This New York Times article appears to give most of the story, but what's remarkably absent is a fact I've seen referred to frequently on Andrew Sullivan's website, on the Daily Show, and on Keith Olbermanns' show, namely what may be the most important part of the bill. The bill that Bush signed into law yesterday, called The Military Commissions Act of 2006, confers upon the Executive the power to decide who is an "unlawful enemy combatant". An "unlawful enemy combatant" has, according to law now, no right to habeas corpus, or the right to hear the evidence against you in court. From the bill :
"(a) the term "unlawful enemy combatant" means--The bill goes on to further say, according to Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, that if you "give material support to an organization that the president deems is connected to one of these groups, you, too can be an enemy combatant."
(b) 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."
Do I think this bill was drafted for the implicit purpose of rounding up peaceful and law-abiding citizens critical of the Bush administration and putting them into jail indefinitely? No. But I do think the formation and signing of the bill by the House, the Senate, and now the White House, was a remarkably ugly and short-sighted bill designed to keep the travesty that is Gitmo going even after the recent Supreme Court Hamdan ruling that seemed to call Bush's handling of so-called "enemy combatants" there illegal. Well, the Bushies have gotten around that pesky Supreme Court ruling, and Turley at least thinks it's unlikely that Justice Kennedy, the swing vote on the court now, will find anything in the bill that will cause him to overturn it. So, like I said, police vans aren't lining up to round up those who speak out against the administration, but now we have no real law to protect us from such a fate. Just the good graces of the Commander-in-Chief. That's scary to me. If there's another terrorist attack on the order of 9/11, I have no reason to expect reserved and judicious behavior from this government, and now the legal safeguards designed to protect the citizenry from an overzealous and unchecked federal government are, if not gone, substantially reduced. And though it's hard to imagine it, but what if, one day, we got someone worse than Bush? Might left-leaning newspapers suddenly be deemed to be giving "material support" to enemy combatants from afar by reporting news hurtful to the White House? Some on the far right have called Bill Keller, current editor of the New York Times, a traitor for publishing the story about the illegal wiretapping program. How far a walk is it to get to a President who shares these views, and is willing to act on them in the name of national security?
(And just look at the photo. Don't the attendees look like they're ashamed of themselves? As if they're fully aware that they just tore out a part of the Constitution for no good reason? Bastards.)
And if that weren't enough, there's this: Bush opens the door for militarization of space.
Good times. On the positive front, from all reports it's looking worse and worse for Republicans in November. Just for my peace of mind, I'm going to think of those excellent poll numbers and not of the $100 million Rove's planning to spend before election day. We'll win. Something. Even if we lose, maybe we win anyway? With Republicans in office for another 2 years, doesn't it make it that much more likely we'll get a Dem in the White House in '08? Doesn't it?
In other news, I went to another signing at the Margaret Mitchell House last night, this time with my sister, Shannon. Elizabeth Kostova, author of "The Historian", a modern updating of the Dracula legend, was in town to promote the paperback release of the book. Her reading was the shortest I've eve attended. After a longish introduction (too long, perhaps, for an author who's written just the one book), Kostova got up, talked for a bit, read the first chapter, answered some embarrassingly inane questions, then asked no one in particular, "Do we have time for one more question?" This was about 40-45 minutes after the reading started. Usually the MC manages the end of Q&A, but Kostova was fine to do that herself. The last question, "When you were writing the book, did you ever creep yourself out?" was answered with a funny story, and then it was on to signing books. The reading was harder to bear than most because the way the microphone amplified her voice had the effect of rendering all the words she spoke into one single base-tone syllable, lengthened to 25 minutes. You kind of had to think of something else, or look out the window on occasion to stave off the migraine.
When I handed her my book I asked what her thoughts were on the MFA program at the University of Michigan she attended. She was effusive about the place, saying it wasn't overly competitive like some other places because all of the MFA students were funded, so there was no competing for scholarships or teaching fellowships; the biggest thing she learned while she was there was how to rewrite, how to be tougher on her own writing, and that overall it was a great experience. Then she said, "And the winters are really bad, but they're so bad they're [unintelligible]". She laughed at this and seemed to look at me intently as though to make sure I understood her joke, and feeling I got the gist of what she was saying (perhaps the intensity of the winters made them absurd in a way?), I laughed, too. My sister laughed. Laughing's fun.
After we were outside I asked Shannon, "The winters are so bad they're what? I didn't hear." Shannon admitted she hadn't heard either. Ah well. It's too much for me to interrupt a person mid-laugh just so I can ask them to annunciate the punchline. Far easier to just laugh right along.