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Current Topic: Politics and Law

Andrew Sullivan on Why Obama Matters
Topic: Politics and Law 5:51 pm EDT, Sep  4, 2008

This struggle to embrace modernity without abandoning faith falls on one of the fault lines in the modern world. It is arguably the critical fault line, the tectonic rift that is advancing the bloody borders of Islam and the increasingly sectarian boundaries of American politics. As humankind abandons the secular totalitarianisms of the last century and grapples with breakneck technological and scientific discoveries, the appeal of absolutist faith is powerful in both developing and developed countries...

You cannot confront the complex challenges of domestic or foreign policy today unless you understand this gulf and its seriousness. You cannot lead the United States without having a foot in both the religious and secular camps.

I've been reading Andrew Sullivan's blog over the past few days because he has served as a hub for information and opinion critical of Palin. There have been a number of insightful things posted there but I've generally refrained from posting them here as I've made my views about her pretty clear.

I'm still not sure what I think about Obama. Sullivan supports him, and offered up this explanation, which, I think is worth reading in spite of its length. I think at times it reaches too far, particularly the alarm about Iraq, which is a problem that seems to have been constantly fading away since the strategic shift last year. But my alarm about Islamic extremeism certainly hasn't faded, and there are some interesting insights here that are more complicated than a list of issue stances.

Have you read The Philosopher of Islamic Terror?

Andrew Sullivan on Why Obama Matters

Daily Show on Republican hypocrisy - Boing Boing
Topic: Politics and Law 3:12 pm EDT, Sep  4, 2008

The Daily Show has a segment with video clips of Dick Morris, Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, and others complaining about the media's unfair treatment of Sarah Palin, along with earlier video clips of these folks dishing out the same garbage about others...

The most important clip set is the first one, wherein Rove talks about qualifications and experience.

Daily Show on Republican hypocrisy - Boing Boing

Community Organizers
Topic: Politics and Law 10:07 am EDT, Sep  4, 2008

I've repeatedly argued on this blog that Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. I have not, however, mocked her accomplishments. In fact I've complemented her career several times. I can admire your achievements without thinking you prepared for the highest office in the land.

The Republican party, apparently, does not get this. Last night speakers repeatedly mocked "community organizers." Not Obama. Not his experience. They actually directly mocked "community organizers." I, personally, have nothing but respect for smart people who are willing to forgo a good salary in order to roll up their sleeves and help the poor.

You guys look like assholes.

Gary Pederson (8/19, Letters) made a couple of disparaging comments about Barack Obama's time as a community organizer, even suggesting that being an organizer isn't a significant accomplishment.

Our church has been working with Communities Creating Opportunity (CCO) here in Kansas City, and we've come to know the amazing community organizers who work for CCO. They are some of the most dedicated and hardest-working people I've ever met.

Community organizers help ordinary members of the community find the power to confront problems in their neighborhoods, their cities and states and even nationally. Community organizers often succeed where government leaders fail, because they harness the power of people.

I think that sounds like a great accomplishment for someone hoping to become president.

The Rev. Donna Simon
Abiding Peace Lutheran Church
North Kansas City

Community Organizers

Palin Conspiracy Theories
Topic: Politics and Law 4:13 pm EDT, Sep  3, 2008

1. Her purpose is to highlight Obama's lack of executive experience and rekindle concerns about his association with a radical church. Once she has served this purpose some revelation or event beyond McCain's control will pull her from the race, allowing him to gracefully select a more qualified running mate.

2. The oil industry wants her out of Alaska because she has cleaned up some favored kinds of corruption there. They knew she'd jump at this chance. Either they'll win, and she is out of Alaska, or they'll loose because of her, ensuring enough bad coverage of her that she won't be re-elected in her home state.

3. Her purpose is to discredit and marginalize the evangelical wing of the Republican party, who will rally behind her and then be blamed when she drags down McCain's campaign.

(I don't believe any of these but I find them entertaining. The interesting thing about the first one is that there was clearly a baby revelation in the offing and the National Enquirer is claiming to have been involved in a premature delivery of it. The last one is the most far fetched. The idea of open bristling at the evangelicals within the Republican party is hard to imagine. Got any more?)

The election is basically over.
Topic: Politics and Law 11:37 am EDT, Aug 29, 2008

City Councilman and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (pop. 5,000), before serving less than two years as governor of Alaska. You gotta be kidding me!

McCain's decision to select a woman for VP is a transparent attempt to court some of Hillary's supporters, many of whom are not liberal, and being sore about their candidate's loss, are attracted to McCain as a perceived moderate. However, the VP may become the President, and Palin, having absolutely no foreign policy experience, is totally unqualified to be the President of the United States. This will be quickly apparent to everybody and it will blow up in McCain's face. It will destroy his candidacy, and unfortunately it will be a serious pock mark on Palin's here-to-fore admirable political career.

Obama and Biden are your new President and VP.

This election is over.

The election is basically over.

E-Mail Hacking Case Could Redefine Online Privacy
Topic: Politics and Law 1:15 pm EDT, Aug  6, 2008

A federal appeals court in California is reviewing a lower court's definition of "interception" in the digital age.

The case, Bunnell v. Motion Picture Association of America, involves a hacker who in 2005 broke into a file-sharing company's server and obtained copies of company e-mails as they were being transmitted. He then e-mailed 34 pages of the documents to an MPAA executive, who paid the hacker $15,000 for the job, according to court documents.

The issue boils down to the judicial definition of an intercept in the electronic age, in which packets of data move from server to server, alighting for milliseconds before speeding onward. The ruling applies only to the 9th District, which includes California and other Western states, but could influence other courts around the country.

In August 2007, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, in the Central District of California, ruled that the alleged hacker, Rob Anderson, had not intercepted the e-mails in violation of the 1968 Wiretap Act because they were technically in storage, if only for a few instants, instead of in transmission.

The redacted brief can be found here. Here is a story from CNET News on the appeal. See also, EFF's amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs-appellants.

"It could really gut the wiretapping laws," said Orin S. Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and expert on surveillance law. "The government could go to your Internet service provider and say, 'Copy all of your e-mail, but make the copy a millisecond after the email arrives,' and it would not be a wiretap."

This case is a perfect example of how the 4th amendment has been twisted in the context of computer networks by those who have an interest in being able to spy without probable cause.

E-Mail Hacking Case Could Redefine Online Privacy

RE: FISA and Border Searches of Laptops
Topic: Politics and Law 8:32 am EDT, Jul 11, 2008

possibly noteworthy wrote:
Bellovin on Decius's HOPE topic

He seems to be searching for reason and order in an area that is patently unreasonable and hypocritical. In the case of U.S. citizens, the information customs agents are digging through their laptops for would be protected by a warrant requirement if it was transmitted Internationally over the Internet instead. The FISA update signed yesterday by George Bush makes this even more the case than it was before, as now warrants are required to monitor the communications of U.S. persons even if they are overseas. These searches are not part of a comprehensive approach to preventing the smuggling of information. No comprehensive approach is possible because warrant requirements and encryption stand in the way. The fact that neither of these things stand in the way of customs officials at the border is an accident of time, space, and technology, and not a willful result of policy.

These facts completely undermine the arguments made in the senate hearing, particularly by the Heritage Foundation's representative, that these searches are necessary for some sort of policy reason and legalistic objections to them miss the point. There is no policy reason. If there were, then you'd have to allow warrantless law enforcement monitoring of all international communications and you'd have to require cryptographic key escrow. We don't. We're not going to. We don't need to. And so we don't need to do these searches either.

RE: FISA and Border Searches of Laptops

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress - Glenn Greenwald -
Topic: Politics and Law 9:16 am EDT, Jun 20, 2008

Perhaps the most repellent part of this bill (though that's obviously a close competition) is 802(c) of the telecom amnesty section. That says that the Attorney General can declare that the documents he submits to the court in order to get these lawsuits dismissed are secret, and once he declares that, then: (a) the plaintiffs and their lawyers won't ever see the documents and (b) the court is barred from referencing them in any way when it dismisses the lawsuit. All the court can do is issue an order saying that the lawsuits are dismissed, but it is barred from saying why they're being dismissed or what the basis is for the dismissal.

So basically, one day in the near future, we're all going to learn that one of our federal courts dismissed all of the lawsuits against the telecoms. But we're never going to be able to know why the lawsuits were dismissed or what documents were given by the Government to force the court to dismiss the lawsuits. Not only won't we, the public, know that, neither will the plaintiffs' lawyers. Nobody will know except the Judge and the Government because it will all be shrouded in compelled secrecy, and the Judge will be barred by this law from describing or even referencing the grounds for dismissal in any way. Freedom is on the march.

This is the best article I've found on the FISA capitulation. I don't understand how they did a 180 on this.

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress - Glenn Greenwald -

The Volokh Conspiracy - BREAKING - Gov't Loses Boumediene 5-4:
Topic: Politics and Law 1:18 pm EDT, Jun 12, 2008

Although the United States has maintained complete and uninterrupted control of Guantanamo for over 100 years, the Government’s view is that the Constitution has no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed formal sovereignty in its 1903 lease with Cuba. The Nation’s
basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Habeas applies in Gitmo... The Military Commissions Act was unconstitutional because it did not provide an adequate process for detainees. This mostly means there will be more hearings to determine what sort of legal process is required. The right is likely to likely to blow their collective top on this. Scalia starts things off in his dissent:

[This decision] will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed... The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today. I dissent.

In general these judges "respectfully dissent" as Roberts did...

The Volokh Conspiracy - BREAKING - Gov't Loses Boumediene 5-4:

McCain is shifty on spying
Topic: Politics and Law 9:11 am EDT, Jun  4, 2008

When liberal blogs picked up the story that McCain had moved to the left on wiretapping, the McCain campaign issued a letter insisting that he still supported unconditional immunity, as well as new rules that would expand the nation's spy powers.

The campaign's response was consistent with McCain's past positions and votes. But it riled Andrew McCarthy at the conservative National Review Online, who read the campaign's position as a disavowal of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, and a wimpy surrender of executive power to Congress.

That's when the campaign issued the letter explaining McCain's new views of executive power, and revealing that McCain would, in certain future circumstances, rely on the same theory of executive power in wartime.

The closer we get to election day:
1. The harder it will be to know whether or not the candidates are lying.
2. The more authoritarian the candidates will act.

So it is now completely impossible to know what McCain actually thinks, but it is worth noting that the legacy of Bush's creative approach to the separation of powers is that Republican party now openly wants a candidate who won't let trite things like the Constitution and the Oath of Office get in their way, and they want their candidates to come out and say this publicly.

I do not see any reason why any libertarian would continue to be associated with the Republican party. There comes a point where you have to take a stand for something other than lowering taxes or you are not really a libertarian, and what better time than when your political party has become openly hostile to the Constitution?

McCain is shifty on spying

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