July 5, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The case for ending judicial reviewIs it time to sap some of the Supreme Court's power? (JOEL MATHIS, JULY 5, 2021, The Week)

A presidential commission considering reforms to the court last Wednesday heard from Nikolas Bowie, an associate professor at Harvard Law School. He argued that it is time to end the high court's power of "judicial review," which gives it the authority to declare a law unconstitutional and thus usually gives SCOTUS the last word in battles with the legislative and executive branches.

The Supreme Court's "relationship to Congress is not that of an umpire overseeing a batter, but of a rider overseeing a horse," Bowie told the commission in his written testimony. "Most of the time, the court gives Congress free rein to act as it pleases. But the court remains in the saddle, ready to pull on the reins when Congress moves to disrupt hierarchies of wealth or status." [....]

Judicial review, of course, is mentioned nowhere explicitly in the Constitution -- the court claimed that authority for itself in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. "It is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is," Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the ruling. The precedent has stood for more than 200 years.

Whether that should be the case is now an open question. Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law professor and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, acknowledged in his own testimony that judicial review had made the Supreme Court more powerful than the Founders intended. "It is therefore fair to say that the founding generation did not fully anticipate the modern practice of robust judicial review," he said, "that both empowers the judiciary to protect rights and democratic norms and simultaneously renders the judiciary more capable of harming democracy than it would be without it."

There are only two legitimate bases for holding a law unconstitutional: that it was not adopted via democratic processes, such that the citizenry to be bound by the law (or their elected representatives) participated in its adoption; or that it does not apply universally to all citizens of the Republic.  Meanwhile, there is no basis for the courts to create a positive law. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Poll Finds Startling Difference in Vaccinations Among US Republicans and Democrats (VOA News, July 05, 2021)

A Washington Post-ABC News poll has found a startling difference between Democrats and Republicans as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination. The poll found that while 86% of Democrats have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, only 45% of Republicans have.

In addition, the survey found that while only 6% of Democrats said they would probably decline the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they would probably not be inoculated. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Louis Armstrong: the warmth and wit of the legendary jazz artistIn this personal long read, Martin Chilton looks back at the book his father co-wrote about the legendarily sassy trumpet player and salutes a one-of-a-kind who was as generous as he was witty (Martin Chilton, 7/04/.21, Independent)

Max Jones had been close with Armstrong since 1949. The musician was astonished and impressed when the young writer turned up at Heathrow (then called London Airport) with a portable wind-up gramophone and played him "Blue Yodel No 9" by Jimmie Rodgers. The 1930 tune puzzled jazz fans for decades, because the trumpet player was unlisted. Jones believed it was Armstrong playing (along with his second wife Lil Hardin on piano) on the Victor record. Armstrong laughed and confirmed it was his contribution, explaining that he was under contract to Okeh Records at the time and had played anonymously.

It was with Okeh, of course, that Armstrong, then just 24, made the celebrated recordings with his Hot Five and Hot Seven bands in the 1920s. "The bottom line of any country in the world is what did we contribute to the world? America contributed Louis Armstrong," celebrated singer Tony Bennett told the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. Those masterpieces - including "West End Blues", with its ingenious opening cadenza, and "Potato Head Blues", on which he played a remarkable stop-time chorus that became a test-piece for all aspiring young trumpeters - would have been enough to secure his legacy. He established the whole structure and technique of jazz improvisation. Miles Davis, hero of the bebop era, conceded that "you can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played".

Although his 1920s work remains perhaps his most revered, some of Armstrong's early 1930s work (on magnificent tunes such as "Lazy River" and "Sweethearts on Parade"), his Decca recordings, his work with his integrated All Stars band (including the brilliant 1956 album Live At The Hollywood Bowl), his duets with Ella Fitzgerald and the moving late hits "We Have All the Time in the World" and "What a Wonderful World", are evidence of a career of sustained brilliance over more than half a century.

Armstrong's wife and pianist Lil Hardin played a big part in Armstrong's rise, engineering his career as a star soloist and vocalist. Although they fell out in later life, not speaking for a decade, in the letters to Jones and Chilton he gave her full credit for changing his fortunes. Armstrong's former bandleaders disliked his singing voice, but on his 1920s recordings, he showed the world how to swing, improvise... and scat. Wordless singing was an absolute novelty when Armstrong introduced it on "Gut Bucket Blues" and, by breaking all the rules, he changed vocal recording forever. Armstrong later said that he dropped the sheet with the lyrics in the middle of the recording and suddenly remembered using his voice as a kid to imitate instruments.

Humour and stage banter were a key part of Armstrong's performances, and his outgoing personality was evident in his correspondence, which always included a witty adverbial sign-off. Among those he used regularly (signing as Louis, or using his nicknames Satchmo, Ol' Satchmo, Satch or Pops) were "Dietingly yours", "Red beans and ricely yours", "Brussell sproutingly yours", "Swiss Krissly Yours", "Am Ricely & Chickenly Yours", "I am Trumpetly Yours", "Am Trumpetblowingly Yours", "Am Musically Yours", "Yours Soul Foodly" and, occasionally, "Here's swinging 'atcha".

One of his most oft-repeated jokes was about a wake in New Orleans, when a mourner lays his hand on the brow of the corpse, only to find it feeling a trifle warm. When he informed the widow, she replied, "hot or cold, he's going tomorrow afternoon". And Armstrong may have been the only man in the world who could get away with cracking risqué jokes with Pope Pius XII in 1949. Armstrong later told Jones that the Pope was a "little bitty feller" who'd asked him if he had any children. "Not yet, but we're having a lot of fun trying," Armstrong replied. When the Pope laughed, the trumpeter told him a few more jokes. "I floored him with a couple of belly laughs, Max," he recalled.