Archive

February 21st, 2016

Supreme Court's future could go to the voters

    The Onion's wizards of wacky wit struck just the proper tone with this headline: "Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-year Battle With Social Progress."

    I can easily imagine the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who professed a robust belief in the existence of heaven, would have nodded his approval of that satirical sendoff.

    He defended his conservatism with the happy abandon of William F. Buckley's classic definition of a conservative: "someone who stands athwart history yelling Stop."

    Scalia was a giant as an "originalist," which also is the title of a play about the justice that premiered in Washington last year.

    Originalism, simply put, holds that the Constitution must be applied based on the original meaning of its text, not on legislative history or the assumed intention of its authors.

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Scalia’s Ghost Can’t Save Oil, Gas, and Coal

    Bleak news for fossil fuels is piling up higher than an icy Washington snowbank in the capital’s most precipitation-challenged state.

    Peabody Energy, the nation’s biggest coal company, is limping toward bankruptcy after its shares sank 99 percent over the past two years. Arch Coal, the industry’s second-largest player, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

    King Coal is huddling for warmth with down-and-out oil and gas producers. One out of three of the world’s biggest publicly traded companies in those businesses could file for bankruptcy this year, the Deloitte auditing and consulting firm determined. They collectively owe $150 billion in debt.

    “These companies have kicked the can down the road as long as they can,” William Snyder, head of corporate restructuring at Deloitte, told the Reuters news service. “Now they’re in danger of kicking the bucket.”

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Scalia's political legacy

    In the end, Justice Antonin Scalia's greatest influence may yet turn out to be in the political rather than in the judicial realm.

    For all his record and reputation as the leading conservative and "originalist" advocate of a generation on the Supreme Court, the manner in which his death has intruded on the 2016 presidential election may well be best remembered.

    Already Scalia's passing has inspired all the Republican candidates to throw down the gauntlet to the lame-duck President Obama, demanding that he withhold the nomination of a successor and leave the choice to the next president.

    Obama quickly disabused them of that notion, whereupon some of them have vowed to deny his eventual nominee a Senate committee hearing while he is still in office. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he would filibuster such a nomination and that the Senate was "not remotely" required to take it up.

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Scalia may be the last of the originalists

    Justice Antonin Scalia didn't invent originalism. The credit for that on the modern Supreme Court goes to Justice Hugo Black, who developed the approach to constitutional interpretation as a liberal tool to make the states comply with the Bill of Rights. But Scalia did more to bring originalism into the conservative mainstream than any other Supreme Court justice. In fact, his role as the godfather of the conservative constitutional rebirth of the 1980s and '90s derived from his originalist advocacy.

    But will Scalia's originalist legacy last? Can the philosophy outlive the man? There is reason to doubt it -- because Scalia is literally irreplaceable, and because the younger conservative justices aren't originalists of the same stripe.

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February 20th

Congress wary of Chinese deal for Chicago Exchange

    Dozens of members of Congress plan to ask the Obama administration to review the planned acquisition of the Chicago Stock Exchange by a Chinese firm, to assess whether it poses a national security risk or a risk to the companies traded on the exchange.

    The Chicago Stock Exchange announced this month that it would be sold to a consortium led by the Chongqing Casin Investment Group of China, a move that would inject needed resources into the exchange and give the Chinese firm a foothold in the $22 trillion U.S. equities marketplace. Chinese state media reported that the deal was meant to eventually bring more Chinese firms into the U.S. market and that U.S. technology could be used to open new exchanges in China, a potential win- win for both sides.

    But the exchange's CEO, John Kerin, has said that he doesn't know who owns Chongqing Casin and that the Chinese government may be a minority stakeholder, as it is in most large Chinese businesses.

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Sanders can win the minority vote

    Organizing a protest against police violence in the black community, a curly-haired kid from Brooklyn found himself with a Chicago police officer's finger in his face. "It's outside agitators like you who're screwing this city up," the cop told him. "The races got along fine before you people came here."

    That young man was Bernie Sanders, and the confrontation took place in 1962, while Sanders was a University of Chicago student. In the following years, Sanders would lead sit-ins against housing discrimination and get arrested while marching for equal education.

    Now, as the 2016 campaign for president bears down on the fractious states beyond Iowa and New England, Sanders - today a 74-year-old U.S. senator from Vermont and candidate for the Democratic nomination for president - needs to convince minority voters that black lives still matter as much to him as they did 50 years ago.

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Sanders can win black votes away from Clinton

    Anyone who thinks that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders can't win black votes should have seen him at a prayer breakfast in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday. He may not have enough time to erase the big lead that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys with the state's African-Americans, but he's far from hopeless on that front. It helps him that Clinton's support, as elsewhere, is pragmatic rather than inspired.

    Allen University, where the prayer breakfast took place, is a small, historically black school with a four-year graduation rate of just 5 percent and a loose admissions policy, where every student gets at least some need-based financial aid. A few professors were pretty much the only white people in the audience, and Sanders was the only white person on stage.

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Republicans See How Long They Can Hold Their Breath

    Maybe we’d better refrain from having any new opinions until after the election.

    Follow the leader. Mitch McConnell says the Senate shouldn’t do anything about the Supreme Court’s vacancy as long as Barack Obama is president. Not even go through the motions of pretending to think about it. We’ve hit a whole new level in the politics of obstruction.

    Why stop there? For the next 11 months it’s probably better if we let everything go except for the purchase of food staples.

    Don’t even bother to fake it. Virtually every Republican with a job more elevated than zoning commissioner thinks the best thing to do with any Supreme Court nomination is to act as if it isn’t there, like a wad of gum on the sidewalk.

    “Delay, delay, delay!” cried Donald Trump at the last debate. Some listeners might have presumed he was calling for the return of the former House majority leader who resigned during a campaign finance scandal and later rehabilitated himself by doing the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars.” Exactly the kind of guy Donald Trump would like. But in this case he was talking about stonewalling any Supreme Court nomination.

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Obama and Republicans are wrong about Constitution

    What does the U.S. Constitution really have to say about whether the Senate must put a president's Supreme Court nominee to a vote? President Barack Obama says the Constitution "is pretty clear on what happens next": He nominates, and the Senate says yes or no in a timely fashion. Republicans think the Constitution gives the Senate the right, not just the power, to give the president's nominee a hearing or to refuse to do so.

    They're both wrong. Here's what the Constitution says about filling Supreme Court vacancies: nothing. In fact, the Constitution says nothing about the size of the Supreme Court at all. Congress could pass a law leaving the number of justices permanently at eight. Or it could expand the number to 23. All the Constitution requires is that there be a Supreme Court. Beyond that, we're in the realm of politics.

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No Candidate is Perfect

    Let me tell you something people don’t often say when arguing about presidential candidates on Facebook: No candidate is perfect.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth choosing to support one.

    For example, you can support Bernie Sanders because you believe he’s the best all-around candidate, while simultaneously accepting that he tends to be clumsy when it comes to matters of race.

    It’s also possible to support Hillary Clinton while noting that you dislike her vote in favor of the Iraq War, or are concerned about the millions of dollars her family’s foundation accepted from Saudi Arabia.

    The same goes for Republican candidates. Each of those contenders comes with advantages and disadvantages.

    In other words, whatever your leanings are, you need to weigh each candidate’s pros and cons. How well do their proposals match your values? Do you believe they have a shot at actually getting something done?

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