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Senators Send Angry E-mail to Facebook Over Privacy Changes

Facebook
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

Some US senators are not happy about the new privacy changes and have sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg about it.

Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private. If the user does not want to connect to a page with other users from their current town or university, the user will have that information deleted altogether from their profile.

If you read the entire letter, you can clearly see that they actually know what they're talking about. Surprising really.

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Senator Wants Free Credit Report Companies to Actually OFFER Free Reports

Wait... free is supposed to be FREEE?
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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is my hero of the day.
"If these companies want to say -- or sing for that matter -- that they are giving people free credit reports, then they can't charge people $15 a month, simple as that," Schumer said. "For years, these companies have said with a smile that they will provide a free credit report -- even though the government already requires a credit report be provided for free every year - and then suddenly, months later consumers get a bill in the mail for their credit monitoring services. My plan would finally bust up this scam and give consumers some honest choices."
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What the Bailout Means to You

Confused by the bailout? Who isn't?
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A little translation for the rest of us.

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Sarah Palin’s Private E-mail Account Hacked

Hacking
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Sarah Palin's Yahoo account has been broken into and e-mails found there posted to Wikileaks. I would say this was a pretty rotten thing to do, but the perpetrators claim they did it to prove that Palin has been using her private e-mail to circumvent recordkeeping laws about government business. If that's true, then perhaps this needed to happen.

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Stupid Virginia Slapped By Judge

What should we do about privacy problems? Attack the person who found the problem!
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When Betty Ostergren, otherwise known as the "Virginia Watchdog" and on of my personal heroes, started posting social security numbers and other private data about state senators, she turned a few heads.

She got the information from the state's own public records websites where the senators were quick to pull some strings to get their information off the sites, but Betty refused to pull it off hers until they fixed the system that left all the other less-connected people vulnerable.

Their response was to draft a law for her specifically (what an honor!) that would make it illegal to disseminate any public records that contained Social Security numbers. Facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, she was fortunately rescued by the Virginia ACLU who filed a lawsuit on her behalf.

And the good news is that the right decision was reached and the state of Virginia was told to eat crow. The saddest and sickest part of the whole situation is that they violently attacked the person who publicized what they were doing wrong while they made no effort to fix the wrong she exposed.

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Petition to Remove Nancy Pelosi For Taking Impeachment “Off the Table”

Why do we need to hold people accountable for abuse?
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I found this online petition to remove Pelosi for failing to do her job and being a political hack. Even if Congress couldn't pull an actual impeachment (which I believe they could for trying to block investigations of the White House staff alone), then they could still do something.

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Tough Voting Ahead

Barack Obama
(Image is in the Public Domain)

There's still no way in Hades that I'll ever vote for McCain, but Obama has been sorely disappointing recently. First he voted for Telco immunity despite his promises to filibuster any such attempt. Now Republicans have cleverly used web technology to alert them (and us) to changes on his website. Specifically to the pages that list his policies.

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Why Congress Won’t Prosecute Bush

George W. Bush
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Here's a take that I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't considered: Members of Congress may be protecting Bush because of votes they made previously that might seem to have supported his illegal activities. While it might not end in prosecution, it could end their Congressional careers.

So, of course key Congressional Democrats who were made aware of these illegal torture and surveillance programs are going to protect the Bush administration and other lawbreakers. If you were Jay Rockfeller or Nancy Pelosi, would you want there to be investigations and prosecutions for torture programs that, to one degree or another, you knew about? If you were Jane Harman, wouldn't you be extremely eager to put a stop to judicial proceedings that were likely to result in a finding that surveillance programs that you knew about, approved of, and helped to conceal were illegal and unconstitutional?
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Telecom Immunity Passed. Liberty Dies a Little More

Justice lacking
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In Senate debate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) argued strongly against telecom immunity, because it would make it almost impossible to ever find out what really happened and "the American people ought to know who in the White House said, 'Go break the law.'" Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) noted that, "We're considering granting immunity when roughly 70 members of the Senate still have not been briefed on the president's wiretapping program. The vast majority of this body still does not even know what we're being asked to grant immunity for."
These were the protests that smarter senators made before the vote. They were ignored. The "FISA update" including immunity was passed yesterday.
"I sit on the intelligence and Judiciary committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), another prominent opponent. "I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen . . . members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation."
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Congressional Neanderthals Mess Up Big

Congress
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Yesterday the House passed a FISA amendment act which includes a provision shielding telecommunications companies from any liability. In the coverage of the situation by Ars Technica, they were able to quote Nacy Pelosi as being an idiot:

(Bold text in parenthesis is mine)
The most extended apologia came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who urged that the compromise be judged by comparison with the Senate bill, which she characterized as the only realistic alternative (So we can't ask for a good law, only a less bad one? That's a great standard to live to). She outlined several ways in which the current legislation is preferable to the Senate's version. First, the compromise bill reasserts that FISA is the "exclusive means" for conducting electronic surveillance, which would require the president to ignore such language twice in order to launch an extralegal surveillance program, rather than only once, as under traditional FISA rules (So if the President breaks the law, now it would violate two laws instead of just one. The next time someone breaks a law, I wonder if it will result in jail time if it only breaks the law "once"). Second, it preserves prior judicial review of surveillance authorizations, except in "very, very rare" circumstances, such as when the attorney general asserts that waiting for a judge would entail delay (I think that recent history has shown how much we can trust to the "rarity" of the Attorney General approving anything a president might ask. Has she even been awake in the last decade?). Third, it contains specific provisions barring the use of authorizations targeting parties abroad as a pretext for targeting U.S. persons, presumably to be enforced by a board of psychics. Finally, it provides for an internal investigation of the extent of past surveillance, which Congress will act upon with the same legendary zeal for civil liberties it has displayed over the past seven years (Brilliantly summarized. Ars has some great writers.).

So in one day, the House voted to expand powers of the Judicial branch that they didn't need and shield their conspirators from liability against justice.

Don't get me wrong, if I got a letter from the Attorney General of the United states that required my company to do something and my lawyers said to do it, I would have and maybe that's what happened to the telcos. But if there is no accountability for the Attorney General, the President, and the involved Agencies, then the whole things tastes like Congress cooked us up some chili made of poo.

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