Make no mistake, this is the ‘McConnell Court’

June 30, Joseph Kobylka, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at SMU Dallas, for a commentary summing up the work of the 2021 Supreme Court term and how influencer Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shaped the membership and caused an abrupt turn in rulings toward the right. Published in The Hill under the heading Make no mistake, this is the ‘McConnell Court’: https://bit.ly/3uak07R

The Supreme Court’s just completed 2021 term marked a distinct turn toward the constitutional right and vision of the Federalist Society. There is no turning back, at least not in the near term. This is one of the youngest courts in over 100 years; its major constitutional decisions are likely to endure for a decade or more.

This is largely attributable to three most recent appointees: Justices Neil GorsuchBrett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. In tandem with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, the court has a stable five-person majority — six when Chief Justice John Roberts joins them — steering it on politically salient issues of constitutional law. Many will attribute this result to President Trump, but that would be wrong. This isn’t “Donald Trump’s Court”; it is a court largely made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And, for better or worse, it has brought the jurisprudential style of nearly 70 years to a hard stop.

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50 Years Ago, a SCOTUS Decision Placed a Moratorium on Executions. It’s Time to Revive it, Permanently

June 28, Rick Halperin, director of the SMD Dallas Human Rights Program, for a piece recalling a brief period 50 years ago when the U.S. was without the death penalty. Published in History News Network under the heading 50 Years Ago, a SCOTUS Decision Placed a Moratorium on Executions. It’s Time to Revive it, Permanently: https://bit.ly/3OOlj4A

Fifty years ago in 1972, as spring faded and summer arrived in late June, America (and the world) was a vastly different place.

The United States was still entangled in the quagmire of the Vietnam War, and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of individuals still marched on city streets and on university campuses demanding an end to the bloodshed that would ultimately claim the lives of over 58,000 American soldiers and 3 million Vietnamese.

On May 15, Alabama Governor and presidential candidate George Wallace was shot (and paralyzed) by Arthur Bremer in a parking lot in Laurel, Maryland. Within 2 weeks, there would be two failed break-ins at the Watergate complex in Virginia, a crime that led to the downfall and resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.

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Happy 25th Anniversary to the Supreme Court Decision That Shaped the Internet We Have Today

June 26, Jared Schroeder, associate professor of journalism at SMU Dallas and a specialist in Frist Amendment issues and co-author Jeff Kosseff, for an op-ed underscoring the impact 25 years ago when a Supreme Court ruling, Reno vs. ACLU, helped shape the Internet as we now know it. Published in Slate under the heading Happy 25th Anniversary to the Supreme Court Decision That Shaped the Internet We Have Today: https://bit.ly/3bzLiyb

Twenty-five years ago, the Supreme Court told the government to keep its hands off the internet. Today, the internet is vastly different—and far more central to everyday life—than it was on June 26, 1997, but the court’s reasoning in Reno v. ACLU is more important than ever.

At the heart of the case was a massive overhaul of U.S. telecommunications laws that President Bill Clinton signed on Feb. 8, 1996. While much of the law involved local telephone competition, broadcast ownership, and cable television, one section—the Communications Decency Act—tried to prevent minors from accessing obscene and indecent material on the nascent internet.

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‘Boyfriend loophole’ stalls bipartisan Senate gun deal. It’s time to close it.

June 21, Natalie Nanasi, assistant professor of law at the SMU Dallas Dedman School of Law and co-author Jeana Foxman, for an op-ed calling immediate passage of gun legislation that closes the “boyfriend loophole.” Published in the Orange County Register under the heading ‘Boyfriend loophole’ stalls bipartisan Senate gun deal. It’s time to close it: https://bit.ly/3HExizg

When 19 children were gunned down last month in their fourth-grade classroom in Uvalde, Texas, the worst nightmare of each victim’s family became a horrible reality. Since that fateful day, families across the country wake up with vacillating feelings of guilt-ridden gratitude and utter fear.

Silver linings seem callous in this instance, but the unspeakable tragedy has finally compelled our elected officials to take action to reform our nation’s gun laws. The “bipartisan framework” announced this week is the most promising action on gun control we have seen in a generation.

Progress is being derailed, however, by some lawmakers’ objections to closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” Federal law prohibits those who have committed domestic violence against a spouse or former spouse —  or a person they currently live, previously lived, or share a child with — from possessing a gun. Adolescents and teenagers — who are less likely  to be married, have children, or be living with anyone other than their parents — are left unprotected from an abuser with a gun. Such as a boyfriend.

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We need a global government of land, air and water

May 20, Jo Guldi, data scientist, historian, and Associate Professor at SMU Dallas, for a piece advocating for world-wide equity in land ownership as one means to combat global warming. Published in Foreign Policy News under the heading We need a global government of land, air and water: https://bit.ly/3MyYlxv 

Polls show that two-thirds of Americans believe that the government should do more to combat climate change.  Over the past decade, the People’s Climate March (2014 and 2017), Extinction Rebellion (2018-21) and the March for Science (2017) have come and gone without achieving systemic reforms or creating political mechanisms . That’s because Americans have only been thinking about America. To fight the unprecedented, planetary challenge of climate change, we need politicians willing to run on a platform of international solidarity that claims Earth as a space for human life.

Parochialism is entirely understandable. Climate change in the abstract is made real at home, literally.  All Americans, particularly indigenous, ethnic, and working-class Americans are near the brunt of climate change: they inhabit landscapes made toxic by corporate dumping or easily flooded by increasingly violent storms. Yet Americans’ experience is not unique. The same issues elsewhere articulate a global emergency. 

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A new EU law will influence U.S. free speech more than Elon Musk

April 29, Jared Schroeder, associate professor of journalism at SMU Dallas and a specialist in Frist Amendment issues, for a commentary explaining how social media regulations passed in Europe often are adopted world-wide — including in the U.S. where crafting internet law has been difficult in the partisan atmosphere. Published in The Hill under the heading A new EU law will influence US free speech more than Elon Musk : https://bit.ly/3knjqys 

Elon Musk reached an agreement on Monday to purchase Twitter after criticizing the platform for failing to reach its free speech potential. If the deal holds, he has promised to take the company private, which means he and those he hires will control what free speech looks like on the site. But Musk’s $44 billion purchase ultimately might not be the biggest news when it comes to free speech on the internet.

On April 23, European lawmakers passed the Digital Services Act (DSA), the European Union’s most recent attempt to rein in big tech firms such as Apple, Google and Meta. The law, which is expected to take effect in 2024, essentially enforces European values regarding free expression, corporate responsibility and fostering a pluralistic society.

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Loophole Allows Safe Haven for War Crimes Violators on U.S. Soil

April 28, Chris Jenks, SMU Dallas Dedman Law School professor and expert on military justice, for a commentary about a loophole in the U.S. War Crimes Act that would allow war criminals safe haven on American soil. Published in Inside Sources under the heading Loophole Allows Safe Haven for War Crimes Violators on U.S. Soilhttps://bit.ly/3F3i5q3 

Earlier this month President Biden ratcheted up the rhetoric and called for a “wartime trial” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president’s comments followed Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning “atrocities by Kremlin forces in Bucha and across Ukraine” and stressing that the United States was “pursuing accountability using every tool available.”

All this tough talk is a façade — a superficial exterior masking the hollowness within. In terms of Blinken’s analogy, the U.S. war crimes tool box is empty, and willfully so. That’s because for more than 70 years, the United States has doggedly refused to meet its obligation under the 1949 Geneva Conventions to enact legislation to hold accountable those who commit serious law of war violations.

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Is the economy making the Fed an offer it can’t refuse?

April 20, Michael Davis, economics professor at the Cox School of Business, SMU Dallas, for a commentary that points out the perilous path of attempting to reduce inflation without bringing on a recession. Published in the Austin American-Statesman under the heading: Is the economy making the Fed an offer it can’t refuse?: https://bit.ly/3EtLjOE 

Since this is the 50th anniversary of the movie The Godfather, it’s worth remembering that great scene where a gang war is about to break out and the Don’s trusted capo, Clemenza, explains to the young Michael Corleone, “These things gotta happen every five years or so…It helps get rid of the bad blood.”

Any similarities between Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Michael Corleone are purely coincidental. Still, I wish Powell had Clemenza whispering in his ear.

The Federal Reserve has two problems. First, it has to figure out how to reduce the highest inflation rates we’ve seen since the early 1980’s. Anyone who buys gas or groceries understands that problem. And anyone who knows much of anything about economics and finance understands that the Fed has to raise interest rates and tighten monetary policy in order to deal with that problem.  It’s already started. After the last meeting the Fed raised their target interest rate by ¼ percent and promised more increases to come.

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As social media turns 25, we’re still perplexed about regulating bad actors

April 9, Jared Schroeder, associate professor of journalism at SMU Dallas and a specialist in Frist Amendment issues, for a commentary acknowledging the 25thAnniversary of social media and U.S. lawmakers’ inept attempts to regulate the platforms. Published in The Hill under the heading: As social media turns 25, we’re still perplexed about regulating bad actors: https://bit.ly/37Crloh 

You’ve probably never heard of Six Degrees. The name sounds a bit like a forgettable boy band from the late-1990s. That isn’t far from the truth. In 1997, before platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat dominated the information universe, Six Degrees became the first social media site. Its anniversary was in January. We forgot it.

While Six Degrees persists, like the Backstreet Boys, off our radars but still online, we can’t forget the massive impact the service heralded as social media grew to consume our lives and our very realities.

Along with cat videos, social media ushered in an era of falsity, extremism and othering that, at times, has come to threaten democracies around the world. The Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach, for example, likely was planned and performed for social-media audiences. It was done in real life, but documented for virtual audiences. We’re a long way from Six Degrees — maybe 180, at this point, from where we should be.

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Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe is a loss of hope for human rights

March 23, Jeffrey Kahn, law professor at SMU Dallas Dedman School of Law, for a commentary explaining why Russia exiting the Council of Europe is a blow to human rights initiatives in the region. Published in the Dallas Morning News with the heading: Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe is a loss of hope for human rights: https://bit.ly/3L5rMGn or https://perma.cc/T4S3-LEV2 

The last light that kindled hope for Russia to be included within Europe burned out last week. Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe. This decision, coinciding with the council’s decision to terminate Russian membership with an eye toward expulsion, is much graver than widely understood.

This is no mere diplomatic rift. It is the snuffing out of hope not only for millions of Russians, but for hundreds of millions of Europeans whose countries remain members of an organization that emerged from the embers of Europe’s last horrible conflagration.

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