Archive

  • 5 Men on Supreme Court Impose Substantial Burden on Women in Illogical Decision

    © A.M. Stan
    ©A.M. Stan As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius on March 25, 2014, protesters filled the sidewalk in front of the Court. O n Monday, a bare majority of the Court held that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, employers do not have to adhere to federal regulations requiring that health insurance offered to employees cover contraceptives if the requirement conflicts with their religious beliefs. The majority opinion supporting this view, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and joined by the Court's four other Republican appointees—all men—is a disaster. It is unpersuasive and illogical, and creaes a standard that is unworkable. It also reflects an instructive lack of concern for the interests of the women, whose statutory rights will be burdened by the majority's decision. As I have outlined before , the argument by Hobby Lobby and the other employers in the cases, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v...
  • What Americans Think of the Poor

    Pew Research Center
    The Pew Research Center has released one of their periodic Political Typology studies , and as usual it contains a wealth of fascinating data on what people think about a whole range of issues. One of the most useful things about it is that instead of just asking people whether they consider themselves liberals or conservatives, it constructs a typology based on a series of questions, enabling them to divide people in a more fine-grained way that doesn't rely solely on self-identification (they divide Americans into two strongly conservative groups, one mostly conservative group, one mostly liberal group, and three more strongly liberal groups). When I went through the survey, one question jumped out at me, the one represented here: Those of you who read my writing regularly know that I make an effort to understand where people who disagree with me are coming from. That doesn't mean I'm any less likely to disagree with them, or even that I don't use barbed language sometimes in...
  • The Implications of the Supreme Court's Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Ruling

    CaliFaces.com
    Today, in McCullen v. Coakley , the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts statute that created a "buffer zone" enabling women to access reproductive health clinics without interference. As with the ruling on the EPA and Greenhouse gases from earlier in the week, however, the decision could have been much worse. While the Court held that the Massachusetts law was not consistent with the First Amendment, it did so in a way that should allow states to protect women who seek reproductive health care from having their clinic access blocked or impeded by protesters. There is no question that the 35-foot buffer zone around clinics created by the statute restricts speech. This does not, however, necessarily mean that a buffer zone violates the First Amendment. The state can restrict speech using "space, time, and manner" restrictions. (You have the right to express your political views, but do not necessarily have the right to express them through a megaphone in a residential neighborhood...
  • Can the U.S. Stop Drones From Creating a More Dangerous World?

    A drone launches from the USS Lassen (U.S. Navy photo)
    In an op-ed in today's Washington Post , retired Army general John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official, warn that "[t]he United States' drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent—one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit." Their argument, which comes from a report they produced for the Stimson Center together with a task force of former defense and intelligence officials, is essentially that unmanned aerial vehicles make the use of lethal force across borders too easy, and we need to establish strict policies limiting their use. True enough. But the question I'm left with is, how much will the United States' policies really determine the worldwide future of drones and their use? Before we get to that, we should acknowledge that President Obama has declared his intention to establish rules restraining his own and future presidents' use of drones. In...
  • In Dramatic Pointless Gesture, Boehner to Sue Obama

    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress to discuss the fiscal cliff and a balanced approach to the debt limit and deficit reduction, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 16, 2012. Participants included: House Speaker John Boehner at left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling. P retty much since the moment Barack Obama finished speaking the oath of office in January 2009, Republicans have been charging that he was abusing his power, exceeding his authority and acting like a tyrant. You might remember that for a time in those early days, conservatives (led by Glenn Beck) were obsessed with the idea that Obama had appointed a group of "czars" who were wielding unaccountable power...
  • Important 4th Amendment Victory on Warrants and Smart Phones

    Wikipedia:Upload/Flickr
    Last year, there was a split between state and federal appellate courts on the question of whether the mobile phones of people being arrested can be searched without a warrant. The California Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment did not require a warrant for searches of mobile phones incident to a lawful arrest. In another case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Today, the Supreme Court sided clearly and convincingly with the latter: "Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is ...simple—get a warrant." This is a significant victory for the Fourth Amendment. Warrantless searches are presumptively considered "unreasonable" under the Fourth Amendment, but there are some exceptions to this general rule. One of these excpetions pertains to arrests. Typically, the police are permitted to conduct a warrantless search of a suspect's person during an arrest. As I argued earlier this year , however, there is...
  • Thad Cochran Runoff: For Once, Republican Outreach Works

    Flickr/Sparky
    For some time now, Republicans have expressed a desire to "reach out" to voters who aren't the prototypical Republican. If their party is made up almost entirely of white Christians, and largely older white Christians at that, they can continue to win congressional elections but have no hope of winning the White House any time soon in a country that grows less white and less Christian by the day. Well, yesterday we had an example of a Republican successfully reaching out to voters who aren't traditionally Republican. Sen. Thad Cochran, who has been in Congress approximately since mastodons roamed the Gulf Coast, won his runoff election against angry Tea Partier Chris McDaniel in part by convincing Democrats to vote for him in the run-off election. And in Mississippi, Democrats means black voters (in 2008, the last presidential election for which we have Mississippi exit poll data, 88 percent of the state's whites voted for John McCain). So we had the rather unusual spectacle of a...
  • Annals of Hillary-Hating: What's Wrong With Ambition?

    Flickr/Paxson Woelber
    If I asked you to describe the things you dislike about a prominent politician from the other party, you could surely come up with a long list, and "I disagree with him on issues" would be only one. You'd doubtless be able to describe a series of character flaws and disturbing tendencies that could in theory could apply to even members of your own party. But certain traits that we sometimes associate with politicians generally—pathological ambition, dishonesty, ruthlessness—we almost always ascribe to the those in the other party, while forgiving them in those who seek the same goals we do. To a degree, that's natural and almost everyone does it. But it becomes analytically problematic when you convince yourself that everything a particular politician does or says is a lie, nothing they say can be taken at face value, and their every motivation is dark and sinister. For instance, here's something Charles Krauthammer, who gets more admiration for his intelligence and insight from his...
  • What President Obama Could Do Today to Help Working Families

    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day, in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post . O n Monday, the White House held a summit on working families. The summit is intended to call attention to the fact that President Barack Obama wants to raise wages and job opportunities for working Americans, especially for working women. This is a welcome initiative, though there is a great deal that the president could do by executive order without waiting for a deadlocked Congress to act. The grotesque income inequality in our economy has at last some in for some overdue attention. For the vast majority of working Americans, there is only one source of income -- wages and salaries. Since the late 1970s, earnings for most working people have been flat, while the economy's productivity and the pay of...
  • Supreme Court Hampers EPA on Greenhouse Gases But It Could Have Been Worse

    Photograph by Joseph E.B. Elliot/Library of Congress
    Today, the Supreme Court failed to release almost all of the term's outstanding opinions for another day (or two, or three.) But it did issue an opinion dealing with the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with one the most pressing problems facing the world: climate change. Justice Scalia's opinion unnecessarily restricts the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, but the opinion could have been much worse. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency does deal with a real issue in the Clean Air Act. The act calls for the EPA to require permits from stationary sources that emitted between 100 and 250 tons or more per year of a pollutant covered by the act. In the context of carbon emissions, however, the quantities produced are much greater than for the typical pollutant, which would turn a statutory provision intended to exclude minor sources of pollution into a requirement to regulate these relatively small sources. Sensibly, the EPA...

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