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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake-Up Call — Constitution Edition

The Daily Escape:

Spruce Knob, WV at sunrise – 2018 photo by zjustus88

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day, commemorating the signing of the US Constitution 231 years ago, the day that the Constitutional Convention adopted the Constitution as our supreme law.

We sometimes forget that the country was without a Constitution for 11 years after the Declaration of Independence, and for six years after the War of Independence ended. Somehow, we survived.

We also forget that there was plenty of conflict between the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention. They had vigorous debates about the balance of power between the national and state governments. Two factions emerged: Federalists, who supported the Constitution and a strong central government, and anti-Federalists, who mainly supported strong state governments.

To placate the anti-Federalists and ensure ratification, the Federalists promised to pass a Bill of Rights to protect individual liberty and state sovereignty, which they finally did in 1791, four years after the Constitution was ratified.

Today there’s plenty of discussion about the Constitution, about what’s constitutional, and what’s not, about which of the Supreme Court justices are trampling on the Constitution and which are ripping it to shreds. It seems that there is nothing more important to the Republic than selecting the next Justice, in this case, Brett Kavanaugh.

Joseph Ellis in the WSJ Weekend edition, reminds us that:

Most members of America’s founding generation would have regarded this situation as strange. If you read the debates among the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and then read their prescriptions for judicial power in Article III of the Constitution, it becomes clear that the last thing the 39 signers of the document wanted was for the Supreme Court to become supreme.

Ellis says that the founders thought that Congress should be “supreme”, and a majority thought that each branch of government should decide the scope of its own authority. He says that the founders’ had no interest in having the Supreme Court be the ultimate control point for the US government, since it’s our least representative body, and the one farthest removed from the ultimate authority (the People).

More from Ellis:

For most of American history, the Supreme Court only infrequently stepped forward to redefine the political landscape in decisive fashion. The two most conspicuous occasions both involved the great American tragedy of race.

For Ellis, the first of the two most significant cases was Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), in which the Court tried to resolve the politically unsolvable problem of slavery. The majority argued that the framers of the Constitution clearly regarded slaves as property, and therefore the Missouri Compromise (1819) and the Compromise of 1850 were unconstitutional.

This meant that the federal government had no authority to limit the expansion of slavery in the western territories. Dred Scott deepened the sectional divide that led to the Civil War, and legal scholars and historians have long considered it one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history.

In 1954, the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education landed on the other side of the racial divide, striking down the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” that the justices had upheld as a justification for racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The Brown decision signaled a crucial shift in the role of the Court, the first step on its way to becoming the dominant branch of the federal government in deciding the direction of domestic policy.

That led to 30 years of liberal decisions for the Court. The liberal agenda expanded the rights of criminal suspects, broadened the definition of free speech and, in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), discovered a new right to privacy. Building on the right to privacy, the Court affirmed a woman’s right to abortion during the first trimester in Roe v. Wade (1973).

Ellis concludes:

…since Brown we have watched the Supreme Court bend the law in two different directions, landing on one side or the other of the political spectrum based on which political party could command a 5-4 majority. The only difference between the two sides is that liberals are transparent about their political agenda, while conservatives, using originalism to make problematic claims of detachment, are not.

Americans now know that the Supreme Court is biased, partisan, and often makes rulings based on ideology versus law. The word “unconstitutional” has become a catch-all term for whatever we don’t like about our government, or our society. This renders one of the most terrifying and powerful adjectives in American jurisprudence almost meaningless.

TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA! We should spend Constitution Day trying to become better citizens. Maybe we start by learning our civic history.

The benefit should be clear: Knowledge lets us understand and appreciate nuance.

After all, America might not have many more birthdays left at the rate that we keep polarizing our ideas about the Constitution.

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Voting Rights and John Roberts

From USA Today:

National and local voting rights activists, worried about threats to casting ballots nationwide, are setting up command centers, staffing hotlines and deploying thousands of monitors to polling sites across the country to ensure voters can get to the polls.

There has been plenty of talk about “rigged’’ elections in the 2016 presidential campaign. Link that with the Supreme Court’s rejection of a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and civil rights and voting rights activists say they’re concerned about possible roadblocks at the polls next week.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states will have new voting restrictions in place, ranging from photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks, to registration restrictions.

Some of the blame for this can be laid at the door of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts. Stephanie Mencimer in MoJo writes that Roberts “had it in for the Voting Rights Act”:

In 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. issued the most far-reaching Supreme Court decision on voting rights in the 21st century, he finally succeeded in gutting a civil rights law he has been fighting his entire career. For three decades, Roberts has argued that the US has become colorblind to the point where aggressive federal intervention on behalf of voters of color is no longer necessary—and this case, Shelby County v. Holder, was the pinnacle of that crusade.

Roberts honed his views on race and voting as a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist and later in the Reagan DOJ. Rehnquist redefined opposition to civil rights laws as a commitment to color blindness, using this leap of logic to undermine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Atlantic reports that Roberts has a history of insisting that the US is a post-racial, colorblind society, a viewpoint he emphasized in his 2013 Shelby County v. Holder opinion. That decision removed a critical component of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination submit any changes in voting procedures to the DOJ for “preclearance,” to ensure those changes didn’t have a discriminatory impact.

Preclearance blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes between 1982 and 2006. But in the Shelby opinion, Roberts asserted that such protections were no longer warranted. He said that federal oversight of the jurisdictions in question, mostly states in the Deep South, was outdated and unjustified.

After the Shelby decision, several states passed new voting restrictions that were overwhelmingly directed at minorities. On the day the Shelby decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked.

  • Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20% in one instance.
  • Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75% of voters were African American.
  • The most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the NC law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.

Some lower courts are walking back the Shelby decision. In July, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of North Carolina’s voting law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

Will the lower court ruling cause Roberts to rethink his Shelby opinion? No.

In August, the Supreme Court, without a Scalia replacement, would not hear an appeal of the 4th Circuit’s blocking of North Carolina’s voting law, but Roberts wrote that he personally would have allowed most of the law to take effect.

According to Harvard’s Alex Keyssar, the popular vote in North Carolina for the state legislature and members of Congress for the last several years has been pretty much evenly split, but the seats are overwhelmingly Republican. And that matters. That’s how the Republican legislature put together its voting laws.

Voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering are the greatest threats to our democracy. Suppression provides the opportunity to gerrymander. Taken together, suppression and gerrymandering provide the means to disenfranchise groups of the electorate from our democracy.

The anger in this nation is because people can feel things slipping away, even if they don’t all agree on why it is, or who to blame.

At some point, it won’t matter anymore. But by then, we might have a Republic in name only.

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Obama: Right on Cuba, Wrong on Scalia Funeral

Mr. Obama made two decisions this week, to visit Cuba, and to not attend Justice Scalia’s funeral.

The Scalia decision may not be so smart. From Politico:

President Barack Obama is preparing for a fierce battle with the Senate over the Supreme Court vacancy, but he’s not planning to attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral — a decision that puzzled even some of his allies and incensed conservative media.

Yep, the decision to forgo the funeral on Saturday is called a partisan snub by the Right. They ignore that Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will go to the Supreme Court on Friday to pay their respects to Justice Scalia while the justice lies in repose in the Court’s Great Hall.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who share Scalia’s Catholic faith, will attend the Catholic funeral services, representing the Administration.

Politico reports there is little precedent for presidents attending the funerals of sitting justices. President George W. Bush attended, and eulogized Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005. But before Rehnquist, the last justice to die in office was Robert H. Jackson in 1954.

It’s a can’t-win situation for Obama. If he attends, the right will pick apart his mannerisms, facial expressions and interactions with other attendees, criticizing what they will call snubs of various kinds.

While not attending again shows Obama’s tin ear when it comes to domestic politics, his decision is acceptable. Attending the funeral would not suddenly change the stance of Republicans who think that Obama should not nominate a Scalia replacement.

His decision to visit Cuba is smart. Obama will be the first US president to visit the island in 88 years. The last US president to travel to Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in January 1928.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a diplomatic thaw in  December 2014, after more than 50 years of disruption and confrontation between the two countries. The US and Cuba formally resumed bilateral relations in July, 2015. A month later, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, officially opened the US Embassy in Havana, becoming the first US diplomatic head to visit Cuba in 70 years.

Why do we care about opening Cuba? Here is one reason: a story in Forbes this week underlines what we can expect from opening relations.

Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal, both 72-year-old retired software engineers, are slated to become the first Americans since 1959 to set up a manufacturing plant in Cuba. Their plan: produce small, easily maintained tractors for use by family farmers. Under new regulations issued by the Obama administration, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control gave the Paint Rock, AL-based partners the go-ahead last week. Once they get final approval from the Cubans…in early 2017, they’ll start building a factory in a special economic zone set up by the Cuban government in the port city of Mariel.

The Wrongologist visited Cuba in 2014. Below is a photo of tobacco farming in Pinar Del Rio, a predominantly agricultural region about 2 hours from Havana that produces 70% of Cuba’s cigar tobacco. This farmer is using oxen to plow his tobacco field. Most independent farmers use animals for plowing.

The tractors that we did see were Soviet-era imports:

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clemmons and Berenthal got rich in tech here in the US, and identified the need for cheap tractors in Cuba. They will be showing their first tractor model at a Cuban agricultural fair in March. Why are they doing this? They have a desire to be helpful to the Cuban people, but they want profits:

Our business model says we are investing in Cuba and reinvesting any profits we make. We’ll do what we did with our other businesses. We’ll create value and then sell the company.

And was it easy for them to get US government approval? Berenthal told Forbes:

In all honesty it was tedious rather than difficult. We had to wait for the regulations to change so that the proposal we made was covered by the regulations implemented over the last nine months.

Isn’t it interesting that two entrepreneurial guys can identify a big market and jump in before the big US agricultural manufacturers?

And despite Mr. Cruz’ and Mr. Rubio’s yelling about Obama dealing with a Communist regime, the Cuban government appears willing to offer financial backing to private farmers who choose to buy from a privately owned US company.

Kudos to Obama, and to Clemmons and Berenthal. It is long overdue, yet somehow, just in time.

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The Battle to Replace Scalia

With the death of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court has become even more of a BFD than it usually is in our politics. Republicans are setting the terms of the current battle by saying that Mr. Obama should not even bring forward a candidate for the Senate’s Advise and Consent process.

The Republicans fought for 40 years to get a Conservative majority, and will not give that up without a fight. This is the first time since Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall in 1991 that the ideological balance on the Court could actually change. In the last six cases, from Ginsberg through Kagan, either a Republican president filled the seat of a conservative justice, or a Democratic president filled the seat of a liberal justice.

So the stakes are very high, both substantively and politically.

On the other hand, the voters might rediscover that presidential elections should be about serious issues. At the top of the list: Who will pick the justice that creates a new Supreme Court majority?

A brief history from Paul Waldman at the WaPo:

The Senate…used to approach nominations to the Supreme Court with a simple standard: If the nominee was qualified and wasn’t a criminal or a drunk, he or she would probably get confirmed with the support of both the president’s party and the opposition…But we may have entered an era with an entirely different starting presumption: not that a well-qualified nominee deserves confirmation, but that senators ought to oppose any nomination from a president of the other party.

Waldman provides this list of recent nominees and how the Senate voted:

Antonin Scalia (1986): 98-0
Anthony Kennedy (1987): 97-0
Clarence Thomas (1991): 52-48
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993): 96-3
Stephen Breyer (1994): 87-9
John Roberts (2005): 78-22, 20 of 42 Democrats in favor
Samuel Alito (2005): 58-42, 4 of 45 Democrats in favor
Sonia Sotomayor (2009): 68-31, 9 of 40 Republicans in favor
Elena Kagan (2010): 63-37, 5 of 40 Republicans in favor

Since Chief Justice Roberts in 2005, we see that our political divide is not simply about Congress and  the President, the Supreme Court is now also entrenched in the polarization. Justice Kagan’s approval is instructive. She was well-qualified, (a former dean of Harvard Law School and Solicitor General), and had no absurd legal views. Nevertheless, only five Republicans voted to confirm her. Three of those senators — Richard Lugar, Olympia Snowe, and Judd Gregg — were moderates who are no longer in the Senate.

In the case of a Scalia replacement, every Republican senator trying to decide what to do will know that if they vote to confirm any Democratic nominee for this seat, a primary challenge from the right will probably happen whenever they run for re-election.

But the GOP-controlled Senate ignores its responsibilities at its peril. 24 GOP-held Senate seats are up for election this cycle to just 10 held by Democrats. A few (enough) of those GOP Senators are in states that were won in 2012 by Barack Obama including: Kirk in Illinois, Toomey in Pennsylvania, Portman in Ohio, Ayotte in New Hampshire, Johnson in Wisconsin, and Rubio’s open seat of Florida. Since Republicans hold 54 seats, losing 4 of them could flip Senate control.

But, this is a situation where the Democrats really need to get control of their message machine, or they’ll risk getting overrun again in the perception battle.

The best guess is that is unlikely that control of the Senate changes hands in 2016, so divided government will likely remain with us, assuming a presidential win for the Democrats. As Scott Lemieux says in the New Republic:

As the stakes of Supreme Court nominations get ever higher, getting Court vacancies filled during periods of divided government is going to become increasingly difficult. Depending on the results of the 2016 elections, this dysfunctional future could very soon become our present.

Could a non-functioning Supreme Court finally be the last straw? We might soon find out.

We know that Chief Justice Roberts is concerned with the public perception of SCOTUS as an institution. Perhaps if the White House and the Chief Justice held discussions about the President nominating a moderate, and then Roberts spoke publicly about the need for quick consideration, the political logjam might be broken.

Absent that, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we are heading towards a breaking point in this country as the polarization stretches the functioning of our government in every arena.

Our Constitution gives the Senate veto power over executive and judicial branch appointments with no mechanism for resolving a deadlock. That is a bug, not a feature.

It’s amazing that the system has remained functional for as long as it has.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine’s Day. The news of Week That Was included the New Hampshire primary, another power grab by the Supreme Court, the Zika virus, and proof of the existence of gravitational waves.

Some people have an embarrassment of riches on Valentine’s Day:

COW Valentines Day

NH reminds Hillary about kids in a different way than before:

COW Comeback Kid

Sanders met with Sharpton before heading to South Carolina:

COW Sharpton Sanders

When the history of early 21st Century US is written, the villains will already be wearing black:

COW EPA Court

Zika virus is all over the news:

COW Zika

 

Proving Einstein right about gravitational waves took 100 years. Hope we do better with market panic:

COW Gravity Waves

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 28, 2015

There will be limited blogging for the next seven days, as the Wrongologist and Ms. Right head to Bermuda.

It was an epic news week, from the killings in Charleston to the ACA decision by the Supreme Court, 6-3, in which Antonin Scalia wrote the 21 page dissent. Then came the Marriage Equality decision. Antonin Scalia wrote another dissent, starting with:

I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy

Here is the Cliff notes version of both Scalia dissents: “I stole the 2000 election for this”??

They shot and missed:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Republicans secretly happy about SCOTUS decision on ACA:

COW Replacement Plan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage equality decision not popular with everyone:

COW Rainbows

And the Supremes said, “Let them eat cake”:

COW Cake

The big change on the Confederate flag doesn’t change much:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

What the Flag means:

COW Flag Means

 

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 3, 2015

Baltimore riots, Nepal earthquakes, same sex marriage in front of the Supremes, Bernie Sanders runs against Hillary. Quite the week.

Did the Baltimore riot result in a move towards justice for Freddie Gray? It is more than an exaggeration to say the rioting caused manslaughter indictments against 6 Baltimore police officers. With the city electing Marilyn Mosby, a daughter and granddaughter of police officers as the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore City over an incumbent white Democrat, maybe the indictments would have happened without the riots. Could the justice system now be working a bit better because people in Baltimore voted?

Seven months after Michael Brown, systematic failure to deliver justice in our cities is playing with fire, possibly, a little like 1965 all over again. The number of people in the streets in other cities in solidarity with Baltimore has been growing. And the hot spots are New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta and poor suburban cities with police departments that grift with fines and court penalties.

Indictments notwithstanding, this is Baltimore and many other cities:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

If you watched mainstream media coverage, all of Baltimore was on fire:

COW Balto Media

 

Gay marriage discussion brought out the best in our politicians:

COW SS Marriage

And ministers now have a new take on the old question:

COW Same Sex Marriage

 

Same Sex wasn’t the only type of marriage decided by the Supremes:

COW Marry Millionaires

 

Bernie Sanders threw hat in the ring, and almost no media covered it:

Fugelsang on Sanders

Nepal was on everyone’s mind, including Christian bigots:

COW Nepal

 

Ever hear of Tony Miano? He’s a former LA cop who seems to be a Christian. He should ask “What would Jesus tweet?” because what he did was an epic fail for a human, much less a Christian. Miano could be organizing a drive to collect donations, but instead, he’s tweeting about “pagan temples” and how the people of Nepal need to repent and receive Christ.

Onward, Christian soldiers!

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – March 8, 2015

March is Wrongo’s favorite month, because it has March Madness™ and Daylight Savings Time.

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the Selma march. On Jan. 14, 1965, newly elected Alabama Gov. George Wallace said in his inaugural address in front of the Alabama State Capitol:

Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people… I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny…and I say…segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.

On March 7, 1965, the first Selma to Montgomery march began and ended with the events of “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 civil rights marchers, asking for the right of black Alabama residents to register to vote, were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

On March 9, 1965, another march by 2,500 this time, including many who had come from other parts of the country, was led by Dr. King and others to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where a court order prevented them from going all the way to Montgomery.

Finally, on March 21, 1965, Federal District Court Judge Frank Johnson ruled that the march could proceed and, the 4-night march began in Selma. 8,000 started the march, but only 300 were allowed to make the entire 54-mile trek to Montgomery. Let us return to March 25, 1965, and read some of Dr. King’s words to the nation that day:

I know you are asking today, “How long will it take”?…I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.”
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

On to a busy week in the laughable. The ACA was on trial in the Supreme Court:

COW Supreme Question

 

The DOJ cites Ferguson, MO police for institutional racism:

COW Ferguson Swerve

 

Netanyahu and the Republicans see things the same way:

COW Bibi And R's

 

Hillary’s email flap may or may not be a big problem, but it reminds America of Bill:

COW Didn't Email

 

Some folks seem to be changing their minds about Hillary after the email flap:

COW Hillarys Appeal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alito: What Could Go Wrong?

What’s Wrong Today:

“If it ain’t broke, fix it until it is.”

This saying has been around for about 20 years. According to Barry Popik, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway” was first cited in print in May, 1993 in the Virginia Pilot by Jerry Alley.

The sentiment applies to the Supreme Court now that the Hobby Lobby decision’s slippery slope reasoning is out there being reviewed by lawyers. On July 3rd, just three days after Mr. Justice Alito issued his decision, lawyers for two Guantanamo Bay detainees filed motions asking the DC District Court to intervene after the prison’s military authorities prevented them from praying communally during Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims. The banning of communal prayers at Guantanamo is one of a series of recent measures against detainees who are on hunger strikes.

The lawyers argued that, in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, the detainees’ rights are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Requests for Temporary Restraining Orders were filed this week with the Washington DC district court on behalf of Emad Hassan of Yemen and Ahmed Rabbani of Pakistan. The filings were made by a UK-based human rights group Reprieve.

The detainees’ lawyers said courts have previously concluded that Guantanamo detainees do not have religious free exercise rights because they are not persons within the scope of the RFRA, but the lawyers now argue that the Hobby Lobby decision changes that:

Hobby Lobby makes clear that all persons – human and corporate, citizen and foreigner, resident and alien – enjoy the special religious free exercise protections of the RFRA

Which is exactly what Mr. Justice Alito said in his ruling. Despite his claim that it was a narrow ruling, the ruling itself is big enough to drive a truck through. Meet the truck, folks.

More from Cori Crider, an attorney for the detainees and a director at Reprieve:

Why are the authorities at Guantanamo Bay seeking to punish detainees for hunger striking by curtailing their right to pray? If, under our law, Hobby Lobby is a ‘person’ with a right to religious freedom, surely Gitmo detainees are people too

This is one of the unintended consequences from the Hobby Lobby decision: While the owners of Hobby Lobby certainly did not have Gitmo detainees in mind when they took Obamacare to court, it’s clear the ruling has become far bigger than its original purpose. Citizens United argued that “corporations are people,” Hobby Lobby focuses on religious rights and the idea that the government cannot force those corporate people to do things that are against their beliefs.

That could mean anything from refusing to teach evolution in school to ignoring laws designed to prevent discriminatory hiring practices against LGBT people.

The Defense Department did not directly address whether the men were being punished for their hunger strike. US Army Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III:

We are committed to religious freedoms and practices for the detainees, keeping in mind the overall goal of security and safety for detainees and staff

The overriding question is if the RFRA is compatible with the First Amendment. It seems to create a special privilege for religious groups that are not enjoyed by anyone else. How is this not itself an establishment of religion? If corporations can say: “but, it is against my religion” to escape the equal application of the laws, isn’t that a special right being bestowed based on religious belief?

Having the Supreme Court actually expand the RFRA beyond the protections put in place by the First Amendment only compounds the problem. Writing new rules to create certain forms of religious privilege seems dubious at best.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine atheists who have a family-owned corporation. Call them the Browns. They hold exactly the same views of birth control and abortion as the Greens, but their beliefs are based on their personal moral views, and not on any religious teaching. Would they be exempt from this mandate?

This isn’t Ms. Justice Ginsburg’s slippery slope, it’s a cliff.

The Supremes have now defined religious freedom not in terms of our own behavior but in terms of our ability to control the behavior of others. The Supreme Court just ruled in favor of more Corporate power, not religious freedom.

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Corporations Celebrate Their Independence Day

Happy Independence Day, corporations!  You’re way more important than women!

Indeed, way back on June 30th, tweeter Scott Wolledge was prescient. The Supreme Court wasn’t done celebrating the religious rights of corporations over those of individuals. After ruling Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to provide company health insurance coverage for contraception it (erroneously) believed was a form of abortion, the Supreme Court went further and ruled that corporate beliefs about ANY contraceptive trumped all women’s individual rights. From MoJo: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.

The Affordable Care Act had listed 20 forms of contraception that had to be covered as preventive services. But Hobby Lobby, a craft supply chain, claimed that Plan B, Ella, and two types of IUD were abortifacients that violated the owners’ religious principles. The science was against Hobby Lobby—these contraceptives do not prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and are not considered abortifacients in the medical world—but the conservative majority bought Hobby Lobby’s argument that it should be exempted from the law.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, using many qualifiers in an attempt to limit its scope, but orders released by the court Tuesday contradict any narrow interpretation of the ruling.

The Supremes decided that non-profit organizations objecting to birth control coverage were (somehow) being crushed by the “substantial burden” of having to inform the government that they wanted an exemption. So, SCOTUS gave Wheaton College an injunction against having to fill out the required paperwork to acknowledge that they wanted to opt out. More from the NYT:

In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women’s rights.

The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The court’s order was brief, provisional and unsigned, but it drew a furious reaction from the three female members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. The order, Justice Sotomayor wrote, was at odds with the 5-to-4 decision on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

The court’s action, she added, “undermines confidence in this institution.”

So, corporate personhood trumps human personhood. Worse, the religious rights of a corporation outweigh the individual rights of a woman who knows that birth control is a necessary medical expense for her. And filling out a form is too a harsh requirement for Wheaton College. The idea that what constitutes a “substantial burden” should be determined by the party alleging burden is absurd.

This is a 4th of July that doesn’t feel like most others.

We are a divided people on a day that celebrates our unity. It must change.

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