Monday, May 15, 2006

"The Talking Dog" and habeas corpus

I checked in with Seth over at for input on our series on works of fiction that help illustrate what is at stake in the debate over habeas corpus. He didn't sugarcoat his response:

There's, of course, no "debate" over habeas corpus: Congress CANNOT suspend it (Constitution, Art. I, Section 9, Clause 2) absent "invasion or rebellion," neither of which are now applicable. We are in legal never never land not because the Constitution doesn't clearly spell out what is at stake and what the limits of governmental power are, but because, in the end, the checks and balances so carefully provided by Madison, Hamilton, etc. couldn't overcome ultimate venality on a large enough scale (when partisan courts and Congress place party over country or principle, and a soft and stupid electorate willing to flush their freedoms down the toilet as long as "Idol" and "Desperate Housewives" start on time...)

Here are Seth's fiction suggestions:
I happily and heartily recommend Darkness at Noon; Jonathan Hafetz's recommendation is spot on, seeing as Ivan Denisovich is very close to being the same book as Darkness at Noon... but as I've read Koestler's book more recently, that's the one I'm going with! Other very close analogs which some may not "get" as they are not precisely on theme are, of course, Orwell's Animal Farm, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and William Golding's Lord of the Flies and of course, Bolt's stage-play, A Man for All Seasons... his general theme is that when authority is exercised arbitrarily and at whim, rather than in accordance with impartially exercised law, the results are as painful, unjust and ugly whether "the decider" is a petulant child in reality, or a petulant child in a tyrant's body....
Thanks to Seth for the recommendations and the insights.

Click here to read Seth's interview with Jonathan Hafetz, and here to read his interview with Neal Katyal.

--Marshal Zeringue