Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Reading

The Death of Antonin Scalia — Evan Osnos in The New Yorker looks at what lies ahead now that he’s gone.

Scalia gesture 02-14-16The abrupt death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—the fiery, funny, polarizing face of the Court’s modern conservative turn—ended a chapter in legal history and opened a political battle of a kind that America has not seen in decades. The bitter divide of this Presidential election season—over visions for the economy, national security, and immigration—has widened to include the ideological composition of the nation’s highest court.

At seventy-nine, Scalia was the Court’s longest-serving Justice, a father of nine, and an outsized personality who thrilled conservatives and infuriated liberals like nobody else in Washington. Though he maintained close friendships with some of his combatants, including fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and always hired a “token liberal” among his clerks, he openly relished the political implications of the Court’s affairs. Ever since he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, in 1986, he dedicated himself to combating the notion of a “living” Constitution that evolves in step with the nation. The very announcement of Scalia’s death was accompanied by a political declaration. In the first official notice, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the rule of law.”

The 2016 election has become a contest not only to determine control of the White House and the Congress but also to shape the future of the Supreme Court. The next President was expected to make multiple appointments to the court. (On Inauguration Day, Ginsburg will be nearly eighty-four, Anthony Kennedy will be over eighty, and Stephen Breyer will be seventy-eight.) With Scalia’s death, the partisan composition of the Court is now already up in the air. In a hastily arranged address on Saturday night, President Obama said he planned to name a nominee, over the protests of Republicans who could seek to prevent the Senate from voting on it. “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor, in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to carry out its responsibility for a timely vote,” he said. The issues at stake, he added, “are bigger than any one party. They are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his life.”

The outcome of the process has the potential to reshape American law on abortion, affirmative action, voting rights, energy, campaign finance, and many other issues. The political effects on the Presidential race cut in multiple directions: Will the suddenly inescapable vision of, say, a Cruz Presidency and a Cruz-chosen nominee bring more Democrats to the polls? And to which Democrat does that benefit accrue? Will the risk of a Sanders Court inspire evangelical voters to consolidate behind a Republican choice?

As news of Scalia’s death spread, hours before a Republican debate, the call for a moratorium on political strategizing around the news, in order to honor his achievements, was brief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that, in effect, called on President Obama to refrain from naming a replacement and allow the Court to operate with eight Justices. “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said.

Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who was a clerk for former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, agreed, marking Scalia’s passing in a tweet: “We owe it to him, and the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on Obama to nominate a replacement immediately, saying, “The Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible.” Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, called for the Senate to “delay, delay, delay” if President Obama attempts to name a successor.

Hillary Clinton said that Republicans who want the seat to remain vacant until the next President is in office “dishonor our Constitution” for partisan reasons. Bernie Sanders, who defeated Clinton last week in the New Hampshire primary in part by presenting himself as a different kind of politician, avoided any mention of the political implications: “While I differed with Justice Scalia’s views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing.”

When Obama does nominate a successor to Scalia, that could set the stage for a Republican filibuster in the Senate. If there is a filibuster of a nominee, it will be the first time that has occurred since 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson, blocked by Senate Republicans and Southern Democrats, reluctantly withdrew the nomination of his confidant Abe Fortas, whom he had appointed to the Supreme Court three years earlier, to succeed Earl Warren as Chief Justice.

That drama began in June of that year when Warren, a Republican known for his liberal decisions, informed Johnson that he intended to retire. Just months before Election Day, Johnson moved swiftly to nominate Fortas as a successor to the Chief Justice. But it emerged that Fortas had attended White House staff meetings, briefed Johnson on Court deliberations, and pressured senators to limit their opposition to the Vietnam War. Moreover, Fortas had been paid outside his salary to speak to students at American University. The Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen and others withdrew their support—sparking the first and, so far, the only Senate filibuster over a Supreme Court nomination. (Scholars and partisan opponents have debated, ever since, whether it was technically a filibuster or another form of parliamentary procedure, though Laura Kalman, a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has said that “Abe Fortas and L.B.J. are spinning in their graves at the notion there was no filibuster.”)

While the White House weighs potential nominees, the courts and Presidential contenders face a range of puzzling implications. What will happen if the Supreme Court reaches a tie in any of the cases that are currently before the Justices? (The lower court ruling would stand but would not set a legal precedent.) Is there any liberal nominee who stands a chance of winning confirmation in a Republican-controlled Senate? (Early bets landed on Federal Appeals Court Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American jurist who has worked in both Democratic and Republican Administrations.) In his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Srinivasan won, in 2013, that rare achievement for a Democrat in today’s Washington—unanimous confirmation, with praise from Republicans.

It’s Not Just Flint — David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz report that a lot of cities and towns have bad water.

“I know if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself if my kids’ health could be at risk,” said President Obama on a recent trip to Michigan.  “Up there” was Flint, a rusting industrial city in the grip of a “water crisis” brought on by a government austerity scheme.  To save a couple of million dollars, that city switched its source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a long-time industrial dumping ground for the toxic industries that had once made their home along its banks.  Now, the city is enveloped in a public health emergency, with elevated levels of lead in its water supply and in the blood of its children.

The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive.  In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.   As little as a few specks of lead in the water children drink or in flakes of paint that come off the walls of old houses and are ingested can change the course of a life. The amount of lead dust that covers a thumbnail is enough to send a child into a coma or into convulsions leading to death. It takes less than a tenth of that amount to cause IQ loss, hearing loss, or behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency responsible for tracking and protecting the nation’s health, says simply, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

President Obama would have good reason to worry if his kids lived in Flint.  But the city’s children are hardly the only ones threatened by this public health crisis.  There’s a lead crisis for children in Baltimore, Maryland,Herculaneum, Missouri, Sebring, Ohio, and even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and that’s just to begin a list.  State reports suggest, for instance, that “18 cities in Pennsylvania and 11 in New Jersey may have an even higher share of children with dangerously elevated levels of lead than does Flint.” Today, scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead for children and at least half of American children have some of this neurotoxin in their blood.  The CDC is especially concerned about the more than 500,000 American children who have substantial amounts of lead in their bodies. Over the past century, an untold number have had their IQs reduced, their school performances limited, their behaviors altered, and their neurological development undermined.  From coast to coast, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, children have been and continue to be imperiled by a century of industrial production, commercial gluttony, and abandonment by the local, state, and federal governments that should have protected them.  Unlike in Flint, the “crisis” seldom comes to public attention.

Hollywood Comes to Cuba — Victoria Burnett reports for the New York Times on lights, camera, and action in newly-reopened Havana.

Cuba PosterDuring a shoot for the Showtime comedy series “House of Lies” last month, Don Cheadle sat outside a cafe in Old Havana, puffing on a fat cigar and clinking glasses with three compadres.

It was a novel scene — an American actor filming an American TV show on a Cuban street — and one that, until last month, would have been illegal under the United States’s economic embargo.

But regulations published by the Treasury Department on Jan. 26 now allow Americans to shoot scripted movies and shows in Cuba for the first time in half a century. The rules opened the door to American projects — which could include scenes for the next “Fast & Furious” movie and an Ethan Hawke film — and to collaboration between Hollywood and the island’s underfunded film sector.

“The world just got bigger because Cuba has become accessible,” said Matthew Carnahan, creator of “House of Lies.”

As a location, Cuba was inspiring, if challenging, he said, but added, “I’m dreaming up reasons to go back.”

A stream of American filmmakers needing to hire Cuban equipment and crews would be a boon to the country’s independent production industry, which sprouted in the late 1990s as digital technology made filmmaking more accessible and state money for movies ran dry.

Some Cuban filmmakers worry, though, that their government will open its arms to Hollywood while continuing to give its own filmmakers the cold shoulder. Independent production companies in Cuba operate in a legal limbo, getting little or no funding from the state and often struggling to get their movies past the censors.

“It’s great that people from Hollywood want to come to Cuba, but it’s caught us at a bad moment,” said Carlos Lechuga, a Cuban director. “We have stories to tell, and right now we don’t feel that we can do that.”

The thaw between the United States and Cuba in 2014 prompted a swell of inquiries from Americans eager to shoot there. The next “Fast & Furious” installment may be partly shot in Cuba, a spokeswoman for its studio, Universal Pictures, said, adding that the company “is currently seeking approval from the United States and Cuban governments.”

And Cuban filmmakers have been fielding inquiries. “There isn’t a day that I am not meeting with a potential client from the United States,” said Oscar Ernesto Ortega, 29, whose El Central Producciones produces music videos, commercials and documentaries for clients like the Puerto Rican band Calle 13 and Red Bull Media House from offices in Miami and Havana.

Boris Crespo, founder of BIC Producciones, in Havana, said he had been working flat out for the past year, providing production services for Conan O’Brien’s four-day visit to Cuba last year and the History channel’s “Top Gear,” which filmed an episode in Cuba in January.

Mr. Carnahan, who worked with Island Film, another Havana production company, said he was struck by the “passionate” crew and the quality of Cuban actors. (The “House of Lies” shoot was planned before the new regulations went into effect, so producers had to get a license from the Treasury Department.)

What Cuba is missing, he said, are decent cellphone connections, fast Internet access and even “basic things — hammers — things that we don’t give much thought to.”

And the process of procuring shooting permits was extremely slow, he said.

Mr. Crespo said that the state-funded Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry “drowns in its own bureaucracy.”

The Strip from The New York Times (Doonesbury’s site was off-line at the time of publication.)

The Strip 02-14-16

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back/Looking Forward

It’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

They did all that except actually pass the bills for President Obama to veto.  Instead they putsched John Boehner and replaced him with Paul Ryan who will more than likely face the same nutsery in 2016.

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Nailed that one except for the last sentence.  But to be fair I don’t think anyone had Donald Trump on their betting sheets a year ago, and if they did, it was more for the entertainment value than serious consideration as a Republican candidate.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

More’s the pity.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

Except for my overly-optimistic prediction on the Dow, this pretty much came true, even down to the price for gasoline: I paid $1.99 last night in Miami, which is not the lowest-priced city in the country.  President Obama is not getting any credit whatsoever for helping the economy improve, which he should, but then the Republicans never blamed Bush for crashing it in the first place.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

Happy dance, happy dance.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

The embargo is still in place as a matter of law, but for all intents and purposes, it is crumbling.  U.S. airlines and cruise ships are setting schedules, direct mail service is resuming, and travel there has become routine.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

Oh, shut up.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I hold them in the Light.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

This was a productive year for me on the writing front: several plays of mine were done either in full stage productions or readings, and more are on the way.  No, I did not finish a novel yet.

Now for the predictions for 2016:

  • Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.  I have no idea who she will beat; I don’t think the Republicans know, either, but she will win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be a decisive win.  The GOP will blame everybody else and become even more cranky, self-injuring, and irresponsible.
  • The Democrats down-ticket will do better than expected by taking back the Senate and narrowing their gap in the House.  This will be achieved by the number of voters who will turn out to vote for them in order to hold off the GOP’s attempt to turn the country back over to the control of white Christian males.
  • The economy will continue to improve; maybe this is the year the Dow will hit 19,000.  The limiting factor will be how the rest of the world, mainly China, deals with their economic bubble.  I think a lot of the economic news will be based on the outcome of the U.S. election and the reaction to it.  If by some horrifying chance Donald Trump wins, all bets are off.  Economists and world markets like stability and sanity, and turning the U.S. over to a guy who acts like a used car hustler crossed with a casino pit boss will not instill confidence.
  • ISIS, which barely registered on the radar as an existential threat to the U.S. and the west a year ago, will be contained.  There will not be a large American troop presence in Syria and Iraq thanks in part to the response by the countries that themselves are being invaded by ISIS.  Finally.
  • Refugees will still be pouring out of the Middle East, putting the strain on countries that have taken them in.  It will be a test of both infrastructure and moral obligation, and some, such as Canada, will set the example of how to be humane.
  • Maybe this will be the year that Fidel Castro finally takes a dirt nap.
  • The Supreme Court will narrowly uphold affirmative action but leave room for gutting it later on.  They will also narrowly rule against further restrictions on reproductive rights.  And I am going out on a limb by predicting that President Obama will get to choose at least one more new justice for the Court, an appointment that will languish in the Senate until after the election.
  • Violence against our fellow citizens such as mass shootings will continue.  The difference now is that we have become numb to them and in an election year expecting any meaningful change to the gun laws or the mindset is right up there with flying pigs over downtown Miami.
  • Marriage equality will gain acceptance as it fades from the headlines, but the LGBTQ community’s next front will be anti-discrimination battles for jobs and housing.  It’s not over yet, honey.
  • We’re going to see more wild weather patterns but none of it will convince the hard-core deniers that it’s either really happening or that there’s anything we can do about it.
  • The Tigers will not win the division in 2016.  (Caution: reverse psychology at play.)
  • On a personal level, this could be a break-out year for my writing and play production.  I don’t say that every year.
  • A year from today I will write this same post and review what I got right and what I didn’t.  But stick around and see how I do on a daily basis.

Okay, it’s your turn.  What do you see for 2016?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Full Court Press

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) thinks he can get rid of marriage equality by appointing justices who will overturn the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling last summer that made it legal.  Here he is on NBC yesterday with his logic:

CHUCK TODD: Are you going to work to overturn the same sex marriage?

MARCO RUBIO: I disagree with it on constitutional grounds. As I have said–

CHUCK TODD: But are you going to work to overturn this?

MARCO RUBIO: I think it’s bad law. And for the following reason. If you want to change the definition of marriage, then you need to go to state legislatures and get them to change it. Because states have always defined marriage. And that’s why some people get married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator. And in Florida, you have to wait a couple days when you get your permit. Every state has different marriage laws. But I do not believe that the court system was the right way to do it because I don’t believe–

CHUCK TODD: But it’s done now. Are you going to work to overturn it?

MARCO RUBIO: You can’t work to overturn it. What you–

CHUCK TODD: Sure. You can do a constitutional amendment.

MARCO RUBIO: As I’ve said, that would be conceding that the current Constitution is somehow wrong and needs to be fixed. I don’t think the current Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage. That belongs at the state and local level. And that’s why if you want to change the definition of marriage, which is what this argument is about.

It’s not about discrimination. It is about the definition of a very specific, traditional, and age-old institution. If you want to change it, you have a right to petition your state legislature and your elected representatives to do it. What is wrong is that the Supreme Court has found this hidden constitutional right that 200 years of jurisprudence had not discovered and basically overturn the will of voters in Florida where over 60% passed a constitutional amendment that defined marriage in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

CHUCK TODD: So are you accepting the idea of same sex marriage in perpetuity?

MARCO RUBIO: It is the current law. I don’t believe any case law is settled law. Any future Supreme Court can change it. And ultimately, I will appoint Supreme Court justices that will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed.

Let’s get a couple of points out of the way.  With the understanding that I’m not a lawyer and so my interpretation of the law is based solely on what I’ve read in the history books by people who know a lot more about the law than I do, let’s dispense with the idea that the Supreme Court cannot overturn state and local laws that impose discrimination on its citizens.  If that were truly the case, then Mr. Rubio is also in favor of overturning Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which undid discrimination in public schools, and Loving v. Virginia (1967), which ended bans on interracial marriage.  The Loving case is truly the precedent for the Court saying that state marriage laws cannot bar certain people from being married.  It didn’t say anything about marriage licenses or who can perform the ceremony, so Mr. Rubio is setting up a strawman argument with his line about Elvis impersonators.  The King’s Invokers can still do the ceremony in Vegas and Florida can still make you hold off your hunka hunka burning love for a couple of days.

Second, in order to have the Court review a case, there has to be a federal court ruling that challenges the freedom for same-sex couples to get married.  In other words, there has to be someone who can show damages to themselves as a result of the ruling.  That’s called “standing.”  So far no one has been able to prove that they suffered any damages because the gay couple next door decided to get married.  That was the crux of the argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), also known as the Prop 8 case, and why it was thrown out by the Supreme Court.  So unless there’s someone out there who can maneuver a case through the courts that passes the standing tests as set forth by this ruling (much less the laugh test), there won’t be a challenge to Obergefell v. Hodges to rule on no matter who Mr. Rubio thinks he will appoint to the court.  And even if there is, the Court is rarely inclined to overturn precedent, especially their own.

Be that as it may, Mr. Rubio’s bigoted view of marriage reminds us that electing a president brings with it the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court and given the actuarial tables and nature, the next president will probably have that duty thrust upon him or her.  As I am fond of reminding voters, there’s more at stake in those three little words — The Supreme Court — than just who gets the most electoral votes.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Supremely Racist

During oral arguments in the University of Texas affirmative action case at the Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Antonin Scalia let it be known what he really thinks.

Referencing an unidentified amicus brief, Scalia said that there were people who would contend that “it does not benefit African-Americans to — to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.”

He argued that “most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”

“They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re — that they’re being pushed ahead in — in classes that are too — too fast for them,” Scalia said.

He later noted, however, that they sure do have rhythm.

Short Takes

San Bernardino couple plotted attack two years ago.

Chicago Mayor Emmanuel demands sweeping police reforms.

President Obama took a swipe at Donald Trump while commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on a University of Texas affirmative action case.

Planned Parenthood shooter proclaims he’s a “warrior for babies.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Short Takes

Trump calls for complete ban on Muslims entering America.

F.B.I. talking to man who bought the guns used in the San Bernardino massacre.

Supreme Court refuses to hear assault weapons ban case.

Opposition wins big victory in Venezuela.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases were down slightly last year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Three Little Words

This is your occasional reminder that when you vote for a president, you’re also voting for the person who will select the next person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And with people like this on the Court, it’s even more important to remember that.

“What minorities deserve protection?” he said rhetorically. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

“What about pederasts?” he asked. “What about child abusers?”

“This is a deserving minority,” he went on, jokingly. “Nobody loves them.”

While I’d never wish harm to anyone, in the case of this little troll the vacancy can’t come soon enough.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Short Takes

The Supreme Court stays Texas abortion law.

The Supreme Court lets controversial lethal injection method stand.

Greece’s debt crisis freaked out the stock markets.

Some southern states are going along with marriage equality.

Someone else I don’t care about is no longer on TV.

The Tigers had the night off.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Roberts Rules: You’ll Never Be Equal

Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges was, compared to the rants of Justices Thomas and Scalia, “measured,” but it still embraced a chilling view of the gay community, basically telling us “Okay, you can have your marriages and we’ll smile politely and indulge you, but you will never be equal to the straight world because you had to go to court to force us to accept you.  If you had just waited for us to come around, everything would have been fine.  But no, you had to go and spoil it all by making some of us rule in your favor.”

I find it disturbing that the Chief Justice would take such a petulant and patronizing tone.  Suppose he said the same about blacks wanting desegregated schools or women wanting to vote: Just wait, we’ll get to you.  That’s not how it works, Your Honor.  Injustice doesn’t go away by itself.

Footnote: There’s a remarkable bit of irony in one of Justice Roberts’ sentences: “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”  Funny, that’s what we said about Bush v. Gore.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage Equality Wins

From SCOTUSblog:

Marriage Equality 06-26-15

NBC News:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday made marriage for same-sex couples legal nationwide, declaring that refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the Constitution.

The landmark ruling will produce the most significant change in laws governing matrimony since the court struck down state bans on inter-racial marriage almost 50 years ago.

The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“The constitution promises liberty to all within its reach,” Kennedy wrote.

At long last, I’m a full citizen of the United States.

Update: The final paragraph from Justice Antony Kennedy’s majority opinion:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

That’s all we wanted.

US-JUSTICE-GAY-MARRIAGE

This Could Be The Day 3

Okay, we got Obamacare safely past the Moops invading Spain and Justice Scalia’s argle-bargle, and Fair Housing survived, too.  Today the Supreme Court will hand down more rulings, possibly the Big One on marriage equality.

Knowing what drama queens they can be be, they might hold off the climax until the last possible moment which is next Monday, making the afterglow that much sweeter.  But maybe they’ll announce the ruling today so we can celebrate over the weekend.

Yes, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of marriage equality.  They have already tipped their hand by allowing lower court rulings in marriage equality cases stand, and now 36 states and the District of Columbia allow it.  Those wedding bells cannot be unrung.

The only question will be by how much: 5-4, 6-3, perhaps even 7-2 with the firm dissents coming from Scalia and Thomas, neither of whom seem to have gotten over the fact that gay people are allowed to live and work among them.  I doubt that unlike Brown v. Board of Education, the Chief Justice is not working behind the scenes to make the decision unanimous.

In 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren thought it was important for the Court to render a unanimous ruling on school segregation so that there would be no room for doubt about the Court’s intent.  Even though there were some justices who thought separate but equal was just fine, Justice Warren, who was first a politician — he had been the governor of California before Eisenhower appointed him — knew how to make the case and probably did some dealing to seal the decision 9-0.  He also was able to get the Court to rule unanimously in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia, the case that ended the bans on interracial marriage.

This time around, though, there will be dissent by the two or three because no matter how obvious it may be to the average person, there are those who believe that their infantile obsession with icky gay sex and the specious argument of religious liberty trumps the equal rights clause of the Constitution.

Let them weep and wail and tell us they will not “abide by” the ruling.  Fine, what are they going to do?  Stand outside the weddings and scream?  Not marry their secret f-buddy that they drop in on when they tell their wife they’re going to Home Depot?  They have no standing; they cannot stand in the metaphorical schoolhouse door.

If the ruling doesn’t come down today, we can wait until Monday.  It will be worth it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This Could Be The Day 2

Keep an eye on the Supreme Court at 10:00 a.m. ET for delivery of opinions on a number of cases, but foremost on the minds of most watchers are King v. Burwell (Obamacare) and Obergefell v. Hodges (marriage equality).

Those in the know say that we’ll probably get Obamacare either today or tomorrow and marriage equality on Monday.

We shall see.

Update: Obamacare is upheld.  Here’s the ruling.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nerdvana

It is somehow reassuring that all is not lost when you have a justice of the Supreme Court quote a comic book when rendering an opinion on the complexities of patent law.

”The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).”

It will be the acme of nerdity when Antonin Scalia renders an opinion in his native language, Klingon. Qapla’!

Monday, June 22, 2015

This Could Be The Day

We’re getting near the end of June, which means the Supreme Court will be handing down the hot potato rulings.  They’ve already issued the easier ones — how hard was it to decide that a Confederate flag license plate was offensive? — so now we get to the tough cases such as marriage equality and subsidies for Obamacare.

To the outside observer, both cases should be easy calls: the Fourteenth Amendment and the basic idea of American democracy holds that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law and that includes what the Court determined nearly fifty years ago to be a “fundamental right:” that of letting people choose who to marry without state interference on the basis of innate qualities such as race.  As for the Obamacare subsidies, it’s clearly a question of nitpicking one sentence in a 2,000 page law that got by the proof-readers, and we will find out if indeed the Moops invaded Spain.

The Court has such a full load that they’re also handing down rulings on Thursdays, so we have today, Thursday, and a week from today to find out.  Stay tuned.

Update: No marriage or Obamacare ruling today.

Update II: The Court has now added this Friday as well.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Short Takes

Dylann Roof, the suspect in the Charleston shooting, has been extradited from North Carolina.

Haitians in the Dominican Republic face deportation.

F.C.C. says phone companies can ban robocalls.

Supreme Court upholds Texas ruling against Confederate license plate.

The Tigers and Reds were rained out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Short Takes

At the G7 summit, President Obama pledged more help for fighting ISIS.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York thinks the escaped prisoners from Dannemora had inside help.

Former South Carolina policeman indicted for murder for shooting an unarmed man in the back.

Texas policeman put on administrative leave for pulling his gun on teens at a pool party.

The Supreme Court rules that Congress cannot tell the State Department what to put on passports.

The Tigers had the night off.  They go up against the Cubs tonight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Annals of Minority Outreach Ctd.

As if the Republicans haven’t already done enough to turn away Hispanic voters — and shallowly tried to make up for it by pushing their cute little first-Communion kid out on stage in the person of Marco Rubio — now they’re hot on the trail of a case that will go before the Supreme Court next term that could fundamentally change the way voting districts are drawn.

This is based on the transparently xenophobic suit brought by conservatives from Texas who claim that districts should be created not on the number of people living in it but on the number of eligible voters.  No longer will it be one person, one vote, but one voter, one vote.

Adam Liptak at the New York Times sums it up.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

A ruling that districts must be based on equal numbers of voters would move political power away from cities, with their many immigrants and children, and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas.

It’s not enough that the GOP has already rigged the voter registration rules to favor their party by basically re-instituting Jim Crow-levels of requirements for registering voters; now they want to claim that the only people who should be represented are voters, as if they are the only people who live in a particular district and for whom the legislatures and Congress should work.  What’s next: only landowners can vote?

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post sees this as the next wave of GOP mainstreaming a fringe idea.

…before long, every Republican is going to decide that they firmly believe, as the most fundamental expression of their commitment to democracy and the vision of the Founding Fathers, that only eligible voters should count when tallying population to determine district lines.

One thing to watch out for as this plays out is the role of the conservative media. If I’m right, very soon you’re going to see Fox News hosts and radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh doing segments on this case, in effect instructing conservatives on what’s at stake and how they should think about the issue. That consistent drumbeat won’t only affect the conservative leaders and rank-and-file, it could even affect the Supreme Court justices, who will hear the arguments being made in the media in support of these plaintiffs. After a while, a legal theory that sounded absurd will begin to seem at the very least to be mainstream. In short order, there will be universal agreement on the right. And it could have a real impact on political power even if the plaintiffs lose.

Isn’t it ironic that in the 200-plus years that this country has been in existence that only until the former minorities — women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other unwhite unChristians — start to gain both population and political power that the folks who believe in smaller government and more freedom suddenly discover that the rules have to be changed to maintain their rickety perch of power.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Short Takes

Iraqi forces will try to re-take Ramadi.

Texas, Oklahoma and the Plains can’t catch a weather break.

The Nebraska Senate will try to override the veto of the death penalty repeal.

Cleveland and the DOJ have reached a settlement on their policing.

One person/one vote will be tested in a case before the Supreme Court next fall.

The Tigers beat the A’s 1-0.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Supremely Stupid

Mike Huckabee, who will never be president of anything, continues to prove that he should never be allowed near any form of power other than the adapter on a Dust-Buster with this spewage of religious bile and historical ignorance.

Republican presidential candidate Mick Huckabee insisted on Sunday that the president of the United States would not have to follow a ruling that struck down bans on same-sex marriage because the Supreme Court was not the “Supreme Being.”

“You seemed to indicate that as president, you wouldn’t necessarily obey court rulings, even the Supreme Court,” Fox News host Chris Wallace pointed out during an interview on Sunday. “We have operated under the principle of judicial review since the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803.”

According to the GOP candidate, the United States would be operating under “judicial supremacy” instead of judicial review if bans on same-sex marriage were to be struck down.

“Presidents have understood that the Supreme Court cannot make a law, they cannot make it, the legislature has to make it, the executive branch has to sign it and enforce it,” Huckabee said. “And the notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government.”

“The Supreme Court is not the supreme branch,” he added. “And for God’s sake, it’s not the Supreme Being.”

Huckabee wondered what would happen if the Supreme Court ruled on “who was going to be the next president.”

“We would say, ‘Well, they can’t do that.’ Why can’t they do it? They can’t do it because it’s not in the law,” he opined. “We are sworn to uphold the Constitution and the law. And it has to be consistent and agreed upon with three branches of government. One can’t overrule the other two.”

Setting aside the fact that apparently Mr. Huckabee was not paying attention in Grade 6 Social Studies when most kids learn about the three branches of government system that we have and that one of the roles of the Judiciary is to review the laws and does have the power to invalidate them, chuckling over the cute little “Supreme Court v. Supreme Being” quip, the statement that gets my attention was his fear of what would happen if the Supreme Court ruled on “who was going to be the next president.”

Yes, indeed, what would happen?

Fortunately for the sake of the country and what’s left of the separation of church and state, the best that Mr. Huckabee can hope for is that Fox News will take him back.  If not, there’s always the role that Junior Samples played on the reboot of Hee Haw.