For women, sports comes with a side of sexism. For Maine, government comes with a side of crazy. (More)

“She is the greatest of all-time”

Serena Williams is poised to make history. A win in today’s women’s singles title at Wimbledon would give Williams her second ‘Serena Slam,’ with four consecutive grand slam titles, a feat she last accomplished in 2002-03.

Having already won this year’s Australian and French Opens, Williams is “halfway to history.” If she wins today and again at next month’s U.S. Open, she would become only the third woman in history to complete a calender Grand Slam. And a win today would give her 21 career grand slam singles titles, one short of Steffi Graf and three shy of Margaret Court, the only other women to win calendar Grand Slams.

But the legendary Chris Evert, who won 18 grand slam titles, has already made her decision on Williams, telling TIME: “She is the greatest of all time.”

Evert isn’t buying the common rebuttal that Williams stands out only because she has no dominant rival of the sort Evert faced with Martina Navratilova:

After watching her matches and watching her closely, these players get close, they’re doing really well, and then she’ll get to another level where she slaps winners and she starts acing people. It’s not one level. All of a sudden, she’s up two or three levels better than the field. It’s not about the other women. It’s about how good Serena is.

“I’m really happy with my body type”

And Williams does have a rival, sort of. To reach today’s final, she cruised past Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-4. That was her 17th straight loss to Williams, yet Sharapova – who has won only 5 grand slam singles titles – was the world’s highest-paid female athlete … for the 10th consecutive year.

Sharapova’s endorsement income far exceeds her prize money, and two years ago Rolling Stone’s Stephen Rodrick explained why:

Here are the facts. Serena is the number-one tennis player in the world. Maria Sharapova is the number-two tennis player in the world. Sharapova is tall, white and blond, and, because of that, makes more money in endorsements than Serena, who is black, beautiful and built like one of those monster trucks that crushes Volkswagens at sports arenas.

That not-really-a-compliment was part and parcel of the sexism and racism that follows Williams everywhere:

Serena Williams beat Lucie Safarova to win the French Open [in June]. Her reward, at least on social media, came in the form of some of the same racist and sexist comments that have followed her for her entire career.

In the moments surrounding her win, Williams was compared to an animal, likened to a man, and deemed frightening and horrifyingly unattractive. One Twitter user who wrote that Williams “looks like a gorilla, and sounds like a gorilla when she grunts while hitting the ball. In conclusion, she is a gorilla.” And another described her as “so unbelievably dominant…and manly.”

The New York TimesBen Rothenberg chose to play along yesterday:

While most celebrities go incognito behind a hat and sunglasses, Serena Williams uses a different tactic to blend into a crowd: long sleeves.

During an appearance on Home Shopping Network for her clothing line, Williams said that one particular long-sleeved garment would help her go unnoticed in public.

“My arms are really fit, but I wanted to cover them, because when I do people don’t recognize me as much,” she said.

Williams, who will be vying for the Wimbledon title against Garbiñe Muguruza on Saturday, has large biceps and a mold-breaking muscular frame, which packs the power and athleticism that have dominated women’s tennis for years. Her rivals could try to emulate her physique, but most of them choose not to.

Despite Williams’s success – a victory Saturday would give her 21 Grand Slam singles titles and her fourth in a row – body-image issues among female tennis players persist, compelling many players to avoid bulking up.

Well, “body-image issues” and chasing those lucrative endorsements. Because for women athletes, winning isn’t enough. There’s also the duty of beauty:

Maria Sharapova, a slender, blond Russian who has been the highest-paid female athlete for more than a decade because of her lucrative endorsements, said she still wished she could be thinner. “I always want to be skinnier with less cellulite; I think that’s every girl’s wish,” she said, laughing.

To her credit, Williams has learned to love her body as it is:

Williams, 33, who has appeared on the cover of Vogue, is regarded as symbol of beauty by many women. But she has also been gawked at and mocked throughout her career, and she said growing confident and secure in her build was a long process.

“I don’t touch a weight, because I’m already super fit and super cut, and if I even look at weights, I get bigger,” she said. “For years I’ve only done Thera-Bands and things like that, because that’s kind of how I felt. But then I realized that you really have to learn to accept who you are and love who you are. I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud of it. Obviously it works out for me. I talk about it all the time, how it was uncomfortable for someone like me to be in my body.”

“It’s about time, isn’t it?”

A Williams win today would bookend a stellar week for U.S. women athletes. On Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Team won their third World Cup with a 5-2 victory over Japan, and yesterday they were celebrated with a ticker tape parade in New York City:

The U.S. Women’s World Cup champions were saluted Friday with a ticker tape parade along New York’s vaunted Canyon of Heroes, a historic and rare moment for female athletes.

On a glorious July morning, the 23-member squad that defeated Japan 5-2 before a record-breaking U.S. television audience Sunday became the first women’s sports team bestowed with a parade along a stretch of Lower Manhattan where millions have cheered on soldiers, kings, astronauts, the Yankees and Giants.

“Being able to see something like this firsthand is something young girls can only dream of,” said Samantha Ruotsi, 20, who came from Buffalo, New York. “I am so proud to have grown up in a country with such strong women, and it’s an inspiration to be a part of this history.”

It was indeed “a historic and rare moment for female athletes.” The last ticker tape parade honoring only female athletes was in 1960, after skater Carol Heiss won a gold medal at the Olympics.

That’s a fact not lost on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio:

De Blasio called members of the team heroines on and off the field, and an inspiration for women of all ages.

“Young women who watched that game will grow up, and they’ll tell their daughters and they’ll tell their sons about that 2015 championship team that made history – and opened minds and bought us together,” he said.

And the mayor reminded the crowd of the special occasion – the first women’s team honored with a ticker tape parade.

“It’s about time, isn’t it?” he said.

“To play these games is ridiculous”

Speaking of “about time,” Gov. Paul LePage seems determined to drive Maine’s government into a wall, or at least a courtroom:

Despite arguments that his recent holding of 19 bills inadvertently allowed those those bills to become law, Gov. Paul LePage’s office said he intends to do the same thing with an additional 51 bills that are currently on his desk.

“The next time the Legislature is in session for three days, he’ll deliver the bills he wants to veto,” LePage Communications Director Peter Steele said Thursday afternoon.

Under Maine’s constitution, a bill passed by the legislature becomes law unless the governor vetoes it within 10 days. But Gov. LePage insists that only applies while the legislature is in session:

“We request a formal written opinion regarding Gov. LePage’s recent actions and statements,” [House Speaker Mark] Eves wrote [to the state attorney general]. “As we understand it, the governor claims that the Legislature’s ‘adjournment’ on June 30, 2015, prevented the governor from returning vetoes to the Legislature and that he may return them to the Legislature within three days of the next meeting of the Legislature we have scheduled on July 16.”

Speaker Eves says the legislature has not adjourned, but merely recessed for two weeks surrounding the July 4th holiday. The governor says he’ll take his vetoes to court, but Maine legislators aren’t backing down:

“If he delivers vetoes to the clerk of the House, they won’t be in order,” House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe said Wednesday, according to the Bangor Daily News. “Those bills are law. … The governor has an opportunity to be part of the process. I may not like that he vetoes bills, but that’s his right. But to play these games is ridiculous.”

Talking Points Memo’s David Kurtz summarizes the silliness:

If that sounds more like a teenager playing chicken than a grown man governing a state, you’re starting to get the idea of how surreal it’s been in Maine under LePage’s leadership. But this veto fiasco could be the coup de grace of LePage’s reign of increasing bizarreness. It may very well end up in court when the legislature refuses to accept his purported veto. LePage says he welcomes a court fight. If LePage loses, and some 70 bills that he planned to veto become law (that he wants to veto a whopping 70 bills is another mind-boggling aspect of his veto shenanigans), LePage will have fatally overplayed his hand. But if he somehow prevails in court, all bets are off and LePage will be unabated and able to continue to act with unchallenged impunity.

This is going to be fascinating to watch.

I guess, if you like watching slow-motion wrecks.

“He got sucked into it”

Speaking of slow-motion wrecks, Roll Call’s Emma Dumain has a great report on how House Republican leaders finagled themselves into a debacle over the Confederate Flag:

They may be referring to it as the “Calvert amendment,” but House Democrats and Republicans agree: Whatever prompted Rep. Ken Calvert to come to the floor late Wednesday night to offer an amendment to reverse an earlier vote to ban Confederate flags at federal cemeteries, it wasn’t the California Republican’s idea.

In the hours that followed, culminating in GOP leadership pulling its first appropriations bill of the season, lawmakers said it was unfortunate that Calvert, chairman of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, was getting much of blame for the events that transpired.
[…]
There’s still a lot to learn about who made the decision to send Calvert out to undo the amendment prohibiting the Confederate imagery on certain government grounds, which GOP leaders calculated was necessary to win Republican votes on a measure that was already on life support.

However, members and aides on both sides of the aisle shared versions of events with CQ Roll Call Thursday that suggest the calculation was made at the very top, at the eleventh hour and with little to no coordination or communication with Republican appropriators who would ordinarily have been kept in the loop.

House Democrats quickly pounced and forced Republicans into voting to defend the Confederate Flag, and Rep. Calvert isn’t thrilled about being the scapegoat:

Around the time Republican leaders announced they would no longer be holding a final passage vote on the Interior-Environment appropriations bill, Calvert sent out a statement.

“The amendment offered last night … was brought to me by Leadership at the request of some southern Members of the Republican Caucus,” he wrote. “To be clear, I wholeheartedly support the Park Service’s prohibitions regarding the Confederate flag and the amendment did nothing to change these prohibitions.”

“Any one of them could have asked for a roll call vote then, and nobody did,” [Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)] said of the Republican opponents to whom Calvert referred. “None of them had the balls … they had Calvert do it, he got sucked into it.”

“We stand in solidarity with them during this dark hour”

After reading that, you probably need a good news nugget like this:

In the days after white supremacist Dylann Roof was arrested for a deadly attack on Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME church, fires were reported at six Southern churches with mostly African-American congregations.

Three of these fires are believed to have been intentionally set, and the causes of the other three are still under investigation.

But Faatimah Knight, a theology student from Brooklyn, didn’t need evidence of the cause of the destruction to take action. CNN reports that the 23-year-old, who is Muslim, started a LaunchGood campaign to raise money to rebuild the churches.

She and a group of other young Muslims behind the effort aimed to raise $10,000, but have now raised more than $58,000, all during the holy month of Ramadan.
[…]
Islamic scholar Imam Zaid Shakir, a professor at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, contributed a statement emphasizing to potential supporters the intensity of hate and bigotry against African Americans:

The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African Americans. Unless, of course, we are talking about those of us who members of the African American Muslim community. As a whole, however, we understand the climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country. We want to let our African American brothers and sisters know that we stand in solidarity with them during this dark hour. As a small symbol of that solidarity, during this blessed month of Ramadan, we are gathering donations to help rebuild the seven churches that have been burned down since the racist murders in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The plan is weaker in some areas than it should be”

As we noted yesterday, the Greek government offered a €13 billion budget reform package, €4 billion more than the Eurogroup demanded in June. And of course that’s not enough:

Dutch finance minister Eric Wiebes is taking a fairly tough line:

The Greeks have clearly made a step forward.

At the same time the institutions have been critical … the plan is weaker in some areas than it should be.

Their suggestion is we can only start negotiations when these conditions are filled in.

Many governments including my own [are worried about] implementation.

We are discussing a proposal that was rejected [in the referendum].

Clearly there has to be a step made towards restoring trust.

That seems to confirm former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s claim that Germany and her allies are not really negotiating, but instead using Greece as an object lesson:

The threat of Grexit has had a brief roller coaster of a history. In 2010 it put the fear of God in financiers’ hearts and minds as their banks were replete with Greek debt. Even in 2012, when Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, decided that Grexit’s costs were a worthwhile “investment” as a way of disciplining France et al, the prospect continued to scare the living daylights out of almost everyone else.

By the time Syriza won power last January, and as if to confirm our claim that the “bailouts” had nothing to do with rescuing Greece (and everything to do with ringfencing northern Europe), a large majority within the Eurogroup – under the tutelage of Schäuble – had adopted Grexit either as their preferred outcome or weapon of choice against our government.

“Let’s be in one opinion”

Okay, I need another good news nugget, so let’s see what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about why her liberal colleagues vote and write as a bloc:

It’s true, she said, that the liberal justices tried to be disciplined about having their majority opinions, and even their dissents, speak with one voice in one opinion. “The stimulus,” she said, “actually began many, many years before … when the court announced its decision in Bush v. Gore.” That was the decision in which the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, put an end to the dispute over the 2000 election returns in Florida, resulting in George W. Bush becoming president.

The time pressure in the case was excruciating, with the court issuing an opinion just a day after oral arguments, and, as Ginsburg put it, the four liberal members of the court “were unable to get together and write one opinion.” Indeed, each wrote a separate dissent, resulting in such confusion that, as she pointed out, some early press accounts erroneously reported that the decision was 7-2, not as it in fact was, 5-4.

After that experience, “we agreed,” said Ginsburg, that “when we are in that situation again, let’s be in one opinion.” It’s important, she added, because the public and the lower courts need to know what the court has done or not done. And neither lawyers nor judges will stick with opinions that go on and on.

“If you want to make sure you’re read, you do it together, and you do it short,” she said. Otherwise people will neither read you nor understand what you are saying.

Apparently it’s not about “lockstep liberals” or “ideological purity.” Instead it’s about – whoodathunkit? – writing opinions that judges and lawyers will actually read and apply.

If you think law is an exercise in philosophy and the Supreme Court is our nation’s most august debating society, that’s a bad thing. But if you think law is a tool for resolving disputes and the Supreme Court should give lower courts clear guidance … that’s a very tasty nugget indeed.

+++++

Happy Saturday!