Court Backs Privacy Rights For E-Mail

While I still would never expect total privacy from anything sent by email, there was a landmark decision today by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which does help protect our privacy. The government has routinely used the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) to secretly obtain stored email from email service providers without a warrant for the past twenty years. This was fought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties groups as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court ruled that the government must have a search warrant before it can search emails stored by service providers. This was the first circuit court to find that users of email have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as they do in their telephone calls.

“Email users expect that their Hotmail and Gmail inboxes are just as private as their postal mail and their telephone calls,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “The government tried to get around this common-sense conclusion, but the Constitution applies online as well as offline, as the court correctly found. That means that the government can’t secretly seize your emails without a warrant.”

Obama Finding New Group of Supporters

Earlier today I wrote about John Edwards’ claims of being the more electable candidate. After seeing this article (as well as the polls in some southern states) it looks like Obama might have a better argument. While Edwards’ ability to bring in enough swing state or southern voters to win is questionable, Obama is receiving attention from a voting block which could make a difference in the election results–Republicans:

There is an interesting phenomenon that has arisen over the last few months: a trend of moderate Republicans who want to vote for Barack Obama. It may seem counterintuitive, conservatives supporting a candidate who wants to tax the wealthy and embrace the conventions in the Kyoto Accord, but there is something in Obama’s message about ridding politics of partisanship that is appealing to these Republicans.

He doesn’t carry the baggage of a Hillary Clinton. He is new; he seems authentic — although his connection to indicted fund-raiser Tony Rezko has made some previous supporters wonder — and he has more gravitas than pretty boy John Edwards. The Republicans who like him may have supported John McCain in the past, but after eight years of the Bush White House they feel they can no longer support the Republican field. The idea of a congressional glasnost — a harmonic nonpartisanship in Washington — is an Obama goal they endorse.

Some of these right-wing Obama supporters are putative country club Republicans, hailing from areas similar to the North Shore of Chicago. Others are professionals who are disillusioned by the Bush administration’s failure to develop a sound domestic policy to redress issues of health care and Social Security or to end the relentless war in Iraq.

Add to this the secrecy of the Bush administration, the Scooter Libby affair, the unfortunate choice of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the Tom DeLays and Mark Foleys, and there remains an unsavory stew of problems for those once proud to call themselves Republican…

The war is the main issue for many of these Democratically inclined Republicans and it is how the war has tarnished America’s profile abroad. “I went to India last February,” recalls Chicagoan Dian Eller, who works in philanthropy. “And the first thing my driver asked was if I had voted for Bush.” Eller did vote for Bush the first time around, but not the second because she “was angry and disappointed about the war.” But the pointed questions from the Indian driver made Eller very uncomfortable. “I am so upset about the way people feel about our country.”

If nothing else, Edwards is lagging behind in the battle of the videos. Obama has the 1984 anti-Hillary ad. Hillary has today’s cliff hanger announcement of the winner of her campaign song contest. Edwards is stuck with the breck girl video.

Does Hillary Clinton Get Whacked In The Diner?

Or at least will she reveal how her campaign song contest ends? Check out this must-see video. The Caucus proclaims the video to be the best campaign spot they’ve seen so far.
Spoilers under the fold. (more…)

Bloomberg Leaving Republican Party

From emailed news bulletin from the New York Times:

Bloomberg Leaving Republican Party

The office of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released this statement: “I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party.”

This is bound to fuel speculation even more that he plans to run for President as an independent per my post earlier today.

Update: A story is now up at the New York Times.

Why Doves Are Cautious

Michael P.F. van der Galiën has responded to my post on Fallacies Regarding Doves, Iraq, And The Use of Military Force, quoting from my post and then stating:

And that is – of course – where Ron is wrong. There are quite some progressives who are now calling on politicians to rule out using military force against Iran. They are not just talking about not using military force now, they are talking about not using military force ever. You can even hear them argue that Iran with a nuclear weapon will not be as bad, as dangerous, as hawks suggest. Next ‘argument’: Israel has WMDs as well, if Israel is allowed to have them, shouldn’t we allow Iran to have them as well? All in all, these people would never support using force to prevent Iran from developing WMDs.

Of course, there are also the ones who simply believe that the West should not strike against Iran now, but we are not talking about those people here (I mean, I am one of them). We are talking about people like Ezra Klein who believe that we should not talk about the bad things Iran does, because doing so might encourage haws to attack Iran.

I was initially responding to a statement from Michael that, “The problem with the doves is that they oppose using military force, because it is military force. For us hawks, military force is a tool – a tool you will only use when all other tools fail on you, but a tool nonetheless. I find it incredibly strange that there are people who want the US government, or individual candidates, to rule out (supporting) the use of force.”

There certainly are progressives who oppose any military force. There are also hawks who advocate using military force at the drop of a hat. Looking at the extremes misses the greater complexity of views and targeting such straw men avoids looking at the real issues.

The experience under Bush has also influenced the view of what we would tolerate hearing from politicians. In an ideal world I wouldn’t even take the threat of a nuclear attack off the table in terms of what is said out loud, in order to put additional pressure on the other side, even if not having any attention of going that route. If we could trust our political leaders not to go to war unnecessarily, and in manners which undermine our national security as in Iraq, we might be more tolerant of allowing them to bluff.

The problem we have now is that we experienced a President who was given that type of leverage and violated the trust placed in him. Democrats gave Bush the authority to use force in Iraq as a last resort, primarily as a stick to get the inspectors back in and to achieve a diplomatic solution. Bush claimed that he was seeking a diplomatic solution in order to receive their vote.

Subsequently, despite the claims of Mitt Romney, the inspectors were back in and there was no need to go to war. Regardless, Bush abruptly ended diplomacy and announced he was going to war. The Downing Street Memos, as well as reports from former members of the Bush administration verify that Bush had already decided to go to war even when telling Democrats that he was seeking a diplomatic solution. It was also disappointing that more Democrats like John Kerry, who initially voted for the IWR, did not protest its abuse and come out to oppose going to war before the start of the war, as opposed to waiting until this became the politically popular decision. This experience has left many liberals with less trust of politicians of both parties, and less willing to allow them to avoid clearly stating their intentions.

After this experience, as well as seeing Republicans out doing themselves to appear hawkish (and John McCain singing about bombing Iran), liberals are cautious. For some it might be a reluctance to go to war at all, but for many it is fear that the Republicans will go to war too soon. We see two joint threats–both from Iran (even if realizing that war might be necessary in the future) and from the Republican right wing, which underestimates the negative consequences of going to war. Keeping war off the table for now does not mean there are no circumstances under which it might be considered.

It is always possible to find extremists to point to, but this is not representative of large number of liberals who do not “oppose using military force, because it is military force.”

(My post only dealt with one aspect of the blog exchange. For those interested in the entire discussion, Andrew Sullivan also comments today with a response from Ezra Klein )

Update: Kevin Sullivan also has more to say. Sullivan plays the label game himself arguing that “the LIBERAL sees a moral obligation in staying in Iraq, whereas the progressive isolationist seems more interested in ‘gotcha’ politics.” He also asks, “So tell me, if we pat you on the back and tell you that you were right about the invasion, will you stop handicapping our foreign policy?”

Just as with the falacies on hawk versus dove I discussed in the previous post, recognizing we need to get out of Iraq does not make one a dove or isolationist on other issues. Not only is getting out of Iraq the actual liberal position, it has become the opinion of the majority of the American people. This is not because we are isolationists or are shirking any moral obligations. It is because getting out of Iraq is what is best for both the United States and for Iraq.

Don’t just pat us on the back for being right about the invasion from the start. Look at the arguments for not going invading, and see that the same arguments against the invasion apply to staying in Iraq. Iraq is not like South Korea or Europe as Kevin argues. Staying in Iraq only gets us more bogged down in a civil war. At the same time this helps al Qaeda recruit more potential terrorists, and continues to turn moderate Muslims against the United States.

We have yet to see any strategy which provides any hope of changing the situation for the better. After all this time, if the Iraqi government cannot stabilize the country over the next year, it is doubtful that staying additional years will make any difference. There’s no doubt there will be serious problems if we leave in the next year, but there will also be serious problems if we leave in two years, five years, or ten years. In the meantime, we will have more dead Americans, more money wasted, and far more people hating the United States.

Update II: Kevin has responded this morning, but I won’t have time until later to reply. His comments call for further discussion of how labels are being used (or misused), the differences between Iraq and countries such as Europe and North Korea, and the impact of the war on hindering the spread of democracy. (The response got delayed as I got in late and then got tied down in responding to other matters as appears above. The response is now posted here.)

Update III: My response to Kevin’s response to the post noted in the last update is Argument By Labels Rather Than Logic on Iraq

Pre-Release Response to Sicko

Michael Moore appears to have changed his mind on viewing Sicko on line. Earlier in the week he said:

I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I would oppose that … I do well enough already, and I made this film because I want the world to change. The more people who see it the better, so I’m happy this is happening.

I took Michael at his word, downloaded the movie, and watched it last night. I’ll have more to say about it (both the good and the bad) a little later. Today Michael Moore isn’t as happy about the movie being available on line and copies have been pulled from You Tube.

Conservatives attempt to portray any talk of health care reform as an attack on the medical profession, but actually doctors and nurses know very well that there are serious problems with the insurance industry. A group of doctors and nurses have formed Scrubs for Sicko:

Planning to spark a fundamental change in national healthcare politics, an unprecedented national coalition of nurses and doctors organizations today announced plans to rally around the openings of Michael Moore’s “SiCKO” June 29 to press the campaign for single-payer healthcare, guaranteeing comprehensive, quality healthcare with an expanded and improved Medicare for all.

Calling it the “Scrubs for SiCKO” campaign, organizers will recruit registered nurses and doctors to every theater in the nation where “SiCKO” opens to ensure that caregivers — in SiCKO scrubs — are in the audience…

“SiCKO” profiles a number of Americans with insurance who have been denied needed care by their insurance companies, describes how the insurance-based healthcare system is structured to keep it that way, and provides examples of other industrialized nations where insurance companies do not stand in the way of medical care.

The campaign will highlight the need for reforms that prevent insurance companies from denying care, and send a strong signal to politicians in Congress, state capitals, and the presidential race who are promoting insurance-based reforms.

Update: A Review of Michael Moore’s Sicko

Why Liberals Should Repudiate The Looney Left

Last week I chastised The Democratic Daily for their promotion of 9/11 conspiracy theories, noting that, contrary to claims from a conservative site, their views are not representative of other liberals. The result, as described by The Jawa Report:

The post I put up a few days back had little to do with the actual content of this minor loony-lib-on-regular-lib blogfight, but the former official Kerry blogger/Democratic Daily editor known as Pamela who’d been pushing a debunked and loony 9-11 Twoofer documentary was apparently frothing at a fellow lib’s blog (who was doing nothing more than pointing out what was happening in his post, and linking us in the process).

Ron at Liberal Values (a former blogger at Democratic Daily) was attacked by Pamela, who seems to have as much a problem resiting juvenile agitprop videos as she does remembering facts in her recent history. A few other moonbats trickle in and begin flinging stuff about astrology, the lack of leftist purity that Ron posseses and (of course) Twooferism, at which Ron rightfully balks.

I can’t say I sympathize with some of Ron’s politics, but I can certainly sympathize with the need to push back against the Twoofers and their ancillary legions of astrologers, Holocaust deniers, liars, huxters, frauds, film school dropouts and pizza delivery boys. Good luck – I’ve been barking up that tree for a while now.

During similar such disagreements with Pamela Leavey and others at The Democratic Daily I argued that her tolerance of anti-Semitism matters, as does her dismissal of the danger of Holocaust denial. Similarly, it matters to the credibility of those who oppose the Iraq war and the Republican’s mishandleing of the 9/11 attack when such conspiracy theories are made to appear representative of liberal thought. An astute reader sent in the following commentary from Fred Thompson which demonstrates why liberals need to dissociate themselves from such conspiracy theories (as well as anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, astrology, and belief in ghosts):

Harry Reid, though, has taken a different route. He made his statement about General Pace on a conference call with fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we’re the bad guys. This is a place where even those who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job find a home.

And why shouldn’t they think that? Reid has led the attack on the administration, with Nancy Pelosi, charging it lied and tricked America into supporting the war. Ignoring multiple hearings and investigations into pre-war intelligence findings that have debunked this paranoid myth, they accuse an entire administration of conspiracy to trick us into a war.

Liberal bloggers who promote unfounded 9/11 conspiracy theories help people like Fred Thompson undermine the well established case against the Bush administration for the manner in which they deceived the country to start the Iraq war. When some blogs support such theories (or astrology, or the belief that Mel Gibson really isn’t anti-Semitic) they undermine the legitimate work done in the liberal blogosphere.

Update: Think Progress also repudiates 9/11 conspiracy theories, writing “Thompson’s attempt to link Reid to conspiracy theorists is completely baseless.” They also provide a few examples of how intelligence was manipulated prior to the war. Bob Geiger doesn’t comment specifically on the 9/11 conspiracy theory aspect of this, but does argue with Thompson’s claim that those on the conference call were a “fringe element.”

Update II: Steve Benen makes an excellent point: “By the way, how is it, exactly, that ABC Radio has decided to pay Thompson to deliver nationally-broadcast monologues condemning Democrats with bogus smears? ABC does know this guy is running for president, right? Doesn’t this seem a wee bit inappropriate?” I think I’ll drop Disney investor relations a note and ask about this.

Update III: Michael Moore has now been drawn into this, with Reason posting a video. It probably won’t affect the review of Sicko I’m preparing as it is limited to the health care problems in the United States and avoids getting into the controversy over Moore’s other views. (The review of Sicko is now up.)

Update IV: New evidence came out debunking 9/11 denialism, frustrating the conspiracy theorists at The Democratic Daily leading to a new round of lies and personal attacks. The shock of reality was too much for them. My replies are here and here.

Update V: The Democratic Daily continues to fall behind faux-feminism, declaring that any criticism of their views is an attack on women. As I note in my other responses (such as those linked in the update above) people who claim that Mel Gibson is just a poor misunderstood actor, post anti-evolution arguments, or claim that the 9/11 attack was done by anyone other than al Qaeda risk being debunked. This is regardless of their sex.

Apparently they think they can prevent rebuttal of their views by subjecting those who respond to them with such slander. It is a sick form of intellectual cowardice to hide behind claims that they are above criticism because they are women. For them to fabricate such charges of sexism based upon this is contrary to both the legitimate views of feminism and the spirit of free debate in the blogosphere.

This also has nothing to do with being banned from The Democratic Daily by a woman as Pamela now claims. I left due to the anti-Semitic atmosphere both at the blog and in Pamela’s emails. Since leaving I never tried to post or comment there again, so I wasn’t even aware (nor do I care) that I was “banned.” (There was actually a brief period of attempted reconciliation in which some of my posts were cross-posted at The Democratic Daily but that ended when I got tired of pulling knives out of my back.) But I shouldn’t expect anything different as Pamela has been fabricating stories throughout her attacks on me with the her description of events (and that of a few of her friends) having little relation to reality. It is also worth noting that, while I have allowed Pamela and her co-bloggers to respond to the posts here, apparently I am banned over there and couldn’t respond to her smears at The Democratic Daily even if I had attempted to.

Update VI: The smear tactics of The Democratic Daily appear to be failing again, and possibly backfiring. After I left The Democratic Daily due to their objections to criticizing both Mel Gibson and Holocaust denial, readership there fell in half. Their repeated attempts to form a boycott against Liberal Values, based upon fabricated charges such as sexism while lying about the circumstances of my leaving, have been comical–sort of as if I tried to boycott Daily Kos when I’ve disagreed with posts there. While they use empty rhetoric such as that Liberal Values, is neither liberal or of value, the contrast in support and readership shows many think otherwise.

On Wednesday, when they launched their latest round of attacks, Liberal Values led The Democratic Daily in RSS subscribers as calculated by Feedburner by an overwhelming 3360 to 108. In the subsequent three days, Liberal Values has added 42 new subscribers while The Democratic Daily lost 6. (After today’s numbers for Friday it might not be so clear as the weekend numbers generally do fall due to people having work computers off and therefore not being seen as subscribed to the feed.)

Liberal Values’ lead in Technorati ranking has also increased despite The Democratic Daily’s built in advantages both in having been around longer and being a group blog. On Wednesday Liberal Values had an authority ranking of 473 from Technorati, with The Democratic Daily trailing at 348. As of now, the authority ranking of Liberal Values has increased to 477 while The Democratic Daily has fallen to 343.

In the end, launching these blog wars do not help build readership for themselves or hurt readership here. While there may be an audience for believers in conspiracy theories and support for the likes of Mel Gibson, these views are not characteristic of the liberal blogosphere regardless of what people like Fred Thompson may claim. Ultimately writing based upon facts and sound reasoning will beat out writing based upon bias and personal attacks.

Bloomberg Criticizes “Swamp of Dysfunction” in Washington

During a campaign trip guest speech at Google, Michael Bloomberg warned that the United States is “really in trouble.” The New York Times describes him as sounding like a candidate:

Asked about the subject, Mr. Bloomberg said that he was not a candidate for president and intended to finish out his term, which lasts through 2009, and then become a full-time philanthropist. Nonetheless, he declined to say definitively that he would not run, calling a question from a reporter asking him if he would rule out a candidacy too “Shermanesque” to answer.

In his remarks, he sounded much like a candidate for national office. He returned to a pet theme, criticizing the federal government for its immigration policies and what he sees as insufficient attention to rising costs of Social Security and health care.

Bloomberg repeated his earlier advice of keeping terrorism in perspective as he criticized candidates who talk about terrorism but ignore problems such as education and crime:

Arguing that people have a much greater chance of being killed by street crime than by a terror attack, he said: “Yet every press conference, they all beat their chests and say, ‘I can protect this country better from terrorism.’ Well, what about protecting them out in the streets every day?”

Edwards Claims to be More Electable

John Edwards is trying to use John Kerry’s 2004 Iowa play book, but there’s a problem. While hoping to repeat Kerry’s path of taking a solid lead in the race with a win in Iowa, Edwards is trying to run on electability. The role of electability in Kerry’s campaign has been exaggerated, but to the degree it existed there was substance behind it. When people spoke about Kerry being electable it was because of his experience and knowledge of the issues. Kerry’s main argument in Iowa was not simply that he was “electable” but that he was the candidate best qualified to be President.

John Edwards can make no such claim. He has a single term in the Senate, much of which was spent seeking the 2004 nomination. There was nothing in his Senate career to justify his position as leader of a progressive movement. For Edwards electability does not mean that he has the qualifications to be President. It means simply that he claims he can win in swing states which presumably means parts of the south.

So far Edwards has done nothing to justify this claim. Not only couldn’t he win his own state when running for Vice President in 2004, but it was widely believed he could not win reelection to his Senate seat.

Of course Edwards isn’t the only Southerner with problems in the south. Al Gore couldn’t win his own state either. The problem may not be with the candidates but with the region. Rather than going for doubtful electability in the South, Democrats might improve their chances in the electoral college by looking for candidates who can do better in the battleground states of the midwest, or even bring in new states in the west.

Bill Richardson has a far stronger argument based upon electability than John Edwards if he can bring in western states. Electablility is hard to predict, and arguments could also be made that Barack Obama would be more electable than Edwards for mobilizing voters who want a change, or that Hillary Clinton would be more electable based upon her dominance in the debates and near flawless campaign.

If we desire a flawless campaign, Edwards has already shown one of his weaknesses. Yesterday Kos pointed out that all the talk over his $400 haircut was not totally absurd:

Some of you will shoot me for this, but the more time passes, the more his “haircut” deal pisses me off. Why? I see it as a stategic, tactical, and personal failure, and one that was so easy to avoid that it makes me question his judgment in a long, tough, presidential battle.

Strategic: There are two narratives Edwards’ opponents are building against him — one, that he’s a “pretty boy”, and two, that he’s so rich he’s out of touch with “regular” people. And in one fell swoop, Edwards reinforced both negative narratives!

Tactical: The only reason anyone knew about that haircut was because it was in campaign finance disclosures. Why was it in those disclosures? Because he used campaign funds to pay for the haircut! If he wants his pimp haircuts, I couldn’t care less. But why do it in such a way that it’s easy for your enemies to use against you?

Personal: I don’t know Edwards’ net worth, nor care. But he has a lot of money. I’m willing to bet that most of the small dollar donors Edwards has solicited don’t have that much. For them, that $20 or $50 or even $100 contribution is a big sacrifice. Yet given the choice between taking out his own checkbook or having his campaign pay for the $400 the haircut cost, someone made the choice to put this on the contributors. More than anything, it’s this that offends me about this incident. People expect their money to be well spent by campaigns, not used as personal slush funds for whatever luxuries they may want.

So as stupid and media-driven as that whole “haircut” mess may have been, it really was a disaster on way too many levels to completely ignore and shrug off.