Slatest PM: The Supreme Court's Surprising Prop-8 Math

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 29 2013 5:25 PM

Slatest PM: The Supreme Court's Surprising Prop-8 Math

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Eric Breese (L) of Rochester, New York, joins fellow George Washington University students and hundreds of others to rally outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Wednesday

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Reading Between the Lines: New York Times: "Why did the Supreme Court agree in December to hear a major same-sex marriage case and then seem to think it had made a terrible mistake on Tuesday when it came time for arguments? The answer lies in the gap between two numbers. It takes four votes to hear a case and five to decide one. As it turns out, it would seem the conservative members of the court, making a calculation that their chances of winning would not improve with time, were behind the decision to take up the volatile subject. The aha moment came on Tuesday. After Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that the court should dismiss the case, Justice Antonin Scalia tipped his hand. 'It’s too late for that now, isn’t it?' he said, a note of glee in his voice. 'We have crossed that river,' he said. That was a signal that it was a conservative grant."

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Counting to Four: More from the Times: "Justice Scalia, almost certainly joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., apparently made a twofold calculation: that their odds of winning would not improve as same-sex marriage grows more popular and more commonplace, and that Justice Kennedy, who is likely to write the decision in the case concerning the 1996 law, would lock himself into rhetoric and logic that would compel him to vote for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in a later case. It is not that the conservatives felt certain they would win. It is that their chances would not improve in the years ahead." Read the full thing here to learn who may have supplied the fourth vote.

Second Time's the Charm: Washington Post: "Facing a growing chorus of Republicans urging him to offer a more full apology for his use of racial slur, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has obliged. 'I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska,” Young said in a statement posted to his Web site. 'There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.' Young in an interview posted Thursday by a local radio station called Latino ranch-workers on his father’s farm 'wetbacks.' Shortly after the interview was posted, Young tried to justify the remark by noting that the term “wetback” was tossed about freely when he was a boy growing up in central California."

Hooray, it's Friday! You made it; we all did. Welcome to the Slatest PM, follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

A Renewed Public-Works Push: Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama renewed his push for investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure upgrades Friday, traveling to Florida to make the case for tax incentives and other efforts aimed at attracting private dollars to public works projects. ... The president chose PortMiami as his backdrop, making a quick trip south to make the pitch for the value of investing in the country's infrastructure. ... Friday, Mr. Obama rolled out three proposals, including a new municipal-bond program, to encourage infrastructure construction, $4 billion in new funding for programs that award loans and grants for infrastructure projects and the creation of a $10 billion infrastructure bank. The ideas were a mix of old and new. Mr. Obama previously has proposed creating a national infrastructure bank, but the idea failed to win support in Congress. Left unanswered was how the projects, totaling $21 billion, would be funded."

Gas Tax?: Washington Post: "Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Friday to the first increase in the state’s gas tax in 20 years, acting to replenish a transportation fund that is rapidly running out of money for highway construction and long-planned mass-transit projects. Under the bill, which passed the Senate 27-20, motorists could expect to pay between 13 and 20 cents more per gallon by mid-2016, according to legislative analysts. The increase would be phased in, with the first bump of about 4 cents a gallon coming in July."

That's One Way to Make an Exit: Associated Press: "A former Nevada state lawmaker who had been expelled from the Assembly hours earlier led authorities in California on a high-speed freeway chase before he was shocked with a stun gun and arrested on charges including resisting arrest, authorities said Friday. Steven Brooks, 41, was arrested at about 7 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 15 outside the city of Victorville after a 15-mile chase that exceeded speeds of 80 mph, California Highway Patrol Officer Don Spiker said. It was Brooks' third arrest since January, and the second involving allegations that he fought with police. He was expelled from the Legislature on Thursday, after lawmakers cited concerns about their own safety around him."

Good News: Reuters: "South African former President Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and making progress, doctors said on Friday, after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero was taken to hospital for the third time in four months for a lung infection.The medical report was a relief to South Africans who had been anxiously praying and waiting for an update on the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, hospitalized before midnight on Wednesday. Global leaders sent their best wishes."

Mercy.: CBS News: "An 86-year-old man who carried out a mercy killing by shooting his ailing wife in the head was sentenced to probation on Friday after an emotional hearing where family members tearfully spoke on his behalf. George Sanders could have faced more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. The judge opted for probation. The World War II veteran told authorities his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969, and the couple moved from Washington state to the retirement community of Sun City outside Phoenix in the 1970s for the warm, dry climate. Virginia Sanders, 81, had been diagnosed with gangrene on her foot just a few days before the shooting."

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