Saturday, December 16, 2006

Back to Newty and the First Amendment...

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago detailing former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's argument that the government needs to curb free speech to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism. Apparently, he has a response to the sharp rebuke that followed his comments.

His response argues that free speech restrictions are necessary to protect the country that makes the First Amendment possible, and that people like the "ACLU left" is flat wrong on the issue. Before digging into other aspects of his retort, you have to consider the logic of this statement from the perspective of our society and the Constitution. We have an unfettered right to free speech. To limit that liberty means the end of free speech, and to some extent, the end of the society that created it. Mr. Gingrich would rather destroy protections and policies of this union to protect it. Logically, this means what he wishes to protect will no longer exist. What, then, is the point? It's not just the "leftists" or "liberals" who should have a problem with this kind of proposition, it is the true ideological conservatives like the libertarians. For someone to consider a libertarian liberally minded would show that the so-called conservatives have drifted so far to the right that they are beyond conservatism and become fascists. Neo-conservatives are not, by any interpretation, conservative. Liberals want to change the status quo while conservatives want to retain the status quo. Mr. Gingrich, and fellow neo-conservatives who share his beliefs, wish to push this country away from the rights protected by the Constitution, truly advocating liberalism.

As far as the rest of his comments are concerned...

"If you give me any signal in the age of terrorism that you're a terrorist, I'd say the burden of proof was on you"

One of the other great benefits of American citizenship is the right to trial by jury and the presumption of innocence. While I appreciate some of the policies he supports like energy independence and supporting scientific research, I am far from interested in sacrificing the protections of the Bill of Rights.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New York's War on Fat

By now, everyone has heard about New York's valiant attempt to abridge the fundamental freedom to gorge oneself on all manner of unhealthy comestible products leading inexorably to their death. Some think this is a healthy move, others see it as the act of a nanny state. In all likelihood, the audacity of New York state will infect the withering will of other states spreading a totalitarian movement of bad taste.

Luckily, the founding fathers wrote a provision in the Constitution to prevent this intrusion onto culinary liberty. Article I, section 8 contains a provision known as the Commerce Clause provides plenary power to the United States Congress to regulate commerce between the states. This aims to create uniformity among the member-states of the federal union and enforce notions of comity among the states by preventing one state from enacting a law concerning commerce that would effect another state. In Swift & Co. v. United States, the United States Supreme Court determined that state regulations on commerce may not directly or purposefully effect the operation of interstate commerce. The only way such a law may pass Constitutional muster is if the effect is minimal or accidental.

The dormant commerce clause may have lingering effects in this case as well. Generally speaking, the dormant commerce clause operates as a check against states to prevent them from creating laws that impermissibly favor local businesses over national businesses. The modern form of this area of the law analyzes the effect on business in other states. Under either analysis the trans fat ban violates the Constitution. The leading restaurant chains who employ trans fats are national fast food chains. This New York law, though beneficial in its intent, would alter the operation of these businesses all over the country either requiring special products just for New York, or changing the product they sell nationally. Through the lens of the dormant commerce clause, this law would also run afoul of the Constitution because it favors smaller in-state businesses who can easily adapt to the change required by the law. Regardless of how successful the law may be at keeping citizens' waists trim, the law may not survive constitutional scrutiny.

No Good Deed...

While I will continue to question the application of the word good in this instance, it seems like those responsible for the terrible acts perpetrated against Afghan and Iraqi civilians won't go unpunished, or at least without an attempt at punishment. The success of this lawsuit is similar to likelihood that Congress will impeach the President.

More Reasons to Hate the RIAA

By now most people have heard of the Recording Industry Association of America, or the RIAA. These are the guys that want to prevent music buyers from putting music from CDs on to their MP3 players. The infamous language of one executive quoted on this blog is that iPod owners are thieves. We can't forget their repeated malicious plan to sue their average American customers for downloading music. As if we needed more reasons to despise the RIAA, they have graciously provided two more. While they currently attempt to rob their customers, now they are trying to rob the musicians, too. In addition, in order to leave no stone unturned, the RIAA has used their tactic of filing frivolous lawsuits to target websites who post guitar sheet music on line. For the record, this is a great example of how big business can put itself out of existence by alienating their customers. Maybe those overpaid corporate execs will realise that cold hard economics will bury them when their customers vote with their wallets and go elsewhere.

Friday, December 08, 2006

About This Job Thing...

A few days ago, I mentioned that I am finally working again. This is great, insofar as I can lessen the dent in the couch. The job includes a lot of court time. I am one of a group of municipal prosecutors who cover the court calls in traffic court. While the pay isn't less than unsubstantial, I do spend five hours in court and I get to litigate the occasional bench trial. At the very least, the stories are entertaining. I am sure one or two of them will show up here on a daily basis. The interviews haven't stopped, I have two tomorrow, so this is a temporary thing, but at least it's fun.

I Feel Safer...

At least, I wish I did. All of those secret government programs aimed at terrorists and protecting national security are supposed to provide that warm and fuzzy feeling of safety, right? I guess instead of fearing some radical religious extremist, I can fear the government. After all, they make sure we have all the information we really need by putting journalists and bloggers in jail, photograph me naked, and listening to my phone conversations. The feeling is more cold and prickly, go figure.

Pay Raises...

Recently, I have made repeated reference to Congress' annual salary. I do this with good reason. At the very least, every American should know where a substantial portion of their taxes go, especially when legislators work less than 1/3 of the year. It is more absurd when this outgoing do-nothing congress attempts to boost its own pay.

Allowing Congress to set their own salary makes as much sense as allowing a corporate CEO to set their own salary while approving 20,000 layoffs. Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment requiring a vote to approve an increase in congressional pay rates. Alternatively, we could make every elected position volunteer, they're a bunch of rich corporate types anyway.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh, the Idocy of It All

I made reference earlier this week to the fact that Congress only worked a total of 200 days last year between both the House and the Congress, putting in roughly 100 days each. Thankfully, the newly elected Democratic majority wants to put in a full week's worth of work. I find it interesting that the Republicans air the most vociferous complaints. I guess the $165,000 yearly salary isn't enough to justify more than 103 days of work.

For the record:

The average CEO makes in excess of $10.7 Million per year.

Congressional representatives make just over $165,000, that is until their $3000 raise which starts next year.

The overall average of American works shows makes just short of $41,000.

Does anyone else see a discrepancy here?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Republo-fascists...

First, I apologize for being a day or so between posts. Work (yes, finally) has been rough the last couple of days. I am surprised the call has been so heavy in December of all months. More about that tomorrow. On to the point.

I made a comment the other day regarding Newt Gingrich's push to erode civil liberties to provide more protection, and dropped the term Republo-fascist. I feel this play on words is an adequate description of the current neo-conservative movement among members of the Republican Party. While some have already chosen to pass judgment on the President, this pundit wonders would rather focus more on the views of the leaders and what they are doing to the country now. Gingrich's comments represent one facet of this growing problem. The ideology of the Vice President represent another cause for concern. Centralized government power, especially under a leader like the United States President who retains a dominant military power, is particularly dangerous because consolidating power removes the checks and balances which serve to prevent the break down of the separate powers.

Another aspect of this neo-conservative movement operates to isolate minority religions and ideologies and use extraordinary rendition or torturous interrogation to aid in the prosecution of the government's enemies. Moreover, we can't forget the government's utter disregard for civil liberties under the auspice of national security.

The reality of the situation remains this steady slide away from the principles of liberty that formed the basis of this free union. In order to preserve freedom in this country, we need to stop the advancement of policies contra-positive to the purpose of the Constitution by strictly enforce the its terms. Moreover, we must remove proponents of this un-American ideology from places of influence because of the danger they pose to the sanctity of this union. The so-called culture war rages not between the liberal concept of freedom and the conservative concept of security, but between the conservative concept of preserving the status quo established by the founding fathers, and those liberals who wish to pervert and degrade ideals of freedom.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Following up on Newt Gingrich

Last week, I commented on Newt Gingrich's concerns that liberty makes American unsafe. Late last week, Keith Olbermann made a special comment expressing similar concerns. At the very least, this demonstrates a disturbing trend in American politics that seems determined to destroy what has made this country great from its inception. If liberty makes America an unsafe place to be, I would rather bear the burden of insecurity to prevent the imminent threat of totalitarianism.

The Ultimate Question...

Wilson D. Alston has asked the ultimate question, "Does Anybody Really Know Where the Money Comes From?"

Political Perversion

Bipartisanism, in my mind, will be one of the many reasons for the downfall of the American government in it's current form. The primary reason for this is the kind of childish bickering and bigotry that gives politics and politicians a bad name. The Republican response to Representative Ellison is a prime example. There is no need for this kind of brazen ignorance. It serves to discredit the American people. I don't care who you vote for, or what side of the isle you support, the one thing that is sorely necessary in this country is responsible and professional public servants working for the good of the people, not the health of their own party.

What We Really Needed...

The 9/11 Commission made many controversial recommendations regarding what the American Government needs to efficiently and effectively insure national security. One recommendation that should have raised very few, if any, eyebrows is the need for more Congressional oversight of the President's military and police power. The only reason why this suggestion is considered controversial is because it was made to a Republican Congress during a Republican Presidency. The midterm elections in November demonstrate that the American people want a new direction, one that would consider reigning in Presidential power to wage war and pursue those who perpetrated a terrible act of murder and war in this country over five years ago.

Unfortunately, the new Democratically led Congress considers Congressional oversight a controversial political maneuver. This will certainly not provide the kind of security the American people need, be it national, political, or personal. Clearly, a change in power will do little to change national policy, inexorably proving how inconsequential the voice of the people has become in American government.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Next American Revolution...

Brewing under all the self-confidence regurgitated by American government officials lingers the lies that span the greater part of half a century. Some of these lies are documented or subject to conjecture in the media. However, Americans are an unwitting public who consume the spin supplied by lobbyists, news agencies, religion, and politicians. They then make decisions in a rash and undereducated manner. We write off things like paying taxes, but can't seem to figure out how the Federal Government retains a national debt in excess of 8 and a half Trillion dollars. Clearly, the Government is taking us for a ride, especially if a Congress that only worked a combined total of 200 days last year but still make $165,000 for their effort. If the wool can be pulled over our eyes so easily in order to obscure what we know, could it not happen in a more perverse way in the future that would destroy the American Union?

The next American revolution needs to start now, and must be lead by regular Americans. Not every American Court will defend us from an abusive government. The 2006 election will hopefully be a start of a chain reaction that will bring our government and society back to what the founders envisioned at its inception. It can only happen if the people take action, so that maybe this time the revolution won't just be televised.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Goodbye Liberty

Apparently, Newt Gingrich thinks that we have too much freedom and its keeping us from effectively fighting terrorism. That's funny, I was unaware that Republicans were out to get the American people by debasing the foundation of liberty and democracy. The statements he made at this function supporting people who fight for free speech rights were also contradictory. We need to limit speech so that Terrorists can't spread their message, but we need to make sure people feel free to express their religious beliefs. To some degree, Mr. Gingrich is for supporting terrorists more than supporting Americans. It's paradoxical to think that limiting speech will assist in fighting terrorism when many terrorists believe eradicating the world of other faiths is a fundamental tenant of their religious beliefs. There is that other notion, you know, that freedom of religion only extends to those who aren't terrorists. However, the rhetoric used in the debate won't support this position either since there are non-Islamic terrorists too.

Before we give into what the terrorists want, i.e. destroying America by making us so afraid of them that we lose our freedom and destroy our nation, we should try to protect what makes this country great. This includes protecting the fundamental right to discuss political issues that make the democratic process possible. Way to destroy America Republo-fascists.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Good Things Come in Threes

It has been a long time since I posted twice in a day. I don't think I have ever triple posted. World be warned...

The third post of the day concerns the possibility of the President's impending impeachment. Don't believe the hype, this trend could literally end the hope of preserving Republican veto power. The Republicans think the American people lack the fortitude to weather another impeachment. They weren't concerned with this when they held the legislative majority and impeached Clinton. If the majority wants it, we can probably survive. It looks like there is a
growing list of Constitutional and statutory violations that could lead to this impeachment.

Dictator and Chief

It's no surprise that a majority of the country is dissatisfied with the Republicans, and it is equally no surprise that the President's policies have gone to the extreme in damaging American international good will, democracy, and character. The light on top of the hill continues to dim, and Americans should be aware why this is the case. Consider the Vice President's perspective on the issue of Presidential power. The reality of the situation is very different, regardless of what the Vice President may think.

Looking at the general breakdown of powers in the Constitution, it stands to reason that Congress retains the dominant amount of power in our governmental system, the President deals with international issues, and the judiciary has the ultimate authority to determine when either of the other two branches are overstepping their constitutional limitations. Article I, section 8, attributes 18 specific powers to the Congress, leaving the remainder to the states unless specified otherwise. Conversely, Article II, section 2, provides the President with only 4 specific, articulable powers. Moreover, the language of Article II does not provide the President with a blanket power, like it does with the Legislation through the necessary and proper clause in Article I. Historically, Congress has created laws that limit or expand the powers of the President, usually with regard to appropriations or the use of the military. In addition, the drafters of the Constitution expressed concerns about having an overly powerful President, especially after the end of the Revolutionary War. Someone needs to inform the leaders of this country about the way things are supposed to work, and give the people their country back.


While my blog routinely deals with social and political issues, I am a linux user and also follow technology news. Many companies have tried to tackle the digital music arena in an effort to unseat the Apple dominated market. Microsoft is the biggest fish to take a crack at Apple's iPod monopoly with their new product, the Zune. Though a solid bid for power in the market and likely a contender for the anti-Mac crowd, it's unlikely that Microsoft will be able to put a dent in Apple's substantial market share. In addition, it's unlikely the Zune will sell well in the event it receives more bad press.

This review makes a salient point, the Zune targets the part of the market place that Apple has yet to capitalize on, acquiescing to the demands of the music business. While music production companies make out like bandits from single song sales on iTunes, the Zune solicits the benefits of being in the pocket of the RIAA. For those willing to sacrifice freedom and usability for abusive corporate tyranny, buy one. Otherwise, keep your respect and buy something else, even if it's not an iPod.

Unsubstantiated Postulation

Many pundits and Republicans were surprised when former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned from his position days after the 2006 midterm election. This political contingency is no doubt a response to the change of power in the legislative branch. Now it appears that Rumsfeld is being thrown to the dogs. Fear over prosecution under the War Crimes Act no doubt has the sharks looking for a scapegoat over the Iraq War debacle and the resulting questions about rendition prisons and whether the U.S. Military is prosecuting the war in violation of international laws of war. Rumsfeld easily becomes the one making all the policy decisions, and provides the Republicans and the President with someone to point to in the event public scorn for the travesties of the past 5 years focus on the Executive branch.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sad Impact of the Law

This was the shocking headline from last week. This is the insightful comment on the law that permitted this terrible event. More often that not, the law seems to forget that normal people may be stuck in the middle. It's as though, at times, the law forgets who it serves and we are left with the sober reminder of the pragmatic affect of statutes and judicial decisions.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Still Not Funny...

Here is an interesting update on the last story...Interesting.

Not-so-funny Joke

By now, almost everyone has heard about Michael Richards' racist outburst while performing at the Laugh Factory this last weekend. In case you missed it, you can find the full video here (very not safe for work and disturbing). Last night, Richards apologized on David Letterman's show in an attempt to rectify the situation. The Laugh Factory has issued their official statement on the issue as well. Regardless of the negative adjectives that can easily be ascribed to this event, it raises an interesting social and legal issue. At the Laugh Factory's press conference on the incident, Paul Rodriguez stated that though the comedy club does not condone this kind of malicious language, they will not institute a policy prohibiting the use of racist words.

As far as the First Amendment is concerned, no speech with social or political value should be proscribed. The key is value. No one can argue that Mr. Richards' words carried value in the sense that ideals of free speech is meant to protect. Few people would argue that comedy, in the American tradition, serves as commentary. For those who think otherwise, consider the premise of the Daily Show on Comedy Central. Though questionable in content, comedic acts like George Carlin's Dirty Words monologue offer commentary on aspects of American life. This kind of comedy, even if dealing with language insulting language, should not be limited provided it has a productive goal. In situations where the language is used solely to insult or degrade another, the speech has no value and should not be respected or protected by the law. There is no question that in this situation, Mr. Richards' language was meant to insult and degrade the object of his anger and should not be tolerated. However, this incident should not keep society from engaging in a productive discourse on language and racism.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The MCA, G'tmo...A Real American Story?

Today's news release says that the tribunals set up through the Military Commissions Act (the MCA) are working to effectively to release the innocent detainees. Empirical evidence seems to indicate otherwise. A new paper by Mark Denbeaux shows that the real operations of these tribunals aims to insure that every detainee is labelled an enemy combatant. It is no surprise, then, that some detainees are already mounting a frontal attack on the constitutionality of the MCA. If we are lucky, Congress will amend the law before these constitutional disgraces are permitted to take place. Food for thought, what the Pentagon releases as news versus what's really going on.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

U.S. Immigration Policy, the Need for Change

I am typically not the kind of person that would advocate for a change in immigration policy. After all, almost ever current citizen is descended from immigrant families. Part of my family came to the U.S. during the Irish potato famine. The reality of the situation, though, indicates that current government immigration policy is dangerous to the continuity of the nation from an economic perspective. Simply put, if current immigration levels continue, the government won't be able to support itself or the programs it has created to benefit the people. This video does an excellent job of describing the problem.

Defining Legal Detentions

Earlier this year, our lame duck Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (.pdf). In the wake of a law that seems to expand Presidential war power in a monumental fashion, the President's response has been to deny due process rights to immigrants detained as terrorists. This is the first challenge to the powers created under the MCA, and thankfully it's not disappearing without a fight. The SCOTUSblog has an excellent rundown on the case. John Balkin has an interesting perspective (as do the comments) on what is becoming the habeas corpus debacle.

I think this will make for an interesting test case. If, and no doubt when, this case makes it to the Supreme Court, it will redefine a question that has yet to find a definitive answer, "who has the war power?" Looking at the face of the Constitution, it appears that a bulk of the war power is attributed to Congress, allowing them to delegate the prosecution of that war through appropriations and previously enacted law. The President, though, has the sole Constitutional power to prosecute the war on the ground. This President's limited power, then, means the executive may only act within the mandate of Congress' declaration. This makes the MCA that more dangerous because it provides the President with greater latitude to wage this so-called war on terror. The Al-Marri case confronts the big issues surrounding the MCA, and could very well define the President's military power for the next 30 years. I still posit that the MCA is unconstitutional on its face for a number of reasons, but at least now the judiciary has a chance to decide.

Monday, November 13, 2006

iPod owner=Thief

Or, at least, so says the CEO of Universal Music Group. Apparently, fair use doesn't include using media you have paid for in ways other than direct read and play a la your good ol-fashioned cd player. This has provoked a predictable response from the legions of iPod faithful. It is important to point that out, the LEGIONS of iPod users. The mp3 market is dominated by the little white icon, so it's probably not wise for the leader of a music distribution company to make enemies so quickly. These articles make me laugh for two reasons. First, it's a blatant plug for Microsoft's new product, the Zune, which is supposed to rival Mac's iPod for the digital music player market. Second, Microsoft is paying off the music industry to gain the support of artists and, thereby, create their own distribution network.

The reality of the situation is that the real digital music snobs, the guys who encode in lossless formats with weird names like flac, ogg vorbis, or monkey's audio, don't really care. If anything, these super-users will take their business to a player that supports these special interest formats, or at least will run rockbox. What about pandering to the fringe, or realizing that allowing users to rip cds could save dismal cd sales. Instead, the hardware and music producers would rather make sure they get paid at the cost of software and business innovation. This is what happens in a trust ecconomy.

The Underemployed Lawyer

I appologize to those who look forward to reading my musings on a regular basis for my failure to keep up with regular posting. The fact of the matter is, I have been at a loss for words. What can I say, really, that hasn't already been said? This feeling of lackluster worth is driven by a couple of things. First, general uncertainty about life. Second, general uncertainty about the goings on of the world. And, third, this sinking feeling that everything in my life is spinning out of my usually iron-tight control. The first and the third are the most important. While I can say that I will be employed as a lawyer come the first of December, I can't say that I am entirely happy with the position. However, this comes down to unrealistic expectations.

As law students, we (lawyers/lawyers-to-be) lack any concept of of the real world. We are lulled, quitely, by the sanctimonious words of law school rercuirters. Then, with high hopes and delusions of grandure, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing what we think will be the next great chapter in our professional lives. Three years later, the reality is much more horrifying.

Truth be told, very few of my classmates graduated with jobs, even the ones everyone expected to be employed by the time we finished. For those from out of state schools moving back home can be even more of a shock. This year in Illinois, there are 2800 new lawyers, and a rough total of 83,000 lawyers in the state. We are left with a gap between the number of new lawyers and the number of entry level positions.

This lack of motivation is no doubt driven by the fact that after being so sure of my professional security at the beginning of this journey, I am left with a mountain of debt and the uncertainty of whether I will obtain gainful employment.

Don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to my new job, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. The experience will be great, but it will only put me farther into debt. The net result of this equation of experience and wage could result in the nullity of bankruptcy, which for a lawyer spells professional ruin.

Bare with me, this too shall pass, but I fear that in the interim, blog posts of any substantive value will be slow in coming. Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What it Seems We Have Forgotten.

This is an interesting video that every American should see, especially considering this being the eve of election day. Consider it a reminder of the way things really are.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Waterboarding, revisited...

Waterboarding is one of the many disputed techniques the CIA will supposedly employ in their "optional" terrorist interrogations. For the record, waterboarding is a form of torture that dates back to the 1500's. Apparently, the people over at Fox don't seem to think it amounts to torture. The news bite talks about how the person subjected to the waterboarding technique doesn't feel any physical harm. In reality, the purpose of the technique is to inflict the kind of grave apprehension one would feel upon death by asphyxiation. Regardless of the physical consequences, the mental effects are the ultimately the goal of the techniques use. Interestingly, the operative definition of torture under Common Article III of the Geneva Convention would include waterboarding because it is mentally degrading or disparaging conduct. While the good spin-masters at FoxNews would have us believe that waterboarding is not torturous, international law points to the contrary, and it's time the federal government program get with the program before other countries use our example to torture American citizens.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wagging the Dog...

I am sure at this point that everyone has seen or heard about Senator Kerry's comments that have some how taken over the news lately. Senator Kerry refers to the incident as a botched joke, but only because it seems like the majority of Americans didn't get it. The President and the Press Secretary have spun this language into an insult against members of the military serving in Iraq. In reality, anyone over the age of 35 might consider the words to be a vague reference to the operation of the draft, taking those with the least education first, or that Kerry was speaking about Texas and the record of the President's failed policy that forgets the valiant people that make up the American Military.

The absurdity of this situation is the Republican vilification of a very critical comment by by the opposing party. The reality of the President's response is more likely than not indicative of the President's lack of a substantive response. In this vein, I want to end this post with a special comment by Keith Olbermann, who sums up the effect of this rampant political stupidity.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Personal Post...

My last couple of webcam images sum things up around here. I don't usually make personal posts. The Grey Area really does attempt to focus on real world issues. But then again, who knows what this gripe could address.

For some reason I feel useless. I passed the bar, so I get to be a licensed attorney, but I can't find a job. This means I get an extended vacation where I sit around and look for jobs, hoping someone will decide to pay me to practice law. Lamenting about my dwindling job prospects is useless in its own right, though. Yet I still can't help feeling this sinking sense of despair, as though the situation will only become more bleak over time. I can't stand this feeling of failing worth. This is the first time I have ever been unemployed and not involved heavily in education. It makes me realize that, at my core, I am a work-a-holic. I can come to terms with that, but when the walls of my apartment begin to feel as though they are closing in on me I know I need to get out of here. It just seems like everything is building up around me and there is nothing I can do to alleviate the pressure.

To some extent, do we all feel like this? Are all sitting around wondering what will happen in two weeks when a staggeringly small amount of people file into the polls to punch a ballot, press a button, or pull a lever. It's as though the political cacophony is building and there is nothing the people can do about it. Unfortunately, this appears to be the nature of our republican (lowercase "r") democracy. At the very least, we get a say every 365 to 730 days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What do you get...

When you combine bad lawyering with irresponsible acts of legislation? Most familiar with recent political events would say the Military Commissions Act. What is even more insidious is the gall of those who would defend this action as the right thing for the country. One person in particular who uses the justification of the greater good in favor of a unitarian presidency is a law professor and former ranking member of the U.S. Justice Department named John Yoo. Mr. Yoo's perspective is documented in a new column published by the Wall Street Journal. Marty Lederman and Brian Tamanaha from Balkinization do an excellent job of deconstructing Mr. Yoo's perspective. Each bring an interesting opinion as to the purpose of Mr. Yoo's words his column. However, it continues to baffle me as to why people have chosen to target the judiciary as the scapegoat in the games of politics. I think a large part of the problem is the power the judiciary seems to wield over the common man, and rhetoric that politicians can use to color the record of judges who won't respond because of their reserved role in the American political scheme. Judges are easy targets and hard decisions. I find it interesting that Mr. Yoo targets the Supreme Court and their decision in Hamdan especially considering the decision was not the egregious violation of constitutional law and history Mr. Yoo seems to think and how Mr. Lederman explains.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Liberty, No More...

This afternoon, the President signed the detainee bill, also known as the Military Commissions Act, into law. This is the law creating a considerable amount of controversy because of the damage it does to American Democracy and liberty. Slate has an interesting assessment of the situation that seems to be an accurate perception of how we got here but not truely why. The why and how of it, though, are very important, as is what and whether.

The why and how of the Military Comissions Act is simple. The President will say that the why is because the Supreme Court determined his original plan for military tribunals violated the Constitution, leaving him with no definite way to deal with the several thousand inhabitants of Guantanamo. In reality, the law forgives acts of torture that could be construed under Common Article III of the Geneva Convention as war crimes from federal prosecution. The President disclosed the existence of rendition prisons (the secret CIA prisons in Europe), and the use of questionable interrogation tactics. If these interrogation tactics amount to torture, then the President and any policy-making member of executive leadership who permitted such acts are guilty of war crimes and subject to felony prosecution under the War Crimes Act. For those keeping score, if the President has committed a felony, then he is subject to impeachment by Congress and removal from office. So, the why is to save the collective political carreers of those who permitted members of the military and C.I.A. to use torture techniques for interrogation.

The how of this law's creation is even simpler. The Republican President rallied the Republican members of Congress before a midterm election that threatens the continued maintinance of a Republican majority in Congress under the premise that constituents want a government that is hard on terrorism. Should the people want a government that protects them from acts of international agression? Yes. Should that law also violate and suspend basic rights in the process? Most reasonable citizens would say no.

The what really comes down to the effect of this law. The President thinks it sends a clear message that the U.S. is tough on terrorism. However, it also sends the message that the President is tough on liberty, restricting free speech and political discourse by possibly placing "political dissidents" in the category of unlawful enemy combatants. Moreover, when one is labeled an enemy combatant, the government can make them disapear into secret detention with no right of due process. So much for liberty and the guarantee process that would otherwise prevent such an injustice. Together, these provisions allow the government to detain a CITIZEN indefinitely without being subject to criminal prosecution by a court established under the Constitution. The law allows the government a right that was never envisioned by the founders, or any other reasonable constituent. Rather, it legitimates a witch hunt sanctioned by Congress, like McCarthyism on steroids.

The whether deals with the constitutionality of the law. The Navy lawyer who represented Hamdan and won at the Supreme Court already raises his doubts regarding whether the law will pass constitutional muster. I am inclined to agree with this analysis. First, Congress may only suspend habeas corpus when the U.S. is at war. There has been no formal declaration of war in the current conflict. The thought that the Authorization for Use of Miliatary Force would support suspending the great writ is perposterous because how tenuous the link is between authorizing military action and waging a war though they seem historically indistinguishable. Alternatively, the law gives the President the power to interpret international law and determine what forms of interrogation amount to torture. This is the most absurd and most pervasive provision of the law. Congress wants to reign in the President so he doesn't violate the Geneva Convention, so they turn around and give him the power to determine, for himself, whether what he is doing violates the law. It's just illogical. Furthermore, the Courts are the only arm of the government with the power to interpret the law. No matter how quixotic the President may seem to think this form of government organization is, his oath binds him to the obligation to uphold the Constitution, and limits his ability to interpret binding law domestic or otherwise. Simply put, Congress lacks the power to pass the law, and the President lacks the power to enforce it.

In the long run, this law presents a very real danger to liberty in America. Given what it takes away, there is no reason to support a Republican led Congress in November. To be clear, I am not supporting every Democrat because there are a host of sound third party alternatives, but I am certainly not supporting anyone who voted for passing this law.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vice versus Freedom

A recent addendum to a port security bill has over politicized a debate raging for the last 80 years. Since prohibition in 1920s and 1930s, the long standing debate in criminal law is whether to legislate against vices. Then, it was alcohol, now it is becoming on-line gambling. Many states already have licensing restrictions on gambling establishments, but this new legislation attempts to control the rising scourge of on-line gambling by restricting the legality of the sites in the United States, and now by preventing banks from being able to make transactions to on-line gambling sites outside of the country. The Washington Times has an interesting commentary on attempts by the government to criminalize vices. This is nothing new. Since the 1980s, the government has targeted drug use, and indirectly targeted alcohol consumption, tobacco usage, and gambling. The question becomes whether government should be in the business of legislating vices.

The criminal law typically aims to restrict behavior that would harm others. In a utilitarian sense, the criminal law should only restrict behavior that impacts others or society in a manner counter productive to liberty. In a libertarian sense, provided someone who gambles doesn't detrimentally effect another, the vice shouldn't matter. If anything, this legislation is counterproductive to liberty since it restricts the use of the Internet. Moreover, it strikes harder at the heart of liberty by being an addendum to a bill that no legislator would vote against, a port security bill. This raises questions regarding the adequacy of congressional representation. Essentially, this kind of law is unnecessary and demonstrates that Congress is doing little to benefit the people.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Rise in Libel

Lawyerly Disclaimer: This post makes an attempt to explain some aspects of civil common law, and may not be entirely correct in its interpretation. Moreover, this post is merely an attempt at being informative, and does not try to counsel in any way.

ArsTechnica is running an interesting story about the increase in defamation suits against bloggers. There are two kinds of defamation: libel, which is defamation in written form; and slander, which is defamatory language that is spoken. Under civil law, defamation is a cause of action for statements in public about someone that damages his or her reputation. A person defames another by purposefully making a statement that is false about that person. The standard by which a defendant acts depends on the "social status" of the plaintiff.

This applies in two ways. The first is against a regular citizen. The second is against a so-called public figure. With regular citizens, a defendant is liable for a false statement made either negligently or recklessly with malice. Malice operates as an intent to harm when the defendant knew or should have known of the falsity of the statement. Alternatively, against a public figure, a defamatory statement must be malicious.

I know what you are thinking, this has to run afoul of the First Amendment. In reality, there are consequences for speaking in a manner that causes harm. However, opinion does not constitute defamation, nor does the truth.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dissent = Treason?

The title link basically says everything that I would need to for this post. Read it, keep it from happening by making sure to speak out against this kind of oppression. Never forget that the President is never above the Constitution, nor can he prevent constitutional protects because Congress grants a law.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Washington...

I really don't like the ugly turn politics has taken in this country. Policy discussions, ideally, should take a very constructive approach to what is best for the American people and the libertarian ideals that founded this great nation. Looking at the news today, it's hard to tell.

First, the agents of the President, and President himself, continue to deny the importance of anything critical of their international policy. Second, the tyranny of the majority has taken an ethical spin against equality. Third, the powers that be continue making attempts to rewrite history. Fourth, science has no value in the face of politics.

Politics is no longer about doing what's right but about doing what will get more votes. The worst part is the American people who are actually paying attention don't care enough to change things. With all of this negative and pointless dog-wagging, it seems that the real danger to the American way of life is the American people, not terrorists.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Preemptivisms Nth Degree

The pragmatic doctrine of preemptivism is the concurrent theme of our President's foreign policy. The genesis of this doctrine came from a memo by John Yoo that explains how the President's power includes the ability to prosecute military actions to prevent attacks on American soil. This perspective evolved into the Vice President's concept that the war on terror has provided the President to act without certain proof of impending danger. Quite literally, if there is a one percent chance, then act.

Recently, the "conservative" media blitz has suggested the preemptive use of military force against Iran to put an end to speculation regarding the possibility that Iran could become a nuclear power. Now, it seems, preemptivism has a nuclear twist. The nuclear option against Iran is the best tactical bet to quickly defeat the Iranian military. Iran is stronger and has greater resources than Iraq. However, American forces have a tactical advantage by controlling Iran's bordering seas and having a strong military presence in Iraq.

The problem with this situation is the cost of the war both domestically and in the foreign political arena. This is the kind of military action that will put the world against us, an unprovoked military attack against a currently non-aggressive nation. Paul Craig Roberts is right to call this a crisis. The President needs to wake up from the delusion that his policies are beneficial to the American people. With only two years left in office, barring some cataclysmic event that would create a Bush dictatorship, the last thing the President should consider is a massive military assault on a powerful nation. The damage done could be more than any subsequent administration could amend. Mr. President, you think you are for the people, but this gadarene cadence towards clandestine military operations means decades of domestic and international political problems for the American people. For once, really think about the consequences of your actions, to a logical end, not the stagnated protectionist dogma your administrative propaganda machine has created.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Today, the White House released a report that details the link between Saddam Husein and al Qaeda. However, this report is in direct conflict with a report released by the Senate committee on Intelligence. The Senate report debunks many of the myths regarding the supposed links between Iraq and September 11 the Bush administration used to bang the war drum for support on attacking Iraq. What is more interesting is that even after the release of the Senate report, the White House released its own "findings" that include all of the theorized connections used to justify the current military actions in the Middle East.

Clearly, someone is wrong, someone is lying. The question is who? While the information from the White House attempts to move away from stating a direct operational link between the two organizations, the fact remains the key players continue to assert the same rhetoric over and over again even after an in-depth CIA/FBI report renders that information inaccurate.

Dispicable Hubris

ABC is running a story that sets the stage for an interview of Bill O'Rielly by Barbara Walters on this weeks installment of 20/20. O'Rielly touts his new book, stating that he aims to confront the culture of war. In his words (from the article), it is a "war pitting traditional Americans — those who believe the United States is noble — against those who are secular progressives and believe the country is fundamentally flawed." This concept is preposterous for two reasons.

First, a person who finds fault with current government policy can still think this country is noble. Even though they believe that this is one of the greatest countries in the world, offering the greatest opportunities to its people, its current leadership is taking us in a direction away from the concepts of liberty that gave birth to this great nation. This kind of person is more of a patriot than someone who promotes the degradation of personal freedom. I also happen to think that much of what makes this country great is in danger because of O'Rielly's so-called traditionalist movement, which seems hellbent on taking that liberty away for a false sense of security.

Second, the traditionalist perspective is the furthest thing from traditional. A true conservative will tell you that the Federal Government has grown to an unmanageable size, one counterproductive to the benefits guaranteed to the American people. Moreover, the policy that O'Rielly and his followers abdicate is the core of traditionalist thought. The idea that the government should stay out of the peoples' lives is one of the fundamental tenants imbued in the Constitution through the Bill of Rights. It sounds like Mr. O'Rielly has his ideological wires crossed.

I think in large part that his irrational hubris drives his commentary. O'Rielly may be a warrior, but it certainly isn't for truth or a spin-free environment for constructive discourse.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Ideological Problem...

The primary problem with the American political system is that no one can really figure out what party they belong to. Each of the two parties break down into sub-groups along specific ideological lines. For instance, there is a group of pro-choice republicans and pro-life democrats. Even still, many people ascribing to membership in a particular political party don't really know the agenda of the leadership in their party. For example, who knew that an oil man from Texas would be anti-liberty and in favor of knee-jerk protectionism. Many republicans identify themselves as conservatives. I think that even now, there is quite a bit of confusion regarding what constitutes conservatism. Pundits and critics throw the word neocon, or neoconservative, around to describe a recent development with so-called "conservative" ideology.

The ideological movement sprung up after World War II, and started to take hold in American politics around the time of the Cold War. One of the most notable neoconservatives was Ronald Reagan. However, the genesis of the movement was a shift away from the Democratic liberalism that buttressed Lyndon Johnson's Presidential policy. Irving Kristol, one of the founders of the movement, said that a neocon is a "a liberal who was mugged by reality." Since its origins are in liberalism, much of the movement was built around a kind of augmented social-conservatism, aimed at "fixing" societies problems without the bloated government structure advocated by "liberal" opponents. While this movement seemed to effectively work for battling the enemies of the Cold War, the policies set in place today could pose serious risks to liberty.

The form of neoconservatism advocated by the President has some interesting new undercurrents that can only be described as aberrant given the direction of his current domestic and foreign policy. First, the President has used much of recent history to establish a much bigger, more powerful government to deal with the oft identified terrorist threat. This has caused a proportional increase in the federal budget with a staggering increase in the national debt. Expanded governmental powers have also meant a decrease in freedom with the increase in searches on public transportation and domestic surveillance. These policies are, quite literally, the antithesis of classical conservatism. So much so, that many political conservatives are identified as "liberal". This switch has been largely driven by neoconservative pundits that offer a variety of irrational excuses to justify their policy. The fact of the matter is, most true conservatives want a return to smaller government and preserved liberties. It's almost as though the republican party is no longer truly stands for classical conservatism, and that more conservatives could count themselves as liberals, if only because democrats favor the abolition of current policy that abuses privacy rights.

What result then? That depends on the people on both sides of the isle figuring out what they want from their government. Clearly, a threat exists to this country from outside forces, but that has been the case on some level for nearly 90 years. The spread of this aberrant form of neoconservative can only be explained by the current demographic shift in American ideology. All of the liberals from the 1960's and 70's have been mugged by reality, and are supporting dangerous policies put forth by the President. We need to consider the practical effects of these policies before it mugs the Constitution of policy set in place to protect the electorate from the government.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Fate of FISA

I posted briefly about this issue on the Blogger News Network, but this post aims to parse out the nuance of Arlen Specter's proposed fix for FISA. Brace yourself, this could get long.

In case you missed it, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill by a 10 to 8 margin that aims to amend FISA, making it more favorable to the President's policies regarding domestic surveillance and the "war on terror." The text of the bill can be found here and the existing text, for the sake of comparison, of FISA can be found here.

First, the finding of facts preceding the bill demonstrate that Congress, or at least the drafter, is concerned regarding the impact of the doctrine of separation of powers. It seems as though the aim of the legislation is to provide a necessary check on the administration of a program that implicates the very basis of privacy protections in this country. The bill quotes the most important Supreme Court decision examining the balance of power between Congress and the President, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. Unfortunately, the bill misses the mark, and could unintentionally undo the Article III checks on police power. David Barron expresses these concerns in better words than I ever could in his post at Balkinization.

The goal of the legislation is noble, it aims to imbue the FISA courts with the sole jurisdiction to review the Constitutional validity of the NSA program. The FISA amendment replaces Article VII, which deals with electronic surveillance. The definitions are expanded, and some even added, to incorporate expansive terrorist monitoring programs not initially envisioned by the original legislation. Under the bill, the FISA courts retain the sole original jurisdiction to review surveillance issues. However, the Supreme Court of the United States does retain the right to review the decisions of the FISA courts. This power to review is limited to grants of Certiorari for raising a Constitutional question. The fundamental problem with this structure that worries many academics, pundits, and political theorists is the lack of review outside the FISA structure. The new bill fails to state whether FISA operates as Article III Courts, or as part of a regulatory administration without any kind of Article III power.

Generally speaking, the bill is dangerous because of what it doesn't say. It doesn't explicitly create Article III powers for the FISA courts, which limits the ability of the secret courts to review Constitutional claims. It doesn't provide for judicial review in federal district and appeals courts outside the Supreme Court. Even though it tries to strike an effective balance between the needs of the President to wage the so-called "war on terror" and the protections of the Bill of Rights, it fails to put in place adequate safeguards for Article III review. To accomplish Specter's goal, this bill needs serious amendments.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Controdictory Presidential Policy...

Terrorist Detainee Treatment:

The President is pushing a bill through Congress that, in the President's words, clarifies the ambiguity in Article III of the Geneva Convention. In reality, it condones torture in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention. It also questions the fundamental application of Due Process to a person labeled as a terrorist under the expansive language of the 14th Amendment. In reality, the bill would permit things like water-boarding, that is torture. The worst part is the idea that our definition of detainee treatment could be adopted by other countries, and subject our troops to this kind of torture. Food for thought.


The President wants an immigration policy that makes it easier for immigrants to come into the country. His perspective is that immigrants do the work that Americans won't do. The reality of is that immigrants do work that Americans don't do because they are willing to do it for a smaller wage. Americans won't do these jobs because they can't make a living doing it. The reason is that the federal minimum wage law sets the minimum wage well below the poverty line. If we were to have a living wage that would support a living wage, then Americans could do the jobs that immigrants currently do, and we wouldn't have a need for such a pervasive and expansive immigration policy that really serves to benefit big business and middle America.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All I Can Do Is Shake My Head...

After hearing the President speak last night, and watching new footage of what happened five years ago, I am starting to feel as though the concept of having a government which ascribes to its constitutional document is becoming little more than an anachronism. After five years, it's important to note that we are not any safer because foreign policy makes it that way. Regardless, the idea that the government shouldn't be bound by the Constitution is absurd, and I hope that the following makes that clear on some level.

I want to note, first, the visceral words of Keith Olbermann. Many people would would read the Grey Area would think it to be a site aimed primarily at scathing critiques of the President and his policies. This is not the case. The Grey Area aims to be a forum of discussion on the topic of the United States of America. In the last five years, this topic has become increasingly muddied by those doing most of the talking. Mr. Olbermann makes comments regarding this issue in particular. The problem is not with the people of this country, though a vast majority are distracted by the unimportant doldrums of the capitalistic exploits of celebrity, the problem is an ideological shift away from what once made this country great. The ideas of liberty that America once stood for as a beacon of light in the world have been clouded in their rhetorical use by those in power. So much so that the powers that be use their rhetoric to criticise those of us who choose to exercise that power. Another concept of that ideology is temperance and a move away from barbarity.

Recently, we have seen Executive policy that contradicts the maxims of the Geneva convention. The President seems to think that tactics like Water Boarding don't amount to torture or contradict the law. The fact of the matter is they do, and those in the Administration, like John Yoo, are greatly confused if they think that is the case. The fact of the matter is, the President has every reason to fear prosecution for war crimes. What is more absurd is that a world leader who advances a platform of peace, liberty, and progress, would advocate repealing a law set in place to create greater accountability. Less accountability means more leeway to abuse power, and this Presidential term has committed more than its fair share of abuses.

Iraq is an example of these abuses. Here is a war started under false pretenses. A case made to Congress that there was intelligence showing a connection between Iraq and al Qaida. Now, staffers are trying to shift the buck. This seems to be the mantra of the Vice President as well. The fact remains, one lie begets another. Regardless of what the President's lawyers tell him (men like Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, who have advocated the unitarian executive over democracy), what the Administration has done to extract information from "terrorists" IS TORTURE. It is also a violation of the Geneva Convention, and by implication a violation of American law.

I don't care so much about who the President is, the fact remains whoever holds the office is charged with the duty of enforcing the Constitution. No matter how necessary the Executive seems to think it is, he must respect his office, the office of Congress and the Courts, and the rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution. For this President to think that he acts within the law blemishes the altruistic libertarian nature of Constitutional intent. Moreover, we, as citizens, should be ashamed of what this President does as an elected official in our name. This is the land of the free and home of the brave. This is a nation that once clawed against mighty odds for its freedom. Now, we have only succumbed to propagandized fear, making us only too willing to forsake the liberty that has made this country great.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Best War Ever?

The following video is part of the press kit for a book called The Best War Ever. I found this video on Worth watching, possibly even reading.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering but also looking forward...

September 11, 2001, was a somber day in American history where it became clear that the United States super power was no longer impervious to attack. This turning point in history must be viewed in two ways. First, we must remember the loss of life and the lesson that we are not invincible. Second, we must remember where we have come since being attacked. Those of us who watched need to remember in vibrant detail the events of that terrible morning, but in remembrance of the lives lost, should also recount what we have done since that day in defiance of those who seek to destroy our way of life. This post will do just that, honoring those who died by recounting my memories of where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001, and what I have done since.

Five years ago, I was starting my junior year at Western Illinois University after transferring from a community college in my home town. September 11, 2001, started out like any other Tuesday morning early in the semester when I stumbled out of bed around 7:30 AM central time to get ready for my first class of the day, accounting. I showered and walked back to my room where I had left CNN Headline News on T.V. I continued to get ready for the day, but as I came out of the rest room for the second time, one of the residents living down the hall from my dorm room runs out yelling that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At this point, it's some time around 8 AM central time, around 15 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1. At that point, I head into my dorm room in time to see the first moments of the coverage on CNN, including the footage that would follow in the minutes afterward of United Airlines Flight 175 hitting World Trade Center Tower 2 at 8:02 AM, central time. At this point, live footage of the fires in the World Trade Center from varying angles, and eventually aerial views streams across every news channel coming through the university cable network. I skipped breakfast in order to watch the news coverage on several different channels, continually talking with the other people on my floor about what was going on. After watching the news for just over a half hour, I leave for my Accounting class. Very few people show up for class, and the professor is visibly shaken. She leaves the class room to get something from her office, and to find out more of what is going on. She returns to cancel class for the day, mentioning something about the White House being hit, but that she wasn't sure. We know that this doesn't happen, but at the time, it seemed anything was possible. The rest of the day unfolds with the horror of the collapse of WTC Tower 1 and 2. I watched the news for what seemed like the rest of the week without much interruption, except for attending class.

The most vivid memories from that day are my floor mate telling me the towers had been hit, and then watching Flight 175 hit Tower 2. The memory plays out in odd succession, it feels like he yelled down the hall, and I stepped into my room just in time to see the second plane crash. It is a Tuesday I will never forget.

In the last five years, I drove to New York and stayed in Brooklyn over New Years, where I had the chance to walk by the make-shift memorial, I graduated from Western, attended law school where I participated in a variety of activities, graduated from law school, moved to Chicago, and took the Illinois Bar Exam. Life never stopped, nor should it have. The fact that I, along with many others, have accomplished many things, means that the terrorists who attacked the United States five years ago failed to disrupt our lives in a profound way. We must carry on with our lives in defiance of forces that would seek to destroy us. As Americans, we fight terrorism by not giving into the fear it aims to spread. Citizens can also fight the effects of terrorism by being wary of their surroundings. The most important thing that we, as citizens, can be aware of is the direction our leaders are taking us. We must continually question the motives of our leaders when their good intentions erode civil liberties. This combats terrorism by preventing the destruction of libertarian ideals that make this country the United States of America. Giving up these freedoms means that, on some level, the terrorists accomplished their goal. The American way of life depends on its citizens remaining vigilant in the face of adversity, precisely what we must show to those who would seek to destroy us.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Political Iceburg...

In the run up to the midterm elections in November, the political wheel continually gains speed. However, it seems like the messages from the President targeted at aiding other Republicans in their reelection bids continue unabated. The President has embarked on a whirlwind tour to promote White House policy on security leading up to the five year anniversary of the collapse of the World Trade Center. The only clear message from this speech is that we are still not safe, and now the battle front of the war on terror is Iraq. The more disturbing trend, though, is the administration's tactic of making comparisons between this conflict and other more notable historical battles waged with the goal of protecting American liberty. I think Kieth Olbermann's words provide the best rebuttal to this new approach to politics.

There are many things about the President that should give us, as Americans, pause. The most telling of which is the President's irreverence for the people and the institution that came before him. This lack of respect for the system by the President and his staffers is clearly articulated through his policies that disregard the historical operation of checks and balances in American government. Especially when others had attempted to things the right way. We, as subjects to a government with great power, should be leery of this kind of perspective because it can, and has, yielded systemic abuse contrary to the libertarian guarantees of our governmental structure. A new book namedHubris demonstrates another example of the self-serving, anti-citizen, approach to domestic and foreign policy, along with the media's inability to cope with the situation. However, the citizens have the power to make changes. These efforts, though, must be calculated so they are affective. Essentially, we must use the system.

Now, more than ever, we need to be more speculative about the acts of government leaders since their behavior could put us at greater risk. Even though western governments continue to foil terrorist plots some of our allies are stepping away from the table or have brokered their own deals (though Pakistan insists this won't give Bin Laden a way out). The fact remains that policies regarding waging the war on terror put us at risk because they have been ineffective at accomplishing their goals. If we were truly aimed at bringing down al Qaeda, why hasn't Bin Laden been caught? The effective way to wage this war is to destroy the enemy. This means focusing our efforts to accomplish the goal. Send 100,000 troops into Afghanistan to root out Bin Laden and quell the remnants of the Taliban like we should have done in the first place, instead of being side-tracked by efforts in Iraq. As far as Iraq is concerned, crush the insurgency through massive military operations.

What current policy has accomplished, though, is exposing Americans to more dissension by extending its stay in these locations without marked improvements. The Iraqi government can't control the insurgency because our operations haven't done enough to break it down. Similarly, the Taliban, who gave a tremendous amount of support to al Qaeda, are regrouping and trying to retake Afghanistan because the American military response was not sufficient to destroy the threat indefinitely. Even with everything going on in the world, the President's approach to doing his job is costing more than it's helping. His willingness to disregard and disrespect the operation of government places our liberty in jeopardy. His inefficient international policy regarding waging the war on terror has exposed us to more threats. The fact of the matter is, things need to change, either by his own initiative (unlikely) or by voter fiat.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


John Dean on Countdown, "This Is Textbook Authoritarianism..."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

In the News... (Edited)

This post has been edited from its original version because I found a link I want to bring to light. After posting this link, the Grey Area will return to its regularly scheduled post below.

War On Terrorism Time-Line.
This time-line lays out the events leading up to, and after, the World Trade Center attack, including statements of when policy changed in the Administration, and who was for or against specific action. Read it all, it's well worth it.


Apparently, the President wants to nominate judges who will "strictly interpret the Constitution, and not legislate from the bench." That's funny, isn't that what is really going on in the world? Maybe we need a leader who knows how the law operates. Maybe upholding Constitutional rights no longer qualifies as strictly interpreting the Constitution anymore.

This rhetoric is backwards propaganda, a terrible kind of spin that aims to vilify those in the governmental structure who act against the administration by actually performing their Constitutional duty. I think this probably has something to do with the NSA wiretapping decision, which is interesting since the judge in that case actually followed the language of the Constitution as the President wants the judiciary to do. This spin is taking another interesting direction. It seems like there is a lot of back talking in politics today. If the general sentiment is something like the President is a fascist, then the GOP decides to use it as a new "buzzword" in order to shift the focus to someone else. Interesting tactic, but still vacuous in reality. Keith Olbermann weighs in on this speech with what can only be termed a scathing rebuke. This is definitely worth the time.

Finally, in another showing of extreme stupidity, the western world is now afraid of t-shirt. Maybe the TSA is the one governmental agency that can get away with violating the First Amendment. I guess we will have to wait and see how this will turn out over the next couple of months.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Over Educated, Under Employed

I can't figure this one out. I finished law school in May and then spent the entirety of June and July preparing and taking the Illinois Bar Exam and corresponding Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. That means the one major hurdle in my professional life down, provided I pass, is down. Now, I am trying to bypass hurdle number two. I remeber coming into law school as an aspiring 1L thinking how great it will be to have no problem finding a job when I graduate. That I would participate in as many practical skills programs and extra-curriculars in order to insure I had solid experience to offer a firm as a prospective entry level associate. I competed in Moot Court competitions and Mock Trial competitions. I worked for a law firm one summer, clerked for a state agency for another, and externed for a prosecutor's office where I got to litigate part of my own bench trial...

Where did it get me? Nowhere. Here I am mired in what can only be described as incomprehensible confusion regarding the job market. I understand that I am stuck in a kind of professional purgatory, that I am not really useful to a law firm until I pass the bar, but the fact is, now that I have a J.D., it's as though I can't work for the minimum wage jobs either, just to make ends meet. Maybe this is something specific to my geographic location, but I have found that I am not the only one stuck in this particular state of affairs.

The moral of this story is two-fold. First, don't put all your eggs in one basket, because in this job market, one that will no doubt last until the baby boomers finally retire and there is a longstanding positive upturn in the markets, there is no such thing as a sure thing. Second, don't waste your time while in school, use the time to make contacts in the area you want to practice both professionally and geographically.

Anyone have any recomendations?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Forehead Dents the Table...

Thanks in large part to my insomnia, I caught the tail end of the Monday's late night re-run of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. His guest at the end of the show was Ramesh Ponnuru. Mr. Ponnuru is the author of the book The Party of Death. The book details how the Democratic party now supports the end of human life through having a Pro-Life platform, among other things. The conversation referenced Roe v. Wade, arguing that this decision should not have been made by judges, but by the people, and that the issue wouldn't be as polarizing if it placed some kind of restrictions on the right to choose.

As the title of this post suggests, I will soon need a new table because of all the ignorant anti-liberty neoconservative ranting regarding concepts of freedom that buttress the Constitution. If my head bounces off the table any more, I may have to replace the table. Why is this so absurd?

First and foremost, the Supreme Court declared that women have the right to choose regardless of much gestation time has elapsed. While the cite to Roe is correct, the statement of the law is incorrect. In 1991, the Supreme Court, through Justice O'Connor, reigned in the unlimited right to abortion announced in Roe in the landmark decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Casey added the "time restrictions" Mr. Ponnuru suggests the law requires. Currently, the law allows restrictions on the right to choose once a fetus reaches a state of viability. Moreover, the fact that they seem to think that the decision is left to judges is incorrect. Fundamentally, Judges operate as the arbiter of legal disputes between Congress and the rights of the people announced by the supreme law of the land, the Constitution. To denigrate the operation of the judiciary, writing off their role in the governmental system, demonstrates a lack of understanding for the operation of checks and balances, a principle announced by the founders on repeated occasions as a way to provide recourse to the people against abusive legislative or executive government.

If the Democrats are the party of death, the Republicans are the party against personal freedom. The abortion decisions essentially establish a personal right to privacy regarding decisions of procreation, a right properly reserved to the individual. The abortion issue is just as much about keeping laws out of personal and individual decisions regarding family and responsibility As far as I am concerned, the law needs to stay out of the lives of its citizens, and the court need to continue to protect those rights as needed.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

10 More Kinds of Stupidity

Some things in life make no logical sense, no matter how hard someone tries to make rational sense of the utter stupidity of a situation. Recently, it feels as though the effect of terrorism has had this effect on the entire world, or at least those who supposedly run it. The goal of terrorism is to change a social mindset. A small group with an agenda commits some terrible act of violence to gain the attention of a large social group that otherwise wouldn't care. This group changes the status quo of the large social group by making them fear what could happen next. A good example are the recent surge of stories of diverted air craft after someone notices what they think is a terrorist threat. This presents an interesting counter perspective on the previous story. It's interesting that all the recent acts of terrorism have done is to create more hassels for people who don't want them.

What's more interesting is that terrorism doesn't accomplish its goals, or its goals are misplaced. My impression of the extremist message is that the West must die, that the industrialized world has foisted an anti-culture perspective on an entire faith base, destroying what they believe by coercing their youth with global liberalism. What results is a battle of culture. Unfortunately, it's the battle of capitalist ideals and devote Islam. What it comes down to, they have something that business needs to operate. What they have is oil, and the world imposes it's will on people to get more of it. The extreme response is to wage war by killing hundreds or thousands to aid their cause. Interestingly, a more effective approach would be to change the policy of governments perpetrating this kind of evil on the observant Muslim society. Killing is not the answer because it accomplishes the wrong result. Countries tighten security, and do asinine things like hiring the uneducated to work as security guards. Most importantly, it doesn't change the policy buttressing action that nations like Iran and Syria, or groups like al Qaeda, so vehemently oppose. Changing policy should be the goal, not scaring people into submission.

Speaking of policy and the foreign arena, does it surprise anyone that the United States started the nuclear conflict with Iran? This shows how backwards long term American international policy truly is. It makes no sense that we would create this kind of international risk. The fact is, American foreign policy needs to be focused on the consequences.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sometimes Bill O'Reilly Makes Me Sick

The title link goes to a video of an interview about the recent NSA Decision. Who gave this guy this kind of voice? No, better yet, why is he so anti-American?? He seems to believe that the judge wants to kill Americans. The guest seems to think that "liberals" are communists, and that the ACLU is the most dangerous organization to this country.

OK, this is why I am so sick. First, the NSA program violates the law. The President is bound to follow FISA, and the NSA program is in direct contradiction to both FISA and the Fourth Amendment. What's worse, this idiot has the gall to be so ignorant about civil liberties. The ACLU represents the interests of all Americans by preventing the abuse of civil liberties by the government, something that the George Bush has done repeatedly since the start of this "War on Terror" nonsense, and Bill O'Reily continues to aid and abet by spreading this moronic ignorance to the entire FoxNews demographic. Since when has standing up for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land, make someone a leftist or an activist? The people who act in contravention of these rights aren't Conservative in the lexical meaning of the word. If anything, this brazen military-centric protectionist ideology is more Fascist in nature. So who's worse, someone who wants to keep this country free, or someone who wants to destroy the very foundation of our Free society?

Does the ACLU take on cases and represent people in situations that are sometimes repugnant to our common sense notions of socially permissible behavior? Sure, but these are the situations where the government is most likely to expand power at the expense of the Constitution's guarantee of liberty. Someone must push the boundaries to force the development of the law. The real danger are the knee-jerk, anti-liberty ideologues like O'Reilly and his guest who would rather take freedom away from the electorate.

Be wary of Neo-Conservativism, represented by the likes of O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Politicians with their point of view pose a greater risk to what makes this country great then decisions aimed at protecting the rights given to us by the founding fathers. Any American against the exercise of rights provided by the Constitution is Un-American in the truest sense. They represent the antithesis of freedom.

Update: Bill Maher's Perspective.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Constant Quandries

I posted a few days ago about how many scholars fault the reasoning in the NSA decision. After the President's remarks, the deeper political effects are now being felt in Washinton. Clearly, national security will take center stange come November, even if the rest of us really care about tax cuts and government spending.
There has been another interesting development with American policy on Iraq. Apparently, the President is entertaining the idea of installing a dictator to lead the government in Bagdad. One would think that, at the very least, we would learn from history, especially considering history has shown these tactics don't work to th benefit of American interests. It may finally be coming down to the point where the old-style Texas shoot-from-the-hip politics will have to give way to diplomatic negotiation.

Moving from one political battlefront to another, the political battle over net neutrality continues to rage in Washington. It appears as though Congress is about to strike the final blow. If ever there was a time for action, this would be it. If this bill passes you can expect more of the idiotic, pocket filling, useless, anti-consumer, rate hikes like the new veiled hikes from Verhizon. The worst possible affect is a new restriction on civil liberties. One that would otherwise silence the power of sites like YouTube to expose government action through user created content.

One example is a recent video that shows polices arresting a teenager for his speech. Two Sheriff's apparently arrested a teenager for expressing a political opinion with explitive language. This situation reminds me most of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Cohen v. California. In that case, the expression involved similarly explicative language, but focused on the draft. I think there is a strong argument that the Sheriffs violated the teenager's First Amendment right to free speech, provided he was trying to convey a political message.