Archive for the ‘U.S. Constitution’ category

Donna Brazile rules

June 18, 2008

At the recent meeting of the DNC Rules Committee one of my favorite moments was when committee member Donna Brazile laid down the law to a representative of the Clinton campaign from Michigan.  She was speaking to the issue of whether the Michigan delegation should be seated at the national convention in Denver even though the state Democratic party had broken the rules by holding their primary too early.  You can find discussion of this moment at the DNC meeting on Daily Kos at the following link — there originally was a YouTube video but that no longer works.

She began by wishing the Clintonite’s mother a happy birthday and then went on to comment about what her own mother had taught her:

“My Momma always taught me to play by the rules.  And if you try to change the rules, it’s called cheatin'” (more…)


Parallels between UK and US big-brotherism

June 15, 2008

As we celebrate the 793rd anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta today there are two news items that relate to to habeas corpus, the basic guarantee against arbitrary unlawful imprisonment– one in the UK and the other in the US.

In the UK we see Tory MP David Davis resigning over the Counter-Terrorism Bill that Labor PM Brown rammed through Parliament. This law allows detention for up to 42 days (six weeks) of British citizens without charges being brought and without any habeas corpus hearing being required. Davis noted that this is just the latest step in what he calls the “Big Brother” state and that it went a step too far infringing on the historical freedoms of British citizens. These liberties, he pointed out, can be traced back almost eight hundred years to the Magna Carta, which guaranteed the right of habeas corpus.

What most Americans don’t realize is that David Davis was not just an ordinary backbencher but the Shadow Home Secretary and in a new Tory government would be charged with enforcing the Counter-Terrorism Bill. With the latest polls showing a likely Tory victory at the next electoral opportunity, Davis was faced not only with a law with which he profoundly disagreed but also the looming task of administering that law as the government Minister in charge. (more…)

‘Anti-Big-Brother’ election in UK

June 14, 2008

I had always viewed membership of this House as a noble endeavour, not least because we and our forebears have for centuries fiercely defended the fundamental freedoms of our citizens. Or we did, up until yesterday.

This is the statement by former Tory MP David Davis as he dramatically resigned his seat to force a by-election over the issue of preserving the traditional rights of British citizens to be free from arbitrary and capricious imprisonment. He noted that Sunday June 15 will be the the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John as he confronted rebellious barons in the field at Runnymede in 1215.

At issue is the passage of a law that would authorize the imprisonment of British citizens for up to 6 weeks (42 days) without charges being brought. The Tories narrowly backed the legislation in support of the Labor government led by PM Gordon Brown. Davis stepped down from his Tory party position as Shadow Home Secretary and launched his campaign to be re-elected on this issue. This move effectively ended his chances of a Cabinet post in the next Tory administration and is particularly painful for a man of Davis’s ambitions because the Tories are poised to take power at the next electoral opportunity. As Shadow Home Secretary Davis was virtually assured a key role in a new Tory government. But Davis chose to put principle before power. (more…)

Damn the Constitution! Full speed ahead!

June 14, 2008

Anyone who thought that a mere decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Boumediene v Bush would deter the Bush administration from pursuing its kangaroo court proceedings in Guantanamo was quickly disabused of this notion. Within hours the White House had issued statements that Bush “would comply” with the ruling but “strongly disagreed” with it and would consider whether to “respond to the court ruling with new legislation.”

This is bizarre. Bush seems to lack a basic understanding of the role of the Executive under the U.S. Constitution. The President’s job is to enforce the laws that the Congress passes. The SCOTUS has the final word on whether a law is unconstitutional. It is emphatically not the job of the President to either overrule the Supreme Court or pass legislation. In addition, the President doesn’t have the right to pick the minority opinion just because he prefers it — under the U.S. Constitution he is bound to implement the ruling of the majority of the court.

Or as Blue Texan puts in succinctly at Firedoglake in a piece entitled “Bush doesn’t know what the Supreme Court does:”

I know Bush obviously doesn’t give a shit about the law, and he views the Court — the institution that awarded him the Presidency made him King — as a rubber stamp. But it’s pretty disturbing to hear someone who swore an oath to defend the Constitution continually demonstrate his total ignorance of it.


June 15 is Magna Carta Day

June 14, 2008

Happy birthday, Magna Carta!

On Sunday June 15, the Magna Carta will be 793 years old. This great historical document was signed by English King John on the field of Runnymede in 1215 under pressure from rebellious barons. The rights enshrined in the Magna Carta have been the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today.

One of these constitutional protections which has its roots in the Magna Carta is the right to habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus was so important to the Founding Fathers that it was incorporated into the body of Article 1 of the Constitution itself, prior to addition of the Bill of Rights. The Founders did so because they understood that habeas corpus was essential to liberty and that liberty was the core value of the new nation. This consensus of the Founding Fathers of the necessity of having recourse to a writ of habeas corpus was based on their experience in dealing with an out-of-control monarch in the person of George III. (more…)