Justice Scalia’s Chamber of White Privilege

I suppose I have to begin with the usual respect-for-the-departed, Scalia-towering-intellect, beloved-by-all-despite-his-views stuff, because That’s What You Do when a prominent person dies.

That’s about as far as I’m willing to go, since Scalia wielded his influence as a weapon against many causes I hold dear. For me, praising his “towering intellect” is kind of like honoring the entrepreneurial spirit of Al Capone.

Besides, the exigencies of politesse didn’t prevent Republicans from pivoting immediately to the political; clearly, Ted Cruz and others got their research teams to work right away, preparing arguments for Saturday night’s Republican debate. So if they couldn’t be bothered to go beyond the formalities, neither will I.

On to business. Found something just so chock-full of unintentional irony that I couldn’t resist writing about it, even though it has nothing to do with Vermont politics. Apologies for straying; feel free to move on to the next post if you wish.

Scalia was found dead on Saturday morning at Cibolo Creek Ranch in rural Texas.

Roughin' it, rich white folks style.

Roughin’ it, rich white folks style.

And then on Sunday morning, the Austin American-Statesman runs a puff piece in its Travel section about that very ranch!

For those unfamiliar with the ways of the press, it’s common for newspapers to pre-publish and pre-distribute their non-news Sunday sections. But still: awkward!

But when I read the puff piece, I realized what a colossal slice of unintended irony it really was. And what an unintentionally appropriate place Cibolo Creek Ranch was for Justice Scalia to end his days.

As is the case with Travel Section “journalism”, this article was an uncritical look at a 30,000-acre hideaway for the rich and famous. (Previous guests include Mick Jagger, Tommy Lee Jones and Julia Roberts!!!) The ranch is owned by “John Poindexter, a Houston businessman and multimillionaire.” It’s a place of untamed beauty that offers “terrain, climate, scenery and highway proximity.”

Yeah, maybe not so remote.

The property features three adobe-walled forts built in the frontier days of the 19th Century, now restored as guest accommodations. And here’s where the irony gets thick enough to cut with a knife.

West Texas cattle baron Milton Faver built the forts to fend off attacks by Apaches, Comanches and bandits, channeled spring water into canals to irrigate fields and grew enough peaches to make his own peach brandy.

… “It makes me very respectful of the kind of life they’ve lived, that they subsisted under such adverse circumstances,” Poindexter says.

Uh-huh. Those cattle barons sure did have it rough.

Not nearly as rough as the Native Americans they were eradicating, but after all, hardship is measured on a sliding scale: Sipping peach brandy is tougher on a rich white guy than dodging bullets is for a savage Redskin.

Just think of it: a bastion of frontier entitlement restored for the modern-day Caucasian elite. Ironically apropos for a man like Justice Scalia, who spent his career trying to turn back the clock as far as he possibly could.

Cibolo Creek’s luxurious accommodations reflect the heritage of the Southwest. Minus the Injuns, of course.

“I want them to have an appreciation for Hispanic culture and for the challenges of early life in our environment,” [Poindexter] says. “(I want them) to learn something about Texas and Mexican history and to experience the kind of hospitality and innate generosity that characterizes the Mexican and gringo elements of the population in the Big Bend.”

“Mexican and gringo,” but not Native American. Them Injuns ain’t good for nothin’ but target practice.

As for “the challenges of early life,” well, I doubt the frontiersmen enjoyed a swimming pool, hot tub, gourmet dining, and “fine sheets, down pillows and fluffy comforters.” But hey, we can’t take this wilderness-deprivation thing too far. Not when our guests are plunking down big money for a five-star getaway.

Speaking of which, Justice Scalia died peacefully in the Presidential Suite, which checks in at $800 per night. But lest you begin to fret about his public-employee bank balance, rest assured that Mr. Poindexter picked up the tab.

8 thoughts on “Justice Scalia’s Chamber of White Privilege

  1. NanuqFC

    Fortunately, amidst all the praise, there’s a refreshing look at <a href=http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaugust_2014/on_political_books/alone_on_his_own_ice_floe050664.php?page=allScalia’s Supreme Court tenure over at Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” blog:

    As A brilliant rhetorician, [Justice Scalia] was a funny and colorful writer in a profession that seemed wedded to the stereo-instructions model of prose. Scalia also exuded scholarly refinement, peppering his decisions with allusions to classical works in Latin and Greek, and parsing statutory language with precision and rigor. When cracking wise off the cuff, he pivoted on arcana like the distinction between Gothic art and Rococo.

    And then something happened. Somewhere in the mid-2000s, Scalia ceased to be a powerhouse jurist and became a crank. He began thumbing his nose at the ethical conventions that guide justices, giving provocative speeches about matters likely to come before the Court. He declined to recuse himself from cases where he had consorted with one of the parties—including, famously, Vice President Dick Cheney. He turned up the invective in his decisions. His colleagues’ reasoning ceased to be merely unpersuasive; it was “preposterous,” “at war with reason,” “not merely naïve, but absurd,” “patently incorrect,” and “transparently false.” More and more, he seemed willing to bend his own rules to achieve conservative results in areas of concern to social conservatives, like affirmative action, gay rights, abortion, gun ownership, and the death penalty. Above all, Scalia stopped trying to persuade others. He became the judicial equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, who has made a career of preaching to the choir. But Limbaugh is not merely a shock jock; he is also a kingmaker. Scalia’s position on the bench precludes any such influence. As a result, he has more fans than power.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Those who were on the receiving end of Scalia’s harsh rhetoric, and his equally harsh vision of “justice,” should feel no remorse for indulging in a brief chorus of “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead.”

      1. Jim Christiansen

        A fine example of the tasteless, discussing hate that further divides Americans. Well done John.

      2. John S. Walters Post author

        You’re welcome.

        What’s more tasteless, expressing the contempt that many Americans rightfully feel for Justice Scalia, or pretending to honor the man while simultaneously making political hay off his corpse? Yes, I’m looking at you, Republican presidential candidates and Senate leadership.

  2. Dave Katz

    Emblematic of the corruption and moral bankruptcy of the modern GOP both ideologically and personally, Scalia knew no gift he wouldn’t accept, no weak supplicant he wouldn’t bully, nor conflict of interest in himself he wouldn’t overlook. Exhibit A: Refusing to recuse himself from Bush v Gore though both his sons were working for the Bush campaign, one of whom then went on to an appointment to the Labor Department: Exhibit B: Scalia’s unabashed and unprecedented, for a sitting Justice, acceptance of trips tantamount to gifts taken with interested parties having business before the Supreme Court. Most visibly, the shooting trip with Dick Cheney, when the hapless Texas lawyer was shot in the face, and most recently where Scalia was when he died, and with whom.

    Scalia’s repugnant and shameless political hackery hid behind his habit of beating his opponents about the ears with the doctrine of strict “originalism” when it suited his bigotries and political ambition. He blithely dismissed critics who questioned him on the convenient contradictions in his rulings, telling them time and again to “Get over it!” to anyone who pointed out that Bush v Gore was outside the bounds of any previous Supreme Court performance ever in history; Shelby, CU, Montana, ACA, to name only a few–the list of political opportunism is too huge and blatant to ignore.

    I for one loathed the man, loathed the Alzheimer’s husk whose pen hand was guided to “nominate” him, and loathe the ongoing criminal enterprise masquerading as a political party that has incontrovertibly and systematically looted this nation for four decades, and all its enablers and apologists who grew fat off the swill that drips from its table. My only hope is that in the afterlife, all those who suffered as a direct or indirect result of Nino Scalia’s corruption are waiting there to have a word with him.


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