Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush Gives Himself "Despotic Powers", and Elizabeth Kostova Signs My Book

Uh, did we just lose the right of habeas corpus?

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--

(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."
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."

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.


Peggy said...

"And though it's hard to imagine it, but what if, one day, we got someone worse than Bush?"

What if Bush dies, and Cheney is president?

(I felt OK to post this, since Halloween is near and all.)

blankfist said...

She said, "The winters are so bad they're contemporaneous." Get it? That's hilarious! But not as hilarious as The Military Commissions Act. Think how hilarious it will be to say the three letter acronym of this Act: MAC! That's hilarious! Just imagine the real world uses.

"I got thrown in jail because of MAC."

"This Act is very long; what a big MAC."

"Holy cow, it's the MAC attack!"

Losing our rights is so hilarious. Our liberties are an easy target. They're easily stripped from us using a touch of crafty politcal spinning such as 'it's for safety' or 'it's for family' or the newest addition to politcian scumbaggory, 'It's for homeland security'. But our rights, I had always thought, would be a more difficult thing to tamper with, much less completely disregarded. But, apparently, it's as easy as voting within a two party system and kicking back while we watch an unrivaled bipartisan power corrupt.

People need to understand, and I mean really understand, what "of, for and by" really means. The 'of' is simple enough, and the 'for' is equally as straightforward. It's the 'by' I think people either forget or confuse its meaning with 'of'. It means the government should be born from the opinion, evidence, or authority of the people. Losing habeus corpus means the government performed outside of the interest of the people, and therefore the government, for that Act alone, was "of and for" but not "by". It's unjust, and the moment the power is used inappropriately I imagine the silent majority will raise holy hell. At least, I hope they do. And, at least, I hope it happens before future generations become all too comfortable with that Act, assuming it to be common and unchallengeable.

I'm stepping off my soapbox now.

blankfist said...

With that statement, Peggy is now an unlawful enemy combatant...

Peggy said...

I'm the reason they made this law.

Craig Moorhead said...

I have dreams where I have despotic powers all the time. I also have a dream where I can eat all the pizza in the world and never stop.

Renewed Republican said...

Some of you may read my blog from time to time, it's the I used to be democrat ( i.e renewed republican) and I have found that republican's make more money… so I switched. But I have to say this particular law goes a little over the top. I say this because when Hitler started his massive crack down on intellectuals, professionals, university personnel, the afflicted, homosexuals, and the Jews, he did not do this alone, he had his courts and laws that he had passed and these justified and codified these actions. These acts all had the power of law behind them. Now bubba boy has the same powers, he can throw anybody in jail with out a trial with out even a charge against them. Now I know he won’t throw me or anybody like me, no true republicans, in the slammer but you boys and girls should watch your step. In some countries they call the them the “disappeared”, folks that talk bad about the government, maybe they spoke out at a rally, gave money to one cause or another, here in the US we can now label them as enemy combatants. I say we, I meant the pres can do so. Now that’s a lot of power, for one office. Just glad he’s on our side.

When we put him in office, all he was supposed to do was empty the treasury into my pocket, he did that very quickly. We did not want him to hold on to our money for a second longer than necessary, and he did just that, nearly over night. He started the war after 9/11, which was not in our play book. But you also have to remember it’s not bubba, it’s his handlers around him that called those shots and they too are soaking up this power. The famous statement “no good targets in Afghanistan” ( no reason to bomb them back to the stone age.. they were already there) was said by his chief hander, Chaney. But as long as he has been obedient to us, we have left him pretty much to his own devices.

The megalomania of small people is an historic fact, he might not be small in physical stature but intellectually we have known since the beginning he was quite dim, but like Ronny before him, he has had some good handlers, at least up til now. This latest lunge for more power is really over the line, but at least I don’t have to worry.. well at least not yet.

As always,
Me First