Posted tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Guns Or Gay Marriage

October 7, 2018

With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, one might ask, “will Justice Kavanaugh be pro-second Amendment AND anti-gay rights (Fourteenth Amendment, equal treatment under the law)? I wonder whether the Justice will see the irony of these conflicting positions?

Most conservative judges have ruled an expansive Second Amendment interpretation.  According to these learned men, guns are a rock bed right which all Americans possess, even guns in unlimited quantities.  Guaranteed by the Constitution and in line with the Founding Fathers original intent, they say.

If one looks at this perspective closely, the conservative side is saying no one has to own a gun but at the same time no one should deny ownership to others.  Hmmm.

Gay rights, however, seems to be seen differently by conservative judges.  Conservatives seem very much at ease when courts find that discrimination against the LGBT community is ok (if stemming from deeply held religious views). 

In other words, even though no one is being forced to be gay, bi-sexual, or transgender, and being an LGBT member does not infringe on anyone else’s rights, it is permissible to  limit gay rights, if not outrightly banishing the LGBT community existence.


(Family planning and women’s reproductive health rights are similar, where the conservative, paternalistic right continually attempts to assert its “father knows best” over issues that do not effect anyone else and are not compulsory issues which the conservative right must follow.)

So, Guns or Gay marriage encapsulate the contradictory position that many conservatives, particularly those under the influence of fundamental or evangelical religious beliefs. 

“I not only know how to live my life best, I know better how to live your life”. 

What’s Wrong With Beer?

October 2, 2018

Dr Christine Blasey Ford opened a can of worms for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  While her charges centered on a sexual assault, the setting was a party with underage drinking.  In Kavanaugh’s testimony he admitted “liking” beer and having drank a lot at times.  Now other sources have stepped forward with unseemly charges against Kavanaugh which also involve beer consumption.  Hmmm.

So, what’s wrong with beer?

Probably nothing.  But the awkward and potentially disastrous situation Kavanaugh has created is much less about underage drinking or even excessive drinking, and all about a forceful, angry denial of drinking to excess and the highly unflattering allegations being made against his good name.

Had Kavanaugh simply said when he was young he did what other teenagers did and today he is embarrassed looking back.  Kavanaugh could have gone on to say he had no memory of Dr Ford’s charges.  Instead Kavanaugh has vehemently and categorically denied his involvement, asserted he did not get drunk and act poorly.  And, to make matters worse, Kavanaugh has tried to change the subject by turning attention to Democrat political motives trying to defeat his Supreme Court nomination.

The strength and intensity of Kavanaugh’s testimony should be worrisome to all Senators.  Kavanaugh acted like a slick city lawyer employing misdirection and obfuscation.  Is this what we want for someone who will potential be writing Supreme Court opinions?

That’s what’s wrong with beer.

The Week That Was

August 19, 2018

This past week over 300 daily newspapers published separate editorials on the subject of a Free and Independent Press.  This coordinated action rebuked President Trump’s continual message about “Fake News” and “the Press being an enemy of the people”.  It should not require much more than a cursory knowledge of fascist regimes in the 30’s and 40’s to summon the consequences of a country losing its free press.  Just ask Joseph Goebbels if you could.

President Trump has a new “friend” in the person of Omarosa Manigault-Newman.  OMH is Trump friend from the past (reality star), a former campaign worker, and the token black staff member on Trump’s White House team.  What caused Ms Manigault-Newman to be fired is not clear and probably not important but the consequences could prove very exciting.   Omarose says she has over 100 tapes of conversations with the President and others.  Hmmm.

Some pundits say that in order to change the 24/7 conversation away from Omarosa, President Trump announced he was revoking for CIA Director John Brennan top secret security clearance.  Why?  Because Brennan had criticized the President and this represented a threat to the American people.  Hmmm.

In another tweet, the President threaten to take away the security clearance for a current Justice Department employee, Bruce Ohr alleging Mr Ohr had somehow acted against the interests of the President.  Hmmm.  I wonder whether the President would try to silence Congressional members if they spoke out too?

And, there in lies week’s message.  It is one thing for the President to reward loyal friends and supporters with millions of dollars of tax cuts and government contracts (that’s government as usual), it is quite another to take away key safe guards of an open and free society.  Once taken, the path towards suppressed speech and lost personal freedoms is well documented.

Up to this point in the Trump Presidency, the operative words have been “go along to get along”.  Like all bullies, there is only one language they understand.  Not just “no” but “hell no”, and this must come from Congress and the Judiciary in non-partisan clarity.

The issue is not “impeachment”, rather it is about clearly and loudly affirming the primacy of an open and free society.  What’s at stake is more valuable than a Supreme Court appointee or a tax cut.  The Russian collusion or other high crimes or misdemeanors will in time take care of themselves.  Becoming a third world country where George Orwell’s 1984 rules the day must be stopped first. 

Sleeping Through History

May 6, 2014

From the time of our founding fathers until World War I, most Americans knew only what their parents told them, what they had left behind if they were immigrants, or what their neighborhood’s customers and traditions revealed. The well to do, of course, read books and often traveled to foreign lands.

With WWI, a significant number of Americans performed military duty and saw the world. “How can you keep them down on the farm, once they see Paris”. Since WWI more and more Americans have seen foreign lands for short periods of time. Tourism and unfortunately more military conflicts continually exposed Americans to the vastness and diversity of foreign lands.

Finally with the advent of 7/24 news, foreign places can be seen every day. One might be right to think that Americans would now be cosmopolitan when it comes to understanding America’s virtues and areas needing improvements. One might think Americans would look around the world for best in class in whatever, say transportation, education, healthcare, or just having fun, and try and pick the best practices for improving life here.

One might think that but regrettably Americans are still reluctant to embrace data or consider doing things differently. Transportation, especially rail, is far superior to the US in Europe and Asia. Education results around the world place the US someplace between 15th and 20th best in the world. Healthcare costs are about 1/2 that of the US in at least 20 other modern countries, and healthcare outcomes are as good or better. Just having fun is a bit more debatable but who would turn down a quiet Sunday in a Europe park or strolling along a river?

So, it was these thought that flashed through my mind when yesterday the Supreme Court held that towns were free to begin public meetings with a prayer.  The case was about Christian prayers.   To be fair, the prayers could not evangelize or attack other beliefs. The Court (5 to 4, surprise, surprise) said our founding fathers believed in a greater spirit and demonstrated that by funding a Congressional chaplain. Hmmm.

History is replete with one religion motivated travesty after another.   Some Jews in Israel are today following the call of their god to occupy lands currently populated by Muslims. Some Hindus feel it ok to kill Muslims in parts of India. Some Muslims are only too willing to gain their after life world by blowing themselves up and killing as many Christian as possible. Hmmm.

The point that seems to be missing in the Supreme Court decision is that there is no one true religion when one considers the entire world. Further, the US demographics have been changing ever since the founding fathers were laid to rest. What prayer today might make sense as a meeting invocation, might offend many tomorrow.

Consider the appearance that a zoning decision which adversely impacts one religion (say locating a Synagogue or a Mosque) would make.  Wouldn’t the impacted religion suspect religions discrimination reasons if the town counsel meeting always begins with a Christian prayer.

Evangelizing and attempting to put into law a particular religion’s beliefs will be ever present. A wise Supreme Court would have insisted that any invocation which was not secular, must rotate amongst all the relevant religions in the effective area. Hmmm.

The greatest wisdom the Court could have exercised would have been to firmly affirm the secular nature of our Country. Maybe that will happen another day.

The Noble Experiment

April 23, 2014

The Supreme Court upheld yesterday, by a 6-2 vote, Michigan’s ban on using race as a factor in college admissions. The Court’s decisions said States had the right to choose whether race should play a role in college admission.  Michigan had voted to eliminate it. Hmmm.

Affirmative Action was introduced by President John F Kennedy in 1960 by executive order. The order was intended to end racial discrimination in hiring. Over the years it spread to other sources of alleged discrimination including college admissions.

Affirmative Action, however, has pitted two strongly held American beliefs, merit (best person wins) versus discrimination (I’m qualified but you are not giving me a chance). Most Americans can accept decisions “where the better person” won. If you work hard and try your best, then you should win American thinking goes.

But how does one answer the question why so few minorities (largely African Americans, but also Hispanics and American Indians) are represented in college enrollment?

The quiet answer had been “they are simply not qualified”. Additional information such as test score biases and the unexpected fact that most minorities when admitted, complete their courses and graduate, suggest that the admission process might be suspect since the minorities demonstrated they could do the work.

The use of race in college admission is strongly supported by most universities.  Race is a sure method to assure a diverse class.   These institutions hail the “diverse” campus as a plus for all students. The impact of race based college admissions beyond the actual class demographics is much harder to pin down.

Minority applicants tend to come from poor backgrounds.  Many reason that if these less fortunate students get a break and graduate, the next generation will be able to succeed without help.  Hmmm.

Unfortunately, poverty is not on the way out in this country.   The cycle of poverty seems as secure as ever. Consequently, it is hard to see the plight of minorities getting better.  It is even harder to see how this Supreme Court decision will help.

Universities are faced with a difficult choice in the admission process. How do they determine which students can do the college work and once graduated, will go on to successful careers?  If this were not a concern, the university need only raise its tuition until there was just enough who could afford the cost. That approach would not ensure a graduation population which could succeed in life or bring credit to the school.

Another consideration is that it is difficult to cleanly separate Federal funds from any academic institution’s operation. Federal grants directly or indirectly support buildings, research, and grants/loans to worthy students. While it may seem reasonable that if Michigan residents vote to ban affirmative action in its colleges, it just makes no sense why remedies for an American issues such as poverty and racial lack of inclusion should not apply to all States?

This is a murky subject and one ready made to enliven our prejudices. If universities truly subscribe to admitting diverse classes, the burden will fall on them to alter their admission criteria.

This is much easier said than done. Which university is willing to deny admission to a qualified child of a large benefactor in order to make space for a less wealthy minority? Hmmm.

Supreme Choice

April 22, 2014

The Supreme Court will hear today “American Broadcasting Companies versus Aereo”. News reports claim the Supreme Court decision could change the way we watch TV. Hmmm.

Imagine that you have a DVD and you tape several programs aired on CBS (or either of the other major networks) from your rabbit ears outfitted TV. Later you invite some friends over to watch the shows together. A few days after that you receive a bill from CBS demanding a small fee for having “rebroadcasted” the shows.

What would you think? Initially you might think “what’s going on? CBS is “free” TV, isn’t it?” In a strangely clever way this Supreme Court case is about whether a commercial company, Aereo, can in essence do the same in your behalf.

Aereo claims it captures “free, public” signals from CBS and stores the transmissions on a complex DVD system. Aereo, with a straight face, claims that there is a DVD for each of its subscribers and they are simply duplicating what each person could do on their own.

The major networks are up in arms. They claim they are loosing valuable “retransmission fees” and if Aereo is allowed to continue, they may leave the over the air broadcast world and go only to internet or wireless. Some content providers, like major sports, who broadcast some of their games on CBS, NBC, and ABC say they will stop broadcasting over these networks.

For the many millions who only receive TV through an antenna this could be a major loss. For the cable subscriber, it is hard to say but most likely “retransmission fees” would jump and so would monthly cable bills.

Remember this is the same Supreme Court who views the extravagant amounts of money flooding Washington as “free speech”. It seems to make no difference to the Court’s majority that money is corroding Washington, or that their Citizens United decision has reinforced the power of the wealthy versus the average person.

So, what will the Court decide?

If the Court stays consistent, it should rule that Aereo is free to follow its business model providing it is not charging extra for any of CBS, ABC, or NBC content.

Will the world end? Who knows. Each of the players is acting in their own selfish best interest. The market, however, could care less.

If Major League Baseball were to elect either cable or pay per view, or nothing, many people would either watch less or pay a little more. When this is multiplied by millions of these decisions, it is nearly impossible to determine what would be the net economic results for Major League Baseball.

The same can be said about CBS, NBC, or ABC.

Unbundling Cable TV packages and allowing subscribers to buy only what they want is frequently heard from consumers. The driving force behind this request is the ever mounting monthly Cable bills. Since there is no law requiring anyone to subscribe to Cable or to watch TV, the free market might be the correct place to settle this issue.

The Supreme Court has recently shown a propensity to know what’s best for America. We should know by summer how they view this issue.

Hobby United?

March 24, 2014

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today over whether a “for profit” corporation has religious rights like those of an individual under the First Amendment. The question is whether Hobby Lobby or any other “for profit” corporation can deny legal benefits to its employees if, in the opinion of the corporation owners, these benefits violate the owners religious beliefs.

The case is based upon a real company, Hobby Lobby, with real owners who are religious, sincere people. These owners believe that certain Affordable Care Act covered birth control methods are unacceptable when held up to their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby does not want to provide these benefits although they are willing to provide the rest of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits.

There would seem no dispute that Hoppy Lobby owners themselves are free to not use these birth control benefits. The problem arises, however, when Hobby Lobby denies employees with different religious views (or no religious views) access to these benefits.

Proponents of Hobby Lobby have argued that just because Hobby Lobby owners established a for profit businesses they should not have to give up their religious views. This is a red herring argument because the owners do not have to give up their personal religious views (as it pertains to how they lead their own lives). The Affordable Care Act simply requires that healthcare policies contain certain mandatory coverage. This requirement applies to all employers (with certain limited exceptions for purely religious organizations).

Others have said that Hobby Lobby as a corporation can claim the same rights of individuals (like Citizens United). This is another red herring. Religious views come in all sorts of sizes and shapes.  There are people who, for religious reasons, claim that immunization, blood transfusions, or even medical care are unnecessary on the basis of religious views.

How can it be that individuals or corporations composed of these individuals can deny others legally protected services or rights? What do you think of Fred Phelps and his religious views?

From my perspective, it is difficult to understand why the Supreme Court has taken this case. It should be obvious that the US can not allow one religion to asset it views on members of other religions, or on those who profess no faith. In addition to the Fred Phelps of the world, what about orthodox Jews or fundamentalist Muslim? Would Hobby Lobby like to follow their teachings?

Of course, in America there is a history of allowing all religious traditions the right to “personally” practice their religion but some beliefs like polygamy have run into problems.  In a secular country, there must be a bright line between what someone believes for themselves, and how much they can force these views on others.