As life in the U.S. continues to get grimmer, we find a few much-needed points of light during today's BradCast! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
First up, the GOP-controlled Mississippi state legislature finally voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to remove the offensive Confederate flag symbol from their own state flag. Both the Governor and Lt. Governor support the move and the bill will be signed. Yes, the ongoing uprising against systemic racism in the U.S. continues to bring about long-overdue positive change! Also, there was (mostly) good news in a long-awaited abortion case at the U.S. Supreme Court today, but we'll get there in a second.
Before that, we've been arguing in recent days that Donald Trump should eventually be brought up on charges for what amounts to mass murder in his purposefully and criminally delinquent and negligent handling of the COVID crisis. More evidence of that affirmative endangerment of the public was reported over the weekend by the Washington Post, which obtained video evidence that the Trump Campaign, just hours before his June 20 campaign rally in Oklahoma, removed thousands of social distancing stickers placed on seats at Tulsa's BOK Center venue by its management. As the city's health director pleaded with the campaign to postpone the rally amid spiking infections rates, and local residents and business owners went all the way to the state's Supreme Court to try and block it, the Trump Campaign was purposely making it less safe for rally attendees. The infection rate in Tulsa has continued to spike since Trump's under-attended Death Rally (where he had falsely bragged in advance that there wouldn't be "an empty seat"), as infection rates now continue to rise in at least 36 states after the largest single day increase across the nation on Friday.
Florida, Texas and Arizona, with Republican Governors who were among the first to reopen, are now seeing among the largest growth in infections and hospitalizations in the country. That, despite Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' hubris-filled attacks on the media just weeks ago following an initial lack of new confirmed cases after reopening for Memorial Day and a now-embarrassing rant from Sean Hannity on Fox 'News' claiming that FL and NY "got it right", states like NY got it wrong (NY's infection rate was just 6% of Florida's on Friday) and that "the mob and the media....owe Gov. DeSantis a huge apology." Well, that didn't age well.
Then back to a bit more good(ish) news as the U.S. Supreme Court's Chief Justice John Roberts, for the third time in as many weeks, joined the Court's liberal wing on yet another major case --- well, mostly. It was enough, at least, to strike down an extremist anti-abortion measure in Louisiana, in any case. Had the attempt by state Republicans to insert Big Government in-between a woman and her doctor been upheld by the Court, it would have left the entire state of 4.6 million with just one single doctor legally allowed to perform the still-Constitutionally protected medical procedure.
We're joined today by one of our favorite SCOTUS corespondents, MARK JOSEPH STERN of Slate, to explain today's 4 to 1 to 4 opinion which resulted in the end of the state law requiring abortion doctors to unnecessarily obtain difficult-to-receive hospital admitting privileges. While abortion rights activists are breathing a sign of relief today, Stern explains, they likely won't have long to enjoy it. The Court with a stolen Republican Majority still appears hell bent on rolling back Roe v. Wade, he says.
While Roberts, in his own concurring opinion [PDF], effectively joined the liberals again today in striking down the Louisiana law --- again, maddening the right-wingers in the bargain --- he "is a very canny legal strategist, who still quite obviously opposes the Constitutional right to an abortion," Stern warns. In fact, what Roberts opinion today did was "leave us with a state of abortion jurisprudence that sort of rewinds the clock back to maybe 1992. Whereas, for the past four years, at least in theory, we have had a more robust protection of Constitutional rights."
With Roberts' new opinion, Stern reports, abortion rights proponents have actually lost some ground, even while the second "admitting privileges" law to find its way to the Court in four years was again struck down --- just like the previous virtually identical one out of Texas in 2016 (which Roberts then voted to uphold.)
The Chief Justice also voted recently with the Court's Democratic appointees to ban LGBTQ employment discrimination and in striking down Trump's rollback of DACA protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrant children who were brought here by their parents. So, why has Roberts seemingly become a "liberal squish" on three important landmark cases this session? Stern argues that he hasn't at all. Another ruling today regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in which the Court's rightwing 5 to 4 majority dreamed up new (non-existent) Constitutional powers for the Presidency, and a SCOTUS decision over the weekend to block absentee voting for all voters --- not just those 65 and older --- in Texas, in the middle of a pandemic, and in clear violation of the 26th Amendment, is just more evidence that the Republicans' stolen SCOTUS majority is still anything but "liberal", even after these three recent surprise opinions on LGBTQ rights, DACA and abortion.
Stern also offers his thoughts on whether Roberts would be voting as he has been of late if Justice Anthony Kennedy was still on the Court as its swing vote, and whether all of this suggests that the Court should now be expanded in response to theft of what should have been an actual liberal majority by now...
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