Saturday in HB: Forum to Defend Our Constitution

Hear ye, hear ye! All Orange Juice bloggers and readers are urged to attend a vital forum this Saturday evening at Goldenwest College featuring distinguished Constitutional law experts Marjorie Cohn and Stephen Rohde, and moderated by the League of Women Voters. I avoided putting “Impeachment” in my headline so that half of you wouldn’t just blow this off thinking it’s some far-left Bush-bashing-fest. It is NOT, even though it is entitled “Impeachment 101: How Impeachment Serves a Democracy.” For one thing, the famously nonpartisan LOWV has specified that we don’t mention the current perps, and for another, in the question-and-answer section I intend to pursue the question of what can the incoming Congress do to repair all the damage that has been done to our Constitution (as it gets to be more unlikely by the month that the current weak Congress will do anything about ending our long national nightmare before next January.)

Sure, the slow erosion of our rights and the balance of powers has been going on for decades or maybe even our whole history, but it’s accelerated exponentially these past seven years as shadow president Dick Cheney has been free to pursue his lifelong dream of an unfettered “unitary executive.” And this should be of deathly concern to Orange Juice readers and bloggers of every political stripe.

Remember, the next Administration will inherit all these new extra-constitutional powers the current gang has seized. And I’m quite sure Larry Gilbert will not appreciate President Hillary Clinton eavesdropping on his phone calls and examining his e-mails without a warrant, any more than crimefighter Thomas A. Gordon would enjoy being labeled an “enemy combatant” by President Obama and packed off to jail with no recourse to a fair trial. (Remember, boys, first they came for the Muslims, etc.) I hope Art and Claudio and Sarah come too, ask questions, and write up what they learned (I know Sarah like me is keen for Congress to re-assert its exclusive warmaking powers.)

All that said, here’s the official press release for the event:

Impeachment 101: How Impeachment Serves a Democracy!
A Community Forum

Golden West College
15744 Golden West Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Forum I
7 PM – April 5th (Sat.)

League of Women Voters of Orange Coast will be moderating this nonpartisan forum and the Golden West Office of Student Activities is sponsoring. Our leaders must be held accountable but unless the people demand it, it will never happen! When January 20, 2009 arrives the expanded powers and abuses remain in place waiting for McCain, Clinton, or Obama to use!

Our panelists:

Marjorie Cohn is Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, CA; and current president of the National Lawyers Guild.,

Stephen Rohde is a constitutional lawyer, lecturer, writer and political activist. He is a past President of both the ACLU of Southern California and the Beverly Hills Bar Association and is a founder of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.

The question of why impeachment hasn’t happened at his time in history will be explored in depth. Bring your own questions and join this critical discussion. We would love to fill up Forum I (300 seat capacity- free – open to the public) with students and anyone who is concerned about defending and protecting the U.S. Constitution. Please distribute widely!

Contact: Lynda Hernandez, Impeachment 101 Coalition member

Last thing I want to do is try to sabotage an event that my erstwhile colleagues Karen, Lynda, Susan and Elaine from Huntington Beach Impeach have put so much work into; some of them are still holding out hope for justice this year, but I really feel it’s time to start looking to the next Congress for redress. As I wrote in my new monthly column “The Tipping Point” at the Orange Coast Voice:

…Perhaps this Apr. 5 forum would be the appropriate place to begin figuring out what a program for “Restoring and Strengthening Our Constitution” would look like—a program candidates for the next Congress could sign on to.

The Tipping Point” welcomes input on this topic from OC Voice readers knowledgeable in the law and the U.S. Constitution, as well as from the distinguished stable of challengers to our own sclerotic Bush-enabler Dana Rohrabacher. Let’s see how much thought and substance Debbie Cook, Tom Lash, and Dan Kalmick put into their anticipated oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution.”

Iraq is only the 800-pound bleeding ulcer of this administration’s crimes, just one part of the larger picture of their systematic evisceration of the Constitution in pursuit of Cheney’s dream of a “unitary executive” dictatorship. Just off the top of my head, the next Congress will need to:

  • Restore habeas corpus (by revoking or drastically amending the Military Commissions Act?)
  • Make Presidential “signing statements” explicitly illegal; the President must either sign or veto a bill and if he signs he must follow and enforce it.
  • Restore the 4th amendment with an updated FISA bill that ensures our privacy, and investigate and prosecute illegal spying on Americans by this administration (the current Congress is actually showing some spine on this lately.)
  • Restore the balance of powers so painstakingly crafted by folks like current HBO celebrity John Adams (e.g., automatic dire consequences for defying Congressional subpoenas.)
  • Once again become a nation that doesn’t (officially) torture by re-passing the recently vetoed anti-torture legislation, closing Guantánamo, and re-committing to the Geneva Conventions.

There’s certainly much more, and I hope to hear from readers and our Orange Coast candidates. Ultimately maybe we can even achieve that pre-Vietnam Holy Grail where war can only be declared by Congress…

Little did I know that as I wrote that for a March 20 deadline, the authors of the “Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq” were already incorporating at least half those ideas into their own plan. GMTA and all. But of course not all the recent depredations on our beloved founding document are related to the war in Iraq, so I think the Constitution deserves its own Responsible Plan.

Finally, for those of you out there who still hunger for JUSTICE, here is a pleasant Photoshop to warm the cockles of your big, angry hearts! (See you all Saturday!)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.