Feeling a little Britneyesque lately? You know, unable to shake the sense that everywhere you turn, there's a man with a camera waiting to post your most bleary-eyed angle all over the Internet? It's not in your head.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that Google Maps is expanding the cities covered by its Street View, which features actual photographs of city streets and the people who happen to be walking down them when Google's car-mounted cameras zoom by. It didn't take long for bloggers to filter through the shots and find some "vulnerable moments:" Stanford co-eds sunbathing in bikinis, motorists being ticketed by police, a man walking into an adult bookstore in Oakland and "even a man picking his nose on a San Jose park bench."
Privacy advocates are grumbling, but the Times reports it's perfectly legal. "The law allows you to take a picture of anything you can see as long as you are in a public place," said Kelli Sager, a first amendment lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine in Los Angeles.
But hold off on that head-shaving, umbrella-wielding rampage for a second.
If the cameras catch you leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, you do have the recourse of asking Google to take it down, as one secret smoker who was busted by the cameras did. However, "by the time Google decides to pull down an image, it may have been irretrievably circulated on the Web."
Basra Going Badly
We should know this by now. When Vice President Cheney singles out a part of Iraq as a place "where things are going pretty well," as he did for Basra in February, that's a good indication that the residents there might want to get out of Dodge.
The Washington Post reports today that as British troops withdraw from Basra, violence in the southern city is escalating. The British "have basically been defeated in the south," one official said, and are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace where, in the words of one recent official visitor, there were "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters.
But it's not just that things are going poorly. It's that the situation in Basra invalidates just about every excuse we've been offered about why the rest of Iraq is such a mess:
"For the past four years, the administration's narrative of the Iraq war has centered on al Qaeda, Iran and the sectarian violence they have promoted," the Post reports. "But in the homogenous south -- where there are virtually no U.S. troops or al Qaeda fighters, few Sunnis, and by most accounts limited influence by Iran -- Shiite militias fight one another as well as British troops."
So it turns out Iraqis don't need foreign terrorists, Iran, anti-Americanism or centuries of religious and ethnic tensions to push them into civil war. They can do it all by themselves.
Greenspan Saw It Coming
Alan Greenspan got a funny feeling when he led the Fed to slash interest rates after 9/11, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"I don't know what it is, but we're doing some damage because this is not the way credit markets should operate," he and a colleague recall him saying at the time.
Now those chickens have come home to roost. The low rates fueled a credit fiesta that financed many first-time homebuyers and a wave of corporate takeovers. Now the party appears to be over, the DJ has switched on the lights and the economic scenery isn't so pretty.
"These adverse periods are very painful, but they're inevitable if we choose to maintain a system in which people are free to take risks, a necessary condition for maximum sustainable economic growth," Greenspan said more recently.
But we have to ask: If Alan Greenspan can see the future, why can't he change it?
First, they buried the n-word. Now the New York City Council wants to expand its word policing by outlawing –- symbolically, of course -– the use of both "bitch" and "ho'," the New York Times reports. What's a rapper to do? Or for that matter, a veterinarian?
This one might be an uphill battle. After all, the sponsoring councilwoman, who claims the words create "a paradigm of shame and indignity" for all women, admits that "even council members are saying they use it to their wives."
A NOTE TO READERS: The Skinny is now available via e-mail. Click here and follow the directions to register to receive it in your inbox each weekday morning.