Posts Tagged ‘SCOTUS’
Biology has returned to the nation’s highest court. It’s not Darwin’s theory of evolution on the docket this time, but the nature of sex. Defenders of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, base their case on what they call the “objective biological fact” that procreation is an exclusively heterosexual process. Citing the 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, they argue that marriage should be “founded in nature.”
Evolution or sexuality, the same religious conservatives bring their ignorance to court.
This invocation of nature echoes other voices. Last December, before Pope Benedict XVI resigned, he used his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia to deplore what he called a “new philosophy of sexuality” that manipulates and denies nature. Roy S. Moore, re-elected last fall as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, once let rip with less measured language, exclaiming in a child-custody case that homosexuality was “a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Meanwhile, Tennessee legislators have repeatedly sought the prohibition of any sexual education “inconsistent with natural human reproduction.” None of this is, in fact, new: Oscar Wilde’s trials hinged on the courts’ understanding of natural love and unnatural vice.
References to biology coat these arguments with a gloss of scientific rigor. But before we write nature into law, let’s take a stroll outside the Supreme Court’s chambers and check those biological facts. Descending the steps of the court, we enter Washington’s planted landscape, a formal park where nature stands alongside patriotic monuments and federal buildings. There is no shortage of counsel about biology here.
The grandeur of the National Mall is rightly famous. Less well known are the hermaphroditic sex lives of many of its inhabitants. Japanese cherry trees break bud in explosions of pink; male and female coexist at the heart of each flower. The American elms that frame the Mall’s lawns present a more reserved countenance to the world. But their inconspicuous lime-green flowers are biologically bisexual. Ginkgo, another tree common in Washington, follows a Prop 8-approved sexual separation, growing as discrete males and females. But even the ginkgo will sometimes surprise horticulturalists with a stray flower of the other sex.
The nation’s most influential pediatrician’s group has endorsed gay marriage, saying a stable relationship between parents regardless of sexual orientation contributes to a child’s health and well-being.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new policy…cites research showing that the parents’ sexual orientation has no effect on a child’s development. Kids fare just as well in gay or straight families when they are nurturing and financially and emotionally stable…
The academy believes that a two-parent marriage is best equipped to provide that kind of environment. Their policy says that if a child has two gay parents who choose to marry, “it is in the best interests of their children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so.”
The policy cites reports indicating that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay parents, many of them in states that don’t allow gays to marry.
The academy announced its position Thursday. Officials with the group said they wanted to make the academy’s views known before two gay marriage cases are considered by the U.S. Supreme Court next week…
The pediatricians’ stance is not surprising. They previously joined other national groups including the American Medical Association in supporting one of the Supreme Court cases, which contends the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The academy also previously supported adoption by gay parents.
The academy’s statement notes that several other national health groups have supported gay marriage. Those are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American College of Nursing.
Dr. Ben Siegel, a Boston pediatrician and chairman of an academy committee that developed the new policy, said its focus is on “nurturing children. We want what’s best for children.”
Not that it means much to folks whose hearts and minds haven’t left the Dark Ages, yet. Fact remains, most bigots are as anti-science as they are anti-human beings living with basic civil rights.
In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last week, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. introduced a statistical claim that he took to imply that an important provision of the Voting Rights Act has become outmoded.
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being challenged by Shelby County, Ala., in the case before the court, requires that certain states, counties and townships with a history of racial discrimination get approval (or “pre-clearance”) from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. But Chief Justice Roberts said that Mississippi, which is covered by Section 5, has the best ratio of African-American to white turnout, while Massachusetts, which is not covered, has the worst, he said…
As much as it pleases me to see statistical data introduced in the Supreme Court, the act of citing statistical factoids is not the same thing as drawing sound inferences from them…
Like other polls, the Current Population Survey is subject to sampling error, a result of collecting data among a random subsample of the population rather than everyone in the state. In states like Massachusetts that have low African-American populations, the margin of error can be especially high: it was plus-or-minus 9.6 percentage points in estimating the black turnout rate in 2004, according to the Census Bureau. Even in Mississippi, which has a larger black population, the margin of error was 5.2 percentage points…
The debate might be more constructive if we return to the substantive questions that I posed earlier. First, are the voting rates in Massachusetts and Mississippi representative of a broader trend? If so, it seems wrong to suggest that Chief Justice Roberts misconstrued the data merely because he failed to mention the margin of error. But if Massachusetts and Mississippi are outliers, then the chief justice may be guilty…Cherry-picking the evidence…is the greater statistical sin, in my view, since it involves making misleading rather than merely imprecise claims.
The bigger potential flaw with Chief Justice Roberts’s argument is not with the statistics he cites but with the conclusion he draws from them…
…The fact that black turnout rates are now roughly as high in states covered by Section 5 might be taken as evidence that the Voting Rights Act has been effective. There were huge regional differences in black turnout rates in the early 1960s, before the Voting Rights Act was passed. (In the 1964 election, for example, nonwhite turnout was about 45 percent in the South, but close to 70 percent elsewhere in the country.) These differences have largely evaporated now.
How much of this is because of the Voting Rights Act, as opposed to other voter protections that have been adopted since that time, or other societal changes? And even if the Voting Rights Act has been important in facilitating the changes, how many of the gains might be lost if the Section 5 requirements were dropped now?…
Statistical analysis can inform the answers if applied thoughtfully. But statistics can obscure the truth when they become divorced from the historical, legal and logical context of a case.
Roberts proved to the world that opportunism holds a higher priority in his pantheon of justice – in his testimony before Congress when he was being confirmed for office. Almost every decision since has reflected that opportunism, lack of forthcoming honesty. A few recent cases may illustrate qualms on his part – I hope.
Regardless, Nate Silver stands as the voice of expert testimony about statistics which the Republican Party learned to their recent dismay.
New York State’s $150-billion public pension fund has sued Qualcomm, seeking to force the chipmaker to reveal its political spending, according to the state comptroller.
The suit was filed late on Wednesday in Delaware Court of Chancery, after Qualcomm refused the request by the New York State Common Retirement Fund — a Qualcomm shareholder — to inspect records detailing the use of corporate resources for political activities, said state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the fund.
“Without disclosure, there is no way to know whether corporate funds are being used in ways that go against shareholder interests,” DiNapoli, a Democrat who is up for re-election in 2014, said in a statement.
The suit opens a new front in the fight over corporate political spending, which has risen dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United.
That decision lifted restrictions on corporate political spending and led in part to an unprecedented $6 billion of spending on the recently held U.S. elections.
While other companies have agreed to increase their disclosure of political spending, Qualcomm has not…
Since at least August 2012, the pension fund has repeatedly attempted to get the information from Qualcomm, but the company has refused to divulge it, the suit claimed.
New York’s pension fund is “concerned that it cannot determine whether senior executives and directors of Qualcomm are spending corporate resources to support their favored political candidates” or on causes that aren’t focused on boosting shareholder value, the complaint said.
Other sources show that in 2012, Qualcomm spent more than $4.7 million on federal lobbying efforts, according to the complaint.
Delightful. Glad to see this approach/attack getting started.
Ever since the conservative flunkies on the Supreme Court decided “corporations are people, too” – and started the tsunami of corporate cash flowing into the coffers of SuperPACS – the American electorate has been stymied by Congressional hacks. This tactic is one that has been considered as having the potential to lift the veil of secrecy the same “justices” obediently handed over.
RTFA for the details.
The Supreme Court has seized center stage in a historic social policy debate over same-sex marriage by agreeing to review the validity under the Constitution of a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In an order, the court also announced that it would consider a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.
Same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.
Yet even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for a host of federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, passed by Congress, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
Gays and lesbians married under state laws have filed suits challenging their denial of such benefits as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns. They argue the provision, known as Section 3, violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The court could follow the model of some lower courts and rule narrowly…or it could demonstrate the courage of previous courts and come down on the side of equal civil rights for all Americans, recognize a right to marriage equality.
My concerns are obvious, the same experienced by any American confronting the political theater our legal system has become. There is no shortage of bigots and fools who would apply the heart of constitutional freedoms only to a limited number of citizens. Egalitarian law applied to all citizens doesn’t occur to many who base their beliefs on superstition instead of science, privilege instead of equal opportunity.
I have more confidence in the legal flunkies of the Right who sit on the Supreme Court bench being more concerned – for once – with their image and reputation in future legal histories than with bending to the sound and fury of their class. It would be even more pleasing to see them stand up for the spirit of our constitution.
Do Republicans realize how dumb they were to call this Obamacare?
“This is great news for seniors on Medicare,” Paul Nathanson, executive director of the National Senior Citizens Law Center…said in a conference call on Thursday after the Supreme Court issued its ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.
Because several key provisions involving Medicare kicked in soon after Congress passed the bill in 2010, many beneficiaries won’t see big changes in their coverage now. But those improvements could have evaporated had the law been overturned…
See my previous post – If you’re already ill – you have a stake in SCOTUS healthcare ruling
This means the annual free wellness exam will continue — about 2.2 million people took advantage of it last year — along with the first “Welcome to Medicare” visit, which will remain free, with no out-of-pocket costs.
A number of preventive services, including mammograms, bone scans and depression and diabetes screenings, used to involve deductibles and co-pays; under the Affordable Care Act, they no longer do.
And the gradual closing of the dread “doughnut hole” gap in Part D drug coverage by 2020 will proceed, bolstered by discounts that have already lowered drug costs. “The average Medicare beneficiary will continue to save an average $650 a year,” said Max Richtman…“That’s real money, especially for seniors…”
On the long-term care front, the court’s action preserves several initiatives advancing efforts to support elderly and disabled people in their homes, rather than in nursing homes…
And starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will help husbands and wives hold onto more of their assets if a spouse must spend down to qualify for Medicaid.
Being a cranky old geek – and a hermit – I’m upset that I’ve lost all my excuses for NOT visiting my doctor for one or another periodic checkup. Used to be I’d just grumble about the cost of an office visit, appropriate tests, the lousy COLA Congress decides upon for my social security check. No more.
The good news? I’m in decent health for a grayhead.
The extra good news? Through all the whining in Congress and from TV talking heads the cost of my Medicare Advantage plan has risen to — $16 a month.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul law requiring that most Americans get insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty, a historic ruling that gave the White House a big win ahead of Obama’s re-election bid in November.
“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” he concluded. The conservative Roberts joined the four most liberal justices to uphold the law’s key provision…
The upholding of the insurance purchase requirement, known as the “individual mandate,” was a victory for Obama on the law that aims to extend coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans…
The court’s ruling could figure prominently in the run-up to the November 6 election. Obama is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney, who had called for scrapping the law and replacing it with other measures even though he championed a similar approach at the state level as Massachusetts governor…
Overdue is putting it mildly. Harry Truman ran for election with Universal Healthcare as an important plank in his platform – if for no other reason than to co-opt 3rd Party candidates. No matter. After he took office he never even introduced a bill.
Since the 1940′s, the issue would come up from time to time. Even some Republicans – back before the Kool Aid Party discovered there were RINO’s, Republicans In Name Only – introduced bills supporting expansion of medical care for Americans when they were certain nothing would come of it.
Though I would prefer – and will continue fight for – a single payer system that extends the functions of the Medicare system to all and includes fiscal soundness and equal opportunity, hey, we’ve made a start. Republicans can blather all they want between now and election time. One of their biggest weapons against improving healthcare in the United States has just turned into smoke.
Pamela Garland – uninsured with a cancer diagnosis -
she and her husband, Norman considered divorce to qualify her for Medicaid
No other group of Americans faces higher stakes in the impending Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act than those with pre-existing conditions. The law, once its major provisions take effect, would prohibit insurance companies from turning people away or charging them more because they are sick. In exchange, most Americans would be required to have insurance, broadening the base of paying customers with an infusion of healthy people. Those who did not buy insurance would be subject to financial penalties.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that 36 million to 122 million adults under 65 have a pre-existing condition. As many as 17 million do not have insurance. Many try to buy coverage on the individual market, but in most states that is either impossible or too costly.
Experts are divided on what the ruling will bring for this group of Americans. If the mandate that everyone buy coverage is struck down, the Obama administration and the insurance industry say that the protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be, too. If the ailing pile in without the larger pool of healthy people, premiums would skyrocket, insurers say…
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, favors repeal of the law. He said last week that he would preserve coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but only if they had been insured before and lost coverage when they were laid off or changed jobs, a more limited protection than the current law provides. He did not explain how he would get insurers to cover such people…
Under the law, about half the newly insured would be covered by Medicaid, which would extend to individuals earning less than $15,400. The other half, the working poor, individuals with incomes up to $44,600, would receive subsidies…
Currently, uninsured people with pre-existing conditions often end up getting care, but at tremendous cost to the public, hospitals, and themselves. Some divorce to have household incomes small enough to qualify for Medicaid. Others get help from hospital charities. Still others rack up large bills that go to debt collection agencies…
RTFA for anecdotal examples of folks who have gained treatment because of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Most of whom seem to have little understanding if how the law works. Especially those benefitting; but, still convinced it’s an unAmerican plot. Sheesh!
The best quote is from one woman who signed up for the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan – disallowed from the plan covering the rest of her family because of prior back surgery – “I can’t imagine that they’ll just dump all of us back out into the world of no coverage,” she said. Obviously she’s never encountered a Republican member of Congress.
Malaika Brooks and her baby girl
A “defiant” pregnant woman who was subjected to three Taser stun gun shocks by law enforcement officers after refusing to sign a speeding ticket will not get her appeal addressed by the Supreme Court.
The justices without comment Tuesday rejected separate petitions from both Malaika Brooks and the Seattle Police officers sued for excessive force…
Hundreds of such Taser-related lawsuits have been working their way through lower state and federal courts, but the Supreme Court so far has refused to address the issue of what the officers call “a useful pain technique.”
Brooks was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to school in 2004. Police clocked her going 32 miles per hour in a 20 mph school zone. She handed over her driver’s license but denied wrongdoing.
A speeding citation was issued but the woman refused to sign it as state law required. Brooks later claimed she mistakenly believed signing the ticket was an admission of guilt. An argument ensued with two police officers. A federal appeals court later said, “she remained defiant even after (Officer) Jones told her she’d be arrested if she continued to refuse.”
The word that these coppers used before editing by the shift captain — probably was “uppity”!
A police sergeant soon arrived and informed the motorist that force would be applied if she did not get out of her vehicle as ordered. Brooks refused. A Taser electro-shock weapon was displayed, and officers warned her it would be used if there was further resistance. Brooks explained her pregnancy, and later claimed one of the officers replied, “Well, don’t do it in her stomach, do it in her thigh.”
The Taser was applied in a “drive-stun” mode three times in a one-minute span — in her thigh, arm, then neck, according to court testimony.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco eventually issued a split decision, finding excessive force was used, but saying the officers could not be sued because “it was not sufficiently clear” in the law at the time that what they were doing was a constitutional violation…
RTFA for the details. Poisonally, I see nothing wrong with requiring police officers to have a brain and a bit of education about law, health, communication.
Add in a little humanity just for giggles and you might have a copper with good sense.
Then you have the conservative-dominated Supreme Court of the United States. A group with great responsibility – and apparently governed by cupidity, cowardice and a convenience store schedule. Their convenience.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week passed up the chance to decide whether opening up a public meeting with a sectarian prayer, usually invoking the name of Jesus — a practice carried out in broad swaths of Red State America — is constitutional.
Every business day, thousands of government bodies at all levels begin sessions with prayers. Those prayers are supposed to be “non-sectarian” — they are supposed to appeal to a Supreme Being without reference to religion. But what if a prayer delivered at the start of a government meeting makes a specific reference to a particular religion, for example, using the name of Jesus?
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative U.S. appeals courts in the country, has ruled such specific references are unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week left that ruling in place, but whether the appeals court ruling will have an effect on the government meetings across the country opened with Christian prayers remains to be seen.
The high court could always take on the dispute in some future case. But for the moment the appeals court ruling is the law in the Fourth Circuit: North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia…
And local bible-thumpers will continue to violate the law same as it ever was. You expected different?
As I am wont to say within this context, Separation of church and state – in the United States – is only observed when it comes to paying taxes.