Supreme Court on Trial

November 17, 2011

The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite the hearing on elements of the Health Care Bill will result in an important result for the Country – long before the Justices actually make their ruling. The Supreme Court of the United States is not only important because they rule on important legal matters and set legal precedents, of equal import is the fact that it also establishes judicial precedents, i.e. they set examples for all judges in all Courts the United States on judicial ethics and conduct. In this particular matter, the decisions to be made by the Court on the continued involvement of Justices Scalia and Thomas will send one of two very different messages to the Country.
Legal scholars (and, one could argue, common sense alone) argue that the apparent conflict of interest of Scalia and Thomas should result in their being recused on the matter. The obvious conflict of Justice Thomas is a no-brainer: his wife is a paid activist working for the Tea Party who has repeatedly attacked the Health Care Law as unconstitutional. This is a conflict on at least two levels. First, the financial interests of Justice Thomas via his wife can be affected by his decision. (It should be noted that Justice Thomas had failed to disclose income from his wife, as required by ethical standards for judges.) Secondly, Justice Thomas has stated on several occasions that he and his wife agree on everything, including their politics. This admission is, in effect, an admission that he has already decided the case before considering the legal issues are considered.
Justice Scalia’s conflict stems from his association with the lead attorney presenting the case against the Law. Just a few days ago, Justice Scalia (and Thomas) attended a dinner of the Federalist Society literally sitting at adjoining tables. Judicial guidelines prohibit any behavior that even gives the appearance of partiality to either side of a dispute. Belonging to the same political association and sharing dinner with each other certainly suggests partiality and improper contact with a litigant.
Both Scalia and Thomas are known for their disregard of legal precedent and ethical precedents and neither could be expected to do the proper thing and recuse themselves. The Administration should immediately make a motion to recuse them. This means the burden and the responsibility of the decision falls on the Chief Justice. However, make no mistake that the decision of Justice Roberts will have a resounding and potentially disastrous effect on the confidence of the Country in the Judiciary. To recuse Justices Scalia and Thomas from this important decision would reassure the Country that the long-standing practice of the Courts to ensure judicial fairness and propriety remains intact. To fail to recuse Justices Scalia and Thomas would be a clear signal that the Courts can no longer be trusted to fairly administer true Justice.

Veteran’s Day

November 16, 2011

It has become a hollow ritual to celebrate Veteran’s Day. For politicians it becomes a PR opportunity, for merchants it is another pretext for a “sale”, and for the vast majority of Americans it is nothing more than a day off of work and a passing thought about the men and women who have served. That’s the problem with how we, as a Nation, treat those very few Americans who risk the ultimate sacrifice in the Armed Services: they are just a passing thought once a year.
Since the draft was abolished the burden of sacrifices have fallen onto a very few, and the burden is greater than ever. The average soldier or Marine is now deployed in a combat zone in two years longer than most soldiers in WWII spent in 5 years. In one deployment in Afghanistan, an Air Force Rescue Helicopter crew will fly more combat missions than any pilot during all of WWII. The burden of constant deployments takes a toll on their families too. The suicide rate and homelessness among returning Veterans is nearly twice that of the general population, the divorce rate is even higher.
Another consequence of abolishing the draft is that very few of our elected representatives in Congress or the White House have any appreciation for what it means to go to War. Is it any wonder then, why they are so willing to commit our troops to Harm’s Way so often and for so long? Is it any wonder that even as they demand more and more from fewer and fewer, they are seeking to take away their benefits so that the rich can keep more of their money? They have no sense of sacrifice, let alone shared sacrifice.
Our Country has a long history of neglecting, even abusing, veterans from the Revolutionary war to the Bonus Army of WWI to Viet Nam Vets, but the Republicans in Congress today are a whole different breed of contemptables. Republicans are holding up Bills that would provide tax incentives for employers to hire veterans (the unemployment rate among veterans is higher than the general population), cost of living increases in pay, and increases in funding for education and medical benefits for veterans.
If you really want to honor veterans this Veteran’s Day, then take a moment to write your Representatives in Congress and demand that they pass legislation to provide what we OWE to veterans.

Cain Proves That The G.O.P. Lacks A Moral Compass

November 8, 2011

Although the political-media complex is perseverating on the idea that the current panel of G.O.P. candidates don’t represent the best and brightest of their Party, the truth is that they accurately reflect the current character of the G.O.P. When one considers the fact that Herman Cain is the front runner even though has a legal record of serial sexual-harassment, and now is publicly accused of what amounts to a sexual assault, can there be any doubt that the G.O.P. has no moral compass? How does one explain the fact that his fund-raising has actually INCREASED since his legal history of sexual harassment was revealed, other than the fact that the Republican base actually wants to reward immoral and illegal actions? Where most men would want to punch out a guy if he did that to their wife or daughter, Republicans seem to relish the thought.
Look across the entire panel of candidates and you see a consistency of moral vacuum wrapped in self-righteousness to rival any of the Pharisees Jesus condemned. Romney is apparently devoid of any principle other than political ambition with policies and positions that blow whichever way the polls go. Perry has no second thoughts about executing innocent prisoners or spending time at his family retreat called “niggerhead”. Tea Party participants in the debates boo an American soldier fighting for their freedom and advocate euthanasia on uninsured people – all this with the silent support of these candidates.
Perhaps the most telling indicia of their lack of moral foundation is their insistence on policies abandoning the most weak and vulnerable in our society in favor of pandering to the richest and most powerful. Dr. Martin Luther King, the last great moral voice in American society, once pointed out the immorality of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on average to kill a single Vietnamese soldier and less than sixty dollars per child on America’s poorest children. Imagine what that number will be if any one of the G.O.P. candidates wins the Presidency!
It would be in the interest of the Country, let alone their Party, if the Democrats could only articulate a moral platform of support for the poor and middle-class to contrast with the G.O.P. instead of the lukewarm strategy of the politically safe.

Occupy Wall Street Hope

November 4, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street phenomenon (not quite a movement yet) is the most hopeful sign that Americans are finally “getting it”. After years of a progressive take-over of the American political process by corporate money, we are once again confronting the threat of what Teddy Roosevelt called the “Robber Barons”. But America today is much less democratic and amenable to change than the America of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, when African-Americans and women were not allowed to vote. This is because the political process has been overwhelmed with corporate money, and the US Supreme Court ruling in the Citizen’s United case officially legalized the corporate takeover of the political process.

Hopefully, Occupy Wall Street can make the transition from making a statement to forcing a revolutionary change in the American political process – and a revolution is what we need. This depends on the 99% of Americans who are being systematically exploited and disenfranchised finally recognizing that the American dream of prosperity based on hard work has died, and that their only hope is to remove the corrupting influence of corporate money on government.

The US Supreme Court should have ruled long ago that there is no free speech right of a corporation to the political process written into the Constitution. In fact, the intent of the Framers was to protect individual rights from the powerful, whether it be the government or the rich. However, this present Court, having been constituted specifically to defend corporate rights over the rights of individuals, will never recognize their error. What is really needed is a Constitutional Amendment banning any contributions by any corporation to political candidates, period.  Short of this fundamental reform, I fear that any non-violent, popular movement is doomed to fail. The 1% have no moral compunction against defending  their money and the power. Just ask Scott Olsen, or the thousands of Occupiers who have been not only arrested but attacked by the police.