It’s commonly assumed that Justices Scalia and Thomas are the two Supreme Court justices who are most likely to vote together. However much that may have been true during Justice Thomas’ first several years on the Court, it is becoming less true over time. This past term, according to statistics collected by the folks at SCOTUSBlog, the two sets of justices most likely to vote together were the Chief Justice and Justice Alito (96.2%), and Justices Sotomayor and Kagan (94%). Perhaps even more surprising, the Scalia-Thomas pairing was not even in the top ten most common pairings.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
In America today, few people champion government control of the industries Lenin saw as the commanding heights. On the contrary, these sectors have been largely deregulated, and market forces have, for the most part, been permitted to govern their development for decades. Defenders of the market might therefore imagine that they have won, and that the struggles that remain are peripheral debates.
But such a declaration of victory would be dangerously premature. Over the past few decades, our economy has undergone some fundamental changes — with the result that the fight for control over the commanding heights of American economic life is still very much with us. And it is a fight that, at least for now, the free-market camp appears to be losing.
The commanding heights of our economy today are not heavy manufacturing, energy, and transportation. They are, rather, education and health care. These are our foremost growth sectors — the ones most central to employment and consumption; the ones that, increasingly, drive our economy. And it is in precisely these two sectors that the case for extensive government intervention and planning, if not outright control, is dominant — and becoming ever more so.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
One way of measuring the progress of “the poor” over time is to see what the typical poor household is able to consume in different years. We actually do have some reliable data on this. The Census Bureau surveys US households and asks if they have certain consumer items in their homes. I have tracked this data, both directly from the Census Bureau and from other sources. Here’s what the latest data look like, along with some historical comparisons. Importantly, these are households below the poverty line, not just the lowest quintile. These are the truly poor.
And the post concludes:
So if the question is whether markets work to the benefit of the least advantaged, the answer is “it sure looks that way.” One drive around the rural area in which I live where you can see the working poor with their cell phones, flat screen TVs, and satellite dishes is perhaps all the evidence one needs. If not, you can just quote everything from above.
As I hope this post illustrates, the rush to characterize the Court as “pro” or “anti” business based on a handful of cases or even a single term inevitably results in sweeping conclusions that obscure more than they illuminate. While the business community may win more often than not, many of the victories are quite small. This year, with the exception of At&T Mobility v. Concepcion, most of the business community’s victories came on narrow grounds and largely preserved the status quo. In this regard, the Court largely followed the general pattern of the past few terms. Similarly, the Court did not erect new barriers to plaintiffs’ suits so much as it refused to open new doors. The Court didn’t overturn precedent and move the law in a pro-business direction so much as it refused to move it in an anti-business direction, and so on. And where existing law or precedent did not lead the Court in a pro-business direction, it had no hesitation in reaching an anti-business result.
But perhaps most outrageous was Senator Franken’s dismissal of Andrew Pincus, who argued the Concepcion case on behalf of AT&T, as not qualified to speak on the hearing’s topics because partners at his law firm, Mayer Brown LLP, make more than a million dollars a year. I assume Franken was unaware that Pincus was an official in the Clinton Administration, serving as General Counsel of the Commerce Department under Bill Daley.
In his book The Future of Marriage, David Blankenhorn, a liberal, gay-rights-supporting Democrat and self-professed “marriage nut,” offers this sociological principle: “People who professionally dislike marriage almost always favor gay marriage.” As a corollary, Blankenhorn adds: “Ideas that have long been used to attack marriage are now commonly used to support same-sex marriage.”
Following the Democrats' recent win in a Republican-leaning district in upstate New York, there's been a steady drumbeat of speculation regarding the party's chance of winning back the House in 2012. Polling seems to confirm that the opportunity is there for Democrats: The RCP Average for the generic ballot shows Republicans with a slender 1.5 percent lead. I think the House is in play, but that the Democrats' road back to the majority is a steeper climb than many analysts apparently believe. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason has been receiving surprisingly little play: Democrats are getting their clocks cleaned in the 2012 redistricting.
It used to be the rare judge who would go for rim shots from the bench. But these days, the bench is a veritable yuk-fest, with judges increasingly peppering opinions—usually a tedious slog through arcane facts and law—with puns, rhymes, attempts at humor and cultural references, lawyers and court watchers say.
Pope Benedict XVI has tweeted for the first time, announcing the launch of a Vatican news information portal.
Benedict's tweet on Tuesday read: "Dear Friends, I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI".
The portal for the first time aggregates information from the Vatican's various print, online, radio and television media.
It's the latest effort by the Vatican to bring its evangelising message to a greater, internet-savvy audience and follows forays into Facebook and YouTube.