Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Where, Oh Where, Do We Begin?

It’s been less than two weeks and it’s already hard to know where to begin. The irrational, executive order on immigration and refugees? The firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (instantly making her a martyr), the firing of the ICE Director, the directive to start building the wall, threatening to send U.S. troops into Mexico, hanging up on the Australian Prime Minister? Well, these among other travesties and incompetent acts are all worthy of discussion, but for now I’d like to say a few words about President Lout’s appointment of the man likely to be our newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch.

First, a bit of review. In the presence of a vacancy on the Court, it is the Constitutional duty of the President to make a nomination, following which it is the responsibility of the Judicial Committee of the Senate to vet the nominee and of the full Senate to confirm or not confirm the nominee, as the case may be.

In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death last year, President Obama fulfilled his Constitutional duty by nominating Judge Merrick Garland, a universally respected, highly qualified, moderate jurist to take the deceased Scalia’s seat on the Court. Senator Mitch McConnell, aka “The Turtle”, vowed that no nomination made in the final year of President Obama’s term of office would receive any consideration by the Judicial Committee. In doing so, he excused his raw and unconstitutional action by citing what he called the “Biden rule”, a nonexistent rule based solely upon something Joseph Biden said several years ago but having no basis in legislative law. McConnell. thus laid the groundwork blocking any fair and required action on the nomination. This disgraceful act resulted in the theft of the nomination from President Obama, and left the Court one justice short of its normal complement of nine individuals. The Court responded by failing to take on a number of cases that it otherwise might have considered.

So now, Presidential Lout, fulfilling a campaign promise to pick someone acceptable to the far and evangelical right, has nominated an extreme conservative to fill the empty slot, and Republicans are gloating over their unconstitutional triumph. Worse, it should be noted that the Lout’s gang is accusing Democrats of being obstructive by threatening to filibuster the nomination. This, of course, is utter hypocrisy given prior Republican behavior.

It seems inevitable that Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed, although the Democrats may be able to delay confirmation to some minimal extent. But I do believe that an additional protest is warranted. I suggest that when the roll is called for confirmation, EVERY DEMOCRAT SHOULD, INSTEAD OF VOTING “NO” OR BOYCOTTING THE VOTE, LOUDLY PROCLAIM A VOICE A VOTE FOR MERRICK GARLAND. This will do nothing to change the outcome, but at least it will get the attention of the public and remind everyone of the disgusting and obstructive behavior of Senate Majority Leader Turtle and his cohorts in governmental crime.

As a final comment regarding Neil Gorsuch, there are those who have suggested that the Lout might not be getting quite what he is expecting with the appointment. Gorsuch is a strict constructionist, yes, and a far right conservative, yes, and takes a radical view of religious rights (the Hobby Lobby decision) and, consequently, is no friend of women’s rights, but because of his belief in strict adherence to established principles embodied within the Constitution and legislation, there is a glimmer of hope that he at least will not mindlessly support the wild decrees of the Lout. If true, this would be at least one positive in what so far seems an abysmal turn of affairs in our beloved country. Not enough to justify, in my mind, his confirmation to the Supreme Court, but the simple fact is that he will be confirmed, so we need to take whatever small hope there may be that he won’t be the disaster we’re nevertheless expecting.

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A Few Words about a Supreme

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on 13 February came unexpectedly. Far be it for me to speak ill of the departed but, having said that, I fully expect there to be many critical opinions voiced regarding his philosophy and tenure, and I suppose that mine will be counted among them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Justice Scalia was a “bad man”. I just think that despite his purported brilliance, he was a Constitutional Neanderthal. After all, this is a guy who reveled in his view of the Constitution as a “dead” rather than a “living” document, a severely myopic view that supported the assumed perfection of the 18th Century society and minds that created our core document. Scalia refused to face the simple reality that time brings change and, with it, the need to adapt to evolving mores, priorities, and advances in knowledge. The Founding Fathers may have been brilliant and perceptive within the context of their era and, in some respects, beyond it, but we are now well over two hundred years farther along, and American society, not to mention the world in general, has grown more complex, sophisticated, and dangerous. Justice Scalia wished to preserve the nascent state of America despite overwhelming evidence that we simply are not the country that we were at our founding..

Scalia’s domineering personality, sarcastic wit on the bench, and reactionary philosophy combined over the three decades of his service on the Supreme Court to wreak havoc on established and evolving law. Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, a blow against voting rights for minorities…in his votes in these and other cases he as well as his conservative brethren vomited their contempt in large, discrete chunks for any semblance of social equality and fairness. Out of step with his time, he helped to fuel the fires of intolerance and made a travesty of those values and privileges that most Americans, and certainly most minorities, accept as the core of what makes America America.

I believe that the long historical view of Scalia will be that he had a markedly negative but fortunately transient, dramatic impact on the legal and social environment of the country, and that ultimately his efforts failed. He will be seen as a man out of his time attempting to use his position to reinstate an imagined era he felt was better than the one in which he lived. It will be broadly recognized that, paradoxically, his strict constructionist views actually favored far less freedom rather than more. As it is with other conservatives, Scalia was a man who believed that freedom was paramount as long as it didn’t conflict with his own biases. In an era in which the conservatives who supported him rail against activist judges, Scalia was one of the worst.

And so, I will not miss Justice Scalia, but I understand why Republicans, even before rigor mortis set in, trumpeted their desire to stonewall any – any — replacement nomination that will be made by President Obama. All of which leads me to believe that we truly need a Democrat as our next President, because another angry, reactionary, sarcastic, ultra-conservative driven by a right wing political agenda (don’t forget Bush v. Gore) is the last person this country needs on the Supreme Court. It’s critical to recognize that the country is speeding headlong towards a minority majority population, and radically conservative political views are ultimately doomed, no matter what happens in the short term. The fear, however, is that a lot of bad stuff can happen in the short term. History tells us that, at some point, events simply cross a line, and people rise up, unwilling to take it anymore. If Republicans don’t allow that uprising to take place at the ballot box, they may forever regret their unswerving support for the Second Amendment. Their behavior in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death suggests, however, that they don’t yet understand what they are risking. I’d like to think they’ll come to their senses, but based upon the recent behavior and pronouncements of those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, my hopes aren’t high.

The Five Grumps Step in It Again

   This week, we depart from literary pursuits to vent our frustration over the recent “Hobby Lobby” decision by the five crotchety Neanderthals on the Supreme Court, who’ve both politicized and “religicized” (yes, I made that up) the Court to an unprecedented degree.

   First, let’s recall that our country’s founders were deists who sought, among other goals, to establish a country free from religious oppression. Their idea was to keep any one religion from becoming the sanctioned religion of the United States, and for them this meant in particular that the sort of Christian theocratic influence and abuse previously seen in Europe and England was to be avoided.

   The corollary to freedom of religion and the establishment clause of the first amendment was the implication of freedom from religion. Of course, this is not stated anywhere in the Constitution, but if freedom of thought is an inherent right, then the absence of any establishment of religion clearly implies freedom from it, as well.

   All of which brings us to what’s been going on in recent times with the political right wing, right wing Republicans, Tea Partiers, and the Supreme Court. Any objective review of recent events must lead to the conclusion that the United States is suffering from creeping religionism (a real word). The White House’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, permission of sectarian prayers at public governmental meetings, and now – case in point — the ability of employers of closely held corporations to exclude family planning coverage from employee insurance plans – what happened to the first amendment?

   Here’s what happened: right wing nuts, including five angry and religious white guys on the Supreme Court, have decided to impose their morality on the rest of us. How can they do this? Well, they have already defined corporations as people, issued the infamous “Citizens United” decision, and now they’re saying that “closely held” corporations, i.e., those in which at least a majority of the stock is held by the officers of the corporation who have no plans to sell and thereby give up their control, can impose their religious beliefs on employees by restricting their insurance coverage. What’s next? Refusal to cover immunizations? Blood transfusions? Organ transplants? You name it: the door has been opened and it’s a certainty that we’ll be seeing test cases in the near future. Just wait until the first corporation owned by Christian Scientists doesn’t want much of anything to be covered except (maybe) fractures.

   Well, all right, you may say. Why shouldn’t the owners of Hobby Lobby be able to control the insurance coverage of their employees? Here two answers to the question:

  • Because a corporation is a legal entity, not a corporeal person. The individuals behind the corporation are not the corporation itself. As a legal entity, a commercial corporation cannot have a religion, and should not be able to impose religious views and restrictions upon its employees.
  • As already noted, the founders believed in what became known as the “wall of separation” between church and state, making the Hobby Lobby decision an unwarranted intrusion upon individual rights. How? By making Hobby Lobby a de facto agent of the state. What has been created is government sanctioned, corporate theocracy. This is simply a devious violation of the first amendment of the Constitution.

   If the owners of Hobby Lobby truly want to impose their religious convictions upon employees. and I even agree that, as distasteful to me as this is, they do have some rights in this area, they should be required to give up corporate status and simply become a privately held, unincorporated business. Then, without the luxury of hiding behind all of the protections offered to corporate entities (something right wingers should favor, anyway), they’d be able to offer pretty much whatever kind of insurance policy they might favor.

   Finally, a brief comment about Hobby Lobby’s actual philosophy. It never fails to amaze me how right wing factions constantly talk about individual freedom but only their own and not everybody else’s. In the Hobby Lobby case, their objection to family planning coverage appears at least in part to be based upon the notion that some contraceptive methods may act as abortifacients, although in most cases this is not true. Worse, not covering contraceptive therapy will not reduce the number of abortions. It will, in fact, increase that number. Thus, if the owners of Hobby Lobby are really interested in reducing the incidence of abortions, they should be supporting contraceptive coverage. This logical inconsistency on their part is difficult to understand, but one might suspect that underlying some of it is simply hostility directed at women. And based upon past right wing, religious fundamentalist performance, I’d say that’s a good bet, since they haven’t objected to coverage for erectile dysfunction medications which, as we know, are most often used not for procreation but for recreational sex. Yup, it’s the familiar double standard, promulgated under the hypocritically altruistic banner of that ol’ timey religion.

This week’s annoyance: The five members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who oppose judicial activism except when it benefits their political views, and who have abandoned fidelity both to the letter and the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.