Tag Archives: US Supreme Court

The Complicated Legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor

21 Sep

Complicated Woman

It was 30 years ago today that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female United States Supreme Court Justice. She is part of the King Ronnie legacy.  You remember Reagan, he was the Republican who raised taxes several times–the Republican who expanded government.  O’Connor, like the President who appointed her, also helped to move a national conversation to the right.

O’Connor had a history of being the “swing vote.” Her classmate at Stanford Law School was William H. Rehnquist, who would be the Chief Justice for most of O’Connor’s tenure on the court. Like many women of her generation, she was unable to get a job as an attorney after graduating from law school.  Blatant sex discrimination was a harsh fact of life in the all boys club of “justice.”  She was offered positions as a legal secretary, but not as a practicing lawyer. It was not until the early 1970s that her career as an attorney started to take off–yes, O’Connor did benefit from the Women’s Lib movement of the 1970s–She Made it After All. 

For the lion’s share of her career, O’Connor gained the reputation of being a conservative justice, aligning her votes with the conservative Rehnquist over 93% of the time. Her reputation as “swing voter” did not happen until the composition of the court became increasingly conservative with the appointments of Scalia and Thomas.  Even with a far more conservative court, she still managed to support the conservative opinion more that 80% of the time.

I can only imagine how difficult it was to be the first women in an all boys club and I give her full credit for her courage and patience.  However, I must at the same time confess my bitter disappointment for her vote in 2000 to suspend Florida’s ballot recount, which was tantamount to appointing George W. Bush as President of the United States.  I would love to ask her how she feels about that vote today? I certainly would not want that as my legacy.

To further complicate my feelings about O’Connor, she became a favorite of mine when she went to Iowa to very politely admonish the bigoted mobs that eventually ousted the Iowa Supreme Court justices for supporting marriage equality.  Unfortunately, the bigoted mobs of Iowa did not hear the wise words of O’Connor.  I hope to one day meet this impressive and complicated woman and I hope to be able to interview her.

Oprah Turning her Back on Women for Walmart

12 Mar

Oprah: I expected better from you.

At this point, most people are aware that the plaintiffs in Dukes v. Walmart Stores allege that Walmart systematically discriminated against more than one million women in its promotion and compensation practices.  On March 29, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on whether the women should be allowed to move forward with their case as a class. Walmart has a  long established history of being a puppet for right wing voices and a history of long standing misogyny/homophobia, and poor treatment of their employees.  For those of you that decry: “Just let them go somewhere else and work,” you have not been paying attention. When Walmart moves into towns it wipes out all competition and small mom and pop businesses, so there is no other place for working class folks to get a job. This class action lawsuit brought by over 1 million women has been in the news for a long time; granted it is not getting the coverage it deserves.

So how does this tie into Oprah turning her back on women?  Well, I must confess, that I try not to watch the Oprah Winfrey show, but I did catch an episode where she was celebrating a family that had sextuplets due to fertility drugs.  To my astonishment, Oprah gave free airtime to Walmart and glorified them as some type of National Philanthropy organization. Oprah are you really that out of touch with what is going on in the real world? Do you not pay attention to how corporate America now controls laborers? What message do you send when you glorify WalMart on your show? To make matters worse, the case is going before the Supreme Court and we all know how pro-woman the Fecal Five are. Scalia’s son is representing Walmart in this case. Does it not seem ethically sound for Scalia to recuse himself from this case?  Click here to take action! Oprah, I would never diminish the pioneering work you have done for women and specifically for black women, but WOW, you missed the mark on this one.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Lex Kahn

13 Feb

Welcome to the second interview in the series about the Millennial Generation.

Most of you know Lex Kahn as a contributor to The Solipsistic Me. His witty and poignant Wednesday’s Word of Week post I look forward to with great zest. I am grateful for Lex agreeing to be interviewed for the Millennial Generation series.  After you read his interview, you will fully understand my exuberance in having him as a regular contributor to the blog.

Lex grew up near Reading, Vermont. His life has been contained for all of his 28 years in a small geographic area, hence his great passion for literature and wanting to expand his world. Although a Reagan baby, he still qualifies as part of the early Millennial generation. His father was Jewish and his mother was raised Methodist. While Lex certainly has the cultural literacy of growing up in a Christian world, he does not identify with any particular religion.  He did both his undergraduate and graduate work in Vermont.

Politics

Outspoken leftist. I was raised by a strongly anti-war Socialist father and a wannabe hippie mother who rebelled against her fairly straight-laced parents until she realized they were traditional but not conservative. I don’t have any patience for dogma without foundation, opinions without facts, or loud voices saying nothing.

LGBT Issues

I’m proud to be an outspoken straight ally of the LGBT community. I started out in the “so-what” camp, believing that there was no reason to care about anyone’s sexual orientation. I was actually the biggest prude in my family for years, frequently embarrassed by the frankness of my farming grandparents and very open-mined and outspoken parents. As I grew a political skin in college, I began to realize that sexual orientation and sex were two different things. More importantly, I discovered that just taking acceptance for granted would never move things forward for the gay people I cared about.

My best friend from my second week of college, Drew, has been out-and-proud since he was 16. He’s also very politically active. I credit him with much of my activism and political awakening.

I truly believe in the Kinsey scale and I also believe that some people move up and down the scale (at least a little bit) throughout their lives. I’m confident and comfortable in my choice to be heterosexual J and believe everyone should be respected wherever they fall on the continuum. As long as anyone is denied rights because of who they are or who they love, all of society is tarnished.

Frame of Reference

The most pivotal moment for me was the Bush v Gore decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush President. The November 2000 election was my very first as a voter. I was excited and energized. Al Gore wasn’t my ideal candidate (and Sen. Lamerman was worse), but the choice for America’s future was clear. W turned out to be so much worse than we could have ever imagined. As with most of my friends, this dealt a horrific blow to our faith in democracy. Why should we engage in the political process if our efforts could be swept away by judicial fiat? Some of my acquaintances were so embittered that they still don’t vote. Fortunately, many of us recovered enough to use this moment as a catalyst for action. That was not easy.

I suspect for most of my generation (and many others born in the last half of the last century), the most pivotal event would be the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. I can’t minimize this event, but its impact on me was blunted by family circumstances. My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2001 and died on November 11. It was hard to notice the world, much less respond to such huge events in the face of that kind of personal tragedy. I don’t want to trivialize the loss of life on Sept. 11, but I also think that the Supreme Court decision indirectly had at least as much impact on America. If Gore had been President, how would the actions of the next few months have differed? What would America be without the cynical posturing and illegitimate wars that W grandstanded out of our national tragedy? It’s almost too much to ponder.

Biggest Anxiety

That history is a cycle and we’ll never actually make any progress. Grant becomes Harding becomes Bush. Wilson becomes Reagan. Dred Scot becomes Citizens United. The wage gap and the decaying education system serve the powerful so effectively that I wonder if we can break the cycle. Unfortunately, the overall standard of basic comfort – even for any but the most abjectly poor – is sufficiently good to provide distractions and numb any instinct to rebel. Why protest health care repeal when American Idol is on and the fries are still hot? I see a great deal of political conscience in my peers but not a lot of will to action. Signing online petitions feels great, but it doesn’t move things forward. I hope that as the recession really ends and more of us find our paths that we can remember to be engaged and not become complacent.

Biggest Dream

Can I have two, or is that cheating?

I want to write something that really matters. I don’t know yet if it will be fiction or history, but there’s an important story brewing in me that will emerge someday. In the meantime, I enjoy honing my craft wherever I get the chance.

Even if the writing doesn’t emerge as I hope, my dream would be that when I’m in my waning years some flock of younger people will look to me and say, “That Lex, he really helped me see things in a new way.” I’m not a teacher per se, but I want to lend my words and deeds to others in some meaningful way.

I suppose that’s a selfish dream, in a way, but if I know even a small group improved themselves and their communities because of me, that would be a success.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’ll go back to my answer about my biggest dream here. I want my mark to be my voice. I yearn to know that something I’ve said will matter enough to this world that it will live on long after me and inspire others.

Failing that, I’d be thrilled to write an entire paragraph that is fully alliterative, no breaks.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Despite my cynical words when describing my Grand Anxiety, I believe this generation has the ability to push the barriers and really make a difference in how the world works. We’re reasonably well educated, we have good tools; we have the opportunity to understand how things all fit together. Statistically, we don’t care about differences as much as individuality. (Meaning, I don’t care how you differ from me – by race, class, sexual orientation, and so on – as long as you respect me as an individual.) That makes us powerful forces for change if we can harness the power of that individuality in some collective way. If we can look past our immediate toys and tribulations and work together in person, we can really make a difference.

US Supreme Court Gets One Right: Something Nice About Scalia

25 Jan

North American Stainless, Stained by wrong doing!

Eric Thompson was dismissed from his job at North American Stainless, despite that he received good evaluations and raises through the years.  Could there have been darker forces at work?  Could his sudden dismissal been connected to the fact that his finance had filed a sex-discrimination complaint against the same company?  While the lower courts ruled in favor of North American Stainless, protecting corporate America and sacrificing individual citizens, it is a pleasure to report that the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Thompson, and he may now go back and file a lawsuit for retaliation by his bosses.

Those of you that follow this blog, know I am a harsh critic of Scalia, however I am always willing to give credit where credit is due.  Scalia wrote on behalf of the court:

We think it obvious that a reasonable worker might be dissuaded” from filing a complaint “if she knew that her fiancé would be fired.”

Well done!  The larger question for me is, does this now help set a precedent that will offer equal protection for the LGBT community.  I would argue it does!  Click here to see the full article.

 

Number 2 Bigot of the Year Award

30 Dec

How appropriate that the Fecal Five should be the Number 2 Bigot of the Year Award.  The Fecal Five earn this dubious award because they hold so much power and influence that they have paved the way for the corruption of justice, rather than preserving justice.  These five men have helped to give voice to the right wing fringe that decry human rights and work to dissolve and erode common decency. In the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission case, the US Supreme Court, specifically the Fecal Five, stated that corporate funding cannot be limited when supporting political candidates–translation, the rich can buy themselves an election, as witnessed by this midterm election with the financial backing of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the millions of dollars spent by the Koch Brothers who are in bed with Rupert Murdoch of Fox News!  These billionaires gave a blank check to the Tea Party during the election–hope Rand Paul and Marco Rubio sent them a proper thank you note.  As a country we need to be very very scared of Mike Huckabee–he will be one very well financed Tea Party presidential candidate.  Stay tuned tomorrow to see the Number 1 Bigot of the Year.

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