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Wired interview with Steinhardt 200

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
mlknowle writes "Wired has just posted a great interview with former EFF president and ACLU associate director Barry Steinhardt. In the interview, Steinhardt expresses concern that next year will be an even worse year for civil liberties. He does offer tips on what to do to help, however."
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Wired interview with Steinhardt

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  • $$ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by irony nazi (197301) on Monday December 31, 2001 @01:53PM (#2768146)
    Donate money to the EFF. For your Bday, ask that people donate money in your name.
    • Re:$$ (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by m_evanchik (398143)
      The fact that the EFF needs monetary donations is evidence against the free (as in beer) software paradigm
      • I wouldn't agree that donating software to the EFF goes against their paradigm. The fact remains that good lobbyist efforts require money. The EFF represents MUCH more than free software! PLEASE understand that.

        I also don't understand why my original comment is being moderated up. I honestly only wrote it to get a relatively on-topic first post.

        • Because I feel so strongly about it, I feel the need to follow up...

          IMHO civil liberties are MUCH more important than free software.

          One might argue that free software leads to more civil liberties and the whole freedom of information thing. But the fact remains that <INSERT VIDEO GAME MANUFACTURER> deserves to make money off of artistic design of both the graphics/storyline as well as the engine of their games. These don't need to be open sourced.

      • by Phork (74706)
        umm, no it isnt. the eff doesnt have all to much to do with free software. you proably mean the fsf. actually, you proably dont mean either. and the whole point of the free software is movement is software that is libre(free as in speech), not gratis, though the two go together.

        stop trolling.

    • Re:$$ (Score:4, Funny)

      by fobbman (131816) on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:31PM (#2768300) Homepage
      If the government has a keystroke logger installed into the system that I use to send an electronic donation to the EFF, does that make me more of a suspect?

    • I will NOT donate money to organizations supporting spam and spamming as "free speech". EFF and ACLU are two such organizations.
      • I cannot support people who believe that giving money to political campaigns is free speech, yet giving money to Usama Bin Ladin is terrorism! Vote Libertarian, because the best thing you can do to stop DC from taking away our civil liberties is to stop them from getting into DC all together. Repubs/Dems both want the same thing, they just take a different approach.
    • Re:$$ (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Tackhead (54550)
      > Donate money to the EFF. For your Bday, ask that people donate money in your name.

      "For my birthday, I'd like to make sure all my friends are prosecuted for providing aid and comfort to subversive organizations too. That way, I won't be alone in joycamp!"

      Look, if you wanna support a misguided cause, go ahead, but please don't drag your friends down with you.

      (Can't we get an organization that lobbies for fair use rights over digital media without trying to deny law enforcement the tools they need to combat terror?)

      • Did I miss something, and the EFF was added to a list of suspected terrorist organizations? I don't think so, and I tend to think that even Herr Ashcroft is not going to go that far. (Yeah, EFF has Freedom in the title, but that doesn't automatically make it a target.)

        Kierthos
        • by certron (57841)
          >(Yeah, EFF has Freedom in the title, but that doesn't automatically make it a target.)

          It does? I thought EFF was 'Electronic Frontier Foundation' :-) at www.eff.org
          Maybe it has Freedom stuck in between the other 2 F's.

          certron
  • by dagoalieman (198402) <thegoalieman@yahoUMLAUTo.com minus punct> on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:04PM (#2768194) Homepage
    ...unfortunately no one follows up. Really, how many Slashdot articles are posted here, and each time everyone says the same thing- "WRITE, fax, call you members, donate money, get other people involved, etc."?

    And how many times do people follow through on this? We certainly have the power of numbers. If people would just practice what they preach, even in small amounts, we'd likely start to see things swing pretty well. The Skylarov rallies and press was good, and similar actions against RIAAssholes, but just one or two per year isn't good enough?

    Seriously, how does the NRA do so well? They make sure people know they're still around at least once or twice per month. They flaunt it, without being holier-than-thou about it (most of the time.) And in numbers of greater than 50 at a time. If we can stop being anti-MS, and get to work, God only knows what we can do. The more public you are, the more people will start to see our side and work with us. And of course, the more MS will go after us (kinda like the NRA and anti-gun people..)

    I'm not the best at practicing what I preach, but damnit, at least I do something. To those who already do too, great, keep it up. The rest of you who talk had best put some action behind those words, and the people who've stayed silent until now are certainly welcome to help out.
    • Damn, blew away moderator points earlier today!!

      Mod UP! I've put my money where my mouth is; I donated $100 to EFF last year. I donate $20 a month to the Libertarian party.

      Face it... at least in the USA, it ain't bits and bytes that grease the wheels, it's the GREENBACKS...
    • True, Intel understood the game long before MS and donated money to avoid a lawsuit. Bill Gates refused to contribute and now he's got a lawsuit on his hands. But seems like he's repairing his mistake.

      btw, not everyone on Slashdot lives in the US.
    • by renehollan (138013) <rhollan&clearwire,net> on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:28PM (#2768292) Homepage Journal
      Well, it's tough to followup in this "click this link for immediate gratification" world, without a "click if you agree" link.

      And, if we make it easy to click a link to send a canned email to a representative, well, it's just too easy, now isn't it? Furthermore, there has to be accountability: Does the email actually represent the sentiments of the signer? Is the signer a constituent?

      On the one hand, personal letters, that take time to write, have greater impact, because of the effort. On the other hand, a well-written position paper, with thousands of verifiable signatures can be equally powerful, if not more so.

      Why not, then, a site which contains position papers, or sample letters to elected representatives on issues of the day, as well as the means to register, and obtain a digital certificate with which to sign such letters?

      The site itself could be position-agnostic, merely providing the technology. Position papers could be submitted in a manner similar to slashdot features, with comments, and rework due to feedback, prior to a final version being posted. Or it could be a link farm to similar such papers/letters. One would register once to obtain a digital certificate (yes, that would identify one), and could then sign those papers with which he or she agreed. Papers with a certain number of signatures would then be sent to members of congress, with an emphasis on congress-critters who elicited the most signatures from their constituents. If there were sufficient funding, printed copies could be mailed, though the current status should be available on-line at any time for browsing.

      • Actually, in the last two months one of NRA's ILA FAX alerts has been about how email is largely dismissed in the capitol. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, but I really echo the sentiment here that personal letters -bceause- they take time to write tend to have more impact. Do both, make your email a first draft of your letter. All just IMO.
    • "...unfortunately no one follows up. Really, how many Slashdot articles are posted here, and each time everyone says the same thing- "WRITE, fax, call you members, donate money, get other people involved, etc."? And how many times do people follow through on this?" If I consider the issue important, I do.
    • Just a couple of things:

      1./.'s readership is absolutely international though US citizens might be the largest group.

      2.Politicians listen to ppl a.who vote b.contribute money your example of NRA is a perfect example.

      3.Geeks arent exactly considered normal and face it, the issues we are interested in are more or less geek issues,this particualr one not withstanding.

      4.MOST IMPORTANTLY ,whenever a human being is in a position to exercise and increase his authority over other human beings ,(s)he will........

  • The Masses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skyshadow (508) on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:05PM (#2768197) Homepage
    I dunno; it seems to me like he doesn't really cover the central issue: most of the populace out there don't care about their civil rights beyond the ability to own guns and drive a truck capable of driving through a swamp and seating 17 (where they are regularly the only passanger).

    I don't think you can reverse this sort of trend until people start acting like they give a damn -- the various opposition forces have way too much motivation. At best, the ACLU and EFF can only drag their feet while Ashcroft and the MPAA and Disney work to strip us of our rights.

    You figure out how to make people give a damn, you let me know. The fact is that people are ignoring even the really outragous stuff, say, secret trials, indefinate detentions, eternal copyrights, limits to free expression, etc. Mindshare, I suppose -- that's what really, really matters.

    • No, I don' belive they're ignoring it, I believe that most of the populace want to limit civil rights.

      Sad, indeed but true.
    • Re:The Masses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by deebaine (218719) on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:47PM (#2768339) Journal
      It is critically important to differentiate between those who do not "give a damn" and those who do, but disagree with the espoused viewpoint. I, for one, fit into the latter category. This debate--one of huge importance to this country at the moment--unfortunately is marked by incredible intolerance and divisiveness both from the right and the left; witness the suggestions that anyone who doesn't support Ashcroft's views is abetting terrorism, but anyone who does is a fascist pig. In fact, as in most arguments, there is a broad middle ground, and that's where I find myself.

      With all do respect to the posted interview, it is long on sound, short on sense. I would like, for example, to see more about the unease beneath the "veneer" of public support. The latest Gallup [gallup.com] data suggests that only 10% of the populace thinks that the government has gone too far; 60% think it is about right, and 26% think that the government has not gone far enough. Approval ratings for Bush are historically high, and given my perception of John Ashcroft's views and character (I'm a Missouri refugee), his approval rating of 76% seems absurdly high. My views aside, to suggest that this is a veneer is either to suggest that Gallup's methodology is flawed or people are outright lying to the pollsters. Either suggestion, in my opinion, requires more backing than a vehement assertion.

      Steinhardt also makes a clever reference to the "slippery slope" argument in his first response, suggesting that as we are now on a "war footing" (which I regard as blatantly untrue), and "apply[ing] the laws of war domestically, civil liberties will become a thing of the past as this war goes on "without an end." Though convenient, I don't really think this holds water; the only effort to apply the laws of war resulting from September 11th are the military tribunals, and they explicitly do not apply to U.S. citizens (and, lest anyone suggest that non-citizens receive the same Constitutional protections as citizens, that position is at best debatable even when the circumstances in question occur in U.S. territory, which it looks like they will ordinarily not here). And it largely goes unnoted by the left that the original order establishing the military tribunals has been gutted from its original draconian form, and now conforms much more closely to the UCMJ, and will include a right to appeal. It also goes unnoticed that in the first instance in which they could have invoked the military tribunals, the government did not; Zacarias Moussaoui was arraigned in Federal Court in Alexandria, VA.

      My own politics are left-of-center, but I consider myself a liberal in the classical sense rather than in the post-Vietnam, anti-government, anti-military, anti-corporate sense. Unfortunately, the pundits whom I once considered to be my voice, or at least a useful voice of reason, have abandoned me, adopting a terribly hypocritical position that I regard as scarcely less dangerous to me and my rights than the equally ridiculous position of the far right. My concern is tempered, somewhat, by the knowledge that similar fights have occurred every time this country has gone to war. We--and our rights--have survived more serious conflicts than this; we will survive this one too.

      -db
      • Re:The Masses (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        and, lest anyone suggest that non-citizens receive the same Constitutional protections as citizens, that position is at best debatable even when the circumstances in question occur in U.S. territory, which it looks like they will ordinarily not here

        While I'm not sure that I've thought this through to my satisfaction, my first reaction is to apply the meta-principle to treat others as we would want to be treated. YMMV.
      • Re:The Masses (Score:3, Interesting)

        I wish I could mod this up to 10, to make sure everyone would see it. It's not too often this viewpoint gets heard in reallife, much less here on /. . But it is the best way to look at the various situations. And you are right on every point you present. Most people are moderates, not a big surprise. The tribunals are not going to affect my liberties, since I am not a terrorist infiltrator trying to knock down buildings. And you didn't mention the national ID card idea, but i'm sure you don't like that plan (since you are left-of-center) any more than I do. By the way, I am right-of-center, but also classically liberal.

        But what really got my attention was this line:
        ...incredible intolerance and divisiveness both from the right and the left....

        I recently stopped listening to the 'talk radio' shows because I couldn't stand the ridiculousness of it. If Rush Limbaugh were to ask me about homosexuals, he would be upset that I think they should have all the same rights as anyone else, including gay marriages. But if the 'gay groups' were to ask me about discrimination, they would be upset that I don't support legislation or public school policiy targeted at sexual orientation harassment or discrimination. My point being that I think the "conservative right" and the "liberal left" are both pushing their agendas down our throats, and painting us evil if we disagree with any of their viewpoints.

        There is one other topic that highlights this: racism. The Constitution of the US says that I have the right to my beliefs. That's the way I read the First Amendment and its "establishment of religion" prohibition. If I want to be Jewish, I can be and the government can't stop me. But it means more than that too. If I want to hate Asians, the government can't stop that either. I don't have the right to attack them, but I have the right to hold a sign that says I don't like them. Basically, in today's culture, it would just show how ingnorant a person can be. If the city council passed a resolution not allowing signs with racist messages, I would sue them and win. And the ACLU would count it as a victory for the freedom of expression, even though it would also further the goals of racism.

        But many groups lately are forcing towns to not allow the Ku Klux Klan to hold parades. Or if the KKK does have a non-violent parade or rally, protestors show up to talk about the KKK's intolerance. It seems to start with a protest speech, then the crowd is led through anti-KKK chants, some insults are thrown around, and someone throws something at the KKK group. This of course sparks a fight, and the whole fiasco is played on the evening news.

        The irony of the situation is that the anti-KKK protestors claim to hate intolerance, in all of its forms. But they can't see that their position is the epitome of intolerance. They don't want a group to express its beliefs because they disagree with those beliefs. They aren't there to have a debate with the KKK, they are there to shut them up, even if it means causing a riot to do so. And for the record, I am not a member of the KKK or any racist group, nor do I know anyone who is, and my family includes people of European, African, and Asian blood.
        • And for the record, I am not a member of the KKK or any racist group, nor do I know anyone who is, and my family includes people of European, African, and Asian blood.
          And Hitler's grandfather was jewish.

          (Nazi laws defining "jewness" were carefully crafted so they would not include Jesus Christ nor der führer).

          • And Hitler was a member of a racist group. I am not. I'm not Catholic either, but I wouldn't protest a public Catholic Mass being held in Central Park. And since my family includes people of the Catholic faith, let me ask, was Hitler's other grandfather Catholic?

            You simply don't understand that your response is the exact intolerance I was pointing out, and the post I was responding to mentioned. You are trying to paint me as an evil racist, so that my opinion is rendered moot. You don't want to debate me, you only want to shut me up. You are the ignorant one in this example.
      • Re:The Masses (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Versa (252878)
        Not on a war footing? what world are you in? The president comes on the tv almost daily exclaiming how we "ARE AT WAR" and we are fighting the "war on terrrorism" and john ashcroft is saying how americans have to give up some liberties in these times of war. And Bush again stating "this may take a few years" We are most definitly on a war footing.
        What I and the ACLU and the rest are concerned about is this taking away of civil rights in the name of fighting the war on terrorism and the fact that the war on terrorism will NEVER END. There might always be some quck plotting revenge on america does that mean we should perpetually live in a state of fear and lessened civil rights? NO. John Ascroft seems to think otherwise though therein lies the debate (which should not even be a debate at all)

        Take a look at the book 1984 where rights of the people were forever taken away by the wool being pulled over the people's eyes by a fictional war that never ends. Sound anything like what is happening today? It should.
        • Take a look at the book 1984 where rights of the people were forever taken away by the wool being pulled over the people's eyes by a fictional war that never ends. Sound anything like what is happening today? It should.

          It would, except it's not exactly a fictional war.

          <conspiratorial>Of course, we would never know, would we?...</conspiratorial>

          And I don't know about that state-of-fear thing - I'm not exactly jumping at shadows yet, anyway. We've even got leaders of the country telling us to fly on planes. Gee - sounds like they want to frighten us to death, doesn't it?

          <conspiratorial>They just want us to keep the planes populated so the next planned attack will be sufficiently devastating...</conspiratorial>

          Looks like you've got the standard ACLU misrepresentations memorized. Got an idea for you: maybe things are exactly as they seem?
      • > My concern is tempered, somewhat, by the knowledge that similar fights have occurred every time this country has gone to war. We--and our rights--have survived more serious conflicts than this; we will survive this one too.

        As someone whose politics are somewhat right-of-center, thank you for saying this.

        I, too, have issues with some of what's going on, but the hyperbole issuing forth from ACLU, EFF, and the like, is just ridiculous. If I believed them, I'd be wearing tinfoil. Good grief.

        As for tribunals, I agree - and the UCMJ gives a defendant a hell of a lot more protection than our enemies gave us on 9/11.

        As for "roundups" and detainments, of the 5000 scheduled for interviews, they're all informed that participation is entirely voluntary. And of the 1000 detained, it's clearly disrupted the enemy's network of cells to the point that they've been unable to mount a sustained attack on us. Like it or not, it's worked. Proof that it's worked will be tonight, when nothing gets blown up in countless New Year's Eve celebrations around the Western world. (Yes, I'm posting this before midnight, and yes, I have put my money where my mouth is. :-)

        I also think you're onto something with your meta-analysis of EFF's "Aschroft's 76% support is a veneer" notion. To wit, you wrote:

        > My views aside, to suggest that this is a veneer is either to suggest that Gallup's methodology is flawed or people are outright lying to the pollsters.

        How about (c) all of the above?

        After all, if you were scared by the "phantoms of lost liberty" speech (that is, scared by radical civil libertarians taking your Attorney-General out-of-context), wouldn't you lie to the pollsters, too? I mean, suppose you swallow the ACLU bait, and let them you out of your wits. A week later, a complete stranger calls you up, claims to be from Gallup, and asks you questions about your politics. Given that it's a phone call, you're not sure if he's from the Gallup or the FBI. Unless you're a really dumb civil libertarian, how else would you answer?

        Finally, since I'm sure it'll be trotted out by someone in this thread, I'll address that Ben Franklin quote.

        For better or for worse, the people have chosen security over liberty. Sucks to be you. Deal. (Or do you somehow have such a monopoly over truth that you think your views should predominate, regardless of what the rest of the citizens have so clearly asked for?)

        • As for tribunals, I agree - and the UCMJ gives a defendant a hell of a lot more protection than our enemies gave us on 9/11.

          I don't care what crime person is ACCUSED of or what Nationality they are. If the person is in the United States (citzen or not)they are intitled to protection under the Constitution. If you want to give up your civil rights, thats fine by me, but I don't want to follow you down that hole.

        • Just a quick nitpick about your post:

          John Ascroft is not mine, not yours, not anyone else's Attorney General. He's the Attorney General of the United States which is an entity unto itself comprised of the body collective of the several states.

          On the same lines, George Bush is the President of the United States and commander-in-chief of the United States military which pretty much means that unless you're in uniform or work for the Federal Executive branch, he means precisely dick the the common citizen.

          Pet peeve #2:

          Liberty is defined in the constitution of this country. To live in the United States and be pro-security over liberty is in direct conflict with the founding document of what this country is about. If you, assuming you're American, say you love this country, it is your duty as a citizen to defend its liberty. Read the Constitution, as not in vogue as it seems to be now, good bad or otherwise, it's what defines our country. The people can choose bovine-sodomism as their political system but it's wrong under this constitution and fundimentally illegal. Majority only rules in voting, there are hard limits which cannot be crossed. Sucks to be you. Deal (It's what this country's about).
      • Re:The Masses (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cat_jesus (525334)
        We--and our rights--have survived more serious conflicts than this; we will survive this one too.
        But the problem here is that our apparent leaders have not been able to define the parameters of this war in any meaningful sense. How will we know when it is over if they cannot define it? For some reason I doubt they will tell us it's over if it is in their best interest for it to continue.

        Perhaps that is the point.

        Cat
    • I don't believe that most of the population is stupid. If I did, I would realize that our republic is doomed and that saying so on a public forum was a waste of time venting instead of going out and whooping it up in the final days before armageddon (or whatever the depressed/ing previous poster pictures coming to pass here). Fortunately, -most- people are rational self actualizers. I can count on them to persue their own self interest. And Freedom is the one thing that is in everyones self interest. Cally me Polly Anna, but our grand experiment ain't over yet.
  • Most of the topics he discusses have been covered in depth and ad nauseum here. Write your representatives to express your well-informed dissent, and encrypt everything to express your liberty.
  • Patriotic Article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alacqua (535697)
    Here's [mediaworkshop.org] a patriotic article about the topic to counter this drivel. It was originally at the onion [theonion.com] but it doesn't appear to be archived there.
    Note for the sarcastically challenged: read the link.
  • I'm talking with very little knowledge here, but I've got a gut feeling. As the situation for free speech and other civil liberties gets worse in the United States, it seems there's a counter-force occuring in other western countries.

    I believe (and indeed hope), that these people in Europe and elsewhere are understanding the situation in States and the things that lead to it. And thus make the necessary initiatives which guarantee that things will not go wrong in their own countries also. Sometimes we learn from good example, sometimes from bad example.

    Therefore, I believe the situation globally isn't worsening, but instead holds in a sort of status quo.

    Hopefully, after this situation is over, the politicians in the States will feel both the internal and external pressure to bring things back to a more international standard level.
    • by Weedstock (322410)

      has already worsened. The parliament enacted laws that allow police forces to arrest any person that may be related to terrorist activities without any legal mandate.

      Three of my friends have already been arrested. One of them was caught with a bag full of flour and was accused of possessing Anthrax powder. He has been in jail since the beginning of december and I don't know when he will be released.

      Both of the others were arrested because they wanted to organize a gathering in front of the Israel Embassie to protest against attacks in Palestine. Unfortunately, it seems that some people misunderstood them and they were accused of "Wanting to organize a riot". They have been in jail for 2 weeks and I don't know when I will hear from them.

      So, situation in Canada is now dangerously worsening and I think that we must wake (In USA and Canada) and protest against this step toward dictatorship.

      • While I despise Anne's bill as much as anyone, you are a stupid cunt. Nobody has been arrested, and the bill passed on 24 Dec Details here. [justice.gc.ca]If your friends have been arrested it was under existing legislation, weeks before c36 (By your own timeline), and I would suggest you rethink who your friends are.
  • by Bonker (243350) on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:21PM (#2768265)
    Just after 9-11, when the Patriot Act bill sailed through congress despite glaring problems, I wrote a letter to Larry Combest, my representitive, detailing what I thought the problems were with the act and my general displeasure with the erosion of civil liberties in the name of war.

    Now, the return letter was delayed until just a few days ago simply because congressmen couldn't use DC mail facilities because of the Anthrax scare (My letter was sent before the first anthrax case...), but in the form-letter reply, the congressman claims that he and his comrades are doing their best to balance civil liberties with the rigors of war.

    This should tell us a few things:

    Our congressmen have had the shit scared out of them. That a form letter directly addresses my complaints about the erosion of civil liberties means that I am one of many who has written in complaint. I live in a *very* conservative part of the country and Combest is a very typical representative of the luddite mindset around here. If he is admitting there is a problem, then you can bet that *every* congressman knows there is a problem wether he will admit it or not. They know that the people are upset and are making noise, and are in the process of trying to quiet that noise.

    There is already massive distrust in Washington for George Bush and John Aschroft-- at least toward their war-time policies. If people who are concerned about their rights being taken away continue to hound their congressmen about it, the problems do have a good chance of being addressed rather than being ignored.

    Remember that a lot of your congressmen are simply scared, afraid to go against the flow because of the reprecussions. If you show them (with massive amounts of mail) that you want positive change rather than negative change, it might strengthen their spirits a little.

    The best part of this is that most congresspeople now prefer email to snail mail because there is no chance of contracting anthrax from Outlook. Of course they could always get Nimda, but I'll give my congressman the benifit of the doubt and assume he patches.
    • by clark625 (308380) <clark625NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday December 31, 2001 @02:51PM (#2768352) Homepage

      Form letter responses don't mean anything. You can believe that it means a lot of people have been complaining, but the reality is that some intern probably read your letter and then picked the form letter that fit best to your plea. It often is rare for a congressperson to reply individually to a request.

      I wrote to my congresswoman about a year ago regarding the DMCA. To my surprise, I didn't receive a form letter (regardless of who actually wrote it), and it did have her signature. My guess, though, is that she wrote it herself by the way things were worded (I had spoken to her in person a couple of times prior).

      My guess is that your congressman was just trying to blow you off. What does he care, if as you say he's in a conservative district and very likely the best way to get re-elected is to be a prick to civil liberty nuts? He can't just not respond--that's rude and that will get him in trouble with his constituents. Instead, a form letter at least gives you some feeling that he "cares" about your views.

      If you really want to get an honest response from a congressperson, I have a few tips. I'm certain that you followed a few of these, but other readers might enjoyt them as well. First, actually type your letter, and sign it in BLUE ink so that it shows you took the time to write a personal letter. Second, always say that you voted for the individual; and that for the most part you are happy with his/her performance (no one wants to read a hate-letter from some right or left wing zealot). Third, say that you understand that the life of a congressperson is not easy; and that often it is difficult to know everything there is to know about every single issue that Congress will take up. Some people feel that their representatives need to be god-like in their knowledge; but reading mountains of paper and trying to create your own legislation at the same time is darn near impossible. Lastly, bring your concerns up with regard to a SINGLE issue. Explain your reasons in as much detail as possible (without taking up several pages), and never resort to "dirty politics" by threats or other nasties. Congresspersons love to write people off as nuts when 95% of their incomming mail is hate mail from the 5% of their constituents that are loud and obnoxious.

      • If I may ask, who was the congresswoman you wrote to?

        A few months back I wrote to Senator Maria Cantwell (she's a democrat from Washington State, where I live) as part of an English assignment. I wrote about those silly export laws that restrict companies from exporting computers over a certain MTOP (Measured(?) Theoretical Operations per second) limit. I said they were counterproductive and needed to be repealed. To my surprise, a few months later I got a letter back saying she agreed with my point of view and was sponsoring a bill that would help address the problem.

        I don't know if she or an aide actually did the writing, but I was impressed that she'd actually heard of the problem.
        • The congresswoman I wrote to was Deborah Pryce, a Republican from the 15th district of Ohio. It's just to the west of Columbus, Ohio (I live in the suburbs). She's a very nice lady, and really does a remarkable job in my opinion. She's also the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House currently, too. I'm not sure that gives her a huge amount of power... but she does seem to carry more weight than some of the other congresspersons.

      • So, clark625 sez:

        "If you really want to get an honest response from a congressperson, I have a few tips. I'm certain that you followed a few of these, but other readers might enjoyt them as well. First, actually type your letter, and sign it in BLUE ink so that it shows you took the time to write a personal letter. Second, always say that you voted for the individual; and that for the most part you are happy with his/her performance (no one wants to read a hate-letter from some right or left wing zealot). Third, say that you understand that the life of a congressperson is not easy; and that often it is difficult to know everything there is to know about every single issue that Congress will take up. Some people feel that their representatives need to be god-like in their knowledge; but reading mountains of paper and trying to create your own legislation at the same time is darn near impossible. Lastly, bring your concerns up with regard to a SINGLE issue. Explain your reasons in as much detail as possible (without taking up several pages), and never resort to "dirty politics" by threats or other nasties. Congresspersons love to write people off as nuts when 95% of their incomming mail is hate mail from the 5% of their constituents that are loud and obnoxious."

        Here! Here!

        I quite concur.

        The office of every Senator and Representative have a formula they use, regarding mail.

        This formula is based upon the population of the state (Senators) or the population of the Representative's district.

        Simply put, each handwritten (includes typed and printer output) unique (preprinted form letters/postcards are pretty much ignored) letter represents the thoughts/opinions of X thousands of people in the state/district. In some cases, this number is in the tens of thousands.

        Writing to your Senators and Representative is easy. One or two pages a month. Share your thoughts and opinions. Explain why DMCA is a bad idea. Explain why you feel that these new laws diminishing civil rights are wrong and dangerous.

        Be friendly and sincere. Ask the Senators and Representitive to contact you if they want to know more. Become a resorce for the Hired Help in D.C.

        Register to vote and then vote.

        If all the Hired Help hears and knows comes from lobbyists, the White House and the Justice Department, then don't be greatly surprised when they seem to do the bidding of the lobbyists, the White House and the Justice Department.

        It's called participatory and representative government for a reason.
    • I wish. Right after the sept 11th I sent a letter to every state rep/senator I could in my state about NOT passing the anti-patriot bill. I received a single reply 2 weeks ago from one of them. A form letter apologizing for not being able to read my letter due to the anthrax scare. At the end of the letter it said, but don't worry, we succefully passed the anti-terrorist patriot act. And we're trying to do more.

      Nothing like that to piss me off and show me the futility of even trying to do thing according to the law. The normal way doesn't get stuff done. Maybe if some nut climbs the bell tower with a gun or something they might take notice, but I doubt it.
    • You know what pissed me off about the whole anthrax thing? The house of reps and the senate both went running off and hid like scared little girls, but they made the postal workers go to work. If that isn't a great example of the little guy getting screwed, I don't know what is.

  • I can't belive that people will post complaining about the ACLU becase of who it has represented ... guess what - freedom needs to apply to everyone - even people you don't like (otherwise we wouldn't really need it...)
    • There are many causes which the ACLU has represented that I have disagreed with their stance. On the other hand, there are many that I have agreed with. The one thing I have always agreed with is their right to exist. While I may have not always believed that organizations such as the ACLU, EFF, and EPIC were necessary, with the passage of the Patriot Act, I certainly believe that not. Please support them generously.
      • Re:Everyone (Score:1, Informative)

        Speaking of the USA PATRIOT Act, here's a quote from Rep. Ron Paul (R) on the act:

        "It's my understanding the bill wasn't printed before the vote -- at least I couldn't get it. They played all kinds of games, kept the House in session all night, and it was a very complicated bill. Maybe a handful of staffers actually read it, but the bill definitely was not available to members before the vote."

        Read this [insightmag.com] and you should be outraged enough to donate to the organizations that are fighting for your civil liberties and start corresponding with your elected offials.
  • by Tsar (536185) on Monday December 31, 2001 @03:21PM (#2768481) Homepage Journal
    There is, of course, more than one side to this issue.

    On one hand, American cultural mores dictate at least an appearance of privacy and security in one's person and one's papers. In many ways, Americans define themselves by the degree of privacy that they have been able to acquire.

    On the other hand, we expect our government to protect us from attack and wrongful injury. We expect it to be proactive in discovering and analyzing any threats to its citizens, and become irate when it is unable to predict such a threat, even when such a prediction would have required violations of privacy.

    On the gripping hand, though, analyses that would bear useful results in most times might not do so now. We are in the cusp of a sea change from a peacetime to a wartime footing. We look at war-based policy changes through a peace-shaped perspective.

    There are a couple of old definitions that come to mind:
    • Conservative: A liberal who has been mugged.
    • Liberal: A conservative who has been arrested.
    How would we now define a Post-9/11 American? How will our existing knowledge that we can be die anytime, anywhere—coupled with the new awareness that a small but significant fraction of the world's population is willing (and increasingly able) to do make that happen—affect our perception of civil rights issues? I would predict that a shift of equilibrium is occurring, and it'll take another couple of years before the new balance point is reached. It will be interesting then to look back on Your Rights Online posts [slashdot.org] from this period and see how drastically our own positions have been altered by time and events.

    Of course, some believe that the government sees the situation as simply an opportunity to curb civil rights (some even think they orchestrated the whole thing [google.com]). Personally, I think most people just want as much information as they can get, that can possibly let them achieve their goals more effectively. That goes for everyone from DIRNSA to my network administrator. Heck, even the Slashdot editors can read the IP's of anonymous posters [slashdot.org].

    My theory is this:
    1. Privacy will continue to erode.
    2. The more we grouse about privacy, the more secretive the 'eroders' will be.
    3. The best we can hope for is a future where monitoring is directly observable, so surveillance will come at some cost to the perpetrator.
    This must be a hot topic, as it's the second time today [slashdot.org] that I've commented on it, and I don't have that much free time today.
    • > I would predict that a shift of equilibrium is occurring, and it'll take another couple of years before the new balance point is reached. It will be interesting then to look back on Your Rights Online posts [slashdot.org] from this period and see how drastically our own positions have been altered by time and events.

      Agreed.

      When a man is out to kill you, there's only one way to protect yourself. Kill him first. There are thousands of fanatics lined up, ready to die, so long as they can see to it that they kill tens of thousands of us in the process. The only thing that's stopped them until now was several thousand miles of water. Now they've learned how to travel.

      It's been a rude awakening for most of us, myself included. Over the past few months, I've come to realize that EFF was more interested in protecting spammers (Intel) and terrorists (as per this article) than protecting me.

      So I stopped supporting them financially and sent the money to the Free Software Foundation instead. They care just as fervently about fair use and the ability to use the software of your choosing, and more importantly, are doing something about it. They produce code, not lawsuits. And I sleep better at night.

    • Well, my positions havn't changed one bit. It just goes to show how ignorant the American people are to what their government is doing, to be shocked at something like 9/11.

      Sure, it's a sad loss, but no surprise, at least to me.
  • Where's the meat? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112)
    As someone who has occassionally carried an ACLU card, my reaction to this sort of fluff is to continue to put off rejoining. Vacuous political correctness has become confused with the defense of true liberty. True liberty means that the KKK can march in Indiana, but also means that the police should pay special attention to white guys wearing sheets after there's been a church burning or lynching. True liberty means professors are welcome to make silly "We must understand why they hate us" speaches, but it also means the feds should pay special attention to Muslim males of extremist persuasion - especially those on overstayed visas - after the WTC.

    All the fund raising mailings I've received from the ACLU in the last five years are cliched and without the sort of substance whose bedrock is documented events. If our liberties are at threat - and I'm quite ready to believe they are - this is not the way to present an effective defense. Rather than preach to the converted, civil liberties leaders need to convert those who believe they believe in liberty, but don't see the contradiction in support our current leaders, who mention 'defense of freedom' in every other breath.

    That's hard work, but it's real work. By contrast, this jerk, in this interview, is just playing a part from central casting. A fun job if you can get it, but I'm not about to pay him for this sorry performance through donation, time, or even lip service.
  • While I agree that it is vitial that people contact their representatives with their concerns and support organizations like the ACLU [aclu.org] and the EFF [eff.org], another thing you can do to defy mass survailance efforts like Carnivore is to use encryption whenever possible online. I'm sure there are other /.ers out there who know a lot more about the subject (please speak up!), but I wanted to add what information I can for those who might not already know. Here are a few suggestions of ways I know to use encryption:

    • Email
    • You can encrypt your email communications with others who are also willing to get the right tools. Probably the easies tool is PGP [mit.edu] (there's also an international page [pgpi.org]), or for the free software crowd GPG [gnupg.org]. PGP makes this pretty easy to use under windows with almost any program with its encrypt clipboard contents feature, but there are also plugins for verious email programs.

    • Terminal Sessions/Telent
    • Most people probably know about it, but there's ssh [ssh.com], openssh [openssh.com], and if you're using Windows check out Tera Term [vector.co.jp] and its ssh extension [zip.com.au].

    • Instant Messaging
    • My appologies to the *nix crowd, but I don't yet know much about instant messaging on those platforms (soon); however, if you use windows I have seen several instant messaging clients that support encrypted chatting. I suggest Trillian [trillian.cc], which is awsome anyway, free, and has encryption features. As far as *nix goes, I'd check out the big ones (e.g. Jabber) and if it isn't in there by default, look for plugins.

    This certainly doesn't solve all the problems. The biggest is web browsing. You can use anonymous web browsing tools such as Anonymizer [anonymizer.com], but that is admittedly kind of a pain. I don't have any good suggestions there. I'd be interested in any other ways others have found to incorperate encryption into their online communications.

  • IMHO,The most important change in the last months has not been summary detentions based on ethnicity,but the establishment of Secret Military Tribunals to try Foreign nationals without a right to appeal,to examine evidence against them,the right to counsel .

    From a moral viewpoint,its nauseating,while the Taliban were a bunch of fundies,to expect any sort of Human behaviour from them is a fantasy, the premier democracy in the world,founded on the principal of individual rights and human dignity has taken this very very retrograde step.I mean if they are going to put a bullet in someone's brains what distinguishes them from the taliban & company????

    From a practical point of view,remember what can be misused will be,after all Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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