Sunday, October 08, 2006

Keep your Hands off my Habeas Corpus

I've been having trouble putting together my thoughts for a blog lately.

The current Republican actions have inspired me a bit. As my daughter Cassie would say, "Ewww!" That’s what she said when I told her about the Congressman Foley scandal. I grant you, she did not say anything else close to a word of English, but the "Ewww" was easy to understand.

I wholeheartedly agree with her.

I worked as a Congressional intern in the early 1990s, so I speak about this with experience. Page and internship positions are sought after. When I found out that I got a Congressional internship, it made my semester. I was willing to work 12-14 hour days to prove myself. Granted, a good bit of it was grunt work, but I had a strong desire to belong. I wanted to brag to everyone I knew, because there was some cache to the job. Interns and pages get a significant ego boost from the positions they hold.

During the internship, I could walk around in the basements of the Senate and House of Representatives with as much access as most staffers. I helped draft speeches and went to committee meetings. For one specific committee, I was the lone representative for the Congressman. I can imagine that a page might be willing to carry on inappropriate conversations with a Congressman. Young people, especially, seek approval from their boss or others in positions of power.

How do you think this scandal makes these kids feel? Politicians already have trouble motivating the electorate to vote. The 18-30-year-old crowd is generally apathetic when it comes to voting. Generations X and Y, the "echo boom," outnumber baby-boomer parents by some 10 million. In the 1996 election, only 33 percent of 18-29-year-olds voted. Youth turnout increased from 1996 to 2000, with the Voter News Service estimating that 38.6 percent of that age group voted in 2000, out of the 14 million who were eligible to vote.

The current scandal victimizes young men and women that want to be part of a system that many of their friends ignore. While I don't think the “misbehavior” or its cover-up it will lessen the students’ interest in the program; it will make parents wary. Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance?

Maybe the Page Program was the case of one bad apple not the whole bunch. Maybe everyone else in the Congress is doing it’s best to improve the country. Well, let’s look at what else has come to light in the last few weeks. Senate Bill 3930 limits habeas corpus.

What is Habeas Corpus? People use the term, or hear it on TV, but what does it mean? Habeas Corpus means “produce the body.” In legal terms, a “writ of habeas corpus” is an order by a judge for a custodian of a jail or prison to produce the person in court and name the charges on which the person is held. Without the right to a writ of habeas corpus, an individual can be imprisoned indefinitely without ever being charged, and then tried on those charges.

This is not just for foreigners, but for American citizens who are deemed "Enemy Combatants" as well. Certainly, there is a court that oversees who is deemed worthy of this designation.

No, there is no oversight. The executive branch without any check or review makes this determination. Certainly, the individuals given such a designation have an appeal process. No, that is also untrue. Well, this can only happen to people who are proven to be terrorists. Again, that is not true; if the Administration suspects anyone including U.S. citizens of being "enemy combatants" then they can invoke this clause and do away with Habeas Corpus.

Habeas Corpus was put in place as a check on the abuses our forefathers felt were rampant in the Administration of King George III's government. Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance? Maybe the Senate is just out of whack. Those people are out of touch.
They only get elected once every 6 years.

Maybe the House of Representatives is a bit saner. One would think that our representatives would be more moderate, as they must stand for reelection every two years. To be in constant reelection mode, you must stay a bit more in the middle, right? Maybe not. Look at House Resolution 6061. This bill says that a 700-mile fence should be built between the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. This fence needs to be completed by no later than December 31, 2008. I lived in Tucson, Arizona for about 5 years. A very large percentage of the construction crews in southern Arizona were undocumented workers. It seems very likely that Mexicans will be recruited to help build this fence. What’s wrong with this picture? Add to that irony, the "enemy combatants" that attacked us on September 11th, 2001, came across our border with CANADA. .

The words of Emma Lazarus,

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Is the Golden Door being slammed shut? Weren't the Republicans supposed to bring honor and decency back to the process of governance?


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