Thursday, July 5, 2007

Recent Supreme Court Rulings Make America Even Meaner

(cartoon by Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer)

Helen Thomas sums up the flurry of rulings by Supreme Court
WASHINGTON -- The new Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been in decades. It's also meaner.
The terms "conservative" and "mean" have always been more or less equivalent; they only difference here is degree.
It is a dream come true for Republican presidencies dating back to the "strict constructionist" court aspirations of President Richard Nixon and now made possible by the conservative George W. Bush.
In fact it's a dream come true for anti-humanitarians dating back centuries.
Before closing down for the summer last month, the high court tossed out a flurry of decisions that overturned or reinterpreted long-standing liberal precedents.
But it's not only about liberal vs. conservative.
The court under Chief Justice John Roberts seems intent on rolling back advances in race and gender relations that have helped America achieve a more equal and humane society.
It's also about morality and humanity.
The 5-4 decisions of the conservative court dealt with race, abortion, free speech, church-state relations and a host of other issues. They also showed a pro-business and anti-consumer slant.
And rich and poor...
The majority justices are running counter to the current trend against rightwing ideologues and a power-grabbing unilateral presidency.
... and the people vs. the government ...
On race, the court apparently has decided to return to the "good old days" when separate was considered equal when it came to racial segregation, a concept that the high court discarded in the 1954 landmark decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., which desegregated the nation's schools.
... which is doing everything it can to divide us ...
Last week, the Supreme Court junked the Brown rule when it struck down the use of race in school admissions in Seattle and Louisville. Officials had used race as a factor in school assignments in order to build diversity.
... and to discourage diversity, especially diversity from the standards they think they set ...
The historic Brown ruling paved the way for the banning of segregated public facilities, hotels, restaurants and theaters.
"... but that is not all we can do," said the court.
The Roberts court also upheld an unconditional ban on the procedure that opponents dub "partial birth abortion." Supporters of abortion rights see this decision as a harbinger of doom for the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
... that is not all ...
The court also ruled that public school principals and teachers can discipline students who display signs or wear t-shirts that carry messages counter to the schools' anti-drug policies. The decision overturned a 1969 ruling that students do not shed their rights "at the schoolhouse door."
... oh no! that is not all!
And the justices threw out a 1911 ruling that barred manufacturers from setting minimum retail prices on goods.
It just goes on and on and on ... even Dr. Seuss would run out of rhymes!
In a blow to the principle of separation of church and state, the court rejected a challenge by the "Freedom From Religion Foundation" against a White House program that helps church charities competing with government programs obtain federal grants.

The ruling is a bow to the president who for the first time in history set up a White House office to promote faith-based entities.
Now for the deeper questions, such as Why is all this happening?
The conservative jurists who have won the day in most cases included the usual suspects -- Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. So much for the hope that Kennedy would be as moderate as former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in pivotal cases.

The liberal justices -- who were outraged at the court's far-right swing -- included John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Breyer summed it up when he said: "It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much."
How often have I heard or thought the very same thing after 9/11? The New Pearl Harbor was indeed a catastrophic and catalyzing event, which showed -- among other things -- how fragile civilization was in America.

And now for a token sign of meaningless resistance ...
In a surprise ruling, the Court agreed to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees can use federal courts to challenge their imprisonment, reversing a decision in April not to hear arguments in the case.
It will not matter, of course, as the hateful little man in the Oval Office has made it abundantly clear that he will not abide by any court ruling he doesn't like.