Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Scalia's Dissent in the Gay Marriage Ruling is a Dangerous Attack on American Democracy Itself
With angry tribal polarizing language, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia challenges the very right of the Supreme Court to judge cases that require interpretation of Constitutional Law.
In the middle of the celebration of the Supreme Court decision establishing same-gender marriage is an ominous attack on democracy itself from one of the highest constitutionally sworn officers in America, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His dissent (appended to the full ruling) is a direct call for Americans to abandon their trust in and support for the institution of the Supreme Court and indeed in American democracy itself. Scalia’s message is frightening anti-government rhetoric so harsh and polarizing that it is potentially far more damaging to America than anything in the gay marriage ruling he laments.
Scalia’s dissent says, "I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy." And why does he think that threat exists? Because:
It is of overwhelming importance ... who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.
Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified (in states that passed bans on gay marriage), the 14th Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its 'reasoned judgment,' thinks the 14th Amendment ought to protect.
In other words, Justice Scalia is unhappy that the Supreme Court gets to make the final call. He is rejecting the very right of the Supreme Court on which he sits to adjudicate disputes where the answer requires interpretation of the Constitution, (which is of course precisely what the court did when it interpreted the Second Amendment to enshrine the personal right to own guns, an opinion Scalia wrote), a role that has proven to be a corner stone of American democracy. Because he is upset by this ruling, Justice Scalia directly rejects the authority of the court itself.
But he goes further in undermining public trust in the court.
"And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation."
Outrageously, he calls the ruling “a judicial putsch.” What incendiary rhetoric. The definition of the word putsch, as a man as erudite as Justice Scalia knows is:
"a violent attempt to overthrow a government."
Scalia’s language is so harsh and divisively tribal that it could be a tract from a right-wing anti-government radical group.
"... the Federal Judiciary, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers, is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example this court, which consist of only nine men and women, successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale law school. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner. (California does not count.) Not a single Evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans) or even a Protestant of any denomination. ... To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation."
What a polarizing misinterpretation of the very role of the judiciary as defined by the Constitution Scalia so solemnly invokes. The judiciary was never intended to be the representative part of democracy. Scalia knows that. His ideological anger at today’s decision clouds his reason into saying things that are laughable in a high school civics class.
Scalia charges that
"... this practice of Constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanies (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, (Scalia’s majority decision interpreting the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to own guns is laced with the same language he here laments) robs the People of the most important liberty they assert in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1775: the freedom to govern themselves.
A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy."
What an astoundingly, nearly treasonous thing to suggest for a justice of the Supreme Court. Scalia believes issues like gay marriage should be determined by the people, at the state level.
"... win or lose, advocates of both sides continued pressing their cases, secure in the knowledge that an electoral loss can later be negated by an electoral win. That is exactly how our system of government is supposed to work."
Well no, Mr. Supreme Court Justice Scalia, that is patently not true. You and your colleagues serve on the very institution American democracy has always relied on to resolve conflicts that arise when the electorate in one state sees things one way and another state’s electorate sees the issue another way, or when a state law tramples on rights covered by the overarching federal law of the Constitution, which you so solemnly invoke. Your selective view of which branch of government gets the final say is not just the argument of the side that lost. Coming from a person in your position, such an argument is poisonous, harmful, and breeds mistrust in both the Supreme Court you serve and government itself.
If you have any doubt left that Scalia is proposing that today’s decision should undermine trust in the court, he closes by noting that the Judicial Branch of government has no real power in the Constitution to enforce its rulings. The court's power ultimately rests entirely on the public’s acceptance of their role to be our final interpreters of law.
"With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them — with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court — we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence."
Far more than today’s decision itself, Justice Scalia’s ideological, angry attack on the very standing of the Supreme Court to make such rulings dramatically moves the court in that direction. His language does America great harm.
(image courtesy Wikipedia)
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.