Monday, January 30, 2006

What the!??!?!?!?!????

I don't get the way the American Government works. The following links for example:

Wire Tapping the Internet?

Anti renewable Energy?

Broadcast Flag?

Domestic Spying?

Can someone please explain this to me?

Quelling the Revolution...

So there are some good people in the world that were at one point in positions of power. This seems to be what the story in the title link is getting at. It also, though, points out problems with the structure of political government. Like Clinton, Bush wants to surround himself with "Yes" men. Of course, why wouldn't the leader of the free world not want to be surrounded by people who will do his bidding without question. But doesn't this tell us something about the administration's willingness to disregard the founding principles of our nation? Shouldn't we be worried about the amount of power that the executive power has annexed in the name of national security? Rhetorically, we should say yes.

Also, I was quite amused at a "get together" here for Valpo Law students. Apparently, there is a party at one of the local bars for the State of the Union Address. Only law students.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Am I in the Right Place?

Holy layout changes Batman!!!!

Ok, so the Grey Area is finally grey. Let me know what you think. This is just a start, I am looking for other suggestions, even if you think this one doesn't work, let me know.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Staging the Third World War

Before I get to the point of this post, I will warn you that this post will be long, and if you aren't interested in what is going on in international politics, check out Fazed for your amusement. If you are in the mood for something a little geekier (Star Trek specific geekness), check this out.

On to the point. The title link goes to NPR's coverage of the recent elections in Palestine. The BBC is running similar coverage. Our President has made it very clear that he thinks Hamas is a terrorist organization. This opinion is well founded. After all, Hamas is responsible for a number of suicide bombings, and is open and notorious about its distaste for Israel. However, Fatah has roots in terrorist organizations as well. This whole situation brings us, as a global community, into dire straits.

The middle east is a fragmented place, with divisions between Muslims and the rest of the world. Interestingly, the Christians and Jesuits are on the same side, so the situation as it stands is believers in one faith against another. (Let me clarify, the Jewish believe in the same god as the Christians, the difference is that the Christians believe that their Prophet, Jesus, has already come, while the Jewish still await the coming of their Prophet) Regardless, it boils down to the followers of Islam versus any and all takers. This creates an important tension considering the political state of the world otherwise. Iran has recently restarted their nuclear program. North Korea seems to have similar ambitions. The result could be an interesting alliance between Iran, Palestine, and North Korea. In all likelihood, what could follow is a tumble down affect with dire consequences.

First, Hamas will like start a war with Israel. The US sees Israel as an ally, so we would pledge troops and military support. Seeing as our forces are already stretched thin between Iraq and Afghanistan, it wouldn't take much slack in our forces to provide a loop hole for Iran and possibly Syria to disrupt operations in Iraq. Any alliance between Iraq and Syria will no doubt draw the attention of Hamas. If this were to happen, Hamas could ally its self with Iran and Syria. At this point, the middle east will have lost all stability, and American forces will be fighting a loosing battle with enemies on all sides and not enough men to fill necessary gaps.

Second, the United Kingdom will likely pledge support, as will other parts of the European Union, after all a unified middle east under a banner of Islamic extremism isn't good for anyone. China and Russia will most likely opt to keep their noses clear in the beginning. This is where North Korea comes in.

Finally, North Korea brings up the rear. North Korea is really the free radical in the equation. Its not clear whether Kim Jong Il would take advantage of the situation, but with US forces at a tactical disadvantage both geographically and in terms of keeping troops supplied, they may attempt to get into the fray. This is especially dangerous if they have nuclear weapons. That, as yet, remains unclear. If nuclear weapons come into the game, the President will no doubt retaliate with the brunt of American nuclear forces. North Korea may bring China and Russia into the game, but only because Russia wouldn't want such a zealous nuclear counter-part in Asia. Similarly, China wouldn't have a choice since they would suffer at the hands of any nuclear fall-out from an attack against North Korea. Unfortunately, this could be a chance for China to reclaim Taiwan.

Any way you slice it, its a dangerous situation. The hope is that Hamas follows the road of Fatah, and the end game is played out politically. Many analysts are hoping that this political movement pacifies Hamas. Israel, though, remains a point of tension. If Israel were to take a pre-emptive approach to the situation, the whole debacle would unfold and the rest of the world would be along for the ride. Patience and diplomacy is the key here. If the cards are played correctly, the whole mess can be resolved without escalating to a world wide military conflict. Moreover, accepting Hamas would go a long way to legitimizing democracy in middle eastern countries typically run by theocracy. If anything, such an initial approach would save face, how can Americans tout democracy but then disagree with the free choice of a people who have made a decision. Regardless, we all should hope for patience, and that cooler heads will prevail, even if it means cooling our American egoism.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Political Obscurity...

Apparently, there has been a revelation that politicians use the internet, specifically blogs, to advance their agenda. C|Net News is running a story surveying which politicians have sites. For some reason this just doesn't seem like a new concept. Barack O'bama blogged his way through his entire campaign. I am glad to see legislators embrace the internet as a method of furthering their platforms. But, we have to ask, is this really a surprise? Anyone that frequents this site knows that I use my blog as a forum for my agenda (some times more than others). We still have to applaud this approach though. In this age of connectivity and apathetic yet technologically integrated youth, this medium may well be the way to connect to the next generation of voters. While legislators embrace one medium protected by the First Amendment, they violate the another.

A Texas politician has proposed a tax on violent video games. While it may provide an alternative to ever increasing property taxes, the legislation would also place an unnecessary content-based restriction on free speech. It just seems like this demonstrates how some of the members of Congress don't understand the Constitution, and its evolution through the federal common law. Maybe, those on line will have a positive effect on those who seem utterly confused. Just to put it into perspective, a video game tax could mean extra surcharges on your monthly MMORPG membership, or a 10% increase on the cost of the next installment of Metal Gear Solid. Ponder that one, check out some political blogs, and make an informed decision to prevent some taxes that inhibit First Amendment rights.

/Stepping off the soapbox.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Notwithstanding the stupid title, the title link goes to a livejournal post about Alberto Gonzales's speech at Georgetown university school of law today. It was a good day for dissent, and demonstrates that politics denigrates law by misleading the public. Well, maybe just the way the current administration uses politics. (like appointing judges to courts, lie to the public, stack congressional districts...) Anyway, more power to the students, would have loved to participate. I love the way the professors encouraged it. Anyway, made me smile. It proves that Bush's tactics won't work on the educated...Hmm...Tells you something else about this country. Heard an interesting statistic that rural communities control the majoritarian stake in the politics of this country. Literally, over 60% of the house and nearly 75% of the senate. Hold on, it gets better, these are all towns of less than 10,000 residents. All of a sudden, things become clear about politics these days. Ok, back to writing my stuff for moot court and mock trial.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Return to Hanger...

So life is slowly turning back to normal, but it won't truly be normal until my laptop comes back with all new video hardware. The sooner the better, using my old IBM is really taking its toll. Hopefully my machine will be back this week, but we will see.

My webcam image from today is me playing with my camera phone at work. New technology is the bane of my productivity. Those are mug shots on the wall behind me. (don't ask) I only work two days a week at this job, and I spend the rest of the week at school. My schedule is limited because of class and the fact that I leave my apartment at 6 am and don't usually get to work until just after 9. The return trip usually takes about the same amount of time. I work in a prosecutor's office. I have to say that working in the prosecutorial arm of the government makes me worry about laws like this. I think this anti-democratic trend in law making debases the principles upon which this great nation was founded. Regardless, it adds another perspective to the operation of the legal system. Do we really want a diaphanous system? I think its the only true check on government power. Why does a government need to keep secrets? Or, better yet, why does a government need to pass laws about communications and entertainment that are not fully explained?

This week is all about extracurricular. Unfortunately this means another week of 3 hours sleep a night, average. Another week of this and I will be forced to move to paper plates and plastic-ware because I don't have time to do dishes. Too bad clothing can't be similarly disposable. At least I have Star Trek: TNG to balance my sanity. Here we go...

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Brief is Done...

So, I have been writing an appellate brief for a moot court competition coming up at the end of February. This morning, we finished, printed, bound, and mailed the brief this morning. For the non-legal types, after a jury renders a decision, parties may appeal the decision on some point of law to a higher court. The documents filed in appeals are called briefs, which are not brief by any stretch of the imagination. Moot Court is an extracurricular activity that provides "problems" that students draft briefs on, and then present oral arguments on the briefs. The briefing stage requires a lot of research and writing, so I am glad to say that I am finished with this stage of the game.

You can imagine how relieved I am if this is what its like while writing the brief. I am glad to say that I didn't loose too much of my hair in the last couple of weeks. I am also looking forward to get a regular nights sleep.

I am reasonably pleased with our work product. There are some minor problems, but ultimately I am still proud of what my partner and I produced. Now, though, I have to get back into the swing of school, and try to resettle my life after my computer crash last Monday.

Look for some more blog changes in the future. I am planning on making some more format changes, background colors, more pictures (see the flickr badge at the side), and some lighter posts that, though still attempting to address social issues, include a little more humor. Also expect more off topic posts as well. This will allow me to post more often, and post things that will hopefully be more interesting. Let me know what you think as the changes come and go.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Following Up on Big Brother

Here is some follw-up on this weeks Grey Area in print, the title link goes ot Cringely's "Pulpit" commentary on the history of domestic spying. Interesting read.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hello Big Brother

Ok, first, I want to apologize to my readers for my lack of posts in the last week. Unfortunately, my primary laptop fell victim to a massive hardware crash. Needless to say its going back to its maker to get the same part replaced that they replaced last time it crashed. Hopefully I will be back up and running full steam in about a week or two. Besides that, when my internet isn't slower than dial up, I will update what I can. Also, more pictures and possibly some movies will be coming to this site. I have a camera phone now, and in my evil form of benevolence, I get to post all kinds of pictures, like from my commute, work, and school.

Second, The Forum hit the news stands yesterday, and with it the most recent installment of the "Grey Area" in print. The title link goes to my column for the month of January. The article presents my legal analysis on the constitutionality of the President's domestic spying program. Let me know what you think.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Ten Myths of Copyright Law

The title link is just that. Interesting read that gives a little insight to what rights you do and don't have and what you can do with intelectual property.

DRM perspective

The title link has an interesting look at DRM software.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brownback at Alito's Confirmation Hearing

The title link leads to NPR's coverage of Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings for a seat on the Supreme Court. I had the opportunity to watch some of the confirmation hearings this morning while getting ready for my day. The particular portion of the proceedings involved Sen. Brownback's first round of questions to the nominee. The bulk of the questioning involved dealt with Alito's judicial philosophy. Interestingly, it included a long diatribe about how Rowe v. Wade remains unsettled law. The first thing that bothers me about these proceedings is how the political parties approach this as a soap box to promote their party for the midterm elections. Sure, this is politics, but realistically, before Sandra Day O'Connor's confirmation hearings, the elaborate proceedings we know now were less than rare. Before the 1980's most appointments simply went to an up or down vote. More importantly, the Constitution doesn't require these type of proceedings to take place, rather congress has the right of comment and consent. U.S. Const. Art. 2 Sec. 2. This process, as it stands now, is important for informing and protecting the public. It adds an important democratic component to the process. But, should it be used for political purposes? The rhetoric of the representatives involved seem to say no. This, though, seems to disregard that precept.

Second, some of Alito's "perspectives" don't logically match one another. One example is his approach to privacy rights. Alito reads the constitution in a way that imbues a right to privacy, but this right does not extend to all situations. The primary example used in the hearings is his views on abortion. In my mind privacy extends to any and all personal choices or personal affects. The point here is not to stir up the abortion debate, rather point out the reaches of the "right to privacy" in Alito's view. The lingering question is exactly what limits exist on a/the right to privacy?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Impact of the Media

The title link goes to a comment by Nerdgirl from my post yesterday. I think she raises an interesting point about how "we", as a society, are informed about the goings on in our government. Sure, media covers things like Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings, but information about subtler things happening in the country and out government. Its clear that just watching CNN Headline News or Fox News isn't sufficient to adequately educate the public. Clearly, the news aims more to entertain. Society consumes news like it consumes any other form of media. Watching the local evening news in Illinois and Indiana gives a good example of this premise. They always start out with the big breaking story, followed by the lighter side of the news, which is broken up by sports and weather. What stands out here is the absence of more in depth information about the operation of local, state, and federal government. This isn't always the case though. For example, Chicago Public Radio and National Public Radio covered a story regarding catches gift of diesel fuel to the Chicago transit authority. This coverage delved into why the CTA initially refused, as well as the public discourse surrounding public opinion, and local politics, that eventually changed the CTA's mind. So the question, really, is how do we as a society want to be informed. Do we want the cookie cutter news or do we need to know the real issues?

As far as things like tort reform, its best we know who the players are, and how they operate in the system so "we", as a society, are informed of how this legislation will impact our ability to bring a lawsuit, or how much we will have to pay our doctors, or how much we have to pay for insurance. Should we be informed? Yes. But, should we rely on regular media to be informed?

Legislating the Internets

The title link goes to a story posted on Slashdot about a legislation signed by the President last Thursday. This new piece of legislation includes a provision making it illegal to harass a person over the internets anonymously. A prospective from C-Net's details the impact this could have on the operation of Usenets. Interestingly, the provision is titled "Preventing Cyberstalking" and is part of the Violence Against Women Act. If the statute were to be limited to this purpose only, than it would undergird the purpose of the act. However, the innocuous language of the act indicates that it may be farther reaching than its draft indicates.

The most disturbing part of this legislative act is two fold. First, it regulates conduct on the internet. Second, it was passed as an addendum to another bill sneaking by the totality of the legislative process. While in the first instance, the act controls behavior that would otherwise be illegal if perpetrated through some other medium (though it could control conduct that occurs in the privacy of an individual's home, or even crossing international boarders), the second instance demonstrates a trend in Congress to pass "questionable" legislation under the nose of the American people. Another example is the budget bill which contained a provision to permit oil drilling in ANWR. Legislation needs to be up front and explicit. Much of this back-door legislation is a method of strong-arming the democratic minority into passing legislation it would resist by placing small provisions in larger bills, like the budget, that would result in serious political consequences if they refused to comply with the bill's passage. Is this the way we want the political system to operate, to sacrifice the operation of the democratic process?


There are some interesting comments on this story running at BoingBoing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Perspectives

Hopefully, what will be my last semester of my law school career starts tomorrow. My first reaction to this realization is that I am glad to finally be ending seven years of formal education post high school. My next thought turns to the way law school has changed my perspective on the world. Some things that seemed reasonable three years ago seem idiotic now. Tort reform is one example. The interplay of economics and societal structure is another. The former comes more from my experience learning the law, digging in to the language of statutory texts, and reading past the rhetoric to get at impetus for such policy. The latter comes more from my reflection on the way business and the legal system works, and re-thinking some of what I studied in undergrad when working with social and political philosophy. In some ways, they seem to work together. Tort reform is a good example. Essentially, lawmakers want to curb the astronomical judgments handed out by juries in personal injury lawsuits. This includes situations like medical malpractice. The impetus for such reform comes from the staggering increase in insurance premiums paid by doctors that has forced many from the profession.

Looking past these superficial motivations, the real story comes from what is going on in the insurance business. Much of this legislation comes not from the doctors, though they have a part, rather from the insurance industry attempting to limit their liability to pay on claims. The impact of this legislation on the market will probably be small. Even if there are limitations on damages awarded in these cases, insurance premiums won't decrease. This strengthens one part of the economy while weakening another. More importantly, this change reverberating through the legal system by diminishing the rights of prospective plaintiffs in being the architects of their own suits, and pursuing the equitable disposition of legal disputes. Areas of the law are interconnected, and such a major change in one area will no doubt cause similar changes in other areas.

It all comes back to how changes in the law change the economy surrounding the area the laws control. The question becomes who the law should aim to serve, big business or the people?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Google Going the Evil Route

The title link goes to a post on the Muted Noise forums discusses how even Google is getting into the world of intellectual property ownership. Many of my musings lately have dealt with this topic largely because these policies are anti-consumer. There is also serious question about whether intellectual property would constitute a good in order to allow the uniform commercial code to protect the consumers who trade in any form of intellectual property. Software doesn't usually fall within the UCC, which leaves the consumer at the whim of big business. Imagine buying a car, but part of the deal is a little label under the sun visor that specifies how you, the owner, may use the vehicle, and how your miss use of your property could result in a lawsuit against you. To some extent, this is how DRM would work. The worst part is how this situation demonstrates the failure of the democratic process since big business also has the ear of politics who could make laws protecting the consumers. The problems don't end their either. The economic impact of anti-consumer practices rebuffs the source of trade. Why would a big business, who must pander to the consumer, take advantage of their life blood? While this won't likely destroy the music industry any time soon, it will stifle other areas of the tech industry by restricting who people use computers, MP3 players, and other digital media players. Google, who we would think would know better, appears to be heading this route. From the article, "bad google!"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

To the Five People that Read This...

So with the new year, and my new-found abundance of a law student...I want to make some changes/improvements to this site. Post me some comments, tell me what you think. Less politics? More posts? Add art? Change layout? Change blog host? Or should I keep doing what I am doing where I am doing it? Let me know. One new addition, that will hopefully be updated regularly, is a webcam (really just bad pictures from my desk). Regardless, let me know what you think.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Will They Ever Learn?

Fast and Loud is running a story on the new wave of DRM tactics Sony is using to screw consumers. Not only do these CDs come loaded with nasty software that will open your system to hackers, they now come with a form of license that you tacitly accept when using the CD. The agreement is tucked inside the cover of the CD, and specifies how the end user may use the media. Wise up Sony, this pisses off the consumer, and won't help you sell any more CDs. If you think that this will help your sales, think again. Most people consider what they want to do with the music when they are buying a CD. I like to put all my music on my Laptop, so it comes with me everywhere, I also put it on my MP3 player so I can listen to it in the car on long drives, or on long train commutes. To the Consumer's out there, vote with your wallets, and let Sony and other big business what you think about this kind of stupidity.