In our third installment of RFK Jr.’s most recent “Unearthed” column, we get Kennedy’s thoughts on everything from the U.S./Mexico border fence to anticipated problems with the 2008 election to staff cuts in major media newsrooms to Justice Antonin Scalia’s fascist past…
UNEARTHED: NEWS OF THE WEEK THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA FORGOT TO REPORT
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle
More Corporate Contracts, More Incompetence
The government is scrapping a $20 million prototype of its highly touted “virtual fence” on the Arizona-Mexico border because the system doesn’t work. The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his approval of the fence built by the Pentagon military contractor, Boeing, which was awarded an $860 million contract to provide the technology, physical fences and vehicle barriers. The highly acclaimed project, a series of towers, equipped with high tech cameras and communication systems was supposed to transmit pictures of illegal aliens crossing the border in time for border agents to detain them. Unfortunately the contraption didn’t work. But no worries, Boeing will get to keep the money while it comes up with some new ideas.
2008 election likely to go unsupervised
Congressional gridlock over controversial FEC nominees has paralyzed the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which currently lacks the quorum it to effectively referee elections. A seven-month deadlock over the appointment of four FEC nominees may spell disaster for the 2008 election cycle. If Congress fails to staff the FEC in time, the 2008 elections could go virtually unregulated for the first time since the FEC was founded more than 30 years ago.
Currently, the FEC is unable to pursue investigations into alleged electoral violations, including a recent challenge lodged by right-leaning legal group Judicial Watch which filed a new FEC complaint against John McCain alleging that a London fundraiser may have involved illegal in-kind contributions from foreign nationals. A growing list of complaints that will go uninvestigated by the broken FEC.
At the heart of the Senate impasse is one of the two Republican nominees, an extreme right wing former Justice Department lawyer and Karl Rove lapdog named Hans von Spakovsky. The Democrats consider him a deal breaker and view him as one of the leading forces in the Republican Party’s efforts to use the nonexistent fear of voter fraud as a means to disenfranchise minority–and largely Democratic–voters. The Democrats have been unwilling to vote for a group of nominees that includes von Spakovsky–and the Republicans have refused to withdraw his nomination.
Supreme Court helps to curtail Democrats from voting
States can require voters to produce photo identification, the Supreme Court ruled in a split decision along party lines on April 28th, upholding a Republican-inspired law intended to disenfranchise poor, elderly, urban and minority voters. The court’s 6-3 decision rejecting a challenge to Indiana’s strict voter ID law means the ID requirement will be in effect for this week’s presidential primary in Indiana. The ruling is also expected to encourage Republican controlled state governments to adopt similar measures. As part of Karl Rove’s master strategy to disenfranchise democratic voters, Republicans have already passed statutes in twenty-five states requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot in person.
Justice Stevens said that Indiana’s desire to prevent fraud and to inspire voter confidence in the election system are important even though Indiana has never experienced a single report or incidence of the kind of fraud the law was designed to combat, i.e. someone imitating another voter in order to vote twice. The Indiana rule is designed to severely inconvenience voters, those who don’t possess driver’s licenses who tend to be elderly, poor, young, and inner city residents who tend to vote Democrat.
Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the court was willing to burden “tens of thousands of eligible voters who lack a government-issued identification while accepting at face value Indiana’s unsubstantiated claim of voter fraud.” The ACLU brought the case on behalf of Indiana voters.
Rush lies again
Rush Limbaugh applauded the Supreme Court voter I.D. ruling, telling his audience that it represents “a huge, huge, huge move forward to undercut Democrat efforts to commit voter fraud this fall.”
“Anti-voter fraud efforts this fall will be easier,” Limbaugh assured his audience, adding that “the Democrats shut down the FEC, largely to get away with more voter fraud.”
Both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), say voter fraud is virtually non-existent. A recent Department of Justice review found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews,” which turned up only 86 convictions on voter fraud charges.
On April 24, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the “resolution of disapproval” that would veto the Federal Communications Commission’s latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits.
It’s the first step toward an official congressional “veto” of the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules that gut media ownership limits.
This vote couldn’t have come at a more important moment. Just this week, Rupert Murdoch announced plans to buy his third New York newspaper — Newsday. (Murdoch already owns the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and two television stations in this one media market!)
Huge newspaper conglomerates like Murdoch’s News Corp. and Tribune Co. are spending heavily to convince Congress that the FCC rules don’t go far enough. They want to swallow up even more local media.
The New York Times braces for further staff cuts
The New York Times’ news room is bracing for a bloodbath in the next 10 days including cuts of 100 writers made necessary by the dismal newspaper advertising sales. Approximately 50 unionized journalists and 20 non-union editorial employees have accepted a buyout proposal. But with just 70 people stepping forward for buyouts, the ax must fall on as many as 30 editorial people in the company’s first-ever mass firing of journalists in its 156-year history.
Scalia Defends Bush v. Gore At Oxford Union
In a clip broadcast last week on 60 Minutes, an Oxford Union student posed Justice Antonin Scalia the following questions:
“Supposing yourself as a Supreme Court justice were granted the power to appoint the next president of the United States. Who would you pick and why? And would he or she be better than your last choice?” a student asked Scalia.
“You wanna talk about Bush versus Gore. I perceive that,” he replied. “I and my court owe no apology whatever for Bush versus Gore. We did the right thing. So there!”
Scalia Defends Bush v. Gore On 60 Minutes
Leslie Stahl, “People say that that decision was not based on judicial philosophy but on politics,”
Scalia: “I say nonsense,” Scalia says.
Stahl: Was it political?
Scalia: “Gee, I really don’t wanna get into – I mean this is – get over it. It’s so old by now. The principal issue in the case, whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn’t even close. The vote was seven to two,” Scalia says.
Stahl didn’t challenge this claim. The actual vote was 5-4 on party lines.
Scalia Blames Gore For Bush v. Gore
Scalia also told 60 Minutes that the Bush v. Gore decision was not the court’s fault. It was Al Gore’s.
Scalia: “It was Al Gore who made it a judicial question. It was he who brought it into the Florida courts. We didn’t go looking for trouble. It was he who said, ‘I want this to be decided by the courts.’ What are we supposed to say? ‘Oh, not important enough.'”
Stahl: “It ended up being a political decision”
Scalia: “Well you say that. I don’t say that.”
Stahl: “You don’t think it handed the election to George Bush?”
Scalia: “Well how does that make it a political decision?”
Stahl: “It decided the election.”
Scalia: “If that’s all you mean by it, yes.”
Stahl: “That’s all I mean by it.”
Scalia: “Oh, ok. I suppose it did. Although you should add to that that it would have come out the same way, no matter what.”
Stahl failed to challenge Scalia on this bold misstatement of fact. The media pool, led by the New York Times that? finally counted all the Florida votes found that Gore had decisively won the election.
Scalia Defends Torture Being Not Cruel And Unusual Punishment And Therefore Not Unconstitutional
Scalia: “I don’t like torture. Although defining it is going to be a nice trick. But who’s in favor of it? Nobody. And we have a law against torture. But if the – everything that is hateful and odious is not covered by some provision of the Constitution.”
Stahl: “If someone’s in custody, as in Abu Ghraib, and they are brutalized by a law enforcement person, if you listen to the expression ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ doesn’t that apply?”
Scalia: “No, No,”
Stahl: “Cruel and unusual punishment?”
Scalia: “To the contrary, has anybody ever referred to torture as punishment? I don’t think so.”
Stahl: “Well, I think if you are in custody, and you have a policeman who’s taken you into custody….”
Scalia: “And you say he’s punishing you?”
Scalia: “What’s he punishing you for? You punish somebody…”
Stahl: “Well because he assumes you, one, either committed a crime…or that you know something that he wants to know.”
Scalia: “It’s the latter. And when he’s hurting you in order to get information from you…you don’t say he’s punishing you. What’s he punishing you for? He’s trying to extract…”
Stahl: Because he thinks you are a terrorist and he’s going to beat the you-know-what out of you…”
Scalia: “Anyway, that’s my view. And it happens to be correct.”
While 60 Minutes included extensive biographical information on Justice Scalia and his family, they identify his father as “a professor of romance languages at Brooklyn College” and failed to disclose that he was a member of the American-Italian Fascist Party during Mussolini’s regime in the 1930s.
This backdrop may reveal something about Justice Scalia’s apparent comfort with enlarging corporate and government power, including the use of torture – so long as it’s not punishment.
According to Alan Dershowitz who knew Scalia’s father at Brooklyn College, Scalia got his doctorate at Casa Italiano at Columbia at a time when in order to get your doctorate you had to swear an oath to Mussolini.