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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Sports Update: Welcome to NY, Kate Upton! Edition

Bills beat the Pats early. The Pats have four wins other than beating the Jets.

They did push Zack Wilson (5-2) out of the starting position. Mike White then beat the Bears (Wilson probably would have -- they suck and he won each time when not facing the Pats this year) and then lost to the Vikings. The Vikings kept on holding the Jets to field goals. The Jets (after finally getting a touchdown) had two times (receiver just barely didn't catch a ball for the go ahead score on the first attempt) in the last two minutes to go ahead. Close, but no cigar. 

The Giants faced the Commanders, who at this moment are about as good, and a tie (if the Giants lose against the Eagles, they will be tied in the standings too) sort of showed this. The Commanders went for it on 4th down fairly deep in their territory and eventually tied it with less than two minutes to play. They did not go for two (maybe rightly, since they didn't score when they got the ball back) for the lead. I wonder what they would have done with less time left (two teams did it successfully recently).

[Giants have a tough few weeks upcoming with the Eagles, Commanders, and Vikings before facing the Colts, who had some fight against the Cowboys last night before falling into a big pit -- over 30 unanswered points.]

I was clicking around and saw over the weekend a special report (one sports commentator noted the timing was a bit gutless on his part) that deGrom signed a big five year deal with the Rangers. The latest nice boring white guy side line reporter was like "well, the Mets was right not to take THAT deal [guy simply is too much a risk health-wise] and deGrom didn't give the Mets any expectation they would even give them a chance to match even if they were tempted." deGrom has been a stud, but has been out a lot, and didn't play much in the last 101 win season.

 So, he's not unreplaceable. This is suggested by the guy who replaced him -- Verlander, signed on for a two year deal of Scherzer like money. Mets have two older pitchers on the payroll the next two years with a combined higher salary than the whole of the Rays. Such is what the market gets you, including an overpaid to seal the deal bonus.

Oh well. Verlander won the Cy Young and all, so you figure he is the #1 now. But, long term, the Mets need to get some younger starters. They also have more needs, including filling their pen, another decent starter, and at least one big bat.  And, I hope Nimmo is back, but fear he won't be.  

Anyway, welcome to the Mets, Kate Upton.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Supreme Court Watch: Student Debt Relief

One trend is to have state governments join together to oppose major federal policies, including those of specific presidents. The efforts can be good or bad.

This includes the 5-4 case of Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), involving the standing of states to bring a case to require regulation related to global warming.  Federal courts accepting people to make their case (thus having a shot at the merits) has long been a battle.  

A major example would be the whole "qualified immunity" business, where someone cannot even allege harm because it is argued the law is too unclear that the alleged guilty party would have knew it was wrong or for some other reason such as national security. This might lead to total immunity and can be unjust.  Other times, people really should not be able get standing since they really don't have a relevant injury. 

(One more example here would be the contraceptives case in Poe and Griswold.   Also, there was an ongoing attempt to make it hard for abortion limits to be challenged, individual patients not likely to have the time to do so.)

States have been challenging the Biden Administration repeatedly, including his student loan forgiveness action.  Experts have basically said there is no real standing argument that is credible to challenge it, but some weak arguments were made. One won in the (of course) Fifth Circuit, including a national injunction (another controversial issue open to abuse).  

The Biden Administration asked SCOTUS to either lift the stay or grant the case for review.  SCOTUS after our last entry did #2 and set up a quick oral argument schedule.  Amy Howe summarizes:

The Supreme Court will fast-track a challenge to the Biden administration’s student-debt relief program and hear oral argument in February, the court said Thursday. The $400 billion program will remain on hold in the meantime due to lower-court rulings that have blocked the government from implementing it.

She also links an article to give us a sense of where things are. This is an important thing for coverage and analysis. Any given subject (let's say the latest railroad labor dispute) has various moving parts, including votes, the lay of the land, and the latest events. Amy Howe, for instance, notes that the Biden Administration "extended the pause on student loan repayments." What does that mean? From the linked article:

Payments will resume 60 days after the Department is permitted to implement the program or the litigation is resolved, which will give the Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve the case during its current Term. If the program has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by June 30, 2023 – payments will resume 60 days after that.

Got that?  A key matter there is that the "extension" is not immediate. These things tend to be complicated. The results of Supreme Court rulings tend to be complicated.  For instance, listening to a video related to the depressing latest "legislative prayer case" (as Kagan notes in dissent, it is not a legislative prayer case), the aftermath sounds like it was more positive than the blunt result of the ruling itself suggested it might.  

(To take another more extreme example, losing a capital appeal at SCOTUS doesn't mean an execution necessarily.  Richard Glossip years later is still alive.)  

The big orals this week: the discriminatory website and the independent state legislature are prime cases that are likely to be messy.  The latter has received a lot of attention, especially the fear of an extreme version.  But, it is quite possible some middle way will be found that is still a problem.  Ditto the first case.  The case was taken, with a narrowed question, in part to seem "moderate" or "reasonable" but with poison pill implications.    

Amidst one of the most hostile legal landscapes for trans people in U.S. history, the first ever cohort of out trans attorneys were admitted to practice before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

A case about the alleged right of a wedding web designer to discriminate against same sex couples makes this pretty relevant.  I caught it among the SCOTUSBlog daily news wrap-ups. It's a nice story. Clearly, trans attorneys were admitted before now.  This is the "first ever cohort of out trans attorneys." The article notes the liberal justices seemed to be particularly pleased for them.  

==

So, the Supreme Court has some orals (two big) this week, and will on Friday have a conference.  Next week will have a scheduled Order Day on Monday. Then, they go on a a winter break.  There are two executions at this point (Idaho's cancelled for lack of drugs) scheduled next week. 

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Two Books

Concerning My Daughter is a book I found out via a recent NYT review

The author, Kim Hye-jin, is a Korean author already celebrated for a previous work.  This one is short (160 or so pages, small sized book) though at times I thought it really could have been somewhat shorter.  The core message probably could have been made in a hundred or so pages. 

Overall, I am glad I read it, though it deals with unpleasant topics, including a detailed look at taking care of a someone with dementia, and prejudice. The book is told through the voice of someone in her sixties (she had her daughter at 31 and the daughter is "thirty something" now) in a precarious position, trying to survive in the home her husband (died a few years earlier) left her.  For whatever reason, she only has one child.

Her precarious position makes it understandable why she is so upset that her daughter has not chosen a more traditional life.  This includes being a lesbian, which is offensive to the narrator, but also just plain scares her.  Fear is suggested as a major cause of her prejudice.  After all, the woman her daughter fell in love with (Lane) is otherwise a very sympathetic character, the sort of caring person that the mother would naturally support.

The mother deep down has some of her daughter's sense of justice.  She is upset that her bosses wants her to lessen the standard of care for Jen, her elderly (must be around 80-85) patient, who once was a celebrated world traveling diplomat type.  She does not want to be told to just go along, which she tries to tell her own daughter, who is protesting mistreatment of lecturers at her university.  She risks her own job to help Jen.

The complex nature of the character helps make us sympathetic, even though she has prejudices.  This includes her own realization deep down that her prejudices are problematic.  It is like she tries to convince herself that she is just thinking of her daughter's own interests.  

Again, Lane, who is a caring type that repeatedly helps her, makes this even more complicated.  They are thrown together since the daughter (we see the other characters and their actions through the mother's eyes) needs to move back in with her mother for financial reasons. Lane moves in as well.  Lane's nickname for the daughter "Green" is the only name we are given for her.  Interestingly, the mother also generally is nameless.

===

I read (I'm pretty sure) The Eichmann Trial by Deborah E. Lipstadt, who also was the subject of the fact based film involving her British libel suit (a Holocaust denier used the less free speech protecting laws there to sue, but she did win in the end).  She was recently appointed by President Biden in a role of overseeing antisemitism, her confirmation delayed in large part because Sen. Ron Johnson was upset she called him a fascist. 

Lipstadt dealt with Hannah Arendt's own somewhat infamous book on the trial.   Anne C. Heller (who recently died; she also wrote a much longer bio of Ayn Rand) wrote a short bio (Hannah Arendt; A Life in Dark Times) that I found by chance in the library.  I wanted to find something to hold me over until new books came in.  

I found the book a crisp (144 pg) account that covered the basics and gave a taste of her thought. I plan to include it as an entry on the Book Review website, but as always, it depends of the person who runs it posts it. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Kevin Johnson: Last November Execution (5/6)

Kevin Johnson, 19, murdered a police officer around seventeen years ago. The facts are tragic, including involving the death of Johnson's younger brother. No wonder it took two tries for a jury to agree how aggravating the crime truly was. It also seems, at least a special prosecutor appointed pursuant to a law particularly passed by Missouri to address erroneous convictions thinks so, the ultimate sentence of death was tainted by racism

The U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment to hold up the case last week. The Missouri Supreme Court, after a last minute hearing, refused to hold up the execution this week.  The justices, with Sotomayor and Jackson alone publicly dissenting (without explanation), again without comment refused to hold things up again.  Johnson then was executed. 

Meanwhile, Kevin Johnson's daughter -- now the age he was when he murdered the officer (his age was one more failed argument, one raised a few times regarding people under 21, especially with special circumstances) -- wanted to watch her father died. Under 21, she would not usually be allowed to do so.  Her request was gratuitously rejected.

This follows a theme -- the immediate crime of murder of a police officer likely will not lead many to shed many tears. The details, however, make things more complicated.  

BTW, the one person whose executed was botched totally this month signed an agreement where the state will not execute him by lethal injection. We shall see if he actually will be executed by nitrogen gas.

===

Meanwhile, we had an official reply regarding a senator/representative requesting information regarding the allegation that Alito leaked the Hobby Lobby results or otherwise acted unethically.  

Note that other than a law (which justices never officially accepted as binding) regarding involvement in a case that could be deemed a conflict or appear that way, any ethical guidelines here would be voluntary anyways.  

A few thoughts. First, the notification that he was not somehow financially self-interested is besides the point -- that was not the concern here. As to him knowing the couple because of their involvement with the Supreme Court Historical Society, use of that institution to get access was flagged as a problem. Finally, the "explanation" for the dinner and the whole "don't leave a trail when you respond" (something about having a stomach ailment of something) is hard to take seriously.  

So, the whole thing only convinced (at best) those who want to be convinced. The felt need of an official response via the Court's lawyer suggests the whole thing stings. And, the whole thing has clear "to be continued" flavor to it. We will see if this will help to promote ethics and overall court reform.

===

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had in person oral arguments, but now the building will be open again to public tours.  The building will be open on argument days only for limited seating (no three minute quickies according to the website), not public tours generally.  Still, this is a major step.

Other things might happen (there are oral arguments, including a big border dispute today, three days this week), but wanted to address these things. See you soon. 

====

ETA: This is why it's good just to wait to the end of Friday (only once did some opinion drop on Saturday in recent memory).  

There were two dissents this month (November) regarding the executions at issue. In one case, as noted, the guy's execution was never completed. It would have been appropriate for the three dissenters to explain why they opposed the vacating of the stay of the lower court as much as for the majority to explain doing so. Net, events were rather telling.

This time Justice Jackson wrote a four page dissent (the ruling dropped later in the day -- the first case having a dissent dropped later, but I still think a brief statement, even "for the reasons stated below," was possible) released today.  She starts this way:

We denied Kevin Johnson’s application for an emergency stay of his execution on November 29, 2022, and the State of Missouri has carried out that penalty. Now, one day later, I write to explain my vote to grant his stay request. For the reasons that follow, in my view, there was a likelihood that Johnson would have succeeded on the merits of his federal due process claim, and it was clear that he would (and obviously did) suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. I also believe that the equities weighed in Johnson’s favor. 

The Supreme Court rarely releases opinions after judgment though lower courts in time sensitive cases do seem occasionally to do it (I saw it happen).  But, it's a sensible thing to do in these last minute execution type cases.  Not the"obviously did" is a reference to him being executed. 

I appreciate Jackson (here, as with her first opinion, another criminal justice dissent in an Order List joined by Sotomayor) doing this. Her reasoning -- Missouri established a procedure and the appellate court here denied the hearing part (due process violation) -- also seems logical. It is not clear why Kagan did not publicly (to cite the lingo) join the opinion.

Additional Details: The new liberal leaning Supreme Court blog has some new essays adding more details, including suggesting maybe I was a bit too easy on Alito regarding financial ethical violations.  We also learn some more details on the controversial Kevin Johnson execution. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

NFL Sunday: Mike White Day

We had two teams going for the win at the end of regulation (one is the Jags vs. Ravens, other is more playoff worthy) and both did it. Jags more than once had to settle for a chip shot field goal. So, when the Ravens went ahead late, looked like another loss. But, the Ravens had issues in close games this season, if not lately. 

I talked about the Jets in my Thanksgiving post. How did that go? Well.  I mean it went good.  It helps that the Bears had three wins, give up a lot of points, and their raw but play-maker QB didn't start.  If he did start, it might have been closer.  We had a bit of a hiccup early with a flubbed field goal attempt and a 10-7 deficit. Bears didn't score again.  31-10, Jets. 

So, Mike White at QB?  That seemed to be the sentiment for some before the game.  I saw multiple comments about Zack Wilson not being ready for prime time.  The actual RECORD seems not quite the relevant for some reason:

Flacco is 1-2 (should be 0-3)

Wilson is 5-2 (both losses vs. Pats)

White is 1-0

Next up is the Vikings, who have made a habit of winning by scoring a lot of points late to come from behind.  So, if Mike White is the "score" QB, well, that might help. Who is after the Vikings? The Bills. Which the Jets beat with Wilson starting. In fact, he won each game he started, except the Patriots.  He probably would have won this one.  

Mike White had his one charmed game last season. That was an upset against a team that was slumming that day.  He didn't do much more that season.  I am where I was before the game -- Zach Wilson probably needed a game off all things considered, but the head coach blew it by not taking him out mid-game versus the Patriots.  Anyway, hard to see what this game alone tells us.  It was fun to watch though, surely.  

In former Jets QBs news, Sam Darnold won, Geno Smith did not.

2022 Elections: Almost Over, Maybe

I recently noted that the final election results have come from Alaska, leading only a few races (two House? and a Senate) still being up in the air. There is also (I have my doubts this will happen though it darn well should) the issue of challenging one or more people on 14A, sec. 3 grounds.  

The results are that Republicans will have around a four person majority. This should (though there is a lot of assumptions otherwise) be enough to be able to do basic stuff. House Democrats had a slightly higher working majority, but usually nearly everyone (maybe one or two excepted) could be assumed to go along with the basic stuff. This includes showing up.  

Again, there is a feeling that House Republicans will have a problem here somehow, including people not showing up, getting sick, or even vacancies arising.  There is already multiple people (let's see how this sticks) saying they don't want Kevin McCarthy as speaker.  I have seen reference to people (four? I don't know) rather strongly saying "NEVER!"  We shall see.

A major blame for the results, including by more than one local pol, is applied to the powers that be in New York. This includes the whole redistricting mess, which was a mess, no matter what position you fall regarding the question of partisan gerrymandering pursuant to local law. A last minute redrawing might have gave this writer one more poll worker per diem, but it led to confusion and very well hurt Democrats.

I question is you can just blame a four person majority (it might come to that) on that alone. A midterm election in New York with a bland unelected governor (picked by the three time governor forced to resign) at the head will cause problems. One problem is the general safety some swing voters will feel living in a NY.  

Other states changed by strengthening Democrat control.  Other states also do not have the social benefits, including abortion rights as New York has. I just reread the strong joint dissent in Dobbs, which (contrary to some criticism) is a strong offering, providing reasons for abortion rights, a dissenting view on how to apply constitutional liberty (not originalism), and not just reliant on stare decisis.  Here are but a few good bits:

The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.

Even an uncomplicated pregnancy imposes significant strain on the body, unavoidably involving significant physiological change and excruciating pain.

Human bodies care little for hopes and plans.

Many will endure the costs and risks of pregnancy and giving birth against their wishes. Others will turn in desperation to illegal and unsafe abortions. They may lose not just their freedom, but their lives.

The history of state abortion restrictions is a history of heavy costs exacted from the most vulnerable women. It is a history of women seeking illegal abortions in hotel rooms and home kitchens; of women trying to self-induce abortions by douching with bleach, injecting lye, and penetrating themselves with knitting needles, scissors, and coat hangers. 

The Democrats have the presidency and the Senate looked pretty safe. So, if you were on the edge Republican leaning voter in Long Island, would you not feel somewhat safe about things on this question?  Democrats did well in California, but the situation is different there -- the Democrats at top was not as much in flux with a new governor and the Democrats as a whole had a majority for a longer time.  

I am just not sure that the losses in House seats all could have been avoided.  I am not saying the situation was properly handled.  The whole gerrymander thing is complicated, but again, either way, it was not handled very well.  It would have taken a strong partisan gerrymander (rather blatant), however, to prevent some loss here.  When you have a majority that might be counted on one hand, every race does count.  But, the assumption of some of a majority being possible?  That is assuming a lot.

The losses -- New York is still no Florida (mess for state Democrats) -- still is a warning sign.  New York is the fourth most populated state in the nation and should be a leader in progressive politics.  We have always been a bit messy (see the disrespect we get in 1776) and are more conservative in various ways than some want or say (this is seen in New York City mayoral politics alone).  A midterm is a good wake-up call.

Talking Points Memo noted that in recent years that there were ebbs and flows in congressional control.  The result is probably the best the Democrats can hope for there -- Republicans (hopefully) will have a perilous messy majority, and the results will make 2024 more promising. 

I think that is a generally valid approach though again it just is so hard with institutions that are inherently illegitimate in some sense.  I think that way with the Supreme Court (it is not just that we lost in the ballot box; the process was corrupted). And, when House Republicans aid and abet Trump and Trumpism, I think that way there too. They coming back in control two years after 2020 with if anything becoming more true believer is hard to take.

Democrats need to fight now -- when you are in the minority, it is more useful to point out what is wrong and aim high since your opponents are not likely (at least here) offer much at all -- and we will see how it goes. As to the Senate, it looks like Warnock should win.  Not that the fact it still is so close is upsetting and a tad bit soul crushing.  A 51-49 Senate will help Democrats on the appointment end and maybe more since you have a one person safety plus a 50-50 Senate required a bit more compromising. 

It is so tiring but nice to have some things on our side.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Thanksgiving Thoughts

There is a video of First Lady Jill Biden welcoming the delivery of the official White House tree. So, it is like Christmas season came (even without holiday films on multiple channels, including now Lifetime) and Thanksgiving is a bit of an also ran. 

But, the holiday remains of some importance. The American Thanksgiving experience, especially the turkey, is in various ways a creature of 19th Century culture (see here on turkey). Examinations of Christmas traditions also can point to that era though the whole Santa Claus experience was truly completed in the 20th Century.  

The basic concept of a fall harvest celebration, including remembering to give thanks probably has ancient roots.  The United States mixed in some of the Pilgrims and Native Americans stuff (that for a long time was largely only a New England memory), including having a mixed (at best) relationship with the latter.  So, though Thanksgiving very well has a general message, it is more complicated in this country. 

The House had a hearing recently on the assumed never fulfilled treaty obligation of having a Cherokee delegate to Congress.  The Republican ranking member of the relevant committee is a member of a tribe himself.  The whole thing did not have a partisan flavor.  Also, separately, an Alaska Native just officially won re-election -- currently filling in a short term -- as the representative to Alaska.

The delay in Alaska is based on the use of a form of instant run-off voting that has multiple "rounds" when there are more than two candidates.  The net result here is basically the NYT predicts a 220-213 House with two candidate races left (I guess) plus the Senate run-off (50-49 now with the only credible candidate favored to win).  So, maybe 221-214 final?

===

We also had the official "pardoning" of Chocolate and Chip, the ceremony now largely a lighthearted affair that gives presidents a chance to be goofy.  The ceremony began as a more sensible official presentation of a turkey to the White House for a variety of reasons, including to promote the turkey production industry.  

George Bush Sr. apparently started the more asinine "pardon" tradition as if turkeys could be pardoned.  I am not sure what the exact point of that is supposed to be, other again as a chance some fun.  Is a sort of "dollar and a dream" lottery for turkeys -- over 200 million turkeys are raised by this country a year? As a vegetarian, it does seem perverse.  At least, Biden did by this point use his actual pardon power for human beings. 

===

Another more benign (up to a point) tradition these days is football.  There was a tradition of Detroit and Dallas games. Now, there a third game on night as well (NFL Network).  The Giants played Dallas this year ("early dinner" game) and the Bills played the Lions (usual first game).  The Pats played the Vikings. Each game turned on one score though the Giants game did so in the final seconds (onside kick attempt, fail; end of game).

[So, that is 0-2 for the Giants, including another hole they couldn't get out of -- if quicker that time -- versus the Lions.]  

The Bills (that blew a Vikings game, the Vikings again having a come from behind victory vs. the Pats) beat Detroit.  The Bills was beaten by the Jets too, which puts the Dolphins in the driving seat for the time being.  The Jets then blew their rematch with the Pats (after the Jets had a bye) on a punt return in a game that seemed ready to go into OT (10-3).  

Zach Wilson, who has been pretty good this year when not playing the Patriots, then had a dubious post-game press conference where multiple people (including otherwise sympathetic media observers) thought he did not take enough responsibility.  This led to talk about him not being ready for prime time and so on. Again, he just beat the Bills, right?  

Anyway, the head coach decided to bench him for the upcoming game versus the Bears.  This game provides a somewhat soft blow since that team is not very good though their raw but promising QB has the potential to score a lot of points.  Mike White -- the veteran QB dubiously signed last season shifted a few weeks back to #3 -- will start.  You recall White had that one charmed game versus the Bengals last season.

I understand the move, especially to teach the kid -- shall we say -- a lesson.  But, the blame to me should be spread around (I'm not alone in so thinking).  Wilson -- who the hoodie clearly got psyched as he does various youngsters -- was doing NOTHING during that game.  That game. He started and won the Bills game.

He should have been benched at some point.  Now, the coverage I saw suggested the idea Wilson already was "soft" (though again, they won games) psychologically, but not taking him out seems to help send the message the lack of offensive effort was not his fault.  Again, failure has many fathers.

Plus, there was the basic point that the Jets were doing nothing offensively.  Mike White is no savior.  But, if one thing doesn't work, you try something new.  Zack Wilson for two straight games vs. the Packs was lousy, if in that game not choking up the ball repeatedly (thus the 3-3 score until very late).  

There is talk how this change will spice things up.  Yeah.  Again, they beat the Bills.  Wilson was bad versus the Pats.  I'm not sure, but it might even be that the Jets are usually slow after a bye.  So, if the Jets do win now versus the Bears, let us not do a "correlation means causation" thing that ignores who they are playing and how Wilson won before.  At least, if we do, the whole thing would be a bit stupid.

I think it still might be valid to give him the game off as a "teaching moment," especially after his post game remarks.  But, the smarter move probably would be to remove him during the Pats game and put him back in the Bears game. If he started slow, THEN maybe it would be a sign that it wasn't just the Patriots. Since, to belabor it, didn't he start the Bills game?

[There is also world soccer stuff.  I don't really care though John Oliver -- in his season finale -- flagged FIFA and Qatar has issues.]

Of course, there are lots of Christmas movies on, including now on Lifetime. I do not have as many channels as some (there are three Hallmark channels alone; I have one), but there are lots of them.  Southern Family Christmas was on last night; what caught my eye there (not being a Grey's Anatomy fan) is that the horror film king, Bruce Campbell was in it.  

These films regularly have actors who are familiar for various character roles they did (Moira Kelly is a supporting character here and I know her from a couple things).  It turns out Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead etc., as well as some t.v. work, including a character on Xena) was in a Hallmark film already.  He plays a "straight" role here as someone who abandoned the star of the film when she was a young girl. So, unlike many of these films, romance is not really the main focus of the story.

(We also learn a French/Cajun Christmas tradition.)  

The film is overall well done, but I think it basically tells its basic story by around the hour mark [minus the reveal]  so would have worked better as a ninety minute film.  I think the two sets of parents (her mom/stepdad and birth dad/step mom, played by Moira Kelly) each were well acted and well written as dramatic characters (other than her birth dad, you can imagine a thinly written affair).  Films often turn on good supporting characters.  

The lead (who played in another Hallmark film as a designer in a film that promoted different body images in fashion) also is an interesting character since she comes off as a bit different than some (often happy go lucky types) in Hallmark films.  But, again the whole "secret" part of the story is not really paced good enough for me not to think "okay, sorta bored" here.  

Overall, the movie is a mixed bag, but does stand out. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

SCOTUS Watch: Thanksgiving Week Edition

A range of Supreme Court related things happened since Friday, including news that led SCOTUSBlog to have a special Saturday article round-up (usually a weekday affair). I tacked on the Order List and grant in a Jack Daniels parody case at the end of the last entry, expecting it might be a thin week. Not quite so.

Alito:  The latest Supreme Court controversy arose when it came out that a previously anti-abortion advocate claimed Alito leaked the news that he was writing the Hobby Lobby opinion. The specific details there aside, the bigger story was the influence special interests have on multiple conservative justices. This includes the individuals using the Supreme Court Historical Society (yuck) to further their causes.  

[The person with his last name that was involved in a Supreme Court case appears to be his identical twin brother who also voted for President Biden.  That guy's Wikipedia page notes the brother is concerned with how the anti-abortion cause was used, but not sure if HE is now supportive of letting abortion stay legal.]

This might actually be a possible tipping point in the fight for an official ethics code that applies to the justices. A key senator suggested that if the justices refuse, the budget might be used to pressure them.  A related issue that arose is term limits and the problems with judges staying on too long

Trump:  In the last entry of "As Trump Turns," there were various developments.  An oral argument at the 11CA regarding the latest of the stupid special master dispute suggests the judges there are sick of him and find the whole thing stupid.  Sen. Graham testified to the grand jury in Georgia.  And, without comment, the latest attempt to stop release of tax records to the House was rejected (after Roberts put a hold on it around three weeks back).

[The biggest news is probably the appointment by Garland of a special counsel now that Trump announced he is officially running for president.  This might somehow be problematic but it is a very expected and standard move to make in this case.  The "coward" talk is bullshit. One fairly positive account, including based on who is chosen, is here. I guess I concur with it.]

Death Penalty: Alabama, after their third botch (one execution) in a row, has for now put a moratorium to investigate.  Meanwhile, Missouri is planning to execute Kevin Johnson next week.  He raises serious racial discrimination (Chris Geidner also reports) and other claims. The Supreme Court (again without comment from anyone) today got ahead of the curve and denied cert.  0/6 for the executions, one 6-3.  

[The standard line is to sneer at the pro-life Catholic justices. NONE of them look very good in my eyes. Even when three dissented, they did so without comment. Yes, that one was late, but come on. They knew what was coming.  They had time to write a brief statement at least.]

Cecilia Marshall Dies: Thurgood Marshall's second wife was about twenty years younger than him.  She has died and a nice press release was provided to the press that was posted on Twitter by multiple reporters. It is not on the press release page of the actual website. Why the heck not?

(I missed two media advisories from earlier this month about seating in two important cases that will get a lot of attention.  The cases will be hear in the upcoming December arguments.) 

Books:  I read Washington's Heir, cited as the first full length biography of a fairly important justice (Bushrod Washington), especially since various other lesser ones already have a biography.  The book is as usual for the author not a long one though it has more legal analysis and notes than usual.  Overall, it is a worthwhile effort.  

I finally (via a cheap Ebay purchase) got the what Obergefell v. Hodges  (same sex marriage) cases should have said book.  The book has more than nine people involved with four dissents (one one letting the matter be dealt with by the democratic branches). 

I did not find the whole effort too useful.  I have found such efforts, including in the spirit of writing things with a feminist viewpoint (there is a new one with a critical race theory viewpoint) often disappointing.  The previous Roe v. Wade book was probably somewhat better. 

One of the majority opinions focuses on the children and another wants to do away with "marriage' altogether (not sure what that gets you) and Melissa Murray again reminds that marriage isn't all there is.  Yeah.  See, Lawrence v. Texas.  I find her suggesting Justice Kennedy overdid the "yay marriage!" stuff asinine. Those fighting for same sex marriage recognition are the ones that did that.  And, logically so, given what they were trying to do.

Yet again for some reason Turner v. Safley (which has a long summary of the benefits of marriage)  is largely ignored.  The opinions basically ignore the recognition issue and the majority side also does not really engage with the dissents.  This has a sort of curious "talking past each other" flavor.  One dissent focused on originalism doesn't (except for a brief footnote) cite any other sexual orientation opinion. The one that wants to leave it to the people doesn't explain why (or if) Lawrence et. al. was different. 

Animus: A Short Introduction to Bias in the Law  from five years back (should I note he is in a same sex marriage?) was more useful.  It tied animus to the general idea against class legislation and a concern (going back to Madison) that legislation should be for the public interest, not special interests.  

The book mainly discussed the main cases (hippies, mentally retarded, the GLBT ones) and then discussed how to best determine and apply animus.  The book said nothing really profound, but it provided a good little summary (under 200 pages) and made some good points about the complexities involved.  The book was written before the Masterpiece Cakeshop case though it foreshadowed religious liberties battles.

Another such battle is one of the cases the media advisory flagged ... on my birthday yet.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving, including the "pardoned" Chocolate and Chip.