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Judicial revolt Hope in a hopeless world
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 20, 2003

This time of year, I usually write a solstice piece. The main element in it is hope, and I link the solstice to hope. The great cosmic kitty coughs up the hairball sun, and life begins anew. The solstice essay is usually pretty light in tone, and apolitical.

I've written one this year, and it will go out over the weekend. But I want to talk about cause for real, substantive hope on the political front, the strongest sign yet that America may be stopping its mad slide into fascism and totalitarianism.

That hope comes from the thin black line that protects the Constitution against avaricious politicians and scheming demagogues. The judiciary is making a stand, and recently dealt several major blows to the schemes of this illegal and dangerous administration.

In quick succession, two district courts dismantled large elements of the police state that the Republicans seek to impose upon us.

First, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Federal government had no right to overrule states that had declared marijuana to be legal and legally available for medical purposes. In a role reversal that really shows how corrupt and authoritarian the far right has become, this generally liberal court stated that medical marijuana was under the purview of the states, not governed by the interstate commerce clause, and in this instance, states' rights trumped federal authority.

Then, the following day, the Second Circuit ruled that the President cannot declare American citizens to be "enemy combatants" and hold them indefinitely without charges or trial. This ruling stemmed directly from the case of Jose Padilla, the Chicago-born-and-bred convert to Islam who was accused of plotting to build a "dirty bomb." It's long been my belief that Padilla, if he had any plans to build a dirty bomb to begin with, never got past the stick figures drawn on a cocktail napkin phrase, and that our slimy pseudo-Christian dirtbag of an Attorney General, John Ashcroft, merely needed "an enemy threat on American soil" plotting dastardly deeds in order to pump up public fear and make us all more malleable to his authoritarian plans. Ashcroft has thirty days to either convince Congress that he should be allowed to lock up Americans on a whim, or show the court solid reason why Padilla shouldn't walk.

In an incident, unrelated to the court ruling but which dovetailed nicely with the ruling, videotapes that lying federal authorities had tried to claim had been accidently destroyed were released, showing systematic and widespread abuse of foreign nationals who had been taken prisoner and held without charges in the wake of 9/11. This came right on the heels of a story of a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained while traveling from Canada to Europe. He was at La Guardia, transferring from one flight to another, when authorities nabbed him. Instead of sending him to Canada, they sent him to Syria. Why? Because Syria has brutal interrogations and torture, and the scumbags in the White House think that's a good way to get information in the war on terror. Canada, of course, doesn't torture prisoners, or hold them without charges. The Syrians wound up releasing the guy after it became clear that he knew nothing, and upon his return to Canada, he went to the Canadian papers with his story.

Finally, the Ninth Circuit weighed in again, this time declaring that the government had no right to take prisoners from Afghanistan and Iraq and lock them up indefinitely in the Gitmo Gulag without a fair trial. They ordered a federal judge in LA who had dismissed a plea for such legal protection to take the case back up.

In none of these cases do the . . . well, "accused" is the word I would normally use here, but none of them have been accused of anything, so I guess for the time being we'll have to call them "concentration camp inmates..." In none of these cases are they being allowed to just walk. They will get fair and open trials, just as the constitution mandates for all who are in a place where the American flag flies.

If there is a case where an open trial could actually jeopardize national security, as opposed to merely making Ashcroft look like a fool, then prosecutors would have the opportunity to convince the judge of that before the trial began.

Of course, our sleazy joke of a president isn't going to like this one little bit. He enjoys mocking condemned prisoners who are at his non-existent mercy, and revels in calling for the execution of prisoners obtained illegally before there has been a trial.

People, the United States has been in far greater danger in the past than it is today. And while there were failures of courage in times of crisis, such as Lincoln abandoning due process and FDR signing executive order 1776, the one that threw thousands of American of Japanese descent in concentration camps, never has there been such a widespread abandonment of principles on such a thin pretext as we've seen under the slime masquerading as Christian Americans in the White House.

And now, thanks to some judges who showed great courage in upholding what should have been commonplace legal positions, the ball is in the court of this administration.

Will they hope the same corruption in the Supreme Court that made their administration possible in the first place will now allow them to continue their overthrow of the constitution? Or will they grimly make plans to defy the judiciary, and extort their minions in Congress to pass a 21st century version of the Nuremberg Laws, placing the judiciary under the control of the party? Will their wealthy supporters, and the crazed billionaires who run the right wing shadow media empires, put their efforts into convincing the people that an independent judiciary and due process are harmful to their freedom and safety?

And if they do, have Americans in general fallen to the level where they could succeed?

But in the decline of America over the past few years, which reminds us so hauntingly of Germany in the 1930s, this stand by the judiciary is not one of those historic parallels. If any German judges rebelled against "the encroachment of the night" it didn't make the headlines, and history did not record them.

As I will say in my Solstice essay later this weekend, "Don't lose hope. Never lose hope."

Thanks to the thin black line, it's more than just a benediction. -- "I came to this office to solve problems and not pass them on to future presidents and future generations."

Posted: December 20, 2003


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