Saturday, June 20, 2020

After Bostock, Was It All Worth It?

It's been interesting to watch conservative reactions to the Bostock decision (holding that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination, because that discrimination necessarily is also "because of" sex). Some of the usual suspects have been relatively muted -- likely because the outcome the Court reached is actually overwhelmingly popular. But there certainly are some on the right who are very upset. Josh Blackman collects anonymous examples here. Right-wing commentator Josh Hammer urges conservative judges to abandon procedural legal reasoning entirely in favor of an unabashed substantive commitment to social conservative principlesSenator Josh Hawley claimed the decision represents "the end of the conservative legal movement."

It's more than just Joshes, of course. And the theme of this critique is, as Hawley alludes to, the question of whether it was all worth it. The claim is that social conservatives, at least, have been holding their noses and voting Republican for years because "the judiciary". But if the conservative judiciary gives them results like these, is the bargain really worth it? The murmur is that after Bostock, the jig is up, and conservatives will no longer come out to support a GOP whose judges have betrayed them.

If you're a liberal reading this, it's rather striking. The undisguised insistence that judges should vote in alignment with conservative policy objections (up to and including explicitly disavowing neutral legal proceduralism!) is amazing to see -- less because of the content and more because it's being said out loud. But more incredible is the idea that this Supreme Court has represented anything less than a massive triumph for contentious right-wing causes. The Court of Citizens United, of Trump v. Hawaii, of Hobby Lobby, of Janus, of Masterpiece Cakeshop -- none of that registers? Is it really everything or nothing?

I, of course, heartily encourage social conservatives to adopt this reasoning and decide its not at all worth it. Rise up by sitting down, and showing the Republican Party what's what! But that's because it's obviously self-serving for me: the result of social conservatives staying home and fuming because the Supreme Court only backs them 80% of the time instead of 100% of the time is, in five or ten years, a Supreme Court that backs them 40% of the time.

Indeed, the most important lesson liberals could learn from watching, agape, the social conservative reaction is "if this strategy looks ridiculous to you coming from the right, it's equally farcical when it's threatened from the left." You don't win by staying home, and you're not playing hardball when you insist on everything.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

PlagueWatch Roundup

Instead of another "Should I PlagueWatch It?" entry, instead I'll just give quick thoughts on the TV I am, or have recently been, watching over the past few weeks.

*SPOILERS*

* * *

Billions

  • One of my favorite shows on TV, but I think this season is clearly its weakest. The show feels like it may have just run out of ideas. Last season was interesting because it positioned Taylor as an antagonist to both Axe and Rhodes, and they were a worthy foe who forced the duo to actually work together. That was interesting. But now we've slid back into comfortable terrain: Axe and Rhodes going after each other, Taylor in a supporting role.
  • Mike Prince just isn't that inspiring as an antagonist. If you need a fellow billionaire for Axe to go head-to-head with, bring back Rebecca Cantu (who of course now has a huge bone to pick with Axe).
  • Axe and Rhodes appear to be retrogressing as characters, and while it would be one thing if this was the result of especially heavy stresses being put upon them, right now they seem to be under objectively less pressure than at any point in the series.
  • I hate everything about how academia and contemporary students are portrayed. It's a lazy, zeitgeist-y take that doesn't reflect my experience as either a law school teacher or a student.
  • Seriously, what is Rhodes doing taking a bunch of basically unknown, untested, untrustworthy law students and putting them on a super-delicate case like going after the U.S. Treasury Secretary? And then -- I'm sorry, but (a) no student who cares about the Muslim ban is going to care about investigating Todd Krakow -- what a eye-rolling moment that was -- and (b) why wouldn't they assume that Chuck has additional information relevant to the case he just isn't telling them?
  • Slowly but surely, Kate Sacker gets a larger role. I approve of this.

Insecure

  • Arguably the show's strongest season. Issa, in particular, showed really strong forward momentum as a character.
  • To the extent the show meant to put roughly equal blame on Issa and Molly for their fight (and I'm not sure it did), it did not succeed. While Issa grew a lot, Molly came out looking really rough.
  • The crisis of the last episode was a very well done, but it would have been better if the show had dedicated more time to Kelli and Tiffany over the course of the season. Or the show in general. They really deserve to have some breathing room.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • My favorite entry on the "things that have lasted longer than the Confederacy" list, as it's gone seven seasons even though I think I'm the only person who's watched it. And I could not even begin to tell you the plot line from beginning to now.
  • That said, this season (the last) feels like a strong entry. Objectively, the plot is still as fuzzy as ever, but the core conceit (time travel to stop the bad guys from altering the past and changing the future!) is enough of a sci-fi staple that it's pretty easy to follow.
  • Sad we didn't get a true Agent Carter cameo.
  • Where are you, Agent Fitz?
Ultimate Tag
  • Objectively bad, but in an entertaining sort of way.
  • If you have a new show, you really can't do the "we're going to run some of our events while on commercial break, then recap them". We don't know how the events work!
  • I'm pretty sure I heard the hosts say things about so-and-so being "the fastest runner we've ever seen on this show" in the first episode.
  • The actual "events" are very, very poorly designed. The opening event ends up basically placing the runners in random order, depending on who happens to get singled out for a chase. You can effectively avoid the tagger for much longer than your competitors and still come in last. And then the point deficit is usually too much to overcome in the second event.
  • Every single tagger looks like they come straight out of 90s television. Also, some are clearly chosen for physical strength, even though that doesn't actually seem to be have any relevance to their job.
Titan Games
  • Slightly better than Ultimate Tag, mostly because The Rock is so adorably charismatic.
  • While I understand why one might think Ninja Warrior experience would translate well to this show, in reality it demands far more raw physical strength than the NBC staple. Hence, I was not surprised (though very sad) when Jessie Graff struggled.
  • I was more surprised at how much Claressa Shields underperformed, and given her personality I actually wonder whether it might do some lasting damage to her confidence.
Holey Moley
  • Didn't see the first season of this, and ABC is very stingy about making its back episodes available.
  • Joe Tessitore is very game. Rob Riggle is very annoying.
  • Even granting that it's mini-golf, and so intrinsically silly, this show maybe leans a little too hard on the wa-wa-wa-WACKO fun! energy.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Sweet Sixteen

Happy birthday to this blog, which turns 16 today!

As always, thanks to all the readers, new and old, who've decided to spend a little time on my plot of the internet.