The Daily Parker

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The illegitimacy of the Supreme Court

Some fun facts about the Justices of the United States:

  • Five were appointed by presidents who took office despite losing the popular vote. All 5 voted to overturn Roe.
  • Three of the Republicans on the Court—the Chief Justice, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett—worked for President George W Bush's Florida recount team.
  • The 52 senators who voted in favor of Justice Kavanaugh's (R) confirmation represent 145.9 million Americans. The 48 senators who voted against him represent 180.7 million.
  • The 50 senators who voted in favor of Justice Coney Barrett (R) represent 157.0 million to the 170.5 million the 48 no votes represent.
  • Eight have law degrees from Harvard or Yale. (This will remain true next month when Justice Brown takes office.)

With those facts in mind, James Fallows argues that the Court burned its own legitimacy to ashes by not remembering the simple truth about judicial power:

[D]emocratic legitimacy depends in the long run on majority rule, combined with minority rights.

We’re now closer to systematic rule by a minority, rather than respect for its rights. A democracy cannot forever function this way.

The Supreme Court has a long up-and-down history of glory and of tawdriness. But I argue that the leaders and eras that stand up best in retrospect showed awareness that the Court’s power depended on legitimacy, and legitimacy depended on the Court’s care about how it fit into the longer-term life of a democracy.

[A] court concerned about legitimacy, would under- rather than over-intrude in public affairs.

Over-intrusion is what we have. In the anti-Miranda ruling. In the blocking of gun control. In the outright voiding of Roe v. Wade.

The Court can make its rulings. From behind its barricaded and no-guns-allowed building.

It cannot preserve its legitimacy this way.

Linda Greenhouse concurs:

Consider the implication of Justice Alito’s declaration that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong” from the start. Five of the seven justices in the Roe majority — all except William O. Douglas and Thurgood Marshall — were appointed by Republican presidents. The votes necessary to preserve the right to abortion 19 years later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Roe follow-up decision that the court also overturned on Friday, came from five Republican-appointed justices.

In asserting that these justices led the court into grave error from which it must now be rescued, Justice Alito and his majority are necessarily saying that these predecessors, joining the court over a period of four decades, didn’t know enough, or care enough, to use the right methodology and reach the right decision. The arrogance and unapologetic nature of the opinion are breathtaking.

There will be turmoil now, for sure, as the country’s highways fill with women desperate to regain control over their lives and running out of time, perhaps followed by vigilantes across state lines. But the only turmoil that was caused by Roe and Casey was due to the refusal of activists, politicians and Republican-appointed judges to accept the validity of the precedents. Justice Alito’s reference to “turmoil” reminded me of nothing so much as Donald Trump’s invocation of “carnage” in his inaugural address. There was no carnage then, but there was carnage to come.

No, justices, your work isn’t done. What you have finished off is the legitimacy of the court on which you are privileged to spend the rest of your lives.

Here's some "turmoil:" some asshole in Iowa drove his truck into a pro-choice demonstration yesterday, injuring at least one woman.

One simple solution: 18-year terms. If we adopt this reform, Thomas (R) would be the first one to go followed by the Chief Justice (I) and Alito (R), which are strong arguments in favor as far as I'm concerned.

The fantasies of the Christianist Right

Mark Thiessen took a victory lap in the Post this afternoon, congratulating himself and his fellow travelers for succeeding in their 50-year project to make abortions illegal in most of the US:

Overturning Roe v. Wade has been the overarching, seemingly impossible goal of the pro-life movement for almost five decades. Now that it has finally been achieved, four words should be on the lips of every pro-life conservative today: Thank you, Donald Trump.

Looking back on Trump’s chaotic presidency, some understandably ask: Was it all worth it for a few conservative justices? To which I answer: Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Every Republican president before Trump failed miserably when it came to Supreme Court picks. In 1970, Richard M. Nixon nominated Harry A. Blackmun, who would go on to be the ignominious author of Roe. Gerald Ford picked only one justice, John Paul Stevens, who became the leader of the court’s liberal bloc. Ronald Reagan had three appointees (Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy), but only Scalia was a consistent conservative vote on the court. George H.W. Bush named one brilliant conservative (Clarence Thomas) and one catastrophic liberal (David Souter).

But as Josh Marshall points out, the reason Republican presidents didn't pick partisan Justices in the past—at least until Thomas—was because they didn't want to corrupt the Court:

Certainly the Warren Court was “liberal” by modern standards. But its creation was fundamentally organic. The justices’ positions didn’t clearly line up with those of the parties’ whose presidents nominated them. Indeed, many of the appointments were surprisingly casual and confirmed in much the same way.

The idea that you would create a political movement, harnessed to one political party, dedicated to building up a pipeline of future judges and justices, often all but created in a test tube to overrule specific decisions, was an innovation of the modern conservative judicial movement with no precedent. It had never happened before. And even as judicial liberals have belatedly reacted to that movement, they haven’t replicated it or really even tried.

And here is something of the catch. Conservatives really did convince themselves that the Warren Court and to an extent the Burger Court were the handiwork of a liberal political elite. As is the case in other instances, what’s actual belief or pretended belief gets murky. They claimed to set out to duplicate or create an opposite version of something that had never really existed. And in so doing they created the politicization of the federal judiciary that had never existed before, not in the same way.

At one level, give them their due. They had a goal. They worked tirelessly for half a century, building organizations, think tanks, chapters at every law school, political alliances and more all to get to this one day. And they got there. But it is a legitimate Court or judicial body as much as Fox News is a real news organization. And that’s no accident since they are the creation of the same political movement, often literally the same people and the same ideology and mindset.

So when Justice Thomas, one of the most partisan jurists ever to sit in the Supreme Court, bemoans the degradation of the institution and its authority, someone tell him to look in a mirror. By creating a partisan, activist Court majority, the Republican Party has won the battle against Roe. But I think historians in the future will look back on this moment as the Christianist-Conservative movement's sinking of the Lusitania.

Thomas and Alito unchained

As everyone expected, the Supreme Court today overturned Roe v Wade, ending Federal protections for abortion rights until we find a political fix to the reactionary Court supermajority. (We will; it'll just take time.) I haven't read the published opinion, which 4 of the partisan Justices joined. Chief Justice Roberts (I) wrote his own concurrence accepting the outcome in this specific case but rejecting the broader reversal.

At first glance, Justice Alito's (R) opinion seems close enough to the draft leaked last month, so I'll move on from that for now. But we should all regard with horror and alarm this line from Justice Thomas's (R) concurrence, in which he expresses just how batshit crazy fundamental Christianist he really is:

[I]n future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___, ___ (2020) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (slip op., at 7), we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents, Gamble v. United States, 587 U. S. ___, ___ (2019) (THOMAS, J., concurring) (slip op., at 9).

Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization, 587 US __ (2022) (THOMAS, J., citing himself as evidence for his own insane assertions.)

In other words, Thomas wants to return to the halcyon days of the '50s—the 1850s. And isn't it a bit rich that this particular Justice wants to undo so much progress? If only he had the courage of his convictions so he'd resign as the Founders intended.

I think we're in for about 10 years of this kind of crap before people finally have enough, or worse. At least Thomas and Alito no longer make any pretense of impartiality or reason.

Another thing to remember: we need to look at the commercial cases the Court has decided this term. Abortion isn't the prize for the Right; it's the payoff to their supporters. The real money's in the real money. Don't forget that.

Thursday afternoon round-up

A lot has happened in the past day or so:

Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!

Hottest day in 10 years–almost

Chicago's official temperature last hit 38°C (100°F) on 6 July 2022, almost 10 years ago. As of 4pm O'Hare reported steady at 37°C (98°F) with the likelihood of breaking the record diminishing by the minute. At Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, we have 37.2°C, still climbing, but leveling off.

In other hotness around the world:

Finally, Florida Fish and Wildlife Officials captured a 95-kilogram, 5.4-meter Burmese python, the largest ever discovered in the state. Apparently it had recently dined on a deer. So far they have found over 15,000 of the snakes, none of them quite so large.

Update: Not that I'm complaining, but after holding just under 37°C for three hours, the temperature finally started to drop. At 6pm O'Hare reported 36°C. So no record.

Main battle concluded; mop-up skirmishes continue

A little more than four days after I first noticed Covid-19 symptoms, my body appears to have won the war, with my immune system putting down a few rear-guard actions in my lungs and sinuses quite handily. If I wake up tomorrow without residual coughing or sneezing, I'll be able to partially resume normal life, albeit masked. Good thing Cassie has a few weeks worth of food on hand.

In sum, I should be perfectly healthy to deal with the two crises sure to blow up next week: the final Supreme Court rulings of the term (including Dobbs), and three days in Austin, Texas, where the temperature will hit 39°C every day I'm there.

On Dobbs specifically, and Justice Alito (R) in general, former Jimmy Carter aide Simon Lazarus has some advice for the Democratic Party:

Alito’s intended audience is not elite thinkers or legal scholars but rather lay populations who do not closely follow high-profile legal kerfuffles. Polls indicate that majorities of this huge cohort favor legal abortion, but many do not consider it a top personal or political priority. Alito’s aim is to persuade such people that, whatever the real-world consequences, he is ruling in accord with what he and his colleagues on the right believe—legitimately—the law requires. And on those fronts his simplistic argument could work. In fact, there should be little doubt that it will prove effective—tempering criticism, inducing resigned acquiescence—unless liberals counter with messaging that is trenchant, credible, strategically targeted, and repeated at every opportunity.

Alito has unfurled a legal framework fit for legitimizing campaigns against not only abortion but any right not specified in the Constitution’s text. Liberals must discredit that framework with force and haste. They can no longer rely solely on their preferred tactic of parading the array of real-world horribles that will naturally follow in the wake of decisions that decimate the rights Americans have enjoyed for decades. They must meet their right-wing adversaries on their preferred terrain and successfully mass-market a liberal legal alternative.

In truth, his pitch is antithetical to how the Constitution has been understood from the founding era on.

So where to start? The top-line message point is simple: Fundamental, unenumerated rights—abortion, contraception, LGBTQ liberty, marriage equality, and others—are in fact in the Constitution.

Lazarus' answer? Start with the Ninth Amendment and work out from there.

History shows that the Right usually swings into power when life becomes unsettled, only to hurt so many people that the Left returns to power a few years later. The Right also tend to have better organization and focus, since they don't care as much about policy as they do about power and wealth; but they always, always over-reach and ultimately lose more than they win.

Future generations will look back on ours and shake their heads at Alito and Thomas just as we wonder how the 1830s and 1840s produced such horrible people as John C Calhoun and Jefferson Davis. But we're about to spend a decade or so with the Right finally getting what they've worked to achieve for 40 years. I hope we get through it without a war.

Day 2 of isolation

Even though I feel like I have a moderate cold (stuffy, sneezy, and an occasional cough), I recognize that Covid-19 poses a real danger to people who haven't gotten vaccinations or who have other comorbidities. So I'm staying home today except to walk Cassie. It's 18°C and perfectly sunny, so Cassie might get a lot of walks.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of things to occupy my time:

Finally, today is the 210th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 207th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Around the world in a month?

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), currently locked in a cage match with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-MS) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) for "Dumbest Person in Congress," is under investigation for some pretty dumb shit:

Colorado officials are examining allegations that Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican representing the state’s western half, inflated the mileage she logged on the campaign trail in 2020 and then used more than $20,000 in reimbursements from donors to pay off years of tax liens on her restaurant.

The allegations have bounced around liberal circles since The Denver Post first reported in February 2021 that Ms. Boebert had cashed two checks from her campaign totaling $22,259 for mileage reimbursement. The number equated to 38,712 miles — well more than the 24,901-mile circumference of the planet.

At the core of the inquiry are eight tax liens from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment totaling $20,000 and filed against Ms. Boebert from August 2016 to February 2020 for failure to pay unemployment premiums on her business, Shooters Grill.

In late 2020, Ms. Boebert reimbursed herself for mileage from the 2020 campaign and paid off the liens.

“As you are both fully aware, utilizing an illegal source of funds or ill-gotten funds to pay off a tax lien is illegal in Colorado and under federal law,” the Muckrakers complaint to the attorney general stated, adding, “That is the very definition of ill-gotten funds.”

This won't really go anywhere before the November election, of course, but it will eventually get there. It'll be fun to watch though.

My houseguest has departed

After four nights, five puddles, four solid gifts, and so much barking that the neighbors down the block left a note on my door, Sophie finally went home this afternoon. I also worked until 11:30 last night, but that had nothing to do with her. It did cause a backup in my reading, though:

Finally, army dude-bros in several countries have gotten into arguments over online tank games and, to win those arguments, have posted classified information about real tanks. The defense authorities in the US, UK, France, and China are investigating.

American Airlines brings the HEAT

The most interesting (to me) story this afternoon comes from Cranky Flier: American Airlines has a new software tool that can, under specific circumstances, reduce weather-related cancellations by 80% and missed connections by 60%. Nice.

In other news:

And finally, as Lake Michigan water levels decline from their record levels in 2020, the receding water has exposed all the work the city and state need to do to repair our beaches.