June 2004
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Month June 2004

Forsaking Privacy

If the government had access to the communications between a client and his lawyer, the lawyer would be nothing but a government agent, like Soviet defense attorneys, whose official role was to serve as adjuncts to the prosecution.
Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton, “The Tyranny of Good Intentions”

Once upon a time, the U.S. Justice Department respected the legal rights that make law a shield of the innocent rather than a weapon of government. No more. What the great English jurist William Blackstone called “the Rights of Englishmen” have been eroded beyond recognition.
The last remaining right ? the attorney-client privilege ? is under full-scale assault by Justice Department prosecutors in the tax shelter case involving the accounting firm KPMG. The Justice Department has demanded, and the accounting firm has agreed to, a waiver of the attorney-client privilege for communications between lawyers and KPMG employees involved in marketing tax shelters the Internal Revenue Service has challenged.
The attorney-client privilege was long championed by jurists because they realized the privilege promoted equality under the law. Convictions can result from lack of access to legal knowledge as well as from actual wrongdoing. To ensure defendants would avail themselves of legal counsel, their communications with attorneys were made confidential, outside the reach of prosecutors.

I’ve written about tax issues before, including this article on our very odd SUV subsidies.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Dean campaign architect Joe Trippi’s new book discusses the power of the internet and how individuals and organizations can benefit.

A Marine’s View of the Major Media in Iraq

Interesting article by writer Eric M. Johnson, a Marine Corps Reservist on the Washington Post’s Iraq coverage (if it can be called that).

Don’t take my word for it that the Post?s reporting is substandard and superficial. Take the word of Philip Bennett, the Post’s assistant managing editor for foreign news. In a surprisingly candid June 6 piece, he admits that “the threat of violence has distanced us from Iraqis.” Further, “we have relied on Iraqi stringers filing by telephone to our correspondents in Baghdad, and on embedding with the military. The stringers are not professional journalists, and their reports are heavy on the simplest direct observation.” Translation: we are reprinting things from people we barely know, from a safe location dozens of miles away from the fighting.

UPDATE: The article was also published in the NY Post on Saturday, 7.3.2004.

EFF: Illegitimate Patents

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a Patent Busting Contest:

Every year numerous illegitimate patent applications make their way through the United States patent examination process without adequate review. The problem is particularly acute in the software and Internet fields where the history of prior inventions (often called ?prior art?) is widely distributed and poorly documented. As a result, we have seen patents asserted on such simple technologies as:

Making Public Data Would “Crash the System”

The Justice Department today denied Freedom of Information Act requests to make public data on foreign lobbyists, claiming that ‘[i]mplementing such a request risks a crash that cannot be fixed and could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating’. The requestor responded that ‘[t]his was a new one on us. We weren’t aware there were databases that could be destroyed just by copying them.

Senator Kohl spends some time on baseball issues…

Steve Fainaru continues his series on the monopoly that is baseball, including Bud Selig’s all powerful role in the game and public financing of stadiums. Today’s article includes quotes from Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis) regarding a potential baseball team in Washington, DC (nice to see the Senator spending time on important issues….)
I continue to be amazed that it took a newspaper 700 miles from Wisconsin, The Washington Post, to write this series on the fleecing of taxpayers. Perhaps former Governor Tommy Thompson helped out – he’s quoted in the articles.

The Grim Drive Around Chicago

My father and I drove, rather started and stopped numerous times last week, as we attempted to navigate our way around Chicago. We slowed to a stop about 20 miles east of Illinois on I-90, routed around the stalled traffic on a combination of Indiania 912, US 41/12, the Chicago Skyway (also under construction), State Street, Lake Shore Drive, then finally back to 90…. I’ve never seen it worse than last Thursday. Larry Sandler discusses the gory details of driving around Chicago. Lake Express is an option….

MGE feeding at the trough…

Madison’s Monopoly Utility, MGE, has according to this isthmus column [1.8MB PDF] by Chamond Liu, served it’s local customers by:

  • MGE’s electric rates are the highest in the state.
  • $348,634 in political contributions. (!)
  • $150,000 from MGE is itemized in an indictment against a Wisconsin state senator who sponsored no-bid legislation requiring the UW to “negotiate” with MGE for this power plant.
  • UW System President Katherine Lyall owned, as of January 2003, 14539 shares in Alliant Energy, the company responsible for building the MGE Plant.

MGE should, simply on the basis of their lobbying and high rates, be excluded from any UW projects. It really does not make sense for such a small utility to exist any longer….. (at ratepayer expense).
Fore (friends of responsible energy) Madison has quite a bit of information on this issue.
I’ve written about MGE’s high rates and routing cash through the Kansas Democratic Party (!) before.

Sulfur Island

P. J. O’Rourke on Iwo Jima or Sulfur Island.

From February 19 to March 26 of 1945, 6,821 Americans and about 20,000 Japanese were killed in the fight for the island.

Selig & Publicly Funded Stadiums

Fascinating article by Steve Fainaru on Bud Selig’s Miller Park hardball tactics (with some interesting comments from former governor Tommy Thompson):

The soaring brick ballpark on the outskirts of this city took the lives of three ironworkers. It cost a Republican state senator his job and set back taxpayers a sum equal to the Milwaukee County parks budget projected over the next decade. It nearly exhausted the political capital of the former governor, Tommy G. Thompson, who championed the stadium to keep Wisconsin “major league.” But Thompson won’t set foot in the place. Last year, when the ballpark’s tenants, the Milwaukee Brewers, invited Thompson to Opening Day, he declined. He did it to protest Brewers owner and Commissioner of Baseball Allan H. (Bud) Selig, who, Thompson said in an interview, provided misleading financial information to get the stadium built, then broke promises to use the increased revenue to make the Brewers competitive.
“There were just so many misleadings and mischaracterizations,” said Thompson, now Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration.

I’ve not set foot in Miller Park, and don’t plan to. Then, there’s this quote from the deputy editor of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on their predicament (the newspaper’s parent company’s Chairman was a lobbyist for the stadium!):

Inside the newspapers, reporters and editorial writers felt constrained. “We were totally compromised at that point,” said Sue Ryon, deputy editor of the Milwaukee Journal’s editorial page, then the lead editorial writer on the stadium issue. “We had no credibility. Anything we said, it was, ‘Well, who can believe them? Look at the position they’re in?’ We felt as a newspaper, as an editorial board, handcuffed, and that was pretty much from the beginning.”

Two useful links: Field of Schemes | Doug Pappas site