Saturday, December 16, 2006

Back to Newty and the First Amendment...

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago detailing former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's argument that the government needs to curb free speech to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism. Apparently, he has a response to the sharp rebuke that followed his comments.

His response argues that free speech restrictions are necessary to protect the country that makes the First Amendment possible, and that people like the "ACLU left" is flat wrong on the issue. Before digging into other aspects of his retort, you have to consider the logic of this statement from the perspective of our society and the Constitution. We have an unfettered right to free speech. To limit that liberty means the end of free speech, and to some extent, the end of the society that created it. Mr. Gingrich would rather destroy protections and policies of this union to protect it. Logically, this means what he wishes to protect will no longer exist. What, then, is the point? It's not just the "leftists" or "liberals" who should have a problem with this kind of proposition, it is the true ideological conservatives like the libertarians. For someone to consider a libertarian liberally minded would show that the so-called conservatives have drifted so far to the right that they are beyond conservatism and become fascists. Neo-conservatives are not, by any interpretation, conservative. Liberals want to change the status quo while conservatives want to retain the status quo. Mr. Gingrich, and fellow neo-conservatives who share his beliefs, wish to push this country away from the rights protected by the Constitution, truly advocating liberalism.

As far as the rest of his comments are concerned...

"If you give me any signal in the age of terrorism that you're a terrorist, I'd say the burden of proof was on you"

One of the other great benefits of American citizenship is the right to trial by jury and the presumption of innocence. While I appreciate some of the policies he supports like energy independence and supporting scientific research, I am far from interested in sacrificing the protections of the Bill of Rights.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New York's War on Fat

By now, everyone has heard about New York's valiant attempt to abridge the fundamental freedom to gorge oneself on all manner of unhealthy comestible products leading inexorably to their death. Some think this is a healthy move, others see it as the act of a nanny state. In all likelihood, the audacity of New York state will infect the withering will of other states spreading a totalitarian movement of bad taste.

Luckily, the founding fathers wrote a provision in the Constitution to prevent this intrusion onto culinary liberty. Article I, section 8 contains a provision known as the Commerce Clause provides plenary power to the United States Congress to regulate commerce between the states. This aims to create uniformity among the member-states of the federal union and enforce notions of comity among the states by preventing one state from enacting a law concerning commerce that would effect another state. In Swift & Co. v. United States, the United States Supreme Court determined that state regulations on commerce may not directly or purposefully effect the operation of interstate commerce. The only way such a law may pass Constitutional muster is if the effect is minimal or accidental.

The dormant commerce clause may have lingering effects in this case as well. Generally speaking, the dormant commerce clause operates as a check against states to prevent them from creating laws that impermissibly favor local businesses over national businesses. The modern form of this area of the law analyzes the effect on business in other states. Under either analysis the trans fat ban violates the Constitution. The leading restaurant chains who employ trans fats are national fast food chains. This New York law, though beneficial in its intent, would alter the operation of these businesses all over the country either requiring special products just for New York, or changing the product they sell nationally. Through the lens of the dormant commerce clause, this law would also run afoul of the Constitution because it favors smaller in-state businesses who can easily adapt to the change required by the law. Regardless of how successful the law may be at keeping citizens' waists trim, the law may not survive constitutional scrutiny.

No Good Deed...

While I will continue to question the application of the word good in this instance, it seems like those responsible for the terrible acts perpetrated against Afghan and Iraqi civilians won't go unpunished, or at least without an attempt at punishment. The success of this lawsuit is similar to likelihood that Congress will impeach the President.

More Reasons to Hate the RIAA

By now most people have heard of the Recording Industry Association of America, or the RIAA. These are the guys that want to prevent music buyers from putting music from CDs on to their MP3 players. The infamous language of one executive quoted on this blog is that iPod owners are thieves. We can't forget their repeated malicious plan to sue their average American customers for downloading music. As if we needed more reasons to despise the RIAA, they have graciously provided two more. While they currently attempt to rob their customers, now they are trying to rob the musicians, too. In addition, in order to leave no stone unturned, the RIAA has used their tactic of filing frivolous lawsuits to target websites who post guitar sheet music on line. For the record, this is a great example of how big business can put itself out of existence by alienating their customers. Maybe those overpaid corporate execs will realise that cold hard economics will bury them when their customers vote with their wallets and go elsewhere.

Friday, December 08, 2006

About This Job Thing...

A few days ago, I mentioned that I am finally working again. This is great, insofar as I can lessen the dent in the couch. The job includes a lot of court time. I am one of a group of municipal prosecutors who cover the court calls in traffic court. While the pay isn't less than unsubstantial, I do spend five hours in court and I get to litigate the occasional bench trial. At the very least, the stories are entertaining. I am sure one or two of them will show up here on a daily basis. The interviews haven't stopped, I have two tomorrow, so this is a temporary thing, but at least it's fun.

I Feel Safer...

At least, I wish I did. All of those secret government programs aimed at terrorists and protecting national security are supposed to provide that warm and fuzzy feeling of safety, right? I guess instead of fearing some radical religious extremist, I can fear the government. After all, they make sure we have all the information we really need by putting journalists and bloggers in jail, photograph me naked, and listening to my phone conversations. The feeling is more cold and prickly, go figure.

Pay Raises...

Recently, I have made repeated reference to Congress' annual salary. I do this with good reason. At the very least, every American should know where a substantial portion of their taxes go, especially when legislators work less than 1/3 of the year. It is more absurd when this outgoing do-nothing congress attempts to boost its own pay.

Allowing Congress to set their own salary makes as much sense as allowing a corporate CEO to set their own salary while approving 20,000 layoffs. Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment requiring a vote to approve an increase in congressional pay rates. Alternatively, we could make every elected position volunteer, they're a bunch of rich corporate types anyway.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh, the Idocy of It All

I made reference earlier this week to the fact that Congress only worked a total of 200 days last year between both the House and the Congress, putting in roughly 100 days each. Thankfully, the newly elected Democratic majority wants to put in a full week's worth of work. I find it interesting that the Republicans air the most vociferous complaints. I guess the $165,000 yearly salary isn't enough to justify more than 103 days of work.

For the record:

The average CEO makes in excess of $10.7 Million per year.

Congressional representatives make just over $165,000, that is until their $3000 raise which starts next year.

The overall average of American works shows makes just short of $41,000.

Does anyone else see a discrepancy here?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Republo-fascists...

First, I apologize for being a day or so between posts. Work (yes, finally) has been rough the last couple of days. I am surprised the call has been so heavy in December of all months. More about that tomorrow. On to the point.

I made a comment the other day regarding Newt Gingrich's push to erode civil liberties to provide more protection, and dropped the term Republo-fascist. I feel this play on words is an adequate description of the current neo-conservative movement among members of the Republican Party. While some have already chosen to pass judgment on the President, this pundit wonders would rather focus more on the views of the leaders and what they are doing to the country now. Gingrich's comments represent one facet of this growing problem. The ideology of the Vice President represent another cause for concern. Centralized government power, especially under a leader like the United States President who retains a dominant military power, is particularly dangerous because consolidating power removes the checks and balances which serve to prevent the break down of the separate powers.

Another aspect of this neo-conservative movement operates to isolate minority religions and ideologies and use extraordinary rendition or torturous interrogation to aid in the prosecution of the government's enemies. Moreover, we can't forget the government's utter disregard for civil liberties under the auspice of national security.

The reality of the situation remains this steady slide away from the principles of liberty that formed the basis of this free union. In order to preserve freedom in this country, we need to stop the advancement of policies contra-positive to the purpose of the Constitution by strictly enforce the its terms. Moreover, we must remove proponents of this un-American ideology from places of influence because of the danger they pose to the sanctity of this union. The so-called culture war rages not between the liberal concept of freedom and the conservative concept of security, but between the conservative concept of preserving the status quo established by the founding fathers, and those liberals who wish to pervert and degrade ideals of freedom.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Following up on Newt Gingrich

Last week, I commented on Newt Gingrich's concerns that liberty makes American unsafe. Late last week, Keith Olbermann made a special comment expressing similar concerns. At the very least, this demonstrates a disturbing trend in American politics that seems determined to destroy what has made this country great from its inception. If liberty makes America an unsafe place to be, I would rather bear the burden of insecurity to prevent the imminent threat of totalitarianism.

The Ultimate Question...

Wilson D. Alston has asked the ultimate question, "Does Anybody Really Know Where the Money Comes From?"

Political Perversion

Bipartisanism, in my mind, will be one of the many reasons for the downfall of the American government in it's current form. The primary reason for this is the kind of childish bickering and bigotry that gives politics and politicians a bad name. The Republican response to Representative Ellison is a prime example. There is no need for this kind of brazen ignorance. It serves to discredit the American people. I don't care who you vote for, or what side of the isle you support, the one thing that is sorely necessary in this country is responsible and professional public servants working for the good of the people, not the health of their own party.

What We Really Needed...

The 9/11 Commission made many controversial recommendations regarding what the American Government needs to efficiently and effectively insure national security. One recommendation that should have raised very few, if any, eyebrows is the need for more Congressional oversight of the President's military and police power. The only reason why this suggestion is considered controversial is because it was made to a Republican Congress during a Republican Presidency. The midterm elections in November demonstrate that the American people want a new direction, one that would consider reigning in Presidential power to wage war and pursue those who perpetrated a terrible act of murder and war in this country over five years ago.

Unfortunately, the new Democratically led Congress considers Congressional oversight a controversial political maneuver. This will certainly not provide the kind of security the American people need, be it national, political, or personal. Clearly, a change in power will do little to change national policy, inexorably proving how inconsequential the voice of the people has become in American government.