The Corpus is Dead

by Kurt Cagle

I am sorry to be bringing this up in a technical forum, but I felt it's too important to let go by the wayside.

I'm going to deviate from my normal XML discourse to point out that the US has officially become a police state. On September 27, 2006, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was passed by Congress, and is being sent to the President who is only too eager to sign it. This particularly poorly thought out act includes the following provision:

"No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."

The definition of alien, elsewhere within the same act, is written so broadly that it can mean not only foreign nationals but also US citizens, a choice of wording that was quite deliberately made by the framers of the bill.

Habeas Corpus - To have the body - is a very basic principle, but is, more importantly, one of the foundational principles put into the Constitution. It means that if you are detained by a federal, state or local police agent, that agent must announce that you have been taken captive within a limited period (usually three days), must announce why you have been taken captive, and if no crime is charged against you within that period you must be released.

The principle exists for a very simple reason - without it, people can be arrested and made to disappear. It means that you can be legally detained for no reason other than the fact that someone felt that it would be better if you were not free, and it means that if someone is arrested they can be held indefinitely with neither trial nor access to a lawyer. It was the bedrock principle upon which nearly all law and order within the United States was based. It no longer exists.

Fully legally (assuming that the Supreme Court does not turn it over), this essentially means that your Congress (if you are an American) has backdoored the United States into Martial Law. The president, or any agent of his choosing, can imprison you or your friends or neighbors simply because you represent a threat to them. That is what Martial Law is. The United States has only not had the protection of Habeas Corpus once before in its previous history, and that was during the Civil War. Lincoln declared Habeas Corpus invalidated for the duration of the war because he saw no choice, and one of the first acts of Congress after the war concluded was to restore it.

Remember that date: September 27, 2006. It is the day that the United States ceased being a democracy and become, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship.


Reinier Post
2006-10-07 03:58:50
First, I came here to read about XML, specifically, I came to find out if a fully automatic XML to SQL database mapping tool in .NET exists that meets my needs. I feel you should have discussed this on some other blog, it would have been OK to put up a link to it.

Second, I feel your wording is too strong. Democracy was invented in Athens over 2000 years ago; I don't think they had habeas corpus. Applying the term 'police state' seems to make some sense, but I'd like to see a definition first. Dictatorship is absolute power to a single person, which certainly doesn't apply here.

Now if only .NET had a built-in function for mapping a DataSet to a SQL schema ...

Chris Smith
2006-10-07 04:03:38
police state
A state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force.
Now, there is room for reasonable people to disagree with that definition.
Certainly, there is potential for power to be abused, and your nightmare scenario cannot be ruled out. Vigilance is required in all directions.
OTOH, the US really lacks a gestapo, checking everyone's papers and hauling bodies off. Where I grow concerned is that excessive alarm-raising deafens the audience. Hyperbole, as I would characterize your post, sir, breeds boredom.
IOW, presenting the Military Commissions Act as the start of a police state may, sadly, work in the fashion of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the particular case of the Guantanimo Bay detainees, many people are opposed to granting them de facto citizenship and bringing them under US law. While "love thy neighbor as thyself" is a great interpersonal ethic, I remain unconvinced that it scales to the realm of foreign policy.
The elections in November will provide a litmus test for how the US feels about all this. Hopefully, everyone gets out and expresses their view at the ballot box, so the tedious finger-pointing can be minimized.
Sorry, rambling.
Paul DuBois
2006-10-07 08:29:23
No, actually, we're not interested in your political opinions here.
Kurt Cagle
2006-10-07 09:02:26

Concerning the XML to SQL database mapping tool, check out . It's a little out of my area of expertise, so I don't know the precise answer as to whether there are tools available, but if you can't find any, the alternatives are fairly doable for simple schemas (i.e., those generated by most automated schema tools, and those that aren't referential in nature).

In essence, what you're looking at with a schema translator is something that will do the following:

1) In general, non-repeated singleton siblings will generally be represented as entries in a given table.
2) repeated singleton siblings imply a many to one relationship, which means that the converter should create a single primary key, and the multiple sibling elements should then have foreign key fields that perform a many-to-one mapping.
3) child elements will map off the primary key as well, but in order to preserve the relationship, you should give some kind of indicator along with the foreign key to indicate that this is a child rather than sibling relationship.

Things obviously get far more complex when you have a highly self-referential structure (such as RDF). In that case, its better to use the semantics implicit within the RDF schema to determine the relational structure. Indeed, one of the benefits of RDF is that it generally maps very cleanly to standard RDBMS models.

2006-10-07 09:12:26
I know it's a comic and a movie, however, if we let our fear run our lives, then we will end up living "V for Vendetta".
James Snell
2006-10-07 09:26:52
Please, stick to technical topics on this site. Political rants have no place here.
Arthur Smyles
2006-10-07 10:34:18
Sec. 948a Paragraph 3:

(3) ALIEN- The term `alien' means a person who is not a citizen of the United States.

Sec. 948c. Persons subject to military commissions

`Any alien unlawful enemy combatant is subject to trial by military commission under this chapter.

(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT- (A) The term `unlawful enemy combatant' means--

`(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or

`(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

Here is the link to the act:

Next time you might want to read the act before blogging on it.

Arthur Smyles
2006-10-07 10:40:59
Use this link instead. Thomas is not very restful apparently.

2006-10-07 11:28:46
Everyone may have an opinion. But this is not the forum for sharing them.
2006-10-07 15:51:49
The more forums free speech is restricted in, the less free speech will be.

Note the need for those fearful or mistrustful of opinions, political or different from their own, to squash any forum in which they appear.

Guys and gals, get your heads out of your technical asses. Disagree with Kurt if you do disagree, but just telling him to shut up because you don't like where he says it is a symptom of mediocrity and fear masking as elitism and disgust.

Peter Keane
2006-10-07 19:38:05
I read this column regularly and use XML in my work as a web developer in higher ed. As far as I am concerned, XML (and many of the other technologies I use) are all about openness, transparency, and hewing to widely accepted standards. Honestly, I am passionate about these values and the ways in which they inform my work. I'd suggest that they are, in fact, an indicator of the maturity of the "culture" of the field I work in. Given that context (which is the context in which I read "") I couldn't find Mr. Cagle's post any MORE appropriate. Bravo!
Nathan Winant
2006-10-08 01:41:33
Kurt, I support your decision to raise this topic here. It may be inappropriate on the surface, but when one feels that one's fundamental values are in peril, there arises a moral imperative to speak out and be heard by whatever means are available. I don't know that we are yet substantially, truly in a police state, but I share your sense of anxiety, and I support your decision to speak out wherever you can. Thank you.
2006-10-09 06:38:55
The byline says 'Kurt Cagle in Opinion'. That makes *anything* Kurt wishes to express automatically germane to the blog. Agree or not this is exactly where it belongs.

That said....

The definition of alien seems to clearly exclude U.S. citizens:

"`(3) ALIEN- The term `alien' means a person who is not a citizen of the United States."

The only part that bothers me is that part Kurt mentions in his third paragraph: ' ... by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."'

So the risk is to a person who is an 'alien', meaning a non-citizen. Say Dieter from Germany is here getting new pictures of David Hasselhof or something else equally harmless. If Dieter is arrested, how long does he have to wait for the writ of habeas corpus while he's 'awaiting such determination'? I couldn't find a time limit for the U.S. to make said determination. Please tell me I'm missing it.

It seems we U.S. citizens are safe, but Dieter might want to postpone his visit until we get this mess straightend out. Oh, and Kurt too, because those pesky Canadian 'aliens' have to be watched carefully... ;)

Steve Faria
2006-10-09 11:25:40
Pessimism isn't at all becoming for you. You may have too much time on your hands to have become this worried. Keep the laws of the land and it will all come 'round legally sound _and_ safe. Now, on to XML.
M. David Peterson
2006-10-09 20:39:46
If I could just throw in my two sense(sic),

Firstly, I disagree with Kurt's assessment. This should not be surprising, however, as Kurt and I tend to disagree with a lot of things.

Secondly, that said, Kurt just so happens to be one of my best friends. I respect Kurt *AND* his opinions, even though I may not always agree with them.

Thirdly, Bravo to both len and Peter Keane for both defending Kurt's freedom of speech, while at the same time bringing to light the fact that, like it or not, technology is intertwined with politics at MANY levels, and is therefore justifiable to speak about on a technical blog.

I see technical people making political statements ALL THE TIME. Don't thing politics and technology are related...

Just look at the W3C, or ANY standards body for that matter.

Lastly, theres a post I made a while back that, fair enough, was COMPLETELY off topic, and VERY related to politics.

While I can't say for sure, my guess is that a few people must have made enough of a case against my post to justify an email from the editor.

The content of that email: Paraphrasing "Please keep your post's mostly on the topic of XML and related technologies."

That was it. That was all that needed to be said. Sometimes we as humans can be *gasp* emotional, and have strong feelings in one regards or another. Sometimes we say things that are off topic for a particular genre. Does that make them innappropriate?

While I can't say for sure, my guess is that the phrase "mostly on topic" should in and of itself, speak for itself. While we, as bloggers here on O'ReillyNet, need to be mindful to the fact that we need to keep things *mostly* on topic in regards to the areas of our particular specialty, there is a lot of wisdom in the phrase "mostly on topic", and my guess is that the phrase was not made in random, thoughtless passing.

Tim O'Brien
2006-10-10 09:59:02
the idea of a topical blog is flawed at many levels. a topical blog is a marketing blog, and marketing blogs are totally uninteresting. ORA needs a better way to categorize entries.
2006-10-10 10:14:38
There is a very nasty battle brewing in the States. Many individuals and corporations fear it because they can sense its divisiveness and its imperatives. Some will accept responsibility and others will choose isolationism as a response, but as it proceeds, it will entangle and affect them all.

One can avoid commenting but one cannot avoid involvement. This is a good time to become informed by any source that can speak truth to power. Agree or disagree, but every time someone or some group shuts down the conversation wherever it occurs, the outcome will become that much worse. With the wholesale buy out of the major media outlets, the semantic obsfuscation of issues by distraction and promotion, and the outright lieing about the facts, the web is one of the last media where individual expression has the power to speak truth to power.

Don't abandon the ability to speak truth to power so willingly just because it is off-topic. That is a fool's willingness to become property for the sake of comfort. It is the coward's way.

2006-10-12 07:30:47
The definition of alien, elsewhere within the same act, is written so broadly that it can mean not only foreign nationals but also US citizens, a choice of wording that was quite deliberately made by the framers of the bill.

Funny, I actually read the bill, as opposed to hyperventilating about it on a blog. This is the definition of an 'alien':(3) ALIEN- The term `alien' means a person who is not a citizen of the United States.

So if that's your definition of broad, then your mind is very narrow. Seems pretty straightforward to me. But hey, in the current climate Guantanamo bay is the 'Gulag of our times' and apparently 6,000,000,000,000234,223 people have died in Iraq according to Lancet.

The problem with this sort of idiotic, childish reasoning so aptly demonstrated by Kurt, is that it undermines any serious arguments against these sort of situations when, you know, they actually happen.

Kurt, you've never lived in police state, so how would you know what one is? Stick to what you know, which is xml, not law.

2006-10-12 07:32:47
By the way, if you want to make such an absurd claim, Kurt old boy, you may want to actually link to the document in question. I had no idea police states were so transparent!

2006-10-13 11:02:25
"Remember that date: September 27, 2006. It is the day that the United States ceased being a democracy and become, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship."

Whilst you are absolutely right to be concerned about this restriction on Habeas Corpus, it doesn't make the US a 'dictatorship', since that state of being only exists if the President can not be removed through democracy!

Internment without trial was a big issue in Northern Ireland when the British revoked Habeas Corpus there during the 'troubles'.

For all the objections, it must be remembered that this law was brought in by an elected assembly, and therefore, removal of that assembly and subsequent removal of the law would be the preferred route to take.

I bet it will do wonders for US tourism - knowing that you could disappear without trace or trial!

2006-10-20 13:32:59
Well, if that's the case, why are you staying? Why not leave, while you still can?
2006-12-06 08:03:25
I am.