August 28, 2007
“Newspaper endorsements tend to count for lower offices and offices people don’t know much about,” says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior scholar at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California. “Superior Court judge?” she says. “I use the L.A. Times because I don’t know anything about the judges who are up for election and reelection. … You’re talking about a city as large as Los Angeles. The only coverage a low office like a judgeship, for example, might get is the endorsement.” –“What’s the Point?” –American Journalism Review, Oct. 2004
When’s the last time you met a judge? Who are they, and how do they get there? Chances are your first encounter with one will be if you’re on the wrong side of the law or at the ballot box. And that’s just local judges you vote for during regional and national elections. There are others, including federal court judges, who are appointed by the president of the United States and have to be confirmed by the Senate in accordance with Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Then there are judges that sit on secret courts, such as our own Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), who can survey evidence and decide who to spy on without their knowledge. And if you don’t know who these judges are, you could be absolutely screwed.
Of course, that depends on who you are and where you live, or which God you pray to, depending on the court and the conflict at hand. But in times of terror such as our own, all of these players merge into what Orwell called Big Brother, what the Wachowski Brothers called The Matrix or, more simply, what Americans call the Bush administration. And if that sounds alarmist to you, then perhaps it’s time to take a peek at how your civil liberties have been doing with not just the federal judges but also the FISC itself. You might find after sifting through the information that better knowing your judges–and their decisions–might save your ass.
Lesson One: The Catch-22
Joseph Heller’s legendary novel Catch-22 made its name as a commentary on madness. In order for its protagonist Yossarian to get out of fighting in World War II, he had to prove he was crazy. Yet it takes sanity to argue you’re mad. Worse, even if the military finds you competent for service, the hyperreal lunacy of war will eventually drive you mad anyway. That’s the rabbit hole, as well as a pretty good introduction to the White House’s current defense of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program.