Scalia– take 1

Wow.  This is a big deal.  Okay, a man died, so for that, I do like Ross Douthat’s take:

Seriously, that is so the way to go.  Doing what you love for your whole life.  Many grandchildren.  And dying at a ripe old age with no lingering illness.

And, always a good chance to mention again that his son Paul, a Catholic priest, baptized my firstborn son.

Okay, now with that out of the way.  I do want to mention that in his later years, especially, Scalia had just turned into a belligerent a$$hole.  You always hear what a great legal mind he had, but there really was no evidence of this in his references to “argle bargle” and what not.  I’ve read many a Supreme Court opinion in my day, and for the most part, I just don’t see this “genius.”  To me, genius is often self-evident, “oh my God, of course, how could I not have seen that” or “of course, I had not considered that perspective, but when you put the issue that way…” etc.  And I cannot say I had many of these moments reading anything Scalia wrote.  But enough of that, I’m just a smart guy with a good education, not a legal scholar, anyway, on to the most interesting things I’ve read so far…

1) Easily the best is Linda Hirshman’s on why this vacancy favors liberals no matter what.  Basically, after 8 years of Obama, most of the country is under liberal appellate courts and the Supreme Court now lacks the votes to overturn their decisions.  When faced with a 4-4 ruling, the Circuit Court decisions stands.  And since in many ways the conservatives are very much activist judges looking to overturn rulings, losing the ability to overturn things 5-4 really matters.

2) Ian Millihiser goes issue by issue to look at the impact, considering whether the Appeals Court needs to be upheld or overturned for a liberal outcome.  It’s not all great for liberals, but definitely better than with Scalia.  He concludes it’s most important for the fate of the planet:

The Fate of the Earth

As a final note, it’s worth nothing that Scalia’s last act as a Supreme Court justice may have been to supply the fifth vote in a series of orders handed down on Tuesday halting President Obama’smost ambitious effort to fight climate change. If the Court remains evenly divided in this case, it could matter a great deal that the two judges assigned to this case in the court below are Democratic appointees. If they vote to uphold the administration’s policies, that order will stand unless there is a fifth justice who votes to reverse that decision.

3) Chait on how damn difficult the political struggle over the replacement will be (I promise much more to come on this topic):

What happens next — or, what would have happened under the old rules of American politics —is that the president names a successor. Senate Republicans might object to a particular successor on the merits, arguing that an individual candidate is too extreme, or scandal-plagued, or otherwise unqualified. But the old rules no longer apply, because they are not rules at all, they are mere social norms. The consistent pattern in Washington over the last two decades is that any social norms that stand between one of the parties and power inevitably falls by the wayside…

What’s more, it cannot even be taken for granted that, if Democrats win in November, Republicans will allow a Democratic justice to replace Scalia in 2017, either. Senators used to furnish what were viewed as qualified mainstream appointees with wide, bipartisan support. Increasingly, Senators vote against any justice nominated by a president of the opposing party. The notion that the Senate needs to let the president appoint somebody to a vacant Supreme Court seat is nothing but a social norm, and social norms in modern politics have a short lifespan.

I.e., we could be looking at 4-4 for a long time.

4) Jeffrery Toobin on the president’s roster of likely nominees.  These people sounds great.  Hard to imagine any of them getting through.

Religion and evolution

I didn’t realize yesterday was “Darwin Day.”  I guess I should have.  In honor of it, Pew with a nice chart of beliefs about evolution by religious group:

Belief in evolution by religious tradition

If people want to say evolved over time while “guided by Supreme being” I’m fine with that, as the scientific evidence has nothing to say about that either way.  It’s just damn clear that the human species has evolved from earlier hominids.  To simply say humans have “always existed in present form” as a solid majority of Evangelical Christians do is to close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and yell “I can’t hear you” in response to science.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s photos of the week:

A chilly but colourful start to the day for houseboats residents at St Mary's Marina, on the Leeds Liverpool canal

A chilly but colourful start to the day for houseboats residents at St Mary’s Marina, on the Leeds Liverpool canalPicture: Mar Photographics/Alamy Live News


Quick hits

1) Lee Drutman reviews Rick Hasen’s new book on campaign finance.  Good stuff (both the review and the book).  Really, it’s a great essay on how we should think about campaign finance in terms of equality instead of corruption.

2) Latest research to show that Voter ID laws disproportionately affect minorities.

3) On how South Dakota’s mandatory abstinence program (from alcohol, not sex) had a positive impact.  The secret?  Actually following the most basic criminology.  Rather than focusing on severity, punishments are swift and certain, but not harsh.

4) Jedediah Purdy pushes back on people the likes of Krugman and me (because, of course Krugman and I go together) dissing on poor Bernie.

5) Good piece on the long struggle against lead poisoning.

6) With all the campaign drama it is easy to overlook that the Republican campaign has taken a disgusting pro-torture pose (thanks to Trump, of course).

7) How fundraising turns Congress into a part-time legislature:

This presidential race has featured a lot of conversation about the effects of money on politics, with both a billionaire and a socialist claiming that donations induce politicians to change their views. The vast social science literature on this topic is inconclusive (so far), but two conclusions are warranted:

  • If legislators spend most of lives in a bubble of fellow politicians, staff, and donors, they will probably become less familiar with the problems and preferences of most of their constituents. This can help explain why legislators are much more responsive towealthy constituents and organized interests.
  • Fundraising crowds out time for legislators to do the hard work of legislating: drafting proposals and reaching compromise with other legislators. Sure, many legislators seem averse to “compromise” anyway, but they may be more willing to try if they saw legislating as a full-time job with measurable results, the way they now view their FEC filings.

8) Vox’s Timothy Lee says everyone is under-estimating Ted Cruz.  He didn’t ask me; I’m not.

9) The Senate may be getting rid of the most essential part of criminal justice reform in it’s bill:

If true, the Politico report would essentially mean that the Senate is axing the best, most promising part of its bill.

You simply can’t fix mass incarceration in America if you’re unwilling to shorten the prison sentences of anyone who could be considered a “violent” criminal. That’s especially true in state prisons, where the vast majority of US prisoners are held and where half of them are serving sentences for violent crimes.

When politicians talk about criminal justice reform, they tend to leave out this inconvenient fact. They prefer to talk about “nonviolent drug offenders” — even when they’re talking about state prisoners. [emphasis mine]

The original Senate bill went beyond this. It didn’t do anything too risky — the laws it proposed to change around firearms and “career criminals” are so bad that federal judges routinely complain about them.

But on an issue where states have usually led and the federal government has followed, the original Senate bill could have made a statement that states needed to dig deeper and reform sentencing for “violent offenders.” Instead, it’s sending the message that helping violent offenders is politically radioactive.

10) Hooray, the FBI finally arrested Cliven Bundy.  David Graham on the FBI’s patience.

11) On the scientists who defend toxic chemicals for a paycheck.

12) Hillary Clinton would probably be doing better among younger voters if more of them had reproduced and had daughters.  Seriously.  Data.

13) How your neanderthal DNA may be affecting your tendency towards certain illnesses.

14) Mark Schmitt asks if big programs liberalism is over.

15) Krugman on the Groundhog Day-ness of the Republican Party:

The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication.

First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 millionprivate-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect.

Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle.

This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle.

16) Among the more important social science of parenting things I learned is that your kids lie to you all the time.  This is a look from a teacher’s perspective.  I was disappointed last year when I found out one of my kids had been lying to me about not doing homework, but now the research on how incredibly prevalent this type of behavior is really helped me keep it in perspective.

17) I got in an absurdly long FB argument with a friend and reader of this blog who implicitly argued that this video means Hillary is no better than Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.  Drum puts the video in proper perspective.

18) Of course animals have empathy, damn it.  Strikes me as hubris to think otherwise.  Vox on the debate over animal emotions:

De Waal thinks it’s wrongheaded for some scientists to dismiss observations of empathy in animals. After all, it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. If human empathy is so robust and adaptive, it must have evolved from more primitive forms.

“It is hard to imagine that empathy — a characteristic so basic to the human species — came into existence only when our lineage split off from that of the apes,” says de Waal. “It must be far older than that.”

19) Terrific goal.  Absolutely amazing first touch.  And shared far less than deserved, I expect, because it’s a woman.

20) Whenever friends see my computer with Chrome open, they are astounded by all my open browser tabs (they won’t get it if I just say, “they’re all for quick hits… some day!”).  How David Roberts handles the browser tab issue.

21) How to change someone’s mind according to science.  Short version: Numbers, longer arguments, high-quality examples, other stuff.

22) Enjoyed this David Roberts‘ piece on how to think about Clinton versus Sanders and the meaning of ideology.

23) Finally decided to close this open tab and add to quick hits– Tom Edsall’s take on the political science research on how Democrats and Republicans are increasingly negative towards each other.

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