuristic short story, in which the government tracks the location of every car in the country by means of the GPS receiver installed in the car that transmits its own position to a central tracking facility — and possibly other information, such as speed, seatbelt status, and maybe even audio from a microphone secreted in the car — maybe even video showing who’s in the car. I pictured a control center with a huge electronic map, allowing “whoever” to zoom in on roads, pick out individual cars, clicking on a car and listening to the conversation inside it. Of course, they could always search for a particular individual’s car based on DMV data and find out where that person’s car was.

I never wrote the story. But it is becoming reality much quicker than I thought. In Britain. And it won’t use GPS receivers, but cameras with license-plate readers, so there’s really no way a creative driver could disable it. (And it doesn’t have the audio-bug feature — not yet, anyway.)

And of course, it’s being introduced in the name of “crime control.” After all, if you watch everybody all the time, you must be watching all the criminals, too — right?

Matt Drudge points to this story in The Independent:

Britain will be first country to monitor every car journey

From 2006 Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 22 December 2005

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate “reads” per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.

They don’t even have it yet, and they’re already planning to expand it! Maybe they’ll never delete anything…

Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.

But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for years.

Not like anyone cares about those weirdos who are “concerned about civil liberties” … those extremists…

This is bad. Very, very bad.

Synthetic Life?

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:52 am

Matt Drudge links to this story in the Globe and Mail:

Work on the world’s first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form — a microbe made from scratch.

I can’t help but be reminded of this joke:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this, let’s say we have a man making contest.” To which the scientist replied, “OK, great!”

But God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”

The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!”

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