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Activist judges

Jeffrey Tobin on the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act:

As the Justices have said repeatedly, the courts should overrule the work of Congress only on the rarest occasions. “Conclusory second-guessing of difficult legislative decisions,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist once observed, “is not an attractive way for federal courts to engage in judicial review.” In recent years, the Justices have intervened in these matters solely to protect the rights of minorities shut out of the legislative process. (Insurance companies, though they are few in number, do not count as a “minority.”) Now, instead, the Supreme Court acts as a sort of supra-legislature, dismissing laws that conflict with its own political agenda. This was most evident in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, when the five-Justice majority eviscerated the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law (not to mention several of its own precedents), because Congress showed insufficiently tender regard for the free-speech rights of corporations. The question now is whether those same five Justices will rewrite—or erase—the health-care law on which Barack Obama has staked his Presidency.

It’s tempting to analyze the case in the context of election-year politics, to game out how Obama might be helped or hurt by the Court’s eventual decision. (Thumbs down on the act discredits the President with moderates—or, maybe, mobilizes his base. Thumbs up, maybe, does the opposite.) But the decision is a great deal more important than its immediate political aftermath. It’s about what the government can do, not just who runs it. If the Court acts in line with the sentiments expressed by the conservatives last week, it could curtail the policymaking options of Congress for a generation. An adverse decision on the Affordable Care Act could even jeopardize the prospects for conservative legislative priorities, like health-insurance vouchers or private retirement accounts in lieu of Social Security. It is simply not the Supreme Court’s business to be making these kinds of judgments. The awesome, and final, powers of the Justices are best exercised sparingly and with restraint. Their normal burdens of interpreting laws are heavy enough. No one expects the Justices to be making health-care policy any more than we expect them to be picking Presidents, which, it may be remembered, is not exactly their strength, either.

The problem with knowing stuff

Is it makes you a lot pickier about jobs. I just got a call from what I thought was an automotive supply company when I applied for an inside sales job. Turns out they’re one of those used car dealerships with payday loan-type rates – you know, where you pay weekly? I told him thanks, but no thanks.

Hey kids, get ready to squat and cough

Let’s see. No matter that you’re not actually guilty of anything, or that you haven’t even been charged. All they need to do is hold you. It doesn’t even matter that blanket strip-search policies are considered human rights violations in other, more civilized countries. No, to the extremely permeable Supreme Court weathersock Anthony Kennedy, all that matters is which direction the hot air of Tony “The Honey Badger” Scalia blows him, and that’s where he goes:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs, but also public health and information about gang affiliations.

“Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,” Justice Kennedy wrote, adding that about 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails.

Dear God, I just want to say it would be kind of neat if You managed to get Justice Kennedy singled out for personal attention by the TSA the next time he take a plane. Just for empathy purposes, of course!

The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures.

The federal appeals courts had been split on the question, though most of them prohibited strip-searches unless they were based on a reasonable suspicion that contraband was present. The Supreme Court did not say that strip-searches of every new arrestee were required; it ruled, rather, that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches did not forbid them.

Just like the right-wing attempts to force drug tests on people collecting unemployment benefits, Justice Kennedy’s fantasies aren’t grounded in actual reality:

Justice Breyer wrote that there was very little empirical support for the idea that strip-searches detect contraband that would not have been found had jail officials used less intrusive means, particularly if strip-searches were allowed when officials had a reasonable suspicion that they would find something.

For instance, in a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in Orange County, N.Y., using that standard, there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found, Judge Breyer wrote.

Too big to fail

The head of the Dallas Fed lays out a persuasive case for why it has to stop:

Rosenblum lists many reasons why he thinks the TBTF banks must be broken up, but the one that might be the most damning is his criticism of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which ostensibly created a mechanism for winding down troubled TBTF institutions with reduced cost to the taxpayer. Under Dodd-Frank, banks are supposed to create “living wills” that contain plans for orderly wind-downs in the case of a Lehmanesque disaster.

But in his criticism of Dodd-Frank, Rosenbaum points to what Josh Rosner in our recent Bank of America piece called “the worst-kept secret on Wall Street”: the high probability that when “the big one” finally hits, no one in government will have the guts to let a TBTF company go down the drain. Why? Because these firms are so deeply intertwined and interconnected that when one of them starts taking water, they essentially all do — and so any president who chooses to refuse to reach into the cookie jar for a big bailout would likely be signing off on the political suicide of a broad systemic collapse.

“In all likelihood,” Rosenbaum writes, “TBTF could again become TMTF – too many to fail, as happened in 2008.” He adds that, “For all its bluster, Dodd-Frank leaves TBTF entrenched.”

The significance of the Dallas Fed report isn’t that yet another person has come out to make public note of the impossible-to-miss, gigantic, oozing wart on the face of American capitalism that is the TBTF system. What’s significant is that we’re moving closer to a time when the extremely critical view of TBTF, and the demand for an end to the system, becomes bipartisan consensus.

Imagine that

In other news, the sky is still blue.

Hah hah

Florida: Land of the free, home of the brave… and cradle of gun insanity. Even though I’m sure most anti-Republican protesters will be sensible enough to resist the temptation, it seems inevitable that at least some of them will try some political theater – you know, like an open-carry rally for liberals? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…) I just don’t believe in giving cops excuses for breaking your ribs when they’re already so good at just making them up:

TAMPA — If Tampa’s proposed rules for the Republican National Convention are passed, protesters could not bring squirt guns into a designated protest zone.

But they could bring real guns if they have concealed weapons permits.

That’s because state law does not allow local governments to enact laws regulating guns, City Attorney Jim Shimberg Jr. said.

“Even if we tried to regulate it, it would be null and void,” Shimberg said Monday.

Not that the city didn’t consider it.

The first draft of Tampa’s proposed temporary ordinance laying out rules for the convention did include restrictions on guns inside the city’s proposed “Clean Zone,” which will cover all of downtown, including a designated protest area.

“It was just kind of common sense,” Assistant City Attorney Mauricio Rodriguez said. “We felt if we’re going to regulate people carrying sticks and poles, why wouldn’t we regulate people carrying firearms, because those could pose significant risks to police and other protesters.”

But later, city attorneys removed the ban on guns after finding that Florida Statute 790.33 prohibits local governments from enacting any laws on the sale, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage or transportation of guns or ammunition.

Passed last year, the state law allows judgments of up to $100,000 against local governments that enforce local gun ordinances. It also says local officials could be removed from office and fined $5,000, with no representation from the city or county attorney.

After the Legislature passed the law, municipalities scrambled to revise local ordinances. Tampa repealed a ban on discharging a firearm in city limits, though it’s still against state law.

There is, however, one place where guns won’t be allowed.

That’s the convention itself, and it’s because the U.S. Secret Service has authority to make the rules inside the convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

Itching for a fight – finally?

Sounds like Obama’s itching for a showdown with the Roberts court if they decide to overturn the healthcare act, either in part or in whole. It’s about time he stood up to these SCOTUS clowns, the conservative majority of which has never seen a judicial overreach they didn’t like. In addition to that, I can’t think of one good reason why citizens shouldn’t be mobilizing to impeach Clarence Thomas and Tony Scalia:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday issued a rare, direct challenge to the Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care overhaul, weighing in with a vigorous political appeal for judicial restraint. He warned that overturning the law would hurt millions of Americans and amount to overreach by the “unelected” court.

Obama predicted that a majority of justices would uphold the law when the ruling is announced in June. But the president, himself a former law professor, seemed intent on swaying uncertain views in the meantime, both in the court of public opinion and in the minds of the justices about not overstepping the high court’s bounds.

“Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said at a Rose Garden news conference.

The majority he referenced was not quite that strong; Congress approved the law two years ago in hard-fought party-line votes after a divisive national debate. Republican presidential contenders say they will make sure it is repealed if the Supreme Court doesn’t throw it out first.

For a president to weigh in so forcefully about a case currently under deliberation by the Supreme Court is unusual, and it speaks to the stakes at hand.

The law is the signature domestic achievement of Obama’s term and already a prominent source of debate in the presidential campaign. The Supreme Court will decide whether to strike down part or all of the law, including its centerpiece requirement that nearly all Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty.

Obama essentially sought to reset the public view of the case to where the White House thought the baseline lay before the attention-grabbing court arguments and the commentary that followed — that striking down the law would be a surprising reach for the court, and that the heart of the law is likely to be upheld.

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore

The Walker Brothers:

I get along without you

Chet Baker:

By Odd Man Out

Picture those poor blogging fools who thought Arianna Huffington would compensate them for having worked for nothing to help make her another fortune. More here.

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