Monday, July 24, 2006

For post number 150, and finally breaking 1000 hits...

Just checking in one day before the bar exam with some comments on recent news that most of us should find rather abhorring.

Notwithstanding recent recent revelations by the guy in government I so love to hate, how about new claims that Marines accused of killing Iraqi civilians were under orders to kill all men of military age. I mean, the Romans used to do it, and look what happened to them. I am certainly not an expert on international relations or the necessities of waging war, but for some reason it strikes me as poor policy to arbitrarily murder innocent civilians when your enemy is an insurgent force driven by distaste for being controlled by a foreign government. All of a sudden its clear why we can't quell this little insurgency. If anyone out there supports this kind of moral turpitude, don't forget that the President acts our names as citizens of this Nation and there is no excuse for excess collateral damage of this magnitude. These are War Crimes, don't think hero worship or elected office should protect someone from adequate justice.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Breaking away from the books...

While I have plenty of other things to do (like study for the bar) and plenty of other things to post about (like the hostilities between Israel and Lebanon, and the USA's impending role in this apparent non-war), I am going to focus on a topic that was the center of a recurring number of posts and links in my musings over the last year and a half. I am speaking specifically of the NSA Domestic Surveillance program.

Recently, Arlen Specter has been attempting to come to a compromise with the President over the NSA program. Interestingly, while Specter has operated under the assumption that he is saving our civil liberties, his proposed bill may do the exact opposite. I linked a few days ago to another criticism of this particular bill, but now I have had a chance to read the bill (pdf) myself. Marty Lederman points out precisely where Senator Specter has gone wrong. The bill focuses on the balance of powers articulated in Justice Black's decision in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer. Unfortunately, Mr. Specter must have misunderstood the balance created by the court. While the bill states that the NSA wiretaps should be reviewed by the FISA courts, it makes the use of the court's OPTIONAL. The worst part of this bill is it essentially destroys the limitations on Presidential war power articulated in Youngstown, Hamdi, and Hamdan, giving the President power to operate unilaterally without consent from either of the other branches. Effectively, this bill puts the NSA program into the most defferential frame of the Youngstown decision, vitiating any say the Courts will have in the matter. The bill gives the President Carte Blanche to violate the Fourth Amendment. If Mr. Specter truly holds himself out as a defender of civil liberties, then he should seriously consider changing this law to require direct action by the FISA courts, and place the appropriate restrictions on the now ballooning powers of our unitarian President.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Adjectively sorting the news...

So since I am 11 days from the start of the bar exam and busy studying like crazy, blogging at length has become too difficult on a daily basis, especially to provide all the wit and insight that those who patronize this site come to expect...Ok, enough with the sarcasm. The last post format worked relatively well, so here is another...




The Gauntlet




Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Much Needed Study Break...

This is a much needed study break, however, there are also some interesting things going on in the world. The top news story today involves a massive attack on the public transit system in New Delhi, India. Not too long ago, India was ravaged by several wars, and has been able to keep the peace with extremism. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but if it's anything like the World Trade Center, Spain's Commuter attack, or the London Bus Bombing, we will know in the next few days. It does seem to fit the profile though. Seven well placed and timed bombs, detonated during the busiest our of the day on the busiest transit system in the world. It is sad that so many nations have been victimized like this, and no effective policy has been designed to assist in preventing it. This can't be dealt with by one nation, and it takes an absurd kind of hubris to think that it can. Maybe now we will see a shift in tactics. Regardless, today's events evince that we are mired in world war centering not upon occupation of land, but based on ideology. This is the most dangerous kind of war because of the sacrifices people are willing to make. When a person justifies their existence through their ideology, the worst aspects of human nature surface. This is a good example of what civilized people need to avoid. The cool heads will prevail in this battle, and the character of our leaders will become evident as a result. We need to make sure that we elect leaders who won't jump to irrational decisions, and become closed-minded about perspectives on the world. We, as citizens need to be cognizant of what those leaders are doing and hold them to a higher standard, one that preserves our ideals as Americans, or as the free peoples of the world. Even in times of war, the government must protect our rights, and refrain from abusing its power, otherwise the principles it stands for mean nothing.

In other news, checks and balances may as yet be working, or is it concern for reelection. I guess we will wait and see if this changes back after November. Speaking of politics, The President is touting the reduction of the budget, and its subsequent effect on national debt. Even with all of this self-serving ignorance, we can't forget where the economy really is these days.

As an aside, Washington's new anti-online-gambling bill is an exercise in overbreadth, and demonstrates the need for effective and unambiguous legislation.

The humorous news round-up:

English hippies and basement-dwelling (don't hate me, used to be one) conspiracy theorists have too much time on their hands.

What a good lawyer can do for business.

I get a perverse giggle every time Tony Snow makes himself look stupid.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

World War III...

Funny, it seems I have been saying things like this for a while now?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Things like this scare me...

Just what the title says.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pondering Patriotism...

The 4th of July stands for many great things in our Nation's history. One of the many is national pride and unity, in a simple sense, patriotism. I got to thinking about that word yesterday, and I started to realize that I am not very fond of the way it's thrown around these days. Many things can be considered patriotic, but at the same time many things are, by their very definition, not. The hard part is attempting to define patriotism from a libertarian perspective. The very nature of fealty and liberty conflict in a manner that makes the mind ache. How can one be free but believe and support so whole-heartedly the force that threatens liberty? Therein lies the constant struggle which creates the inherent instability of democratic political systems. But the question remains, can there ever be a liberated patriot, an American Patriot in our democratic system? To answer the question, it's necessary to mix certain metaphors and, to some extent, acknowledge incoherent logic.

Democracy is a dangerous business. As Adam Michnik noted, "As a rule, dictatorships guarantee safe streets and terror of the doorbell. In democracy the streets may be unsafe after dark, but the most likely visitor in the early hours will be the milkman." However, understanding the volatility of the system fails to explain the nexus between liberty and patriotism. Abbie Hoffman's perspective sheds some light on this point. In his view, "Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles." Dwight D. Eisenhower would probably agree with this point. Here is a President who helped bring a nation back together after World War II. No small feat considering the state of the nation at the time (millions dead, outrageous national debt from war, the beginnings of ideological struggles with communism, etc.). From his perspective, "[p]olitics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." Democracy, therefore, lives and operates through action in or about the system.

However, Democracy exists as more than casting a vote. The government system exists to (theoretically) promote protected freedoms. Liberty and the operation of the governmental system grate against one another in a manner that would otherwise bring a fluidly operating society to a halt. Protecting rights, by the very operation of government, means creating limitations on liberty, where liberty would be the absolute freedom from such restrictions. As the Federalist Papers point out, "[i]f men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." This points out the tension between the people (their freedom) and government, and the requirement that when out of balance, would seemingly destroy the system. There has to be some counterbalancing force, something pushing against the force that makes freedom seem evanescent. This force has to be something more than the passive act of casting a vote, it creates the instability of the democratic system. This force is the exercise of rights that create the limits on government. Like any system, government needs support. This support would come from those devote themselves to the existence of a country and, correspondingly, the operation of its government.

Patriotism under a democratic government is, by its very nature, paradoxical. Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as "love for or devotion to one's country." This kind of sentiment assumes a measure of unity. Social unity breeds acquiescence when those subordinate to government fall in lockstep behind its leaders' policy and action. Henry Steele Commager cogently makes this point, "[m]en in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive." This cannot work in a democracy since its very operation is action by the people, the exercise of rights that operate to limit the breadth of governmental power.

If government and liberty are at odds, and the common place notion of patriotism provides support for government, then liberty and patriotism are similarly opposed. This conflict creates the need for a new definition of patriotism, one that fits more readily the conflict between freedom, government, and patriotism. Otherwise, patriotism would cause the destruction of a democratic system. Commager's words provide some insight on how to recreate the definition of patriotism. In a democracy, patriotism must be the antithesis of blind support for leaders and government policy. This opposition must be voiced in some manner, and the most effective manner would be in a way that balances the dangers government presents to liberty, i.e. the corresponding exercise of our protected rights. Most notably and most importantly, the right to speak since the exercise of this right serves to influence others, adding to the very operation of democracy in its representative capacity. As Wendy Kramer aptly states, "[p]atriotism does not oblige us to acquiesce in the destruction of liberty. Patriotism obliges us to question it, at least."

Patriotism under the rule of a democratic government, then, must be the exercise of its subordinates which questions the validity of the government's, and its leaders', actions. Even though this act can be dangerous, it's necessary to insure the proper operation of American government. After all, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

To answer the question, patriotism under democracy is not the act of being blindly lead by the elected, but to question their actions, and hold them to the constitutional standard to which they are obligated. The most vociferous dissenter, then, may be democracy's greatest patriot since it is her love for her freedom and country that bring her to question the policy of its leaders. As James Baldwin once said, "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Adding it up...

I am always remiss to see the current Executive use broad, and sometimes oppressive, language as a rallying cry to their cause. Since September 11, 2001, this rallying cry has been in the name of the so-called "war on terror." For example, "...the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." Or all of the controversy surrounding the recent disclosure of the government's collection of bank records. Just as a quick aside, Congress had no idea what was going on until the Times broke the story. That is kind of an indication that the Times is doing what it's supposed to be doing, and should not be subject to unjustified attack for doing its job. Regardless, now it seems the rhetoric applies to the Supreme Court, too, for doing its job. Namely, putting a check on what appears to be abusive use of power. Apparently, someone forgot how the government is supposed to work.

Finally, more evidence for what can happen without net neutrality.