Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’
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.
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.
Imagine getting a letter from the boss, telling you how to vote.
Until 2010, federal law barred companies from using corporate money to endorse and campaign for political candidates — and that included urging employees to support specific politicians.
But the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has freed companies from those restrictions, and now several major companies, including Georgia-Pacific and Cintas, have sent letters or information packets to their employees suggesting — and sometimes explicitly recommending — how they should vote this fall…
Dave Robertson, the president of Koch Industries, sent an information packet and letter this month to more than 30,000 employees of a subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and pulp company. The letter attacked government subsidies for “a few favored cronies” as well as “unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses.”
The letter added, “Many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation and other ills.”
The Georgia-Pacific letter, first reported by In These Times, included a flier listing several candidates endorsed by the Koch brothers, the conservative billionaires, beginning with Mitt Romney, as well as opinion articles that the brothers had written.
Travis McKinney, a forklift driver for Georgia-Pacific in Portland, Ore., said the company’s political packet had spurred widespread discussion. “It leaves a bad taste,” Mr. McKinney said. “I won’t even wear my Obama pin to work because of the mailer…”
Mr. Romney has himself urged business owners to appeal to their employees. In a conference call in June organized by the National Federation of Independent Business, he said, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”
The scumbags who voted the Supreme Court majority decision for this case are as out of touch with the needs, feelings problems and life of working people as Romney, himself. To equate the political voice, the political power of an employee with their employer is not only absurd – it is criminal.
This past week, Chevron set a new record – donating $2½ million to the SuperPAC run by John Boehner. The dollars and dime donated by oilfield workers ain’t about to equal that sort of clout in decades. The thugs at the top just write a check from petty cash.
At a campaign stop near Philadelphia early in his 2010 bid for governor, Republican Tom Corbett announced “we’ve got to raise money,” that it was the “number-one” priority. In an answer to his prayers, that same July day, a $1.5 million contribution arrived from — Wisconsin?
Officially, the donation was from the Wisconsin affiliate of a D.C.-based political organization called the Republican Governors Association.
The $1.5 million could not travel directly from the RGA to Corbett. Pennsylvania law bans candidates from accepting corporate money and the RGA accepts millions of dollars from some of the nation’s largest businesses.
Also, state law requires all non-individuals to establish PACs in Pennsylvania.
In a single day, the $1.5 million gift traveled from the D.C.-based parent organization to the RGA Wisconsin PAC, to the RGA Pennsylvania PAC and finally to Corbett’s campaign account.
By the time the donation reached Corbett, it was impossible to identify the original source of the cash or whether the donation was permissible under state law…
The RGA’s funding played a central role in Corbett’s victory. By Election Day he had received a total of $6 million from the RGA — 21 percent of his total fundraising, easily the top donor to the campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics…
Our Supreme Court – and especially money-pimps like Scalia – think this is a perfectly legitimate exercise of free speech. I think they would have had a tough time convincing most folks interested in a constitutional democracy – even in the 18th Century.
Not that it matters to them or the people who supply money by the pallet-load.
RTFA for details on case after case of the scum managing the framework of our elections.
Two Brazilian air force pilots could be collared by the long arm of the law after making a low-altitude supersonic fly pass which shattered every window of Brazil’s Supreme Court.
If they know what’s good for them, it might be a good idea to keep flying and put as much distance between them and the angry lawyers inside the blown-out building
Swooping low over the structure housing the Supremo Tribunal Federal in Brasilia, the two French-made Mirage 2000 jets generated a massive shockwave – destroying the building’s glass facade.
OK by me, President Obama. I don’t even care if it’s called Romneycare – as in Massachusetts. It works fine.
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.