MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The U.S. Supreme Court hears round two of a water dispute between Florida and Georgia.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.
Also today a discussion on the minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage was supposed to be part of the COVID relief bill. Doesn’t look like it’ll make it. We’ll talk about that.
Plus, the WORLD History Book. Today we mark the 70th anniversary of a musical milestone.
REICHARD: It’s Monday, March 1st. 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: Time for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: FDA authorizes J&J vaccine » Truckloads of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine will soon roll out across the country.
That after the FDA gave a thumbs up to what will be the third vaccine in emergency use in the United States. The FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks made the announcement Saturday night.
MARKS: Guided by our careful review of the science and data, we have determined that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits clearly outweigh its known and potential risks.
Johnson & Johnson expects to ship 20 million doses in the United States this month, and a total of 100 million by the end of June.
The vaccine has two big advantages over the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines now in use: It can be shipped and stored at refrigerator temperature and it requires only one shot rather than two.
On the other hand, studies have shown the other two vaccines to be slightly more effective overall.
But President Biden’s top medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s This Week…
FAUCI: This is a good vaccine. I think we need to pull away from this comparing and parsing numbers until you compare them head to head. Just be really grateful that we have three really efficacious vaccines.
The FDA says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness. Studies showed one dose was 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness. And that protection remained strong even in countries like South Africa, where a worrisome variant of the virus is spreading.
Santa Clara churches hold services after Supreme Court strikes down county ban » Many churches in Santa Clara County, Calif. gathered for worship services yesterday after the U.S. Supreme Court shot down the county’s ban on indoor services.
The justices handed down the ruling Friday night in a case brought by a handful of churches. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.
Earlier this month, the high court told the state of California that it can enforce certain coronavirus restrictions. The justices said the state can cap indoor church gatherings at 25 percent of a building’s capacity and bar singing during services.
But Santa Clara had argued that its outright ban on indoor gatherings should be allowed to stand. The county said it was treating houses of worship no differently from other indoor spaces where it prohibits organized gatherings.
Trump slams Biden, teases 2024 campaign at CPAC » Former President Trump delivered his first public speech since leaving office on Sunday, addressing a live crowd in Orlando.
TRUMP: Well thank you very much and hello CPAC. Do you miss me yet? Do you miss me?
The former president spoke on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Trump told the crowd that despite a rift with some Republican leaders, he has no intention of leaving the party or starting a new one. He said instead that the GOP must unite.
He also took aim at his successor, criticizing President Biden’s reversal of Trump’s border policies among other things. He said Biden had a—quote—“disastrous first month.”
The former president also once again claimed that he won the 2020 election and teased another run.
TRUMP: But who knows? Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for a third time!
The annual event moved out of the Washington D.C. area for the first time ever due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But that wasn’t the only notable change. Some familiar faces were missing. Several top Republicans decided not to attend this year including former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.
Myanmar security forces open fire on protests, kill 18 » More bloodshed in Myanmar as security forces opened fire on a crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators on Sunday.
That as ruling military leaders continue to crack down on those protesting the recent military coup.
Ravina Shamdasani is a U.N. spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She said her office has “credible information” that security forces killed 18 people and wounded 30 others on Sunday.
SHAMSANI: We have seen an increase in the use of force by the military. Today marked a very serious escalation. We have not seen this level of lethal force before in demonstrations.
Observers estimate that security forces also arrested roughly a thousand people yesterday.
Ravina Shamdasani, speaking for the human rights office said “We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force.”
The military also arrested an Associated Press journalist over the weekend.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: a long-running fight over water rights heads back to the Supreme Court.
Plus, remembering the Alamo.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Monday morning and time to get to work for another week of The World and Everything in It. Today is March 1st, 2021. Thanks for joining us! I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for Legal Docket.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week against a college student severely beaten by undercover FBI agents who’d mistaken him for someone else. Instead of charging the officers, authorities charged King and tried him for assault because he’d fought the agents—in his mind, fighting back against what he says he believed was a mugging.
The jury believed it, too, and acquitted him.
In turn, James King sued the officers for violating his 4th Amendment right, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. In the same lawsuit, he also sued under a federal law called the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Part of that statute says once a court rules on the merits of a case involving that law, then that’s it: the law prohibits any further litigation against government agents on the same facts. Because the agents claimed qualified immunity from suit, a lower court dismissed King’s case.
The high court agreed with that interpretation of the Federal Tort Claims Act, that it bars further litigation against these officers. But the case isn’t over, and some legal issues remain muddled.
King may still pursue other legal arguments in lower court.
REICHARD: The Supreme Court also last week struck down two lawsuits that concerned voting irregularities in Pennsylvania during the November general election.
Six justices decided the challenges are now moot because Donald Trump conceded the election to Joe Biden.
In a sharp dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that these cases were “an ideal opportunity to address just what authority non-legislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle.”
He found the court’s refusal to do so “inexplicable.”
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch also dissented—and would also have taken the cases for review—in order to head off problems in the future.
EICHER: Now on to our oral argument for today.
ROBERTS: We will hear argument this morning in Original Case 142, Florida against Georgia. Mr. Garre.
That was a little different. Did you notice Chief Justice John Roberts saying “original case”? Hearing argument in Original Case 142. Original case. That means this dispute originated at the high court instead of making its way slowly through the trial courts and the appeals courts.
Article III, Section 2 of the US Constitution says that a lawsuit between two or more states lands directly at the high court, as does this dispute between Florida and Georgia.
That’s the meaning of “original jurisdiction.”
And because of that, this is a rare case in which the justices get to act as fact finders.
REICHARD: Right, Florida and Georgia are in an epic three-decade battle over water.
If that sounds familiar to you, it’s with good reason. It’s not the first time. This is round two before the Supreme Court.
Florida says Georgia is taking too much water from the river system both states depend upon.
It’s the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.
Florida once had a flourishing oyster industry in the Apalachicola Bay. But it’s collapsed. And Florida says the reason is because Georgia farmers are using up more and more water and Atlanta’s human population keeps growing.
So Florida wants a cap on how much water Georgia can use.
Here’s how its lawyer Gregory Garre put it. Note that I’ve edited for flow.
GARRE: Denying relief in these circumstances not only would be a death sentence for Apalachicola but would extinguish Florida’s equal right to the reasonable use of the waters at issue.Those findings alone compel the conclusion that Georgia’s unrestrained consumption is unreasonable.
But Georgia says, hold on. Whatever part Georgia plays in the water woes of Florida, it’s a small one. Most of the problem is with Florida itself. It’s wrong to expect another state to pay for that. Listen to Georgia’s lawyer, Craig Primis:
PRIMIS: The record shows that Florida allowed oyster fishing at unprecedented levels in the years preceding the collapse. As one Florida official said at the time, they bent their oyster fishery until it broke. To remedy this self-inflicted wound, Florida asks the Court to impose draconian caps on Georgia. But a 50 percent cut in irrigation would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to Georgia and all for an increase in oysters of about 1 percent.
You may be wondering, why wasn’t this all hashed out last time this case was before the Supreme Court?
Well, the ruling in the case from 2018 didn’t solve it. The majority justices asked for better information from the person appointed to find facts and assess fault. That person is known as the Special River Master.
In 2018, the high court held that the first Special River Master had used the wrong standard of review. So the court sent the case back for more analysis.
In the meantime, a second Special River Master took the job. This one said Florida failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the benefit to the sunshine state outweighed the harm to Georgia.
Given that, Chief Justice Roberts started his questions with reference to a novel by Agathie Christie:
ROBERTS: How should we analyze the case if we think based on the record that Georgia contributed to the collapse of the oyster harvest but not enough to cause that on its own? That the situation is like that on “Murder on the Orient Express.” A lot of things took a stab at the fishery: drought, overharvesting, Florida regulatory policies. But also lower salinity that was caused by Georgia’s use of the water. But you can’t say that any one of those things is responsible for — for killing the – the fishery. How should we analyze the case from that perspective?
GARRE: Sure. Under basic causation principles.
Garre essentially argued that if Georgia’s use of too much water is a substantial cause of Florida’s problems, that’s all he has to prove.
But Georgia rejected that, saying something more is required, like a “but-for” causation analysis. Meaning, Georgia would only have responsibility if Florida proves that “but for” Georgia’s actions, its oyster farms would thrive.
Justice Samuel Alito expressed frustration with the nature of this case:
ALITO: This is about the most fact-bound case that we have heard in recent memory. And we have two comprehensive reports by two outstanding masters and they are not — to put the point perhaps mildly, not entirely consistent on a number of key points. What do we do with that?
GARRE: So, Your Honor, ultimately, this Court has responsibility as fact-finder and would take de novo review of all the evidence.
Garre—for Florida—pointed out that the first Special River Master sat through the trial and heard the cross-examinations. Ergo, that report is likely more reliable.
Garre argued that even the second Special River Master said the true test of unreasonable water consumption was harm. And Georgia’s huge spike in water use is the cause.
But Justice Stephen Breyer wasn’t convinced.
BREYER: Well, what is the evidence? Give me your best evidence. I mean, you have — you — you — you have some oyster fishermen who went out and said, hey, there are a lot of dead oysters around here. And if we over harvested them, why are there all these dead oysters? And — but the other side says there are not that many and the water wasn’t that saline and there are a few more conches but not too many, and you did overharvest the oysters after the oil spill, particularly because you thought, get them now or never. So we have conflicting evidence.
GARRE: But you don’t have conflicting evidence about this.
Florida’s lawyer pointed to evidence aplenty: Not just dead oysters. Invasive predators and failed efforts to re-stock the area, as well.
Georgia, he said, could at least do a few things that wouldn’t cost it much at all, like don’t over-water, and enforce its permit laws.
Attorney Garre came in for the emotional close:
GARRE: It’s hard to imagine New England without lobsters or, say, the Chesapeake without crabs, but, in effect, that’s a future that Apalachicola now faces when it comes to its oysters and other species. And yet, just to be clear, no one is asking or saying to Georgia farmers, sorry, you can’t grow your crops anymore because there’s no water left for you. Under the decree Florida is requesting, all farmers could continue to grow their crops. A decree would simply require them to prevent outright waste and adopt more efficient measures to save water while still irrigating. That’s hardly asking too much.
Perhaps Justice Amy Coney Barrett posed the ultimate question to Georgia’s lawyer Primis:
BARRETT: Let’s just imagine that Georgia could take measures that cost less and help Florida preserve the Apalachicola oysters. How do we put a price on an environmental benefit like that?
PRIMIS: Right. Well, that is a difficult question, and the experts at trial debated whether one could put a monetary or economic value on that.
Based on the tenor of the questions—always a risky proposition—I’m going out on a limb to predict that Florida’s going to be disappointed in the outcome here.
And it’s not simply the questions: Florida has such a high burden of proof, and the Special River Masters’ reports favored Georgia in most respects. Not to mention that “science data” can be interpreted subjectively and conflicting expert reports flummox non-scientists.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.
NICK EICHER, HOST: He looked like some alien creature when a rescuer found him wandering in the Australian countryside, apparently for years. But the truth was the little fellow was in desperate need of a haircut!
So workers at a wildlife sanctuary went to work…
AUDIO: [Sound of sheering]
…shearing nearly 80 pounds of matted and dirty wool from the sheep. The wool even came down over his eyes so the poor guy could barely see. He had difficulty balancing the weight just to walk.
The animal barbers said the animal had once belonged to someone. His ear had evidence of an ear tag that his thick fleece must have ripped out.
They named him Baaaaaaaa-rack and they say he’s enjoying his new life, lighter on the hoof and socializing with other rescued sheep!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: The Monday Moneybeat.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Financial analyst and advisor David Bahnsen joins us now from New York City. David, good morning.
DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Well, good morning, Nick. Good to be with you.
EICHER: I want to begin with a story that maybe will strike the listener as overly technical. But in some of the financial press, I read this story as evidence of inflation may be firing back up and that is the story of the rise in treasury bond yields.
Again, can be pretty technical when you say, let’s talk about treasury bond yields, but it’s about what some are saying that it means.
Specifically, the yield on a 10-year Treasury Bond in the space of a few weeks shot up 50 basis points—that is, half a percentage point. Ten-year Treasurys had been around one percent and they’d hit 1-and-one-half percent last week before falling back a bit before the weekend.
Can you explain this in very simple terms—when we encounter this story—what has happened and what in our current economic context does it mean?
BAHNSEN: It’s interesting. I don’t think the story of what happened in bond yields this week needs to be overly technical. I think it’s actually a really simple story and I hope the way I’ll explain it right now for listeners will be thought of as simple.
There’s a lot of hay being made of the fact that a few months ago the 10-year bond yield, the amount of money you would get to loan the government your money for 10 years was 1 percent and this week it hit a whopping 1.5 percent. And so a lot of people said, “Oh, see, look, it means inflation’s coming back.” But I want people to stop and think about that: If you really believed inflation was coming back three, four, five, six percent inflation, would you loan your money to the government at one and a half percent either?
I mean, one and a half and one are the same thing in the context of four, five, or six percent inflation. And what I mean by “same thing” is they both say there’s no inflation.
They both say there’s no fear of inflation.
The issue here is really important. One year ago, before the pandemic had broken out—and now we’re getting to the point where the pandemic was actually breaking out a year ago—but just a tiny bit more than one year ago, the 10-year bond yield was the exact same as it is now.
So I think that’s the story. We had a deflationary environment a year ago and we have a deflationary environment now. And in between we had a really deflationary environment that now has reflated back to the same deflationary place it was one year ago.
So, I do think it created a lot of volatility in the stock market this week and I do think that it’s a healthy thing to see bond yields going up a little bit because investors should be demanding a little more yield to loan their money for such a long period of time. But, ultimately, besides short term market volatility, I think it actually is telling the same story, not a different story, which is that investors right now, borrowers, lenders, are not concerned about inflationary pressures in this economy, Nick.
EICHER: Let’s also touch on the Covid relief bill—the $1.9 trillion bill—this weekend it passed the House and it’s on its way to the Senate.
We are getting an education on the rules of the Senate, by the way, in this 50-50 Senate where one vote makes literally all the difference.
And so we’re learning the difference between “budget reconciliation” and regular order where budget-based bills need only a simple majority vote—50-plus-one—instead of regular order, needing 60 votes to end debate and bring a final vote. That’s what we mean when we hear about a Senate filibuster. It’s a way to kill a bill with a minority and it’s the Senate’s unique way of ensuring bipartisanship.
So in the Senate, this Covid package will proceed under budget reconciliation and there’s a bit of intrigue around that, but otherwise any surprises to you?
BAHNSEN: No, there’s no surprises.
And what you probably are referring to by intrigue is that at the Senate level, the minimum wage piece is going to have to be taken out. They are determined to get this thing through on budget reconciliation. And so the budget reconciliation bill allows it to be filibuster proof, but the Senate parliamentarian rightly ruled and predictably ruled this last week that the minimum wage legislation does not belong in a budget reconciliation bill.
So, therefore, they’ll take that part out. But more or less, I think the rest of it’s going to stay in. I think that the moderate Democrat senators are content to have gotten some of these things out like minimum wage. And, other than that, I don’t think they’re going to have much push back. So, maybe $1.8 trillion, but it’s something very close to the $1.9 [trillion] is going to be the bill and it will be passed in short order.
EICHER: Yes, the intrigue I meant was on the topic of minimum wage and I’d like for you to spend a little time on this before we go. It’s not likely to happen this go-’round. But the topic is on the table. What is a living wage? Why isn’t it good for the government to set a higher wage that rewards people who work 40 hours a week? Help us to understand the minimum wage debate.
BAHNSEN: So, there’s two different subjects going on here. Number one is the efficacy and economic wisdom of minimum wage laws to begin with. And one is the federal input, the concept of federal legislation around price-setting in the labor market.
First, I just want to put my cards on the table that I do hold to the Milton Friedman school of thought here that minimum wage laws are a negative for the wage earner.
And I believe that primarily what we’re faced with now is a conversation that our whole society seems willing to have, including those who agree with me on this issue, that this is a debate about ability to make a living wage. When, in fact, what this ought to be is a discussion about teenage employment.
I don’t believe that most minimum wage jobs are held by people who are trying to put food on the table. And the reason I don’t believe that is because no one believes it. It’s particularly offensive in light of new data that’s come out that shows exactly what the age demographics are of people in these different wage tiers. I support teenage employment because I think it builds character. I think it builds work ethic. I think it builds skills.
I just don’t understand why we’re not discussing it that way. The minimum wage law is a war on teenage employment. Period. And if we think that’s a good thing, we don’t want teenagers having jobs, they can sit around playing video games more and so forth, then we’ll deal with the social cost of it. But I think it’s preposterous.
But, instead, we debate on different levels and I think it is entirely ineffective. Now, it is accurate that I do not believe that government intervention into any price control is a good idea. And wages are a price control. So, I don’t think the government should set the price of books. I think the housing crisis gave us a pretty good look at how it works out when the government intervenes heavily into housing as social policy. And I don’t believe that we should be setting an hourly wage for employees.
However, the second front becomes the bigger issue.
I could disagree with the state of Mississippi or the state of New York setting their own minimum wage, but I absolutely agree that they have the right to do it. What I don’t agree is a federal legislation that makes Mississippi and New York set their minimum wage at the same level. If you are claiming that the idea is to anywhere you have the minimum wage bring people out of poverty. First of all, $15/hour doesn’t do it. Second of all, what that means to bring someone out of poverty is going to be different in Manhattan than it is in Mississippi. And anyone who denies that is lying. They’re not being intellectually honest. And I think that’s a far more important thing in this discussion is for us to reload our understanding of basic economics where price mandates become inefficient in the economy and then to reload our understanding of federalism. This is not the jurisdiction of the federal government to intervene into what individual states choose to do and not do.
EICHER: David Bahnsen, financial analyst and advisor, joining us every week here on The World and Everything in It. David, I hope you have a great week this week. Thanks so much.
BAHNSEN: Thanks so much, Nick.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.
This week, remembering the Alamo, the Hoover Dam, and a rock-and-roll milestone. Here’s WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.
SONG: “Texas, Our Texas”
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Everything’s bigger in Texas—except a very small mission in the heart of San Antonio known as the Alamo. But despite its petite size, the Alamo boasts a larger-than-life history. And March 6 marks 185 years since the Battle of the Alamo concluded in 1836.
Actor Patrick Wilson played Colonel Travis in the 2004 movie The Alamo. In this scene, he depicts the legendary moment of challenging his meager forces to remain committed to the cause.
ALAMO: If anyone wishes to depart, under the white flag of surrender, you may do so now, but if you wish to stay here, with me, in the Alamo, we will sell our lives dearly.
Travis drew a line in the dirt, inviting men who would sacrifice their lives for the Republic of Texas to cross it. All but one man stepped over it.
The 13-day siege claimed the lives of notable revolutionaries like Jim Bowie and William B. Travis, and famed frontiersman Davy Crockett. Mexican forces vastly outnumbered the Alamo defenders. Wesleyan University’s Richard Slotkin spoke to the History Channel about their poor odds.
SLOTKIN: At the Alamo you have one of these American citizen armies, volunteer armies, only 186-some odd guys, defending this outpost against an army of thousands, hoping for aid, hoping for rescue, and ultimately realizing they were going to be disappointed in their hope of rescue.
They fought hard, holding off the Mexican forces for nearly two weeks. But on the morning of March 6, Mexican forces broke through a breach in the outer wall of the courtyard. They took no prisoners, sparing only a few Texans—as a warning.
Despite the near-total loss of Texas’ forces at the Alamo, General Santa Anna’s Mexican army sustained heavy casualties, too. The courage of the Alamo defenders—and their valiant defense of the fortress, despite tremendous disadvantages—spurred on the remaining Texas troops.
“Remember the Alamo” became their rallying cry, leading them to victory a few weeks later at the Battle of San Jacinto. That victory ensured success in the battle for Texas Independence from Mexico. In fact, Texas will celebrate its 185th birthday tomorrow.
SONG: “REMEMBER THE ALAMO,” JOHNNY CASH
Turning from a small structure to a massive one. On March 1, 1936, five years of work came to an end with the completion of the Hoover Dam.
The concrete arch-gravity dam straddles the border of Nevada and Arizona, in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. And it addressed real needs: controlling floods, providing irrigation water, and producing hydroelectric power.
But no one had ever attempted a concrete structure of that size, and the rough terrain and merciless summer weather presented challenges.
The lack of nearby infrastructure and resources created another hitch. Paul Mazza is with San Francisco Regional Water. He explained that the dam builders had to look far and wide to find the 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete they needed.
MAZZA: There was no source of cement—at least of that volume—in the Western United States coastline, so they had to bring it from England, around Cape Horn.
Construction workers and engineers succeeded, though the cost was high. Over 100 construction workers lost their lives working on the dam.
Today, the dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California.
AUDIO: [Tourists walking through the tunnels of the Hoover Dam]
It’s not far from Las Vegas, Nevada, making it a major tourist stop, attracting nearly a million people each year.
MUSIC: “Rocket 88,” Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, and Kings of Rhythm
Moving now from concrete to rock of a different variety…
It’s been 70 years since the recording that most music historians call the first rock and roll record. That happened March 3, 1951, when Jackie Brenston joined Ike Turner and his band at a studio in Memphis to lay down the song “Rocket 88.”
LYRICS: You women have heard of jalopies
You heard the noise they make
Let me introduce my new Rocket ’88
Turner wrote it as an ode to the Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” car. He referenced jump blues and swing combo music—popular styles of the day—and layered in Brenston’s splashy vocals, 17-year-old Raymond Hill’s saxophone, and Willie Sims’ percussion. Turner played piano.
And the trailblazing track showcases some production risks: like one of the first examples of distortion in music. Band guitarist Willie Kizar added that “fuzz guitar” sound after his amplifier was damaged en route to record the song. Producer Sam Phillips liked the rawness the broken amp produced and used it to great effect.
Time Magazine reviewed the song, writing at the time, “If the blues seemed to give voice to old wisdom, this new music seemed full of youthful notions. If the blues was about squeezing cathartic joy out of the bad times, this new music was about letting the good times roll. If the blues was about earthly troubles, the rock that Turner’s crew created seemed to shout that the sky was now the limit.”
MUSIC: “Rocket 88,” Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, and Kings of Rhythm
I’m Katie Gaultney.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: closing the office. Companies must now rethink where employees work after a year of office closures. We’ll hear of some creative solutions.
And, we’ll talk to the lawyer defending a Canadian pastor jailed for—get this!— holding church services. We’ll tell you why.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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