Point of View Columns

The Real Life of Antonin Scalia

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is understandably a matter of great moment in American history. There is no doubt that as one of the longest serving Supreme Court justices ever, he wielded immense influence on the direction of the Court and hence impacted on the critical and key issues of modern America. But Scalia’s influence was not neutral and his impact was certainly not benign. His legacy has been the subject of debate for years and with his demise it is fair and just to assess his entire body of work as a jurist.

Given his demi-godlike status on the right wing of the right wing, it should come as no surprise that the Scalia eulogies give him credit for everything but the rising of the sun. There is no reason to doubt that he was a dedicated family man and that he loved his wife and nine children and 28 grandchildren dearly. And there is no reason to doubt that those who knew him personally (including fellow Supreme Court justices with whom he profoundly disagreed) found him to be gregarious, gracious and full of personal grace.

However, Justice Scalia’s legacy cannot be assessed in terms of his gregarious, and gracious private persona. During his thirty years on the Supreme Court he wreaked havoc on the people of the United States. The real damage that he caused to this country is almost incomprehensible and that he was able to so publicly flaunt his misdeeds and calamitous accomplishments is a sad and meager inheritance that he has bequeathed to the people of this country.

Justice Scalia’s espoused “originalism”, essentially that the Constitution’s meaning should be fixed at the time of enactment, i.e. 1787. In other words, every word, clause and sentence written and ratified by a group comprised entirely of white men (many of whom were slave owners) and in the absence of any women or any persons who could be considered working class (or even middle class), should be taken literally – word for word. Even Pope Francis does not treat the Bible that literally, but Scalia’s fundamentalist approach became as widely held as that of the religious fundamentalists who believe that Adam and Eve actually walked with the dinosaurs.

Consider that in 1787 there was no internet, women could not vote, black Americans had no rights, there were 4 million people living in thirteen states and the average American life expectancy was 38 years. In 2015 there are over 300 million people living in this country with a life expectancy of 78 years.

In 2015 black American, women and descendants of immigrants from every country on this planet enjoy the rights of citizenship in spite of continued and sustained efforts to deny and restrict those rights. Social Security, free public school education, the election of senators by the direct vote of the people and Medicaid were inconceivable to even the most progressive of the framers of the Constitution. The electricity, automobiles and scores of life changing technological advances have resulted in a country that could not possibly have been considered by the bewigged white men in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 (with Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton being possible exceptions).

Indeed, the only reason that the Constitution has continued as the governing document for over two centuries is because it has been subject to interpretation. If, as Justice Scalia contends, genius was in that room in Philadelphia, then it was genius in providing the document with flexibility and empowering the elected representatives and jurists to interpret it that have ensured its survival, and therefore the survival of the United States itself.

And, by the way, Justice Scalia was more than willing to engage in a veritable orgy of interpretation when he participated in the theft of a presidential election in the Bush v. Gore case, even as his son worked as a partner in one of the law firms that represented George W. Bush.

As a result of this theft of a presidential election that Justice Scalia helped to engineer, President Bush destabilized the planet with misguided wars while presiding over the near collapse of the American and global economies. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the politically motivated theft of a presidential election, “originalism” notwithstanding.

In the cases of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission and McCullough v. the Federal Elections, employing incredibly tortured interpretation, Justice Scalia helped to legitimize corporate purchase of elections. These cases have empowered the millionaires and billionaires of this country to exert incredible influence over every election in every state, county, city and of course, throughout this nation. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the empowerment of the wealthy to have undue influence over the political and governmental processes, again, “originalism” notwithstanding.

There are dozens of other cases where the smudged Scalia thumbprint can be found, cases that have profoundly affected the people of America for the worse. The Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and McCullough cases are some of the more egregious examples of the harm caused by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia may rest in peace. Thanks to him, the people of America will not enjoy that blessing.

Point of View Columns

Thieves in the Day

There is a reason why burglars and bank robbers usually do their best work at night – they don’t want to get caught. Thieves realize that theft can have unpleasant consequences and so the darkness is their ally. That is why it is even more brazen for the Teapublican terrorists in Congress and in state houses all over the country to conspire to steal the right to vote from American citizens in broad daylight.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States eviscerated the historic Voting Rights Act which had reversed almost a century of the legalized disenfranchisement of black citizens in the United States. In a stunning and blatant illustration of racism barely hidden by judicial robes, the Thomas/Aliton/Scalia/Roberts Supreme Court Cabal ruled that the Voting Rights Act was a form of “racial entitlement”, fully ignoring the undisputed facts that for too long for too many black people, exercising the right to vote was literally a death-defying act.

In what would appear to be some kind of satanic synchronization, immediately upon the Supreme Court’s infamous Shelby v. Holder decision, scores of states, counties and other election districts moved to put in place restrictive voting measures that would not have been permitted the day before that decision. In the year since the Shelby decision over a dozen states have passed laws that make it far more difficult for people to vote and there should be no doubt that these laws are clearly aimed to reduce the number of minority voters who would otherwise be eligible to cast their ballots, as is there right.

We are supposed to believe that the reason for closing the gates on polling booths is to prevent voter fraud. But there is no research or data to indicate that voter fraud is even a small problem in any part of the country. Indeed, the greatest case of voter fraud in the history of the United States was committed by the Supreme Court of the United States itself in the Bush v. Gore case when the presidential election was given to candidate George W. Bush based on political and not judicial principles.

The history of denying the rights and benefits of citizenship to black Americans is as old as this country itself. At one point black Americans were constitutionally defined as 3/5th of a human being (the original Constitution of the United States). The Supreme Court at one point ruled that black Americans had no rights that a white person needed to respect (the infamous Dred Scott decisions). And, of course, it was against the law in many parts of the United States for a black person to learn how to read and right (the post-Reconstruction Era of the United States).

After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the battlefield for racists moved from denying literacy and the actual humanity of black people, to denial of the rights of citizenship. And that denial of citizenship began with denial of the right to vote. While the Ku Klux Klan always made noises about protecting white womanhood, the real mission of that malignant gang of terrorists was to deny any kind of power to black Americans, beginning with the right to vote.

Lynching, murder, bombing and general mayhem were all within the rules of the racists who sought to deny the voting franchise to black Americans, and most of the time, being the craven cowards they were, they operated in the night, in the shadows and away from the light of day. The black death toll from this state-sponsored terror will never be fully known, but the deaths only compounded the day to day terror of the survivors resulting in black people being excluded from the democratic processes in this country – from voting to serving on juries to holding elected office.

The Voting Rights Act was intended to change that and in many ways it has. It should be clear that the resistance of the racists, in and out of the South, did not disappear, but real change has occurred during the past half century. And now the ghosts of the Klan must be overjoyed applauding from the Hell where they belong for eternity knowing that the Supreme Court has taken up the bloody banner of the lynch mobs and night bombers who are certainly glad to know that the Teapublican terrorists have placed enough legal linen around their damnable motives so there are people who actually don’t see a real problem with the tsunami of voting restrictions that are sweeping across this nation.

And the worst part is that these thieves, who are seeking to steal rights and citizenship, are operating in broad daylight.