“The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” said Chambliss, who recently golfed with the president, in a statement. > more ... (1 comments)
So, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate. You can read all sorts of puffery and journoanalysis about the decision but the crux of the thing is actually really, really simple to anyone who’s taken a class in constitutional law.
1. Congress has nearly limitless authority via their broad taxing powers under the Constitution to impose all sorts of various taxes, fees, levies, duties or anything else that has the basic effect of getting money out of people in a similar way. No constitutional scholar of any credibility would dispute this.
2. Even though the Democrats in Congress (and the Obama administration in front of the Supreme Court) completely pussied out (because they are always scared of the word “tax”) and didn’t explicitly justify the law under the taxing power, the Supreme Court unquestionably has the ability to rule on the validity of a law based on any valid constitutional theory they want to (sua sponte). Nobody except partisan dickjobs (e.g., Justices Scalia and Thomas) would think of disputing this either.
3. The majority of the Court that upheld ACA basically said what I just said in points 1 and 2. Not only that, Chief Justice Roberts nearly almost went so far as to explicitly call out the other conservative justices (Scalia, Thomas, etc.) as shameless partisan hacks:
In a section of his opinion joined by the liberal justices, Roberts noted that the conservative dissenters contend that the mandate cannot be upheld as a tax “because Congress did not ‘frame’ it as such. In effect, they contend that even if the Constitution permits Congress to do exactly what we interpret this statute to do, the law must be struck down because Congress used the wrong labels.”
So, we can all now be perfectly comfortable calling the conservative assholes in the minority on this decision shameless partisan political hacks because their fearless leader basically did the job for us (well, maybe Kennedy gets off the hook but only because his decisions are rumored to sometimes be based on whether his metamucil was up to par on a particular day).
It might not be a majority view, but I do think that in the long-term, Citizens United will not be a benefit to the Republican Party. Right now, everyone is focusing on the dazzling money totals, but what comes up less often is just how repellent the politics of the people bankrolling the money are to the general electorate. All the money in the world isn’t going to make Joe Sixpack hate Social Security as much as David Koch. But it can make GOP politicians hate it just as much, which will in turn make the public hate them. That process is only 2/3 complete on the national level because the GOP is not in full control and the economy is still lousy, so it hasn’t sunk in just how non-mainstream the Koch-lovers are. But a lot of states have gotten a full taste of Koch-based politics, and it hasn’t gone down well. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has compiled some generic ballot numbers for state legislatures, which I figured I’d pass on:
- Colorado: D 47% – R 40%
- Iowa: D 44% – R 39%
- Maine: D 51% – R 37%
- Michigan: D 50% – R 35%
- Minnesota: D 48% – R 36%
- New Hampshire: D 47% – R 41%
- New York: D 54% – R 37%
- North Carolina: D 46% – R 41%
- Pennsylvania: D 47% – R 42%
- Wisconsin: D 48% – R 41%
The caveat is that they don’t include specific information on who did all the polls, only some, so some might be partisan-aligned pollsters that shade things. But they do identify Michigan, Minnesota and New York with pretty reputable pollsters (PPP and Siena), so we can tentatively conclude a few things.
First thing, the states where Republicans have acted in just about the most autocratic, brazen fashion tend unsurprisingly to have been where they suffered enormous blowback. Michigan is probably number one on the Republicans Gone Wild meter, and this allegedly swing state is eager to change its representation on a state level more than all but one state. (I’m sure that sweeping statewide abortion ban is going to fix all this, right?) Tea Partying Minnesotans shut down the state government for weeks, and now the state’s voters want to shut them down. Wisconsin speaks for itself, and Maine seems to be eager to see an end of abrasive Tea Party rule too. The Democrats’ leads in the other states tends to be modest, presumably because Republicans don’t wield total power there and haven’t been able to show their true nature. Then there’s New York, which just seems like normal partisan tendencies asserting themselves.
Now, of course, it is early, and the money will come. But it will at least have to overcome an enormous deficit in certain states. The more power the Teabaggers have, the more the public winds up hating them. And wiping out Teabaggers in these states only depletes the other side’s farm system, so they don’t have players ready to be called up.
If you are interested, the DLCC’s donation page is here. I’m a monthly contributor myself. It’s a great way of making your money count more in politics.
- Movies! Three items:
- I’ll recommend interested viewers check out Marlene, the unconventional documentary about the legendary Ms. Dietrich. It’s really a fascinating film–she doesn’t appear on camera because of her idiosyncratic refusal to do so, but her acerbic personality more than picks up the slack. It’s a frequently hilarious movie, and Dietrich alternates between bullshit and truth, between prickliness and tenderness, so frequently it’s exhilarating. She’s such a towering figure that the arbitrary constraints of the film somehow do the subject justice. Do investigate.
- Also, I must say, I’m very impressed with the Blu-Rays of the Alien movies. Aliens looks about 100% better than on the DVD release–the fuzziness is completely gone, which James Cameron had said was a limitation of the source material, so I don’t know how they did it. I still maintain it’s Cameron’s best screenplay–this time through I noticed even a few more clever writing choices that I hadn’t before. After that it would be a pretty steady downward spiral, though unlike George Lucas, Cameron hasn’t lost a step as a director and is still a master in that respect.
- Relatedly, I have to give 20th Century Fox some credit on the Alien3 Blu-Ray. The “assembly cut” (now apparently known as the special edition) of the film from the DVD compilation was much better than the theatrical version. Allow me to explain. The theatrical version is barely a movie. There isn’t so much a “story” to it, just a premise with some setup and then a herky-jerky skip to the endgame. The special edition actually featured a basic storytelling device known as a build, along with what is commonly called character development, but it featured a lot of technical issues since it was pieced together from a bunch of incomplete, cutting-room floor material. But the studio, perhaps realizing that the special edition is bound to be the definitive version of the film going forward since it is, in fact, watchable, actually spent some money to rerecord dialog and clean up a few things, vastly improving the whole experience. So, kudos to them. The film as it stands is a flawed masterpiece that I absolutely love, and well worth puzzling over.
- Barack Obama’s controversial plan to attack his opponents’ major weaknesses is working. Color me surprised. I don’t blame Bill Clinton for this stupid “controversy” because the guy has been on both sides of every issue for twenty years now, and my real problem with Booker’s comments was that it was insipid, “Negativity is bad let’s just be positive!” junk that passes for liberalism in some quarters. Obama was wise to ignore them.
- I won’t offer an official Supreme Court/ACA prediction, but my guess is 60% that they strike down the mandate only or keep the bill completely intact, and 40% that they go further. Whatever the outcome, I think it’s well past time liberals reviewed the concept of judicial review of legislation, a power which is granted to the Supreme Court nowhere in the Constitution or the Judiciary Act, and which, civil rights aside, has been almost uniformly used to strike down progressive legislation (and was also the vehicle for some good late-1800s bigotry too: the only post-Reconstruction civil rights bill was struck down, Plessy v. Ferguson, etc.). The memory of the Warren Court looms large, but that’s not typically how it’s been. At the very least, some additional checks on the power of the judiciary would be nice, like mandatory retirement at 70, a twelve-year term, maybe others. I thought it was ridiculous that Nixon would be able to have an impact on the Court 30 years after he left office, in Rehnquist.
Cole finds a very wrong-headed explanation for Obama’s centrism. There’s really too much there to get to all of it (you could write a novella on the subject, to be honest, but this has got to take the cake: ”Obama understands the threat of climate change, but like the exceptional con artist he is, what happens to others he does not know, or what happens in the future, is irrelevant to him.”
The reason Obama has acted so timidly on climate change is not entirely clear to me, but ascribing outlandish and sinister motives is unnecessary. I think there are likely two major reasons for it. First, Obama’s team is deeply afraid of being outspent in this year’s election, and sweeping climate rules could have the effect of persuading oil barons to flood even more money into Republican coffers. Which is not exactly a craven reason per se, though you have to think that the oil barons aren’t stupid enough not to get this strategy. The second is Obama’s natural caution, perhaps mixed with concern over what impact new regulations would have on a still-recovering economy. Now, I couldn’t care less about the latter because of the importance of the climate issue, but the Administration has been known to think in these terms before.
In other words, while sometimes you do get a Gunther Guillaume, most of the time a simple examination of a politician’s motives and notions will suffice. Obama’s no conservative, he’s a liberal. But part of liberalism is the assumption of basic goodwill on the part of all people, a belief that reason will win over even the most hardened skeptic with enough effort, beliefs which can drive a leftist absolutely crazy. Certainly, Obama’s faith has not been substantiated over the past few years, and the obvious reaction would be to label Obama as dangerously naive. But really, it just demonstrates the shortcomings of certain provisions of liberal thinking. As someone who doesn’t really believe in the existence of a free marketplace, either of goods and services or of ideas, or that humans can all be reached by the power of reason, I have no real inclination to try to think of Eric Cantor or Roger Ailes as decent, conscientious people who just have different beliefs from mine. Makes more sense to think of them both as hardheaded cynics who will never come around so long as money and power keep them in their position. But Obama believes those things, at least to some extent, because of his liberalism. The idea that Republicans can be reasoned with is catnip for liberals, but dangerous folly at best for lefties. I’m more a social Democrat than a liberal, as is Stoller I suspect. And it really is a matter of outlook when you get down to it–a social democrat is going to see things in terms of class and privilege in a way that a liberal just doesn’t. So while Stoller is pretty much completely wrong in his perspective on Obama, I find that I related to his point of view perfectly well. It’s a failure of communication, ultimately. Obama’s no leftist, and while the terms are used interchangeably in America there are real differences in outlook. Which explains why Obama has managed to hold onto most liberals throughout his presidency, while actual lefties have been hostile for so much of it.
I must say that I’m enjoying the ongoing Romney immigration trainwreck. It’s becoming increasingly clear that either Romney had no plan at all for how to deal with the issue, or he felt he had no real room to maneuver without losing significant support. So while Obama has been making bold, smart, popular moves on the subject, Romney’s been issuing vague suggestions that nobody is paying attention to or cares about, alternating bad faith attacks on Obama with wimpy cant that really just makes him look utterly pathetic.
People don’t respond to this. They respond to strong moves and positions. Honestly, Romney would probably have been better off from a strategic standpoint just outright condemning Obama’s DREAM and continuing to be borderline nativist. I don’t really think the Hispanic vote was going to be up for grabs this year, and certainly not for someone with Romney’s recent history. That he spent so much time working on trying to reboot himself on this issue despite having serious handicaps to overcome and no real room to maneuver shows that he’s basically an imbecile who can’t understand that he can’t have everything that he wants, or won’t listen. And this morning’s capper was even more ridiculous:
Despite his nod to states’ rights, Romney did not say whether he agreed with any or all of the Supreme Court’s decision, a complicated ruling that labeled several provisions of the law unconstitutional, but left the most controversial segment for later, saying future courts would need time to determine its effects. Nor has Romney taken a position on whether he supports SB 1070 in the first place, despite embracing the architect of the law, Kris Kobach, as an immigration adviser during the presidential primaries. An e-mail to the Romney campaign asking for further clarification on the Supreme Court ruling was not immediately returned and an official told the traveling press not to expect any more comments. [...]
Romney’s does-he-or-doesn’t-he SB 1070 statement comes on the heels of his prolonged dodge of President Obama’s recent executive order blocking deportation of some young illegal immigrants, refusing to say expressly whether he would overturn the action. A young undocumented college student confronted Romney Thursday after his speech to Latino group NALEO in Florida, and said she didn’t have any better luck getting Romney to articulate a position as to what would happen to her under his administration. Though Romney vowed to “replace and supersede” Obama’s order with a long-term solution, he has offered only scraps of information on what that solution might entail, saying only that he favors some path to legal status for members of the military.
In other words, what’s my position, you ask? OBAMA SUCKS, that’s my position!
It seems pretty obvious that Romney only knows how to use the issue as a way of appealing to the xenophobes, since it was used against him in this way to deny him the nomination in 2008 (remember his hiring illegal immigrants?), and he used it to administer the coup de grace to Rick Perry’s hapless campaign. But he could have done this many different ways. A “no comment” would have been possible. Something along the lines of, “we’ll have to look at the details of the ruling and their implications more and get back to you” would have almost been respectable. But ultimately, Romney has no feel for the electorate to such an extent that he makes the occasionally tenuous grasp on it displayed by Obama look positively Rooseveltian by comparison, and the effect of constant, unchanging Obama attacks will have some form of wearying effect on the electorate. We have seen this precisely in the two prior elections he’s lost.
I sort of wonder this every time a Woody Allen movie comes out, so I’ll go ahead and articulate it: why do people continue to go see new Woody Allen movies?
I perhaps should clarify the question. I’m not asking from a place of, that guy’s old and complains a lot. He complained a lot when he was younger too. And it’s not because he’s peaked, I follow a lot of people who have passed their creative prime because you never know, the capability is there, and maybe they’ll still surprise you. For example, David Bowie went through a hell of a long wilderness, but the last two albums he released were actually great. And technically Allen’s about what he’s always been, a mixed bag of a director who works well with actors but has no real visual style (in the same league with a David Mamet, say).
Really, though, the basic problem with Allen is that he hasn’t changed a bit since Manhattan, which is a big, big problem. His cynicism toward people and relationships has long since ceased to be interesting or fresh, and he ran out of ways to express all of it some time ago (i.e. back in 1992). I still occasionally return to Annie Hall and Manhattan, which at least were able to find some kind of reason for living despite all the heartache. But for quite some time he’s just been making films to stave off boredom. Even his better-regarded late movies struck me as mostly pointless. Match Game was a fairly facile Hitchcock imitation, IMO.
I guess I get that some people just kind of like his dialogue, but a couple scattered jokes seems to me to be little justification for listening to the tired laments of a guy who’s had his head up his ass for three decades and hasn’t learned a damn thing during that time. Honestly, if during any 30 year period in your life you learn nothing and change not at all, you’re doing it wrong, and I don’t want to take advice from you.
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