Friday, June 29, 2012

Scalia's true nature

There are plenty of places you can read about the decision yesterday on the Affordable Care Act, but there's one observation worth making.

 Over at Slate Matt Yglesias has a story about Scalia's dissent (my very favorite sentence to read: Scalia, J., dissenting) and how he arrives at the conclusion that a number of ancillary provisions, such as a provision deregulating dental services, in the Act are also unconstitutional.

  Some provisions, such as requiring chain restaurants to display nutritional content, appear likely to operate as Congress intended, but they fail the second test for severability. There is no reason to believe that Congress would have enacted them independently. The Court has not previously had occasion to consider severability in the context of an omnibus enactment like the ACA, which includes not only many provisions that are ancillary to its central provisions but also many that are entirely unrelated—hitched on because it was a quick way to get them passed despite opposition, or because their proponents could exact their enactment as the quid pro quo for their needed support. When we are confronted with such a so called “Christmas tree,” a law to which many nongermane ornaments have been attached, we think the proper rule must be that when the tree no longer exists the ornaments are superfluous. We have no reliable basis for knowing which pieces of the Act would have passed on their own. It is certain that many of them would not have, and it is not a proper function of this Court to guess which.

 This paragraph is simply more evidence that everything Scalia does is unhinged from the Constitution.

 Many states have a legislative rule or constitutional provision known as the title-object rule, which generally says something like "Every bill must be directed to a single object, which shall be expressed in its title". It is specifically intended to prevent Christmas tree legislation. Under this rule, legislators can be seen to adopt any legislative provision based on its own merits, not, as Scalia warns us, because they are "hitched" to another piece of legislation.

 You can agree or disagree that such a rule is a good idea, but it is beyond doubt that we have no such rule in the U.S. Constitution. Scalia is just making it up as a ruse to get rid of legislation he doesn't like.

 As I say, unfettered by any pretense of constitutional reasoning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is any comment necessary?

Finally, the Catholic Church is going to start taking misconduct by its clergy seriously.

What misconduct? Why, obviously, it's the epidemic of bishops ordaining women. What were you thinking?

No, seriously, the vicar of Christ wants to be sure he is not misunderstood.

Making a woman a priest is as sinful as abusing a child, the Roman Catholic Church declared yesterday.

Apparently they really mean it this time. They have concluded that their old favorite technique for dealing with misbehavior--ignoring it and transferring the offender to an unsuspecting parish--is not sufficient punishment for a bishop with the temerity to ordain women. 

The new rules mean that priests can be defrocked or excommunicated for paedophile offences, sexual abuse of mentally handicapped adults or attempting to ordain women.

Finally. Now that they've been clear beyond any question, maybe people will start taking the church seriously as a moral arbiter again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

No Republican War on Women?

As soon as Democrats started talking about the Republican war on women the Republicans trotted out their counter-meme that not only are the Republicans not engaged in a war on women but that is the Democrats, by advocating for women's equality and autonomy, are.

 I know, it's absurd on the face of it, but that's what they claim. But if it's not a war against women, what do you call what happened in Michigan this week?

  Michigan House Republicans blocked a state representative from speaking on the floor on Thursday after she referenced certain parts of female anatomy in a speech on an abortion bill.

 That's right. The House of Representatives in Michigan was debating yet another bill to cut back on women's abortion rights and a woman, Rep. Lisa Brown, dared to say: “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’”

 For that she was barred from speaking on a subsequent piece of legislation.

 Probably my favorite comment in the whole debate was this, from a Republican House member:

  “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women,” one state representative said. “I would not say that in mixed company.”

 So yes, just to recap: we have a Republican dominated legislative body, debating what women can do with their own bodies, punishing a woman for mentioning her own body.

 Is there anything else we need to do to prove that this is a war on women?

Thursday, June 07, 2012


I was at a discussion board where someone asked why liberals always seem to be dissatisfied with America. Here's what i came up with.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when we were ruled by a foreign king.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when people were allowed to own other human beings as slaves.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when unregulated markets allowed tainted food and dangerous drugs to be freely sold to the public.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when women were denied the right to vote.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when children could be forced to work instead of going to school, and when workers were forced to work seven days a week in unsafe working conditions.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when workers who had lost their jobs had no income, and waited in bread lines for meager handouts to feed their families.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when workers were fired for trying to join together to improve their wages, hours, and working conditions, and when they had no say in any of them.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when workers retired into poverty.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when black children were not allowed to attend the same schools as white children, but were relegated to inferior and poorly funded institutions.

Liberals were dissatisfied when the poor and elderly could not afford medical care.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when minorities could be denied equal access to employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when corrupt Southern politicians beat and imprisoned black Americans who tried to register to vote.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when our leaders used lies and fabrications to convince us to embark on wars of aggression against countries and people who posed no threat to us.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when people with disabilities were denied educational and job opportunities.

Liberals were dissatisfied with America when patriotic Americans were denied the right to serve their country because of their sexual orientation.

Liberals are dissatisfied with America when we see that not all families are treated equally.

Liberals are dissatisfied with America when we see that the share of income received by the highest one percent of the population is higher than it has ever been, and when the chance that a person born into a lower income family has less opportunity than ever for an affluent or middle-class life.

Liberals are dissatisfied with America when we see that millions of our fellow Americans still cannot afford basic health care.

Liberals are dissatisfied with America when we see that banks that defrauded millions of their life savings and took their homes away are propped up with our tax dollars, while the wealthy speculators who caused the crisis have not been brought to justice.

Yes, there are still many reasons for liberals to be dissatisfied with America. Fortunately, there are also many of us who continue to work for the day when this great country will fulfill its promise to all Americans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Time to stop laughing

If you're a former Catholic, or if you know many former Catholics, or if you've always been mystified by nuns, their dress, and their habits (get it? Habits?) you've probably had occasion to think of nuns as a joke. Well, it's time to stop. The old men who run the Catholic Church are the Navy SEALS of the Republican war on women, and the nuns are on the front lines.

Just look at recent history.

Two years ago the bishops excommunicated a nun and hospital administrator for approving an abortion to save the life of the mother.

Last month they basically declared martial law on the Leadership Conference for Women Religious, an organization  of more than 1500 members, who represent more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United Stateson the grounds that it was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women's ordination  What did they do that was so bad? Well, for one thing they supported health care reform. Pretty shocking, huh?

And this week the Vatican . . . censured Sister Margaret A. Farley, who teaches at Yale Divinity School, over a 2006 book she wrote that the church said is out of step with official church teaching on human sexuality.

But you know what? The nuns are not backing down. After a series of meetings their statement says that the conference believes that the matters of faith and justice that capture the hearts of Catholic sisters are clearly shared by many people around the world. As the church and society face tumultuous times, the board believes it is imperative that these matters be addressed by the entire church community in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, and integrity.


These are strange concepts to the Catholic Church, but I know the nuns are up to the challenge of teaching the bishops a thing or two.

So as I say, the nuns are no laughing matter. Like all oppressed people standing up for their rights, they deserve our support and respect.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

No Prayer at town meeting

Rejecting a number of bogus procedural challenges and some equally spurious arguments by the town, the Franklin Superior Court ruled that including prayers at the beginning of a town meeting violates the Vermont Constitution's prohibition on compelling anyone to "attend any religious worship, finding that "The court rejects the town's suggestion that the history of prayer at town meeting renders it non-religious and concludes that the prayers at issue constituted `religious worship'".
The court also ruled that the prayer at town meeting violated the constitutional provision that "nor can any person be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of religious sentiments, or peculia[r] mode of religious worship." The court held that to establish a practice that required Ms. Hackett to remain outside of the meeting room while part of the meeting was being conducted, simply because the town insisted on the prayer, would deprive her of the right to attend the entire meeting.
The town's argument that the prayer does not constitute religious worship is of particular interest here. Whether it's "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance, "In god we trust" on coins, or religious invocations at the opening of sessions of Congress, those who want to impose their religion on others are fond of arguing that these are not true religious statements, but simply neutral acknowledgements of the religious beliefs of the majority of the population. One wonders, of course, why the religionists fight so hard to keep them if they are not there to express their religious beliefs, or whether they would so willingly accept a change to "under allah" or "In allah we trust".
As a result of its decision, the court granted Ms. Hackett a declaratory judgment that the town's practices have violated her constitutional rights, granted her a permanent injunction prohibiting the prayer at town meetings, and will be holding another hearing to determing whether to award her damages. The full decision can be read at the ACLU web site.
Congratualtions to Marilyn Hackett, the ACLU, and ACLU volunteer attorneys Bernie Lambek and Julie Kalish!