Opinion | The Court and the Cross – by Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

March 14, 2019, 165
Image: The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., is the subject of a Supreme Court case.CreditCreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Even before last month’s Supreme Court argument, the smart-money consensus was that those challenging the Latin cross that stands 40 feet tall on public land in Bladensburg, Md., would lose. Without debating that prediction, I want to make an obvious but, so far, underappreciated point: It really matters how the American Humanist Association and the other nonreligious plaintiffs lose.

If the justices permit the ultimate symbol of Christianity to remain, towering over other structures at the junction of two major roads, what theory will they use?

Will they say that even if such an object would be unconstitutional if erected today, this one should be grandfathered because it was put up by local citizens as a World War I memorial and stood without controversy for most of the ensuing 93 years?

Will the justices decide, as one lawyer, Neal Katyal, insisted in defense of the cross, that despite its origin as the centerpiece of Christian theology, a cross designated a war memorial acquires “an independent secular meaning?” (The Supreme Court’s leading precedent requires that in order not to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, a government display of a religious symbol must have a “secular legislative purpose.”)”

Felicity Jones is shy but relentless as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ‘On the Basis of Sex’ | Mick LaSalle – Datebook – San Francisco Chronicle

David Lindsay: I have good news about the State of Our Union. Kathleen and I today celebrate our 5th year anniversary of relationship.
Also, we decided to skip Trump’s state of his union speech last night, and instead we went to see “On the Basis of Sex,” the fabulous and inspiring docudrama of how the Ginsbergs stole Christmas from the reactionary, keep the women in their place crowd, back in 1972, represented in the film by Sam Waterson. Furthermore, if you are near New Haven CT, the film will be at the Criterion New Haven for another week. Metacritic.com gave this film an aggregate 60, which was a crime. But their numbers are always suspect, since they are not generated by the critic, but by a reader at Metacritic. Scott of the NYT gave the film a rave review in my mind, and the reader scored the review as a 60! What is wrong with Metacritic.
There was a good piece in the NYT today about Trump’s lies last night, which I decided not to post. You don’t need to read it, but for reference, it is:
State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong
President Trump appeared in front of a joint session of Congress for the annual address. Here is how his remarks stacked up against the facts.
https://www.nytimes.com/…/fact-check-state-of-the-union.htm…

Mick LaSalle 

Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, the movie about her life, “On the Basis of Sex,” sneaks up slowly, growing steadily in estimation, until a point is reached, not at the end but well into the proceedings, that it’s all downright inspiring. Here’s the story of a woman who not only shaped the journey of women in the second half of the 20th century, but whose life embodied that journey.That life translates well into the movie medium, in that Ginsburg’s story from her days at Harvard Law School through her appointment to the Supreme Court has the built-in narrative structure of a dramatic film. As in a rags-to-riches tale, Ginsburg starts off underestimated. She’s quiet, she’s little, and she’s female, and few will recognize her brilliance. She’s constantly blocked and put down and experiences doubts and disappointment, but she eventually emerges as a figure of fame and permanent importance.“On the Basis of Sex” makes you feel the cost it took to build this life, the years and years of work, in the face of almost monolithic resistance. Interestingly, and this feels intrinsically true, the movie shows that the obstacles Ginsburg faced often came from her closest male allies, who, after all, were steeped in the very same culture as her political foes. Ginsburg was at a disadvantage with these men, not only because she was a woman, but also because she was mild of temperament, not someone who could easily put herself forward. However, she did have the most significant advantage in her favor: She was smarter than everybody else.She had the further benefit of a supportive, understanding husband, whose outgoing personality complemented her watchful reserve. The old line that behind every great man is a great woman sometimes goes the other way, and so “On the Basis of Sex” is also the saga of an exceptional marital partnership.

Source: Felicity Jones is shy but relentless as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ‘On the Basis of Sex’ | Datebook

Opinion | Justices Put Gun Limits in the Cross Hairs – The New York Times

Image
CreditCreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency
Is there a more enigmatic and oddly phrased passage in the Constitution than the Second Amendment?

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. ItBy The Editorial Board

Jan. 30, 2019, 418 c

“A well-regulated militia” — there’s no consensus on what this meant 200 years ago, much less now — “being necessary to the security of a free state” — were the framers talking about collective defense or self-defense? — “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” — bear arms like a soldier? — “shall not be infringed.”

Yet, despite serious questions about the breadth of the amendment’s protections, at least four Supreme Court justices seem ready to consider what had until recently been a maximalist position: that it guarantees Americans a broadly unrestricted right to gun ownership.

For 217 years, the opacity of the Second Amendment kept the Supreme Court from affirming that its text gave Americans as individuals, not as militia members, the right to have a gun. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger called that claim “one of the greatest pieces of fraud … on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The con seemed to have worked. In 2008 and then in 2010, the court ruled that, within certain limits, the government could not prohibit people from having handguns in their homes for self-protection, declaring that the amendment guaranteed that right for Americans as individuals. is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.”

DL:  Yes, sigh. cough.

Here is the top comment, I endorsed:

ML
Boston

I am so exhausted. Forget the vagaries of language. What mass delusion are we in the grip of? Living in the U.S. today, you and I are 25 times more likely to die from gun violence than in any other high income country in the world. 52 women a month are shot to death by an intimate partner. 100 people a day die from guns (this figure includes suicides, which, if you don’t consider suicide by gun to be gun violence, tell me what it is). Every day in the U.S. — every day — toddlers and children and teenagers pick up guns they think are toys, pick up guns they don’t know are loaded, pick up guns — and shoot themselves or their sister or friend or mother. Children. Every day. There are too many guns at large in the U.S. More guns than people. That’s hundreds of millions of guns. Twice in my life I have had people I don’t know point guns at me and rob me. No, I wasn’t in a bad neighborhood. Once I was doing my homework in my bedroom. Both times, I was left with the questions — why was it so easy for this person to get a gun? Why are there SO MANY GUNS? Meanwhile, since Sandyhook, since Parkland, working on gun violence prevention, I have met so many parents who have lost children it makes me want to throw up each time someone else starts telling me their story. It is the same story. I want to scream in these supreme court justices’ faces. What do they want? What do they want? What do they expect? What is the matter with the citizens and the leaders of this country?

Opinion | Family Ties at the Supreme Court – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

Ginni Thomas at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2017. She recently met with President Trump to discuss why transgender people shouldn’t serve in the military.

By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

Jan. 31, 2019, 231 c

“Let Ginni be Ginni.

That was my first thought upon seeing the headline in The Times this past weekend: “Trump Meets With Hard-Right Group Led by Ginni Thomas.” Ginni Thomas — or Virginia Lamp, as I knew her years ago when she was a smart lawyer-lobbyist working for the United States Chamber of Commerce against passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act — is married to the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

These days, she is also an activist on the far-right fringe of the Republican Party. In recent months, she has denounced the student survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting who are campaigning for gun control as “dangerous to the survival of our nation” (in a later deleted Facebook post). In a speech bestowing an award on Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality, she warned fellow conservatives against being “complicit as the left moves its forces across the country.” According to the Times account of last week’s White House meeting, to which she brought fellow members of a group called Groundswell, the topics discussed included why women and transgender people should not be permitted to serve in the military and how same-sex marriage is damaging the country.

It hardly needs saying that modern families are complicated. A few administrations ago, it was tempting to conclude that presidential siblings had an unusual proclivity for getting into embarrassing scrapes. The day when wives of powerful men were expected to do little more than serve tea and look decorative has, thankfully, passed. “We have our separate professional lives,” Ms. Thomas said during the 2000 presidential election stalemate, when asked about her work for the Heritage Foundation compiling résumés for a potential Bush administration while the Supreme Court was deciding the outcome of the election. (She said her effort was bipartisan.)

But while my feminist sensibilities make me wary of suggesting that Ginni Thomas should not be completely free to embrace her causes and live her life, there’s something troublesome about the unbounded nature of her public advocacy, at least for those of us who still care about the Supreme Court. It’s hard to think of a more delicate moment for the court, pressed at every turn by an administration that seems to regard it as a wholly owned subsidiary of the White House and that has driven the normally reticent chief justice to declare, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.” Chief Justice John Roberts did not say “justices.” He didn’t have to. The question now is whether his colleagues on the bench — his own and all the others — will show him to be right, or sadly naïve.”

Lovely piece by Linda Greenhouse. Here is my favorit comment as far as I read them:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“It’s hard to think of a more delicate moment for the court, pressed at every turn by an administration that seems to regard it as a wholly owned subsidiary of the White House and that has driven the normally reticent chief justice to declare, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.”” Yes, Ginni Thomas seems to have only broken laws of good taste, but consider that within the growing body of evidence that “norms-busting” is threatening our social fabric. Civility and propriety have gone missing in our politics, media, and culture. I’m beginning to wonder if America as we knew it before Mr. Trump foisted himself 24/7 on our national consciousness will ever return? My problem with Ginni Thomas is the double standard that Congress and media consensus seems to apply to behavior that gets condoned in Republicans who would never allow the same if done by Democrats. Ms. Greenhouse says, let “Ginni be Ginni.” But when this opinionated lawyer-lobbyist throws herself at the White House, espousing religious and judicial views she has no business pushing, I think the American public deserve to know why. Because of her husband, Ginni grabs access to the president none of us have, despite our own strong views on the subject of civil liberties for all. Maybe she broke no rules in the strictest legal sense, but she sure has broken the boundaries of fairness.

Opinion | The Power of Supreme Court Choices – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

Linda Greenhouse
By Linda Greenhouse
Contributing Opinion Writer

Dec. 6, 2018, 252
Image
President Bush and Barbara Bush with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at his swearing-in ceremony in 1991.CreditCreditDirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Image

“It’s not hard for a new president, in concert with Congress, to erase a predecessor’s legislative, regulatory and diplomatic accomplishments. It’s a president’s Supreme Court legacy that lasts.

Many retrospectives on the life of President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, noted that one of the two men he named to the court, Clarence Thomas, is now in his 27th year as a justice and, at age 70, is on track to become one of the longest-serving Supreme Court justices in history.

Justice David H. Souter, who in 1990 became President Bush’s first Supreme Court appointee, has received much less attention in recent days, perhaps because he retired nine years ago and has avoided the spotlight ever since. The soft-spoken New Hampshire judge never became a lightning rod except to those on the right who, while thrilling to Justice Thomas’s hard-edge originalism, were sorely vexed by Justice Souter’s modestly progressive jurisprudence. While one became an icon, the other became the object of a negative mantra: “No more Souters.”

My goal here is not to appraise the two Bush 41 justices. It’s to compare the approaches — one conciliatory, the other, confrontational — that in the space of a single year (July 1990 to July 1991) produced such different nominees. Those approaches remain today as contrasting archetypes for how to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.”

Opinion | After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

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

Dec. 6, 2018, 363
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, speaking at the White House in 2017.
Credit
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“In the eight years since it was decided, Citizens United has unleashed a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt.

To see how this operates in practice, let’s take a look at how Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker of the House, negotiated a path — narrowly constructed to stay on the right side of the law — during a recent fund-raising trip to Las Vegas, as recounted in detail by Politico.

In early May, Ryan flew to Nevada to solicit money from Sheldon Adelson — the casino magnate who was by far the largest Republican contributor of 2018 — for the Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent expenditure super PAC. Ryan was accompanied by Norm Coleman, a former Republican Senator from Minnesota.

The Leadership Fund, according to its website, is “a super PAC exclusively dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives.” It “operates independently of any federal candidate or officeholder.””

Opinion | The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Crisis – By Michael Tomasky – NYT

By Michael Tomasky
Mr. Tomasky is editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and a contributing opinion writer. Oct. 5, 2018

The United States Supreme Court.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times
Test your Supreme Court knowledge: In the entire history of the court, exactly one justice has been

a) nominated by a president who didn’t win the popular vote and

b) confirmed by a majority of senators who collectively won fewer votes in their last election than did the senators who voted against that justice’s confirmation.

Who was it?

If you’re like me, your mind started leapfrogging back to the 19th century. After all, this sounds like one of those oddities that was far more likely to have happened when our democracy was still in formation.

So let’s see … John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote in 1824. Someone he named to the Court? Or Rutherford B. Hayes — lost to Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, then was named president by a rigged commission. Maybe him?”

Opinion | The Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh. Signed- 1700+ Law Professors (and Counting). – The New York Times

The Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh
Signed, 1,700+ Law Professors (and Counting)
OCT. 3, 2018
“The following letter will be presented to the United States Senate on Oct. 4. It will be updated as more signatures are received.

Judicial temperament is one of the most important qualities of a judge. As the Congressional Research Service explains, a judge requires “a personality that is even-handed, unbiased, impartial, courteous yet firm, and dedicated to a process, not a result.” The concern for judicial temperament dates back to our founding; in Federalist 78, titled “Judges as Guardians of the Constitution,” Alexander Hamilton expressed the need for “the integrity and moderation of the judiciary.”

We are law professors who teach, research and write about the judicial institutions of this country. Many of us appear in state and federal court, and our work means that we will continue to do so, including before the United States Supreme Court. We regret that we feel compelled to write to you, our Senators, to provide our views that at the Senate hearings on Sept. 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.

The question at issue was of course painful for anyone. But Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners. Even in his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh described the hearing as partisan, referring to it as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” rather than acknowledging the need for the Senate, faced with new information, to try to understand what had transpired. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

If the Senate confirms Kavenaugh to the Supreme Court, it will be one of the lowest points in American History that I could point to. Not only is this candidate a partisan without the proper temperament, but he is in this position because Mitch McConnell refused to let Obama’s spectacular choice, Merrick Garland, come to a vote. A full breach of law and order and decorum. It is not clear our country will ever recover completely from this descent into partisan and unconstitutional rubbish. The silver lining isn’t so great. There will be a blue wave to wash out the Augean Stables, that will be so severe, we will need to recreate an opposition party of merit, to replace the debauched, anti-science and anti-democratic Republican Party.

.

Chad Ludington’s Statement on Kavanaugh’s Drinking and Senate Testimony – The New York Times

“I do not believe that the heavy drinking or even loutish behavior of an 18- or even 21-year-old should condemn a person for the rest of his life. I would be a hypocrite to think so. However, I have direct and repeated knowledge about his drinking and his disposition while drunk. And I do believe that Brett’s actions as a 53-year-old federal judge matter. If he lied about his past actions on national television, and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences. It is truth that is at stake, and I believe that the ability to speak the truth, even when it does not reflect well upon oneself, is a paramount quality we seek in our nation’s most powerful judges.

I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth.

I felt it was my civic duty to tell of my experience while drinking with Brett, and I offer this statement to the press. I have no desire to speak further publicly, and nothing more to say to the press at this time. I will, however, take my information to the F.B.I.

Charles (Chad) Ludington”

Opinion | The Senate’s Failure to Seek the Truth – By Emily Bazelon – NYT

By Emily Bazelon
Ms. Bazelon is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine.

Sept. 28, 2018 177 comments

Twice as a reporter, I’ve interviewed women who have accused men of sexual assault and the men they accused. In both cases, the women looked me in the eye and told me about how they’d been raped, and then the men looked me in the eye and told me they’d never raped anyone. All four people spoke with force and emotion. In the moment, I wanted to believe each one. It’s uncomfortable to imagine that someone who seems wholly sincere is not. It’s confusing — it seems unfeeling — to turn away from someone who makes a vehement claim of truth.

If you watched Thursday’s hearing, in particular Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement and Brett Kavanaugh’s, maybe you know what I mean. So then what? As a reporter, I looked for corroborating evidence as a means of assessing each person’s veracity. What else could I find out, and how did their accounts stack up against that? This is how investigators do their work. They find out as much as they can about the surrounding circumstances. Then it’s up to judges to weigh the facts and decide which account is most credible.

Judge Kavanaugh didn’t sound as if he was thinking like a judge. His partisan attack on Democrats wasn’t judicial, in any sense of the word. His approach to evidence wasn’t either.”