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Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Is the U.S. Supreme Court the Biggest Threat to Our Democracy?


Conventional wisdom and conventional teaching of history tells us that the U.S. Supreme Court is the supreme law of the land, that the only branch of government which isn’t elected can tell the other two branches of government what is and is not constitutional.

But Thom Hartmann took his readers to school on this topic in his Oct. 20th column, The Hartmann Report.

According to Hartmann, “There is literally nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the exclusive right to decide what the Constitution says or means and impose it on the other two branches of government, or on the rest of America. That is a power the Supreme Court took onto itself in that 1803 decision of its own, Marbury v Madison.

Hartmann continues:

“Instead of putting the Supreme Court in charge of American laws, the Framers of the Constitution did the opposite: they put Congress in charge of the Supreme Court.

“As they wrote in Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution:

“[T]he Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

“Republicans know this well…. Most recently, in the wake of the Obergefell gay marriage decision, Republicans in Congress offered a law stripping from the Court its power to rule that gay people could get married. The Marriage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives on July 22, 2004 but failed in the Senate, explicitly says:

“No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C or this section.”

[End of Hartmann excerpts]

We have heard that Congress has the power to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court, but it turns out, according to the Constitution, that it has complete power over the Supreme Court and how it functions.

Now the Court has been overtaken by rightwing extremists poised, among other things, to make gay marriage illegal, to validate the power of the 30 Republican-controlled state legislatures to ignore presidential balloting and send electors of their choice to the Electoral College, to abolish all forms of local gun control, to end affirmative action by private colleges, and to further gut the 1967 Voting Rights Act.

If that sounds extreme, just consider what the Court has already done:

>   It overturned Roe v. Wade.

> In Citizens United, it allowed unlimited political donations by corporations and their billionaire owners.

> It gutted the power of the EPA to regulate carbon and water pollution.

> It gutted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

> It approved extreme gerrymandering in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Alabama that demonstrably disenfranchised voters of color.

> It eliminated the right of citizens to sue police officers who don’t read them their Miranda rights.

> It eliminated protection against unreasonable search and seizure by the Border Patrol or other federal officers within 100 miles of any border, including the ocean. No warrant necessary!

All those decisions and the ones to come in the Supreme Court’s current term are based on that 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison in which the court empowered itself to overrule both Congress and the Presidency.

The backlash against Marbury was so great that the Court didn’t rule on the constitutionality of laws again for over 70 years. But today, it’s routine.

Congress has the power to rein in the Supreme Court, revoke its right to overrule its laws and even change the number of justices. Hartmann maintains in his Oct. 20th column that the time is now, because “if we fail, 2024 may be this nation’s last [popular] election for president.”

You can read the full Hartmann column at


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Timely Reminder of Thomas Paine

   Last Sunday, Thom Hartmann reprised his 2006 review of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America by Harvey J. Kaye. I was not familiar with that book, but it’s on my reading list now.

Thomas Paine was best known for his books Common Sense and The Rights of Man, which were “best sellers” during the time of our country’s founding. His undoing, according to Kaye, was a third book, The Age of Reason, which Hartmann describes as “a finely tuned attack on organized religion.” It’s never been a good idea!

Here’s an excerpt from Hartmann’s review:

¨ It wasn't FDR who first seriously promoted the progressive income tax in the USA: it was Thomas Paine.

¨ It wasn't LBJ who invented anti-poverty programs by introducing Medicare, housing assistance, and food-stamp programs: Thomas Paine proposed versions of all of these.

¨ It wasn't Jack Kennedy who first talked seriously about international disarmament: it was Thomas Paine.

¨ And Teddy Roosevelt wasn't the first American to talk about the “living wage,” or ways that corporate “maximum wage” wink-and-nod agreements could be broken up: it was Thomas Paine.

¨ Even Woodrow Wilson’s inheritance tax, designed to prevent family empires from taking over our nation, was the idea of Thomas Paine, as was the suggestion for old-age pensions as part of a social safety net known today as Social Security.

    Paine thought that the best way to build a strong democracy was to tax the wealthy to give the poor bootstraps by which they could pull themselves up.

    And unlike most of our “founding fathers,” Paine never owned a slave and in fact railed against the practice. That’s another reason he lost favor.


GOP Control of Either House in 2024 Will Be a Sh*t Show

It’s a good thing that the likelihood of Republicans gaining majority control of the House of Representatives or Senate is fading. It was looking pretty inevitable until, for starters, the U.S. Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. You’ve heard the quote, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and the conservative members of the Supreme Court — one-third of them appointed by President Trump — has triggered that fury in one simple decision.

I’m not saying that maintaining Democratic control of both houses of Congress is a slam dunk, but let’s hope that it’s now a possibility.

Passing right-wing legislation, such as a national ban on abortion, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the result of Republican control. Moreover, the right-wing legislation they pass would have to overcome a presidential veto for at least the next two years. The bigger part of that iceberg is what the various committees might do under Republican chairs.

Can you imagine the investigations that they would conduct if, for example, Rep. Jim Jordan becomes chairman of the House Judiciary Committee?

Last week, Jonathan Nicholson of HuffPost compiled a list of investigations we might expect if Republicans take control of either house. Democrats haven’t gone overboard in the way that we can expect their GOP counterparts to go.

Picture, for example, investigations of all their favorite enemies, from Anthony Fauci to Hillary Clinton to the Vice President and President themselves — and their families.

You’ve probably heard Republicans refer to the “Biden Crime Family.” Given Republican control, QAnon and Tucker Carlson might as well be in charge of setting the congressional agenda. That will delight their followers, but what about the rest of us and the future of our country?

How much attention do you think Donald Trump paid to his job between election day and Biden’s inauguration? Was he reading the Presidential Daily Brief each morning? (Not that he read it regularly before becoming preoccupied with staging a coup.)

It has been refreshing to have a president who takes his job seriously, who devotes his waking hours to the country’s business, not his own.

Ditto for the Democrats in Congress. They have been focused on serving our country, not on the country serving them. Isn’t that a pleasant change? I’d hate to lose that focus after next month’s mid-term elections.