A Return to Civility in SCOTUS Nominations is Long Overdue

(Photo: Public Domain, Library of Congress)

On this day, September 15, 1981, The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Republican-nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. A few days later, on September 21st, O’Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0. (According to Rebecca Loew, Senator Max Baucus of Montana was absent from the vote, and sent O’Connor a copy of A River Runs Through It as an apology. O’Connor became the 102nd Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Since then, eleven justices have been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, with a twelfth confirmation and appointment imminent: Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, RBG, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch.

103. The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee reported Republican-nominated Scalia unanimously out of committee. The full Senate debated Scalia’s nomination only briefly, confirming him 98–0 on September 17, 1986.

104. The Republican-led U.S. Senate confirmed Republican-nominated Kennedy on February 3, 1988, by a vote of 97 to 0. Absent from the vote were three Democrats: Paul Simon and Al Gore who were campaigning for the Democratic nomination for US President and Joe Biden who was sick.

105. In 1990, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee reported Republican-nominated Souter out the committee by a vote of 14–3, the Senate confirmed the nomination by a vote of 90–9.

106. In the 1991 Thomas’ confirmation process, the Democrat-led Judiciary Committee split 7–7 on September 27, sending the nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. Republican-nominated Thomas was confirmed by a 52–48 vote by the Democrat-controlled US Senate on October 15, 1991, the narrowest margin for approval in more than a century. The final floor vote was: 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to confirm while 46 Democrats and two Republicans voted to reject the nomination.

107. The Democrat-led United States Senate confirmed Democrat-nominated RBG by a 96 to 3 vote on August 3, 1993.

108. Democrat-nominated Breyer was confirmed by the Democrat-controlled US Senate on July 29, 1994, by an 87 to 9 vote.

109. On September 22, 2005, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee approved Republican-nominated John Roberts’s nomination by a vote of 13–5, with Senators Ted Kennedy, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein casting the dissenting votes. Roberts was confirmed by the full Senate on September 29 by a margin of 78–22. All Republicans and the one Independent voted for Roberts; the Democrats split evenly, 22–22. Roberts was confirmed by what was, historically, a narrow margin for a Supreme Court justice. However, all subsequent confirmation votes have been even narrower.

110. In 2005, Republican-nominated Samuel Alito was reported out of the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10–8 party-line vote. After a failed filibuster attempt by MA Senator John Kerry, on January 31, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58–42, with four Democratic senators voting for confirmation and one Republican and an Independent voting against.

111. On July 28, 2009, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved Democrat-nominated Sotomayor; the 13–6 vote was almost entirely along party lines, with no Democrats opposing her and only one Republican supporting her. On August 6, 2009, Sotomayor was confirmed by the full Senate by a vote of 68–31. The vote was largely along party lines, with no Democrats opposing her and nine Republicans supporting her.

112. On July 20, 2010, the Democrat-led Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13–6 to recommend Kagan’s confirmation to the Democrat-led US Senate. On August 5th the full Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 63–37. The voting was largely on party lines, with five Republicans (Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe) supporting her and one Democrat (Ben Nelson) opposing.

113. On April 3, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Republican-nominated Gorsuch nomination out of committee along a party-line vote of 11–9. On April 6, 2017, Senate Democrats filibustered the confirmation vote of Gorsuch, after which the Republicans invoked the so-called “nuclear option”, allowing a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to be broken by a simple majority vote. On April 7, 2017, the Republican-led US Senate confirmed Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court by a 54–45 vote, with three Democrats joining all the Republicans in attendance.

It is worth noting, that only from 2009–2011 in the 111th Congress did either party have a super-majority. In most other years, the U.S. Senate was split roughly 50-50, plus or minus two to 5 seats.

What has happened? We have increasingly politicized the Court, we have nominated more and more ideological candidates to the U.S. Supreme Court instead of nominating people, we’re nominating party. A return to civility in SCOTUS nominations is long overdue.

 

Happy Labor Day

Labor Day; What the heck is Labor Day anyway? I know the banks are closed, and the stock markets too. Labor Day is considered the traditional end of summer, but that’s really September 21st. It used to be the end of summer vacation, but may schools start in mid-to-late August these days. I know! It’s a fashion date! Can’t wear white after Labor Day, right?

On Labor Day weekend, social media is usually inundated with meme’s honoring teachers, law enforcement, fire professionals, etc. For most of us, I suppose the holiday has become thought of as a celebration of public sector workers, or all workers in general. But it’s not. Its neither.

Labor Day is the workers’ movement in the United States and around the world. What? Does that sound socialist or too Communist? I don’t know and, honestly, I don’t really care. Because that’s exactly what Labor Day is: a celebration of blue-collar workers and the solidarity of unionization. Interesting, however, the US intentionally placed our celebration of workers solidarity in September to avoid identifying the holiday with International Worker’s Day which is May 1st every year and has a significant history with the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago and the pan-Communist movement of the late 19th century.

I say I don’t care if the holiday sounds too socialist or Communist because I’m tired of how we seem to ignore or rewrite history. It is a day to celebrate the labor movement, not the general and vague concept of work. Those social media memes I mentioned, notice that professions honored are unionized professions. Again, law enforcement, fire professionals, teachers, and nurses. We usually don’t give shout-outs to doctors, lawyers, and hedge fund managers on Labor Day, do we?

The first Labor Day was celebrated in Oregon in 1887. At the time, as now, it was a recognition of trade unions and the labor movements. It’s a recognition of the workers who took an UNPAID day off work on September 5, 1882, so that nowadays, many of us receive a PAID day off of work.

I mentioned the rewriting and watering down of history? Go to the Department of Labor’s website, and you’ll see no mention of unionization, union-busting, or strikes. You will read a few references to two unions in particular, but the site glosses over the reasoning that unions were necessary in the first place. Indeed, the site begins and concludes with empty jingoistic phrases about the “the greatest worker in the world – the American worker.” Might as well stand while reading the diatribe while placing your MAGA hat across your heart.

If this holiday is about the American blue-collar worker, why is it that the banks, government offices, and financial markets are closed, while Wal-Marts, Chic-Filets, Hobby Lobbys are open. Fun fact, Costco is closed on Labor Day. You’re welcome…

In an era where many are suspect of the government deep state and the liberal media bias, it’s amusing that it’s the Department of Labor’s version of the history of Labor Day is so biased and whitewashed (I wonder if its whitewashed on the warm cycle of the washing machine with all those white-collars?).

For a more honest and raw recollection of the origins of Labor Day, take a look at history.com:

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters.

In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.

People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.”

~~~

So, I guess, to me, Labor Day has taken its equal place at the table of hypocrisy with so many of the other watered down and revisionist federal holidays. Sure, we have a wonderful vanilla-ly quaint and boring holiday on January 1st to celebrate New Years Day on the Gregorian Calendar, right? Well, at least its been New Year’s Day in the British Empire and former colonies since 1752, but I digress…

Then we have the other nine federal holidays (one more aside, why wouldn’t we have 12 federal holidays in twelve months, instead of 10 federal holidays in 8 months…) What was I saying? Oh, right, our wonderful other nine federal holidays:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when we celebrate the Civil Rights’ Movement and its leader, even while limiting black suffrage through voter ID laws, George Washington’s Birthday, which isn’t even on his birthday, Memorial Day which most people can’t distinguish from Veterans Day, Independence Day, which isn’t even the day that the Second Continental Congress voted for independence, or signed the Declaration of Independence, our beloved Labor Day that we celebrate even while spreading “Right to Work” anti-union legislation across the country, Columbus Day to honor an Italian who worked for the Spanish to discover the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and Cuba and then proceeded to rape, pillage, enslave, and murder. Great guys, so proud to celebrate a guy who has nothing to do with American history, or if we want to extend his legacy to the United States, I suppose we’re celebrating the genocide of the Native American peoples? In November, we celebrate Veterans Day Part II. Actually, in all seriousness, Veterans Day honors the living veterans and was specifically established on November 11th to replace Armistice Day which ended World War I, whereas Memorial Day was established as a Civil War holiday to honor deceased soldiers. Both holidays are worthy, but I wonder what it says about us as a country that we have two federal holidays about war, why not celebrate December 10th which is recognized internationally as Human Rights Day? Finally, we have the eighth and ninth federal holidays: Thanksgiving Day which celebrates neither the first Thanksgiving (the first actual feast of Thanksgiving in what was to become the United States occurred on April 20, 1598, in the area of present-day El Paso, Texas, when Juan de Oñate offered a feast of thanksgiving for the bountiful food and water that saved his expedition), nor is it the first English colony, that would be Virginia, but for some reason we celebrate the second English colony of Plimouth [sic] and the goodwill of the New England Native Americans, who were then repaid by the stealing of their lands and even enslavement and deportation after King Phillip’s War. And then there’s the final federal holiday of the year, when the country that ratified the First Amendment barring the establishment of any state religion, celebrates the second most important holiday in the Christian religion. But, hey, that’s just my take on the 10 federal holidays of the United States.

~~~

Today is one of those federal holidays. Let’s not lose sight of our history as we water-down the celebration the US labor movement and minimize the history of unions in America. After all, we don’t celebrate Cesar Chavez on Martin Luther King Day, and we don’t celebrate UPS drivers on Veterans Day, nor do we celebrate Moses, Kristna, Buddha, or Mohammed on Christmas Day, so why have we taken Labor Day away from the unions?

Unions are important to the long-term health of the American economy and those who would say otherwise are lining their pockets with disproportionate income. Those would include not just the backers of Right to Work legislation, and the reduction of Capital Gains Taxes, etc., etc., but also the bloated compensation receiving CEOs.

The famous or infamous (depending on your political perspective) Dodd-Frank Act requires businesses to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay in their annual proxies. 2018 was the first year that this provision came into force, so what have we learned?

For example, Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis was awarded almost $31.3 million in 2017. Meanwhile, the median worker at the company earned $6,271. The ratio? 4,987 to 1.

For comparison, At Berkshire Hathaway, the pay ratio is roughly 2 to 1. CEO Warren Buffett makes $100,000. The median worker at his company makes $53,510. That’s right, one of the two richest Americans, Warren Buffet, has a compensation ratio of 2-1 to the average employee.

Now, some may argue with me by talking about how well the stock market is doing, but remember, blue-collar workers do not invest in the stock market, except through their retirement 401Ks, so the day-to-day successes of the financial markets do not trickle down to the workers but do benefit the white-collar workers who are more likely to have stock options as part of their compensation packages.

Why does this matter? What does this have to do with unions and Labor Day? Well, in 2016, in terms of raw numbers, there were 14.6 million members in the U.S., down from 17.7 million in 1983. Statistically, union workers average 10-30% higher pay than non-union in the United States after controlling for individual, job, and labor market characteristics. Hence, for example, government jobs are pretty good, right? And, unsurprisingly 35.3% of government employees are unionized, coincidence? Meanwhile, while only 6.7% of private-sector employees are unionized.

Now, if you don’t mind me geeking out a bit, consider these two other pieces of fun facts:

Percentage-wise, 10.7% of American workers belonged to a union in 2016, compared to 20.1% in 1983. And, if you take government employees out of the picture, the current union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7% — levels not seen since 1932. You know, the time of the Great Depression?

Income disparity, deficit-spending by the government, and the static wages of the average American-worker (adjusted for inflation) are all related to the decline of union power in the United States. And that decline is intentional. I have mentioned these so-called Right to Work states. The argument goes that workers should be able to choose whether they belong to a union or not; of course, one could argue that they chose to belong to a union when they chose their profession, right? I mean, when I join the army, I know I’ll have to do physicals. When I join air-traffic controlling, I know I have to take drug tests, etc., etc.

But back to R-T-W; the more appropriate legislation would pass a Hyde Amendment for unions to limit political spending of individual dues to the union, not to block the union dues themselves. The R-T-W is about union-busting, not the rights of workers or free speech.

And Labor Day? Labor Day is a holiday to celebrate the history of the unions in this country, the obstacles that unions and their blue-collar workers had to overcome, and the benefits that almost all American workers take for granted these days: the 8 hour work day, not 12 or 14; the five day work week, not 6 or 7; the prevention of child labor; and the right to collectively bargain for fair wages and benefits.

Honor our Veterans on Veterans Day, honor our Civil Rights leaders on MLK, honor our Founding Fathers on Washington’s birthday and the 4th of July, and honor labor unions on Labor Day.

~~~

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m your Babbling and sometimes blasphemous Professor,

Happy Labor Day everyone!

~~~

 

References, Links, and Resources

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day

https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

https://books.google.com/books?id=bIFIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA443#v=onepage&q&f=false

https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/22/news/economy/ceo-pay-afl-cio/index.html

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=TUD

Brett Kavanagh

Brett Kavanagh: The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world!

Yup, if you read moderate to left-leaning publications and blogs, you’ve probably heard that it’s the end of times for the US Supreme Court. Oh, the other hand, conservative-leaning sources warn of and are already complaining about Democratic lawmakers pulling out all kinds of tricks… really? Because McConnell and the Republican-led Senate treated Merrick Garland and Barrack Obama fairly?

Please… I’m not sure how many so-called “tricks” there are anyway. This confirmation has always, since the moment Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, been about John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly… it has never been about fair play or judicial qualifications. If it were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Brett Kavanagh is a qualified as any member of the Supreme Court has been.

Kavanagh graduated from Yale Law School, served three clerkships, and been a Federal judge for 12 years. And those clerkships? One of them was with the very same Justice Anthony Kennedy that Democrats are bemoaning for retiring.

In fact, on June 1, 2006, Kavanagh was sworn in as a member of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It seems to me that Kavanagh has the blessing of the very man celebrated for his decisions in gay rights cases and other 5-4 decisions.

Kennedy

But, at the same time, I think it’s also important to put Anthony Kennedy into historical perspective as we evaluate his potential successor. Yes, Kennedy voted with the majority in two cases quite dear to Democrats: Boumediene v. Bush and Obergefell v. Hodges. I dare say that Kennedy voted to maintain abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey too, though with increased limits. But Kennedy is no darling of causes liberal after all: Kennedy voted with the conservative on the Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, District of Columbia v. Heller, and Kansas v. Marsh.

Judge Kavanagh

In terms of Kavanagh’s own judicial decisions, supporters and critics alike point to Garza v Hargan and have declared – Kavanagh’s going to ban abortion! Personally, however, I know that I would not have wanted to make that decision; it’s not the open and shut case that many seem to think.

Breaking new: Kavanagh has been pro-business, critical of environmental regulation, and a supporter of Christian religious rights… wow… its almost like he’s a conservative appointee? And yet, judges are not susceptible to demands of lobbyists and the whims of voters; twice Kavanagh sided with the government in cases involving the Affordable Care Act. In another case, he errored on religious latitude in Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Religion

Which brings us to Kavanagh’s religious affiliation and its role in judicial decision-making. Yes, it is worth discussing Kavanagh’s religion to a limited degree. Kavanagh is Roman Catholic and, as such, will maintain the Catholic majority of the US Supreme Court. Having said that, however, what does that even mean? The Catholic majority has not voted en bloc: the conservative Catholics have voted to support the death penalty, and the liberal Catholics have supported abortion-rights, so it seems to me that Kavanagh’s political ideology is more influential than his religion. If you do want to discuss his Catholicity more, it is worth noting that he is a volunteer tutor at Washington Jesuit Academy; the fact that Kavanagh volunteers his time, and with Jesuits, speaks more to me that his Mass attendance.

Mitch McConnell, Merrick Garland, Justin Kennedy, and Donald Trump

Politically, there is a lot that sticks about recent nominations to the US Supreme Court. From the refusal to call for a vote on Merrick Garland, to the elimination of the filibuster rule to favor Neil Gorsuch, McConnell personifies the hypocrisy and ‘Swamp’ of Washington, DC. But that’s not Kavanagh’s fault; he played the game and worked his way up to be in consideration for a nomination, just as liberal lawyers and judges have done as well.

Should we mention the end of the apolitical court and Bush v. Gore? Kennedy voted with the supposed States’ Rights conservatives to assert Federal authority over the Florida ballot counting at the same time that the pro-Federal Democrats on the Court voted to support States’ Rights. The veil of judicial independence had finally been lifted.

Even worse, the recent revelations about family connections between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump are disappointing, nauseating, and potentially unethical. But that has nothing to do with Brett Kavanagh.

I think we owe it to Brett Kavanagh, and more importantly to ourselves, to judge Kavanagh with the Golden Rule, not by McConnell’s Rules.

Which brings me to my second to last points: the art of predicting SCOTUS voting.

Nominations to the US Supreme Court

When I think about the history of Supreme Court nominations, I think of Harriet Myers; I think we can all agree Kavanagh is more qualified and his nomination (Kennedy-Trump connections aside) less nepotistic than a president nominating a member of his staff.

If you want qualified, has there ever been a more qualified nominee than Judge Robert Bork? Yet being qualified wasn’t the issue, it was his well-documented history of judicial decisions. As a result, presidents of both parties have nominated younger, less documented judges ever since; so, it would be hypocritical to criticize Kavanagh for his judicially-speaking nascent age of 53.

But most of all, when I think about nominations to the US Supreme Court, I think of Earl Warren. Nominated by Republican US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren, when lifted from the confinement of political accountability, Warren became the most liberal Chief Justice in history. I also think of Sandra Day O’Connor and how disappointed Reagan and the conservatives were with her voting record… but more recently, I think of the make-up nomination to Judge Bork, Douglas Ginsburg. Can you believe we almost had a member of the Supreme Court who smoked marijuana?!!?! Thank goodness, Ginsburg withdrew his nomination… after all, could you imagine two Ginsburgs on the same Court? So, President Ronald Reagan settled on a Circuit Judge with exactly 12 years of experience to be his reliable conservative. That Associate Justice, of course, was Anthony Kennedy.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Finally, there is the nature of the Court and the leadership style of Chief Justice John Roberts. Supreme Court Justices do not make isolated decisions in a vacuum. The Nine meet privately and reflect upon each case, circulating draft decisions for discussion. Roberts, in particular even among other Chief Justices, is acutely aware of the partisan poison in American and has worked hard to build 7+, 8+, and even unanimous decisions. Look no further than Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. In the room of consensus, Kavanagh is just one voice. Yes, he is a conservative voice, but the deliberative and congenial nature of the Court lends itself to being caretakers of the Constitution, not Lone Ranger Constitutional cowboys.

Conclusion

Brett Kavanagh has said the right things. In 2006, Kavanagh told the US Senate, “I firmly disagree with the notion that there are Republican judges and [Democratic] judges,” he said. “There is one kind of judge. There is an independent judge under our Constitution.”

Like Roberts, Kavanaugh seems to give broad consideration to executive authority and unitary executive theory; yet Kavanagh has also worked for the Independent Council’s Office and wrote sections of the Starr Report that criticized President Bill Clinton and, ultimately, was used as an instrument to impeach Clinton.

So, who is the real Brett Kavanagh? I think we’ll have to wait until he’s actually been confirmed and begins to make his mark. Ultimately, we won’t really know until he’s been on the court for 30 years like his old boss, Anthony Kennedy.

Persistance, Conviction, Bravery, and Compassion

You know, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope.We can look at those who have gone before, those who had endured the struggle, and persevered. I look, personally, to heroes like Judy Shepherd. The mother of Matthew Shepherd who has never given up.

  • The Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, introduced on April 3, 2001, by Rep. John Conyers and was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance in the committee.
  • It was reintroduced by Rep. Conyers in the 108th and 109th congresses (on April 22, 2004, and May 26, 2005, respectively). It failed to advance out of committee.
  • In the Senate, similar legislation was introduced by Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R–OR) as an amendment to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (S. 2400) on June 14, 2004. Though the amendment passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 65–33, it was later removed by conference committee.
  • The bill was introduced for the fourth time into the House on March 30, 2007, again by Conyers.
  • The bill passed the subcommittee by voice vote and the full House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20–14. The bill then proceeded to the full House, where it was passed on May 3, 2007, with a vote of 237–180 with Representative Barney Frank, one of two openly gay members of the House at the time, presiding.
  • The bill then proceeded to the U.S. Senate, where it was introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Gordon Smith on April 12, 2007, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • The bill died when it failed to advance out of committee.
  • On July 11, 2007, Kennedy attempted to introduce the bill again as an amendment to the Senate Defense Reauthorization bill (H.R. 1585). The Senate hate crime amendment had 44 cosponsors, including four Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ultimately dropped the amendment because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and Bush.
  • For the 5th time, Conyers introduced the bill into the House on April 2, 2009.
  • The bill was immediately referred to the full Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of 15–12 on April 23, 2009.
  • The bill passed the House on April 29, 2009, by a vote of 249–175, with 231 Democrats and 18 Republicans supporting. And on October 8, 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was rolled into the conference report on Defense Authorization for fiscal year 2010. The vote was 281–146, with support from 237 Democrats and 44 Republicans.
  • Back in the Senate, the bill had again introduced by Kennedy on April 28, 2009. The Senate version of the bill had 45 cosponsors as of July 8, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S. 1390 by a 63–28 cloture vote on July 15, 2009.

READY FOR THIS:

  • At the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (an opponent of the Matthew Shepard Act), an amendment was added to the Senate version of the hate crimes legislation that would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty for hate crime murders, though the amendment was later removed in conference with the House.
  • The bill passed the Senate when the Defense bill passed on July 23, 2009. As originally passed, the House version of the defense bill did not include the hate crimes legislation, requiring the difference to be worked out in a Conference committee. On October 7, 2009, the Conference committee published the final version of the bill, which included the hate crimes amendment; the conference report was then passed by the House on October 8, 2009. On October 22, 2009, following a 64–35 cloture vote, the conference report was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68–29.
  • The bill was signed into law on the afternoon of October 28, 2009, by President Barack Obama.

Persistence. Judy Shepherd, John Conyers, Ted Kennedy, Gordon Smith. Persistence.~~~And how about, bravery and conviction too? We never know how strong we are to our convictions until those convictions are tested, right? Like Judy Shepherd an opponent to the death penalty, who stuck by that conviction, and demanded life sentences for her son’s murderers.And conscience objectors, like Desmond Doss, now immortalized in (2016) Hacksaw Ridge. And Guy LaPointe too…

~~~On this day, July 2, 1948, Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. was born in Dayton, Ohio. LaPointe (July 2, 1948 – June 2, 1969) was a medic in the United States Army. Patrolling Hill 376 in Quảng Tín Province, his unit came under heavy fire from entrenched enemy forces and took several casualties. LaPointe, a conscientious objector, ran through heavy fire to reach two wounded men. He treated the soldiers and shielded them with his body, even after being twice wounded, until an enemy grenade killed all three men. LaPointe was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.~~~And then, there are the feel-good stories of compassion: On this day, July 2, 2016, Bono invited Adam Bevell onto the stage to jam with U2 during their U2 360 tour concert in Nashville, Tennessee. Adam Bevell’s brother-in-law had sketched out the small sign for him right there in the stadium and Adam held it over his head for the entire concert “BLIND GUITAR PLAYER. Bring me up.” at the end of the concert Adam’s wish was granted. The crowd hoisted him up on stage at the band’s request and Bono took his hand to lead him over to a guitar.” The guitar was strapped onto him and Adam chose to play his and his wife’s wedding song, “All I Want Is You,” while Bono sang along. Bono’s compassion for Adam brought out by Adam’s brother-n-law’s compassion for Adam as well.

~~~Persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion…On this day, July 2, 2016, a man died who exemplified all those attributes and more.On July 2, 2016, Elie Wiesel אליעזר ויזל‎ died in New York, New York. Wiesel was a writer, professor, and political activist. He was the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Wiesel was involved with Jewish causes, and helped establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In his political activities, he also campaigned for victims of oppression in places like South Africa, Nicaragua, and Sudan. He was outspoken against the Darfur Genocide and silence surrounding the silence surrounding the Armenian and Darfur genocides.

Weisel once said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Yes, we must take sides. Sides for the Medicare recipients who lost dental and vision today because KY Gov Matt Bevin didn’t get his way….

We must take sides, when innocent children are separated from their parents, and caged in the name of law enforcement.We must take sides when our Muslim sisters and brothers are banned from entry to the United States because of their nation-of-origin.

Yes, yes, we must take sides again White Supremacists who stage rallies in Portland and Charlottesville, and tie men to the back of trucks and drag them through Jasper, Texas.

We must take sides when a 21-year-old college student is beaten and left to die, simply because he loved differently from Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

Yes, The L.A. Times called Elie Wiesel “the most important Jew in America” and, in 1986, the Norwegian Nobel Committee called Wiesel a “messenger to mankind” when it awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize.Guy Lapointe was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

~~~The rest of us? Who knows whether we’ll ever get any awards, accolades, or recognition. Heck, we might actually get arrested instead of getting awards. But what would we lose if we didn’t try? We might lose a bit of ourselves…Yes, looking back at history can contextualize our current events, and it can also restore hope. And perhaps reinvigorate our persistence, bravery, conviction, and compassion.

Hope: Looking Back at June 2018

The Supreme Court:

  • Masterpiece Cake v CCRC
  • National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra
  • Trump v. Hawaii

Trump, Canada, and North Korea:

  • The 44th G7 summit was held on 8–9 June 2018, in Quebec, Canada… Trump feuds with the other 6 members, and suggests Russia should be let back into the G8/G7.
  • In fact, the summit was dubbed the “G6+1” by the Government of France and political commentators. This resulted from the United States withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and from the Paris Agreement, American tariffs, and trade-related disputes between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau…

Trump-Kim Summit:

  • Trump and Kim signed a joint declaration at a summit in Singapore on June 12 and pledged to work toward peace and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. “We’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” and called his meeting with Kim “honest, direct and productive.”
  • Then, on June 21st, satellite images show the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center upgrading its nuclear facilities. That’s less than two weeks after Trump boasted of a diplomatic breakthrough with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program after decades of hostility.

Immigration News:

  • June 15: For the first time, the Department of Homeland Security says how many children have been separated during the zero-tolerance initiative: Nearly 2,000 children from April 19 to May 31.
  • June 18: Nielsen says the administration “will not apologize” for separating families. “We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she says. “This administration has a simple message — If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”
  • June 19: Iowa’s GOP governor calls the separation of immigrant families “horrific” and says the government shouldn’t treat children as “pawns.”
  • Also, Methodists sign a formal denominational complaint against AG Jeff Sessions for his role in causing the separation of families.
  • Later, Maryland’s GOP governor recalls his national guard troops from the border.
  • June 20: Facing a national outcry, and after blaming Democrats in Congress (who control neither the Senate nor the Houses), Obama/Bush/and Clinton, as well as saying it was a policy he could not reverse, Trump signs an executive order designed to keep migrant families together at the U.S.-Mexico border, abandoning his earlier claim that the crisis was caused by an iron-clad law
  • And, of course, on June 21st, The First Lady wears a jacket making it clear she really doesn’t care; about what we’re not too sure.

Russia? How about some Russia news:

  • Later, Trump announces summit with Putin and reminds us all that Russia says it did not interfere in the 2016 Election…
  • Perhaps the highlight of the Russia probe this month was when Jim Jordan (OH-4) called Rod Rosenstein a Democrat. He’s not. And it shouldn’t matter regardless.

But The Biggest News:

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement.

  • Citing his so-called swing vote, moderates and liberals have suggested same-sex marriage, abortion, and other issues are endangered.
  • However, Kennedy voted with the conservative majority in Bush v Gore, and the travel ban, so he’s hardly the Saint of Liberalism.
  • In fact, the court has only taken away rights once that it had recognized. The right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments.

~~~

On this day, June 30, 1934, the Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler’s violent purge of his political rivals, occurred in Germany.

Operation Hummingbird eliminated Gregor Strasser and his leftist wing of the Nazi Party, as well as prominent German conservatives including former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and Gustav Ritter von Kahr as well as Hitler’s own supporters when he eliminated the Brownshirts (SA) and its leader, Ernst Röhm.

~~~

On this day, too, nine years later, on June 30, 1943, the Częstochowa Uprising was ended with additional 500 Jews burned alive or buried beneath the rubble. Another 3,900 Jews were captured and put to work in the labor camps of Apparatebau, Warthewerk, and Eisenhütte. A random selection of 400 people were shot and, in December that year, 1200 prisoners were transported to Germany. The men were sent to Buchenwald, the women to Dachau… all perished.

~~~

Truly dark days on this day in history, and the history of June… But there is hope, amid struggle as well…

~~~

On this day, June 30, 2001, as the deadline of the international body overseeing decommissioning paramilitary (terrorist) weapons  approached, David Trimble threatened to resign as First Minister if the deadline was not met. The next day, July 1, 2001, David Trimble resigned as Northern Ireland First Minister.

~~~

In a shout-out to my Rhode Islander listeners:

On this day, June 30, 1983, Vinny Pazienza (December 16, 1962) defeated Keith McCoy in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was The Paz’ second career win; the bout was called in the 3rd Round by KO. His career total is 50-10, with 30 KO. Pazienza held world titles at lightweight and light middleweight; Bleed for This (2016) is based on his comeback from a spinal injury.

But good things happen too:

And, on this day, June 30, 2007, Peter Rometti sang the National Anthem at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, during Disability Awareness Day. Rometti had autism and halfway through, he started to struggle… stammering, laughing nervously, and losing some of the words. 38,000 Red Sox fans responded and carried Rometti through the remainder of the Star-Spangled Banner.

~~~

The United States has weathered the disenfranchisement of women, the attacks on Native Americans, the enslavement of West Africans, the internment of Japanese Americans, and discrimination against immigrants and gay human beings before.

For every John Chivington, Roger Taney, George Wallace; we have many more Sojoioner Truths, Frederick Douglasses, Elizabeth Katy Stantons, Susan B Anthonys, Fred Korematsu and Yuri Kochiyama.

We have lost Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard; we have lost Trevonn Martin, Freddie Gray, Stephan Clark and just this month Antwon Rose too.

~~~

“Yes, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

And, yes, We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter… because [we’ve] been to the mountaintop [already]…

We’ve seen John Adams defend the crew of the Amistad… who can tell me the name of the plaintiff in that case?

We’ve seen Teddy Roosevelt denounce the San Francisco segregation of Chinese children,

Who can tell me the name of that Mayor of SanFran?

Who can tell me the name of the judge who found Susan B Anthony guilty of voting?

Tell me, please, what was the name of the bus driver who ordered 2nd Lt Jackie Robinson to move his seat on the bus, or the driver who told Rosa Parks to move?

We can bury the Andrew Jacksons in the annals of white privilege and arrogance; while raising up Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges, and Leroy Collins.

This country has weathered the Alien & Sedition Acts, we will survive Russian interference and recalcitrance of our own politicians to find the truth; the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese-Internment, we will survive the current administration’s border policy and travel bans.

That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt. That’s not to say that there won’t be lasting pain and consequences for these immoral decisions.

I dare say more people know the name Barack Obama, than George Wallace.

~~~

“And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.” Its not about our personal comfort, its about what side of history do we want to be on, do we want to look back with regret that we didn’t stand up to bigotry and vile verbal rhetoric?

[I’m not perfect, not at all, but I know God is with me.] “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. [I may never see the Lion lay down with the Lamb, but]…  I’ve seen the Promised Land [in glimpses here and there, in the faces of our children]. I may not get there with you. [you might not get there either]. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, [we] will get to the Promised Land!”

~~~

We’re better than the Alien and Sedition Acts, we’re better than the Know-Nothings; we’re better than Jim Crowe and McCarthyism… Every time we have been challenged from our believe in this New Jerusalem, every time we have been knocked down like the Second Temple itself, we have stood up taller, and held our hands out to more people, bringing those huddled masses yearning to be free. Amen, we will rise, we will rise. This is our country and we will make it better, with more hope, and more love, for more people and stare down the voices of fear and xenophobia… 12 score and two years ago, our Founding Fathers set forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all white male landowners were are created equal… but we didn’t stop there, we rose higher, we stood taller and recognized that landowner or not, free or slave, male or female, we are all created equal.

~~~

Now we are engaged in a great civil [debate], testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated to protecting the freedom and liberty of people we might not like, who might look differently than us, that might pray differently than us, we are being tested to see how can long endure. We meet daily on a great battle-field of that war: social media, partisan news, blind following of our ideological politicians.

We have to dedicate a portion of that battlefield, as an oasis of peace, a final resting place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live in harmony. Amen, tt is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. [But it is a lot harder to do than to say.]

But, in a larger sense, we cannot stop. Think of those who have gone before, who struggled here, before us. The world will little note, nor long remember what I say here on podcasts or social media, but the world can never forget what we have done together already as a nation. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which our forebearers fought for already and have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored aliens among us, those too who love differently and pray differently. We must take increased devotion to that cause for which others gave the last full measure of their devotion—that we here highly resolve that the women, Native Americans, West Africans, Catholics immigrants, Japanese-Americans, African-Americans and Gay Americans shall not have struggled and died in vain

—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Religion v Speech ~ June 4th

Freedom of Religion versus Freedom of Speech

The tyranny of the Majority versus The Tyranny of the Minority

On this day, June 4, 1738, George III (June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820) was born in Norfolk House, St. James’s Square, London, England, Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1791, George begrudgingly assented to the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The Act relieved Roman Catholics of certain political, educational, and economic disabilities. It admitted Catholics to the practice of law, permitted the legal practice of Catholicism, and the existence of Catholic schools. (On the other hand, there were continued restrictions as well: chapels, schools, officiating priests, and school teachers had to be registered with the government. Assemblies with locked doors, as well as steeples and bells to chapels, were forbidden. Catholic priests could not wear clerical robes or offer Mass in the open air; Protestant children could not be admitted to Catholic schools. Monastic orders and endowments for Catholic schools and colleges were prohibited.)

The Tory Leader, William Pitt the Younger, as well as the rival Whig Leader, Charles James Fox, had pledged full Catholic Emancipation. Amazingly, however, King George III argued that full freedom for Catholics would be a violation of his coronation oath.

It wasn’t until 1766 that true Catholic Emancipation did not occur until the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. To overcome the vehement opposition of both the House of Lords and King George IV, the Duke of Wellington worked tirelessly to ensure passage in the House of Lords and threatened to resign as Prime Minister if the King did not give Royal Assent.

~~~

On June 4, 1870, Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad was born. Hesselblad worked tirelessly at inter-religious dialogue, and against racism. During World War II – and after – she performed many charitable works on behalf of the poor and those that suffered due to racial laws and promoted peace between Christians and non-Christians. The war also saw her save the lives of Jewish people who would have otherwise have perished in the Holocaust had it not been for her direct intervention. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000, and Pope Francis approved her canonization in late 2015. Hesselblad is also recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations due to her efforts in World War II saving the lives of Jewish people during the Holocaust.

~~~

On this day, June 4, 1989, the Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred in response to the pro-democracy demonstrations. At the heart of these demonstrations was the lack of freedom in China… no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and -certainly on June 4th– no freedom of assembly or petition of grievances.

~~~

And today, June 4, 2018, the US Supreme Court announced its decision in Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have to write that decision. I don’t think it’s as simple as either of the two sides think that it is. I think the decision was basically a loud statement of shut up go to your corners and act like adults

As my friend David Stacy said, its perhaps “one of the most intelligent decisions they’ve written in some time… What I think is so brilliant about it is that it’s allowing for a better conversation. SCOTUS set the standard for how government officials treat religious individuals and cases of religious expression outside of the clergy. The fallout will be interesting, for sure.”

I sure hope Dave is correct. but I am nervous about the fact that there were three different concurring opinions. That kind of tells me that they couldn’t agree among themselves, and that’s why they made a narrow decision, not for their altruistic and brilliant reasons that David is hoping for.

Where is that line between religion and speech?

  • Would we expect a Muslim cakemaker to put an image of the Prophet Mohammed on a cake? Would a Jewish cakemaker have to create a cake with a swastika on it? Would a Catholic cakemaker have to make a cake with the image of a pope or priest as a pedophile or with condoms?
  • On the other hand, would we be comfortable with a cakemaker denying to make a cake for a mixed-race wedding? Or a cake for a marriage between persons of obvious age discrepancy?

What right does a service provider have to limit their services? What right does society have to force services from unwilling service providers? I sure don’t know…

I also think, but I’m not sure how this would be worded in a judicial decision, that there is an issue of access. I’ve heard this issue come up in abortion/women’s reproduction cases. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Court held that if legislation is crafted in such a way that the access to abortion clinics is essentially eliminated, then that is unconstitutional. So, to a degree, as long as there are fair alternatives to Masterpiece Cake, then the Court perhaps should lean toward protecting the religious freedom of the business owner, however, if there was not a fair alternative, then the Court ought to lean toward protecting the rights of the customer.

~~~

Regardless, and as I said to David Stacy earlier today is that, personally, I’m glad I didn’t have to write that decision. I also don’t think it’s as simple as it might seem prima facie. Personally, I think the decision was basically a loud statement of shut up go to your corners and act like adults…