Thursday, June 26, 2003

On Sodomy...

The Supreme Court today struck down Texas’ law prohibiting sodomy between same sex couples. I applaud that ruling. In my opinion, the government has no business inside the sex lives of consenting adults. Period.

Texas argued that it had a compelling interest in protecting marriage, as it is conventionally defined. Though I suspect its arguments were truly fueled by conservative right religious agendas, the state does have an argument. It wants as many little taxpayers it can get its hands on. We truly live in an addictive society, and this approach is one symptom of it.

Meanwhile, some first evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is showing up under the auspices of the CIA. I take that evidence with some skepticism. This is the CIA showing it off after all. They are under pressure to produce something.

That said, I believe the evidence is real.

Regardless of whether it is or not, our real attention needs to be focused on what is happening in Iraq. The Bush administration got its little war, deposed the dictator even though they didn’t kill him or have been able to find him, and now seems more focused on getting re-elected than on what happens to that country. If it wasn’t clear before, it is clear now that we had no real plans for putting Iraq together after we tore it apart; and that is irresponsible. If we don’t take action to stabilize the country and take it in the direction we wanted it to go from the start, it will fall to whomever among the fundamentalist Moslem clerics can grab the most power. Indeed, there is a real threat that if we do not find Sadam and he is alive, that all the bloodshed and expense might have accomplished in the long run will be to bring about exactly what we went to war to prevent.

Friday, June 20, 2003

What is the truth?

Starting with ABC News yesterday and now Associated Press reports that are appearing all over the place, it appears that the Bush administration has edited an EPA report on global warming to remove conclusions that conflicted with its own version of reality. In essence, it appears that Bush is content to only allow Americans the right to see information as he would present it, i.e., as he believes it to be.

Did that also happen with the war in Iraq? Is it also happening with the war on terrorism?

More and more, I’m becoming convinced that this administration is not as honest as it’s been appearing. Apparently, denial really is more than a river in Egypt; it is the fuel running through Washington, D.C.

Add to these reports that surfaced over at Wired News that Senator Orrin hatch’s website is in violation of the licensing agreements for a piece of software used to run it. One that would, if we were executing the Hatch System of Computer Justice, have immediately disabled the Senator’s website. Add to this the fact that Senator Hatch made $18,000 dollars last year while he presided over hearings concerning copyright infringement and digital rights management in apparent violation of Senate Rule XXXVII, 2 (conflict of interest). And that no one is saying anything about that.

Add to that the power play by Republican whip Tom Delay who made ethically questionable moves to use the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature and Federal agencies to redistric Texas so that Republicans could maintain a choke hold on the state. (Texas Monthly named Delay as one of the state’s worst legislators, a title well deserved.) Add to that Governor Perry’s bad judgment to call a special session to continue the bad play.

It all adds up to the Bush administration and the Republican party having a huge credibility problem. They appear to be more interested in their own power than what ‘s best for the country. How far has this gone? How far will it go?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Ethics, Money, and Digital Copyright

In a true display of how absolute power corrupts absolutely, Senator Orrin Hatch stated publicly he was interested in finding ways to disable the computers of people downloading music on the Internet in violation of copyright restrictions. I have never seen a larger display of irresponsibility.

What the Senator is proposing appears to be in violation of Federal anti-hacking statues. Even if that is not true, what he is proposing—what he is interested in—is essentially executing legal punishment without due process and allowing that punishment to be executed by corporate entities instead of government authority. This is a blatant abuse of Constitutional power; and Mr. Orrin needs to resign as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He is obviously unfit to serve in such a post.

I intend to send that statement to him in an e-mail this evening.

John Dean, the former White House Council, has stated that if President Bush manipulated intelligence data or gathering to justify the war in Iraq, his actions would fit the definition of “high crimes” under the Constitution, making him eligible for impeachment. A CNN poll shows that 61% of the people responding feel Bush overstated his case for weapons of mass destruction in justifying the war. I felt all along that his behavior clearly demonstrated a personal agenda. Are well all sensing the truth but are afraid to say what it is? I don’t personally believe the President purposely manipulated the intelligence data. I do believe he heard what he wanted to hear out of it, and it’s also very likely that, knowing that, people presented him with what he wanted to hear for their own private reasons.

I’m just now beginning to appreciate how dangerous this Republican administration is.

I sent the following e-mail to Senator Hatch (see the section in quotes) and, after examining Senate rules, also sent e-mails to the Chairman of the US Senate Ethics Committee and the Vice Chairman of the Committee. Quote:

“Dear Senator Voinovich,

Below is a copy of an e-mail I just sent to Senator Orrin Hatch:

‘Dear Senator Hatch,

Though I am not a Utah resident, I am a computer user and have been for several decades. I am also a writer and videographer. While I am sensitive to copyright issues, I find your public comments concerning disabling the computers of people downloading music in violation of copyright irresponsible.

What you propose appears to be in violation of Federal anti-hacking statues. Worse, you directly advocated breaking the law to enforce the law, something that usually sends law enforcement personnel to prison. You advocated allowing corporations to execute legal punishment without due process. This is a blatant abuse of power.

The press has been reporting that you earned $18,00 last year as a songwriter. Your chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee while it is hearing matters of copyright, especially those connected to the music industry, directly violates Senate Rule XXXVII, part 2 which states: “No Member, officer, or employee shall engage in any outside business or professional activity or employment for compensation which is inconsistent or in conflict with the conscientious performance of official duties.”

Your apparent violation of Senate rules and your apparent disregard of due process leave me no choice but to ask you to resign as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.’

I'd really love to hear from you why Senator Hatch is not in violation of Senate Rule XXXVII, 2 and why ruke XXXVII, 4, is written to state that a Senator may not pass a bill that furthers only his pecuniary interest vice specifying any pecuniary interest.

Thank you for your time.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Wiping out Democracy (in the USA)

The high drama surrounding the Democratic walk-out during the last Texas legislative session goes on, with action splitting straight down party lines. This whole affair is about the abuse of power. My hope is that several indictments come out of this, though that is fairly unlikely, especially when it comes to the role played by US Rep. Tom Delay. He is ultimately responsible for the entire affair. His power play in the name of his party initiated the entire chain of events.

And, if all that wasn't ridiculous enough, the Texas legislature passed laws forcing children to take a moment of silence and to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day and allowing Texans to play Powerball while not acting on a proposal that would save lives by banning the use of cell phones while driving.

In Iraq, the hunt for weapons of mass destruction goes on. The lack of any credible find not only points toward hype as the major component of public justification for the war but also validates the viewpoint that Bush's personal agendas may have played a significant role in his decision to press forward. That said, it may be that the true and best benefit of the war may be yet to come and has not been readily discussed, i.e., that it may have become the catalyst for finally settling the Israeli/Palestinian struggle in the Middle East. No one wants an American invasion of Palestine or the region surrounding it, and it is now evident that American resolve and capabilities are stronger than once thought. Subsequent events, too, have demonstrated the Al Queda and perhaps terrorist action in general is more of a threat to existing Arab regimes than once thought. Taken altogether, these things may be taking us down the road to peace in that region. To ensure it happens, American must stay involved and work to further interests on both sides of the Palestinian issue.

Did you know that the US government is in the business of banning books? I didn't, at least until I stumbled on that fact last night during an Internet search. The particular book that caught my interest and that of the US government's was "The Federal Mafia" by Irwin Schiff. Mr. Schiff maintains that current US law does not authorize the collection of income taxes and was selling a book via the Internet that made the case for his stance. The government has blocked Mr. Schiff from selling his book by reclassifying it as a "scam". How this one is escaping First Amendment protection eludes me. I don't believe the government has the right to ban any book, no matter what the content. Isn't that exactly what the First Amendment was designed to protect ?

Americans have a duty to be concerned about where the country is and the private rights to free speech and thought that are disappearing. We are doing a much better job at disintegrating our own personal freedoms in the names of security, patriotism, and technology than any terrorist force could hope to achieve. Look at all these things that have happened and are happening around the country:

The passage of the Patriot Act which allows the government to perform surveillance on any person using a library's computer without their knowledge;

The establishment of a database into which every known fact about any citizen can be compiled (like in the Terrorist Information Awareness program--see this URL: http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,110990,00.asp);

The lack of due process involved with many processes conducted by the Transportation Security Administration;

The linkage of rights and privileges to a government perception about who your are or what activities you may be involved in;

The movement toward having to prove innocence vice having to prove guilt that many of these changes represent;

The suppression of opposition and free and open debate with respect to the war in Iraq, anything that opposes the current administration, or U.S. culpability in any event, including and especially relating to 9/11;

...and that's just the beginning.

Freedom rarely disappears in one grand stroke but in the slow melting away of personal rights.