“La la la la la!”

First we had an election landslide against the Republicans, in which the Iraq war was the #1 concern of voters. Then we had an Iraq Study Group. It was described by the mainstream media as “bipartisan”. Here’s what “bipartisan” actually means: Chairman James A. Baker III—Chief of Staff, Reagan; Secretary of State, Bush I. Co-chairman Lee H. Hamilton—allegedly a Democrat. As chair of a previous Select Committee, he chose not to investigate Reagan or Bush I for their roles in the Iran-Contra scandal.


You may know that the NSA are not supposed to carry out surveillance against American citizens, as per US Signals Intelligence Directive 18, unless given special permission by the Attorney General. You may also know that the Supreme Court has ruled that the NSA cannot spy against US citizens. They used to get around this by working with GCHQ in the UK—GCHQ would spy on Americans, the NSA would spy on the English, and they’d exchange data.

Why America can’t handle an election

It’s US election day, and you don’t need to be The Amazing Kreskin to predict how things are going to go: badly. Barring a miracle, we’re going to end up with another statistical dead heat, with Kang and Kodos splitting the popular vote and electoral college vote almost 50/50. Unfortunately, there are a lot of black box voting machines in marginal areas—with no tamper-proof audit trail and no way to re-count the votes.

Foxes guarding the henhouse?

The 9/11 Commission recommended setting up an organization to help safeguard civil liberties. Sure enough the Bush administration has gone ahead and created a President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties. Ignoring for the moment the issue that civil liberties should, constitutionally, be protected for everyone and not just US citizens, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the people who are being put in charge of safeguarding your freedoms.

Only the innocent need fear

Remember the Oliviero Martinez story I mentioned back in January? Well, the Supreme Court has ruled on the case. Just as a recap: Martinez was riding his bike past a drug bust when police ordered him to stop. He complied. The cops searched him, and found a pocket knife, at which point they wrestled him to the ground and then shot him five times, in the eyes, spine and legs. One of the cops later claimed that he had started shooting because he had seen Martinez reaching for his partner’s gun.

Allow me to ruin your day

The US has floated plans to turn Guatanamo Bay into a death camp, with prisoners to be tried by kangaroo courts of 3 to 7 US military officers, with a US air force Colonel as defence counsel, and no jury. Any defense lawyers wishing to defend the accused will need to agree to give up customary attorney-client privilege rights, give up the right to contest the proceedings, give up the right to work with other defense lawyers on joint defense tactics, and they’ll be shut out of part of the proceedings.

Irony overdose

Republican Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who upheld laws prohibiting newspapers from publishing anonymous opinion pieces, is being given an award for supporting freedom of speech. Naturally, he’s banned the press from attending the awards ceremony.

Death of the public domain

As of January 15th, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal for copyright to be extended indefinitely, and retroactively. It is likely that no work created after 1920 will ever enter the public domain. Justice Clarence Thomas was amongst those voting in favor of Disney in Eldred vs Ashcroft. In totally unrelated news, on January 9th Clarence Thomas was offered a book publishing deal worth $1 million from HarperCollins, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

And so do you, and so do you, and…

A judge in Montana has ruled that suspects with Multiple Personality Disorder need to have their Miranda rights read separately to each personality. Still, it may not matter. A case before the Supreme Court concerns a man who was riding his bike through a field where police were questioning someone suspected of selling drugs. Police ordered the man, Oliviero Martinez, to stop. When one cop found Martinez had a small knife used for cutting strawberries in a sheath on his belt, he decided to wrestle him to the ground.