Thursday, June 29, 2006

Some good, Some bad

Today, we finally see positive results for internet user rights because a Senate committee has struck down House amendments to the upcomming telecommunications legislation. Michael Wiesman of the Seattle Times provides a good explanation of why this law is so important.

On a completely different note, over the last several days have seen interesting developments in the seemingly age old conflict between Isreal and Palistine. It started with Isreal massing troops and getting ready to attempt a rescue of a a kidnapped soldier, followed by the attempt. Then, heretofore unconfirmed counter attack by a militant group. Today, Isreal took more more direct military action. The most interesting part of this debacle is the lack of any kind of comment by the Bush administration, or other nations that support Isreal. A while ago, I commented in a post that this conflict and the rise of a Hammas government could result in the third world war. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Something to make you physically ill.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Too funny not to get its own post.

Hearsay Exceptions

Thanks to Goalkeeper for brining some humor to bar review.

They did something right?

Can Congress actually do something right? Can they be correct in their determination of what is best for the country? On occasion, yes. Yesterday, one vote in Congress struck down the creation of a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would permit states to create anti-flag desecration statutes. Essentially these laws would prevent flag burning as a form of protest. While Congress passing the resolution wouldn't create the Amendment on its own (it requires ratification by the states to become an amendment), the mere proposal of this amendment indicates the disdain some of our leaders have for hallowed rights protected by the Constitution. The practical affect of this amendment would be to create a constitutional limitation to free speech. Fundamentally, the amendment operates to overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson by Congressional fiat. There has only been one historical example of a constitutional amendment that limited individual liberty, eventually we learned out lesson. Amending the Constitution can be the most devastating blow to our personal liberty because it gives the people no recourse against government action. If it's in the Constitution, the government can do it, and no one, not even the Supreme Court, can stop the resulting oppression. Passing such an amendment would be irresponsible government. Its refreshing to see Congress acting responsibly for once, even if it's only by one vote. This is especially true considering their brazen attempts to limit speech in other venues. Can we say Bill of Attainder (Art. I, Sec. 9)?

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the President. These kinds of conditional signing statements are a legal absurdity which disregards concepts of comity, the separate powers, and the system of checks and balances. It's no wonder he wants the line item veto so bad. It's one more step towards greater authoritarian control by the President. With the line item veto, the President could reject substantive portions of laws restricting his powers to act, or, in striking a portion of a law, greatly expand his powers. This is executive legislation, and is not permitted under the doctrine of separation of powers. It's no wonder the Supreme Court struck it down the first time.

For your amusement:

Rush Limbaugh has a new line item on his resume: sex tourist.

Jerry Falwell thinks that everyone in showbiz but him is a pervert. Just for clarification: Pervert.

Supreme Court Update:

Looks like Republicans win regarding Texas voting district gerrymandering. (full opinion) One thing I noticed is that this is a plurality, so it won't necessarily restrict future situations like this in other states. Also, the court made no mention of Bush v. Gore or the concept of one person one vote. It's 112 pages long so it may take a day or two to figure out what this means for voters and dangerous politics. Just an update with the New York Times's analysis of the decision.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stepping Closer and Closer...

Apparently, the House committee on Homeland Security is pushing the Bush administration to file criminal charges against the New York Times for publishing information of the government's domestic surveillance programs. This is just one more indication that the leaders of this country want to slip closer and closer to a fascist regime of total executive and military control. When the government wishes to sacrifice the most important civil liberty protected by the Bill of Rights in favor of protecting their own violation of those fundamental principles demonstrates the willingness of the government to disregard our freedom, and destroy the social fabric of this nation. This kind of irresponsible government should not be tolerated by its people.

Another interesting perspective.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Scary Comments from the Government

Apparently, General Michael Hayden, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, doesn't know what the Fourth Amendment says. Just for reference, the Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Contrary to the General's statement, the Fourth Amendment does have a warrant requirement, and the police/government must present probable cause to obtain a warrant. The requirement operates as a check on the Government's police power by establishing a threshold for reasonableness. Techincally, the General is on to something, in that the law requires warrantless searches be reasonable to satisfy the strictures of the Fourth Amendment, provided it's within an exception ot the warrant requirement (see generally Terry v. Ohio and Maryland v. Pringle). It is nice to know, though, that those in power have no idea what the Constitution says, espeically since it's the document that controls the operation of our government. Don't get me wrong, I can probably tell you most of the important ones off the top of my head, but when you are the director of the intelligence agencies for this country, you should, at the very least, know what the Fourth Amendment protects if not have it memorized word for word, even if he isn't a lawyer.

The White House responds to the New York Times article from last week publicly disclosing teh program.

Interesting letter from XM radio to musicians.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Government that Works?

I got a perverse laugh while surfing the Huffington Post this afternoon. It is nice to know that the President wants to protect the ownership of real property. At least, that was first reaction. Then I read the entire thing. First, it only stops actions by the Federal government, but we know how they have been lately. My laughter didn't get particularly uproarious until the very end of the order:

This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

For those watching at home, this order is a nice way of saying that the President wants to protect your right to own real property over a Supreme Court decision from last year, but that doesn't mean you can actually enforce it against the government. This means the entire thing is nothing more than dicta with more responsibility attached to the attorney general.

I snorted pretty hard at what Treasury Secretary John Snow said about the CIA Bank Records Program today too. From the ABC News Report:
"responsible government, it's effective government, it's government that works."

I think Mr. Snow's concept of pragmatic constitutionally responsible government differs from mine just a little bit, but I could be wrong.

No More Privacy...

From the executive agency charged with making sure you know the Fourth Amendment provides you with no protection from abuse of governmental power comes a story from New Jersey were a librarian is being chastised for preventing police access to library records without a warrant. Notwithstanding the evil PATRIOT Act, this is exactly what the head library should do, and she satisfied her devoir to the library's patrons. She is protecting the rights of the constituents of the local municipality, she should be commended not punished.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beating the Same Corpse...

The New York Times is running a story detailing a new facet to the President's regime of illegal Domestic Spying. I have spoken on the point of how current counterterrorism measures are negatively effecting our liberty. This is just another example. While the article does state that the bulk of information did not include normal domestic transactions, it did seek out information that would otherwise have to be sought via search warrant procedures.

It's not startling anymore to hear that the President is violating basic Constitutional principles. However, absent this shock, it should still evoke rage in the populace. Simply put, the President's volitional violation of our civil liberties means that the terrorists have won. They have essentially destroyed the libertarian maxims that make our freedom a force to be revered. Terrorism has apparently stricken our government with so much fear that it no longer adheres to the doctrines that substantiate its existence. The net result is no more America, at least not how the framers envisioned it, and how the Constitution establishes it. The President is not above the law, most especially not the Constitution. However, it seems as though President Bush feels he is above the rules of engagement, UN treaties, and binding Congressional resolutions. It's too bad impeachment would just make things worse.

Edit: Just found a story on a banned blog list for employees of the New York state government based on anti-administrative political views. All of a sudden, state government is getting into the act of violating constitutional rights. Viewpoint discrimination, regardless of its context, is presumed unconstitutional. I am hoping for a lawsuit to resolve this one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lets Be Realistic...

With the run up to midterm elections, it appears that absolute pandemonium is breaking loose on Capital Hill.

First up, Republicans delaying a vote on one of the most historically progressive anti-discrimination bills. Why? Apparently because it's too discriminatory. You know, things like requiring ballots in languages other than English, or supposedly focusing on states in the south. I'm sorry, I didn't catch that one...a country without a specified national language limiting access to non-English-speaking citizen voters and complaining about a law that focused on a geographic region still known today to discriminate on the basis of race, lifestyle choice, and national origin? Stop the presses! Aren't these guys getting a pay raise? So they make $165,200 per year? Maybe I should run for Congress.

As an aside, lets all take a moment to consider the practical effect of those Flag Desecration statutes.

Second, if you need any more proof that the economy is broken, or at least getting to an irreparable state, consider this. Congress just rejected an increase to the nationally imposed minimum wage. Realistically, this isn't helping anyone. I guess Walmart will get to continue to relegate its employees to abject poverty. If I were a democrat vying for a contended midterm seat, I think I might start pandering to all of those immigrants the Republicans are so keen to let cross our borders. Sure, you can come into our country, but don't expect to make more than $5.15 per hour. There was a time where this wasn't that bad of a salary. But that was before inflation caused by a national debt of $8 Trillion. This kind of drastic increase in the national debt, consequently devaluing the dollar. The lower the value of the dollar, the more regular items cost. To some degree, the deficit drives inflation. The fiscally irresponsible Congress is walking us down the road to ruin, and low interest rates won't keep the economic raft afloat much longer.

So, what we need to see is pragmatic spending and legislation from the Hill, anything less does a fundamental disservice to the citizens of this country.

One final note for anyone who is a customer of AT&T. Your information no longer belongs to you. If there were ever a time where that pragmatic legislation could really benefit the publis, be it through net neutrality, or controlling the over zealous authoritarian executive branch, now would be it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Parsing the Difference Between Soldiers and Politics

Since the beginning of the current military action in Iraq, there has been a divisive split between people who support the war and the people who don't. The reasons for this bifurcation span the gamut from partisan posturing to differences of opinion regarding policy within political subdivisions. Much of this posturing came to bear in the 2004 elections when you saw a fracturing between members of each party about the utility of the Iraq conflict and the representative strength of our government in the arena of international policy and politics. Though not sufficient to change the law, it appears that there is at least a new growth of animosity towards the President's policy regarding Iraq. There are the extremes of the argument, with Cindy Sheehan on one side, and The White House on the other. In the middle are those of us who support the troops, and appreciate their efforts, but do not support the President's policy or reasons for being involved in the Iraq conflict.

I have heard from many people that my perspective is just a form of fence sitting, that I need to pick a side, and be more clear with my perspective. This timely post aims to clear the air about my perspective on this position, and why, though it appears logically inconsistent, it does comport with its underlying ideology.

Ideologically, I don't support war as a general premise unless it is absolutely necessary. In this era, absolute necessity involves situations were our nation is attacked without provocation by another, or involvement is absolutely necessary considering the significant and dangerous effects a foreign war would have on the stability of our democracy. Historical examples are World War I and II. This could be called a form of pacificism with an exception for situations of necessity.

Many people see the inconsistency of supporting the soldiers and endorsing and ideology of pacificism fairly clearly, however, the two perspectives are not mutually exclusive. Any person who enlists in the American military provides a service to their country. American Soldiers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. They serve and, when necessary, fight for the protection of the principles that insure our freedom as citizens and insure our way of life. Our military, the men and women that make up the armed forces, should be supported because they stand for the line of defense between our way of life and any force that seeks to impose its will on American libertarianism. That service deserves the support of every person legally a citizen of this country by birth or naturalization. The military as a whole, should not be criticized for their duty. (However, this should not exempt individuals or officers from criticism when they act in a manner inconsistent with their duty or ethical obligations, like torturing or killing prisoners and civilians) Regardless, their duty is to defend freedom, and for that they deserve support.

We have to remember, though, as a matter of structure, it is the President and Congress that direct the Military into action. This is the fundamental separation that alleviates the inconsistency of this particular ideology. I support the soldiers for what they do and what they protect, but I do not support their reasons for being in Iraq because they are there at the behest of ill-conceived Presidential or Congressional policy. On the whole, the conflict in Iraq fits both. The President used threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to lure the Congress into giving him the authority to carry out military operations in Iraq. The WMD debacle has already been disclosed as a farce, especially since we have yet to discover any of those so-called weapons. As far as terrorism as a motive, it appears that entering into the conflict has created more anti-American sentiment with countries like Iran and Afghanistan who are known to produce and train terrorists. If anything, military action in Iraq has increased our chances of being a target for terrorism. On this basis, military action in Iraq was ill-conceived, especially since the President lacks any formal exit strategy, and seems to have no concept of a beneficial direction to go in order to end the conflict. What is worse is the President's perspective that public opinion on the matter is inconsequential to policy on the Iraq conflict. Its absurd that an elected official, charged with upholding the Constitution and running the country as an agent of the people would explicitly disregard the will of his constituents. This kind of brazen rebuff to the will of the democracy demonstrates this President's authoritative tendencies and a disregard for the role he plays in the American political process.

On this basis, it is possible to support the soldiers, what they do, and what the military stands for but not support the policy that sends them into action. To the troops who may read this, as a citizen, I thank you for your service to this country. To the President, do your job to benefit the people and cease your continuing violation of the oath of your office. Your actions denigrate the rights of the citizenry, and erode the principles that make this country great.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The two party problem...

American politics lacks logic and is hardly pragmatic these days. Politicians and voters have lost themselves in the swirl of irrational passion driven by fear, religion, and ignorance. The net result is harm to the liberty principles that undergird the basic structure of our democracy. We are now living in an era that provides an example for why playing at politics is more than drawing arbitrary legal lines along moral beliefs. The First Amendment provides everyone with the right to exercise their own religion, and by the same token forbids the government from imposing a state sanctioned religion on the masses. Theoretically, this aims to avoid the rise of legal moralism, the concept that everyone in society has the same set of moral scruples and the law should correspondingly restrict violations of this moral code. Herein lies the fundamental power of the First Amendment. By protecting the freedom of exercise, belief, and speech, the First Amendment rejects any tenable application of legal moralism. The liberty principles enshrined in these rights demonstrate the existence of a strata of political and religious ideologies. As a consequence, bipartisanism, like legal moralism, does not comport with this structure in its modern existence. Destroying the power of the minority to effectively contribute to the whole of American Democracy does a disservice to its constituents, and weakens other explicit or implicit rights enunciated in the Bill of Rights.

Recent news exemplifies the detrimental effects of majoritarianism through the current trend of legal moralism and abusive bipartisanism in American government. contraception and abortion rights are always a good example of this point. The strong religious base in the Republican party has driven the trend of legal moralism on ethical issues concerning procreation rights for more than a decade. It's no surprise, the rise of an executive wholly dependent upon the support of so-called religious conservatives. It's also no surprise to see t euphemism of judicial activism once again springing from the lips of those in support of the constitutionally abusive majoritarian ideologies. Moreover, majoritarianism hides the grotesqueries of more otherwise questionable activities. Moreover, it prevents the rectification of monumental mistakes.

What does this have to do with having two political parties? By its very nature, bipartisanism creates a controlling majority. Currently, the number of Republicans exceeds the number of Democrats. As a result, the Republican majority has created laws and permitted government activity that would be otherwise repugnant to libertarian principles. This is fundamentally the problem with the two party system. The fact that one group can trump the others creates a dangerous state of affairs for individual rights and contentious expansions of government power. A third, or even fourth, major political party would serve isolate such systemic perversions. Eliminating a clear majority would provide more room for debate, and a greater exercise of opinion. Ultimately, working towards a structure should be the goal, especially if it will support strong democracy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Slow Posts...

I will freely admit that I have been avoiding my blog lately. There are two primary reasons. First, studying for the bar takes up most of my time, so unfortunately, my career gets in the way of my punditry. I hope that it has to do with volume, and not the job itself. That I won't determine until after I find a job (anyone need a good appeals associate?). In the alternative, my other reason for not posting as often as I would like is my loss for words at the absolute stupidity of things going on in business and politics.

First, corroborating the story about Weird Al and online sales, it appears that the numbers don't really work in the Artists' favor. This ads a new dimension to my previous rebukes of the massive media companies. Why would an artist want to create anything when his or her net profit will be next to nothing? Why would an entire business, namely the executives at the RIAA want to deal in a commodity that does not promote an interest in creating more of that commodity? Especially when the result is a prohibition on dancing. Digital music and/or digital video in a format that fills a computer or media player should exist solely for the convenience of the end user. This means that the only format available for sale should be something in tangible form on a CD or DVD. License this sale only, giving the owner rights to do with it as they please so long as it remains in their sole possession. In English, this means that a buyer/end user can convert for their own use the music or video on a disk provided they don't distribute to some third party. Interestingly, this is how things were, when people were making money and enjoying the use of what they paid for. Now, no one wants to buy because they can't even dance to their music. The RIAA is in desperate need of a reality check, and what I hope is eventually the absolute end of these kinds of greedy business types. Should they be out to make money? Sure, that is the purpose of business. But good business also requires you create something that people will want to buy all the time, without the fear of frivolous litigation.

Second, debates on the Iraq war have been heating up in Congress. It's no surprise that these are the abominable tactics of stupidity in Congress. I can fully appreciate zealous debate, but this is little more than petulant. I won't even respond to the first two points on this list simply because only a half-witted automaton with no substantial support for his/her position would relegate themselves to using pedantic patronization more suitable for adolescent siblings. As for the third, the postulation that the Iraq war is necessary to prevent further terrorist attacks is predominantly unsupported. If anything, arousing more disdain for the United States by continuing this fruitless military effort will create more terrorists cells interested in attacking the United States. Waging a war is NOT the solution. Rather, we, as a nation, should be working on vigilance and security, demonstrating to would be terrorists that we won't respond in an ineffective manner to the threat. How about promoting democracy, or providing economic support to alleviate the disdain that breeds anti-American extremism. After all, There has not been a war between two nations with a McDonald's since World War II. Legislators who have put their own interests, or the interests of their political parties before the Constitutional interests of their constituents should be ashamed. Thank goodness we have the power to hold the government responsible for their transgressions against privacy rights.

Finally, one of the keys to a stronger America, politically and economically, is energy independence. Whether it's ethanol, wind power, or hydrogen, the reality of the situation is this country will never be able to get anywhere without a fundamental change in our energy consumption, or satiate our energy needs. Ethanol is a good start, but it has to be made of both corn and the more powerful sugar derivative, especially considering some already pointed out the relative futility of relying on any one fuel source for satisfaction. The only plausible solution may be hydrogen fuel cells, and it appears that the technology may be coming over the horizon in the near future. What's stopping this trend? Ineffective government regulation favoring big business (surprised?). It's amazing what owning a Congressional representative can do for you. It's time to fix the systemic problem.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

News Flash...

It's dangerous when the liberal media lie to secure their own interests. Really, they have an interest at stake because a restricted internet means more sales of hard copies.

It's also nice to know that the RIAA has litigated its consumer-base into submission. I am still a big fan sanctions against all of their lawyers for creating frivolous law suits, especially considering the net effect of the industry's stupidity. God forbid the RIAA and MPAA reap what they have sewn. This is proof that consumers ultimately vote with their wallets, and it works to your disadvantage to take that money from them with lawsuits. Maybe if they fixed their distribution model to fit something that consumers would be interested in being a part of none of this would be necessary.

Anyone keeping tabs on the NSA domestic spying program has heard of the major lawsuit being spear-headed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU. The White House tried to block these suits too. Thankfully, at least one federal judge knows where his pocket Constitution is at and found against the existence of any sort of exception to the warrant requirement for national security. (Not really a shock considering the decision in the Keith case) Regardless, I may start using Skype so the NSA can't listen to my phone calls. (Hi guys, I know you are reading, you are the only ones!) At least now we can finally have the argument about who is worse when it comes to spyingthe US government or Microsoft.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Interesting Follow-up has an interesting editorial following up on yesterday's House vote on the COPE act.

Also, provides an example of how the music and film industries have an ineffective and antiquated business strategy.

So Long Neutral Net...

The title link details the likely end of a neutral net. The House of Representatives voted by a solid majority, meaning down party lines, against the Net Neutrality amendment to the COPE Act. What does this mean at this moment? Nothing, really, since we have to wait until after Congress returns to session at the end of the summer to see what the Senate does with the bill. Ultimately, it shows that the bigger businesses and monopolies control the votes in government. Good news for them, bad news for us. Realistically, there are as yet several months yet before this thing becomes law, and it's possible it may die in the interim. Until then, keep calling and writing your congressional representatives to try to get a fix started.

The article from ZDNet does point out something interesting. This is the first time in a long time that Republicans want to act like conservatives. As a libertarian, I can fully appreciate the "republican" interest in not creating more regulations for anything else. However, the social side of my social libertarian ideology dictates that the Federal government should act in the best interests of zealously defending our Constitutional rights from any private party that sees fit to diminish them. Net Neutrality is a prime example. Do we need a smaller central government that keeps its nose out of our (the citizens') business, yes, but should the government make it a point to prevent the most egregious violations of civil liberties, even by private corporations, of course. Speech rights are integral to the existence and perpetuation of the democratic process. Anyone who believes otherwise lacks faith in the operation and subsistence of the American governmental system and should not be in power. Likewise, any private group which aims to degrade the state of the market place of ideas for their own financial benefit should be chastised for their ignorance and hubris. Shame on the legislators that would allow a perversion of liberty, and shame on the corporations that support what may be the idiocy of our times, lending credence to the end of American Democracy.

As Sinclair Lewis once said "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

After DRM and Without a Neutral Net

There has been a lot of movement on the DRM and Net Neutrality fronts lately, but it's hard to conceptualize why these issues are so important to our every day use of computers. Thankfully, recent news has given us examples of what exactly the computing world might be like.

First, it looks like unusable DRM and copyright restrictions could render legal web based media players and access inoperable. How about an obscene fine simply for installing software on your computer, or being the subject of seemingly random litigation and attempts at extortion by media corporations. This is all going on right now, but if the law goes the way big business wants it to, things will only get worse for the consumer. If, for some reason, you became the subject of copyright litigation, you would bear the burden of proving you didn't do anything wrong. That's called guilty until proven innocent, and flies in the face of American jurisprudence. How about having to pay for every single digital copy of a song you own, meaning paying for each song that you bought on a CD, paying again when you put it on your computer, and paying again to put it on your iPod. Things could get worse than this too. Taken to its logical end, DRM and copyright laws that abuse the consumer could lead to limitations on free speech, and ultimately the democratic process. Think it won't happen? Why not, the people making the law are listening to the people with the deep pockets that have their ear, and those people (read RIAA and MPAA) want to rob you of information and money because, for some reason, they can't find viable business model.

The buck doesn't stop there, though. In a world without Net Neutrality, your internet service provider could make entire websites disappear. This is already happening in China. If a hands off law were passed here, the big Telecommunications companies could violate your rights, and leave the average American without recourse. This is because to have a civil rights violation, the government must be violating your rights. Private big business is certainly not the government. Not only can you not speak freely, but you will have to pay to speak. It's no wonder why some internet business, like Google, are voicing opposition to this kind of legislation.

Call you congressional representative, otherwise, this could be the world we end up living in.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Quick update...

Big business and lobbying are never good bedfellows when consumer fairness is at issue. This circumstance is no different. This dangerous piece of legislation would make it so that every single iteration of copyrighted material would require a license in some form or another. Pay for a license when buying a CD. Change your store bought CD into MP3's for your iPod, pay for a license. Listen to digital music on internet radio, pay for a license. Buy songs on iTunes, pay for a license. Move your iTunes songs to your iPod, pay for a license. Burn an MP3 mix CD, pay for a license. Are you scared yet? I am. Call the House Representatives on the Courts and Intellectual property subcommittee, tell them how terrible this law would be for every music consumer.

Oh, if you were wondering, pirated CD's won't provide a police officer with probable cause to search a vehicle during a traffic stop, at least not in Virginia.

Why the national debt is just over $8 trillion dollars. ($8,368,457,541,743.99 to be exact)

For the guys over at Pirate Bay, the hits keep coming. In one perspective, it's a fight over culture and information.