Cybersecurity and Civil Liberties Concerns

The DC  Examiner is half right in an editorial on civil liberties concerns:

Civilian libertarians were apoplectic over former President George W. Bush’s “warrantless wiretap” program, which sought to monitor communications from terrorist networks overseas. So why are they not screaming bloody murder now that President Barack Obama appears slated to receive unprecedented power to monitor all Internet traffic without a warrant and to even shut the system down completely on the pretext of national security? The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 – introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and cosponsor Olympia Snowe, R-ME – bypasses all existing privacy laws and allows White House political operatives to tap into any online communication without a warrant, including banking, medical, and business records and personal e-mail conversations. This amounts to warrantless wiretaps on steroids, directed at U.S. citizens instead of foreign terrorists.

The bill gives the Secretary of Commerce and a new national cybersecurity czar power to shut down all Internet transmissions in the event of a yet-to-be defined “cyber emergency.” This is a dangerous power, even for a president who in a 2008 campaign appearance at Dartmouth College harshly criticized Bush for anti-terrorist “wiretaps without warrants,” and promised that if elected he would leave such policies behind.
They go on to give further arguments about the act. They are correct in their concerns about the act. Like conservative bloggers (such as here) who have jumped aboard this attack, they are wrong about the views of civil libertarians.  Civil libertarians on the left have shown concern about this. For example see this item at Mother Jones from last week. While the act is of concern for its violations of civil liberties, this is now an act under consideration in Congress. The goal now is to  eliminate portions of the bill which infringe upon civil liberties while it is still in Congress. Note that this was offered with cosponsorship by a Democrat and a Republican. Obama has not signed the act.
To either claim that civil libertarians are not concerned, or to pin this on Obama at this time, are simple acts of political opportunism by the right. If they really cared about civil liberties more of them might have been speaking out during the Bush years. While liberals are acting as watch dogs on the Obama administration, far too many conservatives spent eight years apologizing for George Bush.

Meghan McCain Receives Book Deal


Meghan McCain has created some interest in the blogosphere with her criticism of Ann Coulter and the direction the Republican Party is going. She has now received an advance for her book which is in the high six figures. The New York Observer writes:

While we haven’t quite nailed down what Ms. McCain’s book will be about—no one at Hyperion nor Ms. Brophy returned calls this afternoon—if her recent columns for Tina Brown and Barry Diller’s Web site The Daily Beast are any indication, it will probably have something to do with the future of the Republican party, and how it must change to attract the votes of modern young people.

Ms. McCain has flexed her essayist muscles on The Beast in pieces like Why Republicans Don’t Get the Internet and Looking for Mr. Far Right. Mostly, she’s used the site to wage a few battles, as in My Beef With Ann Coulter and her response to Laura Ingraham’s jibe about her being a ‘plus-sized model’, headlined, Quit Talking About My Weight, Laura Ingraham. She’s also used it to prop up some friends, like Louisana’s First Lady Supriya Jindal and G.O.P. “hottie” Aaron Schock.

The interest in McCain’s book is clearly influenced by relationship to her father, but I sure can’t blame her for taking advantage of the publicity and making something out of it. I hope that she is also successful in changing the Republican Party, but that will be even more difficult than selling a book.

Aaron Sorkin’s Return to Television


Entertainment Weekly mentions John Wells’ new television show, Southland, but primarily uses this as an excuse to discuss his old partner Aaron Sorkin:

Privately, though, I wish that NBC was throwing its cash at Wells’ old producing partner, whose long-awaited comeback to television is about a year behind schedule. I speak of Aaron Sorkin, the man behind last year’s fabulously written Charlie Wilson’s War, who’s best remembered by boob-tube-o-philes as the genius who, along with Wells, gave us The West Wing (and, well, the sexy Brad Whitford). I miss Sorkin’s marvelous repartee, even when it came in the form of a blustery, behind-the-scenes look at a late-night variety show called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Since the 2006-07 drama only lasted a season, Sorkin can’t be wanting that show to represent his final contribution to the TV dramas. It’s only a matter of time before he brings us more of that intelligent, rat-a-tat banter — right?

Well, it just so happens that we may be seeing him soon — just not in the way we’d expect. A source close to Sorkin says the uber-writer is in talks with Entourage to guest star on the comedy once it returns to HBO in July. And there may be more good news on the horizon: Although his dance card is filled with must-finish screenplays (a Facebook movie! A courtroom drama for George Clooney called The Challenge!) word is that Sorkin is mulling over the idea of a new TV drama that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a cable news program (think: Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC). Though I’m not all that thrilled at the prospect of yet another behind-the-scenes show, I’ll take what I can get if it means Sorkin will (finally!) be back on TV.

Sorkin’s behind the scene look at a late-night variety show failed partially because it wasn’t what Sorkin was really interested in. Sorkin moved the show increasingly into politics as opposed to show business. As I discussed, in response to criticism of Studio 60 when it was on:

The criticisms are largely true, but miss the point. Those looking for a show about a SNL-type show are inevitably going to be disappointed. It fails to capture how such a show is really written, and fails to show its humor. However, Studio 60 is no more about a comedy show than Sports Night was really about a sports show. Studio 60 is really just a way to continue The West Wing in a new venue. The ultimate tip off is having the White House Deputy Chief of Staff as producer of the show within the show…

Studio 60 is about Aaron Sorkin characters speaking Aaron Sorkin dialog about the issues which matter to Aaron Sorkin. It doesn’t matter whether these characters are in the White House or on the set of a television show. Those who want a funny show about making a television show should buy the DVD’s of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Studio 60 is a totally different type of show, but hopefully setting it in an SNL-like television show is enough to get enough people to give it a try and possibly get hooked.

On television it is difficult to build an audience when a show appears to be about one thing but is really aimed at a different audience. Similarly, look at how much trouble Friday Night Lights has had because many potential viewers never gave this excellent drama a chance thinking it was primarily about college football. (Fortunately their arrangement with Direct TV will be keeping it around for at least two more years despite its low ratings.) I don’t know if there is enough of an audience for Sorkin’s planned show, but at least having it about an Olbermann-type show is closer to Sorkin’s real interests than a show like Saturday Night Live and viewers will know what to expect.

Most importantly, I hope to see a return of Sorkin’s “intelligent, rat-a-tat banter” in some form. With both Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Paladino (of Gilmore Girls) being without current shows I do miss this type of dialog which nobody else comes close to matching.