Monthly Archives: November 2006

Major Ruling (Partly) Limiting Abusive Presidential Power

Judge strikes down part of Bush anti-terror order.

A federal judge in Los Angeles, who previously struck down sections of the Patriot Act, has ruled that provisions of an anti-terrorism order issued by President George W. Bush after September 11 are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins found that part of the law, signed by Bush on September 23, 2001 and used to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations, violated the Constitution because it put no apparent limit on the president’s powers to place groups on that list.

“This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists, an authority president Bush then used to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to impose guilt by association,” said David Cole of the Washington-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

I’m looking forward to reading this decision. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to find a copy on Westlaw or elsewhere. Meanwhile, here’s some background on the litigation.

Interestingly, the judge’s preliminary observations on the case, several months ago and prior to an additional round of briefing, indicated a leaning towards upholding the statute.

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law | 1 Comment

We’re #1! More’s the Pity.

South Florida has been awarded the coveted #1 ranking as the public corruption capital of U.S..

Between 1996 and 2005, a record-setting 576 people were convicted of federal corruption charges in the district that extends from Key West to Sebastian, according to the agency’s most recent annual report.

Actually, the award is a bit of a misnomer — given that it is awarded for the most public officials convicted of corruption, it could easily mean that we’re the leader in dumb and corrupt public officials. Maybe in Chicago or DC they are smarter at covering their tracks. Or maybe we have better prosecutors.

In any case, I would like to go on record as saying that this award is unfair to both of the smart, honest, hard-working public officials in South Florida.

I’m sure that there are at least a couple.

Posted in Miami | 3 Comments

It Seems There is a ‘Great Firewall of Canada’ Too

Slashdot has the info on The Great Firewall of Canada.

I smell a trend.

(Related item on The Great Firewall of Britain )

Posted in Internet | Comments Off on It Seems There is a ‘Great Firewall of Canada’ Too

Larry Lessig Has a Good Idea

OK, so the headline is a bit like, “Dog Bites Man”.

But I really think this idea of Larry Lessig’s deserves take-up: CARE packages for Iraq as means to reduce post-war Iraqi anger at the US.

The only problem I can see offhand is that from what I read, the real problems in Iraq are infrastructural, e.g. the electricity keeps going off and people are trying to blow up the pipelines. That stuff won’t fit in a CARE package. But perhaps there are real shortages of things we could fit in a box. And, even if there are not shortages, perhaps it is the thought that counts.

And, of course, we need to get to the post-war…

Posted in Iraq | 8 Comments

Private Proxies for Everyone!

I guess there will be demand for these in the UK too:

Web Tool Said to Offer Way Past the Government Censor: Deep in a basement lab at the University of Toronto a team of political scientists, software engineers and computer-hacking activists, or “hactivists,” have created the latest, and some say most advanced tool yet in allowing Internet users to circumvent government censorship of the Web.

The program, called psiphon (pronounced “SY-fon”), will be released on Dec. 1 in response to growing Internet censorship that is pushing citizens in restrictive countries to pursue more elaborate and sophisticated programs to gain access to Western news sites, blogs and other censored material.

Psiphon is downloaded by a person in an uncensored country (, turning that person’s computer into an access point. Someone in a restricted-access country can then log into that computer through an encrypted connection and using it as a proxy, gain access to censored sites.

Instead of publicly advertising the required login and password information, psiphon is designed to be shared within trusted social circles of friends, family and co-workers. This feature is meant to keep the program away from censors but is also the largest drawback because it limits efforts to get the program to as many people as possible.

So who will be the trusted third party, introducing the censored to the free?

Posted in Internet | 2 Comments

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished ($100 Laptop Dept.)

Oh joy. John Quartermain points to an all-too-convincing account by Charles Arthur in the Guardian, The price of humans who’ll spam blogs is falling to zero.

All those $100 laptops that will be flooding the poorest parts of the third world…know what many of them will be used for? That’s right: filling in captcha‘s and defeating other Turning tests designed to block spam. After all, the places the laptops are going are the places where hourly wages are at the lowest.

It may be that the graphics on those machines aren’t good enough for gold farming and other related activities in MMORPGs. Or they might be.

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment