Posts Tagged Supreme Court
Last week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at the age of 79 in some luxury resort in West Texass. He did not pay to stay at that luxury resort owned by John B. Poindexter, a Texas native and decorated Vietnam veteran who owns Houston-based J.B. Poindexter & Co., a manufacturing firm with seven subsidiaries and a combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.
“I did not pay for the Justice’s trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a brief email Tuesday. “He was an invited guest, along with a friend, just like 35 others.”
A friend, indeed.
One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving an age discrimination lawsuit filed against one of these companies, court records show.
Is it just mere coincidence that a year later we see a Justice of that very same court invited to the luxurious home/ranch of the owner of the company involved in a case which the Supreme Court refused to hear?
Nothing about who Scalia was suggests that it could be a mere coincidence. What is for certain, however, is that it constitutes a conflict of interest.
Interesting to note is that this was not the first time Scalia acted unethically (that we know of). In 2004, he joined then-Vice President Richard B. Cheney on a hunting trip while Cheney was the subject of a lawsuit over his energy task force, and in response to calls that he sit out the case, Scalia issued a highly unusual 21-page argument explaining why he refused to do so.
While judges have to file financial disclosure statements, including reporting of gifts they receive and disclosing when someone who is not a relative gives them “transportation, lodging, food, or entertainment” worth a certain amount (see 1978 Ethics in Government Act passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal), there is really no one who enforces that. And while every other federal judge below the Supreme Court and the decision about whether or not they should be recused from cases where there could be a potential conflict of interest is potentially subject to the review of a higher judge or other judges on his court, no one reviews the decision of a Justice and thus Supreme Court justices essentially become the final arbiters of whether or not to recuse themselves from cases that may constitute a conflict of interest.
Why am I bringing this up on the day of Antonin Sacalia’s funeral? Because while much of the mainstream press was quickly lining up to offer glowing commemorations of his career as a public servant and brilliant man, I want to be sure that Scalia’s destructive judicial legacy is not completely whitewashed.
“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues”… Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr said in a statement confirming Justice Scalia’s death. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”
No it is not. Antonin Scalia’s death is great news and this nation’s salvation. He did not serve this country loyally. On the contrary, he used and abused his position in the highest court of the land to align himself with power, against the powerless.
Scalia was a contemptible human being who once during oral arguments in a pivotal affirmative action case suggested that African American students might belong at less rigorous schools than their white peers, and that perhaps the University of Texas should have fewer black students in its ranks.
He decided his cases based on what the Catholic church preaches about women and reproduction.
He repeatedly and casually equated LGBT and its advocates to apologists for incest, rape, bestiality, child pornography and murder.
He has been nothing but an antagonist to social justice ever since he took seat on that bench/ivory tower of his. Heck, his last official act was denying a stay of execution.
Scalia’s death is not a loss to this nation or the Supreme Court. Scalia was the disease that’s been gnawing and eating away at our Democracy like a malignancy. His death is our salvation as a nation.
And that is what I have to say about him on this day of his funeral.
May he rest in the hell he believed in so much and which he created for others during his short time in this world.
In case you did not already know (and I did not know) purity balls [insert your own joke here] – where “ball” refers to a social gathering or dance, such as a prom, not a hairy gonad as I first thought – are a religious rite wherein girls pledge not to have sex until they’re married.
Photographer David Magnusson captures the, creepy, may I add, institution of the Purity Ball in pictures where young girls pose with their fathers who glow with pride at the thought that their little girl’s vagina is safe and sound in their arms, protected from the evil penis.
It’s like the fathers own their daughter’s vaginas (just like they think they own every woman’s uterus and vagina and everything) and they are holding that “high priced” possession, that family heirloom, in front of them, like a trophy, so that everyone really understands that this vagina here, with the woman/daughter attached to it, really is theirs to give away and do with what they want, and no one else’s. The guardians of the pussy, the purveyors of all of womanhood’s sexual organs.
I must say that this one of the most fucked, creepiest and most inappropriate things have I have seen in a long while. It is amazing that this is a real thing in the world.
Now, many of you may agree that this is messed up and creepy and think that this sort of thing is confined to a few lunatics on the fringe, the extremes.
But it is not.
A lot of men, especially Christian men, do believe they have some kind of a say to and ownership rights over a woman’s body and what a woman does with her body – vagina and uterus included- especially if that woman is a relative or spouse.
Just enter the world of anti-choice legislation where women are treated as incubators who apparently owe the world babies.
Also look at how women in porn, for example, are referred to as “whores” and, generally, a culture that places a woman’s value as a human being between her legs, which is why porn stars are viewed as whores and thus worthless. In fact, any woman who is confident in her sexuality and has a sex life similar or comparable to that of a man is valued as less than women who are “virtuous.”
The Purity Ball images by Magnusson are a stark, obscene and visual depiction of the culture of misogyny.
The same culture that puts rape victims on trial; the same culture that values a fetus more than it values the person carrying it; the same culture that works hard to subvert a woman’s agency and bodily autonomy by closing abortion clinics or else working on taking away a woman’s right to choose, which includes access to affordable and safe abortions.
It is the same culture that disbelieves rape victims and puts them on trial as opposed to the perpetrator; the same culture that pays women less than their male counterparts for the same work; the same culture that pays for a man’s erection pills, penis pumps and vasectomies, but takes a woman’s access to birth control pills to the Supreme Court so that some dusty old relics who neither have uteri and whose penises haven’t been functioning for years can decide whether insurance companies should pay for that woman’s birth control; the same culture that holds women to standards men are rarely held to. Note that there are no sons in any of these images, only daughters.
It is easy to view and dismiss misogyny as a relic of the past, as something that is going away, as something that only “those extremist” nut jobs engage in.
However, when talking about and looking at misogyny and the mechanisms and institutions, as well as mind-sets, that perpetuate and uphold it – in very real policy terms, it becomes apparent just how deeply misogyny is ingrained and interwoven into our society, determining ultimately how we treat women.
In other words, Purity Ball images, as creepy and amusing they may be, are not the only depictions of misogyny. They are a blatant and obvious part of it, something we can point the finger at and ridicule, even admonish, but it does not end there because misogyny is real everyday for countless women and it is deeply ingrained in our society and its institutions, from gendered slurs, jibes and insults to unequal pay and everything in between.
It is real for your daughter, your mother, your sister, your female girl-friend, your grandmother, your wife and battling it requires awareness every step of the way not just when some messed up fathers pose for pictures with their daughters whom they have shamed into thinking that sex is a terrible, sinful thing and that it was their job, a man’s job, to tell them what to do with their bodies. These girls, when they do get older, will then just replace their fathers who tell them what to do with their bodies, with another man, such as a boyfriend, spouse or a Justice of the United Stated Supreme Court.
“The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate…. When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.”
— Harry Andrew Blackmun, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, majority opinion in Lee v. Weisman, 1992
One of the reasons the wealthy in this country are wealthy, is because they are the beneficiaries of massive loopholes inherent in our skewed tax code as well as government subsidies paid for by tax dollars. In other words, the dramatic gains in wealth by the super rich are underwritten by everyone else as a result of skewed values embedded in the U.S. tax code. This means that the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households—97 percent of whom are white—are subsidized by the rest of the tax base.
A major contributor to the dwindling of the middle class is that the majority of the taxes they pay rarely benefit them, especially with regard to social safety net programs. Those taxes benefit the wealthy, who then get to sit back and save their money while the middle class covers them by picking up their slack. Remember that wage earners pay taxes on their sustenance, while the wealthy would be paying taxes on their wealth.
It is also no revelation that most of our taxes go towards the war machine, also euphemistically referred to as “defense department”, subsidies for oil companies and farms and a host of tax breaks for corporations that post record profits while siphoning their wealth overseas to avoid paying taxes, employing cheap labor overseas and paying domestic laborers lousy wages that do not keep up with increased cost of living and general growth.
This lack of equity has lead to the systematic erosion of the middle class by transferring wealth from the bottom to top, thus widening the income gap.
As much as corporations like to whine about hard times that are allegedly prompting them to keep cutting pay, benefits or lay people off altogether, research has revealed that, in fact, foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion. GE tops the list, followed by Microsoft, Pfizer, Merck and Apple – all companies that are supposed to be the shining example of the American Dream and hard work. Turns out, their un-American, self-serving greed is of the same old garden-variety robber baron kind, only this time the velvet tones are neatly wrapped in wit and charm by these master manipulators who call themselves the purveyors of the American Dream.
The American Dream for whom, one wonders.
The middle class has not experienced much of an income growth for the past three to four decades while the 1% have seen their wealth multiply quite rapidly. General Electric, for example, has neatly stashed away over $100 billion overseas while paying an effective tax rate of merely 5% in the US.
All this has crated a situation whereby the middle class is basically digging its own grave, caught in a vicious cycle of little income growth, coupled with higher cost of living, paying the highest amount of taxes while at the same time not seeing most of that money they paid come back to them in the form of social safety net programs, ultimately resulting in them to slide down the social class ladder even further and with every slide slip deeper into the poverty trap.
Tax Breaks Are A spending
The hundreds of tax breaks lawmakers have written into the federal tax code – for instance, special low tax rates on capital gains, and a deduction for home mortgage interest – in order to promote certain activities they deem beneficial to society (which are not), function as a type of government spending.
In fact, tax breaks are officially called tax expenditures within the federal government because, from the perspective of the government, they are no different from spending on any other government program. That’s because, when the government issues a tax break, it chooses to give up tax revenue – so both spending and tax breaks result in the same outcome, which is less money in the U.S. Treasury.
The need for the money the government just decided to not collect from certain entities (that also happen to line the pockets of those very government officials – most of whom are millionaires) does not go away because the tax break was issued. That need is still there. And if the government cannot collect, or will not collect, it from the wealthy, then it will have to collect it from us.
According to the White House, in fiscal year 2014 tax breaks are expected to cost the federal government – and by extension all of us who do pay taxes – $1.18 trillion – slightly more than all discretionary spending in the same year.
For the government it means that it does not get to collect the revenue it needs to remain solvent, which in turn results in the government going after the easiest of entities to cut from – the poor who don’t have lobbyists residing in the Capital buying politicians.
This is evidenced by the fact that cuts, usually, almost always begin with and come in the form of slashing food stamps, public assistance programs and a host of other social safety net policies.
The class divide we are facing is facilitated by these very middle class-destroying economic policies that are promoted by politicians in both parties.
Democrats are not any better. They too agree on beginning every cut by going after middle class causes and the poor. They merely disagree with Conservatives over the extent to which those cuts are to take place. While I do want to give credit to some truly dedicated Democratic officials, I want to point out that voting for policies that ultimately go after the most vulnerable and marginalized entities in society to subsidize the privileged does not make you a progressive, nor is it a vastly different position from the Conservative one. That is hardly deserving of accolades. In fact, it makes you part of the problem, just to a slightly lesser degree.
In the end, for the working middle class it means that they have to pick up the slack of those who get tax exemptions.
Coupled with deregulation, lousy labor laws and standards that favor the corporations and their money-making schemes over employee/worker rights and human dignity, Citizens United, Too Big To Fail, and a host of other middle class busting policies, the middle class has essentially been reduced to nothing but a source of cheap labor and tax revenue, effectively shifting the economic burden of society away from the wealthy – who, among other things, by virtue of paying no taxes, can accumulate wealth easily and rapidly – and onto the working poor and middle class wage earners.
Given that a good number of our elected officials (including judges) are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporations, this situation is not likely going to change anytime soon. After all, what incentive would a lawmaker have to put a stop to the very corporate greed and exploitation that is subsidizing his or her campaign (and summer house, car elevator, shiny, gold plated bootstraps for his kids etc).
General Motors, Money and Free Speech
In 2001, General Motors considered, and rejected an ignition switch design that two prominent safety advocates say could have avoided the problem that led the automaker to recall millions of vehicles this year.
The company’s decision to reject the safety switch was motivated by cost. Without much oversight and accountability, GM just decided to forgo this important safety feature, resulting in not only recalls of vehicles but according to GM, the faulty ignition switch has been linked to 32 crashes and 13 deaths.
All so that GM executives may pocket a few million dollars more in bonuses and compensation.
Via the Citizens United ruling and the subsequent ruling earlier this month lifting the ban on aggregate campaign donations, the crooks in the Supreme Court took a huge step toward giving wealthy donors, including corporations, unlimited freedom to influence elections, considering corporations and the money they can give to influence political outcomes “people” entitled to “free speech” under the First Amendment.
The move to exclude millions of people who do not have the money to influence political outcomes does not only deeply compromise the political integrity of our governmental institutions, but, as Justice Beer wrote in the dissenting opinion, this “decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”
Again, the entities that will be paying the price are middle class wage earners who cannot, on the political sphere, match the wealth of a powerful corporation or a billionaire – not without allies, effectively resulting in only people of extreme means and wealth being able to influence elections.
Equating free speech with spending money in elections is, furthermore, not only deeply undemocratic, but it is no different than making voting contingent upon an individual’s wealth. No one can tell me that the vote of a poor citizen carries as much weight as the “vote” of a millionaire.
Of course, corporations are only people insofar as they can donate unlimited funds to buy surrogate politicians to do their bidding. When it comes to corporate accountability – another feature of being a person – however, corporations remain immune and cannot be held accountable.
Case in point, again, General Motors that is currently seeking lawsuit protection in federal courts for knowingly equipping their vehicles with faulty parts, resulting in millions of recalls as well as dozens of crashes and deaths.
This is a company that paid no federal income tax for 2011 despite earnings of $13 billion since 2009. Why? Because the Treasury Department (hint: our corrupt lawmakers that run the Treasury Department) gave GM permission to use the $18 billion in losses from the pre-bankruptcy company, the so-called old GM, to cancel out any profits it has made since it emerged from bankruptcy.
In essence, GM would have to make $1 billion for 18 consecutive quarters before the federal government, which bailed out the company, sees a nickel in income tax from GM.
In other words, GM got bailed out with tax payer monies and it not only not paid them back but is also not getting to put a dime into the very government coffers whose funds bailed them out in the first place!!
Guess who, amid this grand gesture of corporate welfare, will be tasked to pick up GM’s tax exemption? The middle class working stiff. (Not that other corporations in this country pay more, or any, taxes either. See this).
Hard work has very little to do with why the wealthy are wealthy. Why corporations and their executives keep getting richer by the minute and have become “too wealthy to fail” while those who work for them cannot afford buying a house or sending their kids to college or have any kind of social safety avenues available to them if some catastrophe were to happen.
The problem with poverty and a vanishing middle class in this country is systemic in nature with corrupt, greedy and self serving entities as the gatekeepers at every level, insuring that those wallowing in wealth remain where they are while those who subsidize them think they are on their way there while at the same time giving up their standard of living, their quality of education, their jobs, their worker protections, their civil liberties, their social safety net, their environment, their economy and their very democracy itself.
We are a at point now where those in the 25-to-34 age group are the best educated cohort in American history, with more than a third having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet nearly 50% of those are either jobless or underemployed, indicating that clearly, and while important, education alone does not create jobs and opportunities that lead to prosperity. For that, a fair and functional economy is needed — one in which the government, a government filled with people who have integrity, not the corrupt opportunists that are in its employ now – plays a robust role, alongside consumers and businesses, to promote full employment and to ensure a just distribution of gains.
Do you suffer from erectile dysfunction? Do you have a hard time getting hard and good? Do you need a penis pump, also known as a “vacuum erection device” because you cannot go the pill route? (something which can also, quite conveniently, serve as a masturbatory aide. *wink*). Do you maybe need a penile implant because pharmaceuticals and penis pumps cannot get you hard and good? Are you done with having kids or simply do not wish to go down that route and need a vasectomy?
Well, worry no more as all of these procedures are covered by health-insurance, no questions asked- in case you missed that in all the cacophony surrounding the things that health insurance should not cover (or does not cover) for women, such as birth-control and abortions. Some of them, such as the penis pump, are even covered by your handy Medicare.
If, as a man, you did not know that these items, devices and procedures are covered by most private insurances (and Medicare) then, quite frankly, I don’t blame you. After all, what reason would you have to question a society that so perfectly suits your needs?
Where your mere sex does not render you a ‘liability”, a “pre-existing condition” as far as insurance and access to medical care is concerned?
A society where you get to make your own health care decisions (within the confines of privately-run health-care schemes) for yourself without entities such as employers, a dusty clergy and legislators constantly feeling like they are entitled to step in and make those decisions for you, thus taking away autonomy over your own body and, crucially, the freedom of choice with regard to what you want to do with that body.
You don’t have to worry about someone questioning or taking away your choices, treating you like some object for which and over which others can make decisions as opposed to treating you like an autonomous, rights-bearing human being deserving of full equality.
As a man, your autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent—as your own best decision-maker, your own best advocate, and your own best protector – are respected and never questioned. You are born into a world in which your humanity, agency, dignity and autonomy are not in question – both philosophically and legally.
You don’t navigate a world in which everyone believes that policing your body and reproduction is an acceptable recreation. You don’t have to navigate the institutional misogyny that underlies the anti-choice movement where everything about it serves the interests of those who want to limit choice, and those who want to marginalize women.
While religious employers are choking to death at the idea of having to “pay” for a female employee’s birth control pills or, flying spaghetti monsters forbid, abortion, arguing that doing so would somehow compromise their delicate morals and religious convictions, they have no problem shelling out money to make sure you get to have an erection and a penis pump and penile implants and so on so you can fuck a woman, get her pregnant and make her have all the babies she may or may not want. That is irrelevant.
Even the government, even Medicare, is more than willing to pay for penis pumps and no one ever questions why tax-payers have to pay thousands of dollars to make sure a man can have an erection.
Your employer, the government, the clergy, some suit sitting at a mahogany desk in Washington do not have a problem tasking insurance companies to pay for a vasectomy that results in all these babies they all love so much to not be born.
Of course not. Those things are not an issue. They have not been an issue in major court proceedings, at state legislatures, with employers, insurance companies or even in the media and the public. In fact, it is a non-issue. As women’s reproductive choices are being eroded one by one, step by step, the national debate centers about the same few garbage notions about the alleged “rights” of fetuses, morality and god. Be it Republicans or Democrats, ultimately it is about making women bargain away autonomy over their bodies to whoever feels entitled to them – in some sort of a insincere, deceitful “both sides have a point” false equivalency argument. As if people with uteri somehow owed the world control over some significant function of their body
No one talks about the duplicity inherent in the national debate we have on women’s agency where one group is systematically robbed of personal autonomy because another believes that they can make, and are entitled to make, better decisions for you than you can for yourself.
As a man, you get to make decisions about your sexual and reproductive health for yourself without anyone questioning their necessity, cost, or even morality.
Your personhood is not subject to inescapable, incessant and insistent debate. You are not made to feel that you are nothing if you don’t use your body to have children, where you are merely seen as a uterus with some vague female parts attached in service to its reproductive capacity.
Women, on the other hand, have to stand by and let everyone decide on those things for them, everyone but the woman herself.
It is terrible to have to navigate a world in which you, as a woman, are made to feel that you deserve less respect, less dignity, less autonomy, less opportunity, less agency, less voice, less ownership of self and ultimately less of your humanity.
A world in which you have to negotiate away the concept of absolute autonomy over your body to accommodate, please or else appease some privileged class/entity – be it a man or a church or whatever other institutions out there that believe they are entitled to make decisions about your own life and your body, for you.