Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thurgood Marshall Law?


I wasn't all-that-crazy about Barack Obama's latest nomination for Supreme Court Justice. Elana Kagan is hardly the progressive firebrand that I was praying for. What was needed, I felt, was someone with the heavy duty, left-leaning gravitas of the late William O. Douglas - that court's last, true Liberal. What was desperately needed was a counterweight to the five right wing extremists who are now in the process
of turning American democracy into a pile of shit. Still, she seems like a smart woman and is obviously quite learned in matters of constitutional import. Maybe she'll surprise us in much the same way Republican Earl Warren did so many years ago. I can dream, can't I?

Ms. Kagan's lack of Liberal gravitas notwithstanding, it sure was a scream watching Jeff Sessions yesterday expressing his innate terror over the possibility that she might turn out to be an out-of-control left-wing extremist. But what really had me amused was the worry he expressed about her connection to the late associate justice Thurgood Marshall. Not only had she clerked for him at one time, but (I hope you're sitting down) she actually admired him! Oh, Esther! Hand me my digitalis!

Thurgood Marshall??? Don't get me wrong; the man deserves credit for being a trailblazer. His role in the Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education case of 1954 - not to mention the fact that he was the first African American to serve on the high court - are more than enough to ensure his place in American history. But using Marshall as an example of an out-of-control, left wing ideologue is a bit of a stretch. Truth be told, he turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. While he was a fairly sensible moderate in most areas of jurisprudence, he was hardly the fire-bre
athing judicial activist that Sessions portrayed him to be during the confirmation hearings yesterday. What the hell was he thinking? Thurgood Marshall???

I have a theory that I'd like to bounce off you. Jeff Sessions is a senator from Alabama. In addition to being the state with the second highest obesity rate in the nation (Take a bow, Mississippi - YOU'RE NUMBER ONE!) Alabama has a bit of a - "history" shall we say? Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has a history as well. He was born on Christmas Eve 1946. This would have made him sixteen when all them "outside, commie agitators" were trying to integrate his beloved south. It's obvious that the man has somewhat of a problem with people who are not white. I suspect that if he wa
sn't actually there on the front lines, beating the bleeding mortal shit out of the Freedom Riders during the summer of 1963, I have no doubt that he was on the side lines cheering them on. Is this an unfair judgment on my part? Consider this: The following allegations were made against Sessions by some of his peers (who were under oath):

* He once referred to a white civil rights lawyer as a "disgrace to his race."

* On one occasion he referred a black coworker as "boy" and warned him against talking disrespectfully to white people.

* H
e routinely referred to the NAACP as "Un-American" and "Communist inspired".

It should also be remembered that he made his name as a U.S. attorney by prosecuting black people for voter fraud and once unsuccessfully persecuted a former aid to Martin Luther King on the same charge. You know the old adage: If it walks like a duck, it's a freaking duck. Senator Sessions is a racist of the worst order. He has never even tried to hide the fact.


he would accuse a wishy-washy centrist like Marshall of "legislating from the bench" might seem a mystery to some. Actually the answer is simpler than you may think. He has a deep-seated hatred, borne of generations of resentment, for the man who (more than any other man) was responsible for desegregating the school system of the deep south. To sixteen-year-old Jeff Sessions, the very idea of being forced - "by them Yankee bastards in Washington" - to sit in a classroom with "a buncha god damned niggers" was probably more than the poor boy could handle. Back in the good ol' days, Jeff and his fellow confederates-in-racial-hatred were all proud Democrats. They could never even contemplate joining the party of Abe Lincoln. That all changed when Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. By the end of the decade most of them had fled to the GOP like hounds on a coon hunt. The "solid south" was now and forever solidly Republican. And so it remains.

As President Johnson said at the time to his aides Jack Valenti and Bill Moyers, "We [the Democrats] have lost the south for a generation." It was an understatement. Say what you will about LBJ, the man had courage. But for the debacle of the Vietnam War he would today be remembered as the greatest president of the twentieth century. You broke my heart, Lyndon, but I still love you.

Since Arlen Spector's defection to the Democrats last year, Sessions is the highest ranking Republican member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Isn't that a hoot? In 1986 he had his nomination to be a judge on the U.S. District Court of Alabama
rejected because of his racist past. Are you ready for the punchline? The committee that blocked his nomination twenty-four years ago is the one he now heads. No, I'm not makin' this stuff up, folks - but I wish I was - I really do! Last week saw Joe Barton apologizing to British Petroleum. Next week will probably see Jeff Sessions apologizing to the Confederacy. Anyone care to make a little wager?

I must pause here to pay gentle tribute to Senator Robert Byrd who died early Tuesday morning at t
he age of ninety-two. He served in the Senate longer than any other person in history, having been elected in 1958 - the year I was born! Byrd's beginnings were auspicious to say the least. A former member of the KKK, he was an avowed and shameless segregationist. But the man evolved - and not for reasons of political expediency either. West Virginia doesn't have a high population of African Americans. So what happened to him? What caused him to change? It was a simple case of seeing the light. He grew - as a man and as a statesman. In 1982, when the senate was locked in a bitter debate whether or not to pass a bill that would make Dr. King's birthday a national holiday, he explained to reporters that, because of his unfortunate past, he had to be the first in line to support that bill. God bless him.

Does Jeff Sessions have the potential for that kind of growth? We can only hope - but don't hold your breath. He's no Robert Byrd.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Losing America:
Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency
by Senator Robert Byrd

Robert Byrd was one of the few who had the guts to take the Bush Mob head on. in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq. As historian David McCullough once said about Harry Truman, "He stands like a rock in history."


At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sessions middle name is Beauregard?? I could despise him on that alone.


At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Ali said...

Looking for a progressive firebrand? Regardless of anyone's spot on the political spectrum, I contend that a judge should follow laws to the letter and then original intent. For a couple reasons: many of the liberal "victories" are obvious application of the law that have been delayed, e.g. segregation and suffrage. Others dont have constitutioanl ground but could, e.g. abortion. Others have to be tampered with regardless of the clarity of the language, 1st (what is this kagan and books business) and 2nd ammendments (what is unclear about shall not be infringed?).

To my original point, there is no lack of legislating these days so govt can write all the laws it wants. The constitution has a clear method for ammendment. Add to that behind the scene regulators doing whatever they want.

The courts should be for those who read, understand, derive intent and apply and enforce law without political tension. I don't care what the circumstances. This countries due process and separation of powers depend on it.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

William in Space....

The main difference between Robert Byrd and David Duke (and it's a big one) is the fact that Senator Byrd was totally ashamed of his youthful stand on the question of segregation whereas Duke was not. As far as I am concerned, he redeemed himself. The history of the Catholic Church is full of the stories of scoundrels who became saints. While that description of Senator Byrd might be a bit much, at the end of his life he was, I believe, on the side of the angels. At least I'd like to believe so. For that reason alone I am inclined to give the old guy a tip of the hat.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 2:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Degan,

As noble as your intentions may be, I feel that you are often very callous in your repetition of racial slurs such as the words "nigger" and "coon," as well as in making light of certain prejudiced, oppressive, and anachronistic stereotypes. Now, with that being said, while I did not appreciate the "coon-hunting" joke in this post, I found it comparably tame in relation to another recent update in which you quoted Malcolm X, in deriding the admittedly contemptible Alan Keyes, as a "house nigger." While this allusion may or may not have been appropriate in context, I take particular issue with the fact that you prefaced it with the following sentence in your own words:

"To be sure, at any Tea Party gathering there can always be seen on the peripherals of the crowd a pathetic, token Uncle Tom or two, chomping the hell out of some unfortunate watermelon."

However sardonically you may have intended it -- perhaps you were attempting to make light of the Tea Party's own prejudices -- I found your iteration of this tired and despicable African-American stereotype to be abhorrent, and in all likelihood, beneath your character. Disagree as vehemently as you'd like with Tea Party conservatism -- I know I do -- but to suggest that African-Americans are incapable of coming to their own philosophical and political conclusions, even without employing ugly racial imagery about watermelons and Uncle Tom, is deeply offensive. I believe that while your heart may very well be in the right place, as a purported man of the left, you ought to be more thoughtful about the words you choose to publish on this blog. Don't resort to appalling racial "humor" for the sake of a cheap laugh, even if it is at the Republicans' expense. If it's something you'd feel uncomfortable repeating to an African-American (or member of any other demographic for that matter) in public, you'd be well-advised to keep it to yourself.


At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Ali said...

If it could be tested accurately, I would wager a large sum that there are more bigots per capita in the democratic party than among republicans and/or independents.

Use of the language mentioned above comes from someone's views either based on the color of one's skin or, as an example, for the tea parties, of another groups' disenchantment with government. Both are bias.

What is interesting is that the liberal bigots take bias a step further. They ascribe their colorful language and thought regarding certain groups (e.g., skin based bigotry) to other groups (e.g., tea partiers). I think this allows them the joy and freedom of being discriminatory in thought while blaming someone else for what they are in fact guilty of. Seems to be a common thread on the left.

Liberal bigotry ascribed to others takes many forms, implicit (e.g. affirmative action) and explicit (the language mentioned above).

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Ali said...

Electile Dysfunction

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Dear Adam,

You make some good points. Perhaps I was a bit callous - or very. I was merely trying to remind people of what it was like and the reprehensible language that was used in the context of the times in which it was used.

As far as the "coon" reference, I was referring to raccoons and nothing else. Honest.

Sorry if I offended. Part of me wants to be Lenny Bruce and the other part wants to be Mother Theresa.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 12:10 PM, Blogger P M Prescott said...

Good post. I understood the context of what you were saying concerning the mentality of racists.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Tyrone said...

Adam and Ali,

Looks to me like Tom Degan has a little of Robert Byrd's KKK blood flowing through his veins.

They must have a common ancestor somewhere in their family trees.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

I feel a lot like Lenny Bruce, being judged on the merits of isolated words while the context is all but ignored. Did you read the entire piece? Please scan my archives. The word is used as a literary device - and nothing more.

Scan my archives. I think I am on the side of the angels. At least I hope I am.


Tom Degan

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

I have to defend Tom. zUnless someone is looking for a reason to call Tom a racist there is no reason to to do so by twisting his meaning. He writes satire; get it guys?

I can vouch for the fact that there isn't a racist bone in Tom's body and I have come to that conclusion by reading his posts. As he pointed out, you have to put the words in the context of what he said and, if you do so, you will realize that no insult was intended. He was not using those words as his own, but making the point that they exist in the racist movement called the Tea Party.

Those ugly words have been used before and will be used again. Tom was, indirectly, pointing out that they are still part of the vocabulary of a racist. Please don't try to tar Tom with a racist brush. It is not fair.

I understand why a black man or woman would never want to hear, or read, those words. Unfortunately, they are part of the ugly vocabulary along with 'kike', 'wop', and other ethnic slurs. Maybe someday they will be eliminated from the lexicon, but, sadly, not in my lifetime.

Sorry, but I got off the main subject. I wrote on the Constitution on my blog today so said all I need to say there.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Ali said...

The subtle point in all of this is that is not much fun being called a racist, especially when it is not true. Personally, I believe such words used in a satirical sense and in the appropriate setting actually promote understanding. You folks should be more judicial in applying to the racist tags to others without basis. It doesn't feel so good when the racist label is aimed in your direction. On Byrd, I suspect his angel bailed decades ago.


Post a Comment

<< Home