Race and Criminal (In)Justice in two graphs

Via Vox:



Now, there may be a reasonable explanation for some of that gap, and Vox tries.  But there’s just now way you can explain away a gap that large absent institutional racism.

And, of course, there’s plenty of documentation about the historical connection between race and attitudes toward particular illegal drugs.

Hobby Lobby omnibus

Wow, if ever we need any proof that key Supreme Court decisions are entirely political, this is up there with Bush v. Gore.  I won’t pretend that there is not politics in the dissent, but I sure find the legal reasoning in the dissent far more persuasive.  Lots of good stuff on the matter, here’s some of my favorites.

1) Amy Davidson:

To start with, who else is off the hook, or will be? What other companies can ignore which other laws on what real or dreamed-up religious grounds? That is something the majority decision in Hobby Lobby leaves shockingly undefined. Ginsburg called it “a decision of startling breadth,” one that could allow for-profit corporations to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Alito, in his opinion, denies this; so does Anthony Kennedy, in a concurrence. But neither does so persuasively: their reassurance about the protections against what Ginsburg calls “the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce” come down to, in Alito’s case, shrugs about how nothing alarming has shown up on the Court’s docket yet and, in Kennedy’s, the belief that everyone will be sensible about this.

Just because the majority opinion says their opinion is narrow, does not actually make it so.  The logic/reasoning behind it is not narrow at all and undoubtedly opens up a pandora’s box of religious-based discrimination.  Also this:

Nor is science much of a constraint. Hobby Lobby is really asserting two religious beliefs: that abortion is immoral and that the kinds of contraception it doesn’t want to pay for are, in fact, a form of abortion, even though the scientific evidence says they are not. The majority defers to both of these beliefs.

2) Jeffrey Toobin excellently lays out how the Roberts court has a history of making “narrow” decisions that later become a key precedent for much broader decisions:

The Hobby Lobby decision follows the same pattern. Again, Justice Alito’s opinion (for the same five-to-four majority) expressed its ruling in narrow terms. Alito asserted that the case concerned only a single “closely held” private company whose owners had religious objections to providing certain forms of birth control. According to the court, federal law required that those wishes be honored.

But, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, there is almost no limitation on the logic of the majority’s view. Almost any closely held companies—which make up a substantial chunk of the American economy—can now claim a religious orientation, and they can now seek to excuse themselves from all sorts of obligations, including honoring certain anti-discrimination laws. And after today’s “narrow” rulings, those cases will come.

There’s simply no reason to think Hobby Lobby will be the end of this.

3) Rick Hasen on when the Court shows deference to Congress:

Near the end of Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case today, he writes that it is not the Court’s job to question the “wisdom” of Congress in using the compelling interest test in RFRA, but the Court applies that RFRA test strongly, and in a way which shows the Court apparently giving great deference to Congress’s judgment about how to balance the government’s interest in generally applicable laws with the accommodations of religious freedoms. It reminded me of Justice Scalia’s pleas in Windsor last term for deference to Congress on the need for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Court has shown no such deference when it comes to the need for campaign finance regulation or to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and others. The Roberts Court has overturned or limited every campaign finance law it has examined (aside from disclosure laws). It has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. How much deference did Congress get in those cases? None.

Well when is Congress wise and entitled to deference? When the Court agrees with Congress’s approach. Let’s call that “faux deference,” to go with the “faux-nanimity” of the rest of the term.

Exactly.  Absurd on its face.  The SC Justices question the wisdom of Congress all the time.  But only overrules that “wisdom” when it personally degrees.

4) Kevin Drum is no legal scholar but makes a good case that it really is all about abortion:

Alito takes pains to make it clear that his opinion shouldn’t be considered precedent for anything except the narrowly specific issue at hand: whether contraceptives that some people consider abortifacients can be excluded from health plans.

I think it’s important to recognize what Alito is saying here. Basically, he’s making the case that abortion is unique as a religious issue. If you object to anything else on a religious basis, you’re probably out of luck. But if you object to abortion on religious grounds, you will be given every possible consideration. Even if your objection is only related to abortion in the most tenuous imaginable way—as it is here, where IUDs are considered to be abortifacients for highly idiosyncratic doctrinal reasons—it will be treated with the utmost deference.

This is not a ruling that upholds religious liberty. It is a ruling that specifically enshrines opposition to abortion as the most important religious liberty in America.

5) Emily Bazelon makes a good case that this really is about sex:

As the Institutes of Medicine spelled out in a report for the Department of Health and Human Services, preventing unwanted pregnancies is of undeniable benefit to women.

The majority’s refusal to recognize that fact, full stop, proves a point Linda Greenhouse made in the New York Times last fall: This case is about sex. Or more specifically, it’s a rear-guard action by the religious right to block the government from “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of birth control, of sex without consequences.” Read the article Linda points to by Helen Alvaré, a law professor and longtime adviser to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Or read theseamazing quotes from some of the religious groups that swooped in on Hobby Lobby’s side. These people and ideas won today.

6) Of course, the fact that whether your IUD is covered or not (and it damn well should be– safe and effective contraception) is up to your employer just speaks to the absurdity of our employer-based health care system.  Paul Waldman on the matter.  And if you’ve got a few minutes to listen, Mike Pesca’s “spiel” on this (from his great new podcast, The Gist) is spot-on terrific satire.

7) And lastly, the 8 best lines from Ginsberg’s dissent.

8) I think most of these are quite good arguments.  That said, Slate also has Eric Posner make the case that this case was rightly decided.  I think he too easily looks over the gaping holes in Alito’s legal arguments, but he makes some good points and it’s worth considering the view from a far more reasoned conservative mind.

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