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Friday, April 07, 2006

MINE FOR THE TAKING: When Caille Millner gets out of bed, she turns on her computer and begins trolling for access to one of her neighbor's wireless connection. She does so because she thinks "it's too expensive to pay for it myself." When she makes it to the Internet, she experiences "slight feelings of shame, sheepishness and doubt." Still, she's not sure that it's stealing because, hey, lots of nearby coffee shops offer free access. Now the amazing thing is not that she takes what doesn't belong to her. Nor, these days, is it strange to hear someone admit bad behavior in public. The remarkable thing is that this writer declares her theft in the op-ed section of a leading daily newspaper. She writes with an obvious intention to brag about her unwillingness to pay for her own Internet account. But the really, truly, genuinely astonishing thing is that Caille Millner works as an editorial writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, in whose pages she crows about her shamelessness. The point of her essay is not that she used to do this bad thing of stealing but stopped. No, she writes to say she believes she has a right to take it because she doesn't want to bother to pay. Does she also steal her neighbors' cable TV? Maybe she'll tell us in a future essay. It's a pretty safe guess she writes about the bad things other people do — including George W. Bush, who is positively hated by the newspaper's editorial writers. To the best of my knowledge, the Chronicle has never run an editorial stating they don't like Bush's domestic surveillance program but they're going to cut him some slack because he must have his own very good reasons. (Oh, and not to put to fine a point on it, Caille: Yes, what you're doing is, in fact, larceny. Be sure to let us know what you decide to do if and when your neighbors get smart enough to protect their Internet accounts with passwords. Will you hire a hacker to break the codes? Will you stiff the hacker because why should you have to pay a mere burglar for stealing what you think should be free? Do keep us posted...)