Monday, January 29, 2007

GO BEARS!!!


So about this webcam image that changes every once in a while. My profile picture is connected to a static file name hosted on an on-line photo service. This particular image is also posted in larger form below, is a picture of the view from my apartment of the city. Absent the blur because it's a night picture, you can see the lights on the roof of the Sears Tower and the Merchandise Mart, clad in the Bears blue and orange. The city is equally decked out on the east side, the lights on the Hancock share the same colors, as do many of bridge towers. So, Go Bears!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

Neutrality Not Great for the Net?

Robert Kahn has some interesting words regarding the recent conflict over net neutrality. I can't tell if he is saying any legislation is bad legislation, or just the proposed legislation is bad legislation. I think its the former, but that is debatable. He makes a good point, though, the idea that laws guaranteeing neutrality will inhibit private sector development and lock the net into a static hardware state has some weight behind it. Realistically, I think Mr. Kahn misses the point. What we don't want is a private company who can determine bandwidth and become private sector censors. The battle between companies like AT&T and Comcast demonstrate that keeping the hardware at the bleeding edge will continue to bleed as transmission speeds continue to increase. Is Kahn's perspective valid?

Just in case...

Just in case the President needs a government to replace in South America, consider Hugo Chavez...?

From Idiocy to Absurdity

A while ago, I made some comments about what I jokingly referred to as Constitutional Idiocy. After reading the news today, we can officially move towards the utterly absurd. While I admit this didn't occur in the United States, my concern comes from the likelihood that it could. Apparently, a man was removed from a flight from Australia to England for wearing a shirt critical of President Bush. Raging Constitutional absurdity, that is unless you can demonstrate why such an act of expressive conduct could be viewed as a threat to the President or national security.

Entirely Too Interesting...

Alive in Baghdad. Check it out.

Dirty Politics...

It's nice to know that politics sinks to its lowest level when people have nothing to talk about or refuse to talk about the issues in a civil manner. Unfortunately, people waste a lot of time and energy on talking heads and news that mislead the masses. If there is one thing we should be worried about in this society, its the veracity of comments and statements made by politicians. I refer specifically to an incident I have raised on several occasions about the treatment of more respectable public officials by members of the mantic media employed by Fox News. While I not only refer to recent comments about Barack Obama, I also refer to Keith Ellison, the first Senator to follow Islam. Specifically about Barack Obama, lets consider the truth of the matter, and debunk a nasty myth while we are at it. Finally, just for the record, this is where one of the newer Presidential hopefuls stands on the issues (if the site comes back up from a digg assault).

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Did he just say that?

It is always good to know that those in power respect the law that governs the land. When not advocating the rescission of personal liberties, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has taking to ignoring the right to petition the government. To be clear, the only mention of the right of Habeas Corpus comes from Article I, sec. 9, cl. 2 of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to include the right to file a habeas petition by inference from the prohibition against its suspension and the text of the First Amendment that protects the right of the people to petition the government. Moreover, there is no way that Hamdi and its progeny deals with the so-called statutory right to habeas since the basis for the application of the right came from the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The "statutory right" could come from two places: Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, and 28 U.S.C. 2241. The catch here is the former is incorporated into the American legal tradition through its assimilation of English common law. By the very nature of the drafting of the Constitution and the formation of the neophyte American government, habeas corpus existed as an innate legal right. I would love it if the leaders of this country would start to take the time to learn the law.

The Last Alternative Argument...

It's good to know that that raging stupidity of the nut jobs over at Fox focuses on the most inane issues when it comes to the Democratic candidates for President. That's right folks, the threat of terrorism is so great that we can't even have a Presidential candidate with an Islamic background. How about looking at it this way...the nut job pundits at Fox News have nothing else to complain about with Barack Obama, so they pick on the fact that his father was a follower of Islam, forgetting that he spent time in public and private school, and has a better education than the leader of the current administration. I can only shake my head. How about focusing on something that matters for a change? Or is that too honest for the "social conservatives" who claim to be all high-and-mighty?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Prior Restraint

Attention bloggers and lobbyists, make sure to report yearly to Congress about your activities. Also, don't say anything negative or contrary to government policy, lest you land yourself in jail. So much for free speech.

War with Iran?

Maybe...

Change in Military Tribunals

Today, the Pentagon released a manual outlining the process for terrorist military tribunals. Generally speaking, the new rules "http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070118/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/detainees_trials">permit the admission of hearsay statements and evidence uncovered through torture and coercion. This is particularly interesting since the rules alter the operation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which applies to all military personnel and some civilians.

Update on Eavesdropping...

About five years ago now, the New York Times exposed a program instigated by the President aimed at circumventing terrorist plots. Unfortunately, this program included tapping telephone calls of American citizens without a warrant in contravention of existing law. Now, though, the President plans to let the NSA wiretap program die, in a manner of speaking. Instead of a renewal, the program will be under the supervision of the FISA courts, oddly the way the program should have been administered in the first place. Then again, the point of the special program was because the FISA courts denied more tap requests after September 11 then they ever had before. While some analysts see this as the Administration relenting on a hard line policy, but others are more skeptical. Doubt on the part of legal scholars is warranted, considering the Attorney General's perspective on the judiciary's ability to deal with terrorism cases.

I am inclined to agree with the analysts at Balkinization. The idea that the President doing what he should have been doing all a long is a good sign of change doesn't change the fact that it took over five years for the President to realize he needs to follow the law. The NSA program was an unabashed grab for power where President lacked constitutional authority to act. The administration shouldn't be commended for finally following rules set in place to prevent the kinds of abuses perpetuated on civil liberties for the last five years. After all, if it's not our phones, it's our finances.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Citizens Subject to the UCMJ?

Believe it or not, that may very well be the case. If rage doesn't well up in your stomach when you read that a new law allows citizens to be subject to military tribunals, then nothing else will, and we can all welcome our fascist overlords. The Uniform Code of Military Justice only applies to members of the military because they contract away their citizenship for their service. The Military is, effectively, a self-regulating entity, and the UCMJ is the code by which it's legally governed. American Citizens, though, entertain rights provided by the Constitution. They include things like right to counsel, right to appear and cross examine witnesses against you, the right against self-incrimination. This law strips those subject to its militaristic whims of these rights, eliminating the protections of citizenship. This is all before we get to the fact that this is a back-door to permitting censorship. Some of those subject to military prosecution are journalists. Criminal rights notwithstanding, now we are talking about tearing down the backbone of democracy, free speech.

Hello Big Brother...

I have heard some rumblings about what became known as the Real ID Act late last year. There really is a a reason to be scared of this thing. The quick and dirty on the bill lays out the purpose of this evil piece of legislation. The full text of the bill at its inception can be found here.

Lets think about this one for a second. The Real ID is basically a national driver's license. This impinges on the state's ability to regulate their drivers, systematically destroying entire state-created administrative agencies. The Secretary of State in Illinois has a hard enough time keeping track of the 20 million or so drivers in Illinois. Could you imagine having the Transportation Safety Administration, you know those guys at the checkpoint at the airport most of which haven't graduated from highs school and strip-search people for fun, dealing with the several hundreds of Millions of names. Wait, didn't a government agency just lose 20 thousand names and social security numbers. Ignoring the civil liberty implications for just a moment, shouldn't we also fear the risk of identity theft inherent in this whole system? Regardless, this is a massive grab for power by the federal government over the states, creating a uniform system for issuance historically controlled by the states. Moreover, any argument that this can control illegal immigration is baseless since California is the only state in the nation that has considered allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses. Did we mention the implications on Fourth Amendment Rights? This dilutes the concept of probable cause to nothingness and allows any federal agent to search or seize your papers. It could take months to get a driver's license back from a state agency, what about the federal government, are we talking years?

To summarize, the most disorganized and fiscally irresponsible government to date passes a law as part of a spending bill to create national standards for driver's licenses and ID cards in order to control terrorism and illegal immigration, but only U.S. citizens can obtain them. For some reason, this doesn't sound any different than current driver's license systems. The reality is because it's not, the whole concept is redundant, and would allow federal agents to check your personal papers at their own initiative in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Just another example of how an over-reactionist, fear-mongering, government can take actions through appropriations bills to obliterate the liberty of its citizens, under the auspices of protecting us from terrorist attacks that are preventable without gross violations of the Constitution.

War Profiteering...

In American history, many have been accused of profiteering from wars made by and against our government. The reality of the situation remains that as long as war makes people money, someone will use it to make money. Consider how much engineering companies like Lockheed and Boeing make off of their contracts with the government. One B-2 Stealth Bomber retails for between $1 and $2 Billion depending on your options package. Haliburton has made $10 Billion or so from its contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's no surprise, then, that the major oil companies stand to make trillions if a new oil agreement becomes law in Iraq. Go figure.

Truth?

Maybe not, but interesting nonetheless.

There is no point to the War on Drugs.

Digital rights management (DRM), only makes big media business more money.

Dell computers knowingly sells defective laptops.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

So much for Social Security...

Thanks to that great Republican Congress, social security reform means giving social security to illegal immigrants. As if the system wasn't burdened enough by the fact that there are not enough workers to support the needs of the baby boomers as they retire, now we give the benefits of social security to those who aren't citizens. Kudos Mr. President, not only do illegal immigrants not have to pay taxes, now they get social security. Makes me want to emigrate, denounce my citizenship, and immigrate to actually receive the spoils my taxes have supported for the last ten years.

New Majority, New Direction

Halliburton's contracts with the United States military has always left me with the lingering feeling that Dick Cheney recieves a percentage of the deal. As if having a former member of their board of directors not only secured their ability to obtain said contracts, and the Vice President recieved a commission as a result. Thankfully, the new Congressional leadership has gotten wise and are proposing tostop war profiteering.

A New Kind of War Protestor

This is the story of a new kind of war protester, one who decides for himself whether to participate in military efforts based on his understanding of the law. This is not an objector, but a rejector. First Lt. Ehren Watada is a soldier and a new kind of protester against the war in Iraq. This is an interesting story, really a must read.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Raging Constitutional Stupidity

Late last year, the President signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act into law. This law does a number of beneficial things, like providing financing and organization for the postal service for at least the next decade. In addition, the law does two other interesting things. First, it makes the postal service a person in the eyes of a law, subject to law suits when it, or any employee, violates federal law. Second, the very end of the law permits the governors of the states to create classes of mail, and protects those sealed envelopes from unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Early this week, the President attached a signing statement to the law that would allow police officials to search sealed mail in the name of exigent circumstances. While there is an exigent circumstances exception to the Constitutional protections against search and seizure, it is not something that requires a signing statement. Notwithstanding the questionable constitutionality of signing statements, the implication in this Presidential act is to indicate a willingness to order illegal searches in instances where the exigency exception may not apply. The White House indicated that this is already part of the law and that it falls within the rubric of the ticking bomb scenario. However, the so-called "War on Terror" targets an enigmatic and elusive enemy. It is more likely that the exigent circumstances exception could arise in situations where the exception would not otherwise apply. The character of the enemy in this war permits the government to invoke the ticking bomb scenario at will, or for an extended period of time. After all, the law provides no exception to the Fourth Amendment that gives the President the power to continue the use of the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program, yet the program continues to violate the rights of American citizens.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fanning the Flames...

The arguments surrounding gay marriage continue. Currently, the only state to permit the practice of same sex unions, at least in the legal sense, has taken up a vote to keep a law banning gay marriage and civil unions alive. While I take the libertarian approach to this issue and consider the arguments as largely an exercise in semantics, a new new science exhibit may smash the argument between nature and nurture wide open.

The idea that animals naturally gravitate toward homosexuality will more than shock those who consider the alternative lifestyle as a blight on God's creation. It implies that homosexuality is part of the grand design, or at least has a role. While this will fail to deter the most adamant of the religious right, if true it could lead to a change in education and how we see homosexuality on a macro-social level.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Quixotic

Does this fail to make sense to anyone else?

A Note on Capital Punishment

Saddam Hussien's execution brings new weight to the debate surrounding captial punishment. Ethically, the argument is that a ruling government shouldn't be able to kill when killing is otherwise against the law. Interestingly, the state of New Jersey is considering banning captial punishment. The operation of the legal system today makes it more expensive to execute someone than to put them in prison for life. Economcially, execution makes little sense. Similarlly, execution rates usually have to increases substantially in order to inhibit the crimes it punishes. The net result render execution as a poor form of punishment for those who would disobey the law, at least in the United States.

The Acidity of the Legal Profession...

I really hope I am not this jaded when I am long into the profession. Though, I hear this is what happens. After this last Christmas, I longed for work, if only because it got me out of a bad situation at home. At the very least, I was entertained by the sentiment, but realized it could be my head in the noose...if it pays well.

What Being a Republican Used to Be

The leader of the intellectual bloggers at Balkinization has an interesting post regarding how Ford was the model of Republicans used to be. Interesting read if you get the chance.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Resolutions...

I don't normally make new year's resolutions, but seeing as it has been a while since my last post, I feel it necessary to explain what has been going on in my life that has rendered the Grey Area void of its usual content. In the last three weeks, my life has upended itself into a model of disarray that has left me with little motivation to blog about current events, or any other topic relevant to the content of these 215 posts.

The romantic relationship in my life has ended, leaving me in what can only be said as an awkward living situation. As a result, work is not the only point of stress in my life. The result is a lack of motivation to post about anything.

I don't want to make resolutions since we all know that no one keeps their new year's resolutions. Instead, I offer myself a life goal, to which this blog will benefit. With the new year, I am hoping for a new direction in life, a better job, better health, a dedicated server for this website (or at the very least a new domain), meet some new people, and some new intellectually stimulating experiences. This is my goal for this year and years to come. Hopefully, those of you who read these words will bear with me during the times to come, and hopefully what the Grey Area will evolve to become in the future.