Two brief commentaries today: the UN report on climate change and Trump’s reaction (ugh) and the surprising options we have to reshape the Supreme Court and bring it up to date. As a bonus a song about Trump’s comment on how “tough boys have it these days,”Could the two issues spark a wave of political activism for 2020?
The Clock Is Ticking. Does This Change Everything…At Last?
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a 700 page report that included a dire warning: We have a decade to address climate change within the next ten years or the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperatures will bake-in a dystopian future for our grandchildren. The report outlines what is required and while technically feasible, current efforts–even leaving the US and Trump out of the discussion–pale next to what is necessary. For those eager to wade into 700 pages of detailed analysis, charts and graphs, click here to get the full report, A 33-page summary is available organized into four sections and is far more accessible. To read the summary click here. Either report warns of environmental catastrophe as early as 2040 and advises that the worst can be staved off only if civilization is transformed more profoundly than at any point in recorded history. And Trump’s response? “It was given to me. It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew, you know, which group drew it, Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good,” he added. “Drew it?” What does this guy read for information, comic books and child picture books? Even had he not looked at it yet, no doubt he had been briefed at least in broad strokes about the contents of the report and that it had been produced by 91 scientists from 40 countries who based there conclusions upon the review of over 6000 scientific studies.
I am not holding my breath waiting for Trump to comment on the report because based upon very recent behavior, he is impervious to facts and consistently rejects any opportunity to engage in serious climate change action (e.g. Paris) and most recently pledged to speed up the burning of coal, which the report warns would block pathways to keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. And just Monday, the Trump administration announced that the Environmental Protection Agency would be changing a rule to allow year-round sales of E15, or fuel that is 15 percent ethanol by volume. “I want more industry. I want more energy. I want more,” Trump told reporters Tuesday before leaving for a rally in Iowa. He said he was dissatisfied with the current price of crude oil per barrel, $74.
A very revealing comment, there, especially in the blanket, “I want more.” This is a man and a GOP party with an insatiable appetite for more: more profit, more growth, more oil, more power, more arms. And they are willing to swap justice and our futures for more.
But for the rest of us, this report could serve as a tremendous motivation for renewed and sustained activism and organizing. Were the Democratic Party truly a party of the people and the planet, it would see this report and Trumps milquetoast comments as an opportunity for 2018, quickly generating political slogans around saving the planet and forcing climate change actions that are necessary now. But I have only a little more faith in the Democrats with their neo liberal ties to fossil fuels and corporate profits. We knew about much of what is in this report ten years ago when we elected the change we can believe in and Obama promptly out fracked the world. But with a bit more time we could make the 2020 election all about preserving some semblance of a future for our grand kids. This could become a focal point of canvassing and organizing that begins right after the November mid-terms with a goal of electing representatives who will take our future seriously. As Naomi Klein stated in her 2014 book maybe finally today, this does change everything.
I think it is important that all of us digest the summary to this report and I am eager to hear comments from readers as to how we proceed. Could this change everything? Could this motivate you to get out of your comfort zones and begin talking with your neighbors about the future we want for our And if the answer to that is no, what does that say about us?
With a Different Congress & President, We Have Surprising Supreme Court Options in 2020.
The US Constitution creates “one supreme court” but does not specify how many justices there should be, nor is Congress prohibited from imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices.. That is up to Congress to decide. The number of justices is an usually an odd number so that there would be no tie votes. Why there are 9 though is a matter of practicality based on the workload of the Supreme Court. The first Supreme Court had 6 justices, then it changed to 5, then to 7 then to 9 then to 10 then to 7 again and then back to 9. The original U.S. Supreme Court had only six Justices; that number has changed several times over the years. . Judiciary Act of 1789: Court size 6 . Judiciary Act of 1801: Court size, 5 . Repeal Act of 1802: Court size, 6 . Seventh Circuit Act of 1807: Court size, 7 . Judiciary Act of 1837: Court size, 9 . Tenth Circuit Act of 1863: Court size, 10 . Judicial Circuit Act of 1866: Court size, 7 . Habeas Corpus Act of 1867: Court size, 8 . Judiciary Act of 1869: Court size, 9
Most likely, the current court has an odd number of Justices to prevent an evenly split decision. The number may have expanded to nine because the caseload has increased over the years, and not all Justices elect to review petitions for writ of certiorari (requests for a case to be reviewed by the court). The number was temporarily reduced from ten to seven during Andrew Johnson’s term of office, because Congress didn’t want him to have an opportunity to appoint new justices, so clearly Congress is not beneath politicizing Supreme Court appointment policies. The size of the Court was increased to nine rather than ten (most likely to avoid tie votes) when Ulysses S. Grant was elected. Congress always had reasons for changing the size of the Court — whether to allow a sitting President more or less influence, or to adjust the Court’s workload, but their purpose isn’t always easy to determine. The last time this was seriously proposed was during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, Roosevelt’s plan (which would have ultimately allowed for up to 15 justices) was so obviously an attempt to pack the court with those whose political ideology agreed with his own that it was a political disaster for him. As it was, 8 of the 9 justices on the Court (including the Chief Justice) were Roosevelt appointees by 1941. The chart below left indicates that there was only lukewarm support for adding more justices to the Supreme Court, but this poll was taken before the Kavanaugh appointment. A vigorous education and organizing campaign around the concept might well generate a different level of support for the idea.
But while there is only tepid support for adding judges just now, there is strong and bipartisan support for imposing term limits. Ely Yokley from Morning Consult reports Americans favor placing term limits on Supreme Court judges (see left) and that a non-profit, Fix the Court, is advocating for an 18-year limit. “It’s important to have justices who are reflective of the population they’re bringing judgment upon,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of the group Fix the Court, in a Tuesday interview. “Before Kennedy retired, we still had justices who were appointed during the Reagan administration. A lot’s changed in the world since the Reagan administration.” Roth 2ent on to report that despite momentum in the legal community and among many Americans in support of term limits, there is no such movement on Capitol Hill and a number of legal scholars argue such changes would require a constitutional amendment. Perhaps there needs to be some pressure applied when (2018 or 2020) the Dems flip the Congress.
If you want a bit of levity at the expense of the Donald, click here to hear “Make Noise” a clever, light and witty take on Trump’s comments that times are tough now for boys. But when done with the levity, I strongly encourage that you take the time to review the UN report summary and watch Naomi Klein’s riveting talk.
Paul & Roxanne