Abandonment of Duty

This Court’s one-person, one-vote cases recognize that each person is entitled to an equal say in the election of representatives. It hardly follows from that principle that a person is entitled to have his political party achieve representation commensurate to its share of statewide support. Vote dilution in the one-person, one-vote cases refers to the idea that each vote must carry equal weight. That requirement does not extend to political parties; it does not mean that each party must be influential in proportion to the number of its supporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts

Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.

Justice Elena Kagan

This week’s featured posts are “What I Learned from the Debates” and “Chief Justice Roberts OKs Minority Rule“.

The Weekly Sift’s Facebook page just reached 1,000 likes. If you haven’t liked it yet, think about it.

This week everybody was talking about the Supreme Court

The term ended this week, and as usual the Court saved the toughest cases for the end. I’ve already discussed the gerrymandering case in one of the featured posts. But there was also the census case. Here, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the four liberal judges to slap back the administration’s effort to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Whatever Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross might say, the purpose of a citizenship question has been obvious from the beginning: Intimidate non-citizens out of responding to the census, so that areas with lots of non-citizens will be undercounted. That will mean their states get fewer representatives in Congress and fewer electoral votes. In general, this will raise the (already substantial) structural advantage of rural whites, who tend to vote Republican.

Unfortunately, the fact that Ross and Trump are trying to undermine democracy is not a winning legal argument, because the law setting up the census is written so broadly that they could say openly “We’re trying to undermine democracy” and that would be fine.

What Ross did wrong, though, was to construct a fake reason for the citizenship question and stand by it in court. In general, this is not all that different from what the administration did in the Muslim ban case: Give a bogus explanation and count on the Court to defer to the judgment of the Executive Branch. The problem is, this explanation was so bogus that Chief Justice Roberts was embarrassed to rubber-stamp it. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Stern summarize:

If there could be a one-sentence summary of his majority opinion in the term’s census case—in which the chief joined the court’s liberals to refuse to allow Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census—it would be this: “Go ahead and lie to me, but at least do it with gravitas.” Ross and his crew of Keystone Cops had attempted to add the citizenship question that would depress Hispanic response rates and boost white voting power in future redistricting, using pretextual reasons about which the secretary lied But his goals did not offend John Roberts’ politics; that much is clear from his opinion, which accepts the premise that Ross has the right to do what he did so long as he gives a better reason next time. They offended his sense of dignity and politesse with their sloppiness. Lie better next time. That’s the real holding of this case, and it tells you what you need to know about the chief.

One striking thing is that the four conservative justices all dissented from this opinion. As long as the Trump administration goes through the proper motions, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh really don’t care whether what they’re being told is true or even credible.

We’ll get a good chance to see those four blow with the partisan winds if and when any of the House Democrats’ subpoena cases reaches them. There, the Court really has no business delving into Congress’ reasons for wanting to see what it wants to see. But I’m sure they’ll find a way to forego deference to an equal branch of government when that branch is controlled by Democrats.

and the human rights atrocities on our border

The mistreatment of refugees on our southern border continued to get attention this week. The photo of a father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande was hard to ignore and hard to explain away.

Congress managed to respond, passing a bill to fund the agencies dealing with the immigrants just before leaving for the Fourth of July recess. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill which progressives in the House didn’t like, because it included more money for enforcement as well as humanitarian aid. But House Democrats couldn’t stay together and ended up adopting the Senate bill.

The detention facility at Homestead had the misfortune to be close to the Democratic debates, making it an obvious camp to criticize. For its part, the private for-profit company running the camp put out a defensive press release. Among the “fictions” the company disputes is that “Homestead is a ‘prison-like’ facility.” That’s setting the bar high.

One of my favorite quotes is from Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Same thing here: Even among the people who have sympathy for the migrants showing up from Central America, too few are asking what went wrong to make them refugees in the first place.

Let me recommend an article from 2016, before this became a Trump-centered issue: “How US policy in Honduras set the stage for today’s migration“. Some people ask why this is our problem to deal with. Well, there are reasons. In general, the US has favored the Honduran military over more democratic institutions, and has pushed free-market ideas that have served Honduras’ poor badly. Now, they have little power, little money, and no place to go but here.

The Onion published “Tips for Staying Civil While Debating Child Prisons“, including

  • Consider that we all have different perspectives stemming from things like age, ethnicity, or level of racism.
  • Make sure any protests are peaceful, silent, and completely out of sight of anyone who could actually affect government policy.
  • Avoid painting with a broad brush. Not everyone in favor of zero-tolerance immigration wants to see children in cages—it’s more likely that they just don’t care.

Meanwhile, conservatives exercised their own sense of humor. Kids in cages are so funny!

and the Democratic debates

The other featured post covers them.

and the G-20 meetings in Osaka

Trump spent most of his time chumming with the other members of the Autocrats Club: Putin, Xi, Erdogan, and Mohammed bin Salman, with a side trip to see Kim Jong Un.

Trump warned Putin not to interfere in his re-election, and they both laughed. They also yucked about fake news and getting rid of journalists, which Putin has often done by killing them.

The meeting with Xi restarted the trade talks that fell apart in May.

Mr. Trump promised to hold off on his threat to slap new 25 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports, and he agreed to lift some restrictions on Huawei, the Chinese technology giant at the center of a dispute between the nations. In exchange, he said, China agreed to buy a “tremendous amount” of American food and agricultural products. “We will give them a list of things we want them to buy,” he said.

We’ll see if that amounts to anything or not. The Huawei issue is very disturbing, because the Chinese tech giant either is or isn’t a national security threat. If it isn’t, then imposing the restrictions in the first place was using national security a pretext to get trade concessions. If it is, then relaxing the restrictions to get trade talks restarted makes no sense. Either way, I am left with the impression that Trump just doesn’t take security seriously.

Early indications are that the stock market will have a big rally today because of optimism about US/China trade. I’m not qualified to give investment advice, but that doesn’t always stop me: If there’s some stock you’ve been thinking about selling, this might be a good moment.

Trump and Kim met in the DMZ between the two Koreas on Sunday. Photos were taken, but it’s not clear that anything was accomplished. It’s not clear that any of the three Trump/Kim meetings have accomplished anything.

Ivanka’s presence as a diplomat was its own side issue. My favorite Facebook comment: “Apparently Trump thought it was Bring Your Daughter to the G-20 Day.”

and you also might be interested in …

Dirty tricks have started. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Ari Alexander’s questioning of Kamala Harris’ race.

“Kamala Harris is implying she is descended from American Black Slaves,” Mr. Alexander wrote during the second night of the Democratic debates. “She’s not. She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners. That’s fine. She’s not an American Black. Period.”

Mr. Trump shared the message, asking his more than three million followers, “Is this true? Wow.”

I’m sure this is a tactic you’ll see whenever a Democrat starts to break out of the pack: imply that there is something suspicious or inauthentic about her or him. The insinuation against Harris resembles the baseless claim (pushed by Trump personally) that Barack Obama wasn’t really an American.

Kamala Harris with her great-grandmother.

The facts: Harris’ father came from Jamaica and her mother from India. She grew up in Oakland, where I’m sure that whatever asterisk Alexander or Trump Jr. want to put on her blackness made no difference whatsoever. When Harris said “As the only black person on this stage …” she spoke the literal truth. (Cory Booker had debated the previous night.)

To their credit, Harris’ rival Democrats closed ranks around her. Cory Booker (who perhaps could benefit if his blackness were considered more authentic than Harris’), was having none of it.

. doesn’t have shit to prove.

And Amy Klobuchar tweeted:

These troll-fueled racist attacks on Senator are unacceptable. We are better than this (Russia is not) and stand united against this type of vile behavior.

Trump Jr. has deleted the tweet and his spokesman claims his intent was “misconstrued”. If you’ve ever been targeted with some kind of smear — whether based on your race, sex, class, appearance or some other possible sensitivity — you have undoubtedly run into this tactic before. “Oh, I didn’t mean that.” The onus is always on you to see the attacker’s pure intentions, never on him to see the obvious implications of his words and actions. But let’s be blunt: If Trump Jr. really didn’t know how his tweet would be construed, then he’s a moron.

The current dirty trick on Joe Biden is to imply that he has some mysterious health problem. This is similar to what Trump’s people did to Hillary Clinton. Nothing is too low for them.

and let’s close with something you probably didn’t know

TV Guide claims there’s been a TV show set in every state. Sure, we all knew about Northern Exposure in Alaska and Hawaii Five-O, but what’s the most popular TV show set in Nebraska?

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  • DbDean  On July 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Pony Express, Heartland and the Young Riders are all TV shows set in Nebraska

  • Woody  On July 1, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Most popular show set in NE? I’d go with Winchester brothers Dean and Sam in Supernatural!!!!!

  • TRPChicago  On July 1, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Saturday Cornhuskers football games in the fall. (Stadium sells out every game since 1962.)

  • mary  On July 1, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Re republicans suppression and gerrymandering, here’s a new “gimmick” to hide the communications between those directly involved in drawing up voting district. Expect to se this replicated in other red states. I am referring to newly passed Tx law that makes all communication private that has anything to do with state business. Thus, when the inevitable conversations occur that address boundaries and party, it is now “legally privileged “ in TX.

  • Lois and Dave Strand  On July 2, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Gosh, “thanks” (I guess) for introducing me to the website of conservative “humor.” I need to go wash my eyeballs…..Lois Strand

  • ramseyman  On July 3, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    A word about gerrymandering here in Virginia. It’s been getting closer and closer in recent years. In the last election, everyone assumed Congressman Brat had his hideously gerrymandered district sewn up, but the district finally tumbled to Democrat Abigail Spanberger. And about that 51 to 49 majority in the state legislature, you may recall that one of those 51 seats was a hat draw after a tie vote. With just one more Dem vote, it would have been a 50-50 split in the legislature. I think we’re heading for a blue majority for the foreseeable future, but time will tell.

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