David Kirkpatrick

May 28, 2010

The right v. the ACLU

Conor Friedersdorf has a great post at True/Slant on one example of how the right (wrongly) vilifies the ACLU. That’s one thing I’ve always found very, very strange. The ACLU and the Cato Institute walk in virtual lockstep on practically every civil liberties issue. Since civil liberties are the sole focus of the ACLU and Cato is a decidedly right-leaning (actually libertarian) think tank, it seems a bit strange to try and label the ACLU as so anti-right wing. Personally I’m a pretty big fan of both organizations (you can find evidence of that in my blogroll).

From the link:

It’s almost as if the conservative media complex is systematically misleading its audience about the nature of the ACLU, so much so that right-of-center commentators across the Internet spontaneously mocked the organization for failing to intervene on the right side of this case, despite it being precisely the kind of case where the ACLU reliably does exactly what the critics themselves would want.

Perhaps the confusion comes from listening to talk radio hosts and reading blogs that cast all of American politics as a grand struggle between the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, tyranny and liberty. The rank and file, rightly judging that the ACLU operates on the left, automatically concludes that they are the enemy in any case worth caring about.

Awhile back, Jonah Goldberg doubted whether or not there were actually compelling examples of epistemic closure on the right. Well, there you go: an information loop so faulty in explaining the ACLU to its audience that even a blog called Stop the ACLU doesn’t understand what’s going on.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

February 11, 2010

Big Brother …

… may well be a little electronic device in your pocket. It shouldn’t be shocking, but I never cease to be amazed at the unconstitutional power grabs the Federal government continues to attempt and take in terms of civil liberties and personal privacy. New technology is wonderful, but it is very important to track, and reign in, the long, sneaky arm of the Fed.

From the link:

If you own a cell phone, you should care about the outcome of a case scheduled to be argued in federal appeals court in Philadelphia tomorrow. It could well decide whether the government can use your cell phone to track you — even if it hasn’t shown probable cause to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology will ask the court to require that the government at least show probable cause before it can track your whereabouts.

And:

There’s no question that cell phones and cell-phone records can be useful for police officers who need to track the movements of those they believe to be breaking the law. And it is important for law enforcement agents to have the tools they need to stop crimes. However, it is just as important to make sure such tools are used responsibly, in a manner that safeguards our personal privacy.

But documents obtained by the ACLU and the EFF as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that the government takes advantage of this technology to track cell phones as extensively as possible — often without first obtaining warrants — except in states where courts step in to establish boundaries.

And here is the absolutely ridiculous government argument for retaining this right to breach your privacy:

The government has argued that “one who does not wish to disclose his movements to the government need not use a cellular telephone.” This is a startling and dismaying statement coming from the United States. The government is supposed to care about people’s privacy. It should not be forcing the nation’s 277 million cell-phone subscribers to choose between risking being tracked and going without an essential communications tool.

What’s at stake in the case is not whether it’s OK for the government to track the locations of cell phones; we agree that cell-phone tracking is lawful and appropriate in certain situations. The question is whether the government should first have to show that it has good reason to think such tracking will turn up evidence of a crime.

Update 2/13/10 — the above link and quotes are from the ACLU. Here’s the Cato Institute’s take on this issue. As with many, many public policy issues, Cato and the ACLU are in total agreement here.

September 4, 2009

Homeland Security, borders and electronics

I’m no fan of the bureaucratic mess that is the Department of Homeland Security. I”ve always maintained we had a great security apparatus in place before 9/11, it was simply misused. The DHS? More politicized and certainly no better, and almost more certainly much worse, than the pre-9/11 FBI, CIA, NSA, et.al.

This particular outrage has bothered me for a long time. I don’t think I’ve blogged about it before and it is a massive privacy violation that every American should know about.

From the second link:

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made it clear that border crossing officials could continue to search any device that can store electronic media without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Although the revised policy ensures searches will be completed in a “timely manner” (up to 30 days) and that travelers will stay informed about the search’s progress, travelers crossing the border might want to consider a few things.

Officials can still seize any device (including MP3 players or flash drives) and look at any file on it (including Internet browsing history) without giving any reason.

Click here to find out more!

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) believes agents take laptops, make an image of the hard drive and then return the laptop to its owner in the mail. Any copied files could be stored “indefinitely.” (Imagine what the Border Patrol’s iTunes Library will look like after “indefinitely” storing DRM-free music from several dozen searches.) The ACLU is also taking a dim view of the DHS policy, and is challenging it in court.

March 14, 2009

Dump E-Verify

Something the ACLU and the libertarian Cato Instutute can agree on.

(In reality the two groups are in agreement in more areas than not, but both sides tend to distrust the other. I’ve often joked I’m for the ACLU and the NRA. And for the right of any and all opposition groups to exist as well.)

From the link:

Over the weekend, there was a USA Today article giving prime coverage to those who advocated for an E-Verify requirement as part of the economic stimulus package signed into law a couple weeks ago. E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) employment verification program, would require all employers to verify the work eligibility of new hires through error-ridden government databases. The article was particularly troubling because it incorrectly cited the systemic problems associated with using the E-Verify. Very late in the article, it says:

The business groups and immigrant advocacy groups argue that the E-Verify database is riddled with errors that could result in millions of workers being wrongly identified as not authorized for work. They say requiring its use before hiring would impose a cost burden on employers and open them to lawsuits.

We found this really misleading, because the business and immigrant advocacy groups like the ACLU are not alone in arguing E-Verify will result in delays due to the errors in Americans’ files. You know who else agrees with us? The federal government.

If you’d like to see the Cato Institutes take on this bit of government overreach, hit this link.

December 16, 2008

Celebrating the 217th anniversary of the Bill of Rights

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:39 pm

Can’t believe I missed this yesterday, the actual anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

From the ACLU blog link:

Our march toward justice has been long and not without setback, but as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once reminded us, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” His words have special resonance for me today, the 217th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, as this dark period in history draws to a close. Under the guise of safety and security, we have endured continual assaults on the basic principles on which this country rests: civil rights and liberties, open and limited government and a basic respect for the rule of law. Come January, Americans could have an opportunity to restore the vitality of our Bill of Rights, and resume the struggle to turn America into the place that Dr. King dreamed of where “justice runs down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

December 5, 2008

ACLU, Heritage Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security

I’m sure some would be shocked to see the Heritage Foundation and the ACLU in agreement, but the two groups have a whole lot more overlap than you might think at first glance when looking at the big picture.

I like to remind people I support the actions of the ACLU and the NRA. And I think there’s something to like on both sides of the current US political spectrum. Plenty not to like on both sides, too.

That’s why I vote the candidate, not the party. Always have, expect to always will. I read somewhere today that there’s no such thing as an independent voter because of low information or something. Can’t remember where I read that, but I think they used the wrong word.

“Undecided” voters are low-information and to that end aren’t really a key part of the electorate in major races (totally different dynamic in low-key local races where the decision may well be made on a whim in the booth.)

“Independent” voters are very likely to be very high information and making decisions as I do — voting the person and issues of the race at hand, not pulling a straight party ticket because of something dumb like, “I like old so-and-so, but can’t vote for him because he’s a dirty Republican and I’m a Democrat.”

Straight party voters are pretty much no-information voters because any information makes no difference in the selection.

At any rate this is from the link way up there in the first sentence:

This morning, NPR did a segment with Tim Sparapani of our Washington Legislative Office and our frenemies at the Heritage Foundation. They discussed ways that the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration could endeavor to do better by the country. First, Tim suggested making the watchlists, you know, work:

Any terrorist worth his or her salt can go out and get a fake ID in about 20 minutes, or they can show up under their own name if they’re not a name of somebody that we’ve been monitoring abroad[…] And there are lots of people, unfortunately, who have been willing to be recruited whom we would never know about until the moment they actually commit an attack.

So while the TSA is busy stopping all the Robert Johnsons of the world, potential terrorists might be slipping by.

 

Now, Heritage’s take:

…[The Heritage Foundation] says the government’s multi-billion dollar investment in what’s often referred to as “guns, guards and gates” is the wrong way to go — that it’s futile to try to protect everything in a country that has a seemingly endless number of potential targets.

We couldn’t agree more, Heritage!

November 25, 2008

Bush 43, fiscal liberal

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:30 pm

This is a prime example of where I break every possible way from the Bush 43 policies. The Community-Based Abstinence Education has been an abject failure and is a prime example of reckless fiscal liberalism coupled with thinly-veiled theocratic uber-conservative social policy.

A total lose-lose any way you slice it. Gives the religious right a few warm fuzzies and simply wastes the treasure of the United States.

From the link:

Our federal government recently announced that it would review abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that receive federal funds under the Community-Based Abstinence Education (“CBAE”) program. CBAE is one of three dedicated federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams. Over the last several years, the federal government has spent more than $1.5 billion on these programs, even though we’ve known for awhile that they simply don’t work.

Yesterday, we sent comments, expressing our frustration, to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), the federal agency proposing to evaluate CBAE programs. Our basic concerns: researchers have already concluded that these programs do not have any measurable effect; moreover, by definition, these programs exclude and stigmatize a large number of students.

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