Repulsion on Wall Street, The Man Who Never Bluffs, Danger in the Outfield, and Other Matters. Supreme Court Poker

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Everyone else has already weighed in on the deeper meaning of those personnel changes over at the Supreme Court, and yet a few pregnant questions remain unanswered, and we would hate to have the Senate Committee hearings whiz by with a lot of palaver about judicial restraint and separation of powers but nobody even addressing certain issues that keep getting muttered about by the fellow whose fingerprints are all over this keyboard: As is well known, the U.S. income tax laws require reporting of all gambling winnings. You can deduct gambling losses from these winnings, but even if you're a net loser you have to declare those winnings, on everything from election bets to basketball action. True, the law is non compos mentis. But presumably your average upstanding judicator should be obeying even laws he knows to be dopey, so the question, fellows, is whether anybody is in fact reporting income from that poker game described in Suzanne Garment's column in the June 20 Wall Street Journal, where it says that the participants include none other than William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, both of whom are admiringly indicated to be superior players, which presumably is another way of saying that they have frequently gone home winners, and if nobody is so reporting does this mean there is hope the Supremes will eventually get around to throwing out the dopey laws? Having now sat still for endless commentary about how Right-Wing Rehnquist goes around opposing rulings ''that extend the rights of minorities, women, the disadvantaged, and the poor'' (as the New York Times mournfully put it), we make bold to wonder whether Reagan's nominee for Chief Justice has really gone far enough in resisting certain liberal fantasies that continue to drag down clear thinking any time the Court tries to deal with the problem of discrimination. Just a few weeks ago, Justices Rehnquist, Powell, Burger, and O'Connor (all, incidentally, appointed by Republican Presidents) reminded us of a fascinating sociological proposition they have long endorsed. Proposition: If an employer does not discriminate, then his ''hiring practices will in time result in a work force more or less representative of the racial and ethnic composition of the population in the community . . .'' That derisible dogma, based on no empirical evidence, and oblivious to the possibility that some groups are stubbornly different from other groups, is the logical equivalent of saying that an unrepresentative work force must mean discrimination. Rehnquist has repeatedly attacked employment quotas, but in signing on for that logic he endorsed the theory that underlies them. This raises the question of whether Rehnquist and Scalia are as smart as advertised, which brings us back to poker. It has to be rated discouraging that Nino likes to play obscure variants like ''Pass 'Em'' and ''Choose 'Em,'' ) which sound as though lots of wild cards are floating across the table, but if the Journal reporting is correct, the more ominous news is about Bill. Here is one characterization of his game: ''Bill Rehnquist is a conservative, logical, straight-arrow poker player. He will bet strongly when he has strong cards and vice versa.'' To which another participant adds: ''There's nothing flashy or unpredictable.'' This is all meant to be admiring, but in truth it shows Rehnquist to be a patsy. Rule No. 1 about poker is to vary your play -- to be unpredictable. If your strong bet always means you have strong cards, you are a guaranteed loser because nobody will call when you're strong. Do we want a patsy for Chief Justice? The Senate needs to ask.