Friday, April 09, 2021

Justice Roberts, the Commission is Watching You!

Honestly this is probably the best we can hope for in terms of Court reform. It might actually do some good. There are few checks on the Supreme Court in our system, just the theoretical (yet virtually impossible to pull off in practice) threat of impeachment, the Justice's own sensitivity to the Court's credibility with the public, and the potential for Congress to muck around with the Court.

If the switch in time that saved nine taught us anything, it's that a credible threat of Court packing can sometimes be as effective as actual packing. Just having this commission out there might deter certain justices from issuing their most egregious decisions.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Not much trust right now

I think Breyer, and probably the other Justices, are a little clueless just how bad the Supreme Court's reputation already is.

The Court requires "decorum" which means no one is allowed to go into a hearing and tell the Justices how they are widely viewed as a gang of partisan hacks, several of whom only ended up on the Court due to highly partisan gamesmanship rather than intellectual merit. That enforced respect mostly extends to media coverage of the Court as well. So Kavanaugh might not realize that some lawyers I know regularly refer to him as "Justice Perjury." Or that Amy Covid Barrett has an asterisk next to her "Justice" title. Roberts' schtick, of voting for nominal liberal wins while writing opinions that lay the groundwork for future reactionary decisions has become a transparent joke. I almost feel bad for Gorsuch as he could have actually been almost respected if he hadn't been sitting in what everyone knows is a stolen seat. There's Alito, "the dumbest person on the Court" issuing his results oriented opinions with reasoning that, if taken seriously, would undermine some prior results-oriented Alito decision. Ironically Thomas may be the only conservative Justice whose reputation may have improved during his time on the Court, but only because the guy who put sexual harassment in the American consciousness started out with such an abysmal reputation. And also only if you look past his wife working to overthrow our democracy.

I suspect the bullshit respect that the Court gets will evaporate when the current reactionary majority shoots down something really popular. (Like any major legislation that Biden passes). But even now the respect is mostly bullshit and honored more in the pages of publicans than in how I hear people talk about the Court in my legal practice.

The World's Greatest Deliberative Body!

So instead of simply getting rid of the filibuster, Democrats have found a way to take a narrow exception to the filibuster rule for budgetary matters and then shoe-horn everything they want into that exception so they have to give it a chance of passage. They need to jump through all these dumb hoops to get around an impediment they themselves created and could just as easily abolish because tradition, or something.

Monday, March 29, 2021

They could have hidden it better

I really think those racist legislators in Georgia screwed up when they included the ban on giving people water as they wait in line to vote. I mean, that's not a really effective way to skew the vote to Republicans. The assortment of other voting restrictions that are much likely to be more effective. Criminalizing giving people water is just cruel, the optics are terrible, and it makes a nice easy way to demonstrate that the bill has nothing to do with making elections more secure. Without the "we would jail Jesus if he helps someone in line to vote" provision, the bill would still be heavily criticized. But it would be a little harder to get across to the public just how overboard the new law is.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Can't pull a Gen Con on Georgia

The pandemic makes it a lot harder for private organizations to apply pressure to Georgia over its horrendous new election law. Sporting events can threaten to pull out, but sporting events during a pandemic don't bring massive crowds of visitors like they used to. So threats like that don't pack as much of an economic punch. Organizations can say they won't schedule their conventions in the state, but no one is having big conventions anywhere these days.

Remember when Gen Con got Mike Pence to reverse himself on one of his biggest personal issues? That won't work again until the pandemic is over.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Not just Dominion

For years I have wondered why Fox News isn't sued regularly by businesses and individuals who suffer from their less-than-factually-rigorous "news" broadcasts. Public figures can't really expect to win a defamation lawsuit, but Fox regularly goes after non-public figures. Sometimes Fox goes after ordinary people who have the bad luck of blundering into something that has been misinterpreted into a rightwing obsession. Maybe this will finally open the floodgates. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Bibi will survive again

A weird quirk of Israel's current politics is that:

If Netanyahu wins an election, he gets to be prime minister.

If Netanyahu narrowly loses and election, he gets to be prime minister.

Israel keeps having elections. But the only way Netanyahu doesn't get to be prime minister when the dust clears is if he loses by a lot. It does not look like he lost by a lot.

I'm sure the period of uncertainty will continue for a little longer, as the not-Netanyahu and Netanyahu factions try to cobble something together with whatever seats they end up with. But because the vote wasn't a definitive rejection of Netanyahu, I expect Bibi will get to stay prime minister, at least for the brief period until the next election.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Prioritize statehood for Puerto Rico

While I strongly support DC statehood, I don't understand why Democrats are pushing for DC to become a state and not Puerto Rico.

As compelling as the case is to make DC a state, PR's case is even strong. DC currently gets one electoral vote, far less than it would as a state, but that single electoral vote is still more than PR gets. PR literally has no voice in the Presidential election even though it is part of the U.S. While DC statehood proponents note the fact that DC's current state leaves almost 700,000 U.S. citizens without full representation, PR has  over three million U.S. citizens with even less representation.

But most importantly, in the last election Puerto Rico held a referendum about the future of the island, and statehood got a clear majority. While opinion polls show that DC enjoys about the same percentage of approval in DC among DC residents as the "yes" votes in the PR referendum, polls are not as reliable as an actual election.

The DC effort has a potential constitutional issue in that the Twenty-Third Amendment contemplates that DC will be a federal district and not a state. While the current DC statehood bill sets aside an exclusively federal district within the new state of DC to satisfy those constitutional concerns, I have no doubt that any DC statehood would immediately be subject to a constitutional challenge and our current hyper-partisan results-oriented 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court would have an easy basis to declare the whole effort unconstitutional. PR raises no constitutional concerns and any legal challenge would likely go nowhere.

Ideally, Democrats should push for statehood in both DC and PR (and other territories as well if they think it can work). But if there is limited political capital to spend on a statehood bill, Democrats should throw their weight behind PR statehood, not DC. Because even if they win passage of a DC bill there is a fair chance the Court will strike it down. If a bill to make Puerto Rico is passed, Puerto Rico would become a state, it is as simple as that. No court challenge would be likely to stop it.