Sunday, October 11, 2020

Your October 11th Sunday Summary

Dear Friend of TJI,

Joe Biden has several times declined to say whether he’ll “pack the Court” if he and his party wins, now claiming to a reporter for KTNV that voters “don't deserve" to know. Yes ... they do.  Plans for the judiciary are fair game in an election and voters deserve to know. In 1968, Richard Nixon famously had a “secret plan to end the war.” Does Mr. Biden have a “secret plan to pack the Court?”

Meanwhile …

1.) In an effort to sort out the Amy Coney Barrett nomination facts, the Thomas Jefferson Institute is conducting a Zoom Briefing on the Barrett nomination at 9:30 am on October 22. Participating are two professors from George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law SchoolRob Luther, who co-managed the process for recommending more than 150 federal judicial candidates and guided Barrett through her Appeals Court nomination; and Helen Alvaré, who teaches Family Law and Law and Religion and has been a delegate to various UN conferences concerning women and the family. You will not want to miss it, we just set up the meeting, and you can be among the first to register by clicking here.

2.) Donald Trump has done the nation a service by nominating a judge with the character and temperament of Amy Coney Barrett. But National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that Trump has done a disservice to Barrett (here). And John McCormack notes “The Biggest Threat to Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination” here. Summary: Actions good for the President's ego are not necessarily good for the hard and very real work of confirming a Supreme Court Justice.

3.) The Barrett Senate hearings are scheduled to start tomorrow, likely preceded by street demonstrations filled with women dressed as handmaids bearing coat hangers. But judges are rarely the caricature their opponents want them to be, as Intercollegiate Studies Institute Fellow Isaac Shorr demonstrates here and Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains here.

4.) Expect the Left’s focus to be on Barrett’s faith, given the fact they’ve done it before (here), Kamala Harris has gone after the Knights of Columbus (here) and such attacks take place even at the state level (here).

5.) Here in Virginia, Steve Haner, the Jefferson Institute’s Senior Fellow for Taxes reminds us that January’s General Assembly session will call up The Transportation and Climate Initiative (here), which would raise fuel taxes by up to 17 cents per gallon (and rise afterward) on top of the new state gas taxes (here). Over at Bacon’s Rebellion, he asks if the Department of Motor Vehicles is 26% of Virginia’s Fuel Tax (here) and why it seems to be being hidden.

6.) Not surprisingly, with all these taxes (and accompanying spending), the CATO Institute has given Governor Northam an “F” in its annual Fiscal Report Card (see it here). You can find the state summary on page 31 of the report and statistics and methodology starting on page 13.

7.) In other Richmond news, Eileen Filler-Corn, Speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates, was fined $500 and told to pay attorney fees totaling nearly $2,000 after Northern Virginia attorney David Webster took her to court for denying his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (here). We need more attorneys to remind elected officials they are there to serve, not rule. The next question is: What entity will be paying the fines? And will a FOIA need to be filed to find that out?

8.) Although many understandably don’t want to wait on long, socially-distanced lines, absentee ballots have their own liabilities (see here and here), and not just in Virginia (here), and honest mistakes in completing them may lead to one million ballots rejected nation-wide (here). This does not include Post Office failures and stories like this, this and this. None of this has to do with fraud, but with competence. Election Boards and the Post Office are no more equipped to handle millions more absentee ballots than schools were equipped to turn to virtual education on a dime.

So best bet and most secure: Vote in person. If not on Election Day, then take the time to go down and vote in person in advance. As of today, it is estimated 25% of Virginia voters have already voted.

9.) Tomorrow is October 12, so Happy Columbus Day! Or, as Governor Northam has proclaimed, Happy Indigenous People’s Day! Virginia’s tribes and others certainly deserve recognition and a celebration of their history, but the decision to conflate it with Columbus Day is less a matter of recognition and more a matter of sticking it to Columbus. In Knowing Better, a retired history teacher and Iraq offers a carefully researched defense of Columbus here.

Finally ... the year’s first (and possibly last) presidential debate left neither Republicans nor Democrats with gauzy memories to look back on in 30 years. Fortunately, for those of us of a certain age, we’ll always have these.

Happy Sunday, Everyone.

It won't be considered “cultural appropriation" if tomorrow you go out and order a pizza.

Chris Braunlich
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The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

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