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June 27, 2008

Scott Bateman on Obama and FISA [2:41 am]

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June 26, 2008

A Damning FISA Summation & Supreme Court Follies [1:46 pm]

Why the new wiretapping law is a lot worse than you think

Whatever Hoyer and Pelosi—and even Obama—say, this amounts to a retroactive blessing of the illegal program, and historically it means that the country will probably be deprived of any rigorous assessment of what precisely the administration did between 2001 and 2007. No judge will have an opportunity to call the president’s willful violation of a federal statute a crime, and no landmark ruling by the courts can serve as a warning for future generations about government excesses in dangerous times. What’s more, because the proposal so completely plays into the Bush conception of executive power, it renders meaningless any of its own provisions. After all, if the main lesson of the wiretapping scandal is that we need more surveillance power for the government, what is to stop President Bush—or President Obama or President McCain—from one day choosing to set this new law aside, too? “How will we be judged?” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., asked in a stirring speech deploring the legislation yesterday. “The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men?”

Sadly, the Democratic Congress and its presumptive nominee for President has answered — and it’s the same one this Administration has been giving since 9/11.

Of course, now that everyone in DC is going to be packing heat, there may not *be* a government by November. And Dahlia Lithwick passes along the obvious question about the decision:

I am reading the decision in Heller as fast as I can and will post my thoughts as soon as possible. The headline is that the court decided 5-4 (no mushy plurality here) that the D.C. handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement violate the individual right to bear arms as protected under the Second Amendment. But I must first pass along this rather brilliant observation from professor Stephen Wermiel from American University, who wonders why none of the dissenters cautioned the majority that today’s decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” (Boumediene, Scalia, J. dissenting.)

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A Little Blowback [3:52 am]

But, given this Congress, I doubt anything will come of it: Laptop Searches in Airports Draw Fire at Senate Hearing

“If you asked most Americans whether the government has the right to look through their luggage for contraband when they are returning from an overseas trip, they would tell you ‘yes, the government has that right,’ ” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday at the hearing of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

“But,” Mr. Feingold continued, “if you asked them whether the government has a right to open their laptops, read their documents and e-mails, look at their photographs and examine the Web sites they have visited, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing, I think those same Americans would say that the government absolutely has no right to do that.”

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Customs and Border Protection agency could conduct searches without reasonable suspicion.

Covered on Furdlog earlier, but I have class now, so I’ll add the link later (from 2008 April 21 and 2008 Jan 23)

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: Laptop Searches and Other Violations of Privacy Faced by Americans Returning from Overseas Travel

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Tom the Dancing Bug on Boumedeine [2:30 am]

An episode of Judge Scalia’s Constitution Comics from Tom the Dancing Bug. The text of the last panel:

NEXT: In this time of war, should five loony liberal judges retain their “right” to out-vote Judge Scalia?

Alsp, Christopher Dodd’s speech on the FISA amendments, via Glenn Greenwald’s latest post, including updates on Obama’s continued craven support of this tragic legislation.

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June 24, 2008

How To Get Privacy Legislation [12:49 am]

Use search data to upset the right constituency. In the early days of the nuclear business, there was something called “tickling the dragon’s tail.” Google may have found that the right kind of subpoena can be a modern equivalent: What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer

That is often a tricky question because there is no simple, concrete way to gauge a community’s tastes and values.

The Internet may be changing that. In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

Later: William Saletan’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Orgy: Sexual Hypocrisy and the Internet is interesting, but I think he unsteates the fact that, in the absence of good data, any data (or, for that matter, anything that merely looks like data) may be seized upon as meaningful - possibly the entire explanation for internet advertising, in fact.

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June 21, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on Obama Worship [6:33 pm]

Obama’s support for the FISA “compromise”

In the past 24 hours, specifically beginning with the moment Barack Obama announced that he now supports the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer House bill, there have magically arisen — in places where one would never have expected to find them — all sorts of claims about why this FISA “compromise” isn’t really so bad after all. People who spent the week railing against Steny Hoyer as an evil, craven enabler of the Bush administration — or who spent the last several months identically railing against Jay Rockefeller — suddenly changed their minds completely when Barack Obama announced that he would do the same thing as they did. What had been a vicious assault on our Constitution, and corrupt complicity to conceal Bush lawbreaking, magically and instantaneously transformed into a perfectly understandable position, even a shrewd and commendable decision, that we should not only accept, but be grateful for as undertaken by Obama for our Own Good.

Hell no! Greenwald’s got lots of links to other commentary on this shameful cave-in by the presumptive Democratic nominee. “Change,” indeed.

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June 20, 2008

Dahlia Lithwick Raises A Question Bigger Than Torture [9:12 am]

Substitute “Constitution” for “anti-torture policy” in the second excerpted paragraph below and note the even greater aptness of the question she poses: Authorizing torture with the very best of intentions

If we manage to erase one hideously bad idea from our collective memories of the law in the war on terror, please, please let it be this one: Legal questions are neither “hard,” nor “novel,” nor “open” merely because someone at the White House didn’t like the legal answer that followed them. Easy questions don’t morph into tough ones just because you can find some guy willing to argue the other side. And if—as both Sands and Lederman have observed—Haynes and his colleagues shut down efforts by Jane Dalton, the legal adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to review the techniques, then we truly are witnessing something astonishing: Haynes turned an easy legal question into a hard one by avoiding it altogether.

Which brings us back to Attorney General Mukasey, the editors at the Wall Street Journal, and Jim Haynes. Is it enough to say in hindsight that the men who knowingly gutted the American anti-torture policy were genuinely terrified of the next attack, genuinely bending to intense White House pressure, or genuinely behaving in “good faith?” I suspect they were genuinely all of the above. Are we prepared to commit ourselves to a legal regime—particularly in times of great national fear and uncertainty—in which the good faith of those who act, and act in secret, is all that matters?

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An Experiment [9:01 am]

The e-Book Test: Do Electronic Versions Deter Piracy

[M]my own publisher, O’Reilly, is about to offer a bunch of its bestsellers for sale on the Amazon Kindle.

Early next month, the company will also start selling electronic versions of certain books with no copy protection. For a single price (cheaper than the printed-book price), the package will include the book in three formats: PDF, Mobipub (compatible with the Amazon Kindle), and Epub (soon to be compatible with the Sony Reader).

Anyway, I’ve agreed to try an experiment involving one of my books (”Windows Vista: The Missing Manual”): to offer it as part of that buy-the-electronic-versions program.

[...] I’m encouraging O’Reilly to adopt some antipiracy steps [...] [t]hat might deter people from posting their copies online for all to download.

This is not, of course, quite what Kevin Kelly is proposing; I’m not offering the book for free. But at least I’m defusing the argument that says, “The only reason people are pirating your books is that you’re not offering e-versions for legitimate sale.”

Now, all kinds of factors affect a book’s sales over time: the seasons, the economy, the popularity of the topic, the age of the book and so on. Even my mentioning this experiment here may skew the results. As I wrote originally, there’s no way to conduct a perfect sales-comparison without creating a parallel universe. So I’m not sure how conclusive the results will be.

Even so, I’ll report back to you in a few months. [...]

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Ramming HR 6304 Through [8:48 am]

The power of process — although the Thomas summary of HR 6304 looks typically benign (referred to Committee, etc.) a look at the related HR 1285 shows what’s really going on:

6/19/2008 5:35pm:
The House Committee on Rules reported an original measure, H. Rept. 110-721, by Mr. Arcuri.

6/19/2008 5:35pm:
All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI.

6/19/2008 5:37pm:
Placed on the House Calendar, Calendar No. 240.

And HR 110-721?

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS OF THE RESOLUTION

The resolution provides for consideration of H.R. 6304, the `FISA Amendments Act of 2008,’ under a closed rule. The resolution provides for one hour of debate equally divided among and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary and the chairman and ranking minority member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The resolution waives all points of order against consideration of the bill except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. The resolution provides that the bill shall be considered as read. The resolution waives all points of order against provisions of the bill. The resolution provides one motion to recommit with or without instructions. Finally, the resolution permits the Chair, during consideration of the bill, to postpone further consideration of it to a time designated by the Speaker.

Note that clauses 9 & 10 are about the outcome of conferences, and whether one can contest “germane” amendments from conferences — hardly going to be effective since, of course, the bill hasn’t even been approved by either house of Congress. So, no points of order at all.

Also, the NYTimes’ Congress Strikes Deal to Overhaul Wiretap Law.

The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute.

“I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get,” said Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, who led the negotiations.

The White House immediately endorsed the proposal, which is likely to be voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate next week.

While passage seems almost certain in Congress, the plan will nonetheless face opposition from lawmakers on both political wings, with conservatives asserting that it includes too many checks on government surveillance powers and liberals asserting that it gives legal sanction to a wiretapping program that they maintain was illegal in the first place.

Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who pushed unsuccessfully for more civil liberties safeguards in the plan, called the deal “a capitulation” by his fellow Democrats.

[...] The arcane details of the proposal amount to a major overhaul of the landmark surveillance law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in 1978 after the abuses of the Watergate era. But much of the debate over the bill in the last six months has been dominated by the separate question of whether to protect the phone companies from legal liability for their role in the eavesdropping program.

On that score, the bipartisan proposal marks a clear victory for the White House and the phone companies.

The proposal allows a district judge to examine what are believed to be dozens of written directives given by the Bush administration to the phone companies after the Sept. 11 attacks authorizing them to engage in wiretapping without warrants. If the court finds that such directives were in fact provided to the companies that are being sued, any lawsuits “shall be promptly dismissed,” the proposal says.

Even Democratic officials, who had initially opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies, conceded there was a high likelihood that the lawsuits would have to be dismissed under the standards set out in the proposal. That possibility infuriated civil liberties groups, which said the cursory review by a district judge would amount to the de facto death of the lawsuits.

“No matter how they spin it, this is still immunity,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a pro-privacy group that is a plaintiff suing over the wiretapping program. “It’s not compromise; it’s pure theater.”

See What Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Fred Hiatt mean by “bipartisanship”

Later: O-M-G — Obama says he supports FISA compromise — right now, it’s going to be a tough Election Day - *this* is the candidate for “change?”

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June 19, 2008

Privacy Decision from the 9th Circuit [10:17 am]

Your boss shouldnt read your text or e-mail messages without an OK, court says - pdf

A federal appeals court Wednesday sharply limited the ability of employers to obtain e-mails and text messages sent by employees on company-financed accounts.

The text message portion of the ruling, issued by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, will affect all employers who contract with an outside provider for messaging, as most do. Access to e-mail would be barred if the employer contracts out its e-mail service rather than maintaining an internal server to handle it.

A majority of companies keep employee e-mail on their servers, analysts said. [...]

The ruling also gives all government workers 4th Amendment protection against searches of text and e-mail communications by their bosses, lawyers said.

“This ruling is a tremendous victory for your online privacy, helping ensure that the 4th Amendment applies to your communications online just as strongly as it does to your letters and packages,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates civil liberties in the digital world, said in an online posting.

The opinion: QUON V. ARCH WIRELESS, INC. (local copy)

Appellants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment on their Fourth Amendment claim against the City, the Department, and Scharf, and on their California constitutional privacy claim against the City, the Department, Scharf, and Glenn. Specifically, Appellants agree with the district court’s conclusion that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the text messages. However, they argue that the issue regarding Chief Scharf’s intent in authorizing the search never should have gone to trial because the search was unreasonable as a matter of law. We agree.

Slate/Volokh posting — Ninth Circuit Finds Fourth Amendment Protection In Text Messages

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Strange Bedfellows [7:49 am]

Because this blog is hosted at MIT, I really can’t join the blogroll, but I gave them money, and I urge you to consider it.


Also see Glenn Greenwald make excuses for Obama’s apparent unwillingness to get behind this: Obama, telecoms and the Beltway system.

BTW, here’s Reuters’ presentation of the spin that’s going to be placed on this shameful bill: Courts to review phone co. suits under spy bill (pdf)

Under the bipartisan legislation, a court could dismiss a suit if there is written certification that the White House asked a phone company to participate in a warrantless surveillance program President George W. Bush began shortly after the September 11 attacks, the congressional sources said.

Hah! Shoot the trial balloon down now!!

Later: more from Glenn Greenwald - George Bush’s latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress; and from the House Majority leader’s website, the current draft legislation (H.R. 6304) (local copy)

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June 18, 2008

Stirring the Pot [2:58 pm]

Not that it’s news, but it’s interesting to see it all put together like this: Digital TV foreshadows erosion of Internet rights

[...] The entertainment lobby (my shorthand to avoid spewing the alphabet soup of movie, TV, and music trade groups), having failed to get the feds to impose a tax on videotapes and recordable discs, or to hold Internet providers liable for copyrighted content transferred through their networks, or (so far) to add a piracy tax to every broadband user’s monthly bill, is using the most powerful weapon yet devised: “Standards.”

I put that in quotes to differentiate it from true standards. Analog television, for example, works because standards and regulations ensure the interoperation of transmitters and receivers. These standards take the public good into account. The move toward digital television, which will be complete in February 2009, is attended by standards and regulations constructed to ensure interoperability and to guard the public good as well. No broadcaster can arrange that a digital TV signal require a non-standard receiver, for example, one that bills your credit card every time you watch a popular show on an over-the-air (OTA) digital channel. As a matter of practice, most cable companies pass local broadcasters’ HD channels to their basic cable subscribers.

The very characteristic that makes digital TV look so good is the one that makes it so vulnerable to restriction and manipulation: A TV broadcast is no longer a signal, it’s a bitstream, one that has far fewer points of origination than the Internet and is therefore easier to control. Digital TV is rapidly heading for precisely the sort of lockdown that entertainment and broadcast lobbies desire for the Internet, and to the extent that they can be used as video players and recorders, our PCs, Macs, and notebooks.

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NYTimes Editorial On Current FISA Shenanigans [11:40 am]

With a challenge to the apparent Democratic nominee: Mr. Bush v. the Bill of Rights

In the waning months of his tenure, President Bush and his allies are once again trying to scare Congress into expanding the president’s powers to spy on Americans without a court order.

[...] Lawsuits against those companies are the best hope of finding out the extent of Mr. Bush’s lawless spying. But Democratic leaders in Congress are reported to have agreed to a phony compromise drafted by Senator Christopher Bond, the Republican vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

Under the so-called compromise, the question of immunity would be decided by a federal district court — a concession by Mr. Bond, who originally wanted the FISA court, which meets in secret and is unsuited to the task, to decide. What is unacceptable, though, is that the district court would be instructed to decide based solely on whether the Bush administration certifies that the companies were told the spying was legal. If the aim is to allow a court hearing on the president’s spying, the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed — and the courts should be able to resolve them the way they resolve every other case. Republicans, who complain about judges making laws from the bench, should not be making judicial decisions from Capitol Hill.

[...] There are clear differences between the candidates. Senator John McCain, who is sounding more like Mr. Bush every day, believes the president has the power to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant.

Senator Barack Obama opposes immunity and voted against the temporary expansion of FISA. We hope he will show strong leadership this time. He might even take time off from the campaign to vote against the disturbing deal brewing in the back rooms of Congress.

I know what I hope will happen, but I also know what I expect will happen, and they aren’t the same thing. I seriously doubt that Obama, despite being essentially the leader of the Democratic Party, is going to expend political capital on this — and that failure is going to make it difficult to believe that there really is any difference between those who push poor policies and those who bemoan poor policy but are complicit in its passage and implementation anyway. In fact, only one of these is actually an honest approach, and that’s going to be increasingly problematic for the Democratic Party if they don’t get out of this pattern.

See earlier post. Also Targeting Steny Hoyer for his contempt for the rule of law; also Comcast’s efforts to protect members of Congress who, in turn, protect Comcast

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The Internet and Innovation [8:04 am]

Sex Trade Monitors a Key Figure’s Woes

Books have Amazon, and classified advertisements have Craigslist. Prostitutes have The Erotic Review.

In a little-known success story, TheEroticReview.com has come to dominate the country’s prostitution scene, which is increasingly migrating from the street corner to the Internet.

But now the site’s founder, David Elms, is in jail awaiting trial in Los Angeles in a case unrelated to the site, leaving the fate of his influential underground world uncertain. In dozens of conversations and in postings on the Internet in recent weeks, prostitutes have expressed concern that if The Erotic Review goes offline it could hurt business. But in the same breath, many are rejoicing about the potential downfall of Mr. Elms.

[...] The Web site, which is still in operation, allows visitors to rank their experiences with prostitutes on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as to leave comments. It gets 500,000 to 1 million unique visitors each month, according to companies that track Web traffic.

“He is the most influential man in the prostitution business in America,” said Jason Itzler, the former head of NY Confidential, an escort ring. Mr. Itzler was released from prison last year after serving 30 months for the attempted promotion of prostitution.

See also Amazon.com for prostitutes (a metaphor that I’m sure Jeff Bezos is not thrilled with)

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A Familiar Name In A Familiar Context [8:01 am]

Who’s surprised that PSU’s MP3 watchdog president. Graham Spanier, has a new mission: The Pentagon Enlists Social Scientists to Study Security Issues

Eager to embrace eggheads and ideas, the Pentagon has started an ambitious and unusual program to recruit social scientists and direct the nation’s brainpower to combating security threats like the Chinese military, Iraq, terrorism and religious fundamentalism.

[...] Although the Pentagon regularly finances science and engineering research, systematic support for the social sciences and humanities has been rare. Minerva is the first systematic effort in this area since the Vietnam War, said Thomas G. Mahnken, deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning, whose office will be overseeing the project.

But if the uncustomary push to engage the nation’s evolutionary psychologists, demographers, sociologists, historians and anthropologists in security research — as well as the prospect of new financial support in lean times — has generated excitement among some scholars, it has also aroused opposition from others, who worry that the Defense Department and the academy are getting too cozy.

[...] “I am all in favor of having lots of researchers trying to figure out why terrorists want to kill Americans,” said Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at George Mason University. “But how can you make sure you get a broad spectrum of opinion and find the best people? On both counts, I don’t think the Pentagon is the way to go.”

[...] In January Mr. Berdahl and a small group of senior scholars and university administrators met in Washington with Defense Department officials. Also there was Graham Spanier, the president of Penn State University and the association’s chairman. He said the scholars helped refine the guidelines, advising that the research be open and unclassified.

As for the issue of Pentagon financing, Mr. Spanier said, “Peer review is a good idea, but there are many different ways to do that.” He added, “We have pledged to go back and recommend individuals who could help in that process.”

“The beauty of Minerva,” Mr. Spanier said, “is that it provides a lot of opportunity for people in the social sciences and humanities to solve national-security-related questions.”

[...] To Mr. Spanier of Penn State, the answer to scholars who oppose Pentagon financing is simple: “Those who don’t want to do their research in the context of Department of Defense funding shouldn’t apply.”

Much later: the death of Paula Lloyd — Anthropologist’s war death reverberates (pdf)

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June 16, 2008

Augh! [6:24 pm]

I was hoping that Glenn Greenwald was getting bad information over the weekend, but it looks like, once again, the Congressional Democrats have no spine when it comes to FISA-overreaching by this Administration> Apparently, telcom company amnesty is now going to be given on a showing that the President said that what he asked them to do was legal: Congress Nears Deal on Surveillance Bill.

Just think of the precedent — whatever the President says is legal *is* legal? The end of a government of laws, not men, apparently.

See also Steny Hoyer’s Offices Lied to Me Today.

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Whew - Thank Goodness for WIPO [11:12 am]

I mean, no telling what a 10 year old Scot might do to besmirch C. S. Lewis’ IP: Scots family embroiled in Narnia Internet dispute (pdf)

A Scottish family have become embroiled in an intellectual property dispute with the estate of the author C.S. Lewis after buying a Narnia Internet domain name for their 10-year-old son as a birthday present.

Richard and Gillian Saville-Smith, who live in Edinburgh, paid 70 pounds ($140) to purchase the domain name Narnia.mobi from the internet registration company Fasthosts in 2006 so their son could have it as an email address.

They were asked to return the domain name to the C.S. Lewis company, owner of the author’s estate, but refused. The family then received a 128-page legal complaint filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Switzerland.

Sadly, the article even includes famous last words in these sorts of disputes:

“If the WIPO decides in favor of the C.S. Lewis estate, that would be the end of it for us. However, I don’t expect they will, because their case is flimsy and we’ve done nothing wrong.”

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OT: Thinking and Connectedness [7:17 am]

In Praise of Being Cut Off

We were comfortable enough at the Commodore. You got used to the shelling. Some Beirut kids, it was said, could not sleep without the sounds of war because that was all they had known.

It was good to be cut off. As a journalist, that’s what you wanted to be: cut off, except for that telex line.

I became a journalist because I wanted to tell stories. To find stories you must give yourself to the moment. Time must weigh on you, its lulls, accelerations and silences. The life within, the deeper story, does not yield itself with ease.

[...] I worry about stories dying, replaced by stuff. Content for platforms does not a story make. Today, you arrive anywhere and surf the Net. Being “always on” is being always off, to something.

Related: In a Changing World of News, an Elegy for Copy Editors (pdf)

The copy editor’s job, to the extent possible under deadline, is to slow down, think things through, do the math and ask the irritating question. His or her main creative outlet, writing clever headlines, is problematic online, because allusive wordplay doesn’t necessarily generate Google hits. And Google makes everyone an expert, so the aging copy editor’s trivia-packed brain and synonym collection seem not to count for as much anymore.

The job hasn’t disappeared yet, but it is swiftly evolving, away from an emphasis on style and consistency, from making a physical object perfect the first time. The path to excellence is now through speed, agility and creativity in using multiple expressive outlets for information in all its shapes and sounds.

As newspapers lose money and readers, they have been shedding great swaths of expensive expertise. They have been forced to shrink or eliminate the multiply redundant levels of editing that distinguish their kind of journalism from what you find on TV, radio and much of the Web. Copy editors are being bought out or forced out; they are dying and not being replaced.

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Exercising Market Power [7:10 am]

Hey, Wal-mart does it — the myriad opportunities of technological mediation and careful design: Small Publishers Feel Power of Amazon’s ‘Buy’ Button

Amazon, the online retailing giant with a fast-rising share of the consumer book market, has adopted the literary equivalent of a nuclear option for rebellious publishers who balk at its demands.

[...] “The buy button is their weapon of choice and that’s how they impose market discipline,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, an American trade group that also briefly lost the buy icon, for titles sold from BackinPrint.com, a print-on-demand service for infrequently purchased works. “This is such a clear indication that once they have the clout they are willing to use it to the full extent that they can. It’s ugly with Amazon and will probably get uglier.”

Amazon is saying little about its tactics. But bloggers have been organizing letter-writing campaigns and petition drives accusing Amazon, which bills itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” of transforming itself into the bully of the publishing industry.

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MySpace and Advertising [7:01 am]

Some work for News Corp ahead, and we’ve already seen some of their ideas: MySpace Might Have Friends, but It Wants Ad Money

In the fiscal year that ends in two weeks, the News Corporation unit that encompasses MySpace will miss its $1 billion revenue target. When the News Corporation announced the projected shortfall in April, several analysts downgraded the company, sending shares down 5 percent.

With an eye toward monetization, MySpace is being redesigned beginning Wednesday with a new home page, which will be less cluttered and more hospitable to advertising. (The home page will also feature a “splash page” for an ad about the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.”) The redesign, to be done by early fall, will include a new navigation bar, search tool and video player.

The redesign is intended to address a problem of social networking sites, which is that many user pages have the aesthetic appeal of a 14-year-old’s high-school locker. But there are still many questions left about the advertising value of social networks.

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