Those of you that know me have heard me talking abut working on the Haitian Reconstruction for a year now. Now I’m not a politician, not a mover and shaker as far as changing the government or solving any of the myriad of political problems, nor do I claim to have a hall pass to see the High and Mighty as they come in, and go out of Haiti on any of their state missions.
But I have met some great people, and gotten to see, if not from the inside, at least close up what it takes to rebuild a failed state. And it isn’t as easy as just taking one guy out and replacing him.
One of the first steps in changing a country is an honest judiciary. If the Judiciary is corrupt – there isn’t ever likely going to be any solution to a country’s woes short of a “stand them up against the wall and shoot them and let God sort it out” revolution.
Watching, second handed, some decent folks in perhaps the most corrupt country in the Western Hemisphere struggle to end corruption and return the rule of law has made me take a hard look at what is, and has been going on in our own Judiciary.
Let’s take as an example an unnamed 3rd world dictatorship. In privatizing the former government owned telephone company the Government decides to take bids. Giant company #1, for whom the Dictator’s son works, wins the “hotly contested” bid to provide cell phone service. Within a month, the “Parliament” passes a law that international donors can make anonymous contributions to any charity they wish in the country, and the government has no right to ask where the money came from. 3 months later, the Dictator’s wife’s Charity, “Beautifying the Palace” receives an anonymous donation of $550,000 from “a major international donor”…
I think most folks would conclude, correctly – that the bribe was paid.
Unfortunately that isn’t an unnamed 3rd World Country – that is right here in the USA. With Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife being the beneficiary of the mysterious largesse of two anonymous donors for her work on conservative causes.
Quite frankly, our Judiciary is as corrupt as any 3rd World nation. What started as a reasonable cause by conservatives to select conservative judges (which used to be called strict constructional) has turned into a circus of selecting judges for purely adherence to ideological whim – even if that means ignoring the Constitution.
Worse, the rot extends all the way up to the Supreme Court, with two of the justices, Scalia and Thomas serving as nothing but high paid whores to wealthy corporate and conservative interests. And thy are just the tip top of the iceberg.
President Obama said that one of his objectives was to root out corruption in this country. My question is – “How are you going to do that when the folks in charge of judging the guilty are as corrupt as the people you are prosecuting?”
Yesterday, White House Counsel Bob Bauer said during an American Constitution Society panel that judicial nominees are caught in a “cold war” of obstructionism. If there is a war over the judiciary, the Constitution and other laws designed to protect ordinary Americans have too often been the casualties. Ever since President Bush turned corporate America’s top Supreme Court litigator into the Chief Justice, the Court has transformed into a wasteland where only the rich and the powerful can receive a fair hearing. In recent years, the Supreme Court stripped thousands of women and older workers of their right to be free from workplace discrimination. It has slammed the courthouse doors on millions of consumers and workers, and has given corporations a free pass to buy elections. Yet, for all his disregard of the law, Chief Justice John Roberts pales in comparison to the many radicals on the lower courts.
VINSONS EVERYWHERE: On Monday, Tea Party Judge Roger Vinson handed down a massively overreaching health care decision which wrote out an entire provision of the Constitution, butchered constitutional history, heavily relied on a brief filed by an anti-gay hate group, and somehow determined that the Boston Tea Party renders the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. While Vinson’s tea partying opinion clearly places him at odds with the Constitution, he is not an extreme outlier. Last year, a Republican judge in DC declared all federal stem cell funding illegal — a position which even George W. Bush rejected. When a volcano of oil erupted in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, conservative judges were much more concerned with protecting the oil industry from regulation than they were with preventing another disaster from occurring. Three sitting U.S. Court of Appeals judges currently serve on the board of an infamous “junkets for judges” organization that treats federal judges to free trips to western resorts if they also attend seminars on how to decide cases in ways that corporations want. DC Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown once compared liberalism to “slavery” and Social Security to a “socialist revolution.” Fifth Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Enron and then wrote a key opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million when she sat on the Texas Supreme Court. In other words, Judge Vinson does not need to look far to find colleagues who share his twisted vision of the law, and these black-robed tea partiers are all working hard to write their agenda into the law.