Steam Whistle News Feed – April 14, 2023

Just a quick four things this week.  Why?  Because apparently I’m obligated to fulfill a quota, because I’m paid by people to do a thing, and those people have expectations that maybe are never said outright or defined explicitly or even set down on paper in some form of legally binding contract but nonetheless are real, litigiously speaking, and very much a pain in my ass.  And, evidently, I’m falling behind.  Not living up to my expectations.  Welcome to the story of my life. 

But enough about me and my own personal problems.  How about I not make them yours, huh?

A quick four things, yes, that illustrate the ongoing, age-old power struggle in free and not-so-free societies, how the top of the narrowing, reverse power funnel does what it wants for selfish reasons, for political gain, sometimes at the cost of thousands of human lives, the personal liberties of others, and how powerful interest groups can manipulate the system to virtually guarantee it spews an outcome in their favor, reshaping the polity and norms of a society.

This sh–’s been going on since classical antiquity—ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond.  Years, into the thousands.  Since the onset of whatever kind of -archy or -ocracy a society held or fell under, throughout the history of human civilization.

But here we are again.

First off, ‘judge shopping’.  Filing a case in a particular district because the court firmly believes the same silly crap you believe.  It’s been going on for a few years now in the single-minded, single-judge division that is the Northern District of Texas.  Any of that ring a bell?  Mifepristone?  Maybe?  How about the name Matthew Kacsmaryk?  Former legal Christian activist (but, of course, the hopes and dreams don’t disappear once you get congressionally certified for your next job) and believer that anyone not completely heterosexual has some kind of brain illness.  He’s gone on paper with that nonsense, and even got busted for it.  Sort of. But, of course, it takes a virtually unliftable preponderance of evidence to upend a lifetime appointee to a judicial position in America, thank you very much Founding Fathers for being so far-sighted there.  And so here he is, feeding on cases served up to him and only him by right wing, fundamentalist legal advocacy groups and Texas’ own similarly-minded attorney general, the brave and noble Ken Paxton, because they know there’s a 95% chance he’ll be the one to rule on them, and rule how they want him to.

A litigating automaton they have themselves in Amarillo, who can only execute functions that pertain solely to his ideological programming.  And that’s why people who believe wholly in that unrealistic bubble of a fundamentally-interpreted biblical world seek out his ruling on issues that shall bring about a Christian heaven on earth, and destroy all the oddness and heresy that exists to challenge, disrupt or alter it, no matter how harmless, kind or tolerant those ideological interlopers may be. 

But the real issue here is the issue of manipulation.  Forum shopping.  Judge shopping.  It doesn’t matter where it takes place, which -archy or -ocracy, it doesn’t matter what the issue and it doesn’t matter what’s being shopped for: Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, North Korea, Hungary, Russia, Nicaragua, Syria, Israel, China—if you’re resourced enough, wealthy enough, powerful enough, networked enough, self-righteous enough and ballsy enough, you can stick your dirty little fingers into the already-dirty cogs of the state or federal machine and have it not only officiate how you want, regardless of lopsided contrary public opinion, but have it damn those who cannot, for that same reason.

This is just a terrific example of it.

Lewis Kaplan, Drew Tipton, Federalist Society president Leonard Leo and good old boy Mitch McConnell, to name a few of the power players—kingmakers and judicial royalty, all of them, who understand shaping a federal judiciary with known ideologues creates a vast part of the power structure in this country, and that the cogs that turn deep within the system happen to be always forged by the casters and interpreters of law and justice.

And then there’s Clarence Thomas. ProPublica dropped an exposé a couple weeks back into Justice Thomas’ luxurious friendship with billionaire Harlan Crow, which showed how Thomas either a.) wasn’t smart enough to fill out the correct legal forms that reveal disclosure of the favors and benefaction given him, b.) forgot he had to, c.) claimed ignorance as to the lawful protocol in which, as an adjudicator of the law, he has to engage, or d.) didn’t want anyone prying into his (what will likely amount to) illegal business. While it’s true that the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on any cases that would affect Crow’s businesses directly (the man deals in real estate, $29 billion of it), there is also no doubt Crow sees the travel, vacation and man-retreat perquisites bestowed upon Thomas as a way to tighten the power screws upon the societal cogs that operate to benefit him, his wealthy tier, his peers and his rich-get-richer way of life, much as other businessmen and women (Charles Koch and his late brother David are/were great examples) have sought the same with their financial activism and multi-million dollar Super PAC founding and funding, seeking to lurch the rule of society in their preferred direction, not only to the right but way, way up into the air—stratospheric—out and away from the rest of us on the ground who constitute the demos of American democracy.

And, really, one question about this needs asking: gifts among friends are nothing to look twice at, regardless of having “forgotten” to fill out a form or two, sure, but millions and millions of dollars handed to someone, burned up in the process, while asking for nothing more in return than “friendship”? Billionaires don’t give money away without a clear and estimably large ROI. It doesn’t take a Supreme Court Justice to comprehend that.

Back in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is publicly pushing for the pardon of a convicted murderer, because the man’s only crime was killing a leftist protestor, which is no crime at all to the governor, merely an egregious miscarriage of justice in having found him guilty and an outrage to future leftist-protestor-killers everywhere. Especially when a stand-your-ground defense can be peripherally mounted. Which, according to eyewitnesses to the killing, wasn’t at all the case. Which I’m guessing the jury already knows. It’s sticking your dirty little fingers into the machine when the machine had been doing its job properly, and having it spit out an unjust product tailored specifically to your purposes, and your purposes are more important than the rule of law.

And, finally, drafting men to fight in Ukraine for the Russian Federation—the well-informed, kind, caring, warm, thoughtful, approachable, democratically-minded Vladimir Putin rounds out our list of this week’s immune benders-of-rules.  The a—hole autocrat can continue to throw human fodder at his effort to subjugate independent nations of the former Soviet Bloc, but not without making his own people wise up, refuse indoctrination and hate him even more in the process.  The call to arms has been added to electronic portal in Russia known as Gosuslugi, the same one Russians use to gain access to many state and municipal services, so now no one can claim to not have received one, and can have seriously restrictive measures leveled at them if they don’t heed it. 

It’s tightening the screws, all over again.  To steer the machine in whatever direction you like, to bring you to your destination and your destination only.  Only this time, it’ll be thousands more lives that’ll be lost in the process.  None of which will be Putin’s, or anyone close to him.