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Just what went on in the right-wing Republican frat house that passes for a “church” on C Street? It looks like part of the answer is to be found in Mississippi, where legal maneuvers in twin divorce and alienation of affection lawsuits have focused on a set of journals maintained by former Congressman Chip Pickering—a man widely expected to leap to the leadership of the state’s dominant G.O.P. machine before his extramarital affairs drew public attention. “While former Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi allegedly carried on an extramarital affair with Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd,” writes the Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal, “he recorded details of his exploits in a secret diary, including the dates and locations of his adulterous encounters.”
I would question the ultimate news value of another story about a “family values” Republican congressman involved in an adulterous liaison in Washington. But the real story here is about a politically influenced court system. The court should strive to enforce the law, doing substantial justice and looking after the best interests of the five children of Chip Pickering and his estranged wife Leisha. It should take into account the fact that Chip Pickering, as a public personage, is not entitled to the level of privacy and protection that a purely private individual would have—in fact, the public has a legitimate interest in knowing what he did when he went to Congress as their representative, pledging to uphold a “family values” creed. But Pickering carefully steered the case into the court of Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer, a move that proved tactically brilliant. Brewer protected him and his political position from the outset, putting the interests of his wife and five children in the shadows. Brewer is a loyal Republican with political ties to the party’s leadership, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He engineered the G.O.P.’s successful political makeover of the Mississippi courts, fueling the G.O.P. judicial slate with Washington-based lobbying money. Pickering also now works with a lobbying firm in which the Barbour family is deeply involved. Judge Brewer’s one-sided rulings include extraordinary efforts to suppress the Pickering journals and a highly improper disqualification of the wife’s counsel coupled with compelling the wife to testify without legal representation. Max Blumenthal takes us on a tour of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of politically charged justice in Mississippi, as it strains to suppress documents that could blow apart one of Washington’s most lurid scandals.
When she attempted to introduce her husband’s diary as evidence during a July 7 divorce hearing in Mississippi, Pickering’s lawyers demanded Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer keep them under seal. Though the lawyers had scant legal precedent for their request, the judge acceded, saying the diaries were prepared in anticipation of litigation and were therefore inadmissible in court. A source close to the case told me Brewer’s ruling was “incredibly outside the norm” and “outrageous.” “The court seemed in awe of Chip Pickering,” an attorney speaking on background told the Jackson Free Press, “like they had decided that were going to do everything to help him out. This was blatantly wrong.”
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”