PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Three Decades of Covering the Court

Radar magazine has a great interview this week with Linda Greenhouse, who recently retired after 30 years of covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times.

It's a long, wide-ranging interview, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing, but here's one of the best bits:  Greenhouse talking about the Court's power to make the world better — particularly in terms of advancing gay rights. She refers here to the Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas to strike down a law that essentially made it a crime to be gay.

I talk about gay rights quite a lot as a marker of how much better off we are. I believe that very strongly. I think that was probably the most gripping scene I ever witnessed at the Court—when Kennedy read the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Usually, when you go up to the Court, you don't know what's coming that day. But it was the last day of the term, and Lawrence was the last undecided case. So everybody knew, and the Court was filled with gay and lesbian members of the Supreme Court bar. When Kennedy got to where he said Bowers v. Hardwick was wrong when it was decided, it's wrong today, and we hereby overrule it, all these lawyers in the bar section started crying. It was just a wonderful scene. It was great.

Judith Schaeffer, our former legal director, wrote a great reflection on Lawrence v. Texas this past June, on the five-year anniversary of the landmark decision. Read it here.

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Marriage in Connecticut!

Break out the chilled champagne!

As you may have already heard, the Connecticut State Supreme Court today ruled that the state constitution prohibits marriage discrimination.  That means that *gasp* same-sex couples will be treated like everyone else!

It is, of course, worth pointing out one really obvious fact that the right wing will no doubt conveniently forget.

The ruling does not affect church's decisions about which marriages to perform and which not to.

Please, repeat that statement whenever you hear someone talking about how this decision "infringes on religious liberty."  (It doesn't.)  Churches will always have final say over their own ceremonies.

You can read more about the myths surrounding this decision here.

Now where's that champagne?

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Marriage Ban Update

If the stock market didn't give you enough heartburn today, check in on Dana Goldstein's rundown of the fight to stop discriminatory anti-marriage amendments.  Many of these amendments will be close in the end, so take this as another reminder to get out and vote on Election Day, no matter what the Dow is doing by November.

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McCain Not Doing Obama Any Favors

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza outlines John McCain’s latest kinda-sorta-maybe change in tactics (we can’t say “strategy” because at this point it’s unclear whether McCain ever had one.)  Obama partisans are most likely very happy with the McCain campaign’s performance so far, but they might want to be careful what they wish for.

The media narrative that McCain has run a messy, unfocused, piecemeal campaign may be true, but it may also come back to haunt the same progressive activists who have been working to push it.  There’s no doubt that if Obama wins on November 4, the right wing attacks will come twice as hard on November 5.  Now, even if Obama gets the blowout win that some analysts are projecting, the right will be able to point to McCain’s ineptitude as evidence that Obama didn’t really win – he just stood there while McCain lost!  A stronger (and more socially conservative) candidate, they’ll argue, could have defeated Obama, so even an overwhelming win in the Electoral College doesn’t constitute a mandate.
 
The facts may paint a very different story, especially given the potential for big progressive gains in Congress, but facts alone have never stopped the right before.
 
Make no mistake; an Obama victory won’t spell the end of the fringe-conservative movement.  Progressives need to be ready to fight hard on day one to create a media narrative favorable to actually enacting real progressive policy.

 

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Rolling Stone on the Makebelieve Maverick

If you’re taking “the great schlep” or are just in conversation with friends and family members about the coming election, there’s a very revealing profile of Sen. John McCain in the current Rolling Stone: read it here.

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Unpleasant Business and the First Amendment

Glen Greenwald has a thoughtful and interesting reaction to the conviction of a man who might generously be called a “smut purveyor.”  After being found guilty of distributing pornography, the defendent, Paul Little, was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison.  It probably doesn’t hurt to point out that the line between obscenity and art isn’t always easy to find (paging Robert Mapplethorpe!) but Greenwald takes a very different tact.  Why is it illegal to depict fake torture on film but legal to perpetrate real torture in Abu Ghraib?

So, to recap, in the Land of the Free: if you're an adult who produces a film using other consenting adults, for the entertainment of still other consenting adults, which merely depicts fictional acts of humiliation and degradation, the DOJ will prosecute you and send you to prison for years. The claim that no real pain was inflicted will be rejected; mere humiliation is enough to make you a criminal. But if government officials actually subject helpless detainees in their custody to extreme mental abuse, degradation, humiliation and even mock executions long considered "torture" in the entire civilized world, the DOJ will argue that they have acted with perfect legality and, just to be sure, Congress will hand them retroactive immunity for their conduct. That's how we prioritize criminality and arrange our value system.

Of course, consistency has never been one of the Bush administration’s strong suits.  And neither has adherence to the Constitution.

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Redefining Dishonorable

It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming, but the ugliness is still shocking.  McCain strategists, right-wing bloggers, and their Fox TV propaganda arm have decided that the only way to turn around the seriously slumping numbers for the McCain-Palin ticket is to knock aside discussion of the nation’s economic problems and focus on trying to destroy Barack Obama with charges that would make the Swift boaters blush.  Pitbull Palin is at the forefront, beaming broadly while telling crowds that Obama thinks the nation is so imperfect that he’s willing to pal around with terrorists.

The portrayal by Palin, Sean Hannity, and others of Obama’s relationship to William Ayers is so dishonest, so dishonorable, and so disgusting that it’s hard to imagine where things will go over the next four weeks.  Actually, it’s not so hard -- we can get a pretty good idea, based on the other elements of the new smear campaign: Obama’s criticism of war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan is misrepresented as a disrespectful attack on our troops, and Palin repeats the bogus charge that he voted to “defund” the troops – even though by the Mc-Palin team’s rationale, the exact same thing could be said of McCain’s Senate votes.

Over the past couple of days, news reports have documented people in the GOP ticket’s audiences shouting “kill him” and “treason” – and telling a black cameraman, “sit down, boy.”  If there’s any worry within McPalin’s team about unleashing this kind of ugliness and hatred, there’s no sign of it on the candidates’ smiling faces.  They seem to be fully embracing the savagery of the Bush campaign team’s win-at-all-costs tactics, which took McCain down in 2000.  And McCain, who has tried so hard and for so long to make his name synonymous with honor, has now welcomed the perpetrators of that dishonorable campaign onto this team and demonstrated his willingness to say and do anything to win his final run at the White House.

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Just in Time for Tonight's Debate: McCain Bingo!

McCain BingoJohn McCain and Barack Obama will meet in Nashville tonight for the second presidential debate -- and you know what that means. Debate games! Get your McCain Bingo here, courtesy Dan Vera, a friend of People For.

And as with the first presidential debate and the VP debate, we'll be liveblogging tonight's proceedings. Join us and submit your thoughts during the debate through the commenting feature. 


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LA Times: Roe in the Balance

In case you didn't see, our president, Kathryn Kolbert, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times yesterday:

Some advocates worry that the perennial cries of "Roe is falling" has had the effect of muting such claims.

"What we find scary is that people don't understand what's at stake," said Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way. "In the next four years, one to as many as three Supreme Court justices may step down, and they all will come from the liberal end of the court."

It is absolutely critical that voters understand that the Supreme Court is on the ballot this Election Day.  The kind of judges the next president will nominate to the Court will determine its direction for decades.

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The Constitution Has An Answer!

If you've been watching the magic wall on CNN, you might notice how much the hosts who use it like pointing out situations in which the Electoral College produces a tie.  How, pray tell, would we resolve such an impasse?

Luckily, the Constitution has an answer!

The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

Via Marc Ambinder, Charlie Cook takes a look at how that might play out.

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"Can I Wear My Obama T-Shirt to Vote on Election Day?"

The Root answers the question, "Can I Wear My Obama T-Shirt to Vote on Election Day?"

Short answer: It depends.

Longer answer:

An ominous e-mail has been causing quite a bit of confusion for voters recently. With an urgent warning to recipients, the e-mail claimsthat election officials have the right to turn away any voters wearing campaign paraphernalia to the polls. So what's up? Can you rock that "Obama Mama" T-shirt to cast your vote on Nov. 4?  

In most states, you're in the clear. Wearing campaign paraphernalia—a button, a sticker and, of course, a T-shirt—in support of any candidate is seen as passive electioneering. Some states are more lenient. In Kentucky, Marylandand Florida, election officials most often make no fuss about voter attire. The only thing banned there is the display of excessive campaign garb (i.e. head-to-toe Obama gear) or outright solicitation. Wearing campaign paraphernalia and lingering in the polling station is also a no-no in those states. 

Other states, such as Pennsylvaniaand New York, maintain laws on passive electioneering while remaining lax in enforcement. In New York, for example, refusing to comply with the request of election officials to remove an item is considered a misdemeanor, but arrests have rarely—if ever—been made.  

Not everyone is as laid-back about the issue. In the District of Columbia, strict rules apply. Prior to entering a polling station in the District, everyone is required to remove or cover up any exposed campaign paraphernalia. No exceptions.

Takeaway: Find out from your state's board of elections (find a link to yours here) what's acceptable and what's not.

It's cool to be excited about your candidate, but you don't want your campaign bling (fabulous as it is) to make it harder for you to actually cast a ballot on Election Day.

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Biden on Bork

At the Vice Presidential debate last night, Joe Biden referenced his leadership against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

And it didn't take me long -- it was hard to change, but it didn't take me long, but it took about five years for me to realize that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference.

That's why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.

Biden is entirely correct.  The ideology of a judge matters immensely.  Right wing judges who bring a political agenda to the courts have no business being nominated or confirmed.

Of course, Joe Biden wasn’t alone in leading the fight against Bork.  People For the American Way led the campaign in the public arena, including this ad, narrated by Gregory Peck.

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This Is Why I Ask for a Paper Ballot

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Video: Palin on the Supreme Court

Here's more video from Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric — in which Couric asks her to name Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with and she lapses into confounded silence after naming only one, Roe v. Wade.

I realize that the larger thing we should be concerned about is McCain and what sorts of justices he'd nominate as president — because the next president could potentially name up to three, going by the current justices' ages and chances of retiring.

But it's worth noting (and being kinda horrified by) the fact that Palin — the person who could be, as the media likes to say, "a heartbeat away" from having the power to shape the direction the high court takes for the next 40 years — can't extemporaneously name more than one Supreme Court case she disagrees with.


COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions [than Roe v. Wade] do you disagree with?

PALIN: Well, let's see. There's — of course — in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are — those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know — going through the history of America, there would be others but —

Video/transcript via Ben Smith of The Politico.

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AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka on Racism and Obama

The entirely artificial brouhaha around Gwen Ifill’s book on “Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” is just the latest of the unfathomably complicated intersections of the two issues in this campaign.

Without professing any great insight on the subject, I think it’s worth acknowledging Richard Trumka, a (white) union leader who doesn’t dance around the issue, but takes it head on.  Bravo.
 
 
 
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