Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Newt the Impaler

"Vlad" Gingrich is molesting the Constitution in the name of national security again. This time he's on a tirade about the recent Supreme Court decision that grants prisoners held at young Mr. Bush's pleasure in Guantanamo the right to a habeas corpus hearing.

"This court decision is a disaster and it could cost us a city," Newt said on Face the Nation. Land o' Goshen. The only way this court decision could cost us a city is if it makes Newt's head explode. Driving Newt's noodle to critical mass would be the kind of disaster we need, but it would force us to make some difficult decisions. Losing New York City or Washington D.C. might be too high a price to pay to be permanently rid of Newt, but if we're talking, say, Minot, North Dakota, well…

I take that back. Minot's a lovely city and we have a strategically significant military base there. We'll blow Newt's noggin to smithereens in that chancre sore on the Potomac. Let's just make sure all the politicians are in town when we push the plunger.

All the President's Yes Men

Newt has a squadron of wingmen on this mission. Fellow vampire and dissenting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia calls the decision a "self-invited…incursion into military affairs."

I find it fascinating that a Supreme Court Justice would consider the high court's involvement in a constitutional matter an "incursion," or that the court "invited" itself to rule on a case brought to it by a plaintiff. As to interfering in military affairs, Scalia must be reading a different Constitution from the one the rest of us have available. Article III of the Constitution we peons have to make do with says that the Supreme Court's judicial power extends to all cases rising from the Constitution, and habeas corpus is most certainly a constitutional issue. The Constitution doesn't say anything about the military having a say in constitutional matters.

Lipstick neocon Lindsey Graham says the decision gives every member of al Qaeda "the same constitutional rights as an American citizen." Graham's a lawyer, and a reserve Air Force JAG officer to boot. He knows good and well that granting Guantanamo prisoners the habeas privilege does not give them the same rights American citizens have. If it did they could all move to South Carolina and vote Graham's happy wazoo out of office. More to the point, though, is that the Constitution treats habeas as a universal right, not as a privilege of U.S. citizenship. That's why it's mentioned in Article I instead of in the bill of rights.

Graham also says that thanks to the ruling, the decision as to who qualifies as an enemy combatant "is not going to be made by military personnel tribunals, trained in the matters of warfare, but that decision will be made by the most liberal judges the detainees can find." Gingrich echoed that sentiment on Face the Nation when he screeched that the decision will allow "any random nut case district judge, who has no knowledge of national security, to set the rules for terrorists." I'm not convinced there's a judge in the land who's a bigger nut case than Newt, but his and Lindsey's concerns can be easily addressed. Article III empowers the legislature to establish new courts. Congress could easily create a court with specific jurisdiction over enemy combatants much in the same way it made courts with jurisdiction over tax issues and military appeals, and the president can nominate judges to fill that court's benches who know a lot more about matters of warfare than Newt and Lindsey combined.

Judges like that won't be hard to find.

They Vant to Shed Your Blood

Newt was going for the throat on Face the Nation when he rolled out his main argument: "Five lawyers had decided that the Supreme Court counts more than the Congress and the president combined in national security" and had meddled in an affair "that ought to be a principled argument between McCain and Obama."

Will someone please invite this undead bag of pus to a garlic festival?

This wasn’t a national security issue, it was a constitutional issue, and even if it was a national security issue, Newt's biggest nut-case district judge is more qualified in matters of national security than George W. Bush is. Hell, all three of my dogs are better qualified to be commander in chief than Bush is; none of them have lost two wars.

Article I, the part of the Constitution that establishes powers of the legislature, states: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

We're not in a state of rebellion and nobody's invading us, so Congress has no business putting its grubby paws on habeas. Article II doesn't let the president anywhere near habeas, and nowhere does the Constitution remotely suggest that habeas corpus is a matter for discussion, principled or otherwise, between presidential candidates.

You tend to think Newt is smart enough to know that he's talking garbage, and that his ideologue pals like Scalia and Graham do too. It's anybody's guess what really goes on between these yahooligans' ears, but it's telling that neoconservative crown prince John McCain considers the court ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country" yet says that the invasion of Iraq "was not a mistake."

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Commander, funny you should pen a column today, on things "constitutional."
    One of my bookmarks is a website called This morning the site has a link to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa online Gazette. There are also some YouTube videos.

    "Martial Law" has been declared in the flooded areas of Iowa. It would seem that this "declaration" gives "strike teams" in the area the authority to, restrain homeowners from entering their homes, while the "strike teams" knock down the doors, to enter and supposedly check for structural damage. At times they find firearms, and they are confiscated. Meanwhile, the homeowner, who has keys to his abode, is left standing, at the edge of his/her neighborhood to watch all this happen, or possibly arrested, and then left with not only possible flood damage, but having to now do a complete door replacement. hopefully before looters decide to also enter, uninvited.

    I know your expertise is things military, and such. But, doesn't that pesky 4th Amendment in the Constitution say something about "unreasonable search and seizure?".

    And, while we are talking about consitutional rights, shouldn't they apply to our own folks also?

    Also, just what the hell about a flood, which has happened in Iowa and other places in the midwest, many times in years past, triggers a "national emergency" which in turn triggers "martial law?" Which then triggers some thugs that law enforcemwent calls a "strike force", busting in peoples doors, and climbing through windows, to enter people's homes, all the while adding to the misery of people already in a world of hurt.

    Curious minds want to know.

    Now that we have secured habeas corpus for Gitmo detainees, reckon what can we do about Iowa?

  2. Yeah, maybe now we can go about protecting the rights of our citizens.


  3. wkmaier9:07 AM


    What a wonderful combination of outrage, snark and general disdain. The neocon reaction to this decision makes me wonder if they'd prefer Stalinist Soviet Union, because they sure as shit (excuse my language) don't care about civil liberties.

  4. "Congress could easily create a court with specific jurisdiction over enemy combatants"

    What a great solution.

    Meanwhile, "Nuke Gingrich" would look great on a t-shirt if anyone wants to create one on and sell it.

  5. WK,

    No, they don't give a shit about civil liberties unless it's their civil liberties.


    I think you've got a money maker there!

  6. Jeff, great article.

    I am recommending it to several friends.

    These neocons have made the case that they hate Habeas, they hate Article I, Article II, Article III.

    Why don't they just come out and say they hate our Constitution?

    Why don't they just come out and say they hate us for our freedoms?

    Wait a second, the neocons already said that.... about the terrorists!

    The duck test applies here.

    Neocons are revealing themselves as the fundamentalist radicals dressed up in conservative clothing that they really are.

  7. Thanks, Geoffrey. Yeah, water runs off their backs all right.

  8. you know, you have the dubious 'honour' to be an enlightening, entertaining AND a depressing writer all rolled in one! Alas, that's what happens when you call'm as you see'm. Especially these days. It is so 'darn' exasperating with all that stupidity only hope for relief is "Yes Prime Minister" somehow being revived on an American set so we can all laugh and cry at the same time.
    Until then, I'll just chuckle at 'young mr. Bush' to the left of me (sidebar) with his 'interesting hand gesture'... [big sigh]
    November can't come soon enough..

  9. Keep in mind, Ingrid, that the neo-undead won't go away, they'll just be out of office.


  10. ray mcgovern just called them 'crazies' but I like the term neo-undead. need to be less modest and promote your interview with Russ a bit more Jeff. I followed his commentary and read the interview and discovered a very interesting blog in the process..
    surely as a retired commander you can toot your own horn??

  11. I'm familiar with Ray through Gareth Porter. Ray's a fine man. Any suggestions on what to do to promote Russ's interview?


  12. I got home really late last night so did you have the 'Russ Wellen interview' on the top of your sidebar then? (If you did, I did not see it but that was me being way too tired. However, after eating you cannot go to bed hence I was browsing through 'my blogs')
    So what else could you do? Well, since you are on Booman and Daily kos, could you at least post part of the interviews there? Naturally linking to Scholars&Rogues. Also, perhaps instead of solely having a picture of Russ and referring to your interview, how about a short, enticing excerpt to make people curious? If I had the masses flocking to my blog I'd excerpt and link to it but alas, no fan-dom there..

    alright Jeff, I did some looking around online and found this link that has some good tips. I get the impression (I might be wrong) that your publishing company is not too big so what expense they have put aside for your book promotion, I don't know.
    Check out this link;

    let's say for now that you are your own publicity agent, I'd suggest you check out on that page the 'submit your press release'. It mentions online, but I would do it for your local, or other newsoutlets as well. We have an alternative weekly here called 'The Chronicle' ( and I don't know if you have something comparable in your neck of the woods. University rags are also good. I mentioned Ray McGovern not to name drop as I never met him, but I briefly volunteered at our community radio ( and those independent radio stations do get quite a few independent minded listeners. Anyhow, the radio dj I shadowed interviewed Ray over the phone and I believe even met him at Camp Casey at Crawford (don't quote me on that, as I am not sure).. this radio dj could perhaps interview you if you have an angle for him (where you would talk about for instance about 'politicians play general, generals play politics', giving real life examples). I suspect that if he'd read your blog, he'd have plenty of material to interview you about. Still, you would need to come up with the 'line' (if you will) why people should buy the book even though it's fiction. I would not know anything about that. If you'd start with these, then I suspect that it would become word of mouth which is what you need.
    Also, if you like, I can call and see if I can get you interviews at some of our local independents (koop radion, jim hightower has his own blog and writes two columns in the Chronicle, definitely send a press release to him; third coast activist)
    another thought I just had (I'm brainstorming now) is that we have an independent bookstore, The Book People. They have authors come and sign their books now if you can fenagle (sp??) interviews with above mentioned sources, perhaps I could try to talk to them to have a front display of your books (since I think organizing a signing will be too time consuming at this point) with reference to upcoming interviews (say Koop radio).
    I hope you have something comparable where you live and then you can start doing that right at home.. but I'll gladly help promote your book as I think it's also (!) a good way to promote your writings of your blog. Only knowing those I think they are worth their weight in gold and honestly, I think you ought to collect some of them and publish that in bookformat.
    Ok.. enough for you to think about. My brain is wired for pr but until I can be released from 'mommy duty' (which really is entirely up to me but I'm still 'attached'), I'll help out here and there with whatever idea I have.
    That said, my background is poli sci (yes, very unuseful I know) not pr but I've been told by my pr friend that I 'should' go into it.

    good luck Jeff and please, don't hesitate to enlist my help. I'd love some outside the family stimulus and yakking with people is my forte!

    (or email me, see my blog contact info)

  13. as I wanted to check on who your publisher was, I googled bathtub generals. First (two) links I saw was Russ' interview with you in the Huffington Post;

    that's good!


  14. oh lordy..I'm ready for a nap and ding dong..that IS the link to huffington post..
    geez, so much for volunteering for the pirates of penzance.. they keep me up too late! lol
    have a good weekend..

  15. LOL, Ingrid. I should probably work it so the text is a link too.


  16. I respectfully disagree with the Supreme Court on the habeus corpus question.

    I am neither a lawyer nor a constitutional scholar. However, the rights outlined in the constitution apply to the (United States) government as granted by "(We) the People" Capitalization is deliberate.

    The right to habeus corpus for enemy combatants is as guaranteed as a U.S. Citizens right to due process in Saudi Arabia.

    I support the argument that the U. S Constitution should provide habeus corpus for "enemy combatants". However, it does not.

    This constitutional change is something that should flow out of black letter law, such as through a constitutional amendment or congressional lawmaking, not from the Judicial branch.

    Keep up the good work Jeff.

  17. James,

    Consider this: the Constitution doesn't establish habeas. The great writ comes from English law and goes back, as I recall, to the 12th century. It is recognized by most countries, but other countries generally allow it to be suspended in time on national emergency.

    Article one says it may only be suspended in time of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires.

    You might also want to consider that the first 10 amendments don't say anything about who they apply to.

  18. Anonymous7:29 AM

    I had the misfortune of reading John Yoo's WSJ editorial as well as the gravely misinformed pro-Republican commentary. How incredibly ignorant/mendacious can former Bush White House Counsel John Yoo be when he doesn't even distinguish between PoWs and criminals? He clearly demonstrated what a horrible lawyer he is (horrible in every meaning of the word). And one of the first comments on that editorial flipped the issue into the Supreme Court undermining the Geneva convention and reversing progress towards more civilized warfare! WHAT? Tell me again who authorized treating prisoners as subhumans subject to torture?

    The Geneva Conventions on people captured on a battlefield is quite clear. They are to be treated as 1) Prisoners of War to be hauled into a PoW camp or 2) Criminals to be hauled before a court or 3) Civilians to be released. Every person captured has to be assigned to one of these categories. No exceptions.

    Except Bush outright lied (along with his counsel John Yoo) that the Geneva conventions didn't cover terrorists. So he created another category that flew in the face of the Geneva conventions (the so-called "unlawful enemy combatants"). Which is how we ended up with this mess.

    The Supreme Court did the right thing and thus reaffirmed both the Constitution of the United States as well as the Geneva Conventions. They haven't quite made Bush's own category on prisoners irrelevant but it's going there.

  19. James,

    The inestimable Paul Craig Roberts is an excellent source on the roots of Anglo-American jurisprudance, including the origin/meaning of habeas corpus. The gist. More recent. He's also written a book on the subject of our disentigrating legal system. You might also check out this book by Jim Bovard.

    Here's hoping that Obamarama will repudiate the Bush "legacy" in his first inaugural (preferably within the first 30 seconds). If not, I think we're in for "interesting times".

  20. Well all, habeas may still be with us, but the 4th amendment got mortally wounded yesterday in the House. It will be finished off next week in the Senate. Chalk up one more for the special interests.

    On the book front, Commander. Somewhere I read about a "Progressive Book Club." NY Times had an article, and I think there was a mention in the interview with Mr. Wellen. Regardless, Google will find it. Everything is done on-line. Same format used by all book clubs. Right now special offers of 3 books, for $1.00 each. (An incentive to get people to join.) Different from most other book clubs is that members can recommend books and authors. Additionally when you buy books, you can designate the "cause" of your choice to receive a couple of dollars donation. (Everything from VoteVets - to Habitat for Humanity.) Members are notified by e-mail of the "current month selection" and are able to accept or decline. I think you have to buy about 3-4 books a year, to maintain membership. Anyway, I'll probably do this. I saw at least three I haven't already read. I also plan to recommend they add your book, and a link to your blog.

    Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is. And show your support, for progressives, with more than words. Sometimes, I can do that. I buy books anyway. Seems like a good idea to buy them where I can also designate, and send a couple of dollars to --- especially VoteVets.

  21. The problem with neocon lawyers isn't that they're horrible per se. Some of these men and women are technically brilliant. The problem comes from the reality that there is not a single fundamental principle or overarching concept of law that guides these lawyers. John Yoo, and men and women like him, are driven by the axiom that the "end justifies the means." Thus, no matter what the damage to ordinary Americans, the law, the courts, or the military, if torture would "accomplish" the victory, then it should be used.

    Of course, that reveals the second neocon weakness--they're not very good at reaching goals by any means.

  22. Anonymous4:08 PM

    > You might also want to consider that the first 10 amendments don't say anything about who they apply to.

    As far as I'm concerned it's abundantly clear. First, you have to notice that our BOR has a separate Preamble. The wording is plain enough, the "why" is fully explained. What part of "in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers" is vague?

    The first 5 words of the 1st amendment are perfectly clear, "Congress SHALL make NO law ..."

    The 4th and 5th amendment do not refer to citizens, they refer to "the people" and "person". The government is either restrained or compelled to act in a certain manner. Nothing is demanded or required of the people or the person.

    I get absolutely nauseous when I see or hear the phrases, "granted rights", "Consitutional rights" or "Citizen's rights". None of these things are described in the original Constitution. If it is granted, then it is a privilege.
    A right is something you have inherently.

    As you may guess from the tone of my post, I am in full agreement with the Anti-federalists. It rankles me that Hamilton has been deified and George Mason is essentially forgotten.

  23. I'm glad it's all clear to you.


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