Beautiful Compromise! Hillary To Be President But Under Constant Video Surveillance!

You heard it here first–Hillary Clinton will serve as our 45th President, but will be constantly under surveillance. Sounds fair? Well, fair or not, that’s how it’s gonna be. If you have been feeling Fox News is too polite, too restrained, too cuckservative and RINO-ish, your wish will be granted: Ailes, Bannon, and Trump will be running the virtual reality show of your very most feverish dreams.

P.S. Also, there will be 51 Democratic votes in the Senate, and the filibuster will be gone, at least for Supreme Court nominees. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire next June and be replaced by a 15-year-old Wiccan priestess.

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Just Another Day Defining Corruption Down At The Supreme Court

The McCutcheon plurality opinion Chief Justice Roberts read out at the Supreme Court yesterday does not remove all limits on political corruption in this country.  All in good time, my little pretty.  Our little party’s just beginning.  You think we have defined corruption down today (hat tip to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Defining Deviancy Down”)?  You just wait. You think they have oligarchs in Putin’s Russia?  We’ll show them who’s exceptional, and what oligarchy is really all about!

P.S. I could go into the details, but that would only dignify an opinion that is either clueless or unscrupulous or utterly un-conservative, or all three.

Will The Supreme Court Keep Kosher And Halal In The Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood Cases?

How many specious hypotheticals, willful misprisions of existing law and recent Court decisions, and frightening parades of horribles can fit inside of 90 minutes of oral argument at the Supreme Court?  A great multiplicity, as we found out last Tuesday, March 25, when the Court heard arguments in the consolidated Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases.

According to the editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal, “the real purpose of the [so-called contraceptive] mandate was to minister to the secular left and the so-called coalition of the ascendant.”  For the WSJ, “liberal justices rolled out a parade of dubious hypotheticals, arguing that if a business can invoke religion to refuse to pay for abortifacients, couldn’t it also refuse to pay for blood transfusions or vaccinations?  ‘Could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?’ asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor….Yet no one is ‘precluding anything.  Contraception is cheap, plentiful and covered by most health plans.”   Taking the WSJ editorial board’s assertions (“Obamacare vs. Religious Liberty,” 3/25/14) in turn: they begin by assuming bad faith on the part of the lawmakers and regulators, resorting to slander rather than actual argument; second, the contraceptives involved are not regarded as abortifacients either by federal law or authoritative medical judgment; third, there is no limiting principle in their reasoning–or the reasoning of Paul Clement, the lawyer who argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood–against extending the rights of natural persons to artificial entities for whom life begins at incorporation but “who” enjoy limited liability, not personal accountability before G-d; fourth, there is a significant upfront cost, as Solicitor General Donald Verrilli pointed out in response to an ill-informed question by Justice Scalia, for the IUD, which millions of American women use and which, as Verrilli noted, may be sincerely regarded as causing abortions by the corporate owners–notwithstanding, their sincerity should not control the legal outcome of the case if their beliefs contradict medical opinion.

Justice Kennedy, as often happens, looks like the swing vote here.  He showed concern that the government’s logic could in principle lead to forcing for-profit corporations to pay for abortions–though as Verrilli pointed out, that hypothetical worry is not consistent with any current laws, which force no such thing.  However, Kennedy did also express concern that the rights of employees–the women who rely on birth control coverage as part of their health care plan–could be threatened by a ruling in favor of the corporations.  (The Balkinization blog has several detailed posts on this issue.)

Regarding Justice Alito’s hypothetical (based on a recent law in Denmark) suggesting that the government’s position could lead to kosher and halal slaughterhouses having no legal recourse to defend their free exercise and First Amendment rights, I can only say that although I abhor the false flag attacks on women’s autonomy perpetrated by Justices Alito et al., I will defend to the death their right not to be “stunned or rendered unconscious” before they make their way into the Supreme Court chambers to make their preposterous and tendentious assertions.

The three female justices raised questions that highlighted the real burdens women employees (and there are thousands of women employed by these companies, which though closely held are by no means mom-and-pop operations) would face if the Court were to rule against the government and for Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood. It’s likely up to Anthony Kennedy to decide whether such corporate burden-shifting should be allowed in the face of what seems to me a neutral and generally applicable law designed to promote public health.  And whether the purportedly religious arguments for heteronomous control over women should prevail.  The Affordable Care Act may offend some religous consciences but is two or three degrees of separation away, in my opinion, from imposing an unbearable burden on any limited liability for-profit corporation, no matter the personal, sincere beliefs of its owners.

P.S. Spoiler alert: the decision, which will be released in late June, shall, I regret to say–and in spite of Justice Alito’s wariness of philosophical entanglements–uphold the unity of corporate mind and body, and thus vindicate Spinoza’s dictum (hat tip, or apologies if you will, to Michael Della Rocca, Spinoza, ch. 3) that the “order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.” The Court will rule that corporate entities (unlike mere natural persons) have the inalienable right to represent, via thoughts and/or ideas, any particular object they so choose.

“It’s Not About Giving People Equal Status Because You Like Them”

The BBC News has a headline today, “Irish grapple with gay rights in New York and Ireland.”  Mayor Bill de Blasio is sitting out this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Bill Donahue of the very anti-modernist Catholic League said: “I have gone on the radio inviting gays to march with the Catholic League, provided they do not draw attention to themselves or to some extrinsic cause.”  I say Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times hits it on the head when he writes: “Being personally benign is neither here nor there….It’s good that most of those who oppose gay marriage love and respect and cherish individual gay people, though they should hardly expect a pat on the back for not hating their fellow citizens.  But….the whole point of the law is that it’s not about giving people equal status because you like them.  It’s about freeing people from subjection to the arbitrariness of other people’s benevolence.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to find itself affirming this very point in the near future (2015), with, I expect, Anthony Kennedy being the fifth vote.  Or it could be a bigger majority, if a couple other Catholic justices are paying attention to Fintan O’Toole.

War On Religious Liberty Update: Easy Yokes and Light Burdens Edition

Opinions differ, to put it mildly, on the meaning of religious liberty today.  A book on Hinduism by Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago has been pulped or is being pulped right now by Penguin India following a lawsuit against the publisher by a conservative Hindu nationalist, on grounds of “offending religious feelings of Hindus,” according to stories in the Guardian. In Kansas, it seems some Republicans in the Kansas Senate are backing away from support for a so-called “protecting religious freedom regarding marriage” bill just passed by the Kansas House (which a Slate blogger rightly called an abomination reminiscent of the Jim Crow era).  Politicians from President Obama to Bobby Jindal to your local legislator are busy presenting their versions of what religious liberty means.  Everyone says they want to uphold religious liberty.

Is there a formula to help navigate the competing claims of Hobby Lobby, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and all the rest?  The First Amendment is our canonical American text on freedom, and it may seem to some too broad and vague.  But Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia has presented decisive evidence that what the Founders intended is not consistent with the right-wing claims that “the government can openly support religion so long as it doesn’t prefer one religion over others.”  The legislative record, Laycock notes, “tells a very different tale.  A lawyer drafting the right-wing view might write: ‘Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another.’  In fact that is exactly how it was written in 1789 by members of the first Senate.  But the Senate rejected that version and two similar versions that explicitly stated the right-wing view….A conference committee produced the version ultimately ratified as the First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.’  This is the broadest version considered by either house [in 1789].  It speaks generically of ‘religion,’ not ‘religion,’ ‘a national religion,’ or ‘any particular denomination of religion.’  It forbids any law…that relates to an establishment in any way.  In light of the alternatives Congress considered and rejected, it is best understood as requiring the government to be entirely neutral towards religion….Here, the intent of the framers is as clear as it ever gets; the right wing distorts that intent to suit its own preferences.”

Those not happy with Laycock’s exposition of the original meaning of the First Amendment (written for a USA Today column in 1985 but fresh as a daisy, and reprinted in Religious Liberty: Overviews and History, 2010, pp. 529-30) might say very well, but times have changed and we are now faced with a horrifying war on religious freedom as well as moral values.  I might wonder “so what’s new,” but let me say instead that invidious (if not hateful) discrimination against whole classes of people is not the way to defend religious freedom, and is increasingly indefensible–as the Kansas Senate, for example, is apparently grasping, and as judges and legislators in Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana have decided this week as the case against same-sex marriage collapses.

Should I give an appearance of evenhandedness and acknowledge that President Obama has a major blind spot regarding religious liberty, as columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post claimed recently?  The President may have blind spots, but Parker does not seem to be familiar enough with the facts on the ground re the Little Sisters of the Poor case to do anything other than throw rhetorical bricks at the President.  No one is going to compel the Little Sisters to provide abortifacients, or even birth control, to their employees.  The somewhat more challenging issues come in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases, where the latest government brief (Feb. 10, as respondent to Conestoga) has crystallized a hard-to-impeach version of the questions presented: “1. Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993…allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.  2. Whether the requirement that non-exempted, non-grandfathered group health plans include coverage of contraceptives violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

The government brief has it just right.  The real issue here, and in so many other putative “religious liberty” cases and controversies, is whose freedom counts, and who bears the burden when some complain that their consciences are violated by a generally applicable public law.  I would say it is clear that a for-profit corporation is an inanimate creature brought into being by state charter, and has no tender conscience to offend.  A religiously-based nonprofit is quite different, and accommodations should often be made so long as the Little Sisters, the Vedanta Society, the Presbyterian Youth group, the synagogue, or similar groups attest to their conscientious objections–which may indeed involve writing some kind of “permission slip,” if you want to put it that way.  Such cases can be tricky; however the Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, and for that matter Town of Greece v. Galloway cases ought to be disposed of easily.

Does the Supreme Court relish sorting all this out?  They do face some vexing, difficult cases, but if five or more justices can tune out the faux-outrage ginned up by the political right over supposed violations of religious liberty, and focus on upholding “neutral laws of general applicability” with the usual exceptions and accommodations where warranted, their yoke will be easy and their burden quite light.

War On Little Sisters Update: Supreme Court Makes Them Handwrite Their Own Permission Slip

The Little Sisters of the Poor are not likely to be forced by the federal government to pay for anybody’s birth control, let alone any woman’s abortion, no matter how their lawsuit goes.  But the anti-Obamacare rabble-rousers have pretended that the Little Sisters’ religious freedoms were about to be grossly violated.  Media coverage of the Supreme Court’s one-paragraph extension of the injunction in their case portrayed it as a victory for the Little Sisters and their Becket Fund lawyers, because they will not, for the time being, be obliged to fill out the government form (a form characterized by a Becket Fund representative as a “permission slip,” but which would simply have registered their putatively religion-based objections to contraception and thereby freed them from any complicity in the ostensible scandal and evil thereof–the case is quite baroque already).

In fact, as UPI Senior Legal Affairs Writer Michael Kirkland pointed out yesterday, “Little Sisters Jab, But No KO.”  Kirkland gives the misleading impression that employees at nursing homes run by the Little Sisters might get birth control coverage if the nuns agreed to sign the government form.  (Lyle Denniston’s coverage at Scotusblog is more reliable. ) However, Kirkland correctly notes that the Supreme Court order still obliges the Little Sisters to inform the federal beast in writing that they “are non-profit organizations that hold themselves as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services…applicants need not use the form prescribed by the government.”  The Becket Fund did a little victory dance, perhaps because they can now express their objections to the contraceptive mandate in 64 different crayon colors.

The really important cases, with the potential to open up whole new realms of corporate privilege, are Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, coming up for oral arguments March 25.  Scotusblog has links to some of the dozens of “Amicus” briefs filed already.

Free Exercise In This New Year

Justice Sonia Sotomayor did double duty on New Year’s Eve 2013, ringing in the New Year in Times Square while joining a kick dance on TV, and also, acting as Circuit Justice for the Tenth Circuit (yes, each Supreme Court Justice is a “circuit rider” too, without having to travel outside their chambers in D.C.), “temporarily blocked the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate against some Catholic groups challenging the mandate, including the Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver” (SCOTUSblog).  Notre Dame tried and failed to get a similar injunction against the mandate from a federal appeals panel, and has not appealed to their “circuit justice,” Elena Kagan.  Justice Sotomayor surprised some people, but the issue was headed to the full Supreme Court anyway, I expect, so she is simply not impeding that, rather than judging the merits.

It would be very rude of me to say anything bad about the Little Sisters of the Poor.  I have no strong feeling either pro-  or anti-  Notre Dame (and I have no skin in any football game they play).  Still I would be most unhappy if they won their cases.  How come?  Simply because I do not believe that any of the mandates or regulations (after they were amended) of the Affordable Care Act impose much of a burden on the Little Sisters, Notre Dame, or any Quaker, Muslim, Conservative Jew, Buddhist, or Greek Orthodox person or entity.

Marty Lederman (at the Balkinization blog) explains why the law does not burden religious nonprofit groups.  First, churches and auxiliary groups are “exempt altogether from the requirement that they include contraceptive coverage if they offer a health-insurance plan to their employees.  The women who work for such churches thus…will not be afforded this new national benefit….Under…the ‘secondary accommodation,’ other religious nonprofits who object to contraceptive coverage also can exclude it from their employee (and student) health-insurance plans.  These…organizations need only certify that they have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, in which case they will not be required ‘to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for contraceptive coverage.'”  But for most of these nonprofits the insurance company or third-party administrator for self-insured group plans assumes responsibility for providing contraceptive coverage and is prohibited from imposing any extra fees or penalties for that coverage.

Lederman notes that the secondary accommodation’s whole purpose is to relieve religious nonprofit groups of any obligation to “contract, arrange, pay, or refer.”  Notre Dame, moreover, is not forced to “choose between violating its religious obligations and ‘paying enormous penalties,” since they have the “perfectly lawful option of not offering a health insurance plan at all.”  If that seems harsh or unreasonable, Lederman asks us to back up and recall that the health care law lets Notre Dame or the Little Sisters file a certification to insurers that “it is eligible for and exercising the available religious accommodation because it objects to providing contraceptive coverage.  By certifying, Notre Dame would not ‘authorize’ anything: Federal law does that work.  As the district court explained, ‘if Notre Dame opts out of providing contraceptive coverage, as it always has and likely would going forward, it is the government who will authorize the third party to pay for contraception’….If that is enough to establish a substantial burden on Notre Dame’s religious exercise, then…’opt outs’ for dissenters [to public laws] would themselves often create the very conflict with religion that they are designed to alleviate–and would thus threaten to prevent the state from both accommodating religion and satisfying its state interests through an alternative means, such as the use of a non-objecting party.”

To put Lederman’s point another way, if Notre Dame or the Little Sisters want to preserve such a degree of purity that they not only decline to provide birth control to employees themselves, which is generally agreed to be part of their right of conscience, but also seek to gum up the works of a law passed by democratically elected representatives of the people who chose to supply birth control as part of the overall project of improving national health and well-being, how can they complain that they might have to pay some sort of penalty? Lederman asks us to consider an analogous situation: there is a federal law permitting a district court judge to recuse him- or herself from a case where he or she likely has a bias or prejudice.  “In a 1998 article, former Notre Dame professor (now President of Catholic University) John Garvey argued that a judge who adheres to Catholic doctrine [against] the death penalty would have to invoke this law to recuse himself (meaning “sit out”) from the sentencing hearing in a capital case.  In such a case, the federal law provides that ‘any other judge’ can step in and conduct the hearing.”  But according to Notre Dame’s theory in this 2013-14 case, the Catholic judge “would be able to object to the sentencing hearing altogether–not only to his own participation in it–on the theory that his recusal would ‘trigger’ or ‘authorize’ the replacement judge to act immorally.”

The Little Sisters, and Notre Dame, and Sikhs, adherents of no religious faith, Methodists, etc. all have a right to express their “voice” in the public square.  They can also exercise the options (as Albert Hirschman put it) of exit, or loyalty, or some mixture thereof.  But the objections to the Affordable Care Act in these cases seem both strained and mixed-up.

Why Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas Will Be Wearing Burqas Over Their Hijabs Going Forward

As a sign of their judicial modesty, if reports in the aftermath of oral argument in the latest public prayer case are accurate.  Chief Justice Roberts is said to be dismayed, worried sick that they will be impeached by irate Tea Partying Republicans in the House of Representatives.  But Scalia let Roberts know he oughta grow a thicker skin and get over it.  “You call this coercion?” yelled Scalia.  “You can’t handle coercion, John.  You let Obamacare survive, but no way are you gonna stand in the way of mandatory prayer for anybody who wants a zoning variance or a septic tank permit.  We could care less what James Madison thought about it.  And by the way, I don’t know about your friends, but my Tea Party buddies are all about Sharia law.”

Justice Scalia is also said to have persuaded two of his hitherto Roman Catholic brethren that it was high time to abandon that squishy enterprise for the true faith.  Alito suggested Eastern Orthodoxy, but Scalia told him “not good enough.”  So Wahhabists r Them, that is if the NYC print edition of The Onion is to be believed.  Say what?–there is no print edition any more?

Where Are Our Prayer Curators?

Curating most anything is very cool these days, I think.  So why were so many of our Supreme Courters seemingly so afraid of curating our public prayers?  Don’t we pay them the big bucks to settle tough issues like this?

To answer–and to get a bit serious–a little history first.  Thirty years ago, the Court last undertook to rule on legislative prayer, in a case out of Nebraska, which had paid a chaplain (same denomination, Presbyterian, for sixteen years in a row!) out of public funds.  Chief Justice Burger, platitudinous and conformist as ever, delivered the 6-3 majority opinion, which was heavy on legislative prayer’s “unique history,” its “deeply embedded” status and its supposed easy “coexist[ence] with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom” (Marsh v. Chambers, 1983).  Justice William Brennan‘s dissent in the Marsh case acknowledged that the “limited rationale” of the decision “should pose little threat to the overall fate of the Establishment Clause,” and averred that 20 years earlier, in a concurring opinion striking down official prayer in public schools, he himself had come “very close to endorsing essentially the result reached…today.”  Brennan then wrote: “I was wrong then and…the Court is wrong today.”  Not a common sight in Supreme Court opinions then or now!

Brennan’s dissent pointed out that the Burger majority opinion “makes no pretense of subjecting Nebraska’s practice of legislative prayer to any of the formal ‘tests’ that have traditionally structured our inquiry under the Establishment Clause….it simply confirms that the Court is carving out an exception to the Establishment Clause rather than reshaping Establishment Clause doctrine to accommodate legislative prayer.”  What should be obvious, according to Brennan, is “that, if the Court were to judge legislative prayer through the unsentimental eye of our settled doctrine, it would have to strike it down as a clear violation of the Establishment Clause.”  Brennan then set off on a lengthy explanation of the principles and purposes of “separation” and “neutrality” implicit in the Clause: guaranteeing the individual right to conscience, keeping the state from interfering in the autonomy of religious life, preventing the trivialization and degradation of religion which occurs when it gets too closely attached to governmental bodies, and finally keeping important and sensitive religious issues from becoming political battlegrounds.  Justice Brennan went on to detail how “the imperatives of separation and neutrality are not limited to the relationship of government to religious institutions or denominations, but extend as well to the relationship of government to religious beliefs and practices.”  He refuted the ahistorical talking point that his view of the Establishment Clause is “a recent concoction of an overreaching judiciary,” citing none other than James Madison (his post-presidential “Detached Memoranda”).   Brennan concluded his dissent by quoting de Toqueville on the strikingly beneficial mutuality of the spirits of religion and freedom in the United States of the 1830s, which Toqueville’s informants agreed was due to the complete separation of church and state.  “More recent history,” wrote Brennan, “has only confirmed de Toqueville’s observations.  If the Court had struck down legislative prayer today, it would likely have stimulated a furious reaction.  But it would also, I am convinced, have invigorated both the ‘spirit of religion’ and the ‘spirit of freedom.’  I respectfully dissent.”

That was thirty years ago. The oral argument in Town of Greece v. Galloway appears to me to signal an outcome not too different from Marsh.  Those who seemed inclined to uphold the western New York town’s practice since 1999 of beginning town board meetings with prayer justified themselves by worrying about censoring speech (Kennedy, whose fetish for applying First Amendment absolutism inappropriately is getting on my last nerve), by pooh-poohing the element of coercion (Scalia and perhaps Alito), or by worrying about overturning a longstanding practice (though sectarian prayer just started in 1999–the previous town supervisor was mindful enough to begin with a moment of silence).

Justice Sotomayor got at the heart of the flim-flammery of pretending that Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and practically everybody (except atheists–though in 2013 American religious “nones” appear to outnumber all non-Christians) were all welcome to join the festivities when she got the town’s lawyer to admit that Christian clergy led the prayer on average 11 out of 12 months each year even after the court challenge began! According to the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court ruling, there was an outbreak of pluralism in 2008, with four non-Christian prayers out of twelve, and then a reversion to the pre-lawsuit all-Christian norm for at least a year and a half (Galloway v. town of Greece, 681 F.3d 20).

Regarding the curating of curates’ and others’ public prayers, I now propose a moment (or a day) of silence and mindfulness–which is only to say I hope to have more to say in a little while.

Defiant Supreme Court Still Beginning Each And Every Day With Vulgar Petitionary Prayer

Just days after floundering solemnly, as only they can, through oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court is persisting in its vulgar and idolatrous practice of insolently petitioning G-d to save them and the United States.

In Town of Greece v. Galloway earlier this week, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices struggled to decide what, if any, prayers, ought to pass constitutional muster in the town meetings of Greece, New York. Clarence Thomas‘s silence may well have been an endorsement of Gullah-Buddhist syncretism. Antonin Scalia, who crossed the bridge from judging to trolling a long while ago–and who has lurked under that bridge ever since–chose this week, as usual, to embody two parts Mayor Rob Ford and three parts Emperor Theodosius (died 395 CE, and who, more than Constantine, made Christianity the official church of the Roman Empire).

But the other seven really seemed flummoxed, and I sympathize. Our country is perhaps blessed with much continuity and civility in its religiosity, but it is markedly more religiously pluralistic than just thirty years ago, when the Marsh case allowed prayers to continue in Nebraska’s legislature (uniquely, in the U.S., unicameral–is this unusual unity unpleasant for unregenerate utopian unbelievers? Undoubtedly). Ulteriority, or lack of it, was the key to the Marsh decision, which approved prayers so long as “government does not act with improper motive in selecting prayer-givers or exploit the prayer opportunity to proselytize, advance, or disparage any one faith or belief.” Some of the justices, e.g. frequent swing voter Anthony Kennedy, seemed reluctant to dive into the mudpit of “parsing prayers” this time around, but what is their alternative? One week of prayer for the monotheists, and then as many weeks for the polytheists as they have deities? That would be just as sensible as some of the proposals put forth in oral argument. Decision expected by next June.

Scalia Previews Court Term: “Pigs Running Off Cliffs”

As the Supreme Court, shutdown or not, begins its new term today, the remaining pragmatic precedents from the O’Connor era are likely to be narrowed if not swept away. And if you thought Citizens United gave too much leeway to big money in politics, get ready for McCutcheon, which may overrule all campaign contribution limits by individuals.

As per usual, Justice Scalia sees the big picture (from an interview with New York magazine): “the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot.” Is our man Scalia being one-sidedly rude to his fellow right-wingers here? Certainly not, for he proceeds to attack godless liberals next: “what he (the Devil) is doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.”

Justice Ginsburg To Officiate At Gay Wedding Of John Roberts

Would I make that up? No way, it is a true story–just it is not the John Roberts who happens to sit on the Supreme Court.