Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 decision stating that:

Petitioners have met their burden of establishing that the DTA review process is, on its face, an inadequate substitute for habeas corpus….[T]he Government has not established that the detainees’ access to the statutory review provisions at issue is an adequate substitute for the writ of habeas corpus. MCA §7 thus effects an unconstitutional suspension of the writ.

[...]

While some delay in fashioning new procedures is unavoidable, the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody. The detainees in these cases are entitled to a prompt habeas corpus hearing.

[...]

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention. That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.

The determination by the Court of Appeals that the Suspension Clause and its protections are inapplicable to petitioners was in error. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The cases are remanded to the Court of Appeals with instructions that it remand the cases to the District Court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

With those words, the Court declared that at least some of the “unlawful combatants” at Guantanamo Bay have every right to a prompt habeas corpus hearing before Federal courts, striking down previous rulings and declaring the policies of the Administration barring habeas corpus unconstitutional and unlawful.

This day was a triumph for the rule of law.

But let’s be clear about what the triumph is here. It is not the specific decision. If the Court had ruled the other way (which it might well have given the 5-4 nature of the decision), that ruling would have been an equal triumph. No, the triumph here is not that these detainees are finally going to get their day in court.

Rather, it is that they have already gotten their day in Court.

A group of detainees: some of whom are almost certainly enemies of the United States and dedicated to our destruction; some of whom are surely vicious killers guilty of murdering, raping, and torturing innocents whose only crime was daring to differ in matters of politics or religion; and many of whom are probably quite justly imprisoned as deadly threats to our nation and her citizens. These same detainees, imprisoned in a secretive military prison and isolated from all normal contact with society, have successfully brought their case before the highest Court in the United States.

These detainees, imprisoned as deadly threats, have had their pleadings heard, considered, and judged as if they were the pleadings of any upstanding citizen of the United States. Their case was made by lawyers, responded to by the United States government, and heard respectfully by federal judges. Men who the government claims would happily butcher the entire Supreme Court received reasoned judgment from that Court.

That their case prevailed may be just or unjust, good or bad. On that men of goodwill can rightly disagree. But that their case was brought before the Supreme Court in the first place, that the Court had both the will and the power to hear it and render a verdict, and that that verdict has power to effect real change, those things must be acclaimed by all those who treasure the rule of law.

As the Court noted in its Opinion:

Our opinion does not undermine the Executive’s powers as Commander in Chief. On the contrary, the exercise of those powers is vindicated, not eroded, when confirmed by the Judicial Branch….The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law.

It is so ordered.

George Washington, Feb. 22, 1732 – Dec. 14, 1799

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.

—George Washington (various sources)
 

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George Washington seems a strange choice for this series, which is (after all) about those forgotten greats. How can we include a figure so well known, so omnipresent, and so publicly venerated as George Washington: Founder of the Country, First President, First in Hearts of His Countrymen, etc.?

But fame is as a great a peril as obscurity if our goal is to remember the man and not the legend. And Washington is great precisely because he was a man—a man of his time and class—and not a myth. He was not the flawless saint of the classic “cherry tree” story. He deceived others from time to time (though perhaps only after deceiving himself). He was, at times, guilty of poor judgment, of jealousy, of passionate anger, of greed for wealth that lead to involvement with speculative schemes.

And for all his modest demurements, and socially correct (for the time) public rejections of ambition, he was certainly an ambitious man. One who took considerable pride in the good name he had won through his deeds, and one who could be jealous of his perquisites when challenged.

Indeed, that very ambition is one of the great things about Washington. He was a man who, in Britain, would have been doomed to obscurity by his relatively low birth. At best he might have risen to a modest career in the military, and perhaps eventually earned a minor peerage. But certainly he would not have risen to be ranked among the wealthiest men in his nation, nor risen to a role not only on par with the Prime Minster’s but above it in every way. But in America, his talent for being in the right place, at the right time, with the right plan; his noble good looks and regal bearing; and his upright moral character and sheer persistence allowed him to climb steadily up the ranks of society.

And so this, above everything else, makes Washington worthy of our praise: that after he had risen to the top of the heap, after his enemies domestic and foreign had been vanquished, when he was not only handed the laurel of victory but offered the imperial scepter, then he demurred. He who could have been King chose instead to be President.

And with a firm understanding that everything he did would be immortalized, and that his slightest act might become precedent for the office he held, this very ambitious, talented, and passionate man became the very model of restraint. A man who had bent the efforts of long years to rising in wealth and status now became almost passive, in order to ensure that nothing extravagant or unnecessary would attach to the office he was establishing each day by his actions.

This is not to say that he did not act, he did, and with force, when he felt it necessary. But he realized just how fragile the new nation was, and how fragile its rule of law was. If its first President had been a bad President, all might have been lost. Just as Pompey and Cesear had turned the offices of consul, dictator, and imperator into the trappings of tyranny, Washington could easily have hijacked the Republic and made it his. Not only be the crude method of being declared King, but by subtler methods: undermining Congress through direct appeal, having political enemies quietly eliminated, running for re-election until dying in office.

Any of those methods might have strangled the United States before it grew strong enough to survive them. And Washington understood this deeply, and bent all his intellect and will to ensuring that it did not happen. And he crowned those efforts with his greatest act: voluntarily stepping down and choosing not to run for election, and then lawfully handing over the office to a man who had publicly vilified his policies and privately vilified him. And then he took up station quietly on his farm and refused, largely, to engage in political debate for the remaining years of his life.

George Washington did many great things for this nation, and made many wise pronouncements about matters foreign and domestic. He was a force for moderation between extremes and for patriotism before party loyalty. He would have despised any notion that a man’s political affiliation should be more important than his principles or character. He crafted a foreign policy that sought, and ensured peace for a critical few decades as the country grew. He, and his administration, built many institutions that endure to this day, and without which we cannot imagine the nation.

But none of those were his greatest gift to the United States. His greatest gift was the incredible restraint which enabled him to do much, but not too much. To make sure that the nation would be shaped in We the people’s image and not simply George Washington’s image. And for that, we owe him eternal gratitude.

With due humility, I will take issue with one wise counsel given by President Washington:

We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.

I propose that there is another reason to look back, as good as these: to celebrate. Not to dwell in the past at the expense of the future, but to remember past victories as well as past defeats, and past wisdom as well as past error. In that spirit, let us remember our First President, who is truly worthy to be First in the Hearts of his Countrymen!

Happy Presidents Day Everyone!

I’d like to introduce you to Brett Darrow, a mild mannered community college student in St. Louis, Missouri and victim of abuse of police powers. We’ve done stories before about douches like Andrew Meyer who are out looking to make a scene, but this is different. Brett appears to be the honest target and victim of police who want to abuse their power.

It all started in 2006 when Brett received a speeding ticket which he thought was unfair. Since he had no evidence, he decided to install a video camera in his car just in case something like this happened again. Little did he now the saga of police drama it would help him document. Since that day Mr. Darrow has recorded a number of obvious instances of abuse of police power, and he is unfortunately paying the price for his efforts.

In December 2006, he caught on record the first, and least severe, instance of abuse. Having been stopped at a drunk driving road block the officer asks for his license and registration, and Mr. Darrow complies. However when the officer asks where he is headed, a question which is inappropriate to ask in the first place, Mr. Darrow politely declines to answer. The officer detains him illegally, and briefly confiscates his vehicle. When asked why he is being detained he is told:

You better stop runnin your mouth or the other officer will find a reason to lock you up tonight.”

Other than possible damage to his car (the confiscating officer couldn’t drive stick), the night passes without much more abuse, due to Mr. Darrow indicating the conversation was being recorded. But this was only the beginning of Mr. Darrow’s troubles. Earlier this month, on September 10th, Mr. Darrow had another run in with the police. This time in a commuter parking lot where he had arranged to meet his girlfriend to collect some keys he had accidentally left behind. A cop comes over to see what he is doing, and when Mr. Darrow asks what he has done wrong, the cop gets angry culminating in a threat to make up charges:

Do you want to go to jail for some ****ing reason I come up with? …I bet I could say you resisted arrest or something. You want to come up with something? I come up with nine things. Do you wanna try something?

Everything recorded on video, Mr. Darrow submits his evidence to the St. Louis Police Department and the officer is placed on unpaid suspension. By this point, however, things have become more serious, and Mr. Darrow appears to have gained the ire of the whole police department, leading to a death threat being made against him on a police forum. In addition to this death threat, police have been staking out his home, waiting for him on his street. His neighbors have confirmed police near the house at all hours of the day and night.

This level of police abuse is unacceptable and unbelievable. The 12 Angry Men join other members of the media in decrying the abuse he has suffered and applauding his bravery in the face of power.

Epilogue: There is some recent good news in this story. Earlier this week, the officer who abused his power in the commuter parking lot has been fired. Here’s hoping that casting a little more light on this story will make things even brighter for Mr. Darrow.

-Angry Midwesterner


I just wanted to bring a very important story to the attention of our readers. Many people read the news articles about how Bush’s unconstitutional warrant-less wiretapping helped to arrest countless terrorists, something we were told we couldn’t doubt as Bush’s spymaster director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, unequivocally stated it as fact. However, many have missed the follow up story. Buried deep in the newspapers and broadcasts is the news that Mike McConnell has admitted to lying on this issue.

You see, it turns out that McConnell later admitted that none of the information used to arrest these terrorists was harvested using the anti-American and deceptively named “Protect America Act”. Looks like Bush’s golden goose has just been turned into pâté. McConnell even admitted that the information he gave congress was not at all truthful. Hopefully Congress will have the sense to charge him with the crimes he has committed, after all the Republicans reminded us under Clinton that lying to Congress was “The Biggest Deal Ever ™”.

Yet another point of proof of the truth of President Eisenhower’s timeless statement:

Un-American activity cannot be prevented or
routed out by employing un-American methods;
to preserve freedom we must use the tools that
freedom provides.”

Edit: Turns out the lies run deeper than expected. The military had already discovered these terrorists before the illegal wiretaps were even started.

-Angry Midwesterner


Recently, Congressman Henry Waxman sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab suggesting that Thailand be taken off of the intellectual property watch list. The USTR reinstituted Thailand on their watch list after Thailand decided to violate patents on AIDS medicine (Abbott’s Kaletra and Merck’s Stocrin) and manufacture the medicine as a generic using its own resources. While this was a motivating factor, video, audio, and software piracy provided additional impetus. Waxman suggests that this action is retalitory even though Thailand has been listed since 1994. In point of fact, Schwab is acting as specified in US Law, performing her function as a member of the executive branch of the government. Congressman Waxman’s letter is another example of Congress attempting to usurp executive power.

This is one of a long list of continuing incursions into other branches Congress has made in its belief that it has the right and mandate to intrude in all facets of American life, executive authority, and judicial review. We are witnessing the evolution of the Imperial Senate, as depicted by the new flag shown below.

The firing of the Attorneys General — political positions in the executive branch, serving at the pleasure of the President — are outside the purview of Congress (even if done in a ham-handed and arguably idiotic manner). If a political appointee does not toe the party line and support the agenda of the person who hired him, then his job is forfeit. Sad, perhaps but understandable. Certainly President Clinton knew this — he fired all the Attorneys. In an incessant attempt to usurp this power, Congress has subpoenaed records from the executive branch which are privileged documents.

In a related missive I discuss the intrusion of Congress into a labeling controversy on suntan lotions. While I have little respect for some of the excesses of the FDA, this is clearly an executive issue. There are other things for Congress to do.

The concept of 535 generals dictating battle plans, coordinating air strikes and ground maneuvers is even harder to swallow. If Congress doesn’t want to support the war, it has a Constitutional right to defund the military. It has no Constitutional right to dictate strategy and tactics to the commander in chief. The very political nature of the body insures that command decisions would be untimely, inappropriate, unexecutable and frequently wrong.

Our New Flag With July 4th long past, we the people of the United States of America need to take a hard look at our Constitution. This remarkable document provides for three branches of government, not one.

The Constitution of the United States tells the government what it can do. Everything else is reserved to the States and the people. Congress has stretched the elastic clause as if it were the costume of Mr. Fantastic. We need to cut Congress’s activities back to size somehow. Perhaps we should send each and every member a copy of the Constitution with yellow highlights over its duties. After we get Congress out of everyone else’s business, we can concentrate on the bloated Federal executive agencies. Flame on.

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