Just Jake

Jake Highton is a journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches media law, history of journalism and advanced reporting. Highton is the author of numerous books, including "Nevada Newspaper Days." He writes a weekly column for the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Location: United States

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bush impeachment hearings essential

There are too many idiots on this Earth.
--Frantz Fanon, “Black Skin, White Faces”
Among the idiots are President Bush, members of his enabling Congress and Americans who twice voted for him.
Bush, the worst president in U.S. history, is sponsoring wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are imperialistic, unilateral, illegal, immoral and unjustifed. They have not been declared by Congress.
Bush has given about 10 reasons for the Iraq war, all of them lies. What he has not said is the real reason: oil.
His colonialism was epitomized in a cartoon by Paul Conrad of the Los Angeles Times during the First Gulf War. It showed a GI sprawling on the sand saying to his buddy: “Do you think we’d be here if all the Middle East produced was broccoli?”
No less an authority than Alan Greenspan, former Republican chairman of the Fed, confessed in his memoir: “Everybody knows that the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
Dick Cheney, CEO of the energy behemoth Halliburton before he became vice president, told the oil industry: “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day…While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil…is still where the prize ultimately lies.”
The Geneva Conventions makes it illegal to invade other countries for their resources. But Bush violates the Constitution and the nation’s laws so international conventions mean nothing to him.
As for the so-called Democratic Congress, the leaders in the Senate, Harry Reid, and in the House, Nancy Pelosi, have been appalling. Both have cooperated in the Bush destruction of the Constitution.
Reid is a conservative at heart and Pelosi is gutless, beginning her feckless Speakership by declaring that impeachment is off the table.
It shouldn’t be. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has the fight that Pelosi lacks. He first introduced 35 impeachment articles then narrowed it to one: falsifying reasons for invading Iraq,
Congress has no intention of removing Bush from office. Moreover, even people who hate Bush ask why bother because he has just six months left in office.
Because it is worth the bother. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” and war crimes of Bush should be embedded in history.
Impeachment hearings would hold King Bush accountable. They would provide a record of his great betrayal of American ideals. They would prove to be a valuable teach-in, educating the people about his usurpations.
The catalog of abuse of power by Bush is staggering: smashing international laws against torture; torture rendition; abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib; making Guantánamo a global symbol of injustice while adopting communist torture tactics; spying on American citizens; obstructing justice in the outing of a CIA agent; politicizing the misnamed Justice Department; destroying the credibility of federal agencies; and issuing signing statements that defy the will of Congress.
But the Congress too is the great betrayer of the Constitution, repeatedly capitulating to Bush, repeatedly passing laws to back the Bush positions.
Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, said the Framers “would have been astonished by the absolute passivity, if not the collusion” of the Democrats in protecting Bush.
Congress made a pact with the devil, funding the Afghanistan and Iraq wars for another year while pardoning telecommunication firms for crimes committed while spying.
Seymour Hersh, writing in the July 7 New Yorker, revealed another of the daily outrages of the Bush administration agreed to by Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress.
They authorized--in secret--$400,000 for a Presidential Finding to destablize the Iranian government. Hersh writes: “The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change. ”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Prime Minister Mossedegh nationalized Iran’s oil so he was overthrown in 1953 by a CIA-engineered coup.
The limits of presidental power were spelled out by the Supreme Court in Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer (1952). The court overturned President Truman’s seizure of steel plants to end a strike during the Korean War.
Justice Jackson, in a concurring opinion, said seizure “represents an exercise of authority without law.” The president should never be above the law.
Using the ersatz cover of executive power, Bush has done extensive damage to the sacred beliefs of America, worldwide opinion of the United States and democracy.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Supreme Court invokes rule of law

John Adams, second president, popularized the words enshrined in the Massachusetts Constitution: “A government of laws not men.” G.W. Bush, 43rd president, reversed that truism to the great detriment of the American people.
A perfect example of that reversal is found in the arrogant attitude of Vice President Cheney. He was being interviewed by Martha Raddatz of ABC. She noted that two-thirds of the American people thought that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting.
“So?” Cheney asked.
“So? You don’t care what the American people think?”
Cheney doesn’t care but the Supreme Court does. Three times since 2004 it has rebuked the lawless Bush administration with ringing declarations that this is a nation of laws not men.
The latest decision, Boumediene v. Bush, declared that prisoners held at Guantánamo have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.
Habeas corpus, the Great Writ, still rules despite the efforts of Bush to quash it.
The roots of habeas corpus go back nine centuries to England. Its rudiments can be found in the Magna Carta of 1215 when barons at Runnymede forced King John to yield some of his arbitrary power. Habeas corpus was codified by Parliament in 1679.
In America, habeas corpus has been considered legally holy. It has been called “the most important human right in the Constitution.” Chief Justice Chase declared in a 1868 ruling that habeas was “the best and only sufficient defense of personal freedom.”
In a 1963 case, Justice Brennan was absolutely ecstatic about the writ. He wrote:
“Its history is inextricably intertwined with the growth of fundamental rights of personal liberty. For its function has been to provide a prompt and efficacious remedy for whatever society deems to be intolerable restraints. Its root principle is that in a civilized society government must always be accountable to the judiciary for a man’s imprisonment.”
Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in Boumediene, said that liberty and security must be reconciled “within the framework of the law,” that President Bush cannot “switch the Constitution on or off at will.” He added:
“Within the Constitution’s separation of powers few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the executive to imprison a person.”
Many of the 270 Guantánamo prisoners have been held for six years without charges. Geoffrey Stone, University of Chicago law professor, said Bush “has made extreme claims that are lawfully and constitutionally unfounded.”
But to dissenting Chief Justice Roberts, the Great Writ is nothing more than “a procedural right.”
Another dissenter, the reactionary Justice Scalia, complained of the majority’s “inflated notion of judicial supremacy” and declared that the ruling “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Scalia is the same despicable justice who told BBC in February that torture may sometimes be justified.
Scalia, a supposedly brilliant guy, speaks an infinite deal of nonsense. He concluded his dissent by declaring that “the court warps our Constitution” and that the nation “will live to regret” the decision.
Scalia is a sorry excuse for a justice on a court that once had giants like Brandeis, Holmes, Warren, Murphy, Black and Douglas.
A New York Times editorial praised the Boumediene decision and denounced the “imperial overreaching” of Bush. It noted:
“With the help of compliant Republicans and frightened Democrats in Congress, President Bush has denied the protections of justice, democracy and plain human decency to the hundreds of men that he decided to label ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ and throw into never-ending detention.”
Columnist Eugene Robinson, noting that Bush had put a “chainsaw to the rule of law,” wrote that he was amazed that there was anything to debate about “arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and torture.”
Bush also put a chainsaw to the Constitution, international treaties and the military code of justice.
Few people know what it means to be a true American, to be a real patriot. It is not wearing a flag pin. It is not flying the flag.
No. It is words like these by Holmes dissenting in Olmstead (1928): “For my part I think it is less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.”
Or those by Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher…it teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law.”
Or these by Murphy dissenting in In Re Yamashita (1946): “The immutable rights of the individual…belong to every person on the world.”