Friday, June 30, 2006

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

Here's a good story on the case striking down the Guantanamo tribunals. More once I've read the opinions myself.

Culture War Politics

The flag burning ammendment is the latest in a string of GOP efforts to whip their base into a frenzy as the November Congressional elections approach. Let's go through the list, shall we?

The whole thing started back in May with the immigration bill. This is a strong area for Republicans, and xenophobic nationalists love nothing more than to hear about how illegal aliens are stealing our country.

Then, at the beginning of June, they began to fan the flames with the vote on a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This was a measure designed to fail, but it put to Republicans back in the spotlight on their "moral values" platform.

Next, we saw the arrest of seven "terror suspects" in Miami. Theoretically, they were planning an attack on the Sears Tower, but no one in Chicago ever even heard about it. Turns out these guys were a bunch of cultist wackos working from a run-down warehouse. I love the smell of scare tactics in the morning....

They wasted no time berating the New York Times for publishing a story on yet another government surveillance program (one that might even be legal for a change), but we can hardly thank the Republicans for instigating that one. No, their next maneuver was the flag burning amendment I mentioned earlier.

What next? Well, I'll tell you what next. Stem cells! As more and more research come out showing that stem cells can do everything from fighting cancer to curing paralysis, the Republicans are quickly backpedaling. Will we see a lift on the supply limitations of federally-funded research? Almost certainly not, but laughable threat of a Presidential veto aside, the Republicans will make it look like they care by throwing money at the problem. Expect to hear a lot of debate about this new method of harvesting the cells without creating a viable human embryo.

Oh how I love an election year! Can't wait to see what the GOP wants us to talk about next.

That Was Too Close

For those of you who've been living under a rock at the bottom of a trench on Mars, on Wednesday the Senate failed by a single vote to pass a Constitutional ammendment giving itself the power to punish "physical desecration of the flag." To be perfectly honest, I was almost certain they would pass it this time. Nationalist sentiment in America is at a height I didn't know was possible; Ann Coulter has even published a book saying Joe McCarthy was actually a true patriot who was just demonized by a liberal smear campaign. This shit scares the hell out of me. I wonder if my law degree would be useful in Nairobi....

One other thing: I recently found a really good government tracking site. You can select your interests from a set of tags, pick a particular Congressman to watch, and monitor specific bills or committees. They publish the text of the bills and transcripts of debates on the floor, and they offer the option of daily or weekly e-mails about the issues and people you've decided to track. Needless to say, I'm keeping an eye on my Georgia Congresspeople and the judiciary committees of the House and Senate, among other things.

More later.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bush I on Atheism

This shouldn't surprise me, but every time I run across something so shockingly politically incorrect, it takes my breath away. Really, who the fuck do these people think they are? If someone said the same thing about Hinduism or a Judaism, they would be flayed alive by an angry mob. And to think Christians consider themselves persecuted....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Further Notes on the Touch-Screen Vote

Waaay back in September of 2004, I wrote a piece about the touch-screen voting machines then coming into vogue. Here are some interesting facts about those machines that have come to light in the two years since.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Prelude to the End of the War?

The Iraqi Prime Minister has drafted a reconciliation plan calling for a definite time-table for American withdrawal and amnesty for Iraqis who have attacked U.S. forces, among other things. If this passes, Bush will be placed in the position of accepting what he has called defeat or overruling the elected body of what he assures the world is a legitimate sovereign nation merely seeking our help. I wondered how long this would take.

Friday, June 23, 2006

North American Union?

I ran into this story (Warning: Generates pop-ups) on the website of the ultra-conservative mag Human Events the other day. I don't give it much credibility on its own, but it's true that treaties are considered the supreme law of the land. These screaming right-wingers may actually have a point. More to come once I've researched the matter.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006



Ahem. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Little Known Fact About Net Neutrality

There is an important point being overlooked in the net neutrality debate. Those who oppose laws preventing ISPs from charging for preferential treatment of content couch their debates in libertarian terms; slogans like "Hands Off the Internet" have been propagated for months by various astroturf organizations (translation for the politically disinclined: fake grassroots organizations which are actually funded and organized by big business). The ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, etc.) insist that they have no plans to implement the pay-to-play speech restrictions envisioned by those supporting net neutrality laws, so why legislate against a nonexistent problem?

The way they phrase their arguments, it sounds like one day somebody just went, "Holy shit! AT&T could charge content providers like Google and J. Aaron Brown for speedy service!" Then this hypothetical person (with excellent taste in blogs, I might add) ran down to the local Congressperson's office and demanded that action be taken to stop this imaginary threat quickly, before the same idea occured to the telecommunications industry.

What you never hear is that laws preventing telecoms from discriminating against their competitors have been on the books since 1934; apparently the telecoms thought it up a long, long time ago. Phone companies were prevented from demanding a fee to connect calls to competitors' equipment over quality lines. AT&T, for instance, couldn't put Sprint customers through second-rate phone circuits if Sprint refused to pay a fee. Until last August, that law applied to the internet too.

And then the Federal Communications Commission created an exception for telecoms that provide internet service. You read that right. Bush's FCC, the same one ramming the theo-conservatives' moral agenda down the public throat, created a very narrow, carefully tailored loophole in a 71-year-old regulation.

They must have just decided to do this out of thin air, right? I mean, the FCC makes decisions to do random things like this all the time, don't they? Guess again. If the FCC changes a regulation, it's either because the old one doesn't work (clearly not the case here since you're reading this) or because big business lobbied for it and the President told the FCC to do it. And why would the telecom industry spend good money lobbying to have that standard changed (not to mention all they money they've dumped into organizations opposing the regulation) if they didn't intend to take advantage of it?

I favor net neutrality regulation more and more strongly the more I learn about the situation. The telecoms argue that regulation like this is unnecessary and will stifle the growth of the internet, but the truth is that the internet has not flourished because it was unregulated. During the fastest growth in its history, it was regulated, in exactly the way proponents of net neutrality seek to have it regulated again, and the telecoms are the ones behind the removal of the regulations in the first place. Don't buy the bullshit; this is a ploy to fuck us all.

(Damn, it's liberating to be able to say that! Hooray for an absence of editors! Long live the internet!)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Blow to the Surveillance Society?

An Arizona man is taking a speeding ticket to the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? Because it was issued by a computer. A video camera snapped a shot of his license plate when it registered the speeding car, but the picture doesn't show the driver (who, incidentally, claims he wasn't speeding). This guy has spent thousands of dollars appealing this case all the way up from the county court level, but whether the Supreme Court will hear his case is another matter entirely.

I'm Sick of Hearing About "Activist Judges"

I've been reading up on some of the criticism being levelled at Judge Constance Russell of the Fulton County Superior Court in the wake of her decision invalidating the Georgia gay marriage ban. She didn't strike it on the basis of civil rights; instead, she recognized that the wording of the ban violated a requirement that ballot measures be designed to accomplish only one purpose. The ban does several things beyond defining marriage, including invalidating civil unions, preventing the Georgia legal system from recognizing same-sex marriages which were validly established in other states, and removing jurisdiction over same-sex divorce actions.

Governor Sonny Perdue used the most common juridical criticism, "activist judge," to signal his disapproval. This is seriously starting to piss me off. People with political agendas accuse judges of having political agendas when the court rules against them; it's just that simple. The judge held that because people might be against gay marriage but in favor of civil unions, the bill was unnecessarily broad.

That sort of conflict is precisely what the single purpose rule is designed to prevent, irrespective of the political charge of the issues at hand. This was a good call made by a good judge. Perhaps it will be vindicated when the case goes to the Georgia Supreme Court. More on this story as it develops. Back to you, Tom.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

For the Record

I favor Net Neutrality. I think the megacorps have too much control over the internet already without enforcing restrictions on access to alternate views.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Blind Spot

Hey, look! The rest of the world is finally beginning to see what I've been saying about executive power for over two years now.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Washington National Monument

Somebody posted a comment about crazy people who think the Masons control the government. Now, I'm not saying he's wrong, but....

GPS coordinates are 38 48' 26.93" N, 77 03' 52.86" W if you want to check this for yourself. Great how Google Earth has resolution so good you can see the black helicopters parked at Area 51.

Update: Bush Signs Bill That Didn't Pass Congress

Here's the best article I could find on the issue. Essentially, the Republicans used the tactic to undermine the Democrats' opposition to a change in the Medicare bill. This is, in fact, a big deal. I also found the letter Henry Waxman wrote in protest and legal advice sent to Nancy Pelosi.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Another Interesting ABA Post

This is a story I've not taken too seriously but kept my eye on. I guess some people are still convinced that they don't have to listen to the federal government. Nice to know they lost.

Bush's Signing Statements

Just a quick link to a really good article on Presidential signing statements at the American Bar Association's website. I'm happy they're forming a task force to examine this.

Also, to those who don't like PrisonPlanet, I'll only say that I've never known them to get their facts wrong. I have a lot of respect for Alex Jones.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bush Signs Bill That Didn't Pass Congress

Still looking into this one. Read the story here.

Hooray for Alan Specter

The Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been vocally protesting the White House's warrantless wiretapping program, and his efforts are finally paying off. In a letter, Cheney told Specter that he was willing to work with Congress on legislation to control the President's intelligence-gathering activities. Importantly, this is a step back from the absurdly strong view of executive power the Justice Department has been pushing for the last several years; Cheney's acquiesence is an admission, albeit a small one, that the President cannot act with the impunity he has claimed. Then again, let's see what the law they pass looks like before we start dancing in the streets....

Republicans Pissed at Double Standard

On another note, this story about students learning Islamic dogma in the classroom caught my attention. Republicans are furious with the Ninth Circuit's ruling that a three-week course on Islam did not violate the separation of church and state, and frankly I agree. The interesting thing to me is that the Republicans have left themselves with a choice between two equally untenable positions. Either they think that separation of church and state is good, so god should be taken off the money, out of the pledge, etc. along with all this Allah crap, or they think that separation of church is bad, god gets to stay, and public schools should be able to instruct their kids in how to become a muslim.

The text of the decision itself is unpublished, but the briefs for each side are of course available to the public. The most shocking thing is that the school district defended the program by saying that none of the students demonstrated "devotional intent," as though the kids had to start praying to Mecca five times a day before this can be considered a problem. The case is Eklund v. Byron Union School District, 2005 WL 3086580.

Drop the Hammer: Tom DeLay's Farewell Address

Ah, the joy of watching this jackass crash and burn. Among other political atrocities, DeLay is responsible for the partisan gerrymandering of Texas electoral districts back in 2003, a challenge to which is slowly working its way up to the supreme court, and the unprecedented procedural irregularity of holding a vote open in the House of Representatives for over three hours to ram through the Medicare bill that cost over $100 billion more than we were told it would. He is a partisan hack who would rape and burn his own mother if he thought it would help another Republican. To watch this jackass finally be caught by his nasty tricks and forced into retirement pleases me immensely.

In the speech, DeLay attacks bipartisanship and those who lack the spine to declare all-out war on their political opponents. After denouncing those who use their retirement speeches to reminisce about the "good old days" of cordial discourse and cooperative legislating, DeLay asserts, "Partisanship, Mr. Speaker, properly understood, is not a symptom of democracy's weakness but of its health and its strength."

He wraps himself in the mantles of smaller government and tax cuts, values that have gone the way of the coelacanth in the Republican party: they're still out there, but not many of 'em, and for a long time it looked like they were completely gone. DeLay and the other Theo-Conservatives don't want smaller government, they want bigger government that will stop people from doing what they want with their own bodies, fine into bankruptcy any company that broadcasts material they find objectionable, and pound Christian propaganda into the heads of schoolchildren. His party has presided over the largest single increase in government in American history, inflated the deficit to nearly $10 trillion, and he self-righteously attacks Democrats for wanting more government.

He sets up two principles that must never be compromised to defend his actions: human freedom and human dignity. Of course, when he talks about fighting euthanasia, he relies on dignity; when he talks about getting rid of welfare, he relies on freedom. When he talks about banning abortion, he relies on dignity, and when he talks about occupying a foreign nation, he relies on freedom.

What kind of doublethink is this sack of shit peddling? Fuck you, Tommy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

An Apology

My sincere apologies to those of you who've been faithfully returning and finding nothing (both of you). It's been a very busy couple of weeks for me and is likely to remain rather busy until at least this Monday. Between weddings, summer school, and the eternal jobhunt, I barely have time to read the news, let alone comment on it. There's plenty to talk about, though, so check back in a week.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Little Perspective

This puts things in perspective, doesn't it?