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Feb. 14 2016 4:04 PM

Read Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Touching Statement on Scalia

The friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia was the stuff of Washington lore. The way the two justices, who were often polar opposites on the bench, managed to form an unlikely friendship had often been written about, and it even inspired an opera. “Call us the odd couple,” Scalia said last year at a George Washington University event alongside Ginsburg. “She likes opera, and she's a very nice person. What's not to like?” he asked. “Except her views on the law.”

On Sunday, Ginsburg remembered her “best buddy” with a touching statement that shines a light into the unique bond they had built over the years:

Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: "We are different, we are one," different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots-the "applesauce" and "argle bargle"-and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his "energetic fervor," "astringent intellect," "peppery prose," "acumen," and "affability," all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader's grasp.
Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.

The other justices also released statements on their late colleague.

Justice Anthony Kennedy:

In years to come any history of the Supreme Court will, and must, recount the wisdom, scholarship, and technical brilliance that Justice Scalia brought to the Court. His insistence on demanding standards shaped the work of the Court in its private discussions, its oral arguments, and its written opinions.
Yet these historic achievements are all the more impressive and compelling because the foundations of Justice Scalia’s jurisprudence, the driving force in all his work, and his powerful personality were shaped by an unyielding commitment to the Constitution of the United States and to the highest ethical and moral standards.
In the fullness of time Justice Scalia’s beautiful family will be sustained by the force and dynamism of his intellect and personality, attributes that were so decent and so powerful; but now they mourn. We give them assurances of our deepest sympathy and our lasting friendship.

Justice Clarence Thomas:

Justice Scalia was a good man; a wonderful husband who loved his wife and his family; a man of strong faith; a towering intellect; a legal giant; and a dear, dear friend. In every case, he gave it his all to get the broad principles and the small details right. Virginia and I are deeply saddened by his sudden and untimely death. Our prayers and love go out to Maureen and the Scalia family. It is hard to imagine the Court without my friend. I will miss him beyond all measure.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer:

Nino Scalia was a legal titan. He used his great energy, fine mind, and stylistic genius to further the rule of law as he saw it. He was man of integrity and wit. His interests were wide ranging as was his knowledge about law, this Nation and its Constitution. He loved his family. He also loved ideas, music, and the out of doors. He shared with us, his colleagues, his enthusiasms, his humor, his mental agility, his seriousness of purpose.  We benefitted greatly. His contribution to the law was a major one. Our hearts go out to Maureen and his family. We have lost a fine colleague and a very good friend. We shall miss him hugely.

Justice Samuel Alito:

Martha-Ann and I are deeply saddened by the terrible news. Nino was a remarkable person, and I feel very honored to have known him and to have had him as a colleague.  He was a towering figure who will be remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of the Supreme Court and a scholar who deeply influenced our legal culture. His intellect, learning, wit, and memorable writing will be sorely missed, and Martha-Ann and I will deeply miss him as a friend. We will keep Nino, Maureen, and their family in our prayers.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

My colleague Nino Scalia was devoted to his family, friends, our Court, and our country. He left an indelible mark on our history. I will miss him and the dimming of his special light is a great loss for me. My thoughts are with Maureen, his children, and his grandchildren.

Justice Elena Kagan:

Nino Scalia will go down in history as one of the most transformational Supreme Court Justices of our nation. His views on interpreting texts have changed the way all of us think and talk about the law. I admired Nino for his brilliance and erudition, his dedication and energy, and his peerless writing. And I treasured Nino’s friendship: I will always remember, and greatly miss, his warmth, charm, and generosity. Maureen and the whole Scalia family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Chief Justice John Roberts had already released a statement Saturday:

On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away. He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his family.

Feb. 14 2016 2:25 PM

Judge: Scalia Died of a Heart Attack

The death certificate for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will list myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, as the cause of death, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara tells ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA. Scalia’s body was taken to an El Paso funeral home overnight, where it is likely to stay until Monday, when it is expected to be flown to northern Virginia.

Guevara recounted to WFAA how she found out about Scalia’s death through a spotty cell phone connection, which is hardly uncommon in Far West Texas. She pronounced Scalia dead over the phone at 1:52 p.m. on Saturday. “As part of my investigation, one of the things I did ask the sheriff and the U.S. Marshal: 'Were there any signs of foul play?' And they said, ‘absolutely not.’ At that time, I still wanted to be careful, and asked them if [Scalia’s] physician would call me.” The doctor called Guevara on Saturday evening and told him the late justice suffered from several chronic ailments.

Feb. 14 2016 1:08 PM

All Members of British Indie Band Viola Beach Killed in Car Crash

The four members of the up-and-coming British indie rock band Viola Beach and their manager were killed when their car plunged more than 80 feet into a canal near Stockholm, Sweden. The crash took place early Saturday morning, when the band was reportedly going to the airport to travel back to England for a show later on Saturday. Viola Beach was in Sweden as part of the Where is the Music? festival.

Police said divers recovered the bodies of the five men, aged between 20 and 35. Swedish authorities claim the car crashed through a barrier that was meant to stop vehicles from going through the drawbridge that was opening at the time. "For some reason, this car went through the barriers and actually went under the bridge and into the Sodertalje canal," a police spokesman said.


Viola Beach—made up by guitarist and vocalist Kris Leonard, guitarist River Reeves, bassist Tomas Lowe, and drummer Jack Dakin—had dozens of shows planned for the upcoming weeks and had been selected to play at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. The band’s debut single, Swings & Waterslides, was released last year.

“Viola Beach were on such an exciting journey and River could not have been happier. He would have loved to have stuck around for the party,” Reeves’ family said in a statement.

Feb. 14 2016 11:30 AM

White People Freak Out in SNL’s Spot-On The Day Beyoncé Turned Black

Saturday Night Live hilariously made fun of the people who were upset by Beyoncé’s Formation and her Super Bowl performance with a mock trailer in which a bunch of white people suddenly come to the realization that their beloved singer is a black woman. Set up like a horror movie trailer, the characters take their horror at finding out “the truth” to a sometimes-uncomfortable extreme. But it’s all worth it for the best exchange of the sketch. “Maybe the song isn’t for us?” a horrified Bobby Moynihan asks. “But usually everything is,” Cecily Strong replies as she starts going more than a bit crazy.

Feb. 14 2016 11:20 AM

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Reach Record High in 2015

The number of civilian casualties of the war in Afghanistan reached a record high for the seventh year in a row in 2015 as violence increased amid the withdrawal of the vast majority of international troops.

According to a United Nations report released on Sunday, at least 3,545 noncombatants died while another 7,457 were injured in fighting last year, marking a four-percent increase since 2014. The figures are the highest since the United Nations began keeping track in 2009. The (very thin) silver lining of the report is that there were four percent fewer deaths while the number of civilian injuries rose nine percent.


Women and children were particularly hard-hit by war-related violence last year. The report notes a 37 percent increase in the number of women casualties and 14 percent in child casualties.

“The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer brutal and unprincipled attacks that are forbidden under international law,” said the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “This is happening with almost complete impunity.”

The increase in civilian casualties was largely attributed to two factors. First, the heavy fighting in the northern city of Kunduz, which was taken over by the Taliban in September and later retaken by government forces. And second, a wave of suicide bombs in Kabul, the capital.

Feb. 14 2016 10:22 AM

Watch Kanye West Debut Two Pablo Tracks on SNL

Kanye West was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live this week and he performed Ultra Light Beams and High Lights from his new album The Life of Pablo. He had lots of guests to help him out. Although the much-anticipated Madison Square Garden Pablo debut was livestreamed online, this marked the first time West performed the tracks on TV. After the two performances, Kanye (who at this point looked like he was about to collapse from exhaustion) announced his album was available on Tidal and on his website.

First up, was High Lights with the help of Young Thug, The-Dream, Kelly Price and El DeBarge.


Kanye then filled the stage with gospel singers for his performance of Ultra Light Beams. And in that performance, Chance the Rapper ended up stealing the Kanye show for a bit.

Want to know more about West’s first album since 2013? Slate’s Forrest Wickman has your track-by-track guide.

If you just can't get enough Kanye, he also starred in a "rap battle" with SNL's Kyle Mooney.

Feb. 14 2016 9:27 AM

SNL Mocks Hillary Clinton’s Failure to Woo Young Democrats

A week after Bernie Sanders made his debut on Saturday Night Live, the show is apparently still feeling the Bern and made fun of just how difficult it is for young Democrats to get behind Hillary Clinton. The opening sketch begins with a group of young, white voters eating brunch and discussing the primary race. “I mean Hillary is the most qualified candidate in history,” Vanessa Bayer says. “But at the same time — eh?” Taran Killam agrees: “Hillary has every, single thing I want in a president. But…”And they all jump in: “She’s no Bernie!”

At that point, Kate McKinnon as Clinton appears on a swing and belts out: “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” She later comes in singing on a piano that is being played by Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton.


When Cecily Strong’s character joins the diners, she excitedly says her vote will definitely be for Clinton “because Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright basically said it’s my feminist duty.” But when others counter that her “feminist duty” is to look at candidates equally, she changes her mind. “Oh,” she says. “Well, if I really do that, I pick Bernie.”

Feb. 13 2016 11:44 PM

No, Obama Is Not a “Lame Duck” President. He Can and Should Appoint a Supreme Court Justice.

The Republican presidential candidates have all been offering up various rationalizations for why President Obama should refrain from nominating a new Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia or why the Senate should at least reject his pick. But during Saturday night’s debate, Marco Rubio in particular offered up a line that seems destined to be repeated, if only because it sounds vaguely like a statistic. “I do not believe the president should appoint someone,” he said. “It’s been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice.”

Here, Rubio seems to be suggesting that allowing Obama to appoint a justice would be a break with history. This is nonsense. President Obama is not a “lame duck” in the original sense of the phrase, which refers to a president filling out his last, not-so-influential days in office after his successor has already been elected. Journalists sometimes ask if the Republican hold over Congress has turned Obama into a de facto lame duck. But in the end, he's a second-term president, facing an opposition-controlled Senate in an election year.


You know which other second-term president got a Supreme Court justice confirmed during an election year while an opposition party controlled the Senate? Ronald Reagan, who nominated Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1987 after his previous pick, Robert Bork, was rejected. Kennedy was confirmed by a vote of 97 to 0 in February of 1988.

In contrast to Rubio, Donald Trump deserves some points for honesty. “I think [Obama] is going to do it whether I’m OK with it or not,” he said during Saturday's debate. “It's up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.”

Read more Slate coverage of Antonin Scalia and the GOP primary.

Feb. 13 2016 11:37 PM

Republican Candidates Embrace Reagan, Ignore Reagan’s Actual Immigration Policy

No one gets name-checked in Republican debates quite as often as the 40th president. At Saturday night’s debate in South Carolina, Reagan got 15 mentions; God and the Lord got a total of five. Asked what advice he would seek from a former president, Marco Rubio said, “I wish Ronald Reagan was still around. This country needs someone just like that. And if our next president is even half the president Ronald Reagan was, America is going to be greater than it's ever been.” GOP candidates are especially likely to associate themselves with the Gipper when their conservative bona fides are called into question. We saw this tonight when John Kasich defended his support for Medicaid reform by noting that Reagan had also expanded Medicaid. Donald Trump cited Reagan’s early liberalism to defend his own past dalliances with Democrats. 

Things get a little awkward, however, when it comes to the subject of illegal immigration and “amnesty.” The 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, signed into law by Reagan, granted amnesty to 3 million people who had entered the country illegally before 1982. (The word amnesty was specifically used at the time.) The law, which Reagan promised would “humanely regain control of our borders,” is widely regarded by Republicans as a model of what not to do to address the problem of undocumented immigration, as it failed to deter millions more people from entering the country.


Rubio, who cites Reagan’s presidency as the reason he became a Republican, brought up the law at tonight’s debate. Yet all of a sudden the Florida senator wasn’t so eager to invoke Reagan’s name: “You go back to 1986 when they legalized 3 million people and promised to secure the border. It didn't happen. And as a result, people have lost trust in the federal government.” They?

Even more strikingly, Ted Cruz attempted to don the mantle of Reagan … while accusing Rubio of supporting amnesty, which, again, Reagan  supported. “I stood with Jeff Sessions and Steve King and the American people and led the fight to defeat that amnesty plan,” he said. “That moment is what Reagan would call a time for choosing.” Perhaps, but it wasn’t a choice Reagan himself is likely to have made.

The candidates for the Republican nomination often speculate about what Reagan would think if he were alive today. If he’d been watching this debate, he’d have been duly flattered by all the attention—and more than a bit confused.

Feb. 13 2016 10:26 PM

Donald Trump Says George W. Bush Lied About Weapons of Mass Destruction, Is to Blame for 9/11

Donald Trump keeps finding new ways to test every rule that exists in United States presidential politics. Such as: When you go to South Carolina for the South Carolina Republican primary, don’t criticize robust military action, don’t criticize that state’s senior senator, and don’t criticize the former president who won South Carolina in 2000 and remains extremely popular there and whose brother is running against you. Don’t blame George W. Bush for 9/11 in a South Carolina primary!

Bless Donald Trump, for he did each of these things in Saturday night’s South Carolina debate and was booed heavily—almost without interruption—for minutes.


Trump and Bush tangled early when Bush said it would be “ludicrous” to treat Russia as a partner in the fight against ISIS. “Jeb is so wrong,” Trump said, earning the first boos, after which he said that all of Bush’s fans in the audience were lobbyists. Trump criticized the saber-rattling of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who Trump correctly noted “had zero in his polls” and is now a Bush backer.*

Soon thereafter Slate columnist John Dickerson, the debate moderator, asked Trump about his 2008 comments that George W. Bush should have been impeached. Trump dodged the impeachment question and instead reiterated how disastrous the Iraq War was and how poorly Jeb Bush addressed it near the beginning of his campaign last year.

Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, All right. Now, you can take it any way you want, and it took—it took Jeb Bush—if you remember at the beginning of his announcement, when he announced for president, it took him five days. He went back, "it was a mistake, it wasn't a mistake." It took him five days before his people told him what to say, and he ultimately said, "It was a mistake." The war in Iraq, we spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives… Iran has taken over Iraq with the second largest oil reserves in the world. Obviously, it was a mistake. George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty.

Most amazingly of all, Trump said that the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—"They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction"—and was powerfully booed. Then he went on to blame George W. Bush for 9/11.

As with about two dozen other times this cycle, this would seem to be one of those moments that ends Trump’s campaign. These are not things—even if some of them are true!—that you say among South Carolina Republicans.

So he’ll probably break 50 percent in South Carolina now.

*Correction, Feb. 13, 2016: This post originally misspelled Lindsey Graham's first name.