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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

bush administration exempts itself from whistleblower protections

As a result of an opinion issued by a unit within the Office of the Attorney General, federal workers will have little protection from official retaliation for reporting water pollution enforcement breakdowns, manipulations of science or cleanup failures.

“It is astonishing for the Bush administration to now suddenly claim that it is above the law, ” said PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein

no, not really. the bush administration has been acting as if it was above the law for… years.

the real question is: what ecological disaster does bushco have planned for the next two years that made this opinion valuable?

posted by roj at 3:39 am  

Friday, January 27, 2006

it’s 2006. do you know where your constitution is?

it’s a different world indeed.

THE PRESIDENT: May I — if I might, you said that I have to circumvent it. There — wait a minute. That’s a — there’s something — it’s like saying, you know, you’re breaking the law. I’m not. See, that’s what you’ve got to understand. I am upholding my duty, and at the same time, doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That’s just very important for you to understand.

Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We’re having this discussion in 2006. It’s a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It’s an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also — and we — look — I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn’t work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do.

And so that’s why I made the decision I made. And you know, “circumventing” is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I’m doing is legally right.

two things i want to bring up about this statement from the president.

1) “it doesn’t work” “under the old law” – by which he is apparently referring to the 1978 fisa. if it doesn’t work, then maybe it’s not supposed to work.

2) the us constitution was written in 1787 (well, maybe some of it a little before that. we’ll be safe and say it was ratified in 1787). so if the president is willing to ignore a 1978 law when it becomes inconvenient, what are his chances of respecting a 1787 law?

the thing is that the president doesn’t get to make these “decisions” – there are other branches of government that get to decide what laws are laws and how they apply.

and, we set an important example for our children. once upon a time there was an outcry in washington about how the children would say that oral sex isn’t sex because the president said so… so now they can say that laws don’t matter because the president said so, right?

posted by roj at 6:59 am  

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

wire taps – does the “domestic” matter?

i’m a relatively simple person, and i’m hearing a lot of spin about the “domestic wire tap program” and the counter-spin about how it’s an “terrorist surveillance program”… so i’m going to break it down in light of a little document that the president of the united states is sworn to uphold – that silly little inconvenient thing called the united states constitution.

the part that’s easy to figure out is this one… it’s called the fourth amendment to the united states constitution, and it reads, in full:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

now, the relevant word, for the purpose of this missive is “people.” you see, i think the people that wrote and ratified this document made a distinction between “people” and “citizens.” and i think the disctinction between the two words is pretty simple to understand: “people” are “people” and “citizens” are a subset of people that qualify as citizens. and i think that disctinction is evidenced in several places in the constitution:

article I, section 2

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

this says, to me anyway, that there are persons who are not citizens of the united states – and that those persons are not qualified to be representatives in congress.

article I, section 3

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

here again, there are people who are not citizens, and they are not qualified to be senators in congress.

article II, section 1

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

and here, we have something even more explicit – persons come in three flavors, they could be “natural born citizens” or they could be just plain “citizens,” or they could be non-citizens, and that distinction determines their eligibility to be president of the united states.

so, now that i have, hopefully, demonstrated that there is a constitutional distinction between “person” and “citizen,” let’s look at that annoying fourth amendment again in light of the political spin in the air these days…

what the fourth amendment does NOT say is that “the right of the citizens to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” it says “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

so, the question i have for all the constitutional scholars out there that chew on this a lot more than i do is simple:

doesn’t this mean that all people are protected from the united states government, and that all searches should be supported by a warrant?

and, to advance this based on bush’s recent comments on the subject, i have another question for the lawyers…

What I’m talking about is the intercept of certain communications emanating between somebody inside the United States and outside the United States; and one of the numbers would be reasonably suspected to be an al Qaeda link or affiliate.

so, can some lawyer step up and explain to me how you get from “reasonably suspected” to “probable cause,” as would apparently be required by the fourth amendment?

posted by roj at 7:40 am  

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


just a quick posthumous review for any governors that might have difficulty with the concept (from merriam-webster):

Main Entry: clem·en·cy
Pronunciation: ‘kle-m&n(t)-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
1 a : disposition to be merciful and especially to moderate the severity of punishment due b : an act or instance of leniency

and in case someone still has trouble with the idea, what that says is that clemency is not an “extra-judicial appeal process” or a “last-chance case review” or “examination of evidence.”

in the case of california, this shows up in article 5, section 8 of the california state constitution, reproduced for your convenience:

(a) Subject to application procedures provided by statute,the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence, except in case of impeachment. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the pertinent facts and the reasons for granting it. The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the Supreme Court, 4 judges concurring.
(b) No decision of the parole authority of this State with respect to the granting, denial, revocation, or suspension of parole of a person sentenced to an indeterminate term upon conviction of murder shall become effective for a period of 30 days, during which the Governor may review the decision subject to procedures provided by statute. The Governor may only affirm, modify, or reverse the decision of the parole authority on the basis of the same factors which the parole authority is required to consider. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each parole decision affirmed, modified, or reversed, stating the pertinent facts and reasons for the action.

posted by roj at 6:17 am  

Thursday, June 9, 2005

which is more sacred? life or family?

the question would seem to apply:

“I don’t need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It’s my body, ” she [12-year-old Katie Wernecke] said.

sorry, katie. it’s only your body until someone can make a political statement with it.

posted by roj at 3:51 pm  

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the grinch, busted

if you’re wearing a mask in public, make sure it’s a theatrical street production or something.

City, County Attorneys Defend ‘Grinch’ Arrest [wheeling news-register, 2005.05.26]

Norman Eugene Gray, 42, of Proctor was arrested Tuesday morning by Wheeling police officers after he was seen walking in the 1200 block of Main Street wearing a Grinch mask.

The statute, he says, indicates anyone using masks, hoods or other devices to conceal even a portion of the face “could be potentially committing a crime.”

Areas in which they are not permitted include streets, alleys, areas of public trading or sites which are frequented by the general public.

Exceptions to the law include masks worn by those under 16 years of age, traditional Halloween masks, safety gear used in occupations, theatrical productions, civil defense or protection from the elements.

it’ll be interesting to see how far up the food chain this goes.

this also appears to put some muslim women in relatively expensive jeopardy.

posted by roj at 12:00 pm  

Friday, May 13, 2005

protecting ourselves from the barbarous crew (terrorists)

seems that some anti-terrorism legislation from 1675 has come back to bite boston in the ass (the economic ass, that is). i couldn’t find a version without the ellipses, but here’s how it’s reported in the boston globe:

We find that still there still remains ground of Fear, that unless more effectual Care care be taken, we may be exposed to mischief by some of that Barbarous Crew, or any Strangers not of our Nation, by their coming into, or residing in the Town of Boston. . . . Secondly, That there be a Guard appointed at the end of the said Town towards Roxbury, to hinder the coming in of any Indian, until Application be first made to the Governor, or Council if fitting, and to be . . . remanded back with the same Guard, not to be suffered to lodge in Town, unless in Prison.

and you thought brilliant legislative “security measures” were a thing reserved the modern era with great pieces of well-considered and carefully constructed legislation such as the patriot act and real id act… but stupid law runs deep in the history of mankind, especially when fear is the motivator and reason is abandoned to buy the favors of the threatened electorate (at their expense, i might add…)

let’s compare to the latest version, the real id act of 2005. first we need to define the enemy. in 1675, it’s the “barbarous crew.” today, we call them “terrorists.” then we need to protect ourselves from this enemy – by increasing security at the border to make sure they don’t come around here no more.


(a) Pilot Program- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Border and Transportation Security, the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, and the Secretary of Defense, shall develop a pilot program to utilize, or increase the utilization of, ground surveillance technologies to enhance the border security of the United States. In developing the program, the Under Secretary shall–

(1) consider various current and proposed ground surveillance technologies that could be utilized to enhance the border security of the United States;

(2) assess the threats to the border security of the United States that could be addressed by the utilization of such technologies; and

(3) assess the feasibility and advisability of utilizing such technologies to address such threats, including an assessment of the technologies considered best suited to address such threats.

we use a lot fancier language today, but “a pilot program to utilize, or increase the utilization of, ground surveillance technologies to enhance the border security of the United States.” looks a lot like the modern equivalent of “That there be a Guard appointed at the end of the said Town towards Roxbury, to hinder the coming in of any Indian” to me.

if you’re a member of a “barbarous crew” or “terrorist organization” then the only way you get to stay “here” is in jail.

in 1675, it was a fairly simple matter for the new guard to identify an “indian” at the border. today, the law is directed at “terrorists,” and that gets a bit trickier. the thing about terrorists is that they are just people with bad intentions, and no finger-printing, photo-graphing or other identification technology (that i’m aware of) can read minds and know intent.

some other blogs are talking about boston’s modern trouble with this law, so i won’t get into that part of this story, except to say that it’s apparently been on the books for 330 years.

for some legal analysis on the real id act, you can check here and for a perspective on the security fallacies that are codifed in these laws, schneier has it.

update: this 1675 law was previously discussed in the november 25, 2004 new york times. they were talking about getting it off the books then. that was about symbolism around thanksgiving, now that there’s some real money on the line, maybe things will progress a bit faster.

update (2005.05.25): just getting around to adding this note, but, as expected, with real money on the line, governor mitt romney signed the legislation repealing this 330-year-old anti-terrorism law.

posted by roj at 6:17 am  

Monday, May 9, 2005

the chicken thing has nothing to do with the motorcycle thing

i haven’t heard of a jaywalking citation in a while, but i use jaywalking as an example of the kind of law that’s enforced when someone has an agenda…

Chicken Ticketed for Crossing the Road [ap via abc news, 2005.05.09]

The deputy issued a ticket March 26 because one of the couple’s chickens allegedly impeded traffic in Johannesburg, a rural mining community near Ridgecrest, some 220 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

“The chicken thing has nothing to do with the motorcycle thing,” Moore said.

posted by roj at 4:11 pm  

Saturday, May 7, 2005

oxy pusher gets 70 years

might be a good plan… cheaper than a nursing home, eh?

74-Year-Old Man Sentenced for Drug Sales [ap via abcnews, 2005.05.07]

A 74-year-old man who illegally sold prescription drugs was sentenced to 70 years in prison, but the judge suspended all except 10 years of the term.

Lloyd Edgar Williams Sr. pleaded guilty in January to distributing the powerful pain killer oxycodone and conspiracy to distribute.

posted by roj at 7:37 pm  

Monday, May 2, 2005

ready for a pink letter?

representative michael debose has a great idea to save our children…

Pink Plates Proposed For Sex Offenders [nbc 4, columbus, ohio, 2005.04.27]

“It identifies them,” said Rep. Michael DeBose, (D) 12th District. “The primary reason they can prey is because they’re camouflaged from who they really are.”

DeBose introduced a bill this week in the Ohio House suggesting mandatory pink license plates for sexual offenders so children know to stay away, Tate reported.

“There’s such a problem — around rec centers, parks, school yards,” he said. “There’s no way to identify them and to protect children.”

now, don’t get me wrong, this is serious stuff, but i have to relate this to the politics of fear governing this country, and the insane, useless and otherwise offensive-to-american-principles solutions that keep showing up.

tagging sex offenders with a pink license plate is about as useful as the no-fly lists to keep people off airlines. if these people are so dangerous, and we know who they are (so we can give them a pink plate or put them on a no-fly list), then why aren’t they lost in the american prison economy already?

posted by roj at 4:18 am  
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