The Bookworm Beat 4/10/17 — the quick hits edition and open thread

I’m not feeling particularly inspired today, but this Bookworm Beat has some links I’d like to share with you, covering everything from politics to humor.

Bookworm Beat logoObergefell is worse than you imagined. Obergefell is the case in which Justice Kennedy, writing the romance novel of his life, found buried in the Constitution a long hidden right to gay marriage. Legally, it was a disaster of an opinion and, as romantic fiction, it was too overwrought to be believable.

What those of us who read it once with an eye for the specific issue missed is the fact that Kennedy included language that encourages each federal judge in America to take a legislative role for himself, never mind that these judges are appointed, not elected, so voters cannot touch them:

In Obergefell, Justice Kennedy did far more than merely discover a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He wrote that judges have an ongoing “duty” to identify and protect new “fundamental rights.” He maintained that judges should institute new rights whenever their “reasoned judgment” suggests that it is appropriate to do so.

Previously, a Supreme Court precedent titled Washington v. Glucksberg held that judges could recognize constitutional rights only if they were “deeply rooted in” American “history and tradition.” Justice Kennedy dismissed this standard as unduly constraining judges’ power.

The article from which the above quotation comes explains that, across the United States, activist judges have been taking full advantage of this unconstitutional mandate:

A case titled Juliana v. United States presents an ominous warning as to what lies ahead. A district-court judge in Oregon used Obergefell’s license to fashion a new individual right to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life.” The judge adopted Justice Kennedy’s “reasoned judgment” standard and wrote, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ . . . I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life” is a fundamental constitutional right.

The plaintiffs argued that various government officials violated the Constitution by “causing atmospheric CO2 levels to rise” and “knowingly endangering Plaintiffs’ health and welfare by approving and prompting fossil fuel development, including exploration, extraction, production, transportation, importation, exportation, and combustion.” They urged the court to order the government to stop violating their constitutional right to a healthy environment and to require it to “develop a plan to reduce CO2 emissions.”

This sounds like a plainly political rather than constitutional question, but under Obergefell’s amorphous “reasoned judgment” standard, anything is possible. The judge explained that under Obergefell, the creation of “new fundamental rights” is not “out of bounds.” The case is ongoing, but the district-court judge has already recognized the existence of the “constitutional right” in question.

Justice Kennedy cannot retire from the Court soon enough. Nor can Justice Ginsburg. This aggregation of raw power in the only branch of our government that is not answerable to anyone is a fearful tyranny that needs to be quashed instantly, if not sooner.

If Syria was stable, refugees would be a non-issue. This video, in which a survivor of a 2013 Syrian gas attack schools a dour CNN anchor about Trump’s virtuous act and about the fact that Syrians want to stay in Syria, has been kicking around for a few days. If you haven’t seen it yet, now’s your chance, because it’s worth every minute. Enjoy the anchor’s expression as the Syrian man lauds Trump and backs his policies:

Trump won a lot of battles with his Syria strike. It turns out that the Syria strike didn’t just send messages to Assad, Putin, the Mullahs, and Kim Jong-un. It also resonated here, in the US, with Democrats applauding him and Glenn Kessler being forced to concede that, once again, Susan Rice lied. (I hear she’s now carrying a pocket fire extinguisher with her at all times to guard against incendiary pants.)

That’s all fine, but you know things are serious when Jonathan Tobin is also impressed:

Donald Trump’s many detractors tend to forget something important: The power of his office is such that simply by deploying the military might of the United States, he can change the national conversation in an instant. By ordering a missile strike on the Syrian airfield from which the Assad government — and, perhaps, its Russian enablers — attacked civilians with chemical weapons, Trump did just that. It isn’t clear yet whether this is the beginning of a more muscular, sensible approach to foreign policy in general and to Syria, Russia, and Iran in particular. But what we do know is that Trump has just demonstrated a capacity to rethink his previously held positions and to act decisively in response to an outrageous crime — in other words, the capacity to act like a commander-in-chief. This is something few of his critics thought he possessed.

Yeah, I knew that.

Splendid video about America’s failed single payer system. Pete Hegseth, working with Prager U, has made a superb video about the Veterans’ Administration, which is America’s disgracefully failed single payer health care provider. You won’t regret the time spent watching it:

Everything that’s wrong with Harvard in a single article. The Harvard Crimson has an article about the university’s decision to change its song so that it will be less offensive to modern sensibilities. It’s a peach of an article because, without any effort on the author’s part, it exposes so many things that are wrong with a university that once had something of a decent reputation (although that hasn’t been true in my lifetime). Specifically:

► The snowflakes are offended by the song’s closing line, “Till the stock of the Puritans die,” although it’s apparently been tolerated reasonable well since it was composed in 1836.

► The contest is being overseen by Harvard’s Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging.

► The song contest was announced at a ““Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging” event, which included people taking the mic to talk about inclusion and belonging:

Eden H. Girma ’18, the only undergraduate to speak, recalled participating in a protest at Primal Scream, a biannual naked run around Harvard Yard before the first day of finals. The protesters wanted to observe minute and a half of silence for black men killed by police, Girma said.

“Thinking back to that experience, with all of the emotions that I had, I can only see at the moment, that seems so clear to me, seeing two Harvards. One, a student body that felt so intrinsically implicated in the violence that was happening in the world, and another that seemed so blind to that,” Girma said. “Thinking retrospectively, I know there are so many nuances to this.”

► After the formal meeting, there was an informal meeting, with prompts:

For the latter part of the afternoon, attendees formed small groups to discuss prompts such as “share an experience where you or someone you know felt that they didn’t belong at Harvard” and “how can we bring Harvard closer to our aspirations?” Each group designated a “scribe” to take notes to submit to the task force’s website.

If I see Harvard on someone’s resume, I am so not hiring that person. The risk that the person suffers from “University Induced Insanity Syndrome” is too great.

Jared Kushner’s fashion faux pas. I still haven’t decided about Jared Kushner. Since he was, apparently, the architect of Trump’s victory, I know he’s smart and effective. I like that he’s Jewish, which shows that even non-religious Jews can be tribal. I don’t like that he’s a lifelong Democrat. Unless he’s on Trump’s own fast track learning curve about the fact that Democrat policies consistently fail, his rising power in the White House is disturbing.

But putting all that aside, the real problem with Kushner is that he has no idea how to dress in a war zone. When he showed up in Iraq nattily attired in chinos, a blue shirt, and a navy blazer, Twitter caught fire and I’m still laughing, even though it was the unsavory Louise Mensch who got the ball rolling:

See more jokes at Kushner’s expense here.

And that’s all I have for today. Chag Sameach! (Happy Passover!)