So What if the Republic is on Life Support, How Old is Your Underwear?

Posted on 06.12.08 4:52PM under The Everglades Room

I was in the car, listening to talk radio at the top of the hour, when I got the news. The Supreme Court had ruled that Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to confront their accusers through a writ of habeas corpus. A sigh of relief so big I got dizzy made me pull off the road. As the radio cut to a commercial, I reached for the iPod and punched up the next track in shuffle mode, which turned out to be “Saving Grace,” an ancient song by the Steve Miller Band.

Old rock songs only seem ancient. The writ of habeas corpus really is, dating back to at least 1215, when English nobles forced King John to sign a little thing called the Magna Carta, the bedrock of modern constitutional democracy. The “Great Writ” allows one who’s imprisoned to demand a public hearing where the state must present grounds for holding him and charges against him. It may not be suspended except “in cases of rebellion or invasion,” when “public safety may require it.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 2. I’d always taken it for granted, until the dark night of America’s soul descended on us in 2000, when our new rulers decided they were above the law and everyone else was beneath it.

For years, I’d been ranting about how the Republic was on life support, and that America, the world’s last, best hope, was mutating into something so dangerous we might well take down the rest of the world with us. Most folks were polite, but acted like I was their crazy uncle, while they willfully blinded themselves with inane reality shows and distracto-news about scandals, fad diets and the latest celebrity crack-up.

In my darkest hours, I’d realized our last line of defense would be the conservative judges who dominated our appellate courts, like the Eleventh Circuit judges who’d resisted being used as political pawns in cases involving stolen elections and feeding tubes. I’d prayed there’d be enough judicial conservatives to save us when push really came to shove. And now, wonder of wonders, the only one left on the high court responsible for installing this ruthless gang in office–through a lawless decision that will be forever ridiculed in Con Law classes everywhere–had written an opinion that said, “this far and no further.”

That uplifting thought reminded me to get back to the radio to hear more about this landmark decision, one that likely won’t ever be ridiculed in any Con Law class. I tuned back in as they came out of commercial, and the news reader said:

“Just in time for Fathers Day, there’s a new poll out, and it’s about men’s underwear. Ladies, you might want to know that out of five hundred American men surveyed, 26% have drawers in the drawer that are more than four years old. Eleven percent admit they wear underwear that’s more than ten years old. And 77% say they wear boxers or briefs that are ‘tattered, discolored or stained!’ No follow-up on what those stains are, but let that be a warning to you, eh ladies? Now, let’s go to Sasha Driver with your sky-cam traffic report.”

I was undistracted, but glad this day to be one of the brotherhood of tattered boxers. Rejoicing that the Republic might cautiously be taken off the ventilator, I pulled out from the curb and switched back to the iPod, just in time to hear ancient drummer Tim Davis sing, “Rise up with the new dawn’s early morning. Feel the sunshine warm upon your face. Tomorrow’s come a long, long way to help you. Yes, it’s your saving grace.”

* * *

Alan H. Rolnick has practiced law in Miami for twenty years and has appeared in numerous high-profile cases. His first novel, Landmark Status, received such ecstatic reviews he wondered if his publicist had scandalous pictures of the reviewers in her safe. Alan consults on legal matters for the entertainment industry, provides trenchant social commentary in any medium, and is Executive Producer of the independent film Canvas. To learn more, visit or e-mail

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