Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dissent = Treason?

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Washington...

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

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

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

Monday, September 25, 2006

Preemptivisms Nth Degree

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2006


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

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

Dispicable Hubris

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Ideological Problem...

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Fate of FISA

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2006

Controdictory Presidential Policy...

Terrorist Detainee Treatment:

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


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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All I Can Do Is Shake My Head...

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Best War Ever?

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

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering but also looking forward...

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Political Iceburg...

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 02, 2006


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