The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

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Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia's Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

Breaking Gnus: Koch Bros Sue Over “One Man-One Vote”

Hot on the heels of the Supreme Court’s latest ruling that Freedom of Speech means anyone can spend any amount to get their candidate elected, the Koch Brothers seek to expand this notion of Freedom of Speech, arguing that restricting voting rights to one vote per person is an impermissible restriction on their freedom of speech.

Anyone should be allowed to vote as many times as they can afford, the lawsuit alleges, arguing for unrestricted mail-in ballots.

Constitutional Law scholars note that the “one man-one vote” doctrine was never written into the Constitution, effectvely conceding that the Koch Brothers’ lawsuit might prove persuasive before the Roberts’ Court.

“After McCutcheon and Citizens United, it’s only a matter of time before free speech, money, and voting rights will be treated as equals under the Constitution” one scholar, who asked to remain anonymous, commented. A constitutional amendment to overturn those decisions was deemed highly unlikely to ever garner enough support to become part of the supreme law of the land.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Breaking Gnus: Supreme Court Allows For-Profit Corporations the Right to Impose Their Religious Beliefs on Workers.

Dateline 9/26/14: The Zoo’s “Way-Foreward Machine” brings us the news from 6 months hence. It all began with a simple question:

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli.

And with that, the door for Corporations to dictate health care was swung wide open. Ironically, the Affordable Health Care Act, or ObamaCare as it was more popularly known, did not force Corporations to pay for abortions – just offer health insurance that would cover such procedures.

But, with the Supreme Court paving the way, every employer soon jumped on the bandwagon. Within months, the health insurance landscape was in ruins as corporation after corporation, small business after small business, began demanding that they dictate their employees health insurance based on the religious beliefs of the board of directors or individual business owner, as the case may be.

Faced with literally millions of demands for differning coverages based on the ideosyncracies of the religions of millions of business owners, the Insurance Industry simply gave up. No company could write policies that covered enough people to be economically viable. Company after company simply stopped writing health insurance.

Now, 6 months later, the only health insurance in the United States is Medicare. Yes, even the companies that underwrote Congress’ health insurance stopped.

So, on the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, Congress must face the polital piper. Religious Freedom protected individual, for-profit corporations from providing health care. But the Government must act in a manner that neither promotes one religion over another, nor any religion over no religion. Will Congress step up to the task of seeing that every American has a right to health care? Or will we have to elect new representatives that will?

OPEN THREAD
OPEN DISCUSSION

(P.S. The “Way Foreward Machine” is only capable of showing one of may possible futures. The actual future may be different than the one depicted here. Indeed, by publishing the Way Foreward Machine’s prediction, the future may have already been altered.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, 6/26/13: SCOTUS DECLARES MARRIAGE UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!

The Supreme Court of the United States just issued its long-awaited ruling on the gay marriage cases pending before it. In a stunning decision that surprised constitutional law scholars on both sides of the aisle, the Supreme Court struck down marriage as unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Scalia, the high court ruled all marriage laws violate the Constitution. “Nowhere in the Constitution is marriage mentioned.” Scalia’s opinion stated. “As a strict constructionist, if it isn’t in the Constitution, the government has no business regulating it.”

“Our founding fathers knew about marriage, and if they wanted to include marriage in the Constitution, they would have. But the Constitution is silent on the issue. One searches in vain through the Federalist Papers and other correspondence written between the founding fathers for any mention of marriage as a Constitutional right.”

“On the other hand, the pecadillos of Ben Franklin are well-known. And that Thomas Jefferson fathered out-of-wedlock children is indisputable.”

“But the case was made, and the point well taken, that marriage is a sacred institution, ordained by God. That being said, the First Amendment compels but one decision, and one decision only. All laws respecting the institution of marriage impermissibly impinge on the First Amendment’s “wall of separation” between church and state.”

“While prohibiting some people from getting married based solely on their gender may be violative of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection mandates, we do not reach that decision today. For today we must reach a different conclusion. And that conclusion is that all laws respecting the sacred institution of marriage are unconstitutional and are hereby declared null and void.”

Justice Thomas concurred, writing, “What he said.”

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD, AND WILL REMAIN SO, UNTIL DEATH DO US PART

THE Watering Hole, Wednesday, 7/11/12: The New Republican Conspiracy

Tweeter scoops the Mainstream Media yet again.

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO PRIVATIZE THE COURTS

According to Tweeter, The Zoo’s investigative journalist par excellance, a vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is planning an unprecedented assault on the federal judiciary:privatization.

Under their plan all Federal Courts, except for the Supreme Court, will be held privately. There is, however, a raging debate as to whether they will be owned by one or more individuals or a Corporation. A few billionaires are insisting that private ownership is the only way to truly have an independent judiciary, while others extoll the advantages to a publically traded judicial corporation.

“Imagine the thrill of holding stock in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals” one anonymous insider told Tweeter. “Decisions that once were, well, not very interesting for the common folk, suddenly take on a whole new light when the value of your investment is at stake. With publically traded courts, everyone can invest in the judiciary. This takes jurisprudence out of the Court Room and puts it into the Board Room, where it belongs.”

Tweeter contacted a Constitutional Law Scholar for further background on this controversial plan to give ownership of the judicial branch to the public. The scholar, who chose to remain annonymous, said:

Article III of the Constitution states:

“The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”

This means every court below the Supreme Court is a creation of Congress, by statute. So, if Congress wants to privatize the federal judiciary, that will likely pass a constitutional challenge. Let’s face it, if Congress wanted to do away with the federal court system in its entirety, it could do so, as long as it kept the Supreme Court. Come to think of it, if Congress wanted to get rid of the Supreme Court, it probably could – after all, if it got rid of the Supreme Court, there would be no court to say what it did was unconstitutional.

The fact that no one has heard of this conspiracy is proof of its existence, as well as proof of the effectiveness of the security measures it has taken, until now, to keep this plan secret. In fact, this is supposed to be so secret, it won’t even be mentioned at the Republican Party Convention. But according to Tweeter’s sources, this conspiracy gained immense traction these past few weeks, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare.

We here at The Zoo will keep you, are dear readers, informed of any new developments.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD
ANYTHING YOU POST CAN, AND WILL, BE HELD AGAINST YOU

The Watering Hole, Thursday, June 28th, 2012: Decisions, Decisions

On this, the day on which the Supreme Court is supposed to announce their decision regarding the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), I offer first a few articles from Wednesday’s Washington Post:

In the first article, John Boehner issues a typical lugubrious pronoucement, and Eric Cantor chimes in, too:

“We’ve made it pretty clear and I’ll make it clear one more time: If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Wednesday morning. “‘Obamacare’ is driving up the cost of health care and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added that the health law “was a mistake. We would like to see the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, not bureaucrats here in Washington.”
[Yes, the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, like whether they should get that needed prescription, or buy food. Patients, not bureaucrats, can make their own decisions unless the patient is a pregnant woman.]

“As we know, this bill has also presented big problems for our employers,” Cantor added. “Small businessmen and women are having a difficult time keeping the lights on, much less hiring new people. ‘Obamacare’ just makes it more difficult because it makes it more expensive for these business people to create jobs.”

[Then what was keeping those business people from creating jobs in the Bush years, before "Obamacare"?]

As I commented on an excellent article at our local online newspaper, the Southeast-Brewster Patch, “And does Speaker Boehner not see that the two are connected? Does he have any explanation as to WHY healthcare costs continue to rise? Do the Republicans who want to repeal the PPACA – and yes, some say “repeal and replace” – have any concrete solutions to the rising healthcare costs?”

Perhaps some of my questions were answered by this paragraph in the same WP article:

“Beyond their general comments, neither Boehner nor Cantor provided specifics on their path forward, waiting until the court rules before spelling out any further plans. But Republican aides have said in recent weeks that the House is unlikely to vote on any significant health-care-related legislation before the November elections — other than efforts to repeal the entire law if the high court doesn’t — preferring instead to keep focused on more overt attempts to boost job creation, strip away federal regulations and renew various tax cuts.”

[De-regulation, and tax cuts for the corporations - yeah, how'd that work out for Bush? Sigh]

I’ll leave you with two more articles from WP, one infuriating, one informative.

Possibly by the time you finish reading this post, the SCROTUS/SCREWEDUS (thanks, RUC) will have announced their decision. Hopefully, we won’t have to see a repeat of this:

Justice Antonin Scalia

UPDATE: The SCOTUS has decided that the Individual Mandate is Constitutional, read the text of the decision here.

This is our daily open thread — have at it!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, June 21st, 2012: $$$$

(R)Money

Newsmax.com emailed me the following opinion piece, summarizing much of the wrongness which is the result of the SCOTUS’ “Citizens United” decision. I don’t think I could add much to this:

The Best Government Money Can Buy

Tuesday, 19 Jun 2012 10:35 AM
By Susan Estrich

“My friend Kathleen and I have had a running debate for decades now about whether it is possible to bring reform to the marriage of money and politics.

I’ve been in favor of all kinds of regulations (including those that as a campaign manager I drove a truck through) limiting the role of money, and wealthy donors, in elections.

Kathleen has argued from the beginning that “my” limits wouldn’t work in practice and shouldn’t survive constitutional scrutiny in theory, and that the best and only workable system is one that allows unlimited contributions but requires immediate disclosure. [Personally, I think that Kathy is completely wrong: "immediate disclosure" is unworkable and probably unenforceable.]

And now we’ve both lost.

My failure is, of course, the most apparent. The regulations haven’t worked. You could blame the Supreme Court for making it impossible (You can’t have regulation if it isn’t comprehensive, and you can’t be comprehensive with all these Super PACs and independent committees operating outside the system.), or you could argue that with so much at stake, people will always find loopholes. In either event, it is clear that the so-called limits on campaign contributions only limit those who don’t want to contribute even more.

People are spending six and seven and now eight figures — eight figures! — to support their candidates.

This might be fine (or at least better than total failure) if we had full disclosure of who was spending what on whom. We don’t.

Today’s news accounts of record spending are based in part on the decision by Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson to contribute some $10 million to a Mitt Romney Super PAC, bringing their contributions to date to a total of $35 million in this presidential race. That’s a lot of money. But at least the Adelsons are upfront about what they are doing.

In fact, there are other groups collecting money out there, in just as large chunks, who are not revealing who is giving it to them. No disclosure. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the landmark Citizens United case (which turned on the spigot of unlimited corporate cash) went on and on about the value of disclosure — but guess what. This campaign season, you can give millions to an organization like American Crossroads (aka Karl Rove’s group) and remain anonymous.

No accountability. No disclosure. And therefore, no ability to find out exactly what anyone is getting for their money.

Make no mistake: Published or not, candidates know who’s helping them, particularly when it gets to seven or eight figures.

Forty years after the infamous 1972 election, the election in which cash changed hands in exchange for favorable treatment by regulators, the election that spurred reform of our campaign finance system, we have returned to where we were — but with many more zeros, greater sophistication and no guarantee of disclosure. And whoever wins this election probably won’t change a system that worked for him or her, either at the presidential or congressional level.

Decades ago, when I first thought about running for office, what turned me off was the amount of time my friends who were candidates had to spend raising money. Politics, I understood, is not for people who like policy, but for people who excel at selling: cars, encyclopedias, themselves.

In the years since, a bad system has gotten worse than I ever could have imagined. It’s not just that the numbers have sprouted zeros, but that we’ve lost all vestiges of post-Watergate shame. Nothing embarrasses anyone.

Back in the 1988, when I explained the rules (antiquated now) about raising soft money and creating a party-based Victory Fund that could accept unlimited contributions, Michael Dukakis looked at me aghast (could I possibly be right?) and said he simply wouldn’t be comfortable with someone donating more than $250,000. He understood, as any honest pol will admit, that when someone is giving you that kind of money, how could your judgment not be affected?

Today, $250,000 is kid stuff.

And here’s the worst part. From all I know, the Adelsons care deeply about public policy issues, including support for the state of Israel. They have so much money that they don’t really need anything in exchange. But for many of those giving, a six-, seven- or eight-figure contribution is peanuts compared to the benefits they stand to reap if their favored candidate is elected.

The best government money can buy. And we don’t even know who is doing the buying.”

Yup…what she said.

This is our daily open thread — I’m sure that all of you have something to say, so have at it!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

Guest Blog by TerryTheTurtle: November 2012 – The First Citizens United Election and the Last of the American Democratic Experiment?

I think there’s no secret that as a foreigner, I view the American democratic system with an outsider’s eye. It’s the view of one who has not been taught in school from the first day that the American Democratic Experiment is unique, unparalleled and somehow ‘divinely ordained’. It may have been once, but IMO it now more resembles the last days of the Roman Empire when a horse could be Senator  (or even higher office?) and seats were bought and sold in order to ‘rubber-stamp’ the sociopaths and megalomaniacal dictators who ran the place into the dust while plying the plebs with ‘bread and circuses’.

IMO, The SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United (CU) has delivered a fatal blow to the American Democratic Experiment. I think many of you sense it, but until this November’s election is done and the impact of the unlimited corporate money which is on its way now from the American fascist establishment into the election process, you won’t be able to appreciate just how deadly that ruling is.

At the time it was passed, dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

[Citizens United] “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” He wrote: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

And Stevens took a swipe at corporations too:

“Stevens discussed how the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty”

Let’s recap briefly the new rules of the game that Citizens United brings.

1. Anyone and that means any person, or corporation (even foreign owned or registered ones like Halliburton) can spend whatever they want to say whatever they want to influence you the voter as to who to vote for. Money equals free speech under Citizens United and it doesn’t matter where the money comes from and it is the money that decides which ‘free speech’ you hear and which you don’t. Spend just one evening watching Fox ‘News’ and you know what this means.

2. The people and corporations who will spend the most money are the ones who have the most to spend and are most likely to gain from ‘buying’ an election – that is the rich, the 1%, who will have their bought-and-paid-for politicians write the rules in their favour so that they will accumulate even more wealth.

3. They don’t have to tell you who they are in some cases (e.g. 501c4s like the NRA and Karl Rove’s patently fascist SuperPAC for some reason), and even if they do, you won’t know who and how much until *after* the election is decided.

St. Ronald Raygun (yes, really!):

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

So welcome America to the ‘Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ - this 8 minute video recaps all I have said here and more and also calls for a constitutional amendment to redefine persons and therefore undermine CU. I for one, have no confidence that an amendment will go anywhere – to start with it would require 67 Senators who do not owe their office to corporate money to be ready to vote and November 2012 is coming first. IMO CU is an irrevocable and fatal wound to the American Democratic Experiment (1776 – 2010 RIP) – it was a good run everyone.

Sunday Roast: Amend 2012

Robert Reich, in his capacity as Chair of the National Governing Board of Common Cause, explains the effect Citizens United has had on our democracy.  In order to remedy this awful ruling by the Roberts Court, which drowns the political process in more unchecked money than we even know at this point, we need to pass an amendment to the Constitution.  You can find lots of information at Amend2012.

An amendment to get the money out of politics is a grand idea, but how much damage will be done between now and then — assuming we can get anything out of our broken Congress, and then get 38 states in a divided nation to agree.  Seems like a pretty steep mountain, although well worth doing.

This is our daily open thread — You know what to do.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 15th: Newt Gingrich + Citizens United = $$$$

While researching bizarre quotes/items about Newt Gingrich for the last few days, I ran across a reference to “Newt Gingrich to Star in Citizens United Movie about ‘American Exceptionalism’…”, which caused me to do a double-take. Newt Gingrich and that ‘Citizens United”?

Am I the last person in the world to know that Newt and Callista Gingrich have been ‘starring‘ in some of Citizens United productions, which claim to be “documentaries”, such as “We Have the Power“, and were working on a new “documentary” earlier this year? The “Cast” list for “We Have the Power” certainly has some familiar conservative names on it, and the “Credits” list shows the Executive Producers as: Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Lawrence Kadish and David N. Bossie. Lawrence Kadish provided (see this Alternet article from 2002**) some of the financial backing for Frank Gaffney’s CSP. David N. Bossie is the President and Chairman of the Board of Citizens United.
(**Check out the names/agencies interconnected in the article–keep in mind that this is from 2002.)

I did not know any of this – where have I been?

Small wonder, though, as Newt has been quoted in the past, when discussing campaign finance reform, as stating “The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.” Then there’s this one: “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” The combined implication of ‘a congressman is above such temptations’ and ‘anyone who thinks otherwise is a socialist’ is so very Newt-y. Gingrich has always been about selling ideas, and, unfortunately, there have always been buyers.

Right now, some lawmakers are working to overturn the SCOTUS “Citizens United” decision; for instance, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, is proposing a constitutional amendment. However, we need faster action if the flood of money sweeping away our democracy is to be dammed.

This is our open thread — so talk about this or anything else that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: October 15 – Appearances

Lincoln in 1860

On October 15, an 11 year old young lady named Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abe Lincoln saying that his appearance would improve if he sported a beard. He took time to reply to that letter. You can find the exchange here. I leave it to you as to whether she was correct:

Lincoln in 1863

On the way to his inauguration, Lincoln decided to rest a while in Westfield, NY where the young lady lived and called out for her. They met then, where he acknowledged her part in altering his image.

Two months after that, the Battle of Fort Sumpter marked the beginning of the Civil War.

This brings to mind is that we have entered a period of civil unrest that, while not as devisive as in those times when the issue was between states, defines a chasm between two spectra of society. This time, it is not a regional separation, but one of privilege. This is actually the same kind of grievance that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War (Shades of Boston harbor.) I pray that we never approach that condition!

As I said a week ago, OWS brings to mind the events in Poland that brought forward the Solidarity movement. Today, the OWS movement is slated to become a world-wide statement. It is also at the same time that the rest of the world can experience doubt on the meaning of American freedoms. This places a damper on our ability to propagate the “American way” beyond our borders.

This is our Open Thread. What do you think?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, July 13, 2011: Hump Day: The Supreme Court

Guess what? There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution. Newt Gingrich said it, so it must be so. Right?

Well, let’s take a look at Article III:

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Ok. The Constitution does establish a Supreme Court. But what about what else Gingrich said, “the fact is the Congress can pass a law and can limit the Court’s jurisdiction.” Is that true? Can Congress simply pass a law and limit what the Court can hear?

In a word, Yes.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

So, only in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction. That means one can file a claim directly to the Supreme Court. IN ALL OTHER CASES, the Supreme Court acts as a Court of Appeals…the matter has to be heard by a lower court first.

Therein lies the rub. Congress has the power to “ordain and establish” lower courts. Without lower courts, there cannot be appeals to the Supreme Court. If Congress abolishes the lower courts, the only cases the Supreme Court can hear are those involving ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party.

By eliminating the lower federal courts, Congress can eliminate the ability of the people to obtain relief if their Constitutional Rights have been violated. This is what Gingrich is advocating: Go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. And forget about the Bill of Rights.

This is our daily open thread. Freedom of speech on this thread has been upheld by a 5-4 vote. That means one vote the other way, and we censor the hell out of you!

Watering Hole – September 18, 2010 – Constitution Day: A day late and a dullard short

Yesterday was a little observed day of national importance: Constitution Day. On September 17, 1787 thirty-nine white males signed the foundational document of the United States Government. It was a compromise document, most notably for its three-fifths solution which gave southern states more representatives in the House of Represenatatives based on their slave population, while agreeing not to address the slavery issue for 20 more years. Given the typical lifespan in those days, they basically expected their children to have to deal with the problem; i.e. they passed a major contentious issue to the next generation to decide. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

For all the Teabagging hoopala over upholding the Constitution, this writer was not aware of a single Teabag Rally in honor of Constitution Day.

The Constitution, like the bible, is subject to interpretation. Unfortunately, those who are hollering the most about upholding the Constitution derive their understanding of it from radio and tv talk-show hosts. They then believe they know more about the Constitution than a Constitutional Law Professor. That this is absurd on its face is beyond their grasp: fear, hatred, prejudice and racism trump reason.

You’ll find the text of the Constitution here, with links to the Amendments.

This is our Open Thread. Exercise your First Amendment right to free speech!

Prop 8 Hate

Well, the decision is out on Proposition 8: it’s unconstitutional.  No real surprise to any Constitutional Law scholar.

And just as unsurprising is the immediate hate-filled reaction from its supporters. They decry the judge for overturning “the will of the people” while ignoring the fact that the judge upheld the Constitution. But, in their convoluted logic, the judge usurped the Constitution as well. Somehow, equal protection under the law does not mean equal protection for everybody, just equal protection for whichever faction can garner the most votes at any given time.

The Constitution was designed to be very difficult to change, and to protect everyone from the tyranny of the majority. Judges were intended to be the people’s last bastion of hope, of refuge, against such tyranny. What we see now is the anger of the “majority” when they don’t get their way, even if getting their way means taking away Constitutional Rights from others.

We are witnessing the fruits of the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of hate. Over two hundred years ago, wiser heads than this writer observed, “united we stand, divided we fall.” The Bible, the sacred book revered by those preaching the most hate now, noted that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

The United States is such a house now. “Terrorists” don’t have to attack us to destroy us; the likes of Rove and Rush, of Bachmann and Beck, of Palin and O’Reilly have done their job for them.

So, how do we save America? Essentially by ignoring the hate. Let them have their demonstrations and blow off their steam. Then vote Progressive.

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Obama criticizes the SCOTUS during SOTU

I have to say this took me by surprise to hear President Obama say this to the SCOTUS sitting directly in front of him last night during his address. I’m really glad, but surprised.

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign companies — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said Wednesday night. “Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

Wow.. Uncomfortable.. (Did you all see Justice Alito’s reaction??)

Text of the SOTU speech in full.

Freedom of Speech Destroyed: What Are We Going To Do About It?

Keith is right.  What are we gonna do about it?

[T]he first amendment — free speech for persons — which went into affect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections.

We better figure it out, and quick…

The text of Keith’s special comment can be read here.

SCOTUS: Money is speech

From the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy:

By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each.

Cuz Corporate personhood was such a great idea…

FTW.

This post will be updated if I can stomach it.

UPDATE:  Justice Stevens dissents…

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure,and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.

UPDATE:  More Justice Stevens, from ThinkProgress:

Today’s decision is backwards in many senses. It elevates the majority’s agenda over the litigants’ submissions, facial attacks over as-applied claims, broad constitutional theories over narrow statutory grounds, individual dissenting opinions over precedential holdings, assertion over tradition, absolutism over empiricism, rhetoric over reality. Our colleagues have arrived at the conclusion that Austin must be overruled and that §203 is facially unconstitutional only after mischaracterizing both the reach and rationale of those authorities, and after bypassing or ignoring rules of judicial restraint used to cabin the Court’s lawmaking power. … At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

(Image source)

UPDATE:  President Obama’s response to the SCOTUS ruling, via ThinkProgress:

Statement from President Obama: “With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.”

Also at the ThinkProgress link, several Republican responses to the ruling.  Three guesses what they’re like…

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency

I am a big fan of John Nichols. This is an important post. I think it’s important to remember how this nightmare of a decade started..

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency by John Nichols

The British press has taken to referring to the passing decade as “the Noughties” has made quite a big deal of trying to identify the political, economic and cultural trends of period from 2000 to 2009.

It is an amusing pastime that has some value, but only if we’re focused on identifying the root cause of what made the Noughties such a miserable decade.

If we are serious about the task, there is not much mystery.

The original sin of the good-riddance decade came in December of 2000, when the United States Supreme Court intervened to stop a complete recount of the votes in Florida and then declared George Bush to be the president.

This extreme judicial activism was not merely a devastating assault on American democracy. It set in motion the Bush presidency, and with it the pathologies that the Bush-Cheney administration imposed on the country in the form of unnecessary wars, failed economic policies, assaults on civil liberties and crudely divisive and hyper-partisan governance.

Bush, Dick Cheney and aides are surely to blame for much of what ailed America during the 2000s, and for what will ail America for decades to come.

But it was the U.S. Supreme Court’s unprecedented meddling in the presidential election process – an intervention that would have horrified the founders of a republic that was supposed to enjoy a separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers – made the Bush-Cheney interregnum possible.

Continue reading…

Justice Souter to Retire

When the Supreme Court finishes its docket this June, Justice Souter plans on stepping down.

It is assumed he will stay on the bench until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

In that case, it is likely he will be staying on until after the 2010 election.

It is too easy to predict what will happen next:

Republicans, led by their mouthpiece Rush, will begin shredding every leading liberal judicial candidate even before they’re named as being under consideration for nomination. Once an individual is nominated, their criticizm will air 24/7 on Fox and a filibuster will be announced.

UPDATE:

This morning on Fox News, former Bush political adviser Karl Rove criticized Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a potential nominee for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy.

HT: Think Progress

President Obama: ‘Day of reckoning has arrived’

There is an awful lot of weight on this man’s shoulders..

President Barack Obama addresses the nation tonight. It’s not really a State of the Union address because he hasn’t been in office long enough, though for all intents and purposes, it is a State of the Union speech.. He delivers a budget blueprint to Congress in two days.

From the MSNBC (AP):

President Barack Obama says the “day of reckoning has arrived” for Americans after a spree of extravagant buying, gutted regulations and little or no long-term financial planning.

In excerpts of his speech to Congress Tuesday night, the president offered a sober assessment of the last decade or so and said the time to take charge of the future is now.  More…

What do you expect to hear tonight? What do you WANT to hear tonight? We’ll be doing some live-blogging throughout tonight’s speech. Please join in, or come on by afterwards and discuss your thoughts.

Legal Abortion in America: 35 36 Years (Updated)

AP, by David Crary / via International Herald Tribune.

On January 22, 1973, 35 36 years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Roe v. Wade, establishing the legal right to abortion for women in America. Since that time there have been about 50 million abortions performed in this country, with an estimated one-third of adult women having had at least one abortion.

Who are these women? The numbers may surprise you…

Half of the roughly 1.2 million U.S. women who have abortions each year are 25 or older. Only about 17 percent are teens. About 60 percent have given birth to least one child prior to getting an abortion.

A disproportionately high number are black or Hispanic. And regardless of race, high abortion rates are linked to hard times.

That’s right, folks. It’s not primarily very young, irresponsible women who are obtaining abortions. Most women seeking abortion are already mothers.

“It doesn’t just happen to young people, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with irresponsibility,” said Miriam Inocencio, president of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island. “Women face years and years of reproductive life after they’ve completed their families, and they’re at risk of an unintended pregnancy that can create an economic strain.”

Over the years, the number of abortions has decreased. There were 1.2 million abortions in 2005, which was an 8% decrease from 2000.

Why do some women choose to have abortions?

The Journal of Family Issues published a report earlier this month asserting that women often choose abortion because of their wish to be good parents.

That means women who have no children want the conditions to be right when they do, and women who already are mothers want to care responsibly for their existing children, said the lead author, Rachel Jones, a researcher with the Guttmacher Institute.

“These women believed that it was more responsible to terminate a pregnancy than to have a child whose health and welfare could be in question,” Jones said.

The abortion rate for women living below the poverty line is four times higher than for women in the middle or upper classes.

Of all U.S. women getting abortions, about 54 percent are doing so for the first time, while one-fifth have had at least two previous abortions. Of those over 20, the majority have attended college. Almost a third have been married at some point. About 60 percent have at least one child; one-third have two or more.

“I don’t think most people understand that these are women who have families, who are making a very serious decision about their reproductive health,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The stereotype is that the decision is made lightly. It is not.”

Simply, we need to care for the children we already have, and it is our right to make reproductive decisions in private. Women had abortions long before Roe v. Wade, and if it is overturned, women will continue to have abortions. I would prefer that septic abortion wards remain a thing of the past.

Proper sex education and effective, available birth control are key. Abortion should be safe, legal, available and rare.

UPDATE: Now that George W. Bush is no longer in office, things are being shaken up in the world of personal choice.

The anti-choice crowd is beginning to foam at the mouth, in anticipation of their upcoming loss of political power and influence.  Read about it here.

Obama is expected to repeal the global gag rule, which has impacted women’s health all over the world by cutting off funding for international family planning programs that do counseling about abortion, or provide the procedure.  Read about it here.

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Supreme Court refuses to hear Mukasey v. ACLU

The Raw Story

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Mukasey v. ACLU is the final nail in the coffin of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  An act written so broadly that it would have had the effect of reducing the internet to Romper Room.

Of course, the real purpose of COPA was not protecting children, it was an attempt to censor the content of the internet — for all Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that the Supreme Court will not hear Mukasey v. ACLU, the Bush administration’s attempt to appeal federal court rulings against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), passed by Congress in 1998 after the fall of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

“For over a decade the government has been trying to thwart freedom of speech on the Internet, and for years the courts have been finding the attempts unconstitutional,” said ACLU senior staff attorney and lead counsel Chris Hansen. “It is not the role of the government to decide what people can see and do on the Internet. Those are personal decisions that should be made by individuals and their families.”

If parents are worried about what their little tykes might see or do on the internet, then get the computers out of kids’ bedrooms, and into the family room.  That way everyone knows when little Johnny finds Daddy’s porn collection.  It’s really not that hard to figure out…

COPA, as codified, would have made it an offense punishable by a fine up to $50,000 and/or up to 6 months’ imprisonment for transmitting “any material that is harmful to minors” for commercial purposes on the World Wide Web if not put behind a safeguard such as a requirement for payment or a special access code. Additional fines would have been levied for “intentionally” violating the law.

Material deemed “harmful to minors” under COPA included written, photographic, recorded and otherwise “communicated” material that, based on the average person’s interpretation of “contemporary community standards,” is “obscene” or “designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest.” The law further reads that any material that “depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast,” that “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”

That. Could. Be. Anything.