Category Archives: Supreme & Other Courts

God Save Us from the Supreme Court Theocrats!

NOTE: Kennedy v. Bremerton is the short name for this case, but it would be better dubbed the “Blow Another Big Hole In the Freedom from Religion & the First Amendment!” Case.

As the respected SCOTUS blog noted,

Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district, took a different view. She called the decision “the greatest loss of religious freedom in our country in generations” and she warned that Kennedy’s supporters would “try to expand this dangerous precedent – further undermining everyone’s right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose.”

In a stinging dissent, justice Sotomayor wrote (and showed) that the bulldozer majority had “misconstrue[d]” — more plainly, falsified & lied about — the facts” of the case, depicting Kennedy’s prayers as “private and quiet” when the prayers had actually caused “severe disruption to school events.”

I’m not an atheist; in fact I’ll be attending worship in a couple of hours, in a very small, but doughty, minority sect (aka Quakers) and may well even pray there. Our group had to struggle & suffer to gain religious freedom, for ourselves and others, and that experience remains unforgotten. So whatever is columnist Pamela Paul’s faith or unfaith, (her private business), I nod in gratitude as she spotlights some of the many ominous implications of this precedent, especially for those associated with minority faiths, or the steadily growing population of “Nones.” Added up, to paraphrase a stanza from The Music Man,  they spell

Trouble with a Capital T,

And that rhymes with P

And that stands for

Pushing private prayer on a progressively more p*ssed off public.

New York Times For This Supreme Court, Justice Isn’t Blind. Faith Is.

Opinion Columnist

Imagine your boss fervently proclaiming his religious beliefs at the end of a companywide meeting, inviting everyone on the team who shares those beliefs to join in. You’re surrounded by colleagues and other higher-ups. Everyone is watching to see who participates and who holds back, knowing that whatever each of you does could make or break your job and even your career, whether you share his convictions or not. But hey, totally up to you!

That’s what Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant coach in Kitsap County, Wash., did with his team — only he did it with public-school students at a high-school football game. When the superintendent made clear that by actively inviting players to join him at the 50-yard line for postgame Christian prayers, he was violating school policy and, by the way, the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, Kennedy took to the media, turning a small town’s school sporting event into a three-ring circus and ugly social media sideshow, with students effectively forced to perform or suffer the consequences.

Naming the single worst decision of the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2021-22 term is a tough call. But the one that best captures the majority’s brazen efforts to inflict its political and religious agenda on the rest of the country may well be Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which ruled that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the field. Overturning precedent and in a cynical elision of fact, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, affirmed Kennedy’s assertion that his proselytizing on government property during a public-school function was “private,” “personal” and “quiet.”

It was nothing of the kind. In easily observable fact, Kennedy’s religious display was public, vocal and coercive, as demonstrated by testimony from football players and other community members and by video and photographs of the coach surrounded by crowds of people on bent knee. According to an amicus brief filed by one of Kennedy’s football players and seven other members of the community on behalf of the school district, participation in Kennedy’s prayers was “expected.” Students were explicitly encouraged by him to ask the other teams’ coaches and players to join in, something Kennedy himself boasted about.

Quotes for Tuesday: supreme hypocrisy, hanging on too long, Gas & (as usual) Guns . . .

New York Times: In its joint dissent [from the supreme court decision to overthrow Roe] in Dobbs, the court’s three-member liberal wing wrote, “Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.”
Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s both.

— Harry Litman, Harry Litman, UCLA law professor, former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general

Michelle Goldberg: As a recent New York Times/Siena College poll found, 64 percent of Democrats want a different presidential nominee in 2024. Those Democrats cite Biden’s age more than any other factor, though job performance is close behind. Their concern isn’t surprising. . . .
There’s a problem here that goes beyond a shortage of presidential speeches and media appearances, or even Biden himself. We are ruled by a gerontocracy. Biden is 79. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, is 83. The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is 71. Often, it’s not clear if they grasp how broken this country is.

They built their careers in institutions that worked, more or less, and they seem to expect them to start working again. They give every impression of seeing this moment, when the gears of government have seized and one party openly schemes against democracy, as an interregnum rather than a tipping point. . . .

If there’s one consolation in Biden’s age, it’s that he can step aside without conceding failure. There’s no shame in not running for president in your 80s. He emerged from semiretirement to save the country from a second Trump term, and for that we all owe him a great debt. But now we need someone who can stand up to the still-roiling forces of Trumpism.

There are plenty of possibilities: . . . Biden said, during the 2020 campaign, that he wanted to be a “bridge” to a new generation of Democrats. Soon it will be time to cross it.
—- Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

Bloomberg: A year into Russia manipulating European gas supplies, the market is finally convinced that Moscow will continue to do so, and perhaps with greater intensity.

The first test comes in the next two weeks. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the most important gas link between Russia and the European Union, undergoes annual maintenance from July 11 to July 21. Berlin fears that Moscow will find an excuse to keep it closed for good, cutting gas supplies to Germany completely. After all that Moscow has done, the German government is right to be concerned.

Yet, Russia may want to keep some gas flowing to preserve its long-term leverage. From a game-theory point of view, that makes sense. Once Russia stops shipments completely, it can no longer apply pressure. Tactically, Moscow is likely to keep some gas moving, retaining the option of cutting or slowing flows whenever it chooses.

The Guardian: The US president was delivering a speech on the South Lawn on Monday when he was interrupted by Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin, was among 14 students and three staff members killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

“We have to do more than that!” Oliver shouted, among other remarks, while standing up and wearing dark sunglasses, grey beard and purple jacket.

At first Biden told him, “Sit down, you’ll hear what I have to say,” but then the president relented and said, “Let him talk, let him talk, OK?”

By then, however, security had already stepped in to take Oliver away.

Earlier on Monday, Oliver had made clear that he objected to the event being billed as a celebration in the aftermath of a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on 24 May.

He wrote on Twitter: “The word CELEBRATION has no space in a society that saw 19 kids massacred just a month ago.”

The confrontation underlined simmering frustration with Biden, accused of failing to meet the moment not only on guns but abortion, climate and other issues. . . .

The White House gave Biden an opportunity to respond to the critics by showcasing the first major federal gun safety bill in three decades, which he signed into law last month. He was joined in bright summer sunshine by survivors and family members of those slain during mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, Uvalde, Buffalo, Highland Park and others. . . .

man in sunglasses points finger
Manuel Oliver interrupts Biden on the White House’s South Lawn. Photograph: Shawn Thew/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

But the scale of the challenge was laid bare when, just 16 days after the law took effect, a gunman in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people and wounded more than 30 others at an Independence Day parade, fueling the discontent of Oliver and other activists who want to see Biden move faster and further.

Biden hailed the law as “real progress” and said “lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this” but acknowledged that “more has to be done”. He said: “It matters, it matters, but it’s not enough and we all know that.”. . . .

“We are living in a country awash in weapons of war,” Biden said with palpable anger. “Guns are the number one killer of children in the United States, more than car accidents, more than cancer.”

He earned applause as he insisted that the second amendment to the federal constitution, which protects the right to bear arms, should not supersede others.

Among the hundreds of guests on the south lawn were a bipartisan group of senators who crafted and supported the legislation, as well as local-level officials including the Illinois governor, JB Pritzker, and Highland Park mayor, Nancy Rotering.

But the director of the campaign group Guns Down America, Igor Volsky, wasn’t wholly impressed by the White House’s framing of the gathering.

Volsky told the Associated Press news agency: “There’s simply not much to celebrate here. It’s historic, but it’s also the very bare minimum of what Congress should do.

“And as we were reminded by the shooting on July fourth, and there’s so many other gun deaths that have occurred since then. The crisis of gun violence is just far more urgent.”

Quotes of The Weekend: Midterm Election Keys — Enthusiasm, Turnout — and Hate

Philip Bump in the Washington Post, from an article crunching the latest post-Roe polls:

Now we come to enthusiasm about voting, that metric that many Democrats have seized on of late as an indicator of fury about [the] Dobbs [decision which threw out Roe].

Bump: As it turns out, Gallup has new data on that. Enthusiasm for voting among Democrats is higher now than in any recent year besides 2006 and 2018 — two elections that went very well for the party. But Republican enthusiasm is 10 points higher.

If we look at the gap between the two parties’ enthusiasm, we again get a murky picture. That said: If the trend line is perfect and the enthusiasm gap stays unchanged (neither of which is the case), 2022 will be a rough year for the left.

Infinite caveats apply . . . . Poll numbers can change (though it seems unlikely in this highly polarized era that Biden’s approval is going far). Republican enthusiasm can sink; Democratic enthusiasm can surge. Exceptionally bad or exceptionally good general election candidates can shift a lot of results unexpectedly. It really does come down to turnout.

All of which is to say: If you are a Democrat who wants to shift all of the graphs [in your direction] , your best bet isn’t to parse individual polls or cross your fingers. It is, in fact, to vote.

COMMENT: About that “enthusiasm gap”.  There’s more to it, much more than Bump and his charts reveal. And there are crucial synonyms for “enthusiasm” he misses, especially two: rage and hate. Continue reading Quotes of The Weekend: Midterm Election Keys — Enthusiasm, Turnout — and Hate

An Independence Day Jeremiad

It’s time for Democrats to fear their own voters

Republican politicians fear their base, while Democratic politicians don’t. That’s why we are in this mess

After the overturning of Roe v Wade, there is bad news and there is good news. But first, an admission.

For most of my adult life, I’ve clung to a grand unifying theory: the only way to fight off rightwing fascism is to build not just a well-organized progressive movement, but to also mobilize rank-and-file apolitical Democratic voters to press their own party to deliver.

If Democratic base constituencies – college-educated white-collars, communities of color, young people, etc – went beyond merely voting in November and actually made demands of their Democratic lawmakers (and held them accountable in primaries), then maybe the party would pursue its purported agenda with the same urgency as the Republican party does for its conservative base. And if that happened, maybe more voters would flock to Democrats who were materially improving their lives.

Over the last 25 years, the opposite has happened.

While Republican normie voters were being radicalized by Fox News and talk radio, Democratic normie voters were being anesthetized by NPR, the New York Times, the Atlantic and MSNBC, which taught them to believe that an extremist like John Roberts is a lovable moderate, Mike Pence is an American hero, George Bush is a decent guy, and an operative who installed Sam Alito on the court is a warrior for democracy.

That media machine convinced Democratic normies to believe the highest calling of citizenship was to simply line up behind party-approved candidates, crush progressive challengers in primaries, and “vote blue, no matter who” in general elections – and then do nothing more, even when “electable” conservative Democrats lost and the few winners produced no change. The worst thing anyone could do, they taught viewers, was criticize, pressure, or protest Democratic leaders to try to get them to do anything.

At the same time, Barack Obama and his administration persuaded normie Democrats that the celebrity candidate would save the day, that progressive pressure campaigns are “fucking retarded”, and that Obama’s hand-picked candidate, Hillary Clinton, was the most viable successor. Meanwhile, the labor movement was crushed by Democrats’ trade deals and corporate union busting, disempowering what had been a radicalizing force inside the Democratic coalition.

And yet, here’s the admission: it wasn’t just external factors that undermined this effort to mobilize normies. It was a failure of an entire generation of operatives, activists, advocacy journalists, policy wonks, philanthropists, filmmakers, pundits, labor leaders, thinktankers, Capitol Hill staff and politicians in left-of-center politics – and I include myself in that group of failures.

***
We could console ourselves by feeling like Don’t Look Up’s Dr Mindy when he points up at the comet and says: “We’ve been trying to warn you!”

But let’s admit it: the campaigns, advocacy and pressure of my generation and the Boomers did not radicalize the normies quickly enough. We were not just outgunned by conservatives, outspent by corporatists, and undermined by liberal careerists selling their souls for the next hot take – we were also outmaneuvered, outsmarted and outperformed.

We failed, and that failure allowed Democratic leaders to never fear their own base – to the point where Democratic voters gave their presidential nomination to the candidate who authored the crime bill, allied with segregationists, championed the Iraq war, touted social security cuts, voted to let states restrict abortion and sharpened bankruptcy laws.

So here’s the bad news: because this dynamic allowed Democratic leaders to never feel the heat of accountability, they never wielded their power to make a serious effort to avert the current nightmare. In many cases, they did the opposite.

The Obama presidency was defined by initiatives to prop up health insurance predators, protect Wall Street criminals and abandon promises to Democratic voters, which created the backlash conditions and depressed turnout that helped lead to Donald Trump’s ascent. The Biden presidency has been similarly defined by the party living up to the president’s promise that “nothing would fundamentally change” – and its attendant unwillingness to materially improve the lives of anyone other than billionaires and corporate executives, all while the administration boosts various rightwing causes.

The crescendo of this phantasmagoria has led to this grim reality: As conservative justices now turn on a spigot of extremist rulings, the Democratic president is giving half-hearted speeches pretending he has no power, and issuing reports declining to even support expanding the supreme court – due to concerns about protecting “its independence and legitimacy”.

For their part, Democratic congressional leaders are singing patriotic ballads while sending out fundraising emails. They expect yet another positive response from a base that up until now has politely asked for – but never really demanded – anything from them in return.

***

If you’ve somehow read this far, you are probably gut-punched. But here’s the good-news payoff for still being here: yes, there are signs that at this dangerously late hour, normie Democratic voters may finally have had enough of this shit.

Last month, a stat buried in an NBC News poll showed that nearly two thirds of Democratic voters said they now want a candidate “who proposes larger-scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change”. Just a third said they prefer a candidate “who proposes smaller-scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass into law, but will bring less change on these issues”.

Put another way: 63% of the party is finally radicalized, and just 33% are still clinging to the normie view. This might explain why a group of progressive congressional challengers recently overcame the odds and won their primaries, even against party leaders’ endorsements.

At the same time, a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey found a plurality of Americans no longer buy Democrats’ argument that they have no power to do anything – and that includes a quarter of Democrats and nearly half of independents. A full 50% of Democrats say Joe Biden has power to reduce inflation and healthcare costs.

Quinnipiac’s new poll also shows just a quarter of young voters approve of the way Biden is handling his job, and his numbers are similarly low among Black and Latino voters.

***

Taken together, this is empirical proof that core Democratic constituencies may finally be evaluating their party’s president on his actual record, rather than just mindlessly cheering him on because he’s wearing the blue home-team jersey.

This healthy attitude is starting to seep into popular culture. As one example: The Daily Show – historically the normiest of normie Democratic television programs – is now openly mocking party leaders’ refusal to do anything to stop the Republican onslaught. As Democratic policy wonk Will Stancilput it, that’s a sign that “anger at do-nothing Dems really has gone completely mainstream in a way that seemed impossible three or four years ago”.

If history is any indication, that’s good. Democratic leaders only did things like enact social security, create Medicare, pass the Voting Rights Act and end the Vietnam war once they feared the electoral consequences of inaction. The same dynamic holds today: you can bet Democratic leaders will not fulfill their longtime promise to statutorily codify reproductive rights until and unless they feel the same kind of anger and pressure as their predecessors felt in their day.

That’s how democracy is supposed to work: we’re supposed to evaluate representatives not on their personalities or party affiliations, but on their records, and when they fail to deliver on their promises, those representatives are supposed to fear being denied their party’s nomination and thrown out of office by their own voters.

“Politicians respond to only one thing – power,” wrote Ta-Nehisi Coates back in 2011. “This is not the flaw of democracy, it’s the entire point. It’s the job of activists to generate, and apply, enough pressure on the system to affect change.”

That’s how the American right ultimately brought us to this horrible moment: They conditioned Republican voters to actually expect and demand things, and punish those who wouldn’t deliver.

That same attitude is what’s needed from Democratic voters now – not just rage aimed at the conservative ideologues turning back the clock, but also rage at the Democrats who control the government today. Those elected officials must be forced kicking and screaming – against their own desires – to actually produce. Not tomorrow. Now.

Of course, many of us have been saying this for decades – and have been berated and belittled for doing so. But at least for a moment, it finally feels like we’re no longer alone.

If that’s fleeting, we’re screwed. If it’s enduring, then there’s still a tiny glimmer of hope.

  • David Sirota is a Guardian US columnist and an award-winning investigative journalist. He is an editor at large at Jacobin, and the founder of the Daily Poster. He served as Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign speechwriter

 

Remember “The Stench”? More Comment & Dissent on Roe’s End

The formal dissent, jointly written by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sotomayor, minces few words but primarily adopts a tone of deep concern or even alarm about the implications of the majority’s ruling. Probably the harshest attack on the majority comes on Page 5, where the dissenters assert: Continue reading Remember “The Stench”? More Comment & Dissent on Roe’s End

Eloquence Exemplified In Dissent: Courting the Post-Roe Future

Excerpts from the dissent by justices: Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. (Some emphasis has been added.)

After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away. The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.

. . . The majority accuses Casey of acting outside the bounds of the law to quell the conflict over abortion – of imposing an unprincipled “settlement” of the issue in an effort to end “national division”. Continue reading Eloquence Exemplified In Dissent: Courting the Post-Roe Future