The Watering Hole, Wednesday, April 6th, 2016: HUMP DAY

Mini-rant:  One of these Hump Days, when somebody cheerily tells me, “At least it’s Hump Day!”, I’m going to snap. EVERY day is Hump Day, just another work day to get through much like any other work day when you’ve been grinding away without hope for too many years. It’s like Office Space’s “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the ‘Mondays!'” every single goddam day. But enough about me…

Here’s one of those “Your Tax Dollars At Work” stories: From Joe Davidson at The Washington Post, last week’s “boondoggle of the week” goes to the DEA and DOD, who, back in 2008, together bought a plane to be modified for drug-fighting in Afghanistan. They paid $8.6 million. As of last week, they’ve now spent at least 10 times that much, without the plane having ever gotten off the ground.

And a couple of pieces about Monday’s Supreme Court’s ruling in the Evenwel vs Abbott ‘one-man/one-vote’ case. [And no, not Terry Pratchett’s version: “the one man was the Patrician, and he had the vote.”]

First, Ian Millhiser’s initial thread at ThinkProgress on Monday discussing the SCOTUS opinion, authored by Justice “Notorious RBG” Ginsburg. While the 8-0 ruling upheld the traditional “one-person/one-vote” apportioning of districts, some of the language seems to leave disquieting loopholes for the States.

Next, from billmoyers.com, an interesting article by Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A couple of excerpts:

“The suit was brought by two white voters from rural districts in Texas to challenge the state’s use of total population when drawing its state legislative districts. The use of total population in state redistricting has been a nearly universal practice not only in Texas but in all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions across the country for well over 50 years. The challengers here sought to change that practice and replace it with a count of eligible voters, meaning only persons eligible to cast ballots would be counted for purposes of redistricting.”

~~~~~~~

“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — who each wrote a separate concurrence but also roundly embraced the ultimate conclusion of the Court that the Constitution permits total population count. Justice Alito, while disagreeing with some of the majority’s historical interpretation, even went so far as to acknowledge the perils of using alternative counting methods: “These [total population] statistics are more reliable and less subject to manipulation and dispute that statistics concerning eligible voters.”

And what was Justice Thomas’s “separate concurrence” about? Well, according to Ian Millheiser’s second piece on the subject at ThinkProgress, Thomas sounds more as if he disagrees with “one-person/one-vote.” A few excerpts:

“Thomas, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments in Evenwel because he believed that states should have much broader power to draw legislative lines as they choose, even if doing so would produce grossly undemocratic results. He begins by claiming that “this Court has never provided a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle…”

~~~~~~~

“The justice criticizes the one person/one vote doctrine because he believes that it is “driven by the belief that there is a single, correct answer to the question of how much voting strength an individual citizen should have.” Such an assertion, Thomas claims, “overlook[s] that, to control factions that would legislate against the common good, individual voting strength must sometimes yield to counter majoritarian checks.”

As a sign of what sort of factions Thomas finds needing of control, and which “counter majoritarian checks” he deems necessary, Thomas offers a theory of the Constitution that closely resembles a theory a libertarian group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers tried to teach to school children. “Of particular concern for the Framers was the majority of people violating the property rights of the minority,” Thomas writes. Elsewhere in his opinion, he suggests that states may want to set redistricting rules that give an advantage to one side in disputes that “pit urban areas versus rural, manufacturing versus agriculture, or those with property versus those without.”

In case there are any doubts where Thomas’ sympathies lay, he closes his opinion with a flourish. “The Constitution,” Thomas claims, “did not make this Court ‘a centralized politburo appointed for life to dictate to the provinces the ‘correct’ theories of democratic representation, [or] the ‘best’ electoral systems for securing truly ‘representative’ government.””

Disgustingly, Justice Thomas seems to have suddenly found his voice, and he’s channeling Antonin Scalia.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it.

Sunday Roast: Antonin Scalia is no more*

Via RawStory (various headlines):

“On behalf of the court and retired justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement on Saturday, calling Scalia, 79, an “extraordinary individual and jurist.”

My dear old Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  So here’s me sitting quietly…

Here’s how Antonin Scalia’s death changes the balance of the court and alters the 2016 presidential race.

Minutes after Scalia’s death right-wingers seek to block nominee Obama hasn’t even appointed yet.

Obama speaks about passing of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.  Our President is such a kind man…

Jon Stewart shreds Scalia’s marriage-equality dissent:  “He had no problem telling voters to ‘f*ck off’ in Citizens United.  Feel the Bern…

And finally, this apropo headline from The Onion:

Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress

*HT to John Cleese in Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch for the headline of this post.

This is our daily open thread — Leave your thoughts in the comments section, while I sit here quietly.

The Watering Hole; Thursday December 17 2015; Of “They” and “Them” and “Those”

“We have now sunk to a depth at which
the restatement of the obvious is 
the first duty of intelligent men.”
(George Orwell)

******

Antonin Scalia, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, is currently the longest-serving Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. In the continuing (anti-Affirmative Action) case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Scalia had this, in part, to say (highlights mine):

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans . . .

I’m assuming here that Scalia’s use of the word those refers to, in his own warped and clearly racist context, each and all of those folks (including himself I’m sure) who believe and maintain that ALL African-Americans are a bit less of everything that defines Teh Superiority implicit in ALL white folks — Teh Stupid (obviously) included.

Scalia continues:

. . . 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 slower-track school where they do well.

One of — one of the briefs pointed out that — that most of the black scientists in this country do not come from the most advanced schools. 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. . . .

Note that in a mere 95 words, Scalia uses the words they and them, resp., six and three times each, and by doing so implies that EVERY African American is intellectually inferior to EVERY white American, all based on premises which I expect would be dismissed and laughed at by anyone with half a mind.

A couple of conclusions are obvious. First, Scalia is a racist. Second, this country clearly has NOT — in spite of popular rumor and its occasional attempts — progressed very far beyond the racist place it was in 1787 when our current Constitution was completed and offered for ratification by the ‘several States.’ Ratification by the original 13 states was completed in 1790, at which time slavery was legal in eight of the states, and not legal in the other five.

It is, of course, fair to note that in the main body of the 1787 Constitution, ALL black African-Americans were defined as being three fifths that of a free person. It’s also worth noting that Founder and Slave-owner James Madison constructed the Second Amendment so as to enable slave states to put down slave rebellions by allowing them full access to the well regulated Militia(s) which were now, courtesy of Article I, Section 8, fully under Federal control. Slave owners — and racism — thus were Constitutionally protected. More or less.

Following Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 (but prior to his inauguration in 1861), seven states — South Carolina first, then in quick succession, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas — seceded, citing “states rights” and “slavery.” The Civil war followed quickly in 1861; the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863; the Civil War finally ended in 1865, the same year that the Thirteenth Amendment — which began with the line Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United Statesbecame the law of the land. In 1866, the fanatical Ku Klux Klan rose from the racial ashes of the Civil War, a dour event that was followed by ratification, in 1868, of the Fourteenth Amendment which plainly stated that ALL persons born or naturalized in the United States . . . are citizens of the United States and . . . No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens . . . etc. Racism was, in other words, officially dismissed and forever banished.

Sadly, however, the era of Jim Crow and Segregation — driven by unending embedded racism — persisted in the legal shadows with only occasional efforts to interrupt. And it endures yet today as it continues to drive portions of the national politic, including even issues brought before those who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some still love to call America The Greatest Country in the World, even though it’s made manifestly clear each and every day that far too many in America can more correctly be said to still represent what the country has always been: a bigotry-driven white supremacist nation. For everyone on the receiving end of that type of hate-driven agenda and behavior, however, there is nothing great implicit in what they know is still the dark reality that is solely intended to both define and suppress them.

In other news, Ben Carson notes that ‘America As We Know It Is Gone’ If Hillary Clinton Picks The Next Supreme Court Justices. In Carson’s words,

“If we get another progressive president and they get two or three Supreme Court picks, America as we know it is gone.”

That’s the best reason to vote for and elect a progressive president I’ve run across in at least the last couple of hours! Why? Because the truth forever remains that Progressives are far less likely to harbor deep-seated fears, or hatreds, or religious/racist bigotries, or irrational xenophobia(s) than are radical Conservatives, nor do Progressives covet the ‘privilege’ of imposing the horrors implicit therein upon anyone, anywhere. Those seem to be tools that are far more common to extreme right wing politics — tools designed and used to instigate fear, hate, bigotry, and even violence of and by the masses —  invariably to be directed against them, the fresh enemies of the state.

And who might our ‘fresh enemies’ be? They will, of course, be them — not necessarily the African Americans of Scalia’s they and them (and certainly NEVER the murderous gun-toting anti-immigrant anti-abortion anti-Muslim anti-LGBT white Christian terrorists), but rest assured that whomever they might turn out to be, they WILL be duly targeted. Why?  Because in the (shallow) opinion of far too many Americans, it is the grand mentality of those destined to become our Leadersthose who are willing and anxious to denigrate and/or destroy them — that will

MAKE AMERICA GREAT . . . AGAIN.

(yeehaw)

******

“In a time of universal deceit,
telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
(George Orwell, 1984)

OPEN THREAD

 

 

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday July 2 2015; Recent Supreme Court Decisions and Wingnut Analysis Thereof

As we all know, there are times when no matter what one says or how s/he says it, it remains virtually impossible to summarize the ignorant subtleties implicit in various statements of position by those who, in their own definition, are consummate (right wing) experts on the topics at hand. It’s for this reason I’ve decided that today I’m turning the bulk of this post over to a well known far right spokesman, and in the process allowing him to explain, in his own words and without interruption, exactly what is so wrong about a pair of recent Supreme Court decisions.

So. Courtesy of C&L and/or his blog, here’s the complete transcript of Bill O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” of June 29th. It is his response to the Supreme Court’s recent rulings in favor of both the American Care Act and gay marriage. It’s admittedly a somewhat lengthy dissertation, but since it’s typical of O’Reilly, it doesn’t really demand much more than a quick skim to gather in the points he pretends to make. In the skimming process, you’ll notice that O”Reilly does not, as is his habit, spare the vitriol — nor does he offer any hint whatsoever that he’s more than remotely familiar with the Constitution in re those matters he’s chosen to discuss. He does amply demonstrate, however, that ignorance does NOT always define bliss.

Enough chit chat. Here goes, as they say, nothing:

The court’s acceptance of Obamacare and gay marriage was predictable. In fact our “Is It Legal?” team accurately foretold what would happen last week.

The Supreme Court is made up of nine individuals who see America in very different ways. Some see a country that needs to be changed; others believe we are a settled nation where established law should be upheld.

Generally speaking we have an activist court, not judges who are able to put ideology aside.

Chief Justice John Roberts provides a vivid example. He believes the Congress should make laws, not judges. That was the intent of the Founders.

So Roberts jumped through legal hoops to justify Obamacare.

No matter the legal problems, Roberts ignored them, deferring to congressional approval of the affordable healthcare law.

To his credit, Roberts is consistent. He voted against gay marriage because, again, he doesn’t want the court to make law, which the gay nuptial decision does.

Most of the other justices are consistent, as well. They often decide cases through a prism of what they believe to be right for the country, not what our original system of checks and balances dictates.

Here’s how crazy the system has become. Liberal Justices Ginsburg and Kagan each presided over a gay marriage. In Ginsburg’s case, four.

Yet they did not recuse themselves when the issue came before the court.

Come on! We either have a fair legal system or we don’t, and right now we don’t.

The Factor’s philosophy has been consistent for nearly 20 years. I believe every American should have an equal shot to pursue happiness and prosperity, and that the government must provide oversight to provide that opportunity for all.

But I do not believe the government has a right to impose upon me or any other American rules that deny my freedom to express myself, practice my faith, or earn my living.

If a baker believes marriage is a sacrament instituted by his religion, the government should leave the baker alone.

Even though the Supreme Court has now ruled that gay marriage is legal, it has no constitutional right to force anyone to participate in it.

To do so tears up the social contract forged by the Founders.

Americans who sincerely believe that judges do have the authority to redefine marriage have a perfect right to celebrate their victory, provided they are following their consciences.

However, they do not have a right to demonize those who disagree based on the same principle: conscience.

Yesterday Fox News analyst Father Jonathan Morris was walking in New York City close to where the gay pride parade was taking place.

Father Morris reports two men spit on him. He will tell that story on Hannity tonight.

Oppression runs both ways, and all Americans should consider that.

For example, Justice Scalia wrote a well thought out dissent to the gay marriage decision. He was immediately mocked:

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: “Now, Justice Scalia was a little more nuanced in his criticism – writing that if he ever joined an opinion that began the way Justice Kennedy’s majority decision did, quote, ‘I would hide my head in a bag.’ I could have sworn he was already hiding his head in a flesh-toned cinch sack. Please come on my show, sir. Scalia also took issue with the majority’s view that marriage is about free expression, grumbling ‘Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands what one can prudently say.’ Which is both a fiery dissent and the world’s longest Lockhorn comic.”

In a few months Colbert will be competing against Fallon and Kimmel, both talented and successful guys. He might want to think about alienating traditional Americans to the extent he has; could be very bad for business.

The deciding vote in the gay marriage decision was Justice Kennedy, a good man.

He clearly and honestly wrote that his decision was primarily based on emotion, that compassion dictates gay Americans have equal marital status.

Thus Kennedy forged a legal opinion using the concept of greater good. There is obviously nothing in the Constitution that allows the redefinition of marriage.

On a strictly constitutional basis, that decision has to come from Congress because it is law.

The Supreme Court deviated from that dictum, as it has in the past for political and personal reasons.

On healthcare the issue is again greater good. Obamacare is obviously yet another federal entitlement program designed to help poor Americans at the expense of non-poor Americans.

The president sold the law on the basis that it is a benefit for all. But only his party bought that; not one Republican member of Congress voted for it.

Subsequently, health insurance costs have risen for many working Americans, and a significant number of doctors are refusing to take government mandated insurance programs.

But the four liberal judges don’t really care about the overall impact of Obamacare.

They want free healthcare for the poor and will find a legal justification for it no matter what the actual law says.

Add in Roberts and Kennedy and presto, another enormous social safety net that benefits the have-nots survives a valid legal challenge.

The sad truth is most Americans have no idea what’s really happening to their country. These are complicated issues where both sides have legitimate points. But some important decisions are being made outside Constitutional authority.

If the trend toward big government and political activism by judges continues, the liberty of the individual is going to take a huge hit.

Already we have a guy running for president, Senator Bernie Sanders, who does not oppose a top income tax rate of 90 percent.

Conservative and independent-minded Americans should well understand what is occurring. Uber-left politicians and judges aided by a compliant media and vicious smear merchants on the net now have political cover and momentum.

They are hell-bent on crushing traditional beliefs and competitive capitalism, replacing them with so-called tolerance and forced asset sharing.

The tenets of victimization and grievance may soon dominate public policy even at the expense of public safety and majority opinion.

You see, in the brave new progressive world the rights and welfare of each American really don’t matter.

The promise of collective social justice dominates, and you will be dismissed as unworthy or even be branded a bigot if you get in the way of that promise.

That is the reality of America as we head into the 2016 presidential campaign.

Spread the word.

And that’s the memo.

There’s really not much to say in response to that “speech” other than to point out the fact (obvious to most anyone with a functioning mind) that O’Reilly is wrong on virtually every point he tries to make. I won’t waste my time or yours by citing chapter and verse, will simply cite one of his many premises, the one in which he states that There is obviously nothing in the Constitution that allows the redefinition of marriage, and then point out that there is nothing in the Constitution that ‘defines’ marriage in the first place. In fact, the word “marriage” appears in the Constitution as amended exactly the same number of times as do each the words God, Jesus, Christian, sin, sex — ZERO; right wing political “accuracy” regardless of source therein defined.

Overall, the one thing O’Reilly and his ilk, including each and every passenger in the Republican Clown Car, remind me of is statement which seems to almost entirely sum up their aims, their goals, and their collective philosophy. It reads:

“The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life. Turbulent instincts must be replaced by a national discipline as the guiding principle of our national life.”

Sounds like one of the Presidential candidates, but which one? Huckabee, maybe, or Santorum? Carson? Cruz? One of the other ten announced so far? Or maybe one who’s still waiting in the wings?

The answer, regardless of how unlikely it sounds, is none of the above. Nor is it a paragraph from the Republican Party Platform for 2016 or from any other year. Nope. Those were word spoken on the first day of February, 1933, by Adolf Hitler in his “Proclamation to the German Nation at Berlin.” That’s not to say the GOP couldn’t use it, that it wouldn’t fit. I mean it’s really close to a perfect summary of their implicit goals, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be copyright infringement if they did so choose to put the words to current use.

And I’m sure O’Reilly would spout praise, for once, instead of his typical streams of ignorant vitriol.

OPEN THREAD