Judges are different

So, unlimited campaign money is a bad thing when judges are involved, says John Roberts.  Judges are different.  Mark Joseph Stern writes:

On Wednesday, Roberts halted his crusade against campaign finance reform in a stunning reversal that almost nobody—myself included—saw coming. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, Roberts joined the liberals to uphold a Florida measure that barred elected judges from personally soliciting campaign funds. (This is only the second time Roberts has sided with the four liberals against four dissenting conservatives; the first time was in the 2012 Obamacare case.) In his opinion, Roberts explains:

Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.

Roberts’ logic here is simple and commonsensical. A state’s judiciary can function healthily only if citizens are content that judges apply the law impartially. If a judicial candidate is permitted to personally ask individuals to donate to her campaign, she may be tempted to treat her donors more favorably in the courtroom. Even if the judge herself remains unbiased, a reasonable observer may still believe that when she rules in favor of a donor, his donation influenced her thinking—consciously or unconsciously. This risk of corruption, actual or perceived, is enough to justify Florida’s narrow, sensible restriction on speech.

Why, then, does the hypothetical risk of corruption not justify restrictions onlegislative campaign finance and solicitation? Roberts doesn’t say, exactly—but the answer likely has something to do with judicial dignity. The conservative justices seemed skeptical of this notion at oral arguments, but between then and now, Roberts seems to have realized that permitting judges to panhandle would seriously undermine “public confidence in judicial integrity.” Roberts just isn’t that concerned about public confidence in legislative integrity—perhaps because he’s a judge, not a legislator, and understands that when judges beg people for money then rule in their favor, the principle of impartiality takes a huge hit. (On the other hand, Roberts seems to think that legislators voting in the interests of their highest donor is just democracy in action.)

Of course, judges actually are different, but it seems to me if you believe in “public confidence in judicial integrity” you damn well ought to believe in public confidence in legislative integrity.  And if Roberts thinks our crazy, post Citizens United campaign finance regime has not undermined public confidence in legislative integrity he’s got his head in the sand half-way to China.  But, of course, Roberts is a judge, and judges are special.

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Photo of the day

This is really cool– a Smithsonian gallery of Lake Michigan, which is currently so clear you can see 19th centurry shipwrecks on the bottom.

The 121-foot brig James McBride lies in 5 to 15 feet of water near Sleeping Bear Point.

The Coast Guard’s Facebook page reports: “Late in 1848, the McBride sailed to the Atlantic Ocean to pick up a cargo of salt at Turk Island. On her return she stopped at Nova Scotia and added codfish to her manifest. She delivered her cargo to Chicago on December 4, 1848. This trip created a sensation because it was believed to be the first cargo carried direct from the Atlantic to a Lake Michigan port.”

US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

Tea Party amok in NC

The embarrassments from the North Carolina legislature just keep coming.  Any semi-intelligent person ought to be embarrassed to have voted for or support these bozos.  Now we’ve got a state senator who thinks we need to require that HS students learn the value of the Gold Standard.  Seriously.  And if the damn High Schools can’t get this right, maybe they need to add a class!

— The state Senate will vote Wednesday on whether to add the gold standard and other conservative principles to the state’s high school curriculum.

Senate Bill 562, sponsored by Sen. David Curtis, R-Lincoln, builds on a law passed in 2011 requiring the addition of a “Founding Principles” curriculum to the state’s history standards.

The curriculum, a model bill from conservative free-market think tank American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, requires students to receive education on the nation’s “Founding Philosophy and Principles” as found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

“We have some concerns about how DPI implemented the course,” Curtis told the Senate Education Committee Tuesday, referring to the state Department of Public Instruction.

He said his bill “adds a few more principles, but it mainly instructs DPI to make sure every student takes the founding principles course before they graduate.

“If this is not implemented properly, we may have to add another course,” he added.

The five principles to be added to the curriculum are as follows:

  • “Constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend and prompt payment of public debt”
  • “Money with intrinsic value”
  • “Strong defense and supremacy of civil authority over military”
  • “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”
  • “Eternal vigilance by ‘We the People”’

“Money with intrinsic value – is that in the Federalist Papers?” asked Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

“Yes, it is,” Curtis replied, with agreement from Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.

In fact, it is not. A search of all 85 letters that make up the Federalist Papers turns up no mention of money with intrinsic value. It is, however, taken verbatim from the ALEC model bill. [emphasis mine]

Ouch, the stupid!!  (Nice Planet Money piece on the Gold Standard– though all you really need to know is that Glenn Beck loves it).  Not to mention the absurdity of trying to micro-manage the high school History curriculum.  All  decent classes on American Government and early American history cover, “Founding Philosophy and Principles” as found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.”  What they don’t do is cover right-wing talking points.  Ugh.

Marriage has already been redifined

First, I read Mark Joseph Stern’s take on yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments:

Many court watchers, myself included, speculated that Chief Justice John Robertsmight swing in favor of marriage equality this time around, in large part to avoid a seemingly partisan 5–4 split. But Roberts didn’t appear to be playing the role of swing vote on Tuesday morning. When Bonauto said gay couples hoped to “join” the institution of marriage, Roberts suggested that they were instead looking to “redefine” it [emphasis mine], since marriage was defined as one man, one woman throughout history.

And then Dahlia Lithwick’s excellent summary of oral arguments and Justice Kennedy’s fixation on dignity:

So there is a rather extraordinary moment Tuesday morning, as the Supreme Court hears historic arguments in the marriage equality cases grouped under Obergefell v. Hodges, when Kennedy finds himself in an argument with John Bursch, Michigan’s special assistant attorney general, about whether marriage is a dignity-conferring enterprise, or not. Bursch, defending his state’s ban on same-sex marriage, is explaining that the purpose of marriage is not to confer dignity but to keep parents bonded to their biological children…

Bursch explains that if marriage is expanded to include same-sex couples, the whole purpose of the institution will change. According to him, that view of marriage is “keeping the couple bound to that child forever,” whereas the new purpose (once gay couples are allowed to wed) will be about “their emotional commitment to each other.” [emphasis mine]

Hello!  That’s already happened!  Raise your hand if you think modern marriage is not substantially about the emotional commitment to each other of two people.  More Dahlia:

It is so strange to contemplate that ours is the sort of hyper-puritanical society that can’t acknowledge that the reason people marry is some combination of procreative purpose, emotional connection, and sex. That thankfully we needn’t pick just one. But oral argument proceeds like a Save the Children video, in which one must choose a single, lofty reason for marriage, close your eyes, and think of the queen.

All this reminds me of a great essay from Stephanie Coontz a few years back (that I continue to assign to my classes) that very much makes the point that while the name “marriage” has remained the same, the institution itself has undergone massive change:

Marriage has already been radically transformed – in a way that makes gay marriage not only inevitable, as Vice President Biden described it in an interview late last year, but also quite logical.

We are near the end of a two-stage revolution in the social understanding and legal definition of marriage. This revolution has overturned the most traditional functions of the institution: to reinforce differences in wealth and power and to establish distinct and unequal roles for men and women under the law.

For millennia, marriage was about property and power rather than love. Parents arranged their children’s unions to expand the family labor force, gain well-connected in-laws and seal business deals. Sometimes, to consolidate inheritances, parents prevented their younger children from marrying at all. For many people, marriage was an unavoidable duty. For others, it was a privilege, not a right. Often, servants, slaves and paupers were forbidden to wed.

But a little more than two centuries ago, people began to believe that they had a right to choose their partners on the basis of love rather than having their marriages arranged to suit the interests of parents or the state.

Love, not money, became the main reason for getting married, and more liberal divorce laws logically followed…

But huge as the repercussions of the love revolution were, they did not make same-sex marriage inevitable, because marriage continued to be based on differing roles and rights for husbands and wives: Wives were legally dependent on their husbands and performed specific wifely duties. This was part of what marriage cemented in society, and the reason marriage was between men and women. Only when distinct gender roles ceased to be the organizing principle of marriage – in just the past 40 years – did we start down the road to legalizing unions between two men or two women…

People now decide for themselves who and when – and whether – to marry. When they do wed, they decide for themselves whether to have children and how to divide household tasks. If they cannot agree, they are free to leave the marriage.

If gay marriage is legally recognized in this country, it will have little impact on the institution of marriage. In fact, the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage – an indication that it’s not just the president’s views that are “evolving” – is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the profound revolutions in marriage that have already taken place.

So, yes, marriage has historically been between a woman and a man, but that does not change the fact that it is complete ahistorical ignorance to suggest the institution has not undergone massive change.  Whatever the court ultimately decides in this case, to argue that marriage, as our society currently understands and practices it, is based largely on procreation and discrete gender roles is simply at odds with what marriage has become in the modern world.

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