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“Trump Flunks Supreme Court Arithmetic”: Counting To Five Should Be Pretty Easy, Unless You’re Donald Trump

For the typical adult, counting to five should be pretty easy. It makes Donald Trump’s trouble with Supreme Court arithmetic that much more puzzling.

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down arguably the most important abortion-rights ruling in a generation, prompting the Republican presidential hopeful to say … literally nothing. To the consternation of some of his social-conservative allies, Trump acted as if the court’s decision didn’t exist, offering no response in speeches, interviews, or social media.

It took a few days, but this morning the presumptive GOP nominee broke his unexpected silence in an interview with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that, OK? It would’ve been the opposite.”

Actually, no, it wouldn’t have. This week’s ruling was actually a 5-3 decision. Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 +1 does not equal 5.

Remember, the decision was on Monday, and today’s Thursday. Trump and his team had three days to come up with the candidate’s response to a major court ruling, and this is what they came up with.

In the same interview, the New York Republican complained about Chief Justice John Roberts, telling the host, “He could’ve killed [the Affordable Care Act] twice and he didn’t. That was terrible. And that was a Bush appointment. That was so bad, what happened. And you know, to me, you know, almost not recoverable from his standpoint. Very, very sad situation.”

Actually, the second time the justices considered the constitutionality of “Obamacare,” the law was upheld in a 6-3 ruling. When Trump said today Roberts “could’ve killed” the ACA, his math is still wrong – because 6 – 1 does not equal four.

Do you ever get the impression that Trump hasn’t really thought this issue through? Ever wonder if there’s an issue he has thought through?

Postscript: Trump’s math troubles notwithstanding, the GOP candidate, who used to describe himself as pro-choice, continues to talk about how eager he is to restrict reproductive rights. In this morning’s interview, the host added, “So just to confirm, under a Donald, a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week.”

The candidate replied, “No, you wouldn’t see that.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 30, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, John Roberts, Reproductive Choice, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Unholy Trinity For Discrimination”: Far-Right Justices Warn Of ‘An Ominous Sign’

The state of Washington has a law that requires pharmacies to dispense medications, even if individual pharmacists have religious objections. One family-owned pharmacy challenged the law in court, saying it shouldn’t be required to sell emergency contraception, which the pharmacy’s owners consider immoral.

An appeals court sided with the state, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the justices announced they would not hear the case, which has the effect of leaving the lower court’s ruling intact.

And while that would ordinarily be the end of the dispute, yesterday offered a bit of a twist. The Supreme Court said it wouldn’t hear the appeal out of Washington, but at the same time, Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas released an angry rebuttal, saying they not only wanted to hear this case, they also consider the majority’s disinterest in the matter to be “an ominous sign.”

MSNBC’s Irin Carmon highlighted yesterday’s “unusual” statement.

“This case is an ominous sign,” Alito wrote in an unusual, 15-page response to the court refusing to hear Stormans v. Wiesman…. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead,” Alito continued, sounding a lot like a man who foresees a bleak future for his side, “those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

No, actually, they almost certainly don’t.

As is always the case, especially in Supreme Court disputes, the details matter. In Washington, state law still allows individual pharmacists to raise religious objections to helping a customer, so long as some other employee can step in and provide the prescribed medication. The plaintiffs in Stormans v. Wiesman, however, wanted to go much further – refusing to stock Plan B altogether, regardless of public needs.

The state’s policy is based on the entirely reasonable idea that consumers should have access to medications that are safe and legal, and pharmacies shouldn’t have the authority to simply turn people away. The far-right trio on the high court obviously disagree, and Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern explained the broader implications of their dissent.

…Alito, Thomas, and Roberts seem to believe that, under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, states are proscribed from requiring for-profit religious businesses to treat all customers equally. If this unholy trinity ever managed to rewrite the First Amendment this way, they could effectively bar states from protecting women, gays, and other minorities from religious-based discrimination. […]

Neither [Alito], Roberts, nor Thomas thinks refusal of service is a big deal when patients can hop back in their cars (presuming they have them) and drive to the nearest pharmacy that will deign to provide them with the proper medication. (Live in rural Washington? Hope you can find another pharmacy before the Plan B window closes!)

This cavalier dismissal of women’s interest in nondiscrimination flies in the face of precedent. The court used to say that when a religious accommodation burdens other people’s rights, the accommodation itself violates the separation of church and state. Now Alito wants to push that rule through the looking glass, arguing that there’s a possibility states must give religious employers the right to burden others – a burden that will fall disproportionately on women and gays.

Keep in mind, if four justices agree to hear a case, the Supreme Court takes the case. Were it not for Antonin Scalia’s passing, it’s very likely Stormans v. Wiesman would be on its way towards oral arguments.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Liberty, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Have Crippled The Supreme Court”: America’s Highest Court Is Under Severe Strain Because Of The GOP

This is what a broken Supreme Court looks like.

Three weeks before the official end of the 2015-16 term, there are 22 cases still outstanding. On Monday, with several high profile cases eagerly anticipated by court-watchers, the Court only announced two relatively minor opinions. It looks likely that the Court will need to extend its own deadline.

And then, on the same day, the bizarre news that, Oops, one of the two issues the Court said it would hear in a death penalty case next fall – it won’t actually hear.  Never mind!

That kind of sloppiness is rare.  On the merits, it’s not that important, but procedurally, it’s a highly unusual screw-up.

It’s impossible not to see these events in the context of a short-handed Court, now four months without its full complement of judges, doing its best to stay on top of things.  And not always succeeding.   All of this, of course, is due to the completely unprecedented stonewalling by Senate Republicans of a perfectly qualified candidate to fill that vacancy.

In recent weeks, there have also been more subtle, but more destructive, consequences of the Senate’s oath-breaking, Constitution-scorning inaction.

Last week, the liberal advocacy organization People for the American Way published a report analyzing the effects of two tie decisions that have come down since February.  In one, the Court left in place a split between the Sixth and the Eighth Circuits regarding spousal guarantees for bank loans.  Despite all the resources invested in resolving this legal issue, federal law now remains uneven; requiring such guarantees is legal in some circuits, illegal in others.  To be sure, bank loan guarantees is not a high-profile issue, but it is one that affects thousands of people every year.

More politically charged was the Frierichs case, which the Court left unresolved on March 29.  That case was about whether public-sector unions could require non-union employees to pay a “fair share fee” to pay for collective bargaining and other costs.  Without such fees, progressives argue, the unions might go out of business, ultimately hurting employees.  With them, conservatives complain, they compel public employees to effectively join a union and support its political activities; that violates the First Amendment.

Who’s right?  The Court was deadlocked, so we don’t know the answer.

Then there are the cases like Zubik v. Burwell, in which the Court, rather than decide a contentious issue about religious exemptions and Obamacare, proposed and ordered its own makeshift compromise, resolving the particular dispute but leaving key questions unresolved about religious exemptions, which is driving controversies in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, and around the country.

It’s also quite possible the Court will either deadlock or punt on some of the major cases remaining this term, including Whole Women’s Health, a case about Texas’s abortion restrictions.  Assuming Justice Kennedy votes to uphold the regulations, that will place the Court in a 4-4 split, and leave the Fifth Circuit’s decision – which mostly upheld the restrictive rules – in place.

But here’s where it gets even more complicated.  Last June, the Supreme Court placed an injunction on enforcement of the law, pending the outcome of the case.  So what happens if the Court deadlocks?  Is that an “outcome,” or no outcome at all?

Functionally speaking, allowing the Fifth Circuit opinion to stand means the Texas law is Constitutional.  And that, according to experts, would require the majority of abortion clinics in Texas to close. A 4-4 decision may sound like a tie, but there’s no tie when it comes to those clinics, and the women who use them.  They’re either open or they’re closed – and it’s not at all clear why one side should prevail in a tie.

Worst of all, this supreme dysfunction may become the new normal.  As Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz wrote recently in the Washington Post, it’s quite plausible that confirmation stonewalling will become commonplace anytime there is divided government in Washington.  It’s not as if the Democrats are just going to forgive and forget – they’ll fight fire with fire.  (This, incidentally, is one of many reasons Fred Barnes’s ludicrous celebration of the anti-Garland stonewall was so myopic.)

And it’s not even just the Supreme Court; as we reported earlier, the Republican-created “judicial emergency” extends to lower courts as well, with a record number of vacancies going unfilled.  Mainstream GOP leaders may be criticizing Donald Trump for attacking a Mexican-American judge, but they are attacking the entire judicial system.

So this is what a broken Supreme Court looks like: behind schedule, making careless mistakes, deadlocking, contorting itself to achieve consensus, and sometimes failing to fulfill its Cconstitutional responsibility to maintain the rule of law.  Senate Republicans have acted like the Garland stonewall presents just a small inconvenience in the service of “letting the people decide.”  But in fact, it is a full-on fiasco.  Its only positive outcome would be the generation of enough rage to throw the bastards out.

Several years ago, a judge wrote that when, as in cases of recusal, “The Court proceeds with eight Justices,” it “rais[es] the possibility that, by reason of a tie vote, it will find itself unable to resolve the significant legal issue presented by the case” and “impairs the functioning of the Court.”

That judge was Justice Antonin Scalia.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, June 7, 2016

June 10, 2016 Posted by | Judicial System, Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“First They Must Take A Stand”: Who Can Save The GOP From Trump? Women

Donald Trump is the kind of man women are taught to avoid.

He’s arrogant. He blusters about physical violence. Listening is not really his thing, because his mouth is usually running full steam. And, worst of all, he has a special loathing for women who are intelligent, accomplished and not deferential to him. When challenged on this, he veers to smarmy protestations that he loves women.

These are the attributes of a toxic male acquaintance, boss or leader (not to mention husband or boyfriend).

This is not to knock his current wife, Melania Trump. She is everything that Trump wants women to be: unquestioningly devoted, strikingly gorgeous and willing to have sex with him.

Unfortunately for Trump, women who do not share this profile comprise virtually the entire female electorate. And that, in turn, is a problem for the Republican Party. Women are 53 percent of all voters, and Trump has a 73 percent negative rating among those who are registered.

Two questions present themselves: How much damage is the GOP willing to let Trump do to the party’s image with women? And what can it do to stand up to him on this issue?

This week, there was a sign that Trump has reached the limit of tolerance within his party. A recent convert to the pro-life point of view, Trump made a gaffe that embarrassed the entire movement when he busted out the idea that women who have an abortion should be punished if the procedure is ever outlawed.

No, no, no, Donald. One doesn’t say such things in public. Uncharacteristically, he retracted his remarks. Even he sensed it was a blunder on the order of the musings on rape and pregnancy that sank Republican frontrunners in two 2012 Senate races.

Add that screed to The Donald’s on-going attacks on Megyn Kelly, the putdowns of Carly Fiorina and so many other women who have dared to displease him, and it is easy to imagine a cumulative effect that spells crushing defeat in the general election if he is the nominee.

So far, the men of the GOP have been subdued in their response. Note the vile scuffle between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz over their wives. It wasn’t until Heidi Cruz was personally attacked that her husband reacted strongly and defended her, as he should.

One would imagine that at some point a cohort of leading Republican women would take a principled stand, calling out Trump for betraying the party’s supposed commitment to gender equality. But, alas, they’ve been eerily silent, apparently too fearful of crossing their party’s likely nominee.

Some, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, are in re-election campaigns and may fear losing support from Trump voters. (Comstock at least had the good sense to re-gift a $3,000 Trump donation to her campaign, buying a little bit of distance from him.) What a lost opportunity to stand up to sexism!

The Democrats will not waste the opportunity.

Recall the politically charged Senate judiciary hearings in 1991 to consider the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination was controversial from the start, owing to Thomas’ positions on a range of issues. But when testimony was reopened — and televised — after disclosure of Thomas’ alleged history of sexual harassment, things exploded.

The hearings turned to belittling questions and overt displays of sexism by the panel of male senators, as they grilled Anita Hill, Thomas’ accuser, about her allegations.

Women were outraged by what they witnessed. As a direct result, they became politically motivated to increase their numbers in the Senate. The following year, four women — all Democrats — were elected to the Senate, tripling female representation in the chamber.

Women in Congress remain overwhelmingly Democrats. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the U.S. Congress is about 19 percent female. Of the 104 women, 76 are Democrats and only 28 are Republicans. Moreover, the women in Congress who have been given plum committee posts tend to be Democrats. In the U.S. Senate, there are only six Republican women, compared to 14 Democrats.

And although Republican women tend to fare well in state politics, their more moderate voices haven’t been able to make it through the increasingly conservative primary process to reach national office.

There couldn’t be a better time for women to demand a greater role — and be the voice of reason — in the GOP. They have a compelling pretext to halt a candidate who almost certainly will damage their party. And even if they cannot derail him on his path to the nomination, they may be able to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the election.

But first they must take a stand.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, April 1, 2016

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Women | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Disgraceful Misogyny”: The Effect Of Their Positions And Policies Have Been Disastrous For Women

As the 2016 election season has trundled along, we’ve spent a lot of time examining the racism, xenophobia, and bigotry so bountifully demonstrated by the GOP presidential candidates. Extraordinary anti-Muslim animus, callus dehumanization of immigrants, demonization of African-American activists, and cries to revoke the civil liberties of LGBTQ Americans — it’s all stock-in-trade for today’s Republican Party.

We’re right to be alarmed by all of it. There is, however, another form of bias equally on display that doesn’t get nearly as much attention: the Republican Party’s overwhelming misogyny.

We occasionally talk about the sexism confronting Hillary Clinton. Abortion comes up now and again. Then there was that time that the leading GOP contender reminded us that many 21st century men are still skeeved out by women’s reproductive cycles. So it’s not like the misogyny has gone entirely unremarked — but given that these are attitudes that affect fully half of America, we really ought to be talking about it a whole lot more.

Maybe we’re so used to women being considered lesser-than that misogyny’s ubiquity fails to register. Maybe it’s so deeply embedded in our psyche and policies that it’s hard to pin down. And maybe, like with the word “racist,” we’re hesitant to use the word “misogynist” (or the slightly-less freighted “sexist”) because it raises unanswerable questions: Does that person actually hate women? All women? Can we really know what’s in people’s hearts?

So perhaps, to borrow from Jay Smooth, we should focus less on what people are, and more on what they do. We needn’t concern ourselves with politicians’ feelings about women — our concern needs to be the effect of politicians’ words and actions.

In that light, Republicans’ positions on Americans’ constitutionally-mandated right to terminate a pregnancy become even more problematic. When government decides for a citizen that she must carry a pregnancy to term, it’s making a decision with long-term financial, professional, and health repercussions — and that’s just for women who are full-grown adults with careers and good insurance. For any other woman — the poor, the young, the un- or under-employed, the sexually-assaulted, the victim of domestic violence — the damage goes deeper and lasts longer. The fight to deny any woman her (constitutionally-mandated!) right to abortion is a fight to force all women to accept and shoulder these consequences, absolutely regardless of their own desires — a misogynistic effect if ever there was one.

This is equally true for a vast number of other, less obvious positions and policies, as well. Repealing ObamaCare? The effect would be a return to “gender rating,” by which insurance providers regularly treated breast cancer and domestic violence as “pre-existing conditions” and refused to cover Pap smears, a cancer screening test unique to women.

Months and months of lying about and then defunding Planned Parenthood? The effect has been the failure to provide thousands and thousands of Pap smears and breast cancer screenings — and let’s not mince words: We’ll never know the number of women for whom that has proven a literal death sentence.

And oh, it goes so much further than women’s health issues: What about the GOP’s opposition to a higher minimum wage? Women are disproportionately effected, because two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. What about the GOP’s refusal to deal with the college debt crisis? The gender wage gap means women are saddled with that debt for much longer than men (particularly if they happen to be Latina or African American). What about the relentless drone of comments from would-be leaders and their supporters that dismiss women, disparage our needs, and reduce us to our potential as sex partners or breeders? A study released just this week has found a “surprising durability of basic stereotypes about women and men over the past three decades, not only in the global traits of agency and communion but in other domains such as physical characteristics, occupations, and gender roles as well.”

Why, it’s almost as if words have consequences.

Republican leaders (including everybody’s favorite “moderate,” John Kasich) have spent their careers telling America that 50 percent of the citizenry cannot be trusted with their own bodies. They’ve pursued policies that consistently produce roadblocks to those citizens’ advancement, and they persistently belittle, demean, and express genuine doubt as to those citizens’ essential equality.

Do these politicians and pundits hate women? I don’t really care. I care that the effect of their positions and policies has been disastrous for women. I’m terrified to consider what it will mean if we do nothing about it come November.

 

By: Emily Hauser, The Week, March 11, 2016

March 12, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Misogyny, Planned Parenthood, War On Women | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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