Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Ignorance is no excuse for telecoms in NSA illegal spying case

By Martin Bosworth

Today former Attorney General and current AT&T lobbyist John Ashcroft had an editorial in the New York Times demanding that the Senate grant immunity against litigation for telecom companies that participated in the NSA spying program. It’s your typical “ZOMG LIVES ARE IN DANGER 9/11 PATRIOTISM!!!!1111” swill, but one passage in particular bears citation–Ashcroft’s idea that the combined might of these companies’ legal departments couldn’t possibly realize these orders were illegal:

As a practical matter, in circumstances involving classified intelligence activities, a corporation will typically not know enough about the underlying circumstances and operations to make informed judgments about legality. Moreover, for an initiative like the terrorist surveillance program — which the Office of Legal Counsel made clear was based on the Congressional authorization for the use of military force and the president’s war powers under the Constitution — a telephone company simply has no expertise in the relevant legal issues.

Simply put, this is horseshit of the first order. Continue reading

Staking out the (astro)turf in battles over electronic voting

By Martin Bosworth

Earlier this month, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a self-proclaimed “nonpartisan think tank,” released a policy statement opposing the usage of paper audit trails for electronic voting machines. The report’s author, Daniel Castro, wastes no time staking out the ITIF’s position on the issue, calling supporters of paper balloting and audit trails a “technophobic movement,” and saying that the debate needs to “move beyond discussions of paper” into purely electronic voter-auditing trails.

Castro would seem to make a persuasive argument about the safety of e-voting, but there are a few things that trip up his own “paper audit trail,” if you will. Continue reading


Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps,’ and ‘killing fields.’

— President Bush in Aug. 22 speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Kansas City.

The only relevant analogy of Vietnam to Iraq is this: In Iraq, just as we did in Vietnam, we are clinging to a central government that does not and will not enjoy the support of the people. Unless the president acts on that lesson from history and works toward a federal solution in Iraq, there is no prospect that when we leave, we will leave anything stable behind. In fact, the president’s policies are pushing us toward another Saigon moment — with helicopters fleeing the roof of our embassy — which he says he wants to avoid. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn’t exist before we invaded. It is a Bush fulfilling prophecy.

— Presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticizing the president’s speech, saying the president “continues to play the American people for fools.”
Continue reading

When titans clash: Google vs. AT&T for America’s Internet future

By Martin Bosworth

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced plans to auction off portions of the wireless spectrum in order to raise money for the government. Although supporters of net neutrality and broadband access wanted the spectrum to remain open in order to build a national wireless broadband network, it was generally expected that incumbent telecoms like AT&T and Verizon would use their mountains of cash to outbid other participants and hoard the spectrum for their own offerings.

Until now. Google has publicly promised $4.6 billion for the spectrum auction if the FCC agrees to uphold four principles of open access for its use:

Continue reading

Thompson praises Imperial Privilege

High-profile K Street lobbyist Fred Thompson, who’s in the process of ramping up a run for the White House, today provided a glimpse of the respect with which his administration would display for the rule of law where political cronies are concerned.

I am very happy for Scooter Libby. I know that this is a great relief to him, his wife and children.

While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president’s decision.

This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.

Note, the only problem he has with Bush’s decision is that it didn’t go far enough – he lobbied (unsuccessfully, for once) for a full pardon. Continue reading