Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Death Of Habeas Corpus: It Was A Murder And Our Silence Allowed It To Happen

Hi everyone. I'm postponing the review for a bit to bring you the news, in case you missed it, that on Tuesday our country fundamentally changed. This is not hyperbole. On Tuesday Bush signed into law The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does away with hapeas corpus and allows the CIA to use whatever interrogation techniques they want as long as they do not cause "serious physical or mental pain." For those of you rusty with your constitutional law, the writ of hapeas corpus is (well was) older than this country itself, dating back to the Magna Carta. Put simply, it is the right of terrorists or anyone else to know why they are being imprisoned. Under this new law Bush himself has the power to declare anyone he wants an enemy combatant, ship them off to Gitmo, and there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it.

Unfortunately, a lot of the media has mostly been silent on this enormous change to our democracy, including 360. Regular readers of this blog might remember me complaining about the noncoverage a couple of weeks ago when Congress first passed the law. However, there has been one bright exception: MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Keith has been covering this from the beginning. Last week or so he did a great segment highlighting how this new law basically does away with nine of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. You can watch it here and I urge you to do so.

On Tuesday night, Keith had on George Washington University Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley and honestly I thought he was probably going to tell us that the Supreme Court would take care of this like with the Hamdan decision. However, what I got instead was a visibly upset Turley in an exchange with Keith that left me with chills. The following is a snippet from the exchange and the emphasis is mine:
OLBERMANN: Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?

TURLEY: It does. And it‘s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn‘t rely on their good motivations.

Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.

It couldn‘t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we‘ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, “Dancing with the Stars.” I mean, it‘s otherworldly.

OLBERMANN: Is there one defense against this, the legal challenges against particularly the suspension or elimination of habeas corpus from the equation? And where do they stand, and how likely are they to overturn this action today?

TURLEY: Well, you know what? I think people are fooling themselves if they believe that the courts will once again stop this president from taking over—taking almost absolute power. It basically comes down to a single vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy. And he indicated that if Congress gave the president these types of powers, that he might go along.

And so we may have, in this country, some type of ueber-president, some absolute ruler, and it‘ll be up to him who gets put away as an enemy combatant, held without trial.

It‘s something that no one thought—certainly I didn‘t think—was possible in the United States. And I am not too sure how we got to this point. But people clearly don‘t realize what a fundamental change it is about who we are as a country. What happened today changed us. And I‘m not too sure we‘re going to change back anytime soon.

After WWII, many people wondered how it was that a modern, educated, and industrialized nation could become what Germany eventually became. How could people let their country go so far down the wrong path? Milton Mayer explored this question in his book, "They Thought They Were Free". I have not read this book, but there is an excerpt from it that I read every few months or so to remind myself just how easy it is for us to lose everything. You may be shocked just how familiar some of it sounds. And lest anyone become angered that I'm making a Bush-Hitler comparison, I'm not. What I'm pointing out is that democracy is something that must be participated in to survive and that is not currently happening here. Though our current government might be worst than most we've had, perhaps the worst we've ever had, in the end all governments lie. Our fundamental problem in this country just might be with ourselves.

Going back to Keith Olbermann, he did another one of his great special comments Wednesday night on this latest power grab and it can be viewed here. I will forever be grateful for Keith's coverage. As for 360, I have this to say:

Combined time 360 spent on Karr on Monday and Tuesday: Approximately 60 minutes
Combined time 360 spent on the Military Commissions Act: Zero minutes
The value of a free press: Priceless
The value of our democracy after 360 and others shirk their journalistic responsibilities: Worthless

"When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death."
-Jonathan Simon, polling expert


Blogger Jennifer said...

Outstanding post!

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

I didn't think you were comparing Bush to Hitler. But what HAPPENED is- the gov't here is being set up for someone to come in and grab power! HELLO BLIND AMERICANS!

Yeah- and Anderson needs to GET A SPINE and do what he does best- point out stuff like this. ANDERSON, WHERE HAVE YOU PLACED YOUR SPINE? WE DON'T CARE ABOUT JMK!! Actually... isn't that like, major misdirection? As in, hey America, watch this DRIVEL while we secretly take over the country when you're not looking? I totally agreed with that excerpt- I've complained MANY times that the American people are so absorbed in the wrong crap (like themselves) that their freedoms are being taken away from them and they don't even notice.

Soon we're going to see news stories like I see on Little Green Footballs all the time from Britiain- the fourteen year old arrested for racism because she didn't understand the Asians and complained about it? Here we come.....

That's why I set up my own newsy site.... coming soon :)

11:37 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

Little Green Footballs? Ew. Those are the people that support this act. I used to go to freerepublic just to see what the wingers were talking about, but I can't stand it anymore. I could be wrong, but I don't think you can be arrested for racism in Britain.

11:46 AM  
Blogger phebe said...

Wonderful post. I too have become a huge fan of Keith's and his op-ed pieces. Last night's discussion on Countdown was frightening. Why is CNN so reluctant to cover this legislation? Probably because they are working so hard to get disenchanted Fox viewers to switch to CNN. IMHO. Keep up the great writing.

11:55 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

Re: Jade

Re: Sharla
I looked up that story you mentioned and honestly it's all very vague. The school alludes to the fact that there might have been more going on. Britain does have a law involving racism, but once again, what I was able to find (and I don't have time to find the real law and read it all) was very vague, so I don't know if it's like our hate crime law or what. Basically what I'm saying is stories like those often turn out to be not what you think and should always be taken with a grain of salt. And even if it is what you think, it's an exception, not the rule. I don't think it relates to my post. I totally agree Americans are blind though. :)

Re: Phebe
Yes, Keith is awesome. As for CNN, it's not just this. They seem to be taking a pass on a lot of the more complicated political stories. Sure they briefly cover things like Plame and Abramoff, but if I wasn't getting the real in depth story from other places I'd have no idea what was going on. And they call themselves the best political team on television. Hmph.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous ivy said...

eliza-- your post is great. I don't know why that many people are surprised a legislation like this is possible here, a lot in the last few years started resembling the old Soviet Union. Propaganda machine never lead anywhere good. Both on a school level and the level of society. Whether it's about being true to the ideals of the Party (the only one -) ) or ideals of freedom. Whether it's about speading communism and equality or spreading democracy. People are told (or brainwashed) they are the most free people in the world and live in the best place in the world. Same rhetoric was in Soviet Union. Soviet of patritism was full support of the leadership and their ideology and agenda, without questions asked. Sounds familiar?
When goverment starts monopolizing patriotism it should be a loud alarm bell for everybody. But it's not.

Our society is too marginalized. And this is the first sign that dictatorship is possible. People are more worried about celebrity gossip and don't care what's going behind their fence. If they don't see neighbour or nephew coming back from Iraq in a coffin or disabled --they'll switch the channel when they see the new casualty count and frontline video on tv or when they see boring political talk about elections. It's not about them and it does not give them the possibility to escape to a glossy world and take their mind of thier own problems It's better to see who Jessica Simpson will sleep with/marry next. Or to see some shocking confessions -- would that be of an actor, criminal or a wanna-be celebrity.

With cable channels competing for those viewers does it come as a surprise seeing 2 hours of Karr? But I still have hope for 360. Yesterdays' show was terrific. Honestly, I do hope they will discuss this new Military Commissions Act, they might not have time for it casue of extensive Iraq reporting and a Dobbs special. Anderson takled about torture recently and this topic seems to worry him a lot. I don't think he'll be spineless in this matter. At least that's what I want to believe. I'll give them a bit more time. Sorry for my long rant, what's going on with concentrating of power really bothers me.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous ivy said...

sorry for typos-- I meant soviet idea of patriotism -)

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

Yeah Eliza, the grain of salt..... it's so difficult to determine what is true and what isn't sometimes. More like, always. The media always sensationalizes everything, too. Ratings, ratings.... I try to read everything so that I can get a sense of the truth. I'm always in fear that we're one day going to end up like Nazi Germany or even today's North Korea- where we don't know what's REALLY going on because we're "fed" information.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

Just for your entertainment- here is the comment I just posted on he 360 blog: "I personally did not have a problem with the snipe video- I too, think it is "newsworthy". What I do NOT think is newsworthy is John Mark Karr. Could you PLEASE stop airing stories about that idiot? Thank you."

1:40 PM  
Blogger midnite6367 said...

What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.It couldn‘t be more significant.

Excellent post. This is a very disturbing and scary step that Bushco has undertaken and as you say, it's barely getting a mention on any news program besides Countdown. Anderson should be all over this and he's not, he needs to get on the ball as does most of the media, Keith pretty much says it all for me, but the rest of the still need to do their JOBS. It's mind boggling how the media are not recognizing the magnitude and unprecedented nature of this change and reporting on it profusely. I'm afraid for this country's future with Bushco recklessly trampling over the constitution on a regular basis and most people don't know or care.

3:08 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Re Ivy:
Our society is too marginalized. And this is the first sign that dictatorship is possible. People are more worried about celebrity gossip and don't care what's going behind their fence. If they don't see neighbour or nephew coming back from Iraq in a coffin or disabled --they'll switch the channel when they see the new casualty count and frontline video on tv or when they see boring political talk about elections.

This pretty much hits the nail on the head. I mean, I'd really love to spend my time watching mindless tv too, but I don't feel like I have that choice anymore. I'm mad at the republicans and the adminstration for generally being evil and I'm mad at the democrats and the media for not holding them accountable, but perhaps most of all, I'm mad at the American people. What have we become when more people can name the judges on American Idol than can name rights given to us in the 1st amendment? It's horrifying.

People don't seem to understand that you have to work to keep a democracy. Prior to the summer of 2005 when support for the president and the war were still relatively high, I used to go to entertainment and right-leaning forums to tell people that something bad was happening in this country. They would always become furious, stating that I should go to Cuba or North Korea and see how bad things could be. I would then reply that of course we weren't like those countries-I was giving a warning. Then I would ask when exactly did they think I should worry? They would often reply that I should worry when we couldn't go shopping when we wanted or have this conversation on a street corner. And then I would reply the obvious: when it gets to that, it will be too late.

I don't know what's going to happen with this country, but right now I know it's nothing good and that's scary.

In regards to Anderson, he probably is against torture and this bill, but it doesn't help if he doesn't cover it.

3:21 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Re: sharla
Great comment. I hope it gets posted to the blog. I knew when they aired that video they'd be getting a lot of angry responses.

Actually... isn't that like, major misdirection? As in, hey America, watch this DRIVEL while we secretly take over the country when you're not looking?

Yes it is. And actually progressives have been trying to point out for years how the republicans use emotional issues like abortion and gay marriage to distract the voting public so that they can enact laws such as this one.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Mathilde said...

Anderson seems like such a genuinely decent person, but sometimes I wonder about that boy's politics. All the Karr coverage lately makes me ask is it just ratings, or are they creating a distraction while Bush & Co do their dirty work?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Christiane said...

This should be a matter of massive outrage, not only from the media, but from civil rights groups.

The people of the USA are giving up all what they standed for. Liberty. Bush and his executive team are totalitarists we will see more cases like Jose Padilla and the Canadian citizen that was deported to Syria.

But as Ivy and Eliza stated, people are more interested in today's main issue... Madonna and the African Orphan.

4:42 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Re Mathilde
Anderson loves to keep his politics hidden-sometimes to my great frustration. :) However, I think he's mostly progressive and I definitely don't think he's distracting us on purpose.

Re: Christiane
Isn't it sad that more people were interested in watching Angelina Jolie talk about the Congo, than were interested in actually learning what's going on there? The ratings for when she was on were through the roof, yet when 360 went to the region? Not so much.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just discovered this blog after you posted your comment on our blog. I have to say I'm lovin' reading your comments. It'm glad to hear that others too have complained to CNN about the crap they're showing. I hope we can galvanize the readers on this blog to voice our frustration. There is so much going on in the world. Do we really need to give JMK any more air time?

9:12 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Right on anon. Are you from ATA or freakspeakers?

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry it was a typo error: another blog not our blog- it was ATA

10:59 PM  
Blogger Sheryn said...

Excellent post Eliza! I swear I just should not be amazed at the audacity of this administration any longer but I am!

Over the 6 years this administration has been in power, Bush and his cronies have taken away liberties I never thought possible. This latest is quite possibly the boldest move yet.

Now the CIA can listen to anyone's conversations, torture (but they always did that), and now imprison you without due cause and be left to sit and wonder why! That's basically what it boils down to, right?

I'm so damned disgusted. There better be change in 3 weeks! I cannot take much more!

1:44 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

And for an added bonus there's this:

Worst. Administration. Ever.

I'm with you Sheryn, if there's not a serious change in November I'm going to lose a lot of faith in my fellow Americans.

2:41 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from