Bush’s Judges

Now, with the election over — and with the distinct possibility that the most reactionary and destructive government in American history will lord over our lives — we can sit back and watch in horror as they take the nation down the path to forever war and domestic repression.

Pointlessly, before the last election — possibly the last semi-free election we will be allowed — I urged people to vote for unpalatable Democrats. I didn’t do this because I am in love with Democrats. I have said for years Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same tarnished coin — a coin minted by a system long ago purchased by transnational corporations and a tiny mega-wealthy elite. I had one reason and one reason only in mind when I asked people to vote for the admittedly corrupt and debased Democrats:

A wide open federal judiciary.

Federal judicial appointments are for life. After a religious rightwing nutcase is dropped in there, he or she will stick around long after senility kicks in. That’s why I wanted people to vote for the Spineless Ones, because they have consistently turned back Dubya’s reactionary and troglodytic court nominations. Now that the Senate is firmly — possibly forever — in Republican control, we can expect Bush to reintroduce nominations rejected by Democrats. In fact, within hours of the election dust settling, the Bushites indicated they would do so in a trice.

Since less than a third of eligible voters bothered to get off their asses and vote, here’s who you’ll get on the federal bench and what it means for your future.

Charles W. Pickering, Sr.

Originally nominated to the Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Pickering was rejected by Democrats because he’s a good ol’ boy racist and hate-monger from Mississippi. Dubya’s daddy appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in 1990.

As a student at the University of Mississippi, he published a law review article advising how Mississippi’s statute imposing criminal penalties for interracial marriages could be strengthened to make it fully enforceable. Later, as a state senator, he cast several votes impeding the full extension of electoral opportunities to African-Americans (maybe he gave Jeb Bush a few lessons on this).

Pickering also testified at his 1990 district court hearing that he had never had any contact with the state Sovereignty Commission, a notorious state-funded agency established after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education to investigate civil rights advocates and block integration efforts. But according to a 1972 memo in the recently-released Sovereignty Commission records, then-state Senator Pickering had “requested to be advised of developments” regarding a Commission investigation into union organizing activities in his hometown.

Pickering hates women’s rights and reproductive freedom. As a state senator, he voted for a constitutional convention to overturn Roe v. Wade

Pickering is so reactionary, so neo-fascist, that even conservative appellate court judges have reversed him — notably, for disregarding controlling precedent on constitutional rights and for improperly denying people access to the courts — on a number of occasions.

On the day after the midterm election, Bushite aides said Dubya would renominate Pickering. He is expected to renominate Priscilla R. Owen of Texas, as well.

Priscilla R. Owen

On September 5, 2002, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination of Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. So opposed is Owen to reproductive rights that fellow Texas conservative justice Alberto Gonzales accused her of “unconscionable judicial activism” in abortion cases.

Owens is a member of the Federalist Group, a cabal of neo-fascists — who are often politely referred to as “ultra-conservatives” — in opposition to “orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society,” which the group in its anti-pinko paranoia believes dominates law schools and the legal profession. Justice Owen is described by the Texas Lawyer as part of a bloc that “anchors the conservative end” of a very conservative state supreme court.

“Owen’s sixteen-year career in private practice was devoted almost entirely to the representation of oil and gas companies,” writes the Alliance for Justice “In eight of the ten cases Justice Owen lists in her Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire as her most significant, she represented oil and gas companies.”

In other words, she a perfect selection for the Cheney-Bush Oil administration.

Owen is 48, which means, when Bush finally renominates her and the Senate Judiciary Committee gives her a thumb up, it is possible she could be screwing up your life for three or four decades to come. If you’re a woman, look forward to going back to a time when women surrendered the reproductive parts of their bodies to the state.

“In the longer term, Mr. Bush should have more freedom to choose conservative nominees to fill any increasingly likely Supreme Court vacancies in the next two years,” writes the New York Times. “The president has said he would seek to choose someone in the mold of two of the most conservative justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.”

Antonin Scalia, appointed by Reagan, is just the kind of Christian fanatic Bush thinks should be sitting in judgment of our liberty and lives. Scalia, not unlike the two fundamentalist nutcakes Robertson and Falwell — or, for that matter, Osama bin Laden — believes his ethnocentric God works through its “minister,” the state. “The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible,” Scalia told the University of Chicago Divinity School in January. “Indeed, it seems to me, that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post-Christian Europe, and has least support in the churchgoing United States. I attribute that to the fact that for the believing Christian, death is no big deal.”

Especially if it is other people — the poor, people of color, the mentally deficient — who are facing death.

As an African-American, Clarence Thomas must be living in a world of denial. It’s no secret that the Republicans are not exactly user-friendly when it comes to equal rights and desegregation. Both Attorney General John Ashcroft and Asa Hutchinson, head honcho over at the DEA, have connections with Bob Jones University, which as fought desegregation over the years. One has to wonder, as well, what Scalia thinks of Bob Jones University ? they consider Catholicism Satanism and believe the Pope is the living embodiment of the Anti-Christ.

More denial, I imagine.

As Christian Dewar has pointed out, several prominent Republicans are linked to the Southern Partisan, a racist magazine that has characterized former KKKer David Duke as the “American Ideal,” and slaveholders as concerned about the “peace and happiness” of their slaves.

Not only should Clarence Thomas be concerned about the big fat racist streak running through the Republican Party, but so should Condolezza Rice and Colin Powell. Or maybe Rice and Powell believe the stubborn Southern racism embedded in the Republican Party is reserved for poor black people only.

Denial, with a capital D.

But the Supreme Court is not the prize. It only decides a small number of cases. The Supreme Court has opted in recent years to take up fewer and fewer cases, which means that for most Americans the court of last resort is a circuit court of appeals.”The federal judiciary has an enormous effect on the lives of every American, whether people realize it or not,” Elizabeth Dahl of the Constitution Project in Washington told the Christian Science Monitor. “Only a small percentage of the decisions they make will ever be reviewed by a higher court — civil rights, employment law, the environment, states’ rights, civil liberties issues, they are all at stake here.”

We had a chance on November 5 to make sure the far right relgious wacko Republicans didn’t stack the courts. It’s too late now. Sure, the Democrats may filibuster — and since they are mostly hot air, such a stalling debate may go on for a while — but at the end of the day they are doomed. The republicans have the numbers. It’s their dog and pony show — and the dog will surely bite us in the ass while the pony kicks us in the teeth.

Or, as that self-aggrandizing, often annoying Democratic operative James Carville said after the Republicans took the election:

“The American people just don’t have a clue as to what’s coming.”

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com


KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/ . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com