Thursday, October 3, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Miscellaneous Errata

I almost forgot that this blog even existed.  On nothing more than just a hunch, I meandered back here and found that I haven't posted anything in some time.  Likely laziness and the general disinterest in writing probably contributed to this.  Not that I had a vast following; it is quite interesting that one when starting a blog imagines vast hordes of followers hanging onto each word you type.  Sometimes I think that my ability to trudge through a mass of writing online is less than it would be if I were flipping through the pages of a cheap pulp novel.  Is this a symptom of growing up in a mostly analog world before heading off to college and discovering high speed Internet, or is this merely a symptom of merely desiring mindless escapism for online entertainment?

What comes to mind is the rediscovery of the animated GIF files that are now proliferating across the Internet.  I'm not that old, but I still remember when it was the GIF that provided entertainment; YouTube was not even in existence and right now, if I were really pushed, I could not recall how I was able to find music videos for some of my favorite bands.  I am drawing a blank with no relief in sight.  I think the Oatmeal put it best in his comic:

Now it is bothering me: where the hell did I go to watch the music video for that one KoRn song.  Oh shit, I used to think that KoRn was a great band?  *hed-desk*  Well, at least you grow as you age...or is that you ossify and become a close-minded curmudgeon?  Ossification; that seems to be a concern now that I've shattered the 30 barrier and 40 is less than a decade away.  I've always wondered what it would be like to exist as a "living fossil."  I would prefer to not be one, but the aging continuum goes in only one direction, not the other.  The one no one likes.

Back to the forgotten blog; and it appears that I'm not the only one who has not posted in some time: those that I follow for the most part have not posted in a year or more.  On one hand, the vast purgatory of the forgotten blogs seems a bit sad...much like your forgotten MySpace page.  Logging into MySpace a year of so back was...not depressing nor very interesting.  It was merely there.  Nothing more, but there.  Old contacts now long forgotten.  Old comments now long forgotten, but saved on a server out there still humming along.  MySpace was tossed aside in favor for Facebook; or in the alternative, there are those who opt to use Google+ to avoid having to deal with families or friends they are now regretting having added-but-now-cannot-delete-because-they-don't-want-to-have-to-deal-with-the-social-repercussions-of-doing-so.  I guess the blog for the vast majority of we amateur writers was abandoned in favor of the 140 characters of Twitter. 

Twitter.  140 characters per post describing the world; or your retweets of tweets you find interesting; or favoriting those who choose to revisit for their content or the shortened hyperlink.  And it is only recently (in the past two years?) that Twitter automatically shortens the URLs you post; previously, it required visiting the vast menagerie of URL shortening websites in order to post a link that wouldn't crack your 140 limit.  I think I've subconsciously chosen Twitter over blogging; it gets to the point and I don't have to worry too much about grammar or sentence structure.  But if anyone has ever read anything I've posted, I don't think I spent too much time worrying about those concepts.  Sitting at 28,755 tweets, I wonder how much time was expended to create those tweets, most of which are not of any real interesting quality; well, I think that is the case.  I wonder what those 28,755 tweets would look like in print.  Pretty sure there are a fair amount of tweets that are regrettable or are of an inane subject. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Instead of working on my seminar paper....

So in a few months, a new Halo game will hit the market; and I'm quite sure its going to make a huge splash.  If I'm geeking out about it, and with the chance that I probably wont be around to buy the new game, just image all the Halo fan boys, casual gamers, and n00bs who will put fists filled with cash to buy the games, the Limited Edition games, and the miscellaneous errata associated with the Halo franchise. 

I'll admit, I've played all of the Halo games (Halo, Halo II, Halo III, Halo: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: CE), read a good bulk of the novels associated with the franchise, and watched most of the animation and various media associated with the game.  While I like most other fans find the Master Chief to be fascinating, perhaps my interest is different than the others.  Not so much the fact that he's pretty much the bad ass of all bad asses, although sometimes failing badly when it comes to tactics I guess (now, I'll admit, I'm far from being an expert on infantry or SF tactics having only driven warships in the Navy), but the total story of the Master Chief character, including all of the Spartan II.

Abducted as young children from colonies on the periphery of human control; for some reason, I thought of the feared soldiers of the Ottoman armies that struck fear into the hearts of Europe from 1288 and culiminating in the last seige of Vienna in 1683; the Janissaries.  These were children who lived on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire-Polish kingdom-Russian Empire, were children caught in the midst of the wars of the Ottomans and the Balkan states...and impressed into the service of the Ottoman Sultans until the massacre of the Janissaries in the mid 19th century by Turkish nationalists seeking to solidify their standing in the Ottoman state.  That is but one example of young children ripped from their homes and impressed into military service; but for some reason that seemed to pop up in my head first.  Probably because I spent a semester studying the Ottoman Empire as an undergrad. But here, in a sci-fi future, a story is written that is based on young children kidnapped from their homes at a young age, so young that in the line of the novels that many of the Spartan II do not remember the faces of voices of their parents.

I'm sure psychologists could have a field day writing dissertations about the trauma of that and how it affects the minds of children and its impact on what could happen with these Spartan II when they get older and the possibilities of those memories arising from their subconscious.  That does not fall under an area that I have any competence whatsoever, but hey, please remember to give me a tiny footnote should you write a dissertation on this subject!

Exposed to illegal and immoral medical experimentation; I would imagine that idea invokes the experiments of Dr. Mengele under the legal authorization of the Nazi state.  But there are the Tuskegee experiments where African Americans were exposed to syphilis and other diseases to determine the effects of the disease.  But I don't think there is anything that matches the augmentations imposed on the fictional children in the Halo mythology.  There exists the mythology of Captain America taking part in augmentations to create a super soldier, but nothing of the horrifying effects of those augmentations done to the children in the Halo mythology.  It raises questions of medical ethics, the ethics of members of the military, and questions of constitutional rights if they do exist in the Halo world.

I figure the legal issues would interest me since I am mucking my way through law school; but what legal standard exists in the world of the UNSC?  Does the UN Charter still apply?  Do the separate jurisdictions of the other nations on the earth apply in their areas of control?  What is the basis of law in the Inner Colonies?  Or the basis of law in the Outer Colonies?  Is there a unified system of law, based more on codified law similar to the current code system in France and most of Europe or is it a hodgepodge of common law, statutes, and administrative regulations similar to the United States?  And with the specter of the Outer Colony rebellion, was the rule of law suspended based on a situation of extremis; similar to how US constitutional rights have been infringed and rolled back in the post 9-11 world?  I'm pretty sure if the rolling back of rights and a move towards martial law didn't occur with the Outer Colonies, it happened when the Covenant started glassing planets.

My next question, on what basis was the final treaty with the Sangheili established?  How are trade laws with the Covenant races determined?  What is the basis for the stratified culture of the Covenant?  How do they arbitrate disputes in breaches of contracts?  Needless to say, law geeks who are also Halo geeks could create a cottage industry writing treatises on UNSC law, Covenant law, the Law of Armed Force etc involved in the Halo mythology. 

Trauma from decades of sustained combat; I think this would also apply to the regular Marines and sailors of the UNSC, a case study that would be interesting to consider the trauma on persons involved in continuous combat for extended periods.  It seems to parallel in a sense the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors have taken part in multiple deployments and combat stresses for over a decade.  But when considering the Spartan II and their mission tasking, something along the lines of SF operations but also sustained combat to stem the advance of the Covenant to permit those remaining to escape slaughter.  I always wonder how the decades of combat, combat related stress, and dealing with the loss of comrades who you have known for almost your entire life weighed on the Spartan II.  Does the Master Chief suffer from PTSD?  What are his symptoms?  Or is his PTSD mitigated by those same horrific augmentations?  Has the UNSC developed any special programs to deal with the PTSD suffered by the Spartan II program survivors?

Even beyond that, I also wonder what will happen to the millions of regular UNSC Marines and UNSC ODST who have suffered severe trauma in the war with the Covenant.  Perhaps there will be those who remain on active duty, but what of those terribly disfigured and handicapped from battle injuries; what of those who have severe mental trauma; what of those who are still on active duty but suffer from trauma?  Does the UNSC leadership have the same issue with suicides as the current leadership of the US military face in the context of our extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Additionally, along with the trauma to those in the profession of arms, another issue are those refugees who suffered trauma from the devastating attacks by the Covenant on the Colonies and Earth.   Another question is the status of the refugees from the Covenant-Human war.  Has the UNSC segregated the refugees from the Outer Colonies (less loyal to the UNSC) from the Inner Colonies (more loyal to the UNSC); what of the refugees from the Covenant invasion of Earth?  What type of infrastructure has the UNSC or humanitarian aid organizations (if they exist) developed to deal with this mass influx of refugees from glasses planets.  Considering that planets hit by the Covenant are glassed and made inhabitable to humans, where do these refugees go?  Are they held indefinitely off planet in ships?  Are there sentiments of revolution against the UNSC by those refugees who felt that the UNSC had abandoned them to the merciless Covenant?

Now what remains for the Sangheili, the Humans, the Jiralhanae, the San'Shyuum, the Kig-Yar, the Unggoy, the Huragok, and the Mgalekgoko in the Post Covenant-Human War; the novel "Glasslands" and stories in "Halo: Evolutions" seem to speak to these questions.  I'm also pretty sure the new trilogy of Halo games may delve into this issue.  After so many years of recieving violence, will the humans armed with Covenant and Forerunner technology wage a war of revenge against the Sangheili despite the actions of the Arbiter?  The same question goes with the San'Shyuum (who have according to the novels simply vanished...but no one knows to where) and the Jiralhanae.  Especially the Jiralhanae.  Again, questions of what is considered to be customary international law for the UNSC in jus en bellum and jus in bello and whether these will be adhered to if those types of punitive wars are sought.  Additionally, there remains the old conflicts between the "Outer" and "Inner"/Earth in the ruins of the post Covenant-Human War.  Will there be sufficient anger to reignite those tensions that led to the creation of the Spartan II program?  Or will humans continue to unite against their former foes in revenge for the savagery visited upon human colonized worlds. 

These and other lines of thought that didn't dawn on me in this post seem to be what comes to mind whenever the Halo universe's mythology comes to mind. 

Okay, I guess perhaps I do think about how the engineering plants on the UNSC and Covenant warships operate; what do they do when there is a casualty; how do they handle tech issues; how do parts reach their ships when they are flung across the galaxy; how do they get reports to their reporting commands to the casualties and requests for tech aid and parts.  Yeah, that type of geeky stuff.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Without Knowing Your History, You Are Doomed to Perpetuate Bankrupt Legacies

A Hispanic male, George, marked a seventeen-year-old African American male, Trayvon, as suspicious in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.  George ignored the 911 dispatcher's command to leave Trayvon alone; the police, the trained professionals in the use of deadly force would handle the situation.  Instead George continued to follow Trayvon.  A confrontation occurred.  Shots rang out.  Trayvon lay dead on the ground.  A series of events that unfolded merely because George thought that Trayvon, a black male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt looked "suspicious."

Why is it that a young man whose skin tone ranges on the darker complexion be considered to be "suspicious" when on the other hand, if I put on the same hooded sweatshirt, I am not give those same suspicious stares?  When looking at us based on our skin complexion, the only reason why my skin tone is lighter than my African American classmates is seventy thousand years plus of changes in the amount of melanin in my skin after my genetic ancestors left the African homeland.

But it is that difference in the amount of melanin in the skin that has been the basis for all our racial tensions.  That ugly racial and ethnic history based all on the color of one's skin is whitewashed in the textbooks sitting in American public schools.  That whitewashed history does not call out the guilty parties; it does not accurately the horror, the pain, and the evil; that whitewashed history makes it easy for people to simply state: "why can't these people pick themselves up by their bootstraps."  It is hard to pull one's self up by bootstraps when you've been beaten by those bootstraps; when you've been strangled to death by those bootstraps; denied access to use of those bootstraps; and still arrogantly told to pull yourself up by those bootstraps. 

All because someone had a darker complexion, in the minds of sixteenth century Europeans, those darker persons were not equal humans.  Either they were merely chattel property as was the case of African slaves.  Or they were subhuman in the case of the Indigenous Americans who stood in the way of Manifest Destiny and were treated like any other pest; worthy of extermination.  Or that their "brownness" was sufficient grounds to block any attempt to gain statehood until there was a nexus of whiteness to make them more acceptable; ignoring centuries of civilization and laws under the Aztec, Spanish Empire, and Mexican governments.

The ugly reality is that the American Republic's power and wealth was built upon the scarred backs of slaves and rests upon the mass graves and stolen land of children of the Indigenous Americans.

All because someone had darker skin, it was unfathomable to the lily white man that a darker skinned person would have the ability to think, to write, to be equal in society.  The pseudoscience of phrenology was the racist's tool in proving that it was impossible that blacks were intellectually equal to the white man merely by the size of their skulls.  In the minds of enlightened white men, African Americans were at first merely chattel, a skilled mule to till their fields; but once the 13th Amendment was passed, these racists had to support their claims that African Americans were incapable of being equal to whites; hence the explosion of pseudoscience to support their racist ideologies. 

At the same time, these same racist pseudoscientific theories worked hand-in-hand with the arrogant and racist concept of White Man's Burden was carried in the vanguard of European and American imperialists into India, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.  It didn't matter than India was one of the cradles of civilization; it didn't matter that it was the Muslim world that preserved the knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquity while Europe wallowed in backward ideology; it didn't matter that these non-white people had century old societies and civilizations.  They were dark skinned; it was impossible for them to be equal to the superior white-European-Christian civilization.  All because Europeans had a diminished need of melanin because of the environment in the upper latitudes of Europe.

It is this ugly history that must be understood.  This history is just but one step to understanding the problems and to guide our actions in the future.  Without this history, we are doomed to continue to perpetuate stereotypes that young black or Hispanic men are to be feared as potential criminals.  If we don't realize that our deeply seeded mindsets on race, on color are premised on intellectually bankrupt ideas of ignorant ghosts, we are doomed to perpetuate the terrible legacy they have bestowed upon us.  We are wiser than our ancestors.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rush Limbaugh is a Pig.

This blog post will be completely off the cuff.  I've only seen snippets of Sandra Fluke of Georgetown Law testifying before Congress dealing with the debate over providing prescription contraception to women.  For my health's sake, I've only been able to hear snippets of Rush Limbaugh's virulent attack on Sandra, but it was enough to get my blood to a boil. 

First off, I don't understand why we are having this debate over contraception.  For those who like to rail about women who "run off to get abortions", you do realize that providing contraception is a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies that some may lead to women having to decide whether or not to have an abortion.  That is a quick and fast summary of that issue and does not give it due weight to deal with all the nuances of that debate, but the point is: IF YOU PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTION, THEN YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE ABORTION ISSUE AS MUCH.  My opinion has been for the past few years: if we are fighting over the right to abortion, we have already missed the serious issue beforehand that involves sex education and providing contraception. 

Second, human beings have sex.  That is going to happen no matter what you want to think.  We are among the few species that do not have a set mating cycle that limits when males and females can couple.  Biology.   Its a pain in the ass I know for those who claim evolution is "evil"lution.

Third, what the fucking right does Rush Limbaugh have in calling a woman a slut on television?  The word "slut" used in the context that he used it on his show is just wrong.  Not only wrong, but disgusting.  Disgusting.  But it just seems that disgusting comments that spew forth from his mouth, whether calculated or not, seems to be Limbaugh's M.O.  From his comments about Donvan McNabb on MNF to his jingle about the former Senator Carol Mosely Braun to his "Magic N**ro jingle he plays mocking the President, Rush Limbaugh has not failed to insult, deride, and demonize persons without any legitimate basis behind it.

But calling a fellow law student a slut?  Because she thinks the government should support a plan that provides contraception to women?  I'm sorry, but while I can be old school in some fashions, that shit goes too fucking far.  Yeah, I'm using profanity, but that's how I feel.  I'm a goddamn veteran, I'm a fucking law student, and I'm a fucking man, and I think this is fucking disgusting.

This is just another example of the hateful and disgusting rhetoric that is coming from the right that is pissing me off.  I've had to sit back and see this, but I've hit my breaking point.  I really have. 

So stand by RW types...the shit's coming down the pipe.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why DOMA Should End

In 1996, the Congress of the United States passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and signed into law by President Clinton.  The law denied federal benefits -those normally afforded to married couples - to married homosexual couples.  It was a reaction to a decision by the Hawai'i Supreme Court in 1993 that same-sex couples could be married under the Hawai'ian constitution.  Congress's reaction was that homosexuals were waging a war against traditional heterosexual marriage and something must be done to protect the "sacred institution" of heterosexual marriage. 

Oh the irony that the twice-married House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in an affair with his soon to be third wife Callista Bisek while battling to protect the sacred institution of marriage from same-sex couples. 

Now in the 21st century, President Obama declared that the Department of Justice would not defend Section 3 of DOMA and two federal district courts have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.  The opinion of U.S. District Judge Jeffery White stated that heightened scrutiny should be the standard when "reviewing statutory classification based on sexual orientation."  But not everyone is convinced that DOMA is an outdated statute that should join the Jim Crow laws in the dumpster of history, as evidenced by many of the GOP presidential candidates.  I, on the other hand, find that DOMA should end because of its denial of rights to homosexual service members in same-sex marriages that are afforded to service members in heterosexual marriages.

Since there are seven states that recognize and permit same-sex marriages, it is possible that a gay or lesbian service member could be married while serving.  Two states that are the home to many service members, California and New York permit same-sex marriage, with more to come.  Maryland's legislature passed a bill permitting same-sex marriage and Illinois legislators have proposed a bill to permit same-sex marriage.  The right for homosexuals to serve in the military and their growing right to marry will have an impact not only on the same-sex spouse but will lead to challenges that may affect a command's effectiveness to carry out its mission.

In the military, married personnel are able to list their dependents (e.g. their spouse, children) on their Page 2, which permits the dependents of the service member to be eligible for benefits permitted by the Department of Defense (DoD).  Those benefits would be: a DoD ID card which gives access to military installations, access to on-base housing, access to the PX and Commissary (the department store and groceries store on military bases), access to military health care through TRICARE (DoD health care), an increase in housing allowances, and the dependent to receive SGLI benefits upon the death of the service member spouse. 

A gay or lesbian service member will not be able to list their same-sex spouse on their Page 2 because of DOMA.  Since DOMA applies to federal benefits, and DoD benefits are benefits conferred by the federal government, spouses of homosexual service members are denied those benefits.

Thanks to the brilliance of DOMA, spouses of homosexual service members would be denied those benefits afforded to the heterosexual married couples.  The effects of denying these rights range from the spouse not being able to attend functions such as promotion or retirement held on military bases to issues that arise even with heterosexual married couples when the service member deploys.  When a service member deploys, the dependents listed on the Page 2 will have access to the rights the DoD permits for dependents.  The spouse will not be able to get on base unless they are in the military or a DoD civilian employee to access those benefits.  Additionally, they will not be able to use TRICARE to assist with health care costs for use of off base health care facilities.  The strain of deployment is stressful enough for the deploying service member, but to add to that strain the concern that their spouse will not have the same benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses is unfair.  Further, and possibly the most heartless, the same-sex spouse would not be informed of the death of their spouse serving in the defense of our country. 

These stresses and other issues work to undermine unit cohesion.  From what I've seen in the navy, sailors who are distracted with issues at home sometimes struggle with their performance, which does impact command readiness.   Apart from affecting their performance, this extra stress atop of the regular challenges service members face in deployments away from their families may lead to depression.  It may not apply to all service members, but it is pointless to continue with the policies of DOMA, which amounts to shooting ourselves in the foot.

For all the "chickenhawks" who love to wear the American flag pin and wax poetic about our military, they should consider the fact that their bigoted homophobia is actually a disservice to the homosexual service members; gay and lesbian American citizens who had the courage to enlist in the military.  Their continued homophobia does a disservice to the morale of the military.  It serves to weaken, not strengthen.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Cosmos, The Law, and Human Rights

"We're made of star stuff.  We are a way for the cosmos to know itself."  The words of Carl Sagan in his series "Cosmos" may not have any relevance to the study of law let alone human rights, but it does have a specific relevance to our existence.  No matter our claimed ethnicity, nationality, religion, or political ideology, we are the heirs of start that went supernova four billion years ago that set our sun alight and jump-started the accretion of material that formed this planet.  Indeed, while we all carry the traits of our parents, we also carry in our bodies the history of the universe and our species.  When dwelling upon these ponderous topics, it seems senseless that human beings engage in visiting brutality and depredations upon others.

Why is it that humans whose melanin had been reduced because of the climate in the northern hemispheres feel it was legitimate to enslave our genetic brothers and sisters in Africa?  Why is it that humans residing in Europe who are made up of the same 46 chromosomes at the genetic level feel compelled to describe another group as subhuman and worthy of a cold and systematic extermination? 

There is no legitimate reason.

Yet, in our recent history, humans have engaged in wholesale genocide of their fellow humans based on what could be best described as arbitrary reasons without legitimate basis.  Sitting in Professor Gaffney's Empty Boxcars viewing tonight at the law school caused me to ponder on this topic.  How can I reconcile the study of law when it was legislation drafted by the German government that set the groundwork for the horror of the Shoah?  The Nuremberg Purity Laws of 1935 outlined who was Jewish and in the same breath, removed their civil rights.  Citizenship was stripped away, property rights eliminated, and the ability to hold a trade revoked. 

In the American experience, one has to consider the slave-fugitive laws, and The Antelope and Dred Scott decisions.  Where the law protected the enslavement of Africans; namely that Africans were chattel property.  Chattel property as in the pen you use in class, the computer where you compose your outlines, and the car you drive to class.  That was the definition of a living, breathing human being according to the law, only because they or their ancestors lived on the African continent.   It was defending the right to keep this chattel that lead to the bloodiest war in American history.  Indeed, the Confederate flag is about heritage; the heritage to protect the right of the states to keep humans in lifelong enslavement, defined as chattel no different than the shovel or a hammer.

Yet, in the two examples above, the law was used to support and uphold these actions by other human beings.  In Nazi Germany, an army of lawyers was utilized by the Third Reich to plan and execute the Shoah.  Lawyers and legislators drafted and passed laws that eliminated the civil rights of Jews not only in Germany, but as Professor Gaffney's Empty Boxcars illustrates, in Bulgaria.  It was through the collaboration of the legal profession that the Nazi war against the Jews was executed.  In our American context, lawyers represented slaveholders in suits to recover their "chattel."  American jurists supported that "particular institution" in their opinions. 

The realization that the law can be used for heinous purposes should cause students and practitioners of the law to sit up and take notice.  We should take note of both those who cooperated with and alternatively resisted the creation and implementation of laws that eliminate civil rights or that define humans merely as chattel.  Their actions provide important lessons: how the law can be co-opted for evil purposes, and how use of the law can overcome those insidious uses.  Just as we should be aware that we are all homo sapiens, heirs to billions of years of cosmological history, we should use this knowledge to apply the law in means to protect and not harm our fellow persons.