MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Is the Supreme Court still a legitimate branch of government? Dueling justices weigh in.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also today the Monday Moneybeat: persistent inflation. we’ll talk it over with economist David Bahnsen.
Plus the World History Book. Today, the anniversary of the first emoticons.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, September 19th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Queen’s funeral » World leaders have gathered in London this morning to pay final respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II. Some 2,000 guests are attending her funeral today at Westminster Abbey, including President Biden.
BIDEN: She was the same in person as her image; decent, honorable, and all about service.
He is one of 500 world leaders and royals invited to the queen’s state funeral.
Hundreds of British troops and officials made final preparations over the weekend for what will be the first state funeral in the UK since Winston Churchill’s death in 1965.
Ukraine update » Among the leaders left off the guest list, Vladimir Putin.
And as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, Ukrainian officials say they’ve found evidence of more potential war crimes after chasing Russian forces out of the city of Izium.
Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin says it’s now a familiar pattern.
KOSTIN: What we see now is a system, what they do on the occupied territory.
Officials in Kyiv say they’ve found evidence that Russian captors tortured Ukrainian prisoners. They also discovered a mass grave near Izium.
The Ukrainian Ambassador to the US said among the dead are both Ukrainian troops and civilians. Oksana Markarova
MARKAROVA: It’s horrifying. Some of them are families of — like, everyone in the family is killed.
Kyiv has promised that Ukraine’s military will continue a major counteroffensive that has forced a Russian retreat in some areas.
Hurricane Fiona » Floodwaters are submerging parts of Puerto Rico this morning after Hurricane Fiona struck the island’s southwest coast on Sunday.
Fiona roared ashore with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour …
AUDIO: [Hurricane Fiona]
It ripped off roofs and toppled palm trees. But as Richard Pasch with the National Hurricane Center predicted Sunday …
PASCH: The big damage might come from landslides associated with the flooding, which could carry away buildings and again is life threatening.
Forecasters warned of catastrophic flooding from “historic” levels of rain, with up to 25 inches possible in isolated areas.
Many residents had to wait for sunrise this morning to survey the damage. The storm knocked out the entire power grid, plunging the island into darkness.
Fiona hit just two days before the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which struck in 2017. That storm destroyed the island’s power grid and killed nearly 3,000 people.
Alaska storm » Meantime, in Alaska, a powerful storm swept north through the Bering Strait over the weekend. Becca Luce lives in the coastal town of Nome.
LUCE: Many homes and cabins have been swept away due to the floods caused by the high winds and surf.
One house in Nome floated down a river until it got caught at a bridge.
The storm is what remains of Typhoon Merbok.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy described the massive scale of the system.
DUNLEAVY: This is almost a thousand miles of stormfront. And we’ve got a lot of rain. We’ve got wind, and we’ve got surge.
Dunleavy has issued a disaster declaration.
FEMA is standing by to help.
NY pleads for federal help for migrants » New York City Mayor Eric Adams is still calling on the federal government to help care for hundreds of migrants arriving from the southern border.
Texas continues to bus migrants to self-proclaimed sanctuary cities. The Democratic mayor told ABC’s This Week.
ADAMS: This is an American crisis that we need to face, a humanitarian crisis that [was] made by human hands.
He blamed southern Republican governors. But Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said governors are not responsible for U.S. immigration policy or for the more than 2 million migrant encounters at the southern border over the past fiscal year.
PATRICK: We have to absorb all of the people that come into the overrun towns like Del Rio, population of over 37,000 people, that have had 400,000 people in their sector. That would be like New York getting 10 times their population or 80 million people.
Patrick said his state’s been in a constant state of emergency.
Box office » At the box office, The Woman King ruled in its opening weekend.
TRAILER: An evil is coming that threatens our kingdom. But we have a weapon they are not prepared for.
The action-drama opened with $19 million for the weekend, beating expectations.
The R-rated thriller, Barbarian, finished a distant second with $6 million.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Debate over the state of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Plus, Monday Moneybeat and WORLD History Book.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Monday the 19th of September, 2022.
Thanks for joining us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
We are deep into Season Three of the Legal Docket podcast—episode 7 coming up this week, really excited about it, Mary—the story behind the Dobbs decision on abortion, how Mississippi crafted a law that would present the challenge to the court.
REICHARD: Yeah, I was excited to report this story. Little known backstory of how it came to be that this particular law became the one to challenge Roe head on. For example, the young nurse who took care of a 15 week old miscarried child. That nurse later became a legislator. A key factor of significance that didn’t become obvious until years later.
EICHER: Which is what makes the Legal Docket podcast so unique, all the legal issues covered in-depth, but also the stories behind the controversies that lead to Supreme Court decisions. Episode 7—releasing tomorrow—the Legal Docket Podcast! Don’t miss that.
It’s time for our weekly Legal Docket. This week, the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some have called it into question. Such as Vice President Kamala Harris last week on CNN. She’s referring to the Dobbs decision.
HARRIS: I think this is an activist court. This court took that Constitutional right away. And we are suffering as a nation because of it. That causes me great concern about the integrity of the court overall.
REICHARD: And on Wednesday last week, Justice Elena Kagan said this at a forum at Northwestern University School of Law:
KAGAN: When Courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society irrespective of the law, that’s when there’s a problem and that’s when there ought to be a problem. So what makes a Court legitimate is that the Court is acting like a Court, it is doing something that’s recognizably law-like, and that’s when a Court will build up some reservoir of public confidence and good will.
EICHER: But weeks ago, Chief Justice John Roberts defended the authority of the court to interpret the Constitution. The Chief made these comments during an interview for C-Span that took place in Colorado Springs.
Let’s listen to an excerpt from the nearly 40 minute interview. It’s about two minutes:
ROBERTS: The court has always decided controversial cases and the decisions have always been subject to intense criticism. That is entirely appropriate that citizens feel free to criticize our opinions and how we do our work. Lately that criticism is phrased in terms of because of these opinions, it calls into question the legitimacy of the court. I think it is a mistake to view those criticisms in that light. The legitimacy of the court rests on the fact that it satisfies the requirements of the statute and the constitution needs, as John Marshall put it, somebody to say what the law is. That is the goal of the Supreme Court. That role doesn’t change because people disagree with this opinion or that opinion or a particular mode of jurisprudence. Obviously people can say what they want and they are certainly free to criticize the Supreme Court if they want. And if they want to say its legitimacy is in question, they are free to do so. But I don’t understand the connection between opinions people disagree with and the legitimacy of the court. If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle. You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is and you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is. All of our opinions are open to criticism and our members do a great job of criticizing some opinions from time to time. [LAUGHTER] But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.
REICHARD: I wanted to talk more about this idea of legitimacy of the court, and called up Professor Ilya Somin at George Mason University in Virginia. He writes about constitutional law, political knowledge and public opinion among other topics. He’s the author of several books including Democracy and Political Ignorance.
Somin’s recent piece published in Reason.com acknowledges that the high court’s popularity has taken a dive of late. He says that’s likely due to the Dobbs decision overturning abortion rights on a national level.
Some polls put the court’s approval rating at around 42%, lower than what the court’s usually at over the last 20 years. Somin cites two reasons why that’s not necessarily ominous:
SOMIN: One is that if you look at the court’s approval ratings they are low by the court’s own historical standards and there’s not much question about that. But they are actually as good or better than those of the president and congress. President Biden right now his ratings have gone up a little bit in recent weeks. Nonetheless, they’re actually almost at the same level as the courts. He too is around 42-43% approval and now there’s about 52-53% who disapprove. So if the court is having a legitimacy crisis maybe Biden is as well.
And if you look at Congress’ approval ratings, they could only dream of what the court has or what Biden has. They right now are around 17-18% and they’ve been consistently in those kinds of doldrums for many years now.
Somin says the second point why the high court isn’t sliding toward inevitable illegitimacy is it’s been here before. Such as with its 2005 decision in City of Kelo v New London. There, the court allowed the city to take private property and sell it for private development in hopes of improving the city’s bad economy.
SOMIN: Which is probably the most unpopular major Supreme Court decision in modern times. Much more so than Dobbs. At that time the Supreme Court reached an approval rating around 42% in the Gallup poll which is statistically about the same as the 43% that it has now. Yet in that instance and in a couple of other instances when the court went down into the low 40s as a result of unpopular decisions the court bounced back over the next year or two.
He says as Dobbs recedes somewhat from being the center of attention, public opinion may change.
SOMIN: If the court makes more popular decisions in the future, that could increase its popularity. Probably the most prominent case on the courts docket coming up for next year is the case about racial preferences in higher education. It is likely that the court will strike down those preferences. And if they do, then there is a good chance that the decision would be highly popular. Now, I should emphasize both with racial preferences and Dobbs and other cases, the fact that a decision is unpopular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. The fact that it’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. We’re talking here about legitimacy in the sense of public support for the court, rather than legitimacy in a different sense of whether the court is getting decisions right or wrong in some objective sense.
I had to ask: who cares about public opinion or how popular the Supreme Court is? Does it really matter that much?
SOMIN: I do think legitimacy in the sense of public support is important in that if the public support becomes too low, then the court’s ability to enforce its decisions will be diminished. And in the extreme scenario, you can imagine the other branches of government taking actions against it like trying to pack the court, increasing the number of justices so as to change the ideological balance on the court, or stripping the court of some of its authority or doing other kinds of things that some politicians have been talking about.
Democrats have talked quite a lot about packing the court or purging the court with term limits or some other way to change the makeup of the bench. Does Somin think this will play big in the midterms?
SOMIN: So there are certainly some Democrats who are saying things like that, but it’s notable that relatively few Democratic politicians and strategists have decided to make that a theme of their campaign. And President Biden has very noticeably refused to endorse the idea. So if you look at the Democratic Party, it seems like they’re internally divided over this. There are some people who would definitely like to do it. But others oppose it, either, because they’re opposed to it on principle, as I think, quite a number of more moderate Democrats are, or because they think it’s it’s bad political strategy, that if the Democratic Party as a whole were to embrace court packing, the campaign might become about court packing, which is generally unpopular, as opposed to being about Dobbs, about Donald Trump and about other things that, you know, the Democrats feel, I think, sometimes for good reason work in their favor. So what I’ve taken away from this so far is that court packing is definitely a part of mainstream public discourse in a way that wasn’t true several years ago. And both parties have done their part to make it more a part of mainstream public discourse. At the same time, Democratic strategists so far, at least, are reluctant to really embrace the idea. And it’s notable that the President doesn’t want to embrace it.
That was Professor Ilya Somin from George Mason University School of Law.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Time now for our weekly conversation on business, markets, and the economy with financial analyst and adviser David Bahnsen, head of the wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group. Good morning!
DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Good morning, Nick, good to be with you.
EICHER: Let’s start with the inflation story, that persistent story:
From The New York Times: Price increases remained uncomfortably rapid in August as a broad array of goods and services became more expensive even as gas prices fell.
[A fresh Consumer Price Index report released last week showed] prices rose 8.3 percent from a year earlier …”
So, that’s August versus August. It’s a bit better than the July versus July number from last month, 8.5, but a bit worse than maybe what we expected.
BAHNSEN: Yeah, they were expecting 8.1. And they got 8.3. So that’s exactly the way I describe it was a bit of a surprise about point to higher than expected some of the ambiguity going on about inflation. Measuring inflation is really kind of frustrating because people are equivocating between sequential inflation, which is how much it went up versus the month before. And so if inflation is going up point three each month, point three doesn’t sound like a high number, and zero sounds like a low number. But of course, point three over 12 months when you’re compounding it is actually pretty high inflation. But the way we measure inflation has always sort of been year over year. And so each month, you’re looking at what it was 12 months earlier. And the month prior when they when the Biden administration famously and sort of bizarrely referred to 0% inflation, they were purposely using the sequential measure, not the annualized measure the year over year. And so from one month to the next, if you had no increase in the CPI, because some things were higher, but some things were lower and it netted out to zero, it was still roughly 8% higher from the year before. This month, we’ve got an 8.3, as you say, which was expected to be 8.1. And energy prices were lower, they brought that number down. But food prices were higher brought the number up. And so I do think it was a bit of a surprise, but not anything mathematically significant. And yet again, it reinforces the narrative, that we are not yet seeing the disinflation that lower energy prices and some improvements in the supply chain need to be eventually generating.
EICHER: Speaking of improvements in the supply chain, looks like President Biden helped avert a rail strike last week, and a strike like that, hitting the supply chain, that’s probably the last thing we needed. So you had to like that.
BAHNSEN: Well, I do think that it is possible. That could have been a really big story. I don’t think we fully know it was two out of 10 unions. It affected some railroad companies significantly, some not at all. I know that they were estimating it would be 57,000 employees who would have gone on strike. So I suspect that it is true. But it’s always harder to measure something that doesn’t tap into than it is to measure something that does. But if all we want to get out is on the margins, the last thing our supply chain needs is more issues like that. I totally agree.
EICHER: Other economic indicators last week, we’re getting the July reports on industrial production, retail sales, and so forth how are you analyzing those economic indicators?
BAHNSEN: Yeah, I mean, overall, retail sales were up again. So to the extent that we’re sitting around waiting for the consumer to stop spending money, it hasn’t happened. Again, their gasoline purchases were down, obviously, with gas itself being way down. Other elements were up, but the industrial production number was down point 2%. It isn’t a significant move down. But it was the first time it had come down in a bit. I mean, we’ve had really robust industrial production. The downward movement was mostly in the pretty volatile utilities arena, which again is a lot more weather dependent to the actual manufacturing element was still higher. So not not a great number, but not a terrible number, just you know, still kind of a little bit of good and bad in the data with retail with industrial production. The weekly jobs numbers were down to the initial jobless claims were down to 213,000. And they had been running six weeks earlier at about 250,000. So I watched this three and four week average and it’s come down quite a bit. So Mmm, that was probably good news. But then I think the big news of the week came on Friday when the CEO of Federal Express came out and announced a lot of downward pressure on their order flow, and sort of made an offhanded comment in response to a question that he thought that we’re looking at a global recession next year now, CEOs are kind of infamous for offhanded comments disconnected from maybe the economic side of the of the house. But as an offhanded comment for a company with such a global touch market, certainly responded in Federal Express was down 25%. And now down 40% on the year, which, by the way, caused our company to go in and buy the stock quite heavily. But the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of people looking to indicators like that, like, what are you seeing forward looking? Because I think people sometimes trust large corporate, global companies for analysis or prediction, more than they would trust politicians or central bankers or academic economist. And so we shall see as we go into October and start getting q3 results from companies, how many companies share the view that they see things taking a downturn and how many companies have a counter narrative that they feel like things softened a little, but they’re not seeing a dramatic slowdown, you’re going to hear a little bit of all the above, I suspect. And so we’re looking forward to analyzing Q three from the corporate side of the house.
EICHER: Alright, today kind of a different type of listener question having to do with the Bahnsen Economics Course we’ve talked about several times.
So this listener had a difficult time locating the place to enroll for the free course. We emailed him back with a direct link to the signup page, so he’s good to go.
But I’ll just say, if you’re using a laptop, it’s fairly easy. Go to Bahnsen.com, and look along the top navigation, the first link is called “Economics Course.” But if you’re on your phone, it’s slightly different, and maybe that was the case here, all those navigational links aren’t immediately visible. From a phone browser, you have to look to the upper right corner, you’ll see three horizontal lines. Tap on those and that will reveal the links, and the very first one is “Economics Course.” Tap on that, fill in your information and go from there.
But, David, I also wanted to call attention to what the listener said. It was interesting.
“I think that he is fantastic, even though I don’t understand half of what he’s talking about. But I’d like to change that.”
That’s the spirit, I think!
BAHNSEN: Well, absolutely. I mean, the reason that I did the course is to provide people a more foundational understanding of economics. And even though this course, is not starting with the ABCs of investment or finance, the whole point of how I feel about an economic worldview is that it needs to precede an understanding of investment in finance. So this course is intended to provide foundational truths first principles, and unpack what we really believe from a Christian perspective about economics, which is that economics starts with the human person. And it starts with the way in which God made the human person and what God made the human person for. And that sort of dual reality of the human as an individual, and the human as a social being, who now has to cooperate with others, and what the moral and and practical ramifications of that are. So that’s what economics fundamentally is. That’s what the course is about. And I think that people in taking the course, from homeschool students, high school students, college, young adults, older adults, I’ve seen all so far, we’ve had just 1000s of people taking the course. And the feedback has been almost universal, that it’s helping them better understand what we want them to understand about economics. And then I think from there, Nick, people can choose if they want it to be a springboard to maybe even a deeper understanding of particular elements.
EICHER: You can submit your question for the Moneybeat Mailbag and again, we do prefer that you use your phone to make a voice memo—try to keep it short—and send me a file at [email protected].
David Bahnsen is founder, managing partner, and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group—his personal website is Bahnsen.com.
David, talk to you next time. Thanks!
BAHNSEN: Thanks so much, Nick.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, September 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up, the WORLD History Book. Today we remember a hurricane that slammed the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Plus, the first documented use of emoticons. But first, a cultural milestone.
Here’s Paul Butler.
DOCUMENTARY: This is New York. A huddle island of towering buildings and steep canyons…and it is one of the cultural capitals of the world…
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: In 1955 New York City officials approved plans for urban renewal in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
DOCUMENTARY: … Here a far reaching idea is taking physical shape. Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. Designed to preserve the past and nourish the future of music, opera, drama, and the dance…
The first building in the 16-acre facility on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was a permanent home for the New York Philharmonic—one of the oldest musical institutions in the United States. Architect Max Abramovitz designed the state-of-the art concert hall—with seating for 2,700 people.
It opened on September 23rd, 1962…
DOCUMENTARY: … The opening of Philharmonic Hall, attended by the First Lady of the United States, was a memorable event. In person—or as spectators of the national television broadcast—some 25-million people were in attendance that night…[MUSIC]
The concert hall was a cavernous space—more than three stories high—with three balconies and box seats around the perimeter. The space featured “acoustic clouds” that could be repositioned for optimal sound treatment. Unfortunately, they didn’t really work. Musicians complained they couldn’t hear themselves. It wasn’t much better for audiences.
The Lincoln Center tried to improve the acoustics, but without much success. Eventually, they gutted the hall and started over. $10.5 million later, Avery Fisher Hall reopened in 1976—but the reviews weren’t much better.
Over the next 40 years, many acoustic specialists tried their hand at fixing the problem. Some used refraction: trying to bounce the sound at different angles—and others tried absorption: hoping to capture certain frequencies.
It got so bad, the New York Philharmonic threatened to leave the concert hall for a new home. But the Lincoln Center went back to the drawing board and 60 years after its first opening, it’s set to reopen next month with a new, smaller concert hall in the same space.
PROMO AD: … We have a new home for music, say hello to the new David Geffin Hall and welcome to the New York Phil’s 2022-23 season.
Next, September 19th, 1982. A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University posts a comment to a message board. His name: Scott Fahlman. He and a handful of other professors were trying to solve a common miscommunication challenge when typing…how to make it clear when you’re joking. He wondered about a simple smiley face.
FAHLMAN: I’m looking at the keyboard, what can we do? You need eyes. And there’s the colon. But unfortunately, it’s the wrong way around. And then I said, Well, maybe we’ll get people to turn their head sideways, you can make a pretty nice face if you do that. So I posted this now famous message.
That original grammatically incorrect message reads: “I propose that (sic) the following character sequence for joke markers: “:” (colon) “-” (minus) “)” (close parenthesis). Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this use “:” (colon) “-” (minus) “(“ (open parenthesis).
FAHLMAN: I thought this would amuse the dozen or so people participating in this crazy, mostly late at night discussion…
But it went much further than that. As more and more universities joined the interconnected network of schools—an online system that predated the internet—the emoticons quickly spread.
FAHLMAN: People started writing books about all the character based emoticons. I’m only really responsible for those first two. And the others all descended from mine, but I didn’t make them up.
In an interview last year with Heritage Auctions, Fahlman admitted that his smiley and frowning faces were probably not the first emoticons afterall.
FAHLMAN: If people want to fight I just say okay, in English, it was the exclamation mark. That was the first emoticon. It’s just a piece of text that conveys some excitement or surprise or some emotional state without saying, “Oh, well, I’m surprised” in words…
Last year the original message board post was sold at auction along with its non-fungible token for $237,500.
And finally today, September 20th, 2017. Five years ago this week, hurricane Maria hit the Lesser Antilles. Audio here from CNN:
NEWSCAST: This is St. Croix, right here in the southern region of the US Virgin Islands. Now, when the outer wall was meeting St. Croix, it was still with winds 175 miles per hour
As the storm trekked northwest. Puerto Rico was in its crosshairs. CBS correspondent David Begnaud was at a hotel in San Juan when Maria hit the island as a category 4 hurricane.
NEWSCAST: The winds are ferocious right now gusting above 120 miles per hour, severing the tops of the palm trees and ripping off the board and that’s on buildings.
Maria dumped as much as 30 inches of rain on the island. Nearly 3,000 people died in the storm and its aftermath. The hurricane decimated the island’s entire power grid. Three months after the hurricane, 45 percent of Puerto Ricans still had no electricity. Six months after the storm, more than 200,000 people remained without power.
Damages totaled more than $90 billion—making it the third costliest hurricane in the history of the region. This weekend’s hurricane Fiona was a much less powerful storm, yet the island is once again in the dark—with many residents hoping this time, electricity will be restored much faster.
That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: inflation’s effects on food pantries.
And a special report on the flooding in Pakistan.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
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