Outside Reading — Hard Court edition

supreme court

Why I Haven’t Gone Back to SCOTUS Since Kavanaugh by Dahlia Lithwick

For a long time, Dahlia Lithwick was my favorite writer on the Supreme Court beat. Reporting on the goings on at the last depot for the nation’s rickety train of judicial reckoning, Lithwick always had a smart take on the open deliberations of the justices, and she always laced her writing with a sharply insightful humor. I usually sought out Slate — Lithwick’s main employer and the outlet that published the linked essay — to find her latest story whenever there were oral arguments on a particularly big case. I noticed she’s been ceding the case-by-case responsibilities to a different writer, and now she’s offering an explanation for that choice. It’s a wrenching read, not just because it again recounts the infuriating disregard for survivors of sexual violence shown by Senate Republicans during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, but because it gets at the way the narcissistic grifters currently presiding over the executive branch have sullied almost every governmental institution that preserves the liberty-and-justice-for-all part of our fragile national society. It’s gone to take a long, long time to undo the damage.


Ten Years Ago, I Called Out David Letterman. This Month, We Sat Down to Talk. by Nell Scovell


Nell Scovell wasn’t the first person to call attention to ludicrous gender disparities in the writers’ rooms of late night comedy shows, but her pointed essay largely centered on her unhappy experience as a staff writer on David Letterman’s old Late Night show, published by Vanity Fair around a decade ago, has to now be seen as a major turning point. Although the chauvinistic defenders of a testosterone-heavy status quo certainly didn’t disappear, a sincere evaluation of the problem clearly started taking place in all the right offices. As Scovell points out a somewhat unexpected follow-up piece, matters have improved enough that all of the nightly talk shows nominated for a writing Emmy this year had for more respectable ratios of women to men on staff (and at least one show addresses the outdated prominence of white males in the hosting chair in a dandy recurring segment that offers a shared star turn for a couple of the female writers). The real impetus for Scovell’s new article is an on-the-record conversation she had with Letterman, who reached out after finally reading her earlier article. Scovell is admirably fair-minded in her characterization of the meeting, and the whole essay feels like a testament to the value in speaking truth to power. And Scovell has the grace to note that it’s commendable when power finally listens.


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