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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SCOTUS Opinions and Not That Super Tuesday

Hobby Lobby II: This time it's safe (without Scalia, at worse it's 4-4, and nearly all the lower courts reject the claim the accommodation isn't enough) comes for oral argument tomorrow.  Today, it was Puerto Rico debt, with only seven justices (Alito recused).  Meanwhile, without recorded dissent, final appeals for a Texan about to be executed were rejected.

[Update: Coverage today suggests 4-4 very well is possible with Kennedy showing some sympathy with the idea that the government is trying to "hijack" religious institutions' health plans. The idea being that giving them an accommodation is not enough since their insurance provider still is separately giving employees health insurance they deem immoral. The level of burden is trivial enough that I simply don't believe the rule will be applied evenhandedly.  There just would be too many cases if we took this seriously. Instead, concerns will be selective, de facto establishment.

One other thing also continues to really bother me. They want to inhibit their employees from practicing their own religion as they deem fit here by means of choosing to use their compensation (here health insurance, not wages directly) as their morality deems appropriate. In this fashion, the nuns etc. are burdening the religious beliefs of others.  If nuns want to use employees instead of using fellow travelers, they shouldn't have the power to do that. THEY aren't being forced to buy contraceptives.  They are paying employees (with money or insurance) and employees can choose in both cases to do so. ACA furthers religious choice too.  Or, is it the wrong type, so it doesn't matter to others?]

The justices yesterday sat in their new order on the bench. Today, Scalia's absence (still a bit weird to say that) led to the first 4-4 ruling (an earlier possibility avoided by a settlement), a SCOTUSBlog analysis perhaps a bit too optimistic of a quick settlement. A case involving a hovercraft in Alaska, another statutory dispute, was settled unanimously.  A class action ruling was divided, but only 6-2 (Roberts concurred; Alito going along in part but not with the judgment).

The final case also has some history, this time regarding dividing up Native American land and sovereignty.  It involved the Omaha Tribe (about 5000 members) having the ability to regulate alcohol (gather the core concern for them were fees) as applied to a locality that for some time basically had very little to do with them. The late in the day use of the tax power was noted briefly at the end of the opinion and seemed to be the core concern of the town's lawyer.  But, the question answered was if tribal control was "diminished" -- it was not, since Congress did not clearly say as much.  It could not be deemed to have been done implicitly.

[In little things that annoy me news, the tribal official named in this lawsuit actually was replaced midway, so shouldn't the person holding the position today be there instead?  Noted it on Twitter, including in answer to a tribal tweet, and emailed Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog.  He emailed me back: "The usual way the Court learns about that is by letter from counsel.  I don't see such a letter in this file. The Court does not monitor that on its own." Huh. Seems a lackadaisical way to do it.]

Meanwhile, Arizona and Utah will have primary/caucuses for both parties while Idaho will for Democrats and American Samoa for Republicans.  Trump probably will hold serve since he is favored in winner take all Arizona and even though Utah looks to be strong Cruz territory, Trump probably will pick up at least a small percentage of delegates. AS is unbound.  Clinton is favored in Arizona while Sanders might do well in Idaho and Utah (white caucus states).  And, Utah passes a law to promote an "In God We Trust" license plate.  A lot of words there.

Update: Hillary and Trump dominated Arizona (nearly 50%, about his ceiling; his anti-immigration message fits well in "papers please" territory) while Sanders and Cruz dominated Idaho (just Democrats) and Utah.  The rules of the game meant Cruz's dominating win gave him all the delegates, but even however the nine from American Samoa split (and one count gives Trump and Cruz one each already), Arizona's 58 trumps Utah's 40.

One thing that stood out to me by looking at the numbers in Arizona is the math didn't add up.  And, looking at the Talking Points Memo breakdown, we see that various other people on the ballot received some votes. The most notable thing was Marco Rubio received about 13.5%, not too bad for someone not in the race, and more than what John Kasich received.  One is left with wondering why this guy is in the race, if the not asshole (when this is mentioned, some want to remind he is kind of one; but Trump/Cruz really upped the game there) gets less votes than someone not there. OTOH, maybe early voting helped Rubio here, but how much?

The 4-1 numbers for Sanders in white caucus states helps his brand, but the less than net ten delegates he received is not going to mean much if one worries about actually winning the race.  Still, though Sanders will not want to say this aloud, nor many of his supporters, "winning" basically has to be given a different meaning than that. Nothing novel in this: challengers in these races do not only benefit from winning the most votes while otherwise they get nothing. Sanders' message has matter, including pushing Clinton left, which helped her win last Tuesday. 

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