Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Entire Population of Kansas Is About to Lose Its Liberty.

KANSAS CITY, Kan (Reuters) – While still unable to agree on a budget, Kansas lawmakers on Saturday averted a furlough of thousands of non-essential employees by passing a bill defining all employees as essential, officials said.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement posted on his website that he will sign the bill so that state services can continue working uninterrupted.

Kansas averts furloughs for thousands of state employees, Kevin Murphy, Reuters, today

So all state employees in Kansas are essential. Who knew?

I dunno.  Sure sounds to me like big gummint.  Okay, well, I guess in Kansas these days, mid-sized gummint.  But still ….

Scaaaarrrry.

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What the Supreme Court’s refusal today to agree to decide whether to strike down the federal statute that bars corporations from making contributions directly to candidates and political parties might suggest about the outcome of Hobby Lobby

When donors furnish widely distributed support within all applicable base limits, all members of the party or supporters of the cause may benefit, and the leaders of the party or cause may feel particular gratitude. That grati­tude stems from the basic nature of the party system, in which party members join together to further common political beliefs, and citizens can choose to support a party because they share some, most, or all of those beliefs. … To recast such shared interest, standing alone, as an opportunity for quid pro quo corruption would dramatically expand government regulation of the politi­cal process.

– John Roberts, McCutcheon v. FEC, Apr. 2, 2014

My reaction when I read that last: OMG! You mean it’s finally occurred to Roberts and Kennedy that CEOs of publicly-held corporations don’t actually necessarily share the same political views as all those other members of these “associations of citizens” from whom the CEO, er, the corporation, derives its First Amendment speech rights?  (And religious rights, too, although that’s another case, isn’t it?)

Actually, that was a comment I posted to a Slate article last week about McCutcheon that included the above quote from that opinion.  The religious-rights cases I had in mind were, of course, the Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, the for-profit-corporation ACA-contraceptive-mandate cases, which were argued at the court on Mar. 25.

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Mainstream Journalism As Just Another “Ism.” (The fallacy of the belief that the modern mainstream media has actual standards)

(Reuters) – Employers tried the carrot, then a small stick. Now they are turning to bigger cudgels.

For years they encouraged workers to improve their health and productivity with free screenings, discounted gym memberships and gift cards to lose weight. More recently, a small number charged smokers slightly higher premiums to get them to quit.

Results for these plans were lackluster, and healthcare costs continued to soar. So companies are taking advantage of new rules under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul in 2014 to punish smokers and overweight workers.

—  How your company is watching your waistline, Kathleen Kingsbury, Reuters, Nov. 13, 2013

May I suggest that Ms. Kingsbury’s employer, Reuters, use a cudgel to get her and her editor to actually think about whether what they offer their news-media subscribers doesn’t contradict itself within the very same piece?  (Reuters is what was known for a century or so as a newswire service and is now just known as a news service; like the AP and UPI, it was historically, and now still mainly, a news-gathering service that publishes only through major-media outlets that subscribe to its services.  Such as Yahoo News, which is where I read it three weeks ago.  Thus, the reference to “their news-media subscribers.”  Okay, okay, I’m a journalism pedant.  I even know that Reuters is pronounced Royters, not Rooters, and that unlike AP and the old UPI it is a British import.  Thanks, Dad!)

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Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog tweets, during the short break after the first hour of argument in the California Prop 8 case, that …

Breaking: 1st update- #prop8 unlikely to be upheld; either struck down or #scotus won’t decide case. More in 30 mins.
This is the more important of the two gay-marriage cases.  Tomorrow’s argument will be on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but almost no one (best as I can tell), thinks the Court will uphold the constitutionality of that Act.  The real suspense* is in the Prop 8 case.  So ….

UPDATE: Here’s Tom Goldstein’s post-argument report.

SECOND UPDATE: This one’s from Reuters. It seems to me that the Roberts comment quoted in the article is very significant. In a good way.

THIRD (and final, for at least a few hours) UPDATE: Here’s SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston’s take.  He’s my (and many, many others’) go-to guy on all things Supreme. He seems to think that they’ll simply dismiss the Supreme Court case, saying that the petition grant was “improvidently granted,” leaving the Ninth Circuit opinion intact.

That would leave intact the Ninth Circuit ruling–which was that, because California already had been allowing same-sex marriage before Prop. 8 was approved in 2006, in localities that approved it, the state could not suddenly render those marriages null and void.  Doing so would violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause.  And since some gays already were allowed to be married, and their marriages would continue to be recognized by the state, refusing to allow other gays to marry would violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause. That’s the ruling that would remain in effect if the Supreme Court rules that the Prop. 8 petitioners have no legal standing to be a party to the case.  

That now seems more likely to me than the other option that would allow them to avoid deciding on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.  That other option would be to rule that “the petitioners”–the group that earlier asked the Ninth Circuit, and then asked the Supreme Court, to “vacate” the lower-court rulings and uphold the constitutionality of Prop. 8–don’t have “standing” to be a party to the lawsuit, because they would have no injury from a court ruling striking down Prop. 8 that is sufficiently direct and significant to meet the Article III standing requirement.  

If they go the “no standing” route, that would leave intact not the Ninth Circuit ruling based on narrow grounds but instead the lower, trial-court judge’s ruling, which was based on much broader grounds.  The effect would be somewhat, but not entirely the same, whichever of these two options they choose.

As I understand it, if they choose the option that leaves the Ninth Circuit opinion in place, that would mean that localities in California would have the option to allow same-sex marriage but would  not be required to allow it, although all government entities throughout the state would have to recognize any same-sex marriage as legal. If they instead choose the option that vacates the Ninth Circuit opinion and restores the lower, trial-court ruling, by ruling that the petitioners have, and had, no legal standing to appeal from the trial-court ruling either in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or in the Supreme Court, that would mean that, for now, in central California, within the trial-court level federal court district where the case was filed and where the trial-court ruling was issued, Prop. 8 would be invalid and all localities within that court district would be required to allow same-sex marriage.

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*Originally, I used the word “action,” but changed it to “suspense” because, if the Court strikes down DOMA as unconstitutional, that would be big, important action. I really meant “suspense,” because I do think the striking of DOMA is highly likely; not much suspense on that. But tomorrow’s argument will give some hint about whether I’m right.

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