Glenn Greenwald: Think about how amazing this is. McConnell clearly described that in 1978, we enacted a law prohibiting warrantless eavesdropping; the Bush administration broke that law repeatedly; and the telecommunications companies actively participated in that lawbreaking. And now — as a matter of national security — the Bush administration is demanding that Congress pass a new law declaring that telecom companies are immune from any and all consequences — both civil and criminal — in the event they are found to have violated the law. It is hard to imagine open contempt for the rule of law being expressed more explicitly than this.
Everyone should point to the Doc Searls Weblog in its new location, to give it the link-love it needs to rise in the search engines.
John Dvorak: Google Pulls Plug, Everyone Misses Point. The scary part is that we are not talking about some flaky, small underfunded company. We’re talking about Google, a behemoth. This tells me that if Google can throw in the towel and abandon one of its online-related services, then anyone can do it—and they will. And then they’ll all point to Google. “Well, if Google can do it after it made promises, then we can do it.” It can happen anywhere. You have all your family photos online? Good luck with that. Your blogging software and blog are all online? Have a nice day. Your business is completely reliant on online systems? How does your insurance policy look?
The case here is about customers’ ability to use a service they purchased. Google is reneging on its promise. But the bigger issue is in the latter part of this quote — whether the photos, text, videos, financial information and other things you put online are yours, or whether they end up belonging, in practice if not principle, to the company you use to store and/or display them.
For citizen media creators contributing their work to a variety of sites, this is not a trivial issue. The portability of data is one of the absolutely crucial problems in a world of online-everything.
You cannot absolutely depend on online vendors to protect your information, despite their best intentions (and most of them have very good intentions). If you can’t download your data to your own computer, in a form that lets you use it elsewhere with not too much hassle, then you should be clear: It’s not really your data after all.
Should there be a law about this? I suspect, in the end, we may need one.
Nokia has issued a recall for its BL-5C battery line for the following phones:
Nokia 1100, Nokia 1100c, Nokia 1101, Nokia 1108, Nokia 1110, Nokia 1112, Nokia 1255, Nokia 1315, Nokia 1600, Nokia 2112, Nokia 2118, Nokia 2255, Nokia 2272, Nokia 2275, Nokia 2300, Nokia 2300c, Nokia 2310, Nokia 2355, Nokia 2600, Nokia 2610, Nokia 2610b, Nokia 2626, Nokia 3100, Nokia 3105, Nokia 3120, Nokia 3125, Nokia 6030, Nokia 6085, Nokia 6086, Nokia 6108, Nokia 6175i, Nokia 6178i, Nokia 6230, Nokia 6230i, Nokia 6270, Nokia 6600, Nokia 6620, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6631, Nokia 6670, Nokia 6680, Nokia 6681, Nokia 6682, Nokia 6820, Nokia 6822, Nokia 7610, Nokia N70, Nokia N71, Nokia N72, Nokia N91, Nokia E50, Nokia E60
If you have one of these phones, don’t fail to take care of this.
NY Times: U.S. Allocates $354 Million to Reduce New York Traffic. The United States Department of Transportation announced today that it has allocated $354 million to help Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg finance his plan to reduce traffic in Manhattan by charging tolls to drivers entering the busiest parts of the borough.
The Times has missed the other obvious federal agenda: more surveillance capabilities. No government in our history has been more ardent to spy on citizens’ activities, and this grant — which will vastly increase surveillance in Manhattan — is surely aimed, at least in part, at precisely that objective no matter what officials are saying.
For the Times to ignore this obvious angle is surprising. Or negligent. Or both.
(Note: I’m a NY Times Co. shareholder.)
Look near the bottom of the story about the conviction of a Silicon Valley executive for flagrant violations of law in issuing stock options, the SF Chronicle. In “Legal drama as backdating trial ends in ‘guilty’,” you’ll find this:
Many in Silicon Valley viewed the prosecution as a government witch hunt, arguing that backdating didn’t harm anyone. Companies routinely handed employees and executives better odds of big profits by granting them options at trading lows. They broke the law when they failed to properly account for the practice or disclose it to investors, inflating their companies’ profits
The mantra of the valley, and of corrupt people everywhere, is that breaking the law didn’t harm anyone because, well, it was for the good of the company. Bull. It was outright lying to shareholders. That is the bottom line.
NY Times: In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich. (M)any such accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth — often a lot more. When chief executives are routinely paid tens of millions of dollars a year and a hedge fund manager can collect $1 billion annually, those with a few million dollars often see their accumulated wealth as puny, a reflection of their modest status in the new Gilded Age, when hundreds of thousands of people have accumulated much vaster fortunes.
Envy and greed: what a great country.
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s vote in favor of the new surveillance law is a disgrace.
She has always been somewhat chilly toward civil liberties, but I’ve understood her positions from the frame of reference of her background in law enforcement. I also understood politicians’ fear of being labeled soft of terrorism in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks. The latter was a contemptible abandonment of principle when it came to supporting drastic new police powers, but it’s sadly foolish to expect politicians to defend liberty in difficult times.
This vote, however, compounds the damage.
Rather than claiming they’ve preserved checks and balances, Sen. Feinstein and the other Democrats who supported this breathtaking expansion of government surveillance should at least acknowledge what they have done. They have given the most untrustworthy government in recent memory an essentially untrammeled ability to spy on Americans.
The law’s vague language that gives the administration — which has demonstrated again and again that doesn’t care much about law in the first place — ample room to widen its surveillance nets to capture anyone’s communications for any reason and with little or no oversight. The 6-month re-examination is meaningless given Congress’ quisling history in such matters, and so are the alleged watchdog measures.
In important ways, we will be less secure as a result of this law. The inevitable abuses, when we eventually learn about them, will lead Americans to have even less trust in our government. Moreover, a surveillance state creates a self-censoring, somewhat paranoid sense of being watched that inevitably inhibits the kind of robust free expression and creativity that a self-governing people needs. If China’s attempt to combine a repressive political system with quasi-free enterprise is Sen. Feinstein’s model for a future America, she is voting appropriately.
Yes, there are potential security risks in not being able to spy on everyone and anyone without serious oversight. But America’s meaning is that we take some risks in order to be more free, because liberty’s benefits outweigh the costs. When we trust in liberty, we end up stronger, not weaker.
I love my country, and I love our Constitution. No one, least of all me, doubts that Sen. Feinstein also loves her country. But she has apparently forgotten her oath of office, in which she swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
I don’t know whether her vote is the act of a political coward or a politician’s conclusion that Bill of Rights is an outmoded ideal. I suspect it’s a combination.
But I do know this: Sen. Feinstein earned my vote in the past with positions that were, while imperfect from my viewpoint, at least better than her opponents’. With this betrayal of liberty and the Constitution, she has lost more than my support as a voter. She has lost my respect.