Saturday, November 19, 2011
U.S. Department of Justice Seeks Law Against some kinds of Lying Online
I myself not only put my real name online but also provide an extensive and highly checkable autobiography. But even so, I am strongly of the view that anonymous posting should be allowed. In an oppressive situation, it may be needed to get the truth into public view -- JR
Using a pseudonym on Facebook or fibbing about your age on a dating site could be illegal if the U.S. Department of Justice has its way.
The DOJ is going to Congress today to argue that Web sites' terms of service policies should be enforceable by law, according to CNet. For that purpose, the department seeks an expansion of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 25-year-old law that mainly deals with hacking, password trafficking, and threatening to damage a computer.
By outlawing terms of service violations, the department would have an easier time prosecuting cyberbullies such as Lori Drew, a 49-year-old woman who involved in a case where a 13-year-old girl committed suicide after interacting with a fake MySpace profile that Drew was involved with. Prosecutors got a conviction against Drew in 2008 for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, but the case was thrown out by a U.S. District Court judge.
"It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime," U.S. District Judge George Wu said of his verdict in 2009. "And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract."
That's exactly what the Department of Justice is trying to do now, through Congress. Is the Solution Too Broad?
The department's heart is in the right place, of course, but as groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out in an August 2011 letter to the Judiciary Committee, outlawing terms of service violations is an overly broad way to solve the problem. In addition to snaring cyberbullies, it would also criminalize harmless fibs such as using a fake name on Facebook to protect privacy. It would also force people to digest needlessly long terms of service policies for online services, lest they inadvertently break the law.
Some U.S. states, including Drew's home state of Missouri, have passed their own cyberbullying laws. Attempts at federal cyberbullying legislation have gone nowhere, which may explain why the Department of Justice is trying a new strategy. But I have a feeling a broad law to make terms of service violations illegal would only introduce more problems than it solves.
British man too sick to go to jail
Killer motorist with 50 convictions spared jail after idiot British judge says his hands 'are tied' because criminal wouldn't get care he needs
He once killed a mother of two while speeding. Yet the tragic consequences of his actions meant nothing to Kevin Bracken. In the subsequent 20 years, he has racked up more than 50 driving offences.
But even now he will not face the full force of the law after a judge said he could not jail him because his local prison would not provide the round-the-clock care he needs for his physical and mental disabilities.
His latest offence came in January this year when the 46-year-old led police on a terrifying chase on the wrong side of a dual carriageway.
He had already totted up five convictions for dangerous driving, 29 for driving while disqualified, and 15 for taking a vehicle or allowing himself to be carried in a vehicle that had been taken.
Judge William Morris said that Bracken had ‘a complete disregard for the law’ and ‘deserved’ to go to prison for 19 months for his sixth dangerous driving offence, close to the two-year maximum sentence. ‘This is a shocking case of dangerous driving – how many times has that been said to you by judges?’ he asked. ‘I have never seen a record so bad for driving offences. You deserve to go to prison and you know it.’
However, having receiving guidance from Forest Bank prison in Salford, the judge admitted: ‘My hands are tied. I have had a letter from the prison to say that the medical services there simply could not cope with you, so what can I do?’
Bolton Crown Court heard that Bracken’s estranged wife has given up her job to look after him 24 hours a day. ‘The sad fact for you is you are almost imprisoned by your medical condition now,’ the judge added.
Bracken, who cannot walk unaided, says he is now paralysed on one side, though the precise nature of his disabilities is unclear. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance following a four-mile pursuit through Bolton on January 21. The court heard he performed two U-turns, went through two red lights, and drove on the wrong side of a dual carriageway.
After crashing he got into the passenger seat and told police that the driver had fled. But when officers tried to open the driver-side door, it was jammed shut.
William Donnelly, prosecuting, said of Bracken: ‘He is a prolific offender and has five previous convictions for reckless or dangerous driving. Tragically he caused the death of an individual in 1991.’ Bracken was jailed for two years after the death of Tracey Richardson, 28, who had popped out to buy sweets for her children. ‘One would think that would act as a brake in this behaviour, but not in the case of Bracken,’ added Mr Donnelly.
Judge Morris gave Bracken, of Bolton, a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and an additional five-year driving ban. ‘I won’t be driving again,’ Bracken said. ‘It was a moment of madness and I am very sorry for what I did.’
Last night, campaigners condemned the decision to keep him out of jail, and called for adequate punishments for persistent offenders.
Katie Shephard, of road safety charity Brake, said: ‘We know that losing a loved one in a road crash is sudden and completely devastating. It rips families’ lives apart. It’s appalling that he continues to risk innocent road users lives by getting behind the wheel'. She added: ‘There should be provisions in place so that offenders can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law'.
The BBC illustrates the one thing socialist Britain is good at: Bureaucratic bloat
The BBC may have embarked on some of the most dramatic cost-cutting in its history, but it seems there is still some way to go. There are almost 4,500 job titles in existence at the Corporation, it has emerged, and almost 2,000 of its staff have the word manager in their title.
It is thought there are even more staff on top of this who are classed as and paid as managers but do not have the word in their job titles.
The broadcaster, which has long been accused of having too many middle and senior managers, also employs 191 staff with the word ‘adviser’ in the title.
Following a Freedom of Information request, the BBC has also admitted that 44 members of staff have the word ‘strategy’ in their job role. Within its news department alone there are more than 1,000 job titles, another 700 in its TV department and nearly 500 in radio.
There could be significantly more roles because the figures only refer to BBC staff on permanent and fixed-term contracts and do not include casual workers, or jobs at its commercial arm or BBC World News.
Yesterday critics said the figures showed the BBC was still wasting large amounts of money ‘on sustaining a massive bureaucracy’. The area with the second highest number of job titles – 918 – was the Corporation’s operations group and executive support projects, which is not involved with programme making. Just what do they do?
This part of the business is in charge of areas such as strategy, policy, distribution, property, legal affairs and looking after the organisation’s buildings.
A BBC spokesman defended the number of different roles, claiming that the title manager is ‘generally used to reflect a particular level of experience and seniority within the BBC rather than someone who actually manages a team of people’.
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is fresh evidence to support longstanding concerns that the BBC is wasting huge amounts of money sustaining a massive bureaucracy.
‘Families struggling to pay their licence fee on top of so many other bills, and expecting it to be spent on things like making programmes, will be worried that too much of their money is going on a bloated management structure.’
The news comes after the BBC promised last year that it was banning baffling job titles and would make it clearer to the public what staff are doing.
Last month, BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson was asked on Newsnight why when the Corporation wanted to put money into programmes it was at the same time trying to recruit a ‘decision support analyst’ on £58,000 a year. She admitted: ‘I don’t know what that person actually does but what I do say is that you want the BBC to be a well-managed organisation.’
Defending Israeli Democracy
US Embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks in September exposed the ugly truth that self-described champions of Israeli democracy would like us to forget about the actual goals of Israel's self-described human rights organizations.
In a meeting with then US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv in January 2010, B'Tselem director Jessica Montell explained what her group wished to achieve by colluding with the UN's Goldstone Commission's inquiry into Israel's handling of Operation Cast Lead. According to the embassy report, Montell said, "Her aim...was to make Israel weigh world opinion and consider whether it could 'afford another operation like this.'"
In other words, in colluding with the UN's anti-Israel commission, whose mandate from the UN Human Rights Council was to explain how Israel broke international law by acting to defend its citizens from Hamas's illegal, indiscriminate missile assault, B'Tselem's goal was to undermine Israel's ability to defend itself. B'Tselem wished to use the UN commission to foment an international witch-hunt against the Jewish state that would exact a prohibitive price for defending the country. Israel's democratically elected government would react to the international onslaught by ignoring the needs of the Israeli public and opting not to defend the country again.
Obviously, if Israel ceases to defend itself, in light of its enemies' dedication to its destruction, it will cease to exist. And in a meeting with US Embassy officers in February 2010, Hedva Radovanitz, the New Israel Fund's then-associate director in Israel said that would be just fine by her. According to a leaked embassy cable report of the meeting, Radovanitz said "she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic."
THE LIKES of Radovanitz and Montell are acutely aware that most Israelis do not share their extremist goals or their radical visions for Israel's future.
Radovanitz acknowledged that public support for the radical left, which the NIF supports to the tune of $18 million per year, has no serious domestic constituency.
As the cable put it, she described the "disappearance of the political left wing" in Israel and the lack of domestic constituency for the NGOs.
She noted that "when she headed ACRI's [the Association for Civil Rights in Israel's] Tel Aviv office, ACRI had 5,000 members, while today it has less than 800, and it was only able to muster about 5,000 people to its December  human rights march by relying on the active staff of the 120 NGOs that participated."
As for Montell, in a meeting with the US Embassy's political officer in February 2010, she "estimated that [B'Tselem's] 9 million NIS ($2.4 million) budget is 95 percent funded from abroad, mostly from European countries."
The reality that these Wikileaks-leaked documents expose is precisely the reality which the Knesset this week launched a renewed effort to contend with by submitting three separate bills for consideration. Two of the Knesset bills address the issue of foreign funding to NGOs. One bill would limit the amount of funding Israeli political NGOs can receive from foreign governments and international organizations like the EU and the UN to NIS 20,000 per year. A competing bill would deny tax exemptions - that is, government subsidies - for such contributions and apply a 45% tax to all such foreign contributions.
While the laws would apply to all NGOs, obviously they would be particularly problematic for the NGOs run by Israeli radicals like Montell and Radovanitz that have no domestic Israeli constituency and rely on foreign governments to support their anti-Israel efforts.
THE THIRD bill addresses the main source of the political power of these foreign-funded NGOs - Israel's radicalized Supreme Court.
For the past 20 years or so, as the radical left has discredited itself as a political force in Israel, it has increasingly used the Supreme Court to achieve its aims. The Court is dominated by far leftists who legislate laws from the bench that would never pass in the Knesset.
Petitioning the Supreme Court, EU-funded groups like B'tselem, Peace Now and Adalah have been able to place court-imposed constraints on IDF operations.
They have been able to block or hamper the implementation of security measures that enjoy broad public support like the construction of the security fence.
They are able to block political leaders from devising and carrying out policies they believe serve the country's interests such as preventing illegal PLO activities in Jerusalem and building Jewish communities on Jewish- owned land in the Galilee.
The Supreme Court's radical legislative agenda is not limited to political and security issues. It has also overturned Knesset laws to liberalize the media and privatize sectors of the economy like the prison system. It has acted on the basis of constitutional claims that have little grounding in actual law, and that it applies inconsistently in accordance with its judges' ideological leanings.
The public has taken notice of the Court's increasingly undemocratic activities. According to a recent Maagar Mohot poll, the Supreme Court, once the most trusted institution in Israel, is now seen by 54% of the public as politically biased and, by a 75% to 11% margin, slanted left. Sixty-three percent of the public believes that the personal political views of the judges influence their legal decisions to some degree.
The Supreme Court's radical agenda is facilitated by Israel's undemocratic method of selecting its members.
Court members are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Committee. For all practical purposes, the committee is controlled by the Supreme Court itself and so the justices effectively select themselves. Fifty-six percent of the public wants this selection method changed.
The bill submitted by Likud MKs Yariv Levin and Zev Elkin would subject all Supreme Court nominees to public hearings conducted by the Knesset's Law, Constitution and Justice Committee. These hearings would provide legislators and the public with full disclosure on the views, activities and associations of prospective justices. Doing so would constitute a tiny step toward bringing court appointments procedures more in line with those in effect in most other western democracies.
While the bills dealing with foreign funding of NGOs and the bill concerning Supreme Court appointments are ostensibly unrelated, in fact they are directly linked.
Speaking to the media, the heads of various NGOs claim that the bills addressing their foreign funding are "unconstitutional" and therefore of little concern.
They know that they can depend on their ideological brethren in the Supreme Court to protect them from the public and its representatives in the Knesset. Just as the Court has not hesitated to block legitimate governmental policies and reforms in the past in the interest of the justices' radical ideological convictions, so the NGO representatives believe, the Court will protect them from the Knesset's actions this time around as well.
This means that the only way to protect Israeli democracy from subversive, foreign funded groups who seek to undermine the foundations of the state is to reform the Supreme Court that enables their activities.
All the bills that were submitted this week are serious attempts to tackle a serious threat to Israel democracy.
And they are not the first of their kind. Over the past several years, Israel's legislators have introduced several bills aimed at achieving the same goals. And each of these bills in turn has been attacked by the leftist Israeli media as "anti-democratic."
The media are repeating their standard practice today. Rather than foster debate about the substance of these bills and the problems they seek to address, the media are colluding with the heads of the NGOs and their foreign governmental donors to demonize the bills' sponsors and to threaten Israel with "diplomatic consequences" if the Knesset moves ahead with the initiatives.
All of this is bad enough. But what makes the situation even worse is the behavior of self-declared champions of democracy among senior Likud politicians. In the name of democracy, Ministers Bennie Begin, Michael Eitan, and Dan Meridor all oppose these measures, which are all focused on protecting and strengthening Israeli democracy.
Meridor can always be depended on to take the position of the left against his party's voters. But Begin and Eitan have distinguished themselves as independent thinkers. Eitan has taken a tough and independent line on governmental corruption. Begin has not hesitated to oppose the leftist media and bureaucracy in issues related to terrorism.
Yet here, these men habitually embrace the specious and frankly indefensible arguments of the radical left that represents no one but itself and its foreign funders.
It was the opposition of the likes of Begin, Meridor, Eitan and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin that gave the radical left the necessary political cover to torpedo previous parliamentary initiatives to protect Israel's democratic institutions from their foreign-funded onslaughts.
And the Supreme Court's success to date in averting any serious parliamentary or governmental attempts to check its anti-democratic actions owes in large part to these Likud leaders' championship of its judicial usurpation of legislative and governmental power.
It is hard to know what is driving these men to act as they do. But it is high time that they exercise some independent judgment and rethink their support for the radical left's foreign funded, judicially enabled assault on Israeli democracy.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.