Tag Archives: SCOTUS

Quick Thoughts on HBO’s Confirmation

This past weekend, I had the chance to watch HBO’s Confirmation. It’s a dramatized version of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States. I probably shouldn’t be wading into an issue like this, especially without a fully formulated opinion, but I wanted to put proverbial pen to pad to work out some of the things that came to mind during (and immediately following) my viewing of the film.

The first, and probably most important thing that came to mind was the undue hardship that society places onto the victims of sexual assault. I can’t imagine what it was like for Anita Hill (or her friend and family) to have to experience what she experienced, especially given that she was approached, rather than her seeking out someone to tell her story. This seems wrong. It’s unjust. Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t have to weigh the potential consequences to their lives should they come forward. It shouldn’t be part of the equation — at all. Just the fact that they’ve experienced sexual assault first hand is enough trauma for one lifetime and then to put them through the media circus… that doesn’t sound like justice to me.

Of course, most sexual assaults aren’t escalated to a high-profile nature like that of Thomas/Hill’s. That doesn’t make them any less painful or any less difficult for the victims to come forward in their communities. In fact, some might argue that it’s harder in these kinds of instances because there might not be the kind of support (i.e. skilled lawyers, etc.) for the cases that aren’t high-profile.

The second thing that came to mind was the timing of the confirmation hearing. It took place in the fall of 2011. About six months later, there were the Los Angeles riots. And about two short years after that, the OJ Simpson trial. I’m sure there were other key events that took place (as an elementary school student, I wasn’t really interested in national/world news, mainly whether or not the Blue Jays or the Leafs won). Any of these events taken on their own seem like touchstone moments for a country grappling with race relations, but then to have three like this grouped so closely together…

Some may quibble with my inclusion of the confirmation hearing with the LA riots and the Simpson trial, but to my mind, there’s a thread that links all three. I mean, I can’t know this for sure, but I bet that most people would agree that if Anita Hill were white, Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing may have gone very differently.

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I want to circle back to my point in the beginning. Injustice. It seems that there’s a perversion of justice when someone who has suffered harm has to then consider suffering more harm in the pursuit of justice. That’s not right. Given the structure of the justice system in the US, I don’t know what the solution would be, so that there’s protection for the victim, but that the accused is able to face their accuser. It seems like this is an area ripe for innovation.

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Decision on the Voting Rights Act

More than a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on a case that had implications for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court ruled that the formula from Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional. The decision has certainly enraged liberals and the political left as is clear in Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.

Because of this outrage, I’ve seen some people argue that this decision was good for liberals/democrats because it will ignite those potentially disenfranchised people to vote. From Ross Douthat:

Well, to begin with, voter identification laws do not belong to the same moral or legal universe as Jim Crow. Their public purpose, as a curb to fraud, is potentially legitimate rather than nakedly discriminatory, and their effects are relatively limited. As Roberts’s majority opinion noted, the voter registration gap between whites and blacks in George Wallace’s segregationist Alabama was 50 percentage points.

… But voter ID laws don’t take effect in a vacuum: as they’re debated, passed and contested in court, they shape voter preferences and influence voter enthusiasm in ways that might well outstrip their direct influence on turnout. They inspire registration drives and education efforts; they help activists fund-raise and organize; they raise the specter of past injustices; they reinforce a narrative that their architects are indifferent or hostile to minorities.

W.W. from The Economist finds Douthat’s analysis “quite plausible.” Both articles referenced the same information I talked about yesterday: the missing white voter.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this assessment.

In Wisconsin a couple of years ago, citizens were pretty excited about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Some folks were really upset by Gov. Walker’s actions on collective bargaining. Democrats, Gov. Walker is a Republican, thought that they could seize this opportunity to recall the Governor. There were over 1 million signatures to recall the Governor. It seemed like there was lots of momentum and people engaged in the recall. However, during the recall election of 2012, Gov. Walker won more of the vote than he did in the gubernatorial election of 2010.

There’s another example from this past election: The Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, known as “ObamaCare.” In March 2012, when the Supreme Court heard the arguments for the case, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

This week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health-care overhaul will have huge political ramifications.

Then, in June, when the decision was rendered, there was this from The Weekly Standard:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the principal choice now facing Americans on November 6 will be whether to keep Obamacare or to repeal it.

Republicans and conservatives thought that ObamaCare was going to give them the chance they needed to have a Republican elected President. It’s safe to say that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Not only did Republicans not elect a Republican President, but they also lost seats in the Senate (when they anticipated winning more seats).

Neither of these examples perfectly map onto the VRA decision, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an overreaction in assuming that this decision is going to be a lightning rod for Democrats. I’d say that it’s “too early to tell” how this will affect the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, the one of the only things that can be said about the political implications of the VRA: We’ll see…

When the Wisdom of the Crowd Fails

A couple of weeks ago the  (SCOTUS) ruled that the (otherwise referred to as ) was . This ruling did not come without controversy because, as with most cases brought before the Supreme Court, there were people who disagreed with the ruling.

More to my point though, is that there was controversy because of the lack of agreement amongst the news agencies as to what the ruling was in the first few minutes that it was released. If you like political humor/satire, then you’ll definitely want to check out about the mixup. Interestingly, one of the best on the morning that the decision was released comes from the same website that is being of the decision.

As you’ll have seen if you watched the coverage, read about it, or clicked through to the clip from , CNN was the first agency to report on the decision — but — their reporting was wrong. Immediately after CNN reported the (wrong) decision, those with access to technology began perpetuating the wrong news to their social networks. Shortly after CNN incorrectly reported the news, SCOTUSblog put forth their interpretation and the subsequent major news agencies fell in line reporting the right decision. Even after this happened, CNN and FOX News continued to report the news incorrectly.

This situation brings to light what I see as a potentially major of our ability to connect with hundreds of millions of people in an instant (read: ). As soon as the reports from CNN and FOXNews came out, everyone began telling everyone else the wrong news. This spread quickly. When the right information was thrown into the mix, it became hard for people to know who was right. Were CNN and FOX News right because they had it first? Were SCOTUSblog and other news agencies right because they took the time to read more than the ?

Regardless of who’s right and wrong in this situation, it left people confused and unsure of whom to trust. Different news agencies were telling them different things (about the facts). Now, this happens on a , but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

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I’m beginning to wonder about the and it would appear that I’m not the only one. I came across an interesting article this weekend from called, “.” There were some interesting points made by Leonhardt, particularly as they relate to how some folks have begun to trust the “wisdom of crowds” as showcased by websites like  (an online trading exchange website where people can bet on events in a similar fashion to how people can buy/sell stocks).

Some folks think that the internet can be viewed in the same way (wisdom of the crowd). I’m not sure how I feel about this, especially when a well-respected news agency like CNN that’s been operational for over 30 years can make a mistake like this and set the internet ablaze. I like the last paragraph from Leonhardt:

After several years in which the market was often celebrated as a crystal ball, the Supreme Court ruling was a useful corrective. The prediction-market revolution, like so many others, initially promised more than it could deliver. But it’s not as if the old order was working particularly well.