Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87 – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died at her home in Washington on Friday. She was 87.

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

By the time two small tumors were found in one of her lungs in December 2018, during a follow-up scan for broken ribs suffered in a recent fall, Justice Ginsburg had beaten colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer 10 years later. She received a coronary stent to clear a blocked artery in 2014.

Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough, working out regularly with a trainer, who published a book about his famous client’s challenging exercise regime.

As Justice Ginsburg passed her 80th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court bench during President Barack Obama’s second term, she shrugged off a chorus of calls for her to retire in order to give a Democratic president the chance to name her replacement. She planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,” she would say, sometimes adding, “There will be a president after this one, and I’m hopeful that that president will be a fine president.” “

Opinion | To Get Police Reform, ‘Defund the Politicians’ – By Miriam Pawel – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“LOS ANGELES — In late August, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies shot a Black man, Dijon Kizzee, whom they had stopped for a suspected traffic violation as he rode his bicycle. He became the seventh man killed by deputies in Los Angeles since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day weekend.

On the same afternoon, state legislators in Sacramento raced to the end of their 2020 session. The most significant police reform measure, heralded in the days of the Black Lives Matter marches that filled the streets, did not even come up for a vote.

A centerpiece of the agenda would have set up a process for yanking the badge of any officer found to have committed serious misconduct. California is one of only five states that has no process for certifying police officers, which among other things enables bad cops to move from department to department with impunity.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses. Major newspapers in California editorialized in favor of a slew of police reform bills. Polls showed support. In one of the bluest states in the country, all indications pointed toward action on reform.

But in the end, even here, it was essentially business as usual in a State Capitol where police unions have long wielded enormous power. The measures that passed this year were either noncontroversial or so diluted as to have little if any immediate impact.”

Opinion | The Politics We Don’t See Matter as Much as Those We Do – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Corey Lowenstein/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

“Some of the most important developments in politics do not happen every election cycle, but every ten years, when politicians scrap the old battleground map and struggle to replace it with a new one more favorable to their interests.

Steven Hill, a former fellow at New America, described how this works in his still pertinent 2003 book “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.”

“Beginning in early 2001, a great tragedy occurred in American politics,” Hill wrote. As a result of that tragedy, “most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them” as “hallowed notions such as ‘no taxation without representation’ and ‘one person, one vote’ have been drained of their vitality, reduced to empty slogans.”

Hill was referring to “the process of redistricting” that he argued was legalized “theft” engaged in by “the two major political parties, their incumbents, and their consultants,” which Hill said was “part of the everyday give-and-take (mostly take) of America’s winner-take-all politics.” “

‘Top Cop’ Kamala Harris’s Record of Policing the Police – The New York Times

“During this summer of tear gas and turmoil, Kamala Harris has not been quiet.

On “The View,” the California senator spoke about “reimagining how we do public safety in America.”

On the Senate floor, she sparred with Rand Paul after the Kentucky Republican blocked a bill to make lynching a federal crime, and she is among the Democrats sponsoring policing legislation that would ban choke holds, racial profiling and no-knock warrants.

On Twitter, she expressed frustration that police officers who killed a Black Kentucky woman, Breonna Taylor, during a drug raid gone wrong, “still have not been charged.”

As a leading contender to be Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate in the final days before his decision, Ms. Harris has emerged as a strong voice on issues of police misconduct that seem certain to be central to the campaign. Yet in her own, unsuccessful presidential run, she struggled to reconcile her calls for reform with her record on these same issues during a long career in law enforcement.”

David Lindsay: We admired the report the other day of a hard core Republican, who said, if the Democrats ran a can of soup against Donald Trump, he would still vote for the can of soup.
I am not an admirer of Kamala Harris. I will try and find the Nicholas Kristof muck raking report that turned me off – from 2018.05.17.
But as the Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris supported the police unions about 99% of the time, because it was then popular with the majority of voters. I was pleased, on the other hand, to see a report on her on the PBS News Hour last night, that showed a far more nuanced and favorable set of facts. She did push for improvements, but oh so gently. When a police officer killed a person, she always deferred to the local district attorney, to decide whether to investigate the police to respect the current process. And investigations almost never happened. Many many killings went uninvestigated.

Opinion | How Powerful Is the President? – by Gary Hart – The New York Times

“We have recently come to learn of at least a hundred documents authorizing extraordinary presidential powers in the case of a national emergency, virtually dictatorial powers without congressional or judicial checks and balances. President Trump alluded to these authorities in March when he said, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” No matter who occupies the office, the American people have a right to know what extraordinary powers presidents believe they have. It is time for a new select committee to study these powers and their potential for abuse, and advise Congress on the ways in which it might, at a minimum, establish stringent oversight.

Secret powers began accumulating during the Eisenhower years and have grown by accretion ever since. The rationale originally was to permit a president to exercise necessary control in the case of nuclear war, an increasingly remote possibility since the Cold War’s endAn obscure provision in the Communications Act of 1934 empowers the president to suspend broadcast stations and other means of communication following a “proclamation by the President” of “national emergency.” Powers like these have been deployed sparingly: A few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, a proclamation declaring a national emergency, followed by an executive order days later, invoked some presidential powers, including the use of National Guard and U.S. military forces.”

Opinion | Did Mueller Ever Stand a Chance Against Trump and Roger Stone? – By Nick Akerman ‘ The New York Times

By 

Mr. Akerman was an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“In 1972, I served as an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, which investigated the connection between the White House and the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, the subsequent cover-up and other crimes connected with the White House under Richard Nixon.

And nothing that I saw then — even during the so-called Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the special prosecutor — rises to what we are witnessing now with President Trump.

The commutation last week of Roger Stone’s sentence is the latest of multiple, brazen efforts to make the fulfillment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation all but impossible.

The efforts by President Trump have amounted to a cover-up — and they were often made possible by his ability to control the Justice Department and by the lack of independence of the Mueller investigation. It demands a renewed look at how we empower independent counsels — regrettably, history has shown us that, under extraordinary circumstances, they are needed to conduct proper oversight of abuse by the executive branch.”

Opinion | On Religion, the Supreme Court Protects the Right to Be Different – By Michael W. McConnell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge, is a law professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School.

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Some Supreme Court watchers have been quick to interpret recent decisions as skirmishes in American “culture wars” — with some decisions (on abortion and sexual orientation) siding with the cultural left and others (on religion) siding with the cultural right.

There is another way to look at them. Viewing the decisions as a whole, rather than one by one, they can be seen not as advancing left or right but instead as protecting pluralism — the right of individuals and institutions to be different, to teach different doctrines, to dissent from dominant cultural norms and to practice what they preach.

One indication is that most of these decisions broke 7-2 or 6-3, instead of along the predictable 5-4 conservative/liberal split. At a time when American politics is toxically polarized, it is a welcome relief that members of the court, which by constitutional design is supposed to be the least political of the three branches of government, can still find common ground across ideological divides.

In two of the religion cases, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, both Democratic appointees, joined the Republican appointees in upholding the rights of religious institutions to set and follow their own doctrine. Two Republican appointees joined the decision treating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status as “sex discrimination” — and Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, wrote the opinion. If law were only politics, those cases would not have come out that way.”

David Lindsay:  I was impressed by this man. He has the voice of Saruman. But my my slow wits were woken by the following comments.

trillo
Massachusetts
Times Pick

“The inferior quality of many American public schools, especially those serving inner-city minority populations, is a primary reason for this country’s outrageous economic and social inequality.” This is a conservative shibboleth. The schools are a symptom, not a cause of this country’s economic and social equality. The reason for those is longstanding racism and growing income and wealth inequality as a result of government policy, redlining and the criminal justice system, among other factors. School choice only assures that those left behind in public schools in poor urban districts will get an even worse education. If conservatives favored greater equality of outcomes for urban school districts, THEY’D FUND THEM BETTER.

8 Replies243 Recommended

Timothy commented July 9

Timothy
Brooklyn
Times Pick

The problem with the author’s argument is that these decisions allow ‘some’ people to be different: in one particular (presumedly acceptable) way; and at the expense of others’ difference. About the poor state of public schools: yes, many public schools are not doing so well, but that’s because conservatives have vigorously destroyed public education on budget, taxation, labor, and policy levels since the Reagan administration—with the express goals of dumbing down the (middle- and lower class) electorate and paving the way for religious indoctrination using taxpayer money…. as we’re seeing now. These demons play the long game, folks. And last, the health insurance issue, just in general: Why anyone thinks one’s employer’s values or morals should in any way affect how one uses one’s legally-provided health insurance is an absolute mystery. Yet another great argument for universal, national health care.

1 Reply213 Recommended

Julie commented July 9

Julie
East End of NY
Times Pick

This conservative vision of religious “liberty” is dangerous, especially when it comes to giving employers the “liberty” to enforce beliefs on other people just because they happen to be employees. The deciding factor in this vision is economic clout, not moral standing, when he who cuts the paycheck gets to decide the values. Likewise with public schools, denigrated as “failures” and sabotaged by the religious right. McConnell presents an economic argument to fix what he says is “The inferior quality of many American public schools.” It’s that “Private schools, including religious schools, bring needed competition.” God is not being worshipped here. Capitalism is.

3 Replies185 Recommend

Equality commented July 9

Equality
Times Pick

Last I checked vasectomies are covered by most insurance policies. Why are they not specificially excluded from insurance coverage due to the same religious beliefs? I’m confused. Men get birth control choices but women do not?

3 Replies154 Recommended

Thomas S commented July 9

Thomas S
Prospect, CT

What a masterpiece of sophistry! These religious institutions serve a pluralistic, secular society. They draw their clients and employees therefrom and, in a great many cases, they draw revenue from public coffers in reimbursement for their services. The facilities owned and operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor would be out of business were it not for Medicare and Medicaid. Unless they treat all equally, they should not be allowed to drink at the public trough. The same should apply to Catholic hospitals and health systems that deny reproductive health services to women, especially the poor for whom they purport to care so much. Around ninety percent of Catholics defy their church’s teachings on birth control. What the bishops can’t successfully impose on them, they would impose on anyone else that they can. The real trinity that they worship Is that of power, control, and money. Principle got lost in that tangle a long, long time ago.

1 Reply117 Recommended

 

Opinion | Three Futures for the Police – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

“American policing is going to emerge changed from this June of protest. The question is whether it will be altered for the better. So let’s consider three possible scenarios for change — one building on the current system, another more ambitious but also riskier, and a third to be avoided at all costs.

At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.

On the other hand, as Charles Fain Lehman of The Washington Free Beacon points out, police departments aren’t as awash in funding as the rhetoric of “defund the cops” — even in its milder or nonliteral interpretations — would suggest. As a share of budgets, state and local spending on the police increased in the 1990s but has been flat or falling for the last two decades. (Indeed, cities may be offering sweeping union protections to their cops as a way to avoid paying them more money.) Despite frequent suggestions that the United States overspends on policing, as a share of gross domestic product, the European Union spends 33 percent more on cops than the United States does — while spending far less than us on prisons.

There are good reasons to think that the Europeans know what they’re doing. A substantial body of research suggests that putting more cops on the beat meaningfully reduces crime. And even the American neighborhoods that suffer most from police misconduct and brutality are often still under-policed when it comes to actually solving murder cases.”

David Lindsay, comment in the NYT:

Thank you Ross Douthat. You wrote: “At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.” With such a clear opening statement, you could only add value to a most complicated debate. I would love to hear more about how the Europeans do better than us. I also, as a trained martial artist, would like to see all police officers required to work towards a black belt in Aikido, the modern Japanese martial art about controlling an opponent, while also knowing how not to hurt them, as well as how to hurt them if necessary.

Opinion | Abolishing Qualified Immunity Is Unlikely to Alter Police Behavior – By Daniel Epps – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Epps is an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Credit…Madison Carter/WKBW, via Associated Press

“The national movement galvanized by the killing of George Floyd has created the possibility of transformational change to policing. One reform that has generated broad discussion is eliminating “qualified immunity,” the court-created doctrine that makes it difficult for people whose civil rights are violated by police officers to obtain money damages in lawsuits. There are good arguments for getting rid of this immunity, or at least seriously restricting it. But abolishing it is unlikely to change police behavior all that much.

Qualified immunity shields government officials from personal liability in federal lawsuits unless they violate “clearly established” federal law. That means that even if a police officer violates someone’s constitutional rights, the victim can’t obtain damages from the officer unless he or she can show that the officer violated a right explicitly recognized by a prior court ruling.

In theory, this requirement protects government defendants from unexpected liability when law changes. In practice, courts apply the doctrine aggressively to shield officers from lawsuits unless plaintiffs can point to other cases declaring essentially identical conduct unconstitutional — a difficult hurdle, even when police conduct appears clearly wrong.

Indeed, even if the former police officer Derek Chauvin is convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd, it’s quite plausible that a court could refuse to hold him liable for violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights if his lawyers were unable to point to an earlier case making clear that the specific action Mr. Chauvin took — kneeling on a restrained person’s neck for more than eight minutes — was unconstitutional.”

Tasers: Are These Police Tools Effective and Are They Dangerous? – The New York Times

“The fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was found asleep in a car in a drive-through at a Wendy’s on Friday night in Atlanta, has reignited the debate over Tasers.

Mr. Brooks, 27, had fled from the police after failing a sobriety test, and grabbed a Taser from an officer during a struggle, the authorities said.

“During the chase, Mr. Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer,” the authorities said, adding that “the officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks.”

Kalfani N. Turè, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said the shooting of Mr. Brooks was what was known in police circles as “lawful but awful.”

That is, he said, officers are trained that they have the right to escalate their use of force if they believe someone is threatening to incapacitate them.

In the case of Mr. Brooks, Professor Turè said, other options were available to the officers: Identify Mr. Brooks through his car and track him down later, for instance, or call for backup to help apprehend him.”