Opinion | Why Is the Supreme Court Ignoring Its Own Rules?

“Amid mounting pressure for Supreme Court reform, Congress has before it one relatively straightforward option: enshrine Scalia’s “standing test” and legislate the basic requirements for who can sue over major issues of national importance.
Currently, the law concerning standing is governed by a series of Supreme Court cases that sort out which plaintiffs can bring cases in federal court in the first place. If it’s the wrong plaintiff, the case is thrown out. It also keeps federal judges out of the business of legislating under the pretense of legitimate litigation.

But so far, there is no general “standing” statute. The court has set its own standards for which cases it and lower courts can hear, pursuant to its reading of the Constitution. Congress should change that and set down its own marker. Although the current right-wing justices could decide to strike down standing legislation as impinging on their constitutional prerogatives, codification of standing law would send an important message that Congress is willing to impose reasonable checks and balances on the justices.

Standing comes from Article III of the Constitution, which gives federal judges the job description of deciding “cases.” The case law around standing amounts to the court’s working definition of the word “case”: At its core, it requires that plaintiffs have an injury that’s unique to them and not shared by the general population. Standing is central to the separation of powers because judges are supposed to only consider disputes between discrete parties that occurred in the past.

To grasp the distinction, imagine a case in which a city miscalculates the property tax liability owed by a homeowner for a single residence. She sues the government to get that particular financial injury redressed. Resolving that dispute is a job for the courts because it’s between two discrete parties and involves retroactive relief.

Legislatures, by contrast, make rules that are future-oriented and apply to the general population. If the homeowner wants the general property tax rate lowered, she must push legislators for action, not the courts. Standing holds judges within their constitutional lane by keeping sweeping policy disputes impacting the broader public out of courtrooms.

The Constitution does not define the word “case,” however, so the Supreme Court has had to fill in the blanks over the years by requiring, first and foremost, a concrete “injury” to make something a case. In cases between private parties, the injury is usually obvious — the defendant broke a contract or committed a tort that left the plaintiff worse off than they were before. In cases against the government, if the plaintiff is a corporation, it’s easy to show that a regulation or legislation causes harm to their business. But if a regular citizen wants the government to take action that affects the public — such as enforcing clean air standards or making mifepristone unavailable across the country — it’s harder to show an injury that’s particularized, or special, to the actual plaintiff bringing the suit.

For those cases, the court has long made clear that taxpayers cannot sue merely to vindicate their alleged “injury” in having their tax dollars misused by the government. That would allow angry taxpayers to turn the judiciary into the ultimate boss of the other two branches of government. Beyond that, what suffices as an injury can be hard to pin down, with the court adding a slew of adjectives to the test, requiring that an injury be imminent and not speculative or hypothetical, for example.

The governing standard, created by the Supreme Court over decades and refined at Scalia’s hand, requires three things: 1) that the plaintiff has an injury that is unique to them, 2) that the defendant caused it and 3) that if the court rules in their favor, that injury will be fixed. The aim is to find the equivalent of a “broken arm” — versus a generic policy gripe — that courts can remedy with an order.”

“The fact that the court can pick and choose which cases in which to recognize standing law, and which they prefer to overlook it, cries out for congressional intervention.”

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/06/25/supreme-court-reform-congress-00164740

Opinion | The Sad Truth About Elite Universities

“A handful of schools, including Amherst and Johns Hopkins, had ended the practice of giving admissions to the children of alumni — so called legacy preferences — in the years before affirmative action was struck down. Seven more ended the practice after the Supreme Court’s decision last year, and for a minute it appeared the dominoes would fall — but then no other college followed suit.

Meanwhile, many have doubled down on legacy preference and other mechanisms of exclusion that drive the massive wealth disparities on these campuses. And no “elite” college has made an explicit commitment to give a leg up in the admissions process based on socioeconomic disadvantage — the most obvious mechanism for promoting diversity. For several years now, at Harvard and 37 other U.S. colleges and universities, more students have come from the top 1 percent of the income distribution than the bottom 60 percent.”
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/06/25/supreme-court-affirmative-action-ruling-elite-colleges-00164902https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2024/06/25/supreme-court-affirmative-action-ruling-elite-colleges-00164902

Why the ludicrous Republican response to Trump’s conviction matters

“Democrats didn’t convict Trump; a jury of 12 ordinary Americans did. The Biden administration played no role in prosecuting the case; the indictment came from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and was issued after federal prosecutors declined to go after Trump on similar charges.”

“The current Republican party is so hostile to the foundations of the American political system that they can be counted on to attack the possibility of a fair Trump trial. Either Trump should be able to do whatever he wants with no accountability, or it’s proof that the entire edifice of American law and politics is rotten.”

https://www.vox.com/politics/352814/trump-conviction-republican-response

What ever happened to the war on terror?

“As part of a larger restructuring, the US Army also announced it is cutting thousands of posts in roles most heavily involved in counterterrorism. “The mission or the function of counterterrorism has continued, but it just doesn’t have the same limelight and focus that it did,” Javed Ali, a counterterrorism specialist formerly at the FBI, Pentagon, and National Security Council, told Vox.”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/352855/war-on-terror-biden-isis-al-qaeda

The overlooked conflict that altered the nature of war in the 21st century

“On the second day of the 2020 Armenia-Azerbaijan war, the Armenian military posted a video of one of its surface-to-air missile systems shooting down a surprising enemy aircraft: an Antonov AN-2 biplane.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a sign of desperation on Azerbaijan’s part that its military was flying a plane first produced in the Soviet Union in 1947, and today used mostly for crop-dusting. Azerbaijan had converted several AN-2s into unmanned aircraft and used them as so-called bait drones. After the Armenians shot down the planes, revealing the positions of their anti-aircraft systems, their forces came under attack from more modern drones.”

“it was also a hypermodern war where unmanned systems played an unprecedented role on the battlefield, and social media played an unprecedented role off it. Though it got relatively little coverage in the international media at the time — coming as it did at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, a wave of global protests, and a bitter US presidential election campaign — it was in some ways a preview of the much larger war that would break out in Ukraine just two years later, and may yet be seen as the harbinger of a new and potentially devastating era of international conflict.”

“The Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute is one of the so-called frozen conflicts left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh, often referred to as Artsakh by Armenians, is an ethnically Armenian region within the borders of neighboring Azerbaijan. Violence in the region erupted in the 1980s when authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh demanded to be transferred to Armenia. (At the time, all were part of the Soviet Union.)

After the Soviet collapse, when both Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent, full-scale war broke out, resulting in more than 30,000 deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Azeris. The first war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in 1994 that left Nagorno-Karabakh as a semi-independent — but internationally unrecognized — territory surrounded by Azerbaijan, and Armenia retained control of some of the nearby areas. Effectively, it was an Armenian victory.

In the years that followed, the ceasefire was frequently violated by both sides and the underlying issues never resolved. Then on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan’s forces launched a rapid dawn offensive, beginning 44 days of war.

This time, it was a resounding success for Azerbaijan, retaking all of the Armenian-held territory around Nagorno-Karabakh as well as about a third of the territory itself. At least 6,500 people were killed before the two sides agreed to a Russian-monitored ceasefire and only a winding mountain road was left to connect Armenia and Karabakh. (Though Russia, the preeminent military power in the region, is a traditional ally of Armenia, it has been hedging its bets more in recent years, particularly since the 2018 protests that brought a Western-inclined, democratic government to power in Armenia.)

Finally, in 2023 — with Russia distracted and bogged down by its war in Ukraine — Azerbaijan launched a blockade of Nagorno Karabakh, eventually seizing the region and causing the majority of its Armenian population to flee. The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh was dissolved in 2024.”

“What made Azerbaijan’s rapid victory possible? One major factor was Turkey’s strong military support for Azerbaijan, a fellow Muslim, Turkic-speaking nation that Turkey saw as a key ally in extending its influence into the Caucasus. Another related factor was Azerbaijan’s deployment of unmanned drones, particularly the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 attack drone, as well as several models of exploding drones purchased from Israel. These weapons proved stunningly effective at destroying the tanks and air defense systems of the Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh forces.”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/351105/armenia-azerbaijan-war-combat-future-drones

Republicans want to put pigs back in tiny cages. Again.

“Several other states have gestation crate bans, but the California and Massachusetts laws are unique because they outlaw not just the use of crates within those states’ borders, but also the sale of pork produced using gestation crates anywhere in the world. Both states import almost all of their pork from bigger pork-producing states (the top three are Iowa, Minnesota, and North Carolina), so the industry has argued that Prop 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3 unfairly burden producers outside their borders. California in particular makes up about 13 percent of US pork consumption, threatening to upend the industry’s preferred way of doing business for a big chunk of the market.
The California and Massachusetts laws also ban the sale of eggs and veal from animals raised in extreme cage confinement. Both industries opposed Prop 12 before it passed but have largely complied with the law; neither has put up the fierce legal fight that the pork industry has, led by Big Meat lobbying groups like the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Institute, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

House Agriculture Committee chair Glenn Thompson (R-PA), who introduced this year’s House Farm Bill last month, touts “addressing Proposition 12” as a core priority. The legislation includes a narrowed version of the EATS Act (short for Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression), a bill introduced by Republicans in both chambers last year to ban states from setting their own standards for the production of any agricultural products, animal or vegetable, imported from other states.

The Farm Bill language has been tightened to focus solely on livestock, banning states from setting standards for how animal products imported from other states are raised. It is less extreme only in comparison to the sweeping EATS Act, but also more transparent about its aim to shield the meat industry from accountability. At the Farm Bill markup on May 23, when the legislation passed committee, Thompson urged his colleagues to protect the livestock industry from “inside-the-beltway animal welfare activists.”

The provisions slipped into the Farm Bill may have consequences that reach far beyond the humane treatment of animals. They “could hamstring the ability of states to regulate not just animal welfare but also the sale of meat and dairy products produced from animals exposed to disease, with the use of certain harmful animal drugs, or through novel biotechnologies like cloning, as well as adjacent production standards involving labor, environmental, or cleanliness conditions,” Kelley McGill, a legislative policy fellow at Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Program who authored an influential report last year on the potential impacts of the EATS Act, told me in an email.

House Republicans have been trying to use the Farm Bill to overturn public preferences on animal welfare for more than a decade, as Vox’s Kenny Torrella reported last year, ever since the far-right former Rep. Steve King of Iowa introduced the precursor to the EATS Act in 2013. What may seem more surprising, at first blush, is that the factory farm industry’s campaign to force animals back into immobilizing cages has drawn support from a broader swath of authorities, including the Biden administration.”

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/353393/farm-bill-republicans-prop-12-gestation-crates-pork

Why North Korea dumped trash on South Korea

“North Korean officials have long expressed irritation about balloons coming over from the south containing political information and cultural products banned by the regime. These packets are generally sent over by private individuals, including North Koreans who have defected to the South as well as activists seeking to foment resistance.
Since North Korean people are closed off from the outside world and have little access to political or cultural information, the South Korean balloons are one attempt by activists to combat these constraints. According to North Korean officials, the trash balloons were meant to show South Koreans how annoying these deliveries are and to push back on these efforts as a whole.

“Kim [Jong Un] doesn’t want his people to know about their relative deprivation and the quality of life in the free world. He is more afraid of BTS than US nukes,” Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor of government, told Vox.”

https://www.vox.com/world-politics/353604/north-korea-trash-balloons