Guesswork, journalists, and the Supreme Court (5×8 – 3/25/13)

A week for same-sex marriage, when native casinos fall on hard times, the inseparables, prom season begins, and the winter bike commuter.


A week for same-sex marriage, when native casinos fall on hard times, the inseparables, prom season begins, and the winter bike commuter.

First, the Monday Morning Rouser:

1) A WEEK FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Sometimes, journalists are slow learners. After the health care law arguments before the Supreme Court, reporters and other experts analyzed every question asked and determined the law was in trouble. Then the Supreme Court upheld the law. The lesson: You never know.

This week, the Court holds hearings on two laws — the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban — and we note that on the talk shows yesterday, the experts couldn’t help themselves.

“I believe that it’s very unlikely the Supreme Court is going to say you have a constitutional right – a broad-based constitutional right to gay marriage,” CBS reporter Jan Crawford told Face the Nation. “This is a Supreme Court that doesn’t really like to get very far out in front of public opinion. Nine states now allow gay marriage. It seems unlikely – and I think people on both sides agree – that they’re not going to say to the other 41, ‘You’ve got to change your rules and allow it.’”

Adam Cohen at Time, however, says the Supreme Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

Writing in the New Yorker over the weekend, Richard Socarides an attorney and longtime gay-rights advocate, said it’s possible the court won’t rule on the merits of either case if they stumble on technicalities.

He also notes that cases like these come down to how a single justice might consider his legacy.


Other scholars see these cases in cultural terms. Michael Klarman, the Kirkland & Ellis professor of law at Harvard Law School and the author of the recently published “From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage,” said in an e-mail to me about the case that “the best way to think about predicting this is not in terms of legal doctrine–e.g., ‘standards of review’–but in terms of the politics.”

Klarman believes that for Justice Kennedy, the likely swing vote, “the relevant questions would be whether the country is ready for this or whether a ruling in favor would generate too much backlash, and how much he cares about his legacy and how confident he is that within a relatively short period of time–a decade or so–a marriage equality ruling would be regarded as the Brown v. Board of the gay rights movement.”

At ScotusBlog, the amazing Lyle Denniston provides the first to two columns previewing the cases (Part 2 here). In the first, he gauges that the “amicus” briefs — Vikings punter Chris Kluwe filed one — probably won’t make any difference.

NPR reported over the weekend that 15 Democrats in Congress who voted for DOMA — recognizing marriage as between one man and one woman — now regret their vote. Sixteen Senate Republicans voted for it; only one is now opposed.

The line outside the Supreme Court to get a seat started on Friday.

There’s no live coverage of the hearings — it’s still a pretty behind-the-times court, afterall — but the court will make recordings and transcripts available by noon (CT) on Tuesday and 1 p.m.(CT) on Wednesday

2) WHEN NATIVE CASINOS FALL ON HARD TIMES

As long as they have federal recognition, casino-owning tribes are eligible for the same grant programs as the larger tribes based on large, poverty-stricken reservations in the American West, the Associated Press reports. But several big-money casino owners are now tapping into the federal grants, which don’t need to be paid back, andsupport tribal governments by paying for programs such as health screenings, road maintenance and environmental preservation, according to the AP.

In an investigation, however, the AP reported that the Mashantucket Pequots, who operated the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, gave its 900 members annual stipends exceeding $100,000 annually until the economy went south and it expanded its profitable casino operation too fast.

3) THE INSEPARABLES

Mary Lou Pouti and Maynard Peterson were high school sweethearts back at Superior Central High School. They got married and stayed that way for 65 years, until an illness with stroke-like symptoms forced Maynard to move to a more intensive assisted living facility than the one in which they resided. Mary Lou, 86, stayed behind, but — the Duluth News reported – visited just last week:


The daughters took their mom, who had suffered a fall and wasn’t doing so well herself, to see their dad this week.

Mary Lou would hold his hand.

“I miss him so much,” Aili recalled her saying.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Johnson heard her say.

Mary Lou suffered a heart attack and stroke 17 years ago and Maynard fiercely took care of her, Aili said. He was protective of her, sometimes too much so, the daughters said.

Mary Lou died of a blood clot Thursday. Her daughters went to tell their dad. He died several hours later.

“They were inseparable,” their daughter said.

4) PROM SEASON BEGINS

Over in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, the kids are alright. Students at the high school there continued a tradition, providing a prom and dinner for local residents with developmental disabilities.

“I didn’t know it was going to be so much fun,” an 18 year-old student who at first was reluctant around people different from herself. “All they want is a dance partner.”

How the tradition started is documented today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:


Cedarburg High School student Niki Doedens wanted to change that. A star basketball player who was second in her class academically and an avid volunteer for causes that benefit those with disabilities, Doedens was planning what would become the full-blown reception and dinner part of things when she was a senior in 2003-’04.

She would not live to see it happen.

On the night of February 8, 2004, with her application to Duke University pending and a more fully developed Portal Prom around the corner, Doedens lost control of her Jeep Wrangler on an icy patch of Highway 60. Uncharacteristically, she hadn’t buckled her seat belt. She was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.

In her application essay to Duke’s pre-med program, Doedens wrote that being involved with Portal Prom had made her more fully appreciate her own abilities to play sports and learn and socialize.

“As I participate in these activities, I am doing something with my life,” she wrote. “I am proving that there are people in this world who really do care. To an individual or a community, I am making a difference.”

Her acceptance letter arrived the day after her funeral.

5) THE WINTER BIKE COMMUTER

As winter winds down — trust me, it’s winding down — we pay tribute to those who commuted every day with their bicycles. Jeremy Williams, who works at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, started commuting with his old college bike 12 years ago when he couldn’t find a decent parking lot downtown. He’s been biking ever since.

“We’re lucky enough to have ended up in a city where it’s small enough and there’s a great trail system,” Williams tells the Post Bulletin. “The people here, the awareness, you feel safe on the street.”

Consider Aldo Zanoni up in Edmonton who taught school and saw the gym teacher riding his bike to work in the winter and thought he was “nuts.”

“Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that I would have been doing what he was doing. But until you see a couple people do it, you don’t think it’s possible,” he says.

Related: Minneapolis company bikes honey to customers. (MN Daily)

Bonus I: The end of the line for toll collectors. (NY Times)

Bonus II: Your self-driving car is on a narrow bridge when a school bus veers into your lane. Should your self-driving car plunge off the bridge–sacrificing your life to save those of the children? (Wired.com)

Bonus III: A giant Star Trek logo appeared over London during Earth Hour on Saturday:

TODAY’S QUESTION

TV time for children younger than 2 has been discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics for decades. A recent study suggests that screen time leads to lower psychological ability. But some parents, educators and a growing industry of educational app makers are making a case to allow young children touch-screen time. Today’s Question: Should touch-screen use by young children be encouraged?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The silica sand mining debate.

Second hour: Hidden cities and the corners of the world’s great metropolis areas.

Third hour: Should kids get allowance?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A Chautauqua Lecture by comparative religion writer Karen Armstrong, about the world’s great religions and our global responsibilities to fellow human beings

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Nina Totenberg discusses the two big social issues before the Supreme Court this week.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The promise of the digital age was that technology would save us time. But Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist says rather than use it to our advantage we are being enslaved by technology. Audie Cornish talks to Rushkoff about his new book Present Shock and taking back the clock.