Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mixed Bag...

First, something that the law is supposed to do. Last November, the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. In February, the Court reaffirmed last November's decision. Recently, the Massachusetts Court applied a law from 1913 and found that the Massachusetts permission for gay marriage may not apply in other states where such marriages are illegal. This limits the application of the gay rights decision under principles of conflict of law by giving other states a way to avoid applying laws not coextensive with their own. While viewed by gay rights activists as discriminatory, its interesting to note that this law applies to heterosexual couples as well as homosexual couples. On its face, this appears to be the equal application of the law. Ideally, this is exactly what gay couples would be hoping for, equality. However, this prevents homosexual couples from garnering protections provided by Massachusetts in other states, and is why activists are against the decision. The only reason why this law does not apply to heterosexual couples is because heterosexual marriage is legal in ever state. We will just have to wait and see how things play out.

Michigan has tonight's other example of how oddly the law applies in certain cases. Apparently, a teen in Michigan posted pictures of two of his teenage friends having sex on his blog. The situation gets interesting because the state charged the Blogger under a child pornography law since the female participant was only 16 years old. Interestingly, the age of consent in Michigan is 16. For some reason, this result doesn't make much sense. The idea that someone can be charged with the distribution of child pornography when both of the participants are legally capable of consenting to engage in sexual intercourse. The application of the child pornography law makes sense because it aims to prevent the exploitation of minors. I just wonder if maybe the state's response was a big extreme given the circumstances. In addition, it also appears to point out a problem with the law, which may require re-drafting to compensate for the legal anomaly. I am not saying what the Blogger did was right, but I wonder if the state's response could be characterized as excessive.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I have something of substance brewing...

But in the mean time, more links. I swear, something more interesting is coming, it's just another crazy week between work and school. My mad dash to finish my seminar paper starts bright and early tomorrow, after I read 5 appellate briefs. Yay...

Interesting. It appears that the divide on the Supreme Court is becoming less of a mystery. This case, like the recent decision in Georgia v. Randolph, demonstrates the new balance of the Court, and what could be the new controlling majority.

Painfully Obvious

The MPAA can eat it...

The True Mewes Story.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

So much seriousness in the Grey these days...

The posts have been very serious lately. How about some links to more interesting/funny things...

For those keeping up with the South Dakota abortion debate: Touche.

Justice Antonin Scalia, well, being Scalia: Interesting.

From The Boondocks: Revolutionary or Terrorist?

Crazy Chickens: Poultry Hamlet.

Medieval Legos: Canadian Tradition.

::Error::: Spring, not so good.

"Secrecy begets tyranny."

The title of this post quotes Robert A. Heinlein's book Stranger in a Strange Land. I think this quote is more relevant than we, as citizens, seem to think these days. Recently,the Department of Homeland Security issued a policy allowing them to make certain meetings private. The idea that the government wants to have meetings about policy in private scares me, especially when the meetings involve issues of homeland security. The actions of this particular committee are in flagrant disregard for existing laws that require such meetings to be public. Moreover, this kind of agency action is the least democratic. It seems more and more that the powers in the government attempt to subvert the democratic process to perpetrate violations of some of the most fundamental civil liberties, especially since elected officials swear an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Its not just the freedom of information that is coming under attack these days, but the freedom to speak and criticize. Common Cause is reporting a story about an FBI investigation of the League of Women Voters after a panel discussion criticizing the Patriot Act (linked from What's worse is the policy buttressing these actions. Its nice to know that the Patriot Act gives the FBI carte blanche to investigate those who are critical of governmental policies. Some of the aspects of this policy make it seem like the FBI can operate like secret police. This can't be what our democracy stands for. I understand the concerns, but preventing "acts of terror" should not require governmental deleterious policies that impinge upon the libertarian principles providing the foundation of our democracy. You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once." American Democracy should err on the side of freedom.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Movie Review

I finally saw V for Vendetta this weekend. Though based on a graphic novel produced by a DC Comics affiliate Vertigo in the early 1980's and rereleased in 1995, the film its self was very well made and definitely worth seeing, especially considering the quality of film making recently. The overall message reminds me of George Orwell's 1984, but limiting the story in this manner would be largely superficial. Instead of looking at an authoritarian society from the prospective of the citizen, it considers it from the perspective of the revenge-driven revolutionary. The message from both, though, run along similar lines, and each remind us that fear is ultimately what will destroy a democratic society. Though not a comment on our society today, it certainly rings true with much of what is going on in the world. If anything, V and 1984 demonstrate the fragility of democratic society.

At the same time, V sends a message about how dangerous rhetoric can be. Eric Muller recently discussed the dangers of the word "terrorist". Its interesting to note that the government portrayed in V views the protagonist as a terrorist. We have seen exactly how dangerous this kind of rhetoric can be leading up to the military actions in Iraq. We need to question why the government uses the language it does, and we need to continue to question why the government would think that society needs protection. After all, government should only exist to facilitate the people, and limiting liberty fails to facilitate the people in a meaningful way.

Also, if you get the chance, check out Evan Schaeffer's Legal Underground.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Still Studying...

Ok, my midterm is in just over 12 hours, and I am still studying, on about 3 hours of sleep. So, to pass the time, check the following links out, and think really hard about the implications of each.

This is not an uncommon story. New York state even tried to ban open wifi networks. But fining someone for accessing an open network? Questionable at best. I wonder if this guy will challenge the fine.

This demonstrates that even the FCC chairman can be bought. Ok, really, does AT&T really need to limit bandwidth, we are getting screwed as it is right now. This bothers me because now we not only have to pay for access to the internet and for web hosting, but bandwidth as well. Its not like it really costs AT&T a small fortune to keep think the way they are. Sounds more like economic tyranny to me.

Site news: I am in the process of learning php, mysql, and css. What does that mean for this site? Not much at the moment except a new layout and color scheme in the near future, I can't do too much with php and mysql on Blogger, but who knows.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Democratic Effect...

It seems as though much of the movement behind bringing democracy to the middle east is targeted at the questionable practices of Islam, Sharia law, and the breeding of fundamentalists now termed terrorists. This concept, if tenable, fails miserably. The title link demonstrates this problem, and how democracy won't fix the "problem." However, Islam really isn't a problem, and points out the problem moreso with democracy than with the "questionable" aspects of Islam. Democracy is rule by the majority, if the majority wants Sharia law, that is how the government organizes its self. As a result, the goal of pacifying Muslim extremists fails. It also points out the ridiculous perspective of those proffering these policies. This perspective appears to be the "looks like us, acts like us" mentality that does not jell with the reality of the government-to-government formation of democracies, and the effect of majoritarian control. We take for granted the principles of our democracy, and it appears that the concept of evangelical democracy presupposes the existence of libertarian principles contained in the Bill of Rights. Realistically, outside of our constitutional microcosm, these notions of liberty do not necessarily exist. Its fair to say, then, that an Afghan democracy can, and should, establish its governmental structure. Therefore, the net democratic effect is essentially more of the same.

More interesting legal news: The Supreme Court handed down Georgia v. Randolph today. See also the Court's decision. There is also an interesting read over at detailing new laws in France regarding Macintosh and the Cult of Mac.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Media Potluck for the Day...

Keeping with the tradition of posting news about the current state of copyright law, this link goes to a scathing examination of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

With this week being a rough start to the fourth year of American military operations in Iraq, the President had interesting things to say at his press conference today. I think the most interesting statement from this article was that he would not have sent troops to Iraq if he thought the operation would fail. Conversely, the President also pointed out today that waging the war is costing him political capital. I try to retain my sarcasm at this statement but appreciate that he is owning up to the fact that this may not have been a good idea. I won't put words in his mouth, but essentially, he finally recognizes in uncertain terms that not all the American people are on board with his policy on Iraq. Maybe its the recent down turn in his approval rating that is the driving force behind these statements. However, we must put these numbers into perspective.

Does anyone else think this was a bas idea? Do we want to let sex offenders go? Maybe I have been working in a prosecutor's office for too long.

Site stuff: Traffic on Sunday was terrific for this site. Any comments from new visitors regarding the page layout, color scheme, or substance? The Grey Area is a bit spartan right now, I am looking for ideas to spice things up a bit.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Interesting Articles...

The first link deals with the futility of digital rights management.

The second link deals with the need for patent law reform. This is another link detailing the B-vitamine case going to the Supreme Court this week.

Studying for a midterm on Friday for criminal procedure, so I will be posting as I can this week.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

DRM leading to Death???

The title link was too good to pass up. Both funny and interesting, but don't forget to read the other post from today as well.

State of the Union...

A large number of my blog posts focus on criticizing the President and his administration. This post follows that trend, but I feel as though I need to preface my opinions to explain why the Executive is such a big target, for me anyway.

I believe strongly in the structure of our Constitutional Government. Much of my criticism of governmental figures focuses on the actions of constitutional officers which serves to debase the values and rights contained within our social contract. The Constitution is the highest law of the land, and members of the government who swear an oath to preserve the Constitution and the freedoms therein. This blog, and my opinions, have never been partisan, predominantly because I don't think bipartisanism works. Officers of the government should not act in ways that denigrate our rights. Its obscene to think they have the power to violate the supreme law of the land. From this perspective, comes some interesting political news and opinions on what is currently going on in politics.

The International Herald Tribune is running an opinion article discussing the recent release of the administration's National Security Statement. While I don't agree with the commentator's references to the administration's approach to global politics being Kissengerian in any sense, its interpretation of the administration's pedantic approach to world politics is insightful. While I am not against the administration's policy of diplomacy, this unilateral approach weakens whatever is gained through the process. The Statement rails on about how liberty, free markets, and free trade are of fundamental importance to the securing peace and reinforcing our democracy and other democracies around the world. If this truly is the administration's goal, I would like to see them start by guaranteeing our Constitutional rights here at home first. On the note, I came across another interesting article from

A recent post on details some abominable poll numbers regarding whether Congress should take actions against the President to restrict the NSA domestic spying program. While a Law School Professor from a Miami law school writes Discourse, this post raises some interesting empirical data without any commentary. Reading the comments provides an interesting insight to what the readers actually think about the situation. Basically, the pole numbers provide a partisan look at who really thinks the spying program is worth keeping. The numbers are scary to say the least. We can't forget that information collected under this program can still be used against Americans for situations not related to terrorism. There is plently of law on the books permitting officers to use information obtained through illegal searches as probable cause for further searches. Just because the purpose of the program is to stop "terrorists" (as dangerous as that word is), the information may still be used against Americans that have a constitutional right to judicial review prior to having their person, home, or effects, searched. constitutional Amendment IV.

While the merits of the International Herald Tribune opinion are up for debate, it remains an interesting argument over whether the administration, and other elected officials, are upholding their sword duty to enforce and protect the rights of the Constitution.

Two edits: my grammar is terrible today.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Update on "Ebbing..."

The title link goes to a Guardian article where Sandra Day O'Connor explains the important role of the judiciary in keeping this country exactly what it was originally intended to be, and not slipping farther towards a totalitarian state. Say all you want about those crazy judges who "legislate from the bench." The truth is, Hamilton thought the judiciary was the least dangerous of the three branches of government. Federalist No. 78. I fully anticipate that this is the direction my seminar paper will go.

More on the political front: The New York Times is reporting that the President continues to press the Iraqi government to deal with its impending civil war on its own. Logically, this policy is problematic. Why would you leave a society split down sectarian lines to deal with its own sectarian civil war? This was bound to happen. Honestly, you remove a sectarian minority dictator who abused the sectarian majority, retribution was close at hand. Pulling out now will only make matters worse. Coalintion forces were initially viewed as occupiers, but this move may make it seem like we abandoned the Iraqi people. Its a loose-loose situation.

On the free information front: Interesting read, they had it coming.

Site news: At first I thought it was the Grey Area that was being slow. Apparently, its all of Blogger. This is providing me with even more reasons to find the Grey Area a dedicated home on the internet. With more hits, that is very likely to happen.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ebbing Towards Totalitarianism

Much of what I write in these virtual confines is outlandish, or, at least, intended to arouse in the intellectual sense. Sometimes, my muse is something much simpler. The title link is a perfect example. In the trailer for the forthcoming film V for Vendetta (not a shameless plug, I swear I am not getting paid), the main character articulates an interesting concept, that "government should fear the people." While in the Hobbsean sense, this should be true, it should not extend to adverse action by the government against the people. In large part, the policies, and now laws, are targeted at keeping us, as citizens, quiet. We must know what our government is doing. Subject to the social contract, the government should be the agent of the people. The language of our founding documents makes this clear with its statement that the American government exists "by and for the people." We, as American citizens must demand better from our leaders, or hope that the system of checks and balances will prevent the perpetuation of this terrible injustice and violation of our fundamental right as a democratic people to obtain information that allows us to control OUR government.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The War on Journalists

Two posts in one day, I think there is something wrong with me. I think I just don't want to study for the MPRE tomorrow.

More to the point, the title link goes to a website that makes some outlandish claims against the Bush administration. The original muse for this diatribe was a story on Chicago Public Radio that I can't seem to locate at the moment. Regardless, the site does detail a whole hearted assault on the freedom of information. The President is charged with upholding the Constitution. It bothers me that the President is so willing to diminish the freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Robert A. Heinlein once wrote "secrecy begets tyranny." How true this statement really is. The press is vital informing the public of what the government is doing, but not telling us. Current examples: CIA leak and NSA domestic spying for starters. Historically: Watergate. The Supreme Court stated in Lovell v. City of Griffin that the right of the press is one enjoyed by every individual, from the New York Times to the lone pamphleteer. I wonder, does this right extend to the lone blogger? Media sources come from everywhere, and this assault on not only the press, but the First Amendment, is not deserved, and should not be tolerated by the public. If the President is so willing to violate this right, what would keep them from so willfully violating others...Fourth Amendment (NSA domestic surveillance). This is the road to the end of our democracy, be wary. While I won't go as far as saying what the title link does, its important to know how our rights are being steadily eroded. Food for thought.

Long Post with Lots of Goodies

As the title implies, I have a bit to talk about today. Site news first, then more fun/interesting stuff. RSS 2.0 should be working. It will register as an outside feed if you search the site with Sage in Firefox. Atom is still in play as well, so this should about cover the range of feeds. Ok, now that my computer geekdom is satisfied I can move on to legal geekery.

This first link is for all the legal types out there that may, for some reason or another, be interested in high resolution pictures of the documents that provided the basis for the founding of our government. This page includes digital photos of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all the subsequent amendments as well.

Second, this little concept is the way of the information future. So much for telecom arguments that bandwidth will cost too much to be feasible.

Third, Wired broke a story detailing the web based security troubles of iBill, known for hosting the financial end of a large number of porn sites. While there has been a surge in the number of incidents where web based business looses the records of its customers. Be wary, ladies and gentlemen, especially if you use a debit card for your on-line transactions. The burgeoning business of e-commerce is something that legislators have not been keen on directly addressing. What raises more concern, though, is the rise of debit card fraud Specifically, you retain more rights if you buy something on-line with a credit card than you do with a debit card. In the age of weakening consumer rights and security protections, use your money to your advantage. I know from now on I certainly will.

Now, with more news from the world of porn, a panel of 9th Circuit Judges determined today that paying visitors to porn sites may have their computers legally searched by the police. Before you jump out of your skin, the ruling specifically limits its self to child pornography, which we all know violates any number of laws, as it should. It stands to reason that the Court assumed visiting such a site would establish sufficient probable cause to search. That sounds perfectly reasonable given the situation, but what of recent events where the federal government has insisted upon its right to get other information from a citizen's computer without such a showing of any kind of law violation? How about a situation where a party to a civil action, say violation of copyright, might want to get at similar information via subpoena? While I am not defending, in any way, the deplorable acts of the defendant in this case; as citizens, we should be concerned about the ability of the legal system to invade the privacy of our computers under the auspice of the legal discovery power. My concern is how far this could go, not how far it has already come. Food for thought, there are really eyes on the net watching your every move.

Finally, as if any of us were concerned about the possibility of a third run at the presidency for the big W, the Republicans are apparently looking for a candidate for the 2008 election. Thank god the proposed abolition of the 22d Amendment didn't go through.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

DRM the End of DIY...

The title link goes to a store at Wired News discussing the death of a do-it-yourself computer project that may no longer be. Personal video recorders (PVR's) hit the main stream with the release of TiVo a few years ago. Now, with cable and satellite providers rushing to secure a new market, many home computer builders and hobbyists are beginning to build their own set-top PVR's for the thrill, challenge, or in defiance of major media. Regardless of their motivations, it appears that the empire of digital rights management will put this hobby to its death. With the advent of new encryption technology and a renewed sense of purpose, many media corporations create software hurdles that would render these otherwise innocuous home built computers useless. This brings me back to my theory that the media industry is missing out on an emerging trend in mass media consumption. People want all kinds media in a nice and neat little package. Most people are not tech savvy enough, or willing to waste the time to learn, to build their own home media systems. This should, theoretically, allow companies to expand concepts like TiVo into a new market of conglomerated home theater experience. Many computer manufacturers already produce home theater personal computers, ideally to tag this new niche market. Why would the big media types want to put such a limit on their media that would effectively obliterate such a profitable new business? I could understand wanting to prevent distribution of media, and making sure you get your buck, but there are better ways of accomplishing this task without destroying an emerging computer market. What's worse, it only seems like its the few media giants like the MPAA and RIAA that want to prevent this sort of thing. Sounds stupid, doesn't it?

End of the Internet

The title link goes to a website that furthers the discussion on the possible impending change to the internet I reported on a few posts ago. The powers that be are serious about creating a multi-tiered internet which would not only cost more, but relegate its users back to the stone ages of information technology. Should we be worried? Probably, especially since most of the telecommunications power is once again aggregating in the hands of the few at AT&T. Pigeon-holing the internet is a bad idea, folks. Tell your congressperson, this needs to stop before it even starts.

Site update...

Once I get time again between work, work, school, and the MPRE, I will be futzing with the layout and color scheme (ideas welcome), and adding RSS (already have atom.xml from blogger, but willing to do RSS if anyone would rather have it) cause I am a geek and need something to keep me up at night.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

DRM Nonsense...

This article pretty much says it all. DRM is bad. Better yet, file sharing is not illegal! These are just a few examples of the new turn against digital rights management (DRM) and the reasons behind why such a system should never exist. I have waxed on and on about this particular subject, but how often do we see situations like this, and all we can do is shake our heads in disgust at the greed and impudence displayed by major media these days. I vaguely remember a story from last year about how one defendant sued the RIAA under the racketeering and fraud statutes. I am guessing they dropped that case quickly. There is hope though, or so it seems. One situation demonstrates exactly how exaggerated these claims really are, and the kind of harm they cause to end users. What's more impressive is that those in the industry are not persuaded by the need to control information like the RIAA and MPAA. It seems like the producers are more than willing to bow to the economical juggernaut of the market to determine exactly how people want to consume information. Simply put, those with their heads in the right place on this issue are doing what they should be doing, watching the market, and seeing where things go. Oppressive approaches to intangible property rights won't help anyone. Especially if the RIAA thinks that ripping a CD is a violation of fair use.