Perhaps you’re familiar with Clarence Thomas, the Long-Dong-Silver-loving US Supreme Court Justice. With a new term recently beginning on the Court, he passed the five-year mark for not only saying nothing of value while hearing cases, but nothing at all.
Yes, you read that correctly — while no US Supreme Court Justice in over two centuries has gone even a single term without speaking from the bench during arguments, Thomas has managed to do it for five in a row.
To quote Stephen Colbert, “the man is a rock… in that he could be replaced by a rock and I’m not sure anyone would notice.”
Sadly, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that if someone were going to set this record, it would be Justice Thomas. He certainly never even approached being “the most qualified” person in the land to sit on the Supreme Court, as President George
Tag: Clarence Thomas
Perhaps you’re familiar with Clarence Thomas, the Long-Dong-Silver-loving US Supreme Court Justice. With a new term recently beginning on the Court, he passed the five-year mark for not only saying nothing of value while hearing cases, but nothing at all.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that granted full legal rights to male genitals. In a 7 to 2 decision, the high court agreed with the finding of the US Court of Appeals, Eleventh District, in the case of Johnson v. Planned Parenthood. In a rare moment of public commentary, Justice Clarence Thomas explained the majority opinion by citing 19th century jurist, John Thomas (no relation), who argued the principle of penis decisis in his famous ruling against women’s
Dear Justice Thomas, I’m afraid you might be disproving the saying that “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Let’s face it, Mr. Justice, there is such a thing, and wow have you been getting a lot of it.
First, you made headlines for attending events sponsored by conservative groups on the Federalist Society’s dime. Years later your vote in the now (in)famous Citizens United case made it easier for many of those groups to spend money freely in political
A is for Arianna and Tim Armstrong, who are changing the face of American journalism as AOL bets $315 million that HuffPost can help it compete in the brave new world of the Internet. Also, Al-Jazeera, which is changing the way the world sees the Arab world and the way the Arab world sees itself, and Afghanistan, for obvious reasons.
B is for House Speaker John Boehner, whose inability to rein in Tea Party-backed budget-cutters is enough to make a grown man cry. Also, the FY 2012 budget that President Obama will unveil on Valentine’s Day that calls for tough love to reduce the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next ten years; and BlackBerry, the ubiquitous, addictive and time-wasting multitasking tool.
C is for China, as Mao’s successors struggle to prove that capitalism and communism can co-exist and elevate it to superpower status; Also, new White House mouthpiece and ex-journalist Jay Carney, who’s already finding it’s easier to question presidential decisions than to explain them; and Craigslist, which you shouldn’t use to send shirtless photos to “Women Seeking Men.”
D is for Davos, the Swiss ski resort where important global leaders gather each January at the World Economic Forum and accomplish little while reassuring themselves they are important global leaders.
E is for Egypt, of course, the future of the Middle East hangs in the balance in the land of the Pharaohs after Mubarak resigns, but the outcome is harder to read than the
Pompeia, the wife of Julius Caesar, had to be above suspicion. Ginni, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has to be at the center of it.
“The government has no right to tell me who I can do business with” was something I heard when I was an Air Force JAG doing government ethics briefings for civilian spouses of officers serving in command positions. I’d respond, “You’ve got the right to do business with anyone you choose, but your husband doesn’t have a right to be a commander.”
The standards of ethical conduct that apply to federal government employees and members of the armed forces prohibit those serving in leadership roles and decision-making positions from maintaining relationships that create the appearance of a conflict of interest between their official duties and their personal interests, including the personal interests of their spouses and dependent children. The rule is intended to promote public confidence that official decisions are made without partiality or favor due to a financial or other personal stake in the
The Detroit Tigers are retiring the great baseball manager Sparky Anderson’s number 11 this season. “It’s a wonderful gesture,” Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg wrote. “I just wish Sparky could see it.”
Anderson won three World Series — one managing the Tigers, two with the Cincinnati Reds — and passed away this past November. Rosenberg said, “Retiring his number now is the baseball version of waiting until a relative dies to say thank you.”
That’s because it comes sixteen years after Anderson left the Tigers in a bitter feud with owner Mike
Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled to the Capitol to teach a class about the Constitution to members of Congress, led by controversial Tea Party caucus chairwoman Michele Bachmann. Justice Scalia’s participation in Bachmann’s Constitution school has prompted a heated debate about the proper relationship between Supreme Court justices and political leaders. But the real debate that should be raging is not about judicial ethics, but about the dubious vision of the Constitution that Scalia and leaders of the Tea Party will be discussing.
As Jonathan Turley pointed out in the Washington Post this weekend, while Supreme Court Justices across the ideological spectrum have taken on increasingly prominent public roles, Scalia has become a true “celebrity justice.” But Scalia’s pugnacious celebrity is in service of a distorted and bizarre reinterpretation of the Constitution championed by the Tea Party movement.
Although the Tea Party seeks to wrap the Constitutional founding in religious doctrine and intention, this view conveniently ignores the Establishment Clause, the clause forbidding religious tests for public office, and the fact that neither the Bible nor God is mentioned in the Constitution’s
Judges are like umpires, Chief Justice John Roberts famously declared during his confirmation hearing five years ago. “They make sure everybody plays by the rules.”
But what would happen if some umpires showed up at swank resorts as featured attendees at one team’s pregame meetings?
Even the hint of such favoritism would trigger a fan revolt and demands from Capitol Hill that the umpires involved be disqualified.
Americans are about to find out just how much baseball and our judicial system really are alike.
Common Cause, which I’m privileged to lead, has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from the landmark Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case last year because they may have attended secret retreats where lobbying and political strategies were developed by some of the biggest players in the 2010 elections.
A year ago this week, Scalia and Thomas supplied critical votes in the 5-4 Citizens United decision that was of particular importance to two politically active billionaire brothers, Charles and David
My opening caveat: Barbara Boxer served on the high school board when I was in high school (1974-78). Fyi, my own mother would have been shocked by a female State Senator. A year before she died, my mother overheard a woman at the LA Gift Mart say to her child, “Let me show you mommy’s office.” My mom said something about it being a ‘new world.’ This was 1987, folks, not ancient history. She had my father’s name, something I ribbed her about, mercilessly. “You are Dad’s chattel!” I’d say.>
She didn’t live to see the Anita Hill hearings. I had a vague and mistaken idea of when they happened, which was wrong. They were in 1991, and she had died, two years earlier. She did not die a feminist, but maybe she would have turned into one.
I almost never write anything on Facebook — too old — I was moved enough by an ad Carly Fiorina (female) ran against Barbara Boxer for California State Senator to write: “Carly Fiorina, who apparently was too busy to watch the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, decrying Barbara Boxer’s request to be called ‘Senator’.” In the ad, Carly Fiorina showed testimony of Senator Barbara Boxer requesting of a witness, “You know, do me a favor. Could you say ‘Senator’ instead of ‘Ma’am’? It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it.”
What was Fiorina’s video-ed response to that simple request? A tag in which she says into the camera: “I’ll really go to work — to end the arrogance in Washington.”
What’s interesting to me, in this newly quickened-up passage of time that is life, is that I’d have sworn those Hill/Thomas hearings happened when I was in high school. When my mom was alive. What’s crazy hard to believe — what with Elena Kagan and so many other women ensconced on the Supreme Court and all — is that in my own lifetime I’d have lived through such enormous changes. Like black people who remember when they couldn’t drink at a water fountain, it’s hard for me to fathom that my own mother, who died when I was 29, which is not YOUNG, did not actually have any female Senators to represent her, when she passed (1989).
I was thinking about this during Elena Kagan’s hearings. Ms. Kagan, who is exactly my age, would understand the ‘hard-to-imagine’, almost blink-of-an-eye feeling, how — in a lightning flash — the role of women in these Supreme Court hearings almost has gone from the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, to her. There was, during Anita Hill’s time, no person of color to raise an eye at Clarence Thomas’s declaration of those hearings being a “high-tech lynching”. No woman to nod at Anita Hill’s claims about Clarence Thomas’s proclivities, “Yeah, you know guys and porn”. Indeed, Senators waved telegrams AND The Exorcist in an attempt to impugn Anita Hill’s character and claim that she simply wanted fame. (There happened to be no black person on the Senate Committee when Elena Kagan testified, by the way, but nine women).
For those too young to remember this scandal, let me just say that Anita Hill, whose family of farm people were splayed in the rows behind her, couldn’t have looked less like she intended for any of this to happen. She looked ashamed. She looked dignified. And indeed, though it was predicted she was looking for fame, we’ve never heard from her in these intervening years (although Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, were featured on the cover of People Magazine, the week after). (Don’t get me started with Ginny Thomas calling Anita Hill and asking for an apology recently).
Clarence Thomas said during his own portion of testimony, “Well, this is what happens to uppity blacks”, as well as the “lynching” comment. His point made no sense, however, because Anita Hill was also black. Had there been even one person of color — any color, in fact — on that Senate panel, they could have shaken their fingers at him, with shared history. But there was none. Even poor lascivious — at that time — Ted Kennedy, who was usually a champion of minorities, seemed like he wanted to crawl under that Senate tabula and simply disappear.
Indeed, they used Anita Hill’s talking to Clarence Thomas in intervening years as evidence against her.
Things change systemically. Anita Hill’s necessity to stay in touch with Clarence Thomas in order to get along is something other women understand — Elena Kagan seems a negotiator, most especially. But there was no one to explain that.
What DID happen, was that six women (including then-Congressperson Barbara Boxer) marched up the steps of the Capitol to demand that Ms. Hill’s testimony be taken seriously. In fact, 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.” Many women were enraged. The addition of four new female Senators in that next election doubled the number. I remember that Capitol Hill photo-op, very well. In fact, I left a pretty-defunct NOW and joined Emily’s List, whose title is, “Early Money Is Like Yeast,’ which means, ‘it takes dough to get a woman elected’.
What I didn’t know at the time, is that when those six women House members got inside the Senate Hall, they were refused entry by their fellow Senators. “You can’t come inside,” our female House members were told. “It’s a closed-door meeting.”
I guess that’s why I find it hard to bear when women are mean to each other. I mean, seriously. Did Ginny Thomas really call Anita Hill, stirring up a hornet’s-nest, after a 10-year respite of peace? She left a message saying, “I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with [sic] my husband.” (The same week an ex-girlfriend of Clarence Thomas came out and validated Professor Hill’s claims). Did she want publicity for her Tea Party party? (Or weapons for some later divorce)? And Carly Fiorina! You should be kissing Barbara Boxer’s well-tailored Senate robes in thanks!
That week-long testimony turned out to be one of TV’s first real-life soap operas. A starring role for Joe Biden. A mini-series of fabulous proportions.
The game-changer of Anita Hill’s testimony came when she accused the Hon. Clarence Thomas of specific advances, such as asking if she saw “a pubic hair on a Coke can”. Now, if you’ve been to college and/or even one frat party, you’ve heard worse or the same. But again, there was no one to point that out. In fact, some of the Senators waved actual Telegrams into the air — okay, it was a WHILE ago — maligning her very reputation.
Some of the major bullet points:
Sen. Alan Simpson — “we have stuff coming over the transom about this woman, Anita Hill, saying to watch out for her.”
Anita Hill — claiming that Clarence Thomas, the abuser, wanted to date her. She also testified that she didn’t know why this entire investigation hadn’t been handled, in private. (It had been discovered by Nina Totenberg, of NPR). Still, Arlen Spector followed up her testimony by telling her, “I am a former prosecutor, and I think you are committing ‘flat-out perjury.’” (Although he did claim to be disappointed that Clarence Thomas declared he was not watching the testimony of Anita Hill).
Orrin Hatch, reading “there’s a pubic hair on my gin glass” from The Exorcist.
If it looked like anyone in the room had NOT read The Exorcist, by the way, it would be Anita Hill. I’m just saying. In fact, I am still assuming that Professor Hill didn’t. She requested privacy and they were waving telegrams. No wonder people stay quiet.
Shock and awe also from this gang, not understanding the fact that she was a careerist, like all of them. Her maintaining contact with Thomas — well, really, how many places were there for an educated black woman — especially in 1991 — to go? Even Clarence Thomas wrote in his autobiography, “The only reason why she’d held a job in the Reagan administration was because I’d given it to her.”
Amazingly, in a move straight out of Central Casting, some of the same people who had faced Anita Hill now squared off against Elena Kagan. It was almost like watching The Revenge! When Sen. Orrin Hatch started in on one particularly nasty line of questioning of Gen. Kagan, I actually find myself thinking, “Is he crazy? Doesn’t he have a PR person? Does no one else remember him waving The Exorcist at Anita Hill?”
But, still, even though Elena Kagan is called a “lib-er-al,” by a very white man (Sen. Sessions), in the end, Elena Kagan is triumphant, and now sits on the same Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas — and two other women, as well!
Perhaps my own mother would have eventually become used to all of this. I do know she’d have ‘kvelled’ over Elena Kagan. And she would have, without-a-doubt, ‘gotten the number’ of Sarah Palin and all the other mean chicks down that very mean dynastic line. But if there’s one and only one thing I do know — but this one thing I know for sure — it’s what my mom would have said to the Carly Fiorinas, et. al., that ilk, even way, way back then:
Girls. Be nice. Play nice!
Follow Jodi Lampert on Twitter:
On what set of national policies was President Obama anything other than a “centrist?” How many times did he “reach out” to Republicans? On the war in Afghanistan, education, health care, Wall Street reform, immigration, and climate change he bent over backwards to accommodate the opposition party. Yet the Republicans stiffed him on all accounts. Any pundit who advises Obama to “move to the center” must be required to define exactly what he or she means by “center.”
The political “center” of American politics is a moving target. And for the last thirty years it has moved in only one direction: Rightward.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan moved the “center” in his direction with “trickle down” economics, deregulation, and stoked up anti-communism. In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay bettered Reagan by exploiting social and cultural issues and elevating the Southern wing. In the 2000s, George W. Bush shifted the “center” so far to the right he alienated many old guard conservatives. And now in the 2010s, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the Tea Party are pushing it again. How far can they go? (Apparently pretty far.)
North Carolina Representative Heath Shuler, the leader of the moribund Blue Dog Democrat coalition, wants to oust Nancy Pelosi to become minority leader by claiming that the 2010 midterm elections showed that the Democratic Party must “move to the center.” But Shuler, like the pundits, hasn’t defined what he means by “center.” If the Democrats in Congress follow people like Shuler they’re heading right down the primrose path to political irrelevancy.
In 2008, Obama’s compelling personal story for a time captured the imagination of millions of Americans. But the coalition of voters that swept the Democrats into Congress and Obama into the White House was as fractured and fragmented as anything else in American society. Overlooked in the pageant of electing America’s first black president were other significant factors that played into Obama’s victory such as the weakness of the Republican ticket, Bush fatigue, and the effects of the economic collapse. We learned that other public figures have compelling personal stories too; people like Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Sarah Palin, and even John Boehner.
When the history of the Obama presidency is written a key theme probably will be how wrong and nave millions of people were in 2008 when they thought electing the first black president in American history might signal the beginning of a new attitude about race. On the contrary, before Obama was even sworn in the white multitudes on the Right became thoroughly unhinged. The over-the-top reaction to Obama from the Tea Baggers, Fox News, Glenn Beck, and other components of the Far Right echo chamber, which featured stories about birth certificates and Muslim influence, exposed the persistent racism in American society that cuts deep down to the bone and into the marrow.
In 2010, Republican candidates ran campaign ads targeting Latinos and Muslims, as well as depicting Obama in ways that played upon the color of his skin, all of which tested the boundaries of “acceptable” levels of racism in our political discourse.
But it’s a different kind of racism than the old Jim Crow variety. It’s an Internet age, postmodern racism that is fractured, fragmented, and multivalent. It can even be consistent with “multiculturalism.” When a Latino Republican operative, Robert de Posada, thinks he can get away with running campaign ads (in Spanish and English) urging Latinos to “send a message” to the Democrats by disfranchising themselves, servitude to the Republicans’ electoral interests became an “oppositional” expression of “protest.” It’s a weird manifestation of “multicultural” racism. Similarly, the blatant tokenism of Michael Steele’s appointment to Chair the Republican National Committee along with all those anti-choice Republican women (“Mama Grizzlies”) who have nothing but contempt for the vast majority of women who don’t earn $75,000 per speaking engagement, illustrate the new racism and sexism. And don’t forget the Log Cabin boys and Ken Mehlman and David Dreier and Lindsey Graham and Mary Cheney. (They even have a “working-class white male” signifier called “Joe the Plumber.”)
The Far Right has learned to use “identity politics” to great political effect. This turn of events makes all the hand-wringing during the 1990s about the perils of postmodernism and multiculturalism seem quaint. Back in the ’90s, even a giant among liberal historians, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., felt compelled to write a book lamenting the divisiveness of “multiculturalism” titled: The Disuniting of America. Alan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, could never have imagined how thoroughly the “multiculturalism” he saw as so threatening to conservatives would be co-opted and put to great use by his ideological soul mates.
In today’s high-octane capitalist environment where commercial advertisers slice and dice American society into thousands of different “target demographics” — cutting us up into subdivisions (and subdivisions of subdivisions) based on gender, race, age, religious affiliation, consumption habits, region, hobbies, brand loyalty, educational level, Internet hits, and so on – any “Grand Narrative” about the mindset of “the American people” quickly breaks down. This fragmented social reality, especially as refracted through the corporate media, is one of the reasons why opinion polls of voters’ preferences on specific issues, like Social Security or Afghanistan, cannot be squeezed neatly into a story line that supports either political party. And there’s no simple interpretation of the 2010 midterm elections that transcends these polarized, disparate, and artificial social categories and groupings.
Electorally the problem is even more complex: an extremist Supreme Court ruled that it’s in America’s interest to give more power over our political institutions to giant corporations; the Chamber of Commerce and all the other slush fund factories that are overflowing with corporate cash have skewed our politics even more toward the interests of the rich and powerful; and Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and the echo chamber largely define the political debate. Countervailing forces like labor unions have been beaten down over the past thirty years and in today’s context of high unemployment have been made weaker still. If the “Grand Narrative” the Republicans are now constructing were true they wouldn’t need all the subterfuge, money, and political legerdemain, they’d just open their doors and “the American people” would willingly rush in. And with the Republicans’ 600-plus newly-won state legislative seats, along with their thirty governorships, they will be able to gerrymander at least 190 congressional districts. Democratic state governments will only be able to draw up about seventy.
No one could foresee how thoroughly the Republican Right would absorb, appropriate, and co-opt identity politics and multiculturalism by putting forth their own Clarence Thomases, Robert de Posadases, and Sarah Palins (blacks, Latinos, and women who are opposed to any piece of legislation or social policy that might benefit blacks, Latinos, or women). Combine this identity politics with the postmodern manipulation of political language, where words mean anything the rich and powerful want them to mean, and there could be a realignment over the next few election cycles that ushers in a very long period of direct oligarchic corporate control over our nation’s governing institutions.
Back in the 1960s the Democratic Party did the right thing by shedding its racist segregationist wing. But a quick look at today’s electoral map shows those same elements were welcomed into the waiting arms of the GOP. The Democrats kicked the bigots out of their “tent” and in the process cemented what might be the most important structural advantage the Republicans have.
Contrary to Beltway speculation, the Tea Party and the GOP leadership are not going to fight a “civil war”; their shared hatred of Obama and desire to maintain power will unify them. Sure, there will be times in the 112th Congress when the right hand doesn’t know what the far-right hand is doing, but their squabbles will be minor and easily resolved by simply reminding members of the Republican caucus how much they all despise Obama. The lengths to which the WASP-GOP-Tea Bag coalition has gone to destroy the Obama presidency – even when he has shown that he has been a “centrist” all along – exposes something deeper in American society. All of the “multicultural” education that the Right found so threatening in the 1990s has apparently achieved very little. The country is as racist as it ever was.
And all of a sudden the costs of presidential trips are being scrutinized after Internet crazies floated the lie that Obama’s trip to India was going to cost $200 million a day. CNN deserves some credit for debunking this myth, but the episode is just the first shot in a new level of scrutiny of the Obama White House. Soon Representative Darrell Issa and other congressional Republicans are going to make the Clinton impeachment look noble for its comity. It’s kind of amazing that people claiming to be “Tea Party Patriots” have such little respect for the office of the presidency. And where were these people when Bush wasted all that money landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln for his flight-suited photo op?
Some wags have christened the midterms “the Fox News election” because it appears to be the fruit of a two-year, highly-focused effort from Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire to destroy Obama and his party. The Republican rout is just step one toward winning monopoly power for the GOP. But for the sake of maintaining the legitimacy of the two-party system Fox and friends must construct their own version of the perfect Democratic Party to fit the needs of the modern GOP. It would be a Democratic Party that plays a role similar to the one that Alan Colmes used to play on Sean Hannity’s show: a hapless, ham-handed, interlocutor incapable of winning an argument. The “opposition” party would be placed there conveniently to make doomed, feeble attempts to articulate the “liberal” position. It would be an ersatz “debate” like we see on Fox every day with a predetermined “winner” and “loser.” Joe Lieberman has been trying to help Murdoch accomplish this goal for years.
This kind of rump Democratic Party that would serve to cement Republican one-party control like it enjoyed from 2003 to 2007 can only come into being with the help of Democrats who are touted as “moderates” and “centrists” who offer their full agreement and consent to the biggest pieces of the Republican agenda, such as tax cuts for the rich, aggressive wars abroad, deregulation, and institutionalizing corporate power in all of its manifestations no matter how damaging to society. Lazy press commentators, Blue Dogs, and others who call for the Democrats to “move to the center” are facilitating this outcome.
This Blogger’s Books from
Robert F. Kennedy And the Death of American Idealism (Library of American Biography Series)
by Joseph A. Palermo
In His Own Right
by Joseph A. Palermo
Follow Joseph A. Palermo on Twitter:
Last week, investigators at the Center for American Progress released a bombshell, making public confidential materials penned by energy tycoon Charles Koch for a conference of well-heeled conservative activists this past June. These materials also included an invitation to far-right money men and women to another gathering scheduled for next January, to plan the takeover of the White House in 2012.
While helping reveal the right’s political agenda, these materials also show just how central the courts are to their plans. For one surprising example, two names topped the list of luminaries who had previously attended Koch’s gatherings: Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Furthermore, consider the Chamber of Commerce, and the topic for discussion they chose for Koch’s gathering this past June. In the middle of a heated battle over the control of Congress — a fight that has crystallized the Chamber’s status as a leading financier of conservative causes — the Chamber chose to speak about the opportunity to win judicial elections and capture the state courts.
This laser-like focus on the courts is missing on the left, which is far more focused on winning elections and legislative battles. But what if those legislative victories are overturned by the activist rulings of conservative judges? That is already happening in cases such as Citizens United v. FEC, where last January the Supreme Court gutted by a 5-4 vote the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — a law that progressive funders and activists had spent more than a decade mobilizing to produce.
Citizens United is hardly an isolated example. In June, in the wake of Citizens United, the organization I head, Constitutional Accountability Center, comprehensively examined cases decided by the Supreme Court in which the Chamber of Commerce filed briefs since Justice Samuel Alito began participating in decisions in early 2006. Over this nearly five-year period (through the end of June 2010), the Chamber prevailed in 68 percent of its cases. The Chamber was even more successful in the October 2009 Term, winning over 80 percent of its cases (13 victories in 16 cases). Our study also demonstrated a pronounced ideological divide on the Court on Chamber positions: the Court’s conservative majority (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas) collectively voted for the Chamber 74 percent of the time while the Court’s moderate/liberal bloc (including former Justice David Souter, who was on the Court for most of these rulings) was more centrist, collectively casting 43% of its votes in favor of the Chamber.
The response to our June study, even among many liberals in the Washington legal community, was muted. Indeed, Justice Breyer — who voted for the Chamber less than half the time in our June study — came to the Chamber’s defense, telling Bloomberg News that the Chamber’s recent success before the Court was nothing new because the Chamber has always done well before the Court.
A follow-up study released today by Constitutional Accountability Center demonstrates that to be flat wrong. CAC studied the 5-year period immediately before any of the members of the Court’s current conservative majority took the bench. During the five Supreme Court Terms from October 1981 to June 1986, the Court ruled in the Chamber’s favor just 43% of the time. Even more striking was the lack of any comparable ideological divide on the Court during this earlier era. For example, the voting records of then-Justice William Rehnquist, widely viewed as the most conservative member of the Court of that era, and Justice William Brennan, its most liberal member, differed by only three points in support for the Chamber — 47% compared to 44%, respectively. Rehnquist and Brennan waged heated battles over hot-button social issues such as reproductive choice and affirmative action, but they did not battle often over the law’s impact on corporations.
Not surprisingly, the Justice voting most often in favor of the Chamber in our earlier study was Lewis Powell. Justice Powell was a moderate on social issues and the Burger Court’s swing Justice on those topics. But he had also represented the Chamber of Commerce in private practice and penned a now famous 1971 memorandum instructing the Chamber to take advantage of a “neglected opportunity in the courts.”
For the past 40 years, the Chamber of Commerce and its allies have taken to heart Justice Powell’s advice and worked tirelessly and step-by-step to push for a judiciary that is sympathetic to its legal arguments. How sympathetic? Consider that during the period of our 1981-1986 study, Justice Powell — the most pro-Chamber judge of his era — voted with the Chamber 59 percent of the time. His replacement, Justice Anthony Kennedy — the most moderate member of the Roberts Court’s conservative wing — voted with the Chamber 69 percent of the time during the period of our study of the Roberts Court.
There has been a ton of coverage this election season of the Chamber of Commerce’s undisclosed donors and multi-million dollar expenditures on Congressional races across the country. But the Chamber’s efforts in the judicial arena have remained largely underneath the radar. This imbalance of attention is unfortunate, because while the success of the Chamber’s attempt to influence the mid-term election remains to be seen, we already know that the Chamber’s decades-long effort to influence the judiciary has been a resounding success.
Follow Doug Kendall on Twitter:
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can and should be impeached. The case and the grounds for impeachment proceedings against him are virtually iron-clad. The evidence is compelling that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991. The evidence is equally compelling that this constituted lying under oath to Congress during the hearings.
The impeachment case against Thomas is not based on personal or political disagreement over his views, decisions, opinions and rulings on the bench, his penchant for pornographic material, or for sexual harassment. It is based on clear legal and constitutional grounds, precedents, and Congressional mandates. Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states that a Supreme Court Justice that “lacks good behavior” can be impeached. This is not an ambiguous, subjective term. It has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness as the ‘high crimes and misdemeanors” clause that unequivocally mandates that the House of Representatives initiate impeachment proceedings against any public official, or federal judge in violation of that provision.
The Constitutional precept is the first legal ground for impeachment proceedings against Thomas. The second is Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It states that any official of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government of the United States who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry can be impeached. In other words lying to Congress is not only an impeachable offense. It’s also illegal.
It’s also clearly established that a public official whether the president, presidential appointees, or judges can be punished for giving false information and that’s any false information of any nature to the House or Senate.
The Nixon impeachment debates and Clinton impeachment hearings were ample proof that the constitutional phrase of “good behavior” embraces not only indictable crimes but “conduct … grossly incompatible with the office held and subversive of that office and of our constitutional system of government.”
Thomas was asked directly by Utah senator Orin Hatch during his confirmation hearings about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he used sexually suggestive language. Thomas answered: “I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her. ”
Thomas was emphatic, “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it.” This was stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Thomas’s sworn testimony was clearly contradicted even then in public statements by witnesses. The witnesses were not called to testify. The one witness that contradicted Thomas’s sworn testimony, Angela Wright, did testify. She worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and was emphatic that Thomas sexually harassed her and used explicit and graphic sexual language. Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter who told investigators about Thomas’ penchant for improper sexual talk. Letters to the committee from other women who worked with Thomas confirmed that he was a serial sexual harasser and had a penchant for sexually perverse talk. The Senate panel had other sources to corroborate the Hill-Wright charge that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment and obsessive interest in sexual smut. These sources were ignored too.
Two decades later Thomas’s apparent perjured testimony to Congress is now squarely back on the legal table. Lillian McEwen put it there. Her legal credentials are impressive. She is a former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel. She also dated Thomas. In interviews, she again confirmed that Hill and the other women’s allegations that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it and women were truthful.
Thomas’s personal warped sexual predilections and perversions are not the issue as personally reprehensible as some may find them. The issue is his apparent perjured testimony to a congressional body about his words and conduct. There is no statute of limitations on bringing impeachment proceedings against officials who lie to Congress. The U.S. Code and the Constitution clearly spell out that when there’s evidence a Supreme Court justice may have lied under oath the House must bring articles of impeachment to determine guilt or innocence.
The ball is now squarely in the court of House judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers Jr. He is legally bound to do his and the House’s legal and Constitutional duty and begin impeachment proceedings immediately against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:
This week delivered a bracing lesson from the School of Unintended Consequences when news broke that Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni, had felt moved, nearly two decades down the road, to “reach across the airwaves” and leave a voice mail for Anita Hill, asking for an apology. She didn’t get one, but she did unleash a torrent of pubic-hair-on-a-Coke-can flashbacks, and inspired Justice Thomas’ ex-girlfriend Lillian McEwen, a former prosecutor and law professor, to break her 19-year silence and talk about her “freewheeling sex life” with Thomas in the early ’80s, as well as his porn “obsession” and fascination with large-breasted women. Oops. Chastened, Ginni Thomas canceled an interview with NPR, while her new Tea Party-inspired group, Liberty Central, walked back claims that Obama’s health care law is “unconstitutional.” I guess she never heard the expression: “Let sleeping Long Dongs lie.” In the words of Ginni: “Okay, have a good day.”
This Blogger’s Books from
Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream
by Arianna Huffington
Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter:
Think of the Two Decade Embarrassment of Thomas We Would Have Been Spared If We had known about Thomass Porn Alleged Obsession
Here’s a tantalizing what if. What if the nation had known about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s alleged pornographic obsession in 1991. Lillian McEwen, Thomas’s one time paramour, says that Thomas was virtually a serial peep artist at women’s breasts, their bra sizes, and kept his head buried in porn magazines, and ogled porn films. Unfortunately, McEwen never got a chance to do her tell all about Thomas at the time of his contentious confirmation hearings in 1991.
The Senate Judiciary Committee for reasons known only to it didn’t choose to call her. But McEwen’s revelations rang true for two reasons. Anita Hill said virtually the same thing, and few doubted her veracity. And there were a slew of other women who pretty much backed up Hill’s assertion about Thomas’s alleged perversion.
McEwen is right on target with them. Just think what we would have been spared if the Committee had called McEwen and gave her testimony about Thomas as pervert the weight it properly deserved. He would almost certainly not have been confirmed. The nation would have been spared two decades of goofball opinion, views, and rulings from arguably one of not just the worst judges to ever plop his rear end in a seat on the bench but, one of the most embarrassing. His silly, at times bizarre, legally and constitutionally defective clockwork like opinions to sanction discrimination, uphold unrestricted government power, school prayer, and savage even the most blatant civil rights and liberties violations, hammer affirmative action, voting rights, abortion, and gender and workplace discrimination are now the stuff of laughable, and pitiable legend. Thomas has been a cancer on the bench and has mocked every cannon of constitutional and legal jurisprudence by his mere presence.
The worst part of this is that he and his wife, Ginni Thomas, have not even the most rudimentary concept of shame. This was amply born out when Ginni in an absurd voice mail asked Anita Hill to apologize for the alleged harm her truthful testimony did to Thomas–20 years after the fact no less. Ginni and by extension got what they deserved when McEwen came forth and publicly ragged on Thomas as a pervert.
This can’t and won’t get Thomas booted off the bench. Though it’s as close to smoking gun corroboration as you can get that the judge perjured himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he swore that Hill was lying about his obsession. And that almost certainly would have been the final nail in Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hope coffin. Lillian, Lillian, where were you when we needed you? Again, just think of the agony we all would have been spared from the two decades of Thomas embarrassment and disgrace if we could have heard from you then.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter:
I’m going to (mostly) resist the urge to take advantage of this column’s volume number in order to write a really gross column. Numerically, and inventory-wise, a “gross” is (of course) one dozen dozen. Twelve squared.
But to dwell on this cheap pun would be unseemly, even though there’s plenty of “gross” material out there with which to do so, it being less than two weeks before an election. Even unrelated to the election season, there are several items to choose from (Clarence Thomas’ wife calling up Anita Hill to magnanimously allow Hill to apologize to her and her husband would probably lead the pack in this category — followed soon after by the news of Clarence’s girlfriend shopping around a book she’s writing which pretty much confirms Hill’s account of things… seriously, what decade is this?).
Instead of such sophomoric humor, we’re going to move right along to the awards portion of the program. One program note before we do so, though — this column will not appear next week, due to the way the calendar worked out this year. In its place will be our yearly Hallowe’en column, where we expose a frightening (but, hopefully, not too gross) nightmare scenario for Democrats and Republicans. So join us here next week for that, and two weeks from today this column will resume its normal format.
It really falls so far out of the definition of this award that we can’t possibly come up with a reason why it would fit, but the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Robert Gates deserve at least a mention here. The Pentagon, quite obviously, is ready for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy to end. In response to the court ruling in California, where a federal judge issued an order to the Pentagon to halt all enforcement of DADT, the Pentagon sent a memo around this week to their military recruiters, informing them that they should begin tentatively accepting people who want to sign up for the military and also admit they’re gay. This lasted about a day, until the Obama administration got a stay on the judge’s order so it can appeal the case. But then, right after this happened, Gates announced that the military will now have to get any enforcement of DADT (getting kicked out of the military, in other words) approved by a group of only five people at the top of the Pentagon hierarchy. This is a further message from Gates that the military is getting ready to do away with the policy altogether, as it will make discharging openly gay soldiers a heck of a lot harder for the Pentagon to do. Both of these welcome signs from the Pentagon indicate that they are ready to lead the way on getting rid of DADT, as soon as the politicians get their act together. As I said, it’s hard to fit either Gates or the Pentagon into any sort of “Democratic” mold, so we can only give them a hearty “Well done!” in lieu of an actual award.
Also in a nebulous category, we’d like to point out that many Democrats in this election cycle seem to be getting much better at the tactic known as “the attack ad.” Now, much like the subject of talking points themselves, some on the Left decry negative advertising per se, no matter who’s doing it. We think that’s wrong. Attack ads can be effective — they can work. They also can backfire, to be sure. But across the board, we’ve seen more effective attack ads from Democrats this time around than anytime in recent memory. From the local ads I see here in California (Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have both put out some very good negative ads), to the ones I become aware of through the media (like this ad run against Ken Buck in Colorado), the Democrats seem to have gotten a lot better at this particular feature of modern campaigning. Which, as stated, we think is a good thing. The big question is whether they’ll be effective or not, and we’re going to have to wait until the election returns are counted to truly know that. But a generic pat on the back is in order for Democrats actually fighting in a campaign, even with their backs against the wall in terms of voter momentum. Keep up the good work out there!
We’d also like to bestow an Honorable Mention to Bill Clinton, who has been tearing up the campaign trail out there for many Democrats in tight races. I wrote a few weeks ago that Democrats should “Deploy the Bubba,” and since then they have done so in a big way. As I wrote back then:
Which, to both his and the Democratic Party’s credit, he has been doing ever since.
But we’re going to take a break from the campaign season for this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, and hand it to Attorney General Eric Holder. This week, the Justice Department announced it would settle a long-festering lawsuit brought against the Department of Agriculture by Native American farmers, for discrimination which took place from the 1980s onward. The settlement will be worth three-quarters of a billion dollars, and is the right thing to do. This court case was filed under Bill Clinton, and languished during George W. Bush’s time in office, but the Obama administration decided early on to work towards a just settlement, instead of delaying or further fighting the case.
As I wrote earlier in the week:
So hats off to both President Barack Obama and this week’s MIDOTW award-winner, Attorney General Eric Holder, for an impressive piece of news which most Americans didn’t even hear about.
[Congratulate Attorney General Eric Holder via the official White House contact page, to let everyone there know you appreciate his efforts.]
There were some grumbles from the Left this week over one particular attack ad, run by Jack Conway in his Senate battle in Kentucky with Rand Paul. The ad drew pointed attention to an incident (which Rand Paul has no memory of, according to him) which took place while Paul was in college, where he allegedly forced a young woman to, among other things (marijuana use, for one) worship “Aqua Buddha” (which, suspiciously to the Friday Talking Points staff, sounds like it involved some sort of bong or water pipe, but then we do admit we’ve got a rather fervent imagination, so you should probably ignore this baseless claim). Kentucky has a very religious population, so the “worshipping a false idol” thing is given prominence in the ad.
Did Conway cross a line with this ad? Well, perhaps. What, one wonders, would he have said if it was just a statue of Buddha being worshipped, and not so obviously a college prank gone bad? Doesn’t the Constitution mean that a Buddhist should be able to be elected to the Senate from Kentucky? Well, yes. But I’m not exactly holding my breath for that to happen, to put it mildly. What it may all boil down to is: was the ad effective? Did it help or hurt Conway’s chances? Paul has been vigorously fighting back ever since the ad ran, which shows he takes the attack pretty seriously. Our guess is that if Conway manages to squeak a victory out over Paul, that all will be forgiven by the Left, in a spasm of political “the ends justify the means” reasoning. In any case, we’re taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the whole thing, here.
But, in a surprise move, we’re going to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to this week’s MIDOTW winner: Attorney General Eric Holder. In a letter to nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), Holder skated dangerously close to the line of politicizing the Justice Department in an ongoing election — which is a gigantic no-no, it almost goes without saying — by decrying California’s Proposition 19, which will give the state’s voters the chance to weigh in on whether to legalize recreational marijuana or not.
Holder’s letter, and other recent statements from the Obama administration, make it plain that they will not be happy if Prop. 19 passes, and that they will fight it with every legal weapon they can bring to bear. The timing of these statements (just before voters get a chance to make their choice) and the political nature of what is being said puts these actions over the line, as far as we’re concerned. Now, if you’re a retired politician, then endorsing or coming out against such a citizens’ initiative is certainly fair game, such as former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders recently throwing her support behind Proposition 19. But when you’re the nation’s top law enforcement officer, you have a duty to uphold the laws — but also a duty not to influence their creation.
Attorney General Eric Holder, by threatening get-tough measures should Proposition 19 pass — in an obvious and naked attempt by the Obama administration to throw its weight behind the political forces opposing the measure — has more than earned this week’s Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Please, Mister Attorney General, keep out of California’s democratic process, as you are supposed to do. At least until after the election is over.
[Contact Attorney General Eric Holder via the official White House contact page, to let everyone there know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 144 (10/22/10)
We’re going to try and keep these short this week, all the better for Democrats to remember them, out there on the campaign trail, in debates with opponents, and (as always) in interviews with the press.
We’re down to the final stretch of Election 2010. Democrats have been making noticeable improvements in the polls over the past few weeks, but the question remains whether it will be enough to overcome the momentum coming from the other side. At this point, pretty much everything that can be done on the “get out the vote” effort to get Democratic voters to the polls has either been done, or set in motion for Election Day.
Which leaves us free to concentrate on convincing voters in the mushy middle of American politics. These voters, it should be noted, are now the ones who decide elections across the country. Largely suburban in nature, swing voters dislike the extremes of either party, preferring instead to vote for candidates that don’t scare them too much (on either side). That’s over-generalizing, though, because the very fickle nature of these voters also means that they defy pinning down or lumping together in such a fashion.
In any case, this week we’re going to focus on messages which speak not so much to the Democratic base, but towards possibly-still-undecided swing voters who may still be persuadable.
This is just downright despicable. A self-described “conservative Latino activist” was behind an odious ad run in the Nevada Senate race, which was quickly yanked off the air, due to the controversial tag line. Democrats everywhere — not just in Nevada — should hold this up as Exhibit A of Republican political ploys, because the message spreads far beyond the Silver State’s borders, to Latinos everywhere.
“Republicans have shown their true colors when it comes to the Latino community, as evidenced by the ad run in Nevada which informed Latino voters what their civic duty is, according to conservatives — and I quote: ‘Don’t vote.’ The depth of cynicism in airing an ad telling Latinos not to vote is just breathtaking. Republicans have done nothing for the Latino community, and the GOP is increasingly terrified that the Latino vote will overwhelmingly be Democratic for some time to come — so their advice is to not participate in our democratic system of government at all. Latinos everywhere should watch this ad if they’re considering voting for Republicans, because this is what they really think about you. That you shouldn’t vote.”
This one really works best against Tea Party candidates, but since the mainstream Republicans are cowering in fear of the Tea Partiers denouncing them as insufficiently devoted to the cause, it really can be used against just about any Republican this time around. Harry Reid pioneered this in his ads, and has been beating this drum consistently ever since — which could save a very tight race for him.
“The Tea Party has quite obviously completely taken over the Republican Party, as evidenced by the candidates the GOP is fielding this year, and also as evidenced by the refusal of any Republican to speak out against any of these Tea Party candidates who are not exactly ready for prime time. Which is really the whole problem — the Tea Party candidates, and by extension, the Republican Party, has become just too extreme for America. Don’t take my word for it — just listen for five minutes to any Tea Partier speak, and you’ll see for yourself just how radical and extreme their plans for this country are.”
Corporations telling you how to vote
This one seems to be gaining some traction out there. Don’t get bogged down in details, just give an overview of the situation.
“Do we as Americans really want corporations telling us how to vote? Republicans sure seem to like it, mostly because the corporate money is out there bashing Democrats. But is it really a good thing for a corporation to anonymously shell out millions of dollars to elect a particular candidate, without letting the public know it is doing so? The corporations are afraid that the public will react to their foray into politics, and that Joe and Jane American is going to start holding them accountable at the cash register, when they choose what products to buy. My advice to American voters is to ignore any ad coming from a group who refuses to tell you who is paying for that ad — no matter who the ad supports. I don’t want corporations telling me how to vote, and I think most voters would agree with me.”
Tea Party hypocrisy
This one should be used as a gigantic blunt instrument by all Democrats, from the president on down to the smallest House district. Because the hypocrisy is just lying there — in stacks of paper three feet high — waiting to be exploited.
“The Tea Party candidates all say that they’re for cutting government spending, but a surprising number of them seem to be all in favor of government spending when it is going into their pockets, or when it is politically convenient for them to do so. From a doctor who says that Medicare and Medicaid payments which pay a huge portion of his salary are just fine with him, to a candidate who thinks unemployment insurance is unconstitutional — except when his wife is collecting it, of course — to the many many Republicans who are campaigning on how they voted against the stimulus package but who also wrote multiple letters to beg for some of that stimulus money for their districts and then even had the gall to show up for such projects’ ribbon-cutting ceremonies, there is a common thread. This is the absolute hypocrisy of saying: ‘stop government spending, except for the government spending which benefits me.’ These candidates simply have no credibility whatsoever, and they are counting on the voters being too stupid to see through this enormous contradiction between what these folks say, and what they do. I think the voters are smarter than that. I think they realize rank hypocrisy when they hear and see it.”
Not afraid to talk to the press
This one goes back to the school playground, but this type of taunt can work wonders with the public. Most Tea Party candidates have realized that it’s better for them to simply not talk to any press that isn’t solidly in the Republican corner to begin with (in other words, Fox News). Turn this to your advantage, and point it out every chance you get.
“You know what? I’m not afraid of talking to the press, as my opponent seems to be. Instead of running away from reporters with microphones, I want every voter know that if I am elected I will answer questions from the press because I want to be held accountable. I want the voters to know what I think, and what I believe in. I am not afraid of sitting down with reporters to talk about the issues, because I believe the voters share my values and want to hear what I have to say. My opponent, quite obviously, does not — he would prefer it if only the ‘friendly’ press be allowed to ask him anything. I think that is cowardly, and I don’t know why anyone would want to hold public office if he is so afraid of letting the public know his views on the important issues of the day.”
I’ve read the Constitution…
This one is only really useable in a debate format, with a Tea Party candidate (cough, cough, Christine O’Donnell, cough…) who obviously lacks a basic understanding of our country’s founding document.
“I’m sorry, but I have actually read the Constitution. Have you?”
Notable word coinage
This one’s just for fun, I have to admit. I can’t see any Democrat publicly saying this, in other words, but it certainly deserved to be mentioned this week. The Jezebel website ran a contest recently to come up with a definition for the term “odonnell” (or perhaps “Odonnell” — although one has to wonder what happened to that apostrophe?), in honor of none other than Christine O’Donnell herself. The last great political word coinage in this vein was, of course, “santorum” (which you’ll have to Google for yourself, sorry). Now, we do wish that Jezebel had provided a few better examples of how to correctly use the term in a sentence, but we are certainly open to suggestion in the comments. Without further ado, here is the new semi-official term for your reading pleasure (so to speak):
Odonnell n. — An unwelcome and decidedly unsexy thought that pops into an individual’s mind while they are masturbating.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigantFull archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.comAll-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
This Blogger’s Books from
How Democrats Can Take Back Congress
by “Tom Paine”
Follow Chris Weigant on Twitter:
This commentary was originally posted on CNN.com
This week Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, called Anita Hill and left a message on her answering machine inviting her to apologize for testifying during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings.
The call brought back, with surprising immediacy, those 1991 hearings. For those too young to remember, the hearings may be little more than a paragraph in a history text. But it’s hard to overstate their importance.
For women at the time, Professor Hill’s testimony was riveting and unforgettable. The country watched on TV as Hill related her personal story — describing the sexual harassment she said she endured while working for Thomas as a federal government employee — before a Judiciary Committee composed entirely of men. Not a single woman senator. (Thomas denied the allegations.)
The issue of sexual harassment was out of the shadows.
Before Hill’s testimony, sexual harassment was viewed as a problem for victims, predominantly women, to solve on their own. Most women suffered in silence rather than jeopardize their careers by complaining, even though sexual harassment had been defined as a form of sex discrimination that could be illegal more than a decade earlier by the courts and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or EEOC).
When it first appeared that Professor Hill’s allegations might not even be aired, outraged women jammed congressional switchboards with phone calls, and seven women members of the House of Representatives, including Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Louise Slaughter and then-Rep. Barbara Boxer (who was elected to the Senate the following year) marched to the Senate to demand a serious and respectful hearing.
Professor Hill was berated and personally attacked during the hearing. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson waited until Anita Hill’s testimony was concluded to announce, for example, that “I really am getting stuff over the transom about Professor Hill,” without providing any details or substantiation about what he was referring to.
Such treatment became the subject of dinner table conversations around the country, as did the problem of sexual harassment itself. And those conversations continued wherever women met.
Pundits speculated that the Anita Hill testimony would forever intimidate women from ever coming forward again, but the opposite happened.
After the hearings, the number of claims of sexual harassment filed with the federal EEOC (the very agency headed by Clarence Thomas where Anita Hill said he had sexually harassed her) more than doubled between 1991 and 1998 (from 6,883 to 15,618).
And women demanded better legal protection. Congress strengthened remedies for victims of sexual harassment at work by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1991, providing damages for the full range of injuries that victims might suffer and giving victims the right to trial by a jury of her peers.
Major victories in the courts struck blows against widespread sexual harassment that women suffered in the workplace, from the mines to Wall Street. Employers took notice, so that now anti-harassment policies are more robust and company training programs are commonplace.
In the aftermath of Anita Hill’s testimony, Justice Thomas was narrowly confirmed to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52 to 48. In what became known as “the Year of the Woman,” record numbers of women were elected to Congress: 28 women were elected to the House of Representatives, more than doubling the total number of female representatives to 47, and four new women joined the only two women then serving in the Senate.
One of those new female senators from the class of 1992, Dianne Feinstein of California, now sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Anita Hill dedicated her career to combating discrimination, including sexual harassment, and opening equal opportunity to all in the workplace and beyond.
The voicemail message from Justice Thomas’s wife is a reminder of a moment in time that put a spotlight on sexual harassment. But our country still needs more discussion about the serious harm it causes.
Sexual harassment has certainly not gone away.
The National Women’s Law Center, for example, recently filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit where a female electrical maintenance technician in a male-dominated workplace says she was constantly harassed — with supervisors and co-workers routinely referring to women with demeaning and derogatory words, displaying provocative photos of naked and partially clothed women in common areas throughout the workplace (and not responding to her repeated requests that the photos be taken down), and excluding her from key daily meetings.
Whether bullying and harassment in schools or making women’s lives miserable in the workplace, it’s time to make sure our laws are strong enough, our institutions committed enough, and our public debate serious enough to give women and girls the protections they need and deserve.
There’s still work to be done. For example, Congress needs to eliminate arbitrary limits on damages for sexual harassment victims and to change current legal standards that make it more difficult for students to prove sexual harassment than other claims of discrimination in schools.
Any less not only does an injustice to women and girls, but to our country as well, which needs the talents and skills of us all to thrive.
The political event that had an impact on my young adult life more than any other was the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings.
In October of 1991 I was 22 years old and in my first month of graduate school. It was the first time I’d left the Eastern seaboard where I’d always used public transportation. Without understanding the Midwestern landscape I moved to Minnesota with no car. I had broken up with my East Coast boyfriend and I was the only Black student in my department. I couldn’t afford long-distance calls and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet, so I was often glued to the television.
I watched the Anita Hill Clarence Thomas hearings every day. Even though Anita Hill was a Republican social conservative, she was a Black woman who taught law, and that was my dream. I watched wondering, what if something horrible like this happened to me? No one believes her.
A few years later, I started teaching in a department (that I am no longer affiliated with), and I soon found out. We went on an international research trip. We were in a warm destination during January term, and my department chair asked me to go to a topless beach with him.
Similar to Anita Hill, I did not come forward. A well-meaning white colleague (like Nina Totenberg), told the Dean who insisted that I file a grievance. I was not tenured and couldn’t imagine defying the Dean.
To make a long story short, an investigation was done, and I was not believed. Similar to Professor Hill, I was publicly vilified. Similar to Professor Hill, my career persevered.
I am sharing this story because a few years later I ran into my perpetrator’s wife. Unlike Virginia Thomas, she never called my campus phone and she never asked me to apologize.
If Mrs. Thomas thinks that those of us who have experienced this are sorry that we spoke truth to power, well yes Virginia; there is a Santa Claus.
Orwell’s “1984″ was twenty-six years off target, and picked the wrong side of the capitalistic coin. The Koch brothers are Big Brother, and the millions given to the Tea Party are only the tip of the iceberg, according to the New York Times.
In their Tuesday feature “Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead,” the NYT’s Kate Zirnicke reports on the upcoming secretive meeting being held in Rancho Mirage, CA, at an upscale Palm Springs resort, hosted by David and Charles Koch. The brothers invite the powerful and the rich of the extreme Right to bi-annual meetings to discuss ways to get their way. They are co-opting the Republican Party, and may be influencing the Supreme Court.
It is disturbing enough that you have a conference whose invitees are being told to keep all notes and information on the meeting out of the electronic world, and that the invitees are also being asked to book their hotel reservations through Wichita-based Koch Industries and not the hotel itself. It makes one wonder who will be attending this shindig, and why they are so eager to hide in the shadows.
The guest list for the upcoming event is unknown, but, the past attendees mentioned in the Times’ article throw up one very big red flag:
Supreme Court justices Scalia and Thomas attending Koch brothers soirees indicate another troubling corporate hand potentially influencing the safety valves of our government.
The Supremes should, at the very least, fake impartiality. It is lost on no one that both of these men were instrumental in the Court’s ruling that handed the presidency to George W. Bush by punching through the hanging chads of West Palm Beach County in the election of 2000. Their impartiality was already called into question a decade ago.
Rubbing elbows with with millionaires and billionaires who, at best, see “freedom” as the protection of their power and self-interest, is a serious concern for the independence of our highest court.
Their presence in Koch brothers meetings also calls into question the controversial Citizens United decision, which has defined corporations as “persons” and has opened the floodgates to millions of dollars in corporate spending in this midterm election.
This election season we hear a lot of “Throw the bums out!” and “government” has become a dirty word to a public looking for easy answers to very hard questions about the economy and the future of this country.
We’re so mesmerized by the hours of ads and the news media flush with spin on the political trees that we forget that the Koch Brothers, and other shadowy figures of the corporatocracy own the forest, and set up the rules of the game, not the politicos.
The only defense we have against these dark agents bent on controlling us is voting, something we are pretty complacent about not doing in most elections.
If we don’t turn out on November 2nd, and turn out these extreme candidates, where will these people stop? It is clear that an election can be bought. How long before the Koch Brothers and their friends buy off enough judicial races to influence judges. When will we say “no” to Supreme Court justices attending any blatantly political meeting or rally?
Big Brothers are manipulating you, and corrupting the core of our democracy’s key institutions. Stop it, while you can.
My shiny two.
Follow Brian Ross on Twitter:
Virginia (Ginni) Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
During Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, Anita Hill raised the charge of sexual misconduct in the workplace. During the Clarence Thomas confirmation, Hill could not fully substantiate the misconduct claims as the episode devolved into a “he said-she said” conflict. Clarence Thomas was confirmed.
Polls in this election are tightening.
Liberty Central is a Conservative Activist Web Site
Quote from Library central
Ginni Thomas called Anita Hill on October 9, 2010 asking Hill for an apology.
Hill called the police and FBI.
The story about Ginni Thomas’ phone call broke on October 20, 2010.
The Democrats are closing in on victory as more and more Tea Party Candidates are doing more and more loopy things.
Thomas, in her role as a conservative activist, has taken an opportunity to further muddy the waters with respect to the election. Bringing back this soap opera into the media so close to the election is a method of taking oxygen out of the room with respect to the serious issues the country is facing.
Re-hashing this issue may help GOP turnout in this election.
Hill needed substantiation and real proof she wasn’t being punked. She waited until the investigation was complete before going public this. Credit goes to her for not making the same mistake twice.
This ultimately favors the Democrats. The amount of off-the-wall stuff entering the media is directly proportional to the realization that your side will lose. The GOP is now throwing the kitchen sink at the Democrats.
I hope the Democrats know how to duck by calling Ginni Thomas’ actions for what they are — more political theater.
Note: I am getting some feedback as “How does this help the GOP?”
Answer: Ginni Thomas’ world is ultra-conservative.
They see Hill as a liar and part of the wall of liberals. She is taking a shot at her in hopes of reviving those emotions.
See it from the Thomas’ standpoint. Just like Christine O’Donnell, she thinks she is scoring a touchdown by rehashing this now.
It is taking news cycles away from the Democrats. I think it is smart and will work if the Democrats don’t call Thomas out on it.
The word: Feariness
A lot of punditry take various players to task for using fear. Using it to garner votes. Using it to garner sales or sell papers or increase ratings. Using it to garner support for a wide variety of causes or ideologies.
This denigrates fear… the real kind… the well-founded concern about actual threats that helps us stay healthy and alive. To take from Gordon Gecko, Fear is Good. To be sure, too much fear, or too little, can certainly be a problem… what, in How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts, I call the Perception Gap that can lead to new risks all by itself. We do have to fear fear itself… too much or too little. But we also have to fear the way the pundits and manipulators give fear a bad name. So in that vein, and with due acknowledgment to Steven Colbert, “that brings us to tonight’s word.”
There are two kinds of fear. The real kind. And feariness.
They’re easy enough to tell apart. The real kind of fear is the fear that keeps you safe. (From what, Steven? Bears?)
Safe from fanatics who want to impose their religion on America. (Glenn Beck?)
Safe from those who would weaken America by unpatriotically attacking the president at a time of war. (Dick Cheney?)
Safe from those who attack our constitution with their own interpretation of the law of the land. (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas?)
Real fear is the kind that protects us from those who would take our jobs. (Hey Steven, who mows your lawn?)
Real fear is the kind that protects us from violent criminals (Is that a .38 special in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?)
Real fear keeps us strong enough so we’re willing to send our brave men and women into battle to keep us safe. (WMD? What WMD?)
Then there’s the other kind of fear… the fake kind… feariness. The kind the Patrons of Panic throw at us to get us all riled up about trumped up threats when there’s no threat there at all. (Climate Change?)
You know, the false fear the doomsayers use to attract members and money to their do-gooder organizations, freaking us about their pet peeves, trying to get us all worked up over nothing. (Poverty, hunger, illiteracy, racism)
There are a ton of them, these hucksters, trying to get us so worked up we’ll do and say anything they want us to. Buy any product, vote for any candidate, support any cause, in the name of keeping ourselves safe. (How about next time we try real diplomacy first and invasion second.)
Or the greedy fear-meisters in the press and punditry who say they are just trying to keep us informed, when all they care about is sell papers or boosting their ratings or their personal careers (Uh, careful there, Big Guy!)
We shouldn’t be taken in by that kind of feariness, fake fear about non-threats a boy scout could solve while he’s earning his Merit Badge. (Global deforestation, ocean dead zones, industrial chemicals in our blood).
Feariness that preys on our emotions and drives us into angry polarized tribes supportive of people like ourselves but threatened by anybody else. (Mission Accomplished!)
Trumped-up fear that makes us so afraid we’ll turn into a bunch of sheep and follow the Pied Pipers of Panic right off a cliff. (See you at the Keep Fear Alive rally!)
It’s time to stand up in defense of real fear. Stand up against Feariness.
A nation of namby pambies whining about every two-bit bogeyman is just a second-rate nation of Chicken Littles. A nation righteously worried about all those others who would do us real harm… that’s a nation scared of the right things.
Be afraid, America! A scared nation is a strong nation. Just remember what Geena Davis-as-Veronica Quaife said in The Fly; Be afraid! Be very afraid!
Follow David Ropeik on Twitter:
Last January, during his State of the Union Address, when President Obama broached the topic of Citizens United saying it was going to unleash a torrent of corrupting corporate money into our political system, Associate Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the defiant words: “No, that’s simply not true.”
The 2010 midterm campaigns have shown us that Alito and his four fellow Justices were not only wrong about the potential effects of Citizens United they greased the wheels for a corporate takeover of the governing institutions of the country. We’re in unchartered territory now. The five Justices knew exactly what they were doing:
There’s nothing “conservative” about unlimited (and anonymous) corporate campaign donations funneled into mammoth slush funds for media “buys” savaging Democratic candidates. Commentators like David Brooks and the rest of the Mayberry Intelligentsia, like the Supreme Court, choose to play dumb while they whistle past the graveyard of American democracy. In the long run they’ll look as foolish for backing this ruling as those who cheered on the Dred Scott and Plessy decisions back in the 19th Century.
Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Crossroads GPS, the Koch brothers, Bruce Rastetter and his American Future Fund, the Chamber of Commerce et cetera owe a debt of gratitude to Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas for skewing the political calculus so far in their favor.
And what about the Tea Baggers? How insanely stupid is it when a group of anti-tax antiquarians liken themselves to those who threw the East India Company’s tea into Boston Harbor in 1773, and claim they want to protect the Constitution from the evil grip of liberals, yet are being backstopped by some of the most powerful corporate interests in the world? It makes sense then that the wife of one of the Justices who ruled in favor of Citizens United can be seen at Tea Bagger rallies calling Obama a traitor – no conflict of interest there.
No one can really predict what’s going to happen on November 2. All we know is that the historical trends are lining up for the Democrats to lose seats in both houses of Congress, and that Citizens United has definitively tipped the scales in favor of the oligarchy. In our peculiar duopoly the only means by which to cast a “punishment” vote to vent displeasure with the lack of progress on the Democratic agenda is to vote for a Republican (or stay home). No wonder Mitch McConnell showed up at the Supreme Court last January to witness the Citizens United ruling in person.
In November 1982, when President Ronald Reagan faced his first midterm election the unemployment rate was comparable to what it is today, hovering at about 10.2 percent, and his approval rating was lower than Obama’s is now. The Republicans lost twenty-six House seats erasing much of the gains from Reagan’s 1980 coattails. The recession belonged to Jimmy Carter just as the current one belongs to George W. Bush. But that didn’t help the party in power.
Yet the American people seldom return to power the party of a president who just two years earlier had collapsed the economy. In 1934, they didn’t pull the lever for the party of Herbert Hoover. And they should have the good sense not to do so in 2010. Then again, FDR fought unapologetically for progressive change. (You heard no complaints about “the professional Left” coming from his administration.)
It’s moot now, but sometimes losing a good fight can be as politically beneficial as winning. Had Obama stood firm for the public option instead of leaving us guessing what his policy choice was; had he rallied the troops for a showdown over the Employee Free Choice Act, or stood firm on climate change, or any number of other measures, even if he lost, enjoining these battles would have kept his supporters up in arms.
You can’t call upon people to be “fired up and ready to go” only to govern as if Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson are the two most important people on Earth. Obama was always far more popular than the cadaverous Mr. Nelson. Most people don’t even know who he is. Instead of eliciting Republican ridicule for the “Cornhusker Kickback” Obama might have gone to the Midwest and rallied people.
All along, we urged Obama to “show less Hope and more Audacity.” We tried to warn him that the Rahm Emanuel strategy of never exposing the President to the possibility of losing a public battle was a mistake — especially for a candidate whose campaign slogan was “Yes We Can!”
The idea recently floated by David Axelrod that a national moratorium on home foreclosures would make it impossible to discern the “valid” foreclosures from the others is a Red Herring. The federal government could use existing institutions such as H.U.D., the Fair Housing Administration, and the Federal Deposits Insurance Corporation (as well as the IRS and the Treasury Department) to send out auditors to figure out who got preyed upon and who didn’t.
Now we see that the extent of the fraud was so deep that the banks themselves are instituting moratoria on foreclosures to try to sort it out. If the FBI was reporting pervasive mortgage fraud as far back as 2005 why hasn’t Attorney General Eric Holder been able to hold anyone accountable? Why haven’t we seen predatory lenders and crooked real estate brokers frog-marched to jail?
Neglected by the banks, the foreclosed homes have blighted neighborhoods across the country, pushing down the value of thousands of homes that belong to innocent people who didn’t take out bad loans and paid their bills on time. (Are you listening Rick Santelli?) The “lenders” who hold the notes (when we can figure out who they are) have not bothered to provide basic maintenance. Squatters and crack-heads have found their way into many of them and evictions have become a nightmare for cash-strapped sheriffs and police departments as they try to clean up a mess that predatory banks passed on to the public. Entire communities across the country will continue to crumble for years amidst persistent unemployment. Some of these neighborhoods will never recover. That’s what the effects of class warfare looks like in America these days. And Citizens United is only going to make matters much, much worse.
Follow Joseph A. Palermo on Twitter:
I am opposed to the building of the “mosque” two blocks from Ground Zero.
I want it built on Ground Zero.
Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.
There’s been so much that’s been said about this manufactured controversy, I really don’t want to waste any time on this day of remembrance talking about it. But I hate bigotry and I hate liars, and so in case you missed any of the truth that’s been lost in this, let me point out a few facts:
1. I love the Burlington Coat Factory. I’ve gotten some great winter coats there at a very reasonable price. Muslims have been holding their daily prayers there since 2009. No one ever complained about that. This is not going to be a “mosque,” it’s going to be a community center. It will have the same prayer room in it that’s already there. But to even have to assure people that “it’s not going to be mosque” is so offensive, I now wish they would just build a 111-story mosque there. That would be better than the lame and disgusting way the developer has left Ground Zero an empty hole until recently. The remains of over 1,100 people still haven’t been found. That site is a sacred graveyard, and to be building another monument to commerce on it is a sacrilege. Why wasn’t the entire site turned into a memorial peace park? People died there, and many of their remains are still strewn about, all these years later.
2. Guess who has helped the Muslims organize their plans for this community center? The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER of Manhattan! Their rabbi has been advising them since the beginning. It’s been a picture-perfect example of the kind of world we all want to live in. Peter Stuyvessant, New York’s “founder,” tried to expel the first Jews who arrived in Manhattan. Then the Dutch said, no, that’s a bit much. So then Stuyvessant said ok, you can stay, but you cannot build a synagogue anywhere in Manhattan. Do your stupid Friday night thing at home. The first Jewish temple was not allowed to be built until 1730. Then there was a revolution, and the founding fathers said this country has to be secular — no religious nuts or state religions. George Washington (inaugurated around the corner from Ground Zero) wanted to make a statement about this his very first year in office, and wrote this to American Jews:
3. The Imam in charge of this project is the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. Read about his past here.
4. Around five dozen Muslims died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Hundreds of members of their families still grieve and suffer. The 19 killers did not care what religion anyone belonged to when they took those lives.
5. I’ve never read a sadder headline in the New York Times than the one on the front page this past Monday: “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?” That should make all of us so ashamed that even a single one of our fellow citizens should ever have to worry about if they “belong” here.
6. There is a McDonald’s two blocks from Ground Zero. Trust me, McDonald’s has killed far more people than the terrorists.
7. During an economic depression or a time of war, fascists are extremely skilled at whipping up fear and hate and getting the working class to blame “the other” for their troubles. Lincoln’s enemies told poor Southern whites that he was “a Catholic.” FDR’s opponents said he was Jewish and called him “Jewsevelt.” One in five Americans now believe Obama is a Muslim and 41% of Republicans don’t believe he was born here.
8. Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh blew up?
9. Let’s face it, all religions have their whackos. Catholics have O’Reilly, Gingrich, Hannity and Clarence Thomas (in fact all five conservatives who dominate the Supreme Court are Catholic). Protestants have Pat Robertson and too many to list here. The Mormons have Glenn Beck. Jews have Crazy Eddie. But we don’t judge whole religions on just the actions of their whackos. Unless they’re Methodists.
10. If I should ever, God forbid, perish in a terrorist incident, and you or some nutty group uses my death as your justification to attack or discriminate against anyone in my name, I will come back and haunt you worse than Linda Blair marrying Freddy Krueger and moving into your bedroom to spawn Chucky. John Lennon was right when he asked us to imagine a world with “nothing to kill or die for and no religion, too.” I heard Deepak Chopra this week say that “God gave humans the truth, and the devil came and he said, ‘Let’s give it a name and call it religion.’ ” But John Adams said it best when he wrote a sort of letter to the future (which he called “Posterity”): “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.” I’m guessing ol’ John Adams is up there repenting nonstop right now.
Friends, we all have a responsibility NOW to make sure that Muslim community center gets built. Once again, 70% of the country (the same number that initially supported the Iraq War) is on the wrong side and want the “mosque” moved. Enormous pressure has been put on the Imam to stop his project. We have to turn this thing around. Are we going to let the bullies and thugs win another one? Aren’t you fed up by now? When would be a good time to take our country back from the haters?
I say right now. Let’s each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It’s a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to email@example.com). If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C’mon everyone, let’s pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.
I lost a co-worker on 9/11. I write this today in his memory.
“The man who speaks of the enemy / Is the enemy himself.”
– Bertolt Brecht
Follow Michael Moore on Twitter: