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9 August 2005

Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage so we grabbed theirs

A story about perusing your rubbish. Residents of Portland, Oregon discovered recently that the contents of their trash was not protected once it is "put out".
The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office doesn't think so. Prosecutor Mark McDonnell says that once you set your garbage out on the curb, it becomes public property.

"She placed her garbage can out in the open, open to public view, in the public right of way," McDonnell told Judge Jean Kerr Maurer earlier this month. "There were no signs on the garbage, 'Do not open. Do not trespass.' There was every indication...she had relinquished her privacy, possessory interest."

Police Chief Mark Kroeker echoed this reasoning. "Most judges have the opinion that [once] trash is put out...it's trash, and abandoned in terms of privacy," he told WW.

In fact, it turns out that police officers throughout Oregon have been rummaging through people's trash for more than three decades. Portland drug cops conduct "garbage pulls" once or twice per month, says narcotics Sgt. Eric Schober.

So these muckraking journalists decided to turn the tables, and deliver the same treatment to the region's District Attorney and Police Chief.

6 August 2005

Consider the implications if the Bush administration escapes accountability

Paul Craig Roberts issues a scathing indictment of a "watchdog media" that is serving as propaganda shills for the Bush administration. After making the point that the current scandals dwarf those of Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton, he targets the concentration of media and its acquiescence to the corrupt powers in American government.
The executive branch will have established itself as above the law.

The executive, armed with a compliant media, will have war-making power subject only to successful PR spin. It means the final end of the people's right to declare war via elected representatives in Congress.

The few remaining restraints on the executive's ability to detain people indefinitely without charges will be removed. This power will silence the Internet.

Spiteful neighbors, employees, former spouses, whomever will gain the power to report any disliked person. The anti-terrorist apparatus needs victims to demonstrate its effectiveness, and as warrants, hearings, and evidence are no longer required, Americans will simply disappear like Soviet citizens in the Stalin era.

While it is debatable that mainstream media outlets have ever had a greater than rare thread of independence inherent in them (of recent note, see the story of a NY Times Pulitzer Prize winner, writing on the subject of Hiroshima atomic bombing, was actually on the payroll of the War department), Americans should be rightfully alarmed over the erosion of civil liberties, justified for the pursuit of the "global war on terror".

On the speculation of "silencing the Internet", note that broadband providers are becoming as concentrated as mainstream media and frequently pull the plug on any content deemed questionable, and it's definitely not a matter of "innocent until proven guilty". That, in conjunction with warrantless detentions could conceivably put a deep freeze on freedom of expression.