Book by John Maxwell
How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists
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The Artful Dodger
By John Maxwell
My friend, Queen’s
Counsel Vivian Blake, was a man of unimpeachable integrity as
well as a great lawyer, one of the very greatest. A few years
before he died he told me a joke about his own profession.
Three men, he said, were in
line for the chief executive’s job at a certain company and
the selection board was having a difficult time deciding between
them. Finally the Chairman convinced the Board to leave the
selection to him.
He called in the first
candidate, an engineer, bluff and straightforward.
How much is two and
two? the chairman asked.
‘Why!’ said the
engineer, ‘Two and two is four. Any fool knows
The chairman called in
the second candidate, An accountant, neat and precise.
‘How much is two and
‘It depends on
whether they are side by side, in which case it is 22 or
if they are to be added, in which case it is four.’
The third candidate
was a lawyer, formal and correct.
When he was asked the
same question as the others he hesitated, looked
carefully round the room, then went to the windows, drew
the curtains, made sure the doors were locked and,
satisfied that all was secure, asked the Chairman:
“How much do you
want it to be?”
Scalia than Thou.
The selection of a new Justice for the US
Supreme court may seem miles away from Jamaica and our concerns.
In reality it is very important to us. The US Founding Fathers promised
that the US would pay decent respect to the opinions of other
nations, to the concerns of the rest of the world:
President Bush’s latest nominee to
the US Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito has dismissed the rest
of the world as of no account. In this he was going against
years of precedent in which the courts of the world, including
the US, increasingly look at decisions in other
jurisdictions for guidance in deciding difficult or novel
The President of the United States has made
it abundantly clear that what happens outside the United States
is of no concern to him unless he believes it involves the
security interests of the United States. Those interests can be
broadly interpreted, as for instance, in the American kidnapping
of Aristide from Haiti or the invasion of Iraq.
And the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza
Rice has made it plain that there is one law for the US and
another for the rest of the world. In a speech two days ago, she
complained about the offensive behaviour of the Iranian
president, who she said, has been openly confronting the
international system since his inauguration. He is clearly, not
entitled to follow the example of Mr Bush. And Mr Bush and his
minions are quietly closing the curtains and locking the doors
against the intrusion of the real world.
The appointment of Judge Alito to the Supreme
Court is another, and decisive move to clothe the President of
the United States in an impunity which will protect him against
foreign and domestic criticism.
He will be able to order torture, domestic
espionage and whatever else he chooses, backed by a Supreme
Court which will soon be even Scalia than it has been. The only
hope for us is that Judge Alito’s finicky nature will put
Clarence Thomas in his proper place and provoke him to rebel.
Except that Clarence may prove even more Step’n Fetchit than
The Senate Judiciary Committee attempted to
elicit Mr Alito’s views on a variety of subjects, to get a
feel of the man they were asked to appoint to a lifetime job as
one of the nine supreme arbiters of the Laws of the United
States, and increasingly, of the laws governing the planet.
Mr Alito did to the senators what the
Senators might have thought about doing to him. He filibustered
them into impotent frustration. A most meticulous man, who can
quote obscure precedents off the top of his head, he
could not remember simple facts. One of them was why he had
thought, 20 years ago, that he might gain preferment by
mentioning on a job application that he had been a member of a
racist, misogynist and activist student ‘eating club’
at Princeton University. This meticulous man, who can probably
remember the last occasion on which he belched, somehow
overlooked his promise to recuse himself from any case involving
the mutual fund (unit trust) in which his millions are invested.
Yet, in his sedulous campaign to cover his
tracks, Mr Alito did provide some important clues to his
probable behaviour of the new right-wing majority on the Supreme
The New York Times, not exactly a fire
breathing liberal hangout, said on Thursday:
“Some commentators are complaining that
Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been
exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We
learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert
Bork – whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of
his legal extremism – "was one of the most outstanding
nominees" of the 20th century.
We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v.
Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts
did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge
Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.
Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells
that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge
Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of
the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American
people reasons to be worried – and senators reasons to oppose
his nomination. “
The New York Times then goes on to
detail serious shortcomings it has detected in Judge Alito’s
judicial makeup, among them:
• “Evidence of extremism,” in
his unqualified praise, for Robert Bork, an extreme right-winger
who was rejected by the Senate when he was nominated for the
Supreme Court in the 80s.
• “Opposition to Roe v Wade,”
the landmark case giving American women the right to abortions.
• ”Support for an Imperial
presidency.” By backing an extremist concept known as
the ‘unitary presidency” Alito supports almost unlimited
power for the President, superseding the idea of checks and
• Insensitivity to ordinary Americans’
Professor Martin Garbus says “ Alito's
muffled views on race and gender, two of the most important
issues facing the country, are pernicious. Alito does not attack
women or African-Americans directly. He just refuses to believe
In relation to a specific case alleging
discrimination Garbus says: “…Alito wanted to use Barbara
Sheridan's case to do more. He wanted to change the burden of
proof in Civil Rights discrimination cases – make the employee
prove racial, gender or age discrimination rather than placing
the burden on the company to prove they had a valid reason for
firing her. That seemingly small procedural change would reverse
the result in well over 90% of discrimination suits.”
• Doubts about the nominee’s honesty. The
Times is concerned about his evasions on his membership of that
notorious Princeton club and his evasions about his recusal
avoidance in the mutual fund issue. The New York Times is
disturbed by all this and says “The debate over Judge
Alito is generally presented as one between Republicans and
Democrats. But his testimony should trouble moderate
Republicans, especially those who favor abortion rights or are
concerned about presidential excesses. The hearings may be short
on fireworks, but they have produced, through Judge Alito's
words, an array of reasons to be concerned about this
nomination. ”They do indeed trouble moderate Republicans and
The National Association of Women
lawyers find Alito unqualified to be on the Supreme Court
because of his known and explicit hostility to women’s rights:
NAWL’s rating of not
qualified from a women’s rights perspective is the
result of its evaluation of Judge Alito's writings,
including his judicial record. On those women’s rights
issues that he has addressed, Judge Alito has shown a
disinclination to protect or advance women’s rights.
Our concern also recognizes that Judge Alito will be
replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a
decisive vote in a number of cases involving the rights
of women and laws that have a special impact on
jurisprudence in the area of women’s rights has not
been restrained, as some have characterized his general
judicial approach; rather, he has too often engaged in
strained legal reasoning to effect a narrowing of
women’s rights beyond the intent of statutes and
By filibustering the committee, Judge Alito
has managed to slip under the fence and seems now likely to be
appointed to the Supreme Court. Part of the problem is that the
Senate cannot compel the people before it to answer their
questions. Another is that the Republicans are breeding a cadre
of right-wing lawyers who are careful to cover their tracks so
that they can indeed slip under the radar and under the fence.
The scenario reminds me of a novel from the
70s – The Boys from Brazil, in which effectively, the
notorious Nazi experimenter Dr Mengele, managed to clone a
number of little Hitler’s in seclusion in Brazil, from where
they would be let loose upon an unsuspecting world to inaugurate
the Fourth Reich, worldwide.
A Coup by any other name
One of the more poignant moments in the
hearings came close to the beginning, when Senator Patrick
Leahy, himself the child of immigrants, asked
Alito how could he, with his immigrant background, allow himself
to be associated with the neo-Nazis of the Princeton
undergraduate eating club. As in most other questions, there was
no real answer.
When W. E. B Du Bois, a century ago,
prophesied that the problem of the twentieth century would be
the problem of the colour line, he was a hundred years too
The problems of lynching and discrimination,
of segregation and an apartheid culture were more or less blown
away during the twentieth century, although huge elements remain
as the prison population of the United States and the economic
situation and disfranchisement of blacks bears witness.
But there was a much more subtle danger lurking beneath all that
and it came from an area Du Bois would never have
It came out of the new American racist
fundamentalism best expressed by the Mormons combined with the
dream of deliverance nurtured by immigrants fleeing persecution
or economic distress in Europe, mixed with the myth that wealth
was there for the taking (“Go West, young man’) and the
the nostrums of Horatio Alger plus the preachments of Ayn Rand
“selfishness is the only virtue”.
Mr Bush’s recommendation that Creationism
be taught in schools is simply another excuse to provide another
pseudo-scientific justification for Mormon-style biblically
The world would be perfect if only it were
left to the Chosen People, and the German ethnic minority –
until quite recently the largest in the US – has historically
been more than simply sympathetic to the doctrines of Hitler,
Himmler, Goebbels & Co.. It was not an accident that these
doctrines were sympathetically embraced by American capitalists,
including Henry Ford and President Bush’s grandfather, Senator
The ties of American and German capitalism
were weakened but not broken by the second world war. In time,
even the Jews of the United States, mainly central Europeans
themselves, began to be seduced by these new gospels. Alan
Greenspan keeps Ayn Rand by his bedside and reads a text from it
every night before he goes to sleep. The neocons, Jews and
Gentiles alike, are trapped in the same hysterical myth.
This noxious mix came to a somewhat premature
flowering in Murray and Herrnstein’s “Bell Curve” in which
paradise was a gated world, secure from assault by blacks and
other ‘races’ without the law, pullulating in their indigent
misery – without hope of posterity or prosperity.
It is an ideal well expressed by one of my
correspondents two weeks ago. He said:
In reference to your
recent Jamaica Observer article "The war against
civilisation" all I can say is why don't you go and
perform a physically impossible act on yourself. In
other words, go screw yourself.
As a WHITE American
who happens to own guns, a big comfortable single family
home, three cars, and an annual income in the six
figures, I don't much care what you think of me or
President Bush. As a supporter of Bush I am a proponent
of cutting off the U.N. from all U.S. funding and
cutting foreign aid to 0%. That would include all
funding to squalid backwater countries like Jamaica.
Sorry John but as a
well-off white anglo-saxon protestant male American I
don't much give a shit about places like Jamaica,
Africa, and other countries of their ilk. I Especially
don't like places with so many people "of
color". That's the way the majority of we
Americans are. We're the best and we've got it good and
you don't. Get over it.
My reply to him was succinct:
If you don't give a
shit about what I say why are you writing?
I should be beneath
You have a six digit
income and a double digit mind – a lethal combination.
You can't get over
The problem is, of course, that the world
cannot get rid of the Alitos and their ilk by sarcasm.
In his opening statement, Senator Patrick
Leahy said that he would be asking questions to ensure that the
American people got a judge worthy of the Supreme Court. “That
means knowing more about Samuel Alito’s work in the government
and knowing more about his views. I will, as the judge knows,
ask about the disturbing memorandum he wrote to become a
political appointee in the Meese Justice Department. In that, he
professed concern with the fundamental principle of one person,
one vote, a principle of the equality that’s the bedrock of
He got no answer to that question nor to any
Copyright © 2006 John Maxwell
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posted 14 January 2006