Eric Holder: the triumph of tokenism

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Word has been leaking like a sieve from the catacombs of Washington power about an interesting list of cabinet appointments. First, Obama appears to have selected former Clinton Administration Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder as his choice for Attorney General; finally, a Black appointment. Folks were beginning to wonder. The Holder appointment is not exactly Earth shattering and has been on the radar for several months.

Having met Obama in 2004, Holder was immediately impressed with the Senator’s depth and the feeling was mutual. Along with President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, Holder oversaw the vetting process that facilitated the unimpressive addition of Joe Biden to Obama’s ticket.

A longtime Justice Department lawyer, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and a former DC Superior Court Judge, Holder is qualified to become Attorney General and it is my contention that Hillary would have appointed him as well as a sop to black folk for having defeated Obama through ruthless and deceptive means.

Holder, 57, is a standard issue establishment Negro who is safe, unimaginative, competent and compliant. As a partner in Covington & Burling, he has profited from his firm’s flacking for Halliburton’s bloated no-bid contracts and for other corporate predators like the Southern Peru Copper Corporation that left a trail of environmental devastation, economic dislocation, and a populace suffering from the deleterious health effects of toxic lead contamination.

While defending corporate criminals like Southern Peru Copper from any accountability for their crimes against the defenseless poor under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Covington & Burling has an interesting record of pro-bono work that has established the Fifth Amendment rights of Guantanamo detainees and defended abortion rights against the right-wing. Moreover, they’ve won a number of significant and high profile employment discrimination lawsuits on behalf of people of color.

What bothers me about Holder, though, is the law firm he is a partner in and what that ultimately says about Barack Obama‚Äôs oft stated ‚ÄúChange We Can Believe In.‚ÄĚ

Yolanda Young, a writer, fellow blogger at spadeproject.com, and former staff attorney at Covington Burling, has written of the firm’s culture of face saving tokenism.

Staff attorneys are non-partner track lawyers who handle the menial legal tasks–generating binders and attaching “relevant” or “not relevant” codes to thousands of emails, spreadsheets, and any other documents associated with a particular case–that associates shun. While paralegals have their own offices, as many as ten staff attorneys share windowless file rooms. Segregated from other lawyers in the firm, we go uninvited to attorney-only firm functions and are not provided jury duty or maternity leave. The base pay and bonus structure is half that of a 25 year old first year associate’s.

Blacks at Covington comprise less than 5% of the Washington office’s partners and associates, but make up 30% of its staff attorneys. A peek at the firm’s website doesn’t reveal this since, unlike all other lawyers there, staff attorneys aren’t pictured. Were they, a peculiar pattern would emerge.

In a Legal Times essay, “The Unqualified Myth,” Veta T. Richardson, Executive Director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association wrote, “Law firms claim to have consistent hiring criteria, but their ranks are actually filled with exceptions to the rule. These exceptions are more likely to be white lawyers.” Indeed, Covington’s black staff attorneys (like its black partners and associates) hail from top law schools like Harvard, Duke and Georgetown while several white associates and partners attended schools like Catholic, Kentucky and Villanova (all ranked well below 50). Taken as a whole, the black staff attorneys’ average law school rank is higher than that of white staff attorneys at the firm.

Blacks bought into the notion, stressed by legal literature, ranking systems and law firm recruiting departments, that investing in a top legal education is paramount for those wishing to work at top law firms. It’s disheartening to then discover that the black student who borrows $120,000 to attend Georgetown will only earn half that of the white associate who’s [sic] paid $60,000 to attend the University of Maryland.

Covington began stockpiling its staff attorney ghetto with blacks and other minorities in 2005, shortly after the General Council of some of the country’s largest companies joined Roderick A. Palmore, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary of Sara Lee in taking a tougher stance on law firm diversity. Signed by hundreds of General Counsel, this new “Call to Action” states they will retain firms that demonstrate a level of diversity reflective of their employees and customers and end their relationship with firms “whose performance consistently evidences a lack of meaningful interest in being diverse.”

Covington has certainly diversified its firm; however, its attorneys are far from equals. The vast majority of Covington’s black attorneys do no substantive work; have no control over their case assignments and no opportunity for advancement. This seems to be just the sort of structure the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned against in its 2003 “Diversity In Law Firms” report which stated, “In large, national law firms, the most pressing issues have probably shifted from hiring and initial access to problems concerning the terms and conditions of employment, especially promotion to partnership.”

Having worked in the private sector, I’ve experienced both subtle and blatant forms of employment discrimination.¬† The politics of corporate diversity, in my view, is nothing more than a deceptive shell game.¬† I have worked for an organization whose CEO was a black man, the first ever, and still been subjected to retaliatory racism that led, in part,¬†to my resignation.¬† Whatever feelings about race I may have, I come by them honestly.¬†¬† It’s troubling to hear about better educated black¬†professionals¬†in supposedly high prestige workplaces being subjected to disparate treatment while a prominent black partner did little or nothing about it.

The Justice Department, in a sense, is the most powerful law firm in the world.¬†The¬†Bushites in control for the last eight years have done their level best to destroy it by turning it into a¬†partisan dumping ground for the most¬†far right hacks in their stable of fools.¬† They have conspired to undermine the administration of justice, facilitated torture and spied on the american people without¬†probable cause.¬†If a black partner in one of the most powerful Washington law firms can turn a blind eye to the discrimination in his own firm, I have to question why Barack Obama believes he is the right man to become Attorney General of the United States at this time. Finally, if he’s confirmed, I fear that Holder is just another token incapable of delivering anything resembling “Change We Can Believe In.”

 

Michelle and Laura tour the White House

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After arguing passionately over proposition 8, I feel that you all could use some humor.  This is my first attempt at humor in a long while.   It stops when I am depressed and I am trying to recover.

I understand Michelle Obama got a grand tour of their new digs the other day and a little birdie told me that this is how it went down.

Mrs. Bush: (with clenched teeth and squeezed butt cheeks)¬†¬† Welcome to the White House, Mrs. Obama.¬† It is a (makes air quotes) “fabulous honor” for me to introduce you to the loyal household staff and give you the grand tour of the entire residence and state rooms.

Mrs. Obama: Mrs. Bush, the cameras are gone.  You can cut the act.

Mrs. Bush: Whew. ¬†Thank You.¬† I didn’t know how long I could’ve kept up the act.¬†¬†The truth of the matter is that you people¬†frighten me.¬†¬†I just don’t know¬†what this world is coming to.¬† Your husband’s election over a perfectly good white man is just not right if you ask me.

Mrs. Obama: No damnbody asked you.

Mrs. Bush: Anyhoo, I’ve had two Xanax and two Bloody Mary’s so we need to make this quick before they kick in.

Mrs. Obama: I can handle it from here. Don’t you have some embarrassingly servile House Negro who can show me around while you sleep it off?

Mrs. Bush: Condi is either shopping for shoes or in the Middle East and George fired that turncoat Colin Powell four years ago.

Mrs. Obama: No, Ma’am.¬† I didn’t mean those embarrassingly servile House Negroes, I meant the¬†Black servants¬†that wait on you hand and foot like they’re still on a plantation.

Mrs. Bush: Ron Christie, Armstrong Williams, and Alphonso Jackson are no longer with the Administration, dear.

Mrs. Obama: Nevermind. I see your (makes air quotes) “medication” is beginning to kick in.¬† Let’s just move on.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, this is the White House Red Room, one of the White House’s many color themed historic parlors.¬†¬† In keeping with this theme, your husband could entertain his many socialist and communist sympathizers and collaborators as they plot to redistribute the hard earned wealth of the the richest 1%.

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Mrs. Obama: Since were on the red theme, is this the room where your husband concocted the twin red herrings of weapons of mass destruction and yellow cake uranium from Africa as a pretext for war in Iraq? Cat got your tongue?¬† That’s what I thought. Why dontcha just keep it moving.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, this is the famous Lincoln Bedroom that¬†the previous president kept as busy as a brothel on a Saturday night by wheeling his wealthy campaign¬†donors in and out at lightning speed. Needless to say, we’ve restored the room to its intended purpose.¬† How do you people plan to honor President Lincoln?

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Mrs. Obama: The best way to honor President Lincoln, Mrs Bush, is to unify the nation and preserve the union he so vigorously defended, unlike your draft-dodging, chickenhawk husband, and to work across the aisle with mutual respect and bipartisanship.

Mrs. Bush: Michelle, dear, here we have the historic Treaty Room as renamed by Jacqueline Kennedy, your role-model.¬†¬† Speaking of Mrs. Kennedy, I do hope that you can keep better track of your husband than Jackie could. Democrat wives seem to have a problem in that department.¬† Anyhoo, The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in this room by President Kennedy in 1963. Your husband can use the room to surrender our nation’s sovereignty to the U.N. and leave us defenseless in the War on Terror.

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Mrs. Obama: Treaties, now that’s a concept I wasn’t aware the Administration knew anything about.¬†¬† Have you ever heard about the Geneva Conventions?¬† No?¬† Neither has GeeShrubya.¬†¬† As for keeping track of my man, nobody whose ever worked for Barack ever slipped up and referred to him as “my husband,” like your girl, Condi.¬† I know my man, but it must be sheer torture wondering whether your husband has a taste for brown sugar, honey.¬† Barack certainly does, and as you can see, (with both hands on her hips) that’s one mission he accomplished when he married me.

Mrs. Bush: (Flustered) Well I never…

Mrs. Obama: That probably explains alot.  Can we wrap this up?

Mrs. Bush: Last on our tour is the Diplomatic Reception Room, which serves as an entrance to the White House from the South Grounds for the members of the first family and for visiting dignitaries and ambassadors arriving to officially present their credentials to the President.¬† Y’all can use this room to pray to Mecca five times a day and receive all your terrorist supporters like Ahmadinejad and Hamas.

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Mrs. Obama: Diplomacy.¬† Now that’s another concept I am certain y’all aren’t familiar with.¬† How could you be…what with your preoccupation with preemptive war and indiscriminate bombing of defenseless civilians and all.¬† It’s hard to find time to grapple with the complexities of international law and the rules of war when your wars are just shameless grabs for oil and economic supremacy.

Mrs. Bush: Mrs. Obama, that concludes the official tour. Is there anything else you’d like to see?

Mrs. Obama: You mean other than seeing you, Lynn Cheney, and Mrs. Rumsfeld visiting your husbands in federal prison?

Mrs. Bush: Yes.

Mrs. Obama: I’d really love to see you carry your flat ass upstairs and pack.¬† Your time’s up.

obama throws hillary a lifeline

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The jaw dropping news broke yesterday of the President-Elect’s “secret” meeting with Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Triangulation, Hillary Clinton, about the biggest plum he has to offer-appointment as Secretary of State.¬† He also reportedly met with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who dropped out early and endorsed Obama in a dramatic gesture long before Obama clenched the Democratic nomination.¬† The corporate media dutifully reported the “Team of Rivals” concept advanced by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book about Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet.

I’m not buying it.

I have no choice but to take seriously this trial balloon on Hillary’s behalf by the Obama team.¬† Hopefully, something I say will deflate this travesty before a colossal misstep occurs.¬† I have no idea what “turning the page” on the past is supposed to mean if the Clinton’s are magnanimously appointed to a sinecure in the new Administration.¬† What happened to “No Drama Obama?”¬† If the Clinton’s are known for anything, it’s drama.¬† I thought this new regime had limits on carry on baggage. The Clintons will bring enough to crash Air Force One.¬† I don’t mean no harm, as we say, but I’m tired of these people.¬† The only time I want to hear from Hillary Clinton is from the Senate floor, not from Foggy Bottom.

Once she and Bubba dipped a toe and then submerged the primary battle into the well of racial resentment and xenophobia, that should have killed any talk of a cabinet appointment in its crib.   Hillary can kiss my hind part, no offense.  During the heat of the primary battle, Hillary Clinton sighted a USA Today poll in Indiana and North Carolina:

I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on…Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.

Her performance at the convention and campaign trail was admirable, but it doesn’t make up for appealing to the unjustified fears of white voters skittish about a brotha occupying the Oval Office.¬† There are some lines you don’t cross and a penalty must be paid.¬† After reading an assortment of PUMA slights on various blogs, my opinions have hardened on this score.

For all we know, the President-Elect coulda told her in June that he would consider her for Secretary of State and that bought her cooperation.¬† We won’t know for sometime.¬†¬† Hillary lost and Barack won.¬† Its time he acted like it.¬† I’d appreciate it if he ripped out a page rather than just turning it.¬†¬† John Kerry, Bill Richardson and¬† Susan Rice are far more deserving.