Archive for June, 2012

While were on the subject of SCOTUS rulings, we should mention Stolen Valor. Citing freedom of speech, the court struck down a law making it illegal to falsely claim military honors.

I agree. You should be free to tell people whatever lies you want. I could claim that I have 28 medals of honor for my service in the War of 1812! You could rightly think I’m an idiot, and hate me for making light of real sacrifice and heroism.

That’s as far as things need go. We, as a society, are very respectful and reverent of military service, and lying about it is a significant social taboo. It effectively disqualifies people from elected office and brings about public shame in a big way. Why does it need to be a crime, too? Lying about military honors endangers no one but the liar, infringes on no ones rights, and in no other way impacts the general public (other than maybe making them feel stupid).


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One last thing. I wrote this:

  • That being said, those worried about the impact of the ACA on the government’s power under the commerce clause should consider today a victory.
  • Those only pretending to be worried about constitutional ramifications, but really just looking to smack around a president they don’t like, should consider today a defeat. Which one did you see more of today?

I should have added that Randy Barnett, the father of the broccoli argument, is a member of the former group. And that is to his credit. However, I simply cannot let this line go (emphasis mine):

From then until today, most law professors have taught that the power of Congress to regulate the “national economy” is limited only by congressional restraint, which means that the power is unlimited.

For someone who seems to consider the constitution and the opinions of the founders to be an important things, he certainly doesn’t hold them in high regard. Indeed, the most important limiting principle ever articulated is that of our form of government. In a representative democracy, congress is limited by their own restraint because their failure to act in a limited manner will result in electoral defeat. Friends of the Broccoli don’t seem to understand this. Or perhaps they don’t trust the electorate to fulfill our end of the bargain. And perhaps that concern is warranted. But the point is that we are the limiting principle.

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I’m still digesting the ACA ruling, but here are some thoughts.

  • First and most obviously, I was very glad to see the ACA was upheld.
  • I’m hugely disappointed that the court seems to have drank the broccoli koolaid. The argument that no limiting principle was defined and hence upholding the mandate under the commerce clause would lead to mandated purchases of broccoli always was and shall remain ridiculous. The government indeed laid out multiple limiting principles on why such a mandate could not occur under the commerce clause.
  • In his opinion on the commerce clause issue, Roberts stated that the founding fathers understood the difference between inactivity and activity, and thus he was upholding their vision. This is just blatantly false. Nowhere does the distinction appear in the constitution. George Washington mandated the purchase of healthcare and guns. Inactivity v activity is a distinction first articulated less than 2 years ago. It is not a deeply held constitutional principle.
  • That being said, those worried about the impact of the ACA on the government’s power under the commerce clause should consider today a victory.
  • Those only pretending to be worried about constitutional ramifications, but really just looking to smack around a president they don’t like, should consider today a defeat. Which one did you see more of today?
  • Wow does CNN look stupid. It’s not like this ruling was released by surprise.
  • I’m impressed by the internet’s ability to cram anything into a cat meme.

More later.

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For what its worth (ie nothing), here’s my prediction for what happens this morning:

SCOTUS upholds the mandate.

Why do I say that? Because I don’t think Verilli’s performance in oral arguments was as important as people think (or as bad as people think, read the reply briefs where he made his points uninterupted), and that’s whats been driving the conventional wisdom that the mandate is toast. Also, Scalia’s rant on Tuesday. Dude is pissed.

Looking further, any result other than striking down the ACA in its entirety (which won’t happen) will lead to a lot of sound and fury amongst congressional republicans about repeal, but they won’t actually do it because when people realize what’s in the law they mostly like it (other than the mandate). If I’m wrong and the mandate is struck down democrats will similarly engage in sound and fury over moving forward with single payer but they won’t do it because they couldn’t do it last time and they’re in a much worse position now than they were then. Also, they’re spineless.

Anyways, that’s my prediction for this morning and beyond. We’ll know in a few hours.

One final set of predictions:

Regardless of what happens, both sides declare victory, Mark Halperin tells us why everything is bad for Obama, and Mitt Romney lies about it.

Sound about right? I need more coffee.

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That’s it for me until next Thursday or so, I’d say try not to break the country while I’m gone, but I think the supreme court is going to anyway.

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Kevin Drum points it out, referring to the commerce department:

The Commerce Department, for example, includes the Census Bureau. Can’t get rid of that. BEA produces some pretty useful statistics. NOAA does good work on that whole hurricane prediction thing. NIST is handy to have around so we know what time it is and how long an inch is supposed to be. Patents and trademarks really need to be kept going. And someone has to negotiate trade agreements.

Anyway, it turns out Obama wants to keep all that stuff and just put it into a new agency with a different name, which means that even his optimistic estimate is that deep-sixing Commerce would only save $3 billion per year. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not exactly earth-shaking stuff. Williamson might want the ax to swing a little harder, but I’m not sure how much harder it can really swing.

In any case, this is a good example of the problem with people —usually people running for president —using the elimination of cabinet departments as conservative applause lines. It sounds good, but it’s like taking potshots at the visible parts of icebergs. What you really want to do is look below the waterline and ask which agencies all those presidential wannabes are planning to get rid of.

It’s an excellent point. People may get fired up when politicians tell them they want to eliminate the whatever department, but in reality the whatever department does a lot of stuff and some of it is useful, and so we need details of what, exactly, is going away. The whole thing, or just most of it? And that’s all fine if those details are provided. But as it turns out, politicians running for things don’t like to provide us with details (if they did, we might realize how bad their ideas are!) For example, Mitt Romney yesterday told us he would replace Obamas immigration EO with… something! No word yet (or probably ever) on what that something would be.

If you really want to axe a department, the whole thing in its entirety, that’s fine. But you have to say that, so we know what exactly you propose.

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Is this self parody? Sometimes I think he’s actually trying to piss us off: 

In the official view of the Obama administration, it’s totally possible that the drone that killed Anwar al-Awlaki was owned and operated by the Yemen government.


The drone was Yemen’s? Seriously, that’s the excuse you’re going with? 

We obviously have drones. We obviously use them to kill terrorists. The President is obviously OK with this. Regardless of what you think about those things, can we all agree that statements like the one above are just downright insulting at this point? And if we take it at face value (which obviously is stupid) wouldn’t it be a bit disconcerting that we wouldn’t know whose (non-existent) flying death robot blew up the guy we were (not) trying to blow up?

Head, meet desk. 

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