A nasty little piece of prairie populism masquerading as journalism

If Congress passed a law stating that all federal judges are prohibited from supplementing their incomes save for an amount Congress decides is best, but Congress also promised that in exchange federal judges would receive cost of living increases each year, would Congress violate the law if it consistently failed to grant the judges a cost of living increase?  Isn’t the answer to that question pretty clearly “yes”?

Two cases raising these issues are percolating in the federal courts in Washington.  For background, read this piece in the Washington Post by Robert Barnes entitled A judicial salary case? No, thanks.  

Now go read McClellan: Patriot Coal case shows how federal judges live by their own rules. The piece was written by Bill McClellan, a columnist, and published in the venerable St. Louis Post Dispatch on May 31, 2013

Williams Jennings Bryan (1902) per

Williams Jennings Bryan (1902) per Wikimedia Commons

I come from Lincoln, Nebraska the home of William Jennings Bryan the great prairie populist.  (Remember Bryan’s prosecution of Mr. Scopes in the “monkey trial” or his “cross of gold speech.”) I understand, and to some degree sympathize with, present day followers of Billy B. like Bill McClellan. But, Billy M’s piece is not only one massive non sequitur, it’s a smear job.

Here is an example.  McClellan writes, “A popular song among the federal courthouse crowd is a takeoff on the Turtles’ ‘Happy Together.’ It starts, “Imagine me as God. I do. I think about it all the time. It’s only right …” The chorus replaces, ‘So happy together!’ with ‘Appointed forever!'”  McClellan never explains how this funny song poking fun at federal judges has anything to do with his story, but Billy M’s use of the song does give his piece an unmistakable populist punch:  Federal judges are arrogant pigs feeding at the federal trough and at the expense of the common man just like the bankers of Bryan’s day.

As Billy B. was prone to do, Billy M. left out something important, however.  Do you know where that song Billy M. uses to mock federal judges was first sung?  At a gathering of federal judges.


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