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Friday Wrap-Up – Some of the Week’s GOTTA READ ‘EM Stories – UPDATED



It’s been a big week for the Supremes. On Tuesday, the court handed down four controversial rulings. The most legally irritating and potentially precedent-setting of these was the Frederick v. Morse decision—otherwise known as the Bong Hits for Jesus case where the court struck a blow against free speech for students. [WLA reported on the underlying case here.]

Then Thursday, there was the true doozey in which, 53 years after Brown v. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court gave the finger to legal precedent and ruled in the Seattle/Louisville school integration cases, that the relatively modest attempts by those cities to promote racial diversity in some of their schools was no longer legal or acceptable. “This is a decision that the Court and the nation will come to regret,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer. (Here’s what the NY Times had to say.)

It is unclear if this decision is going to be fundamentally ruinous to LA’s magnet schools or not-
–the magnets being the voluntary integration system that has been the one genuine jewel in the infuriatingly incompetent LA unified school district. (I’ll likely write more on this later.)

Yet, aside from the individual cases, there is a larger issue that is worth noting: when looked at as a whole, the decisions—each of which featured a five/four split among the justices—are representative of the ideologically-polarized trend that has come to characterize the Roberts court. Yet, what’s most interesting is that a quick analysis of how each justice voted suggests that most SCOTUS rulings for the foreseeable future will hinge on a single question: WWJKD? —What Will Justice Kennedy Do?

It turns out that Anthony Kennedy has sided with the majority
—conservative or liberal—in every single one of this term’s five-four splits.

When Sandra Day O’Conner was still on the court,
both she and Kennedy were regarded at as potential swing voters, which made SCOTUS a more fluid and less ideologically-driven body.

Not anymore.


On Wednesday, Genarlow Wilson was denied bail while he awaits the next legal go-round in his case. As you’ll remember, Wilson was the 17-year-old who was given a 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a girl two years younger. Although the law has been changed since his tragically whacked-out sentence was handed down, it does not apply retroactively. Earlier this month a Superior Court Judge threw out Wilson’s sentence, but the prosecutor appealed. So, although Scooter Libby can stay out of prison while his appeal progresses, this now-21-year-old kid who has already served 28 months in prison, must continue to stay locked up. Legally speaking, there’s a case to be made for both granting bond, and not. But common sense and decency falls on only one side of this legal equation.

Yesterday, in a pathetic attempt to look less like a scumbag while still keeping this case in his “win” column, the prosecutor offered Wilson a deal: he could serve five instead of ten years in the pen, which means, with time served, he’d stay locked up for another two and a half years. And, as an added bonus, the prosecutor generously offered to NOT require Wilson to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Friday, Wilson and his attorney rightly turned the offer down.

WLA posts on the case may be found here and here.


The WaPo series titled “Angler,” about the most powerful VP in American history
, began on Sunday and finished on Wednesday. I don’t care where you sit on the blue/red political color wheel, if you consider yourself an informed resident of these United States, you need to read this puppy. [Click here]

If you only read one chapter, I recommend Part 2
, on war and interrogations found here.

Look for this series to be a serious contender come Pulitzer time.

Then, if after reading, you feel desperately in need of a good laugh
, take a look at this week’s Daily Show’s segment that ran all week titled “You Don’t Know Dick.


Happy Friday night!
I’m going to see Michael Moore’s SICKO. Will let you know how it goes!

Okay, saw the movie, and I definitely recommend it. It makes some
terrifying points about the reality of the American health insurance system that most viewers will recognize (with horror) as obviously true, and that naysayers are going to be hard put to factually deny. I suspect it’s going to turn out to be a very forceful tool in, at least, starting the process of slapping Americans awake in terms of the need for universal health care. In fact, the main power of the film is that it doesn’t tell us anything that most average Americans don’t already know. But Moore weaves all the information together into a anecdote-studded whole that has the cumulative effect of making you want to run from the theater shrieking, “WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!!!!!! NOW!!!!!!”

(The material that will be new to Americans is the footage
that gives a compelling window into the healthcare systems found in Canada, England and France.)

The Cuba section is weakest.
It’s only here that Moore starts bending his facts a bit. However, Moore gets us there by first showing news clips of US government officials boasting about the great healthcare given prisoners at Guantanamo.

Then, in a boat outside Git’mo with a bunch of the now chronically and heartbreakingly ill 9/11 rescue workers, he shouts plaintively through a megaphone, “We don’t want any more care than you’re giving the evildoers! Just the same!”

Bottom line: As is usual with Mike Moore, the movie ain’t perfect. But it’s pretty damned good.

But don’t take my word for it. See it and let me know what you think.


  • Good grief, Celeste. The Braves are coming to L.A. to play the Dodgers and you’re wasting your entertainment money on Michael Moore. Go catch a ball game. Do you want me to send you a tomahawk?

  • Celeste: Then Thursday, there was the true doozey in which, 53 years after Brown v. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court gave the finger to legal precedent….

    All of a sudden liberals are worried about legal precedent?! Didn’t Brown v. the BOE overturn legal precedent, resulting ultimately in a perversion of our Constitution and freedoms with bussing, etc.?

    Read this entire article: Brown v Board of Education’s Original Intent

    Roberts has conveniently boiled down the true meaning of Brown in a sentence that could fit on a bumper sticker: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

  • The SCOTUS blow to Brown was truly a low blow, and those eloquent men who first worked on Brown have disabused any notion that Roberts offered an adequate or accurate interpretation of that decision. I fear we’re going to be living with this court for some time to come. The prospect isn’t pleasant. If one thing is certain from the Bush legacy, at every level of government – in each and every nook and cranny, we’re going to be decades digging out. Chronicling, and effecting, that will be job security for reporters, historians, and legislators way into the future. [sigh]

    Still, more forward thinking educators have been moving away from integration by race for a good little bit. Thinking more in terms of SES than race as the integration pivot point. There’s a lot of merit in that approach. And, SES is still not a bad proxy for those racial groups whose access to the ‘American Dream’ has been thwarted.

    Separate systems of education (by gender, race, religious affiliation) isn’t, on the face of it, necessarily all bad. Women in all female science and math classrooms tend to excel in those disciplines at a level that exceeds their co-ed peers. I’m beginning to think that the answer to the under-representation of women in science and engineering can be best answered in a ‘segregated’ classroom. It is a huge untapped pool of talent that has been unexploited as our business sector clamors for scientists and engineers – and, seeks desperately to import them from abroad.

    Integration by SES, may prove to be more powerful in closing educational performance gaps than race. And, given the nature of ‘districting’ and public property tax records, I think it’s entirely doable. Of course, if a family felt that property taxes penalized them in some way, they’d be free to offer up their income tax submission as an alternative 🙂

    Money, Not Race, Fuels New Push to Buoy Schools

  • PS. That’s why I love, love, love the ‘dismal science.’ Dismal as it is, it’s a hoot to have the tools to play cat and mouse with the reactionary, authoritative arm of the Conservative bloc who wants to insure they get to keep their ‘place’ in society by dint of having arrived there first, however they choose to frame it.

  • Between their coverage of Walter Reed, and their series on Cheney, I think some folks at the WaPo are doing an adequate job of redeeming themselves as a viable news source. I’m still very selective when I read their opinion page – more astute, and more reliable pundits exist elsewhere. And, if the folks at the WaPo get a Pulitzer out of these efforts, good on them. McClatchy is giving them a good run for their money, and I’m happy to cheer McClatchy on, but it just doesn’t have the same resources at its disposal. I’m relieved (reassured?)to see the WaPo attempt to turn the corner.

  • Wilson’s situation is a black eye for Georgia. It feeds all of the most damning sterotypes of the backward, red neck, Bubba south. I can only hope that it will resolve in Genarlow’s favor soon. I’m trying to be hopeful that the prosecutor’s most recent “offer” signals his concern that maybe his appeal to the Superior Court might fail. That it’s a last ditch effort to save his “win.”

  • LotS, you haven’t been listening. The Attorney General of Georgia, who is a roadblock to Wilson’s freedom, was elected by the backward, redneck, Bubbas of Georgia with full knowledge that he was a black man. This is a unique and involved legal issue, which has nothing to do with the real, or your perceived, opinions by its citizens.

    P.S. The Warren Court spat all over the legislative process and the intent of the Constitution. I’m amazed when people want to end racial preferences with racial preferneces.

  • So you would have left Plessy v. Ferguson in place Woody? As to Robert’s “Cute” comment see Stephens’ dissent. He cites the famous Anatole France remark that “The law in its majesty prohibits both the rich man and the poor man from sleeping under railroad bridges.”

    Excuse me but if the affront is a racially based school system then how do you craft a remedy without taking race in to consideration? As the dissenters noted the complaint was from black parents desiring that their children be allowed to go to (nearer and better) white schools. There were no instances on record where whites clamored to attend blacks ones.

    I’m going to ignore the comments on Warren since they are obviously comming from a bigoted know-nothing.

  • Woody, it doesn’t work very well to damn the Warren court on the one hand and then claim Roberts ‘improved on’ their decision.

    I’ll give over on the legal nuances of the Wilson case, but affirm that it shouldn’t be brain surgery. There is, doing things right, and doing the right thing.

  • Liberals lamented the decision by the Supremes to stop racial discrimination in schools. Yes these are the same liberals who moved to white enclaves far away from inner city schools or have paid high prices for their children’s private schools.

    “Every time the government uses racial criteria to ‘bring the races together’ someone gets excluded, and the person excluded suffers an injury solely because of his or her race”.

    “The Seattle school board itself must believe that racial mixing is not necessary to black achievement. Seattle operates a K-8 ‘African-American Academy’ which has a ‘non-white’ enrollment of 99 percent.” The school, noted by Justice Thomas, was established as part of the school board’s effort to improve African-American test scores (and it seems to be having success).

  • LotS, we live under the rule of law, not the rule of what feels right. Ultimately, what is legal and what is right merge, but I’ll trust the law to get things right more than a judge overstepping his authority.

    rlc, as it turned out, separate but equal was separate but not equal. The application of that ruling was not uniformly followed, thus setting up an adjustment. To me, though, the elected legislative branch should address that rather than judges. Both the right to vote for blacks and the Civil Rights Act were passed by Congress, the way it should be. Judges shouldn’t be dictators.

    I’ve always been for neighborhood schools, as you seem to be in your comment, so why did the liberals make kids get up at 6:00 AM and get bussed across the county for racial reasons? Black kids do not have to have white kids in the classroom to make them better–or, do you think that they do?

    Was it right for the judge in Kansas City to raise taxes(!) to fund his vision of properly integrated public schools there–which was a disaster.

    If anyone is out of line, it’s the left. It self-righteously and arrogantly thinks that it knows what is best for everyone, so to hell with voters.

    BTW, I’m not a bigot, but you continue to try to smear me with that label. Disagreement with the Warren Court is based upon our Constitutionl intent and separation of powers. The Warren Court was activist and wrong.

    If you continue to try to smear me with false labels, I will begin to address you as a civil rights whore or something similar and approprite.

  • Woody, I completely understand your profound disappointment, but Paris got moved until next week. Yet, not to worry, she’s coming. (Or at least Paris as she relates to LA County’s jail system is headed to a blog near you . )

  • Doing things right, and doing the right thing says nothing about how either of them ‘feels.’

  • If you do the “right thing” but break the law to do it, then the “right thing” in itself become the “wrong thing” and likely comes from emotions, i.e., feelings, rather than considerations of laws made by the many. Follow the law, change the law, or get a pardon–but, don’t break the law. Do you accept situational ethics? I don’t.

  • Sure you do. I refrain from pointing it out when you do. I don’t need to play those nit-picky gotcha games, and I think it’s unconscious, anyway.

    Is it so hard to imagine there is a distinction between the letter of the law, and the intent of the law? Or, are you sooooo sequential-concrete that only the most literal, first definition, out of a dictionary will do? And, actually, I know you really are that literal. It’s okay to go there, Woody, but you miss out on a lot if you live there.

  • Celeste, I noted this statement: ” the decisions—each of which featured a five/four split among the justices—are representative of the ideologically-polarized trend that has come to characterize the Roberts court.”

    Just curious,but when there were 5-4 votes (on any issue) and the majority were on the left of center side, did you ever, even once call it an ideologically-polarized trend? Just askin’.

  • Hi GM, A reasonably question. Perhaps I didn’t write that as clearly as I might have.

    Indeed, some of the 5/4 decisions were left of center.

    For instance, Thursday’s other big decision was the blocking of the execution of a mentally ill man, with Kennedy siding with the so-called liberal block on the court. (And then there was the ruling in mid-June that the gases that cause global warming are pollutants under the Clean Air Act—another 5/4.)

    But the unfortunate thing is that there’s so little agreement, and Roberts—at least in his Congressional hearings—had said he would work toward a greater consensus on the court, and move away from the ideological warfare of the Rehnquist court. Yet, rather than leading both sides toward the center, Roberts has been acting and arguing pretty much in lock step with the most conservative justices—thus, not only perpetuating the ideological polarization but, without O’Conner to act as the court’s centrist, the polarization has, if anything, increased.

    There were 70 decisions this term, and 24 of them (I think that’s the count) were decided with a 5/4 margin.

    In addition to its fractious quarreling, the Rehnquist court was arguably the most activist in Supreme Court history—at least during its last decade. In that period, between 1995 and 2003, it threw out 33 federal statutes—nearly three times the pace of the previous two centuries.

    It seems that the Roberts court shows signs of besting the Rehnquist record.

    The unfortunate thing about these five/four splits is that it leads the rest of us to believe–those both on the right and the left—that rather than standing for Constitutional law we’ve got a court loaded with too many justices that make many of their decisions based on their individual political agendas. And that isn’t good for public confidence in the court. Obviously.

  • Celeste, Celeste, Celeste…. What are we going to do with you? It’s not that this Court is ignoring the Constitution and making decisions based upon politics. This Court stands for the Constitution and is reversing prior left-wing decisions based upon politics.

  • It took me a couple of reads of Celeste’s reply to GM to figure out that she might be saying something different than, ‘a politicized court is reactionary.’ I expect Celeste can speak for herself better than I can speak for her… but, if I understand her premise correctly, I think her point is it’s the same 4 people, coming down on the same ideological side, each time, on every issue. And, it’s the consistency of these ideologized alignments that suggests a polarized court. Kennedy being an exception as the lone ‘swing’ voter. In a more blanced (less polarized?) world we might expect to see varying alignments among the justices over an array of issues. I don’t know that this is unique to the Robert’s court. However, in the context of the Robert’s court, it appears that we could successfully predict the alignment of the justices on every issue that has yet to come before the court, save one. Which means we could effectively dissolve the court of all the justices save Kennedy, since Kennedy alone will cast the deciding vote on every decision yet to be made. In essence, we have a Supreme Court with one justice. [And, I’m happy to stand corrected if I’ve scrambled Celeste’s meaning.]

  • Celeste,your sequel to this, or “Some of the Day’s GOTTA READ IT Story”, should be about Bush’s concern for excessive punishment in the criminal justice system, specifically, Bush’s compassion for his crony, Scooter Libby.

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