Sunday, November 28, 2010

DHS isn't waiting for COICA

Sen. Leahy's COICA bill to permit blacklisting and seizure of domains is progressing through the Judiciary Committee. It has 18 cosponsors. Most of them are "the usual suspects" types, Senators who don't care about whether the legislation they support is Constitutional, as long as it makes them feel good. I still think this is a violation of their oath of office. Constitutionality should be the first filter. I am disappointed to see Inhofe on the list, as I thought he had more sense than that. Sen. Ron Wyden has vowed to block a vote at least until 2011. So that's good.

But in the meantime, DHS is "seizing internet domains left and right." As Don Surber says, they are "protecting rappers instead of the border." By what authority do they do this, I wonder. If this can be done as an executive function, without the need for Congress to pass legislation, then COICA is superfluous. Or else it's the way the administration wants to handle other issues as well, that is, by executive fiat. I'm thinking of using the EPA's regulatory powers to declare CO2 a pollutant and regulate it without any legislative authority. That "government of laws" business sounds nice, but it gets in the way sometimes. Pesky laws!

Natural News links to Demand Progress, where there is a petition.

I said last year that the days of the free Internet were numbered: Federal Marshals will be coming in to clean up this town, or Yes we can stop the signal.

Update: More on this from David Post at The Volokh Conspiracy: Copyright Enforcement Tail Wags Internet Dog, Cont’d; or, What the Hell Ever Happened to Due Process? An excerpt:

It’s an outrage. To begin with, there’s the bizarre spectacle of the Department of Homeland Security – which, last I looked, had some important issues before it that actually relate to “homeland security” — expending time and resources to protect purely private interests (of. e.g., the Louis Vuitton handbag manufacturers and Warner Brothers’ Records). And the operation perfectly illustrates the objections we raised in the COICA Letter: 80 websites — many of them operating overseas — have now been prevented from speaking to US citizens even though the website operators, whose domains were seized, had no notice or opportunity to respond to the charges against them (and to argue, for instance, that they are NOT infringing copyrights or trademarks), no adversary hearing, and certainly no adjudication before a neutral, that anything unlawful is going on at these sites, only an affidavit to that effect submitted by the ICE.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back door to debtors' prison

It is common knowledge that there are no debtors' prisons in the United States. Wikipedia says "In 1833 the United States abolished Federal imprisonment for unpaid debts, and most states outlawed the practice around the same time."

But it would be reckless to conclude from this knowledge that one need not worry about being jailed or imprisoned as a consequence of not paying the bills. At Making Light, commenter Magenta Griffith points to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "In jail for being in debt." It recounts a number of recent cases in which debtors have found themselves behind bars.

The amounts can be small. $35 is the amount in one case.

A sidebar asks "Is jailing debtors the same as debtors jail?" Not quite. The trick is that the collector has obtained a court order. Failure to appear in court is the offense for which the debtor is jailed. The sidebar explains,

"We have created a de facto debtors prison system in the United States that is largely unconstitutional," said Judith Fox, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School. "In some parts of the country, people are so fearful of arrest they are scrambling to pay money they might not even owe."

In states such as Indiana and Illinois, people are being locked up for not making court-ordered payments. Known as "pay or stay," it can mean days in jail and multiple arrests for the same debt. Some legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional because the arrest is directly linked to the failure to pay a debt.

In Minnesota, the issue is less clear because warrants to arrest debtors are issued for disobeying court orders, such as not filling out a financial disclosure form and missing a required hearing, not for failure to pay debt. So long as someone fulfills the court order, they can avoid incarceration.

All too often, debtors are not aware that a court date has been set or a warrant issued.

An article at Walletpop about the Star-Tribune piece received 100 comments, some of them substantive.

The NY Times had an editorial about the practice last year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Subtle in the woods

First seen here. Not exactly seen, but you know what I mean. First not seen there.

This reminds me of an Ambrose Bierce story, but it's much more pleasant than the thing in the story.

True tale of computer crime

Albert Gonzales and Shadowcrew stole millions of credit and debit card numbers, intercepted millions of transactions, and saw "profits in the millions of dollars." James Verini has the story: The Great Cyberheist. From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Also in the Chaos Manor mail: a TSA screener just can't stop touching a three-year old girl. Following orders, you know. Update: That video has been taken down. As of midnight Nov. 16, Nerve dot com has a working version. Another update: Nerve's video is down, too. Eyeblast has it now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Suffocated by Red Tape"

This morning's email brought a link to Suffocated By Red Tape – 12 Ridiculous Regulations That Are Almost Too Bizarre To Believe at Economic Collapse. I had heard of some of these, had not heard of others. They make more of an impression gathered together into a bunch. A few samples:

#1 The state of Texas now requires every new computer repair technician to obtain a private investigator’s license. In order to receive a private investigator’s license, an individual must either have a degree in criminal justice or must complete a three year apprenticeship with a licensed private investigator. If you are a computer repair technician that violates this law, or if you are a regular citizen that has a computer repaired by someone not in compliance with the law, you can be fined up to $4,000 and you can be put in jail for a year.

#2 The city of Philadelphia now requires all bloggers to purchase a $300 business privilege license. The city even went after one poor woman who had earned only $11 from her blog over the past two years.

#8 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 500 dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.
Go over there for the rest, an Institute for Justice video, and some discussion of opportunity cost. If the government were serious about stimulating the economy, much of the current regulatory regime, at all levels from Federal to local, could be yanked out by the roots.

Chicago Climate Exchange is closed

It was not going to work without coercion in the form of cap-and-trade. If Al Gore and the rest have let it go, then it looks like the lame-duck session of Congress will not be trying for cap-and-trade.

What Ed Barnes has to say. Here's another take from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. CCX's parent company runs carbon exchanges in other countries, which are not closing. So is this a victory for American exceptionalism? Wouldn't that be nice.

"The [Democratic] party's candidates are like brides of Dracula …"

Daniel Henninger mentions Calvin Coolidge, the Form 1099 expansion, cap-and-trade, the EPA, public sector unions, and some other things that have been on my mind, in a look at the Democrats' anti-business attitude and activities.

His conclusion may be over-optimistic.

Thanks to Maggie's Farm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Can you govern yourself?"

Asks Bruno Behrend at ChicagoBoyz.

“Can you govern yourself, or do you need a Federal Czar to govern your life for you?”

That question should be asked of every interested person who might vote in the next few elections. Everyone.

“Can you find a doctor, a light-bulb, or control the flow of your toilet, or should one of our Federal Czars take that decision out of your hands?”

When framed in this fashion, the answers to these questions probably have a 75-25 pro-freedom response rate, even in today’s electorate.

Behrend goes on to say that advocates of smaller government should frame the debate to emphasize self-government. Maybe if Tea Partiers can persuade establishment Republicans to join them in the message that Americans do not need to be closely supervised every minute, some inroads can be made against the forces of the nanny state.

I hope he is onto something with this. What we keep hearing from government is that we are too damn stupid to come in out of the rain.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reynolds calls for clarity over confrontation and compromise

In the Washington Examiner today:

Often when Washington insiders talk "compromise," they really mean engineering a situation where nobody really has to take a position, or responsibility … Virtually the entire superstructure of today's legislative branch is designed to minimize clarity, and hence accountability.The survival instincts of politicians involve the avoidance of taking stands, and Republican politicians aren't immune from them any more than Democrats are. Republicans just have more to worry about in terms of Tea Party primary challengers.
To use Codevilla's terms, the Country Class is trying to get some power back from the Ruling Class. Many establishment Republicans view themselves as part of the Ruling Class, and those need to be challenged right along with the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Annuat cœptis

After the election, Professor Althouse offers a blessing for the years to come:

Let's hope last night's revolution was a revolution toward reality, away from government, and a return to belief in what individual human beings can do on their own, without magical dreams about government.