Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: August 2007 Page 1 of 4

Off to the Shenandoah Mountains

To try something I really have no business doing.  Enjoy the Labor Day weekend.

Why the rush to praise Sen. Warner?

I had friend in high school, and reading over the outpouring of praise for John Warner (here and elsewhere) brings to mind something she often said about her boyfriend – “But he’s really great when he’s not hitting me!”

Yeah.  Some things really shouldn’t be overlooked.

I really don’t understand this rush to praise – as decent and honorable – someone who hasn’t been that at all, when it’s come to the important things over the past six years.  Does it arise from some need to convince ourselves that there really are decent Republicans left out there?  The traditional aversion of the eyes from the bad that comes when someone announces a retirement?  Perhaps that he’s been your Senator for as long as you can remember?

What purpose does it serve to excuse his real and substantive failure to stand up for the Constitution, the military, and basic human decency these past few years?

Adjust Your Tinfoil Hat

and then read this groundbreaking ABC report about the FBI’s DCSNet nationwide evesdropping systems. In case your eyes are glazing over, and you don’t think it applies to you, note that:

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more intricately woven into the nation’s telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.

It’s a “comprehensive wiretap system that intercepts wire-line phones, cellular phones, SMS and push-to-talk systems,” says Steven Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor and longtime surveillance expert.

Remember Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell, wrongly implicated in the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, died today:

Jewell, who was working as a sheriff’s deputy as recently as last year, was a security guard in 1996 at the Olympics in Atlanta. He was initially hailed as a hero for spotting a suspicious backpack in a park and moving people out of harm’s way just before a bomb exploded during a concert.

The blast killed one and injured 111 others.

Three days after the bombing, an unattributed report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described him as ”the focus” of the investigation.

Other media, to varying degrees, also linked Jewell to the investigation and portrayed him as a loser and law-enforcement wannabe who may have planted the bomb so he would look like a hero when he discovered it later.

I lived less than a mile from the bomb site, and had left the actual site only a couple of hours before the bomb exploded.  Like everyone else in Atlanta at the time, I was intensely focused on it.  And, also like everyone else, I soon became damn sure that Richard Jewell had done it, after listening to and reading all the reports.  Except:

Eventually, the bomber turned out to be anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph, who also planted three other bombs in the Atlanta area and in Birmingham, Ala. Those explosives killed a police officer, maimed a nurse and injured several other people.

Remember this, the next time you just “know” that someone did something.  I’m sorry, Mr. Jewell.  We did you wrong.

On Senator Craig

David Kurtz and a reader over at TPM cover pretty much all that’s worth saying about Sen. Larry Craig:

Look at the police report. Did he directly ask a cop for sex? No. Did he expose himself lewdly (as opposed to exposing himself to use the facilities)? No. Did he do anything that was unambiguously sexual? No.

All he did was tap his foot, reach down (possibly to pick up a piece of TP), wiggle his fingers, and put his bag in front of him when he sat down. Oh, and he waited in front of an occupied stall. Even if he did everything the cop said he did, where was the lewd conduct? No actual sex happened. No actual sex was discussed. And if it wasn’t for the sheer embarrassment of the situation, you’d be writing about the overzealous cop who arrested a sitting US Senator for no apparent reason.

You know, when this story came out and I read the details, I thought – huh, I was in the MSP airport a couple of weeks ago.  I did wait in front of a stall.  I did set my bag near the door.  And I did pick up a piece of paper (I dropped my boarding pass – believe me, I wouldn’t have picked anything else up).  I didn’t do a tap dance nor flash my US Senator card, so maybe that’s why I was safe.

But the bigger point is this:

If Craig was looking for sex, I hope that he can look into his heart and realize that it’s 2007, and gay people are allowed to be out, and even get involved in meaningful relationships that don’t begin and end in a squalid men’s room. I’d hope that he’d recognize that there are even gay Republicans out there (look at former Rep. Kolbe, for one), and that a lot of the stigma and fear that still exists about homosexuality in this society has to do with the behavior of people who are in the closet.

Arlington Wifi On Hold

Remember the Arlington County/Earthlink wifi project I wrote about back in April?  Well, Earthlink did secure a contract with the County, but now that’s been put on hold as a result of Earthlink’s financial problems (as has Alexandria’s network, which has been partially built).   The good news is that no one’s relying on either of these networks at this point, but it does highlight the importance of building contingencies for situations like these into municipal wifi contracts.  It will be a shame if that equipment in Alexandria simply sits on the poles while Earthlink sorts itself out (Om Malik is reporting that Earthlink is considering selling its municipal network division).

Something new for your playlist

Here, download (legally) and listen to these tracks:

“Hey Ya!” – Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra

“I’m So Thankful” – Eugene Blacknell

I found both of these tracks while reading about Eugene Blacknell‘s* upcoming release – We Can’t Take Life For Granted – over at Audiversity. Eugene Blacknell was (he died in 1990) a Bay Area master of funk, among many many other things over his 30 year career. Amazingly, We Can’t Take Life For Granted will be his first (and probably only) album. I’m just glad to see his stuff getting more accessible (for years, all you could find were the occasional vinyl copy of “Gettin’ Down“).

While at Audiversity, I also found that fantastic cover of Hey Ya! by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra. Tell me it doesn’t beg for a Saturday evening backyard BBQ with your twenty best friends.

*No relation

An Impossible Nomination

I’m having a really hard time imagining who Bush can nominate to replace Gonzales. Any acceptable nominee – i.e., someone who prioritizes the rule of law, and not party rule – is by definition going to be a direct threat to the Bush Administration. And that’s just a choice Bush couldn’t possibly make, I think.

Update: oh, look, Republicans are thinking exactly the same thing . . . 

Another of life’s ambitions accomplished . . .

Guess what I got?

Your money went *where*?

Next time you have your contribution checkbook in hand, think about this:

When he was last running for the United States Senate from New Jersey in 2002, Robert G. Torricelli collected donations from thousands of people who apparently wanted to see him re-elected. They might be surprised to see how he spent a portion of their money.

Mr. Torricelli, a Democrat who was one of the Senate’s most flamboyant personalities and prodigious fund-raisers, abruptly quit the 2002 race amid allegations of ethical misconduct and became a lobbyist. Since then, he has given $4,000 from his campaign fund to Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, $10,000 to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois and more than $40,000 to Nevada Democratic Party organizations and candidates linked to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

All of those politicians had one thing in common: influence over Mr. Torricelli’s, or his clients’, business interests.

Now, I have no idea if the central implication of the article (that Torricelli’s getting favors in return for his contributions), is true. But I’m rather certain that very few of his campaign contributors made those contributions with the idea that he’d be piecing out that money five years into his career as a lobbyist. It might be legal, but it certainly isn’t right. Think about this the next time a candidate dials you for dollars.

For more on my evolving views on campaign contributions, see this old post.

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