Supreme Court a notable non-issue

2012-09-08  

If it was the intention of Chief Justice John Roberts to get the Supreme Court out of the line of fire with his health care ruling, he sure succeeded. The Republican and Democratic conventions are over, and I do not recall a single mention of the critical importance of future Supreme Court nominations.

2012 Republican National Convention

2012 Republican National Convention | (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) / SA

It was refreshing to see, of course, that the Democrats finally embraced their health care law, rather than being scared of their own courage, as they usually appear. President Barack Obama indeed used the narrow chance that Roberts’ ruling had offered him.

Still, I was surprised that Obama did not even indirectly refer to the need for occupying the White House in order to avoid losing the Supreme Court.

After all, many on the left seem disappointed with Obama’s lack of ideological purity, and the resulting lack of voter turnout can be a decisive factor in the election. One of the few reasons for these people to still wish for Obama’s victory should be the horrors that a solidified conservative majority on the Supreme Court would mean to them.

The Republicans, too, refrained from any Supreme Court agitation. Branding Roberts as a left-wing traitor and pointing to the need to appoint more severe conservatives is apparently not considered opportune. Or maybe the prospect of four more years of an Obama administration causes enough horror to energize the Republican base.

So it appears that people get all worked up when the Supreme Court makes decisions they don’t like. But when it comes to electing a president who decides the court’s future, they are more concerned about the proper treatment of the candidate’s dog than about which people he would appoint to the court.

Lies have short legs

2012-09-02  

Marathon runners

We don’t know their times, but we assume these marathon runners will report them truthfully. After all, lies have short legs, as the German saying goes (couldn’t resist the pun). | Microsoft

One of the reasons why we enjoy building up our heroes is the loud thud they make when they topple from their pedestal. A preferred method of toppling is to catch them in a lie. | More →

A hero in the making

2012-08-18

Paul Ryan

This week’s media hyperventilation over the nomination of Paul Ryan for vice president was a reminder what the election is all about: It’s not about political direction, but about casting the heroes for the next four years of political drama. | More →

Guns and the frontier

2012-08-12  

Colt Walker Model 1847

Colt Walker Model 1847 | Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes you meet a truly great mind, brilliant in so many ways, totally awe-inspiring. But after a while you may also find that there is a scary streak of insanity running somewhere deep down between the folds of his oversized brain.

That’s probably how even the most sympathetic Germans feel about America and its obsession with firearms. | More →

Knee-jerk lawmaking

2012-08-03  

Despite (or because of?) the unproductive legislative drama often associated with major issues, U. S. lawmakers seem to enjoy creating instant bills for problems that we never knew we had.

Marco RubioMarco Rubio | U. S. SenateJust in time for the London Olympics, Senator Marco Rubio identified an injustice that has threatened the well-being of U. S. athletes since decades: They have to pay taxes on the prize money they bring home.

As it is decidedly mean to tax our national heroes, Rubio was quick to introduce a bill to exempt their winnings from taxation.

Questions come to mind, of course. How much taxes did past Olympians ever pay after sport-related deductions? Do we want to complicate the tax laws with another loophole to benefit about 100 people? If we exempt Olympians, do we equally cherish our Nobel prize winners, military heroes, police, firefighters, job creators?

But one rule of kneejerk lawmaking is that practical questions must not be asked. After all, it’s usually a matter of national pride (or national outrage).

Fortunately, its low efficiency prevents Congress from wreaking too much havoc: Out of 27,114 bills and resolutions introduced in 2005-2009, only 943 laws were enacted. (For comparison, during the same period, the German parliament considered 2,742 bills and resolutions and enacted 616 laws.)

Only in America: Chick-a-Debate

2012-08-01

Chicken in Missoula, Montana

How do you explain the Chick-fil-A row to someone outside the United States? Most people would assume that a public uproar involving chicken and sex must be about a case of bestiality or worse. They would be rather puzzled by the tenuous link between chicken consumption and a political issue that they may find far from earth-shattering. | More →

Politics v. Philosophies

2012-07-30

I stand corrected. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia went on Fox News Sunday saying: “I don’t think the court is political at all”.

Antonin ScaliaAntonin Scalia | Fox News

He conceded, though, that people might have that impression, but that’s because of how the justices are selected – for their “judicial philosophies”. Republicans choose “originalists and textualists and restrained judges”, Democrats choose “the opposite, people who believe in Roe v. Wade”.

So justices don’t vote their politics, they vote their philosophies. Fine. There is no reason not to take Scalia’s word for it.

Whether, however, at the level of the Supreme Court there is any significant different between philosophy and politics, would be an interesting conversation. Both are fundamentally about values, after all.

What is clear, though, is that there is no lack of political skills on the Supreme Court. To make his colleagues choose between either being an “originalist” or being “pro-abortion” is such an artful form of slanting, that I once again tip my hat to Scalia.