Monday March 7, 2006 News Roundup (as good as a newspaper, except you can’t roll it up and hit someone on the nose with it…so maybe it isn’t as good after all):
Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset) has introduced a bill (A-1327) that if passed would: 1. Require that every user of this site provide us with their real name and address. 2. Require us to turn over this information to anyone who claims to have had “false or defamatory” information posted about them. 3. Make us liable for any damages if we don’t follow the measures in the bill.
There’s one small problem: The NJ Supreme Court ruled that banning anonymous online speech is unconstitutional.
This is as ridiculous as it gets, but it displays the total disconnect that many elected officials have with the internet as a medium for speech. The US Supreme Court ruled in Talley v. California (1960) that anonymous postings of pamphlets is legal. Like pamphlets, websites like Blue Jersey are just a communications device, but it’s feared because it’s so democratic and often uncontrollable. Perhaps people who support these measures have something to hide and would rather it not come out during campaign season.
Assuming the bill were somehow enforceable and that it managed to pass, it would require us at Blue Jersey to spend money to verify the identity of every single person that posts here (currently 377 users). Otherwise, we would be liable for damages. That measure alone is enough to shut down almost all forums and community blogs – the costs would be prohibitive. It’s a little more indirect than Chinese-style censorship, but the end result is the same.
Congratulations Mr Biondi: You’re the winner of today’s Worst Legislation Award!
This tactic is pretty vile, not to mention using an anti-gay marriage amendment to bring out the GOP base. (I also have a copy of a pretty vile mailer from the GOP regarding the election this year, which I’ll have to scan or type in. Later) I agree with the guy who says these should go straight to the round file.
GOP peers into voters’ data with CD
On Monday, the Minnesota Republican Party announced that it will send out CD videos on Friday to inform voters about the importance of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It turns out the CD is also being used to add to the GOP voter database. Officials with the Republican Party say certain voter data is being collected by the party. Internet privacy experts say they’re concerned that the party isn’t telling the viewer that it’s collecting the data and worry where the information will end up.
St. Paul, Minn. â€” The GOP says they intend to send thousands of the CD-roms to a wide array voters who may be concerned about the issue of gay marriage. The compact discs contain video clips from four of Minnesota’s top elected officials. They talk about the cultural dangers of gay marriage, activist judges and why an amendment is needed to keep marriage between one man and one woman…
Republican Party Chair Ron Carey said the video is an attempt to get the DFL Senate to vote on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman. At the CD’s unveiling, he never mentioned that the party is also using the video to collect information about those who view the video.
Here’s how it works:
To watch the video, a person has to log onto the Internet and punch in an identity code that tells the party who is watching the video. Once the video is going, viewers are asked questions on certain subjects like abortion, the Second Amendment and their party preference.
Party officials distributed test copies of the CDs to the media and have been open with the technology. They were no disclaimers that the data was being collected and transmitted.
Mark Drake, with the Minnesota Republican Party, says information provided through the CD will be sent to a server and will be used by the parties.
Initially Drake said people who were going to receive the CD should assume the data is being collected because the video is sent by the GOP, is interactive and that the viewer has to provide their personal information. He says the CD packets will now specify that the Republican Party is collecting certain information.
Political parties and candidates spend a lot of time and money collecting voter information especially since Minnesota doesn’t require voters to declare a political party. The groups used to collect the data with good old-fashioned shoe leather and a clipboard or by paying for subscriber lists. Drake says the CD-ROM is the latest way to collect the information.
“It’s an ageless part of American politics and I don’t think it’s anything that is particularly a big deal beyond that it’s high tech. It’s not different than 30 years ago filling out a voter survey in your kitchen and then mailing it in,” he said.
Drake also pointed to Internet surveys by the DFL Party and Education Minnesota as similar examples.
But some privacy advocates disagree. They argue that someone who submits a survey on those sites is actively providing information. It’s not clear on the Republican CD that the data is being transmitted back to the Republicans, or even what other data about the user is being extracted and sent.
Lillie Coney, the associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, says the GOP CD should clearly indicate that the packet is not only a video on gay marriage, but a tool to collect voter data.
“Any time the consumer is providing information to an entity and they’re not aware of how that information is being used or what purpose the information may be put to, they’re at a disadvantage,” according to Coney. “It’s easier to tell people what’s going on. It makes for better relations.”
Coney also says she has concerns that the data could be accessed by a third party.
International Falls based CH Consulting is the company that produced the video for the GOP. Christa Heibel, the CEO of the company, says specific firewalls have been added to ensure that the voter information is protected. That was after Minnesota Public Radio was able to access some of the data that was collected during testing.
She also says the public should know through the CD’s packaging and by other means that voters will be sharing information with the Republican Party.
“The packaging specifically uses the word ‘interactive’, the presentation after each of the questions that we are asking uses the words ‘submit’ and ‘continue’ and I think the party has been very upfront about the fact that they are obviously asking for this information to receive that data back and they care about what the voter has to say.”
Reaction to the CD has created quite a stir on blogs, Internet message boards and in the state Capitol.
DFL Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins, a candidate for governor, is also one of the leaders on technology issues at the Capitol. Kelley, who issued a statement warning consumers about the CD, says the public should be cautious whenever they are asked to submit information to a third party.
“I think with this CD, for example, in order to make sure that their privacy is protected, the best solution is to throw it in the trash can,” Kelley said.
Kelley is one of the author of the state’s Internet privacy laws in 2001 with then representative Tim Pawlenty. That law prevents Internet Service Providers from collecting personal information but didn’t prevent third parties from collecting it.
Monday March 6, 2006 News Roundup:
Hey, weren’t those French guys cute with their stuffed penguins? I guess they figured that nobody would be able to understand their acceptance speech anyway, so why not help the toy stores move some plush? If the academy had done as I wanted and given the Best Documentary award to Street Fight, the great documentary about Cory Booker’s battle royale with Sharpe James in the 2002 Newark mayoral race, maybe Marshall Curry could have brought Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots to the podium. Or a big inflated Sharpe James balloon that flatulently leaked air during the acceptance speech. Either one would have been appropriate.
Read more at The Opinion Mill.
If you’re watching the Academy Awards right now, you might not know that there’s a movie about New Jersey politics up for an Oscar.
Yep – Street Fight is up for an Oscar for Best Documentary. It’s about the 2002 slugfest between incumbent Newark mayor Sharpe James and his insurgent, meteoric Rhodes Scholar challenger Cory Booker. It’s a matchup we may indeed see again this year, and this time it may be Booker who has the last laugh.
First-time director Marshall Curry is there right now, at his first Oscars, waiting for the docs to be announced. Good luck Marshall!
I should mention Street Fight iis up against March of the Penguins…um…. one of the most successful docs in history.
Sunday, March 5, 2006 News Roundup
After his podcast and SOTU blogging, I got that sense that Holt was taking it personally that he had been lied to by the NSA guy, Alexander, a week before the NYTimes exposed that they were engaged in illegal spying.
Last week, 18 Dems wrote a letter to Bush asking for a special council to investigate the wiretaps, since Gonzalez is clearly a hack. Note the absence of any NJ reps from the list and the patheticness of only 18 out of 202 House Dems making the request:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York
Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Virginia
Rep. Lois Capps, D-California
Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California
Rep. Sam Farr, D-California
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona
Rep. Mike Honda, D-California
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts
Rep. George Miller, D-California
Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi
I’m definitely making long term plans to move back to CA.
Tom Kean Jr. has been handed a lot in his time in politics. Since being beaten by Mike Ferguson in the Republican primary in 2000, Kean Jr. was appointed to fill a vacant NJ Assembly seat, won an election and then appointed to a vacant NJ State Senate seat. In each case, he had to be appointed to the seat before he could win it from the electorate.
Now Kean Jr. is running for the United States Senate, a seat that Bob Menendez was appointed to when Jon Corzine vacated it to become Governor. The challenge appears to be pretty tough on the young State Senator, since Kean Jr. is giving up an important committee seat he holds as a State Senator to take an easier, less controversial gig.
With a U.S. Senate campaign to wage, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R- Union) is giving up his seat on the powerful but time-consuming Senate budget committee for a spot on the judiciary committee.
Kean will trade seats with one of the major forces of the judiciary committee: Sen. William Gormley (R-Atlantic), who has served on that panel for 22 years and was once its high-profile chairman. …
After Gov. Jon Corzine presents his budget March 21, the budget committee will hold nearly two months of hearings as other lawmakers take a break. The annual June budget scramble follows. Without his budget responsibilities, Kean will have more far time to devote to his statewide race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
The switch has other implications. Kean will be able to duck some politically dicey budget talks …
If Kean Jr. doesn’t think that he can do his job as a State Senator and run for the United States Senate then he should resign and campaign full-time. But this halfway measure, giving up a plum assignment that can deliver resources directly to his constituents, in order to duck tough choices and hard work just shows he is already overtaxed and we haven’t even reached the primary yet.
Bob Menendez, on the other hand, accepted a tougher position by moving up from the House to the Senate. Instead of representing 650,000 people in a small area of Northeast Jersey, he now represents 8,400,000 people in the entire state.
(I realize this post isn’t about New Jersey. Skip to the next one if you don’t want to read it. – jmelli)
“Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there — and there they must be defeated.”
– George W Bush, Sept 3, 2003 (whitehouse.gov)