November 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


A Federal Judge Calls Clarence Thomas' Bluff on Gun Rights and Originalism (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 02, 2022, Slate)

Last Thursday, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi [...] proposed appointing a historian to help him "identify and sift through authoritative sources on founding-era firearms restrictions" to decide the constitutionality of a federal law barring felons from possessing firearms. His proposal is the first positive development in Second Amendment law since the Bruen revolution. At worst, it will demonstrate the absurdity and impossibility of Thomas' command. At best, it will restore sanity to an area of jurisprudence that is going completely off the rails.

Reeves' order is bracingly honest about the sorry state of Second Amendment jurisprudence today. "The justices of the Supreme Court, distinguished as they may be, are not trained historians," he wrote. Federal judges "lack both the methodological and substantive knowledge that historians possess. The sifting of evidence that judges perform is different than the sifting of sources and methodologies that historians perform. And we are not experts in what white, wealthy, and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791." Putting oneself in the mindset of rich, white men in the 18th century requiring training and practice. "Yet we are now expected to play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication."

To illustrate his point, Reeves wrote that while historians still fiercely contest the theory of an individual right to bear arms, that right remains the law. He quoted the academic Patrick J. Charles, who wrote that advocates of this theory "broke, and continue to break, virtually every norm of historical objectivity and methodology accepted within academia." Charles' complaint could be applied to a huge amount of pseudo-originalist legal theory. As he explained: "Minority viewpoints are cast as majority viewpoints. Historical speakers' and writers' words are cast in terms outside the bounds of their intended context or audience. The intellectual and political thoughts of different historical eras are explained from modern vantage point. Historical presumptions or inferences are sold as historical facts."

Bruen exemplifies these problems. Thomas adopted a tendentious and selective reading of the record, endorsing a false narrative shaped by Republican-allied academics funded by gun rights groups like the NRA. He started with the false premise that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms--a right that the court established for the first time in 2008's District of Columbia v. Heller--which scholars have comprehensively debunked using originalist tools. He then manipulated or ignored long-established limits on concealed carry to conclude that such restrictions are not rooted in American history.

...the notion of individual gun rights is anti-textual. Originalism is a tough taskmaster.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Transmission infrastructure lowers energy bills, creates jobs, and keeps Americans safe (CONRAD LA JOIE,  KRISTIN EBERHARD, NOVEMBER 1, 2022, Niskanen Center)

More transmission means more jobs for American workers, economic growth for American industry, and more money in the bank for American families. Lack of transmission and rising energy costs strain the average American family. Average electric bills across the country are now almost $137 per month[1]-3 percent of the median household's take-home pay.[2] Transmission infrastructure can reduce these costs by connecting more Americans to cheap and plentiful energy resources. Building more transmission lines to access low-cost clean energy generation can reduce the average household's electricity bills by $300 per year. 

Transmission also provides Americans with honest pay for honest work. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that a 20-mile transmission line will generally create 114 construction jobs and 2 maintenance jobs. Specifically, analysis of a 180-mile transmission line from Wyoming to Colorado indicates it will create 500 construction and 70 maintenance jobs. Given the dynamic growth in the energy sector, especially in wind and solar development, some analysts project job growth of over 1.5 million jobs just in transmission and another 7.5 million jobs throughout the entire energy sector by 2050.

Transmission helps drive economic growth throughout our economy as well. The TransWest Express Transmission Project is expected to generate up to $9.5 billion dollars over the next 50 years in the Mountain-West region alone. Other more comprehensive portfolios in the Great Lakes region and along the Mississippi can reap as much as $74.8 billion in economic benefits. 

Sufficient transmission infrastructure makes cheap and clean energy available to more Americans. The United States is fortunate to have abundant energy resources, including geothermal, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, high-value solar in the American Southwest, and copious wind in the Midwest and Plains states that can keep the lights on at low costs with limited pollution. Unfortunately, our power grid lacks the capacity to deliver this energy across the country.

The U.S. must build a robust transmission network to tap into these vast energy reserves. We are already generating cheap energy that gets trapped, unable to benefit households, businesses, and American industry. Once generated, electricity must be used or wasted. If there isn't transmission capacity available to get the electricity to the consumer, producers must "sell" the energy at a negative price. Building more transmission infrastructure in these areas experiencing regular negative prices would allow that cheap power to flow to homes and businesses in neighboring regions. This would not only bring down power prices for those customers immediately, but the stable revenues for power producers would also drive more investment in energy development, creating more abundant energy and driving prices down further. 

Transmission brings massive benefits to our country. It fortifies energy security against weather events and other threats, brings down costs, bolsters economic prosperity, and unlocks vast sources of clean, low-cost, made-in-America energy. Building more transmission infrastructure would extend these benefits to many more Americans and ensure that the disasters wrought by Winter Storm Uri don't become a recurring national nightmare.