On Judge Vinson’s Ruling

I am not a lawyer and have no specialized understanding of legal matters. I am, however, worried about the impact of the healthcare mandate on me and my family, and I’m pretty well-read on the subject. Despite what the media cheerleaders and supporters in the blogosphere say, the mandate was always the fertile ground for the fight, based on exactly this sentiment articulated by Judge Vinson:

“If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain.”

This is the first time the federal government has ever enacted a law that penalized inaction, outside of Civil Rights laws that pertain particularly to human dignity and freedom. The mandate does not address this as a civil rights or even a human rights issue; it merely says that nearly every American will be the financial captive of some private insurance entity or another. That is a huge shift, the idea that passivity can lead to penalty. Our whole system is predicated on the notion that you have to do something to find yourself in illegal waters.

Per the NYT:

The plaintiffs in the Florida case characterized the insurance requirement as an unprecedented attempt to regulate inactivity because citizens would be assessed an income tax penalty for failing to purchase a product. Their lawyers argued that there effectively would be no limits on federal authority, and raised the specter of government-mandated gym memberships and broccoli consumption.

Laugh if you must, but the insurance mandate really is no different than a gym membership mandate. If this law stands in its current form, what’s to say that a funereal policy, for example, isn’t next? After all, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect people to plan to do away with their own bodies after they die and to pay for it in advance. We all know we’re going to die. That would alleviate the burden of all those spontaneous deaths on poor families who didn’t plan for it and all those local crematoriums that have to do the unpleasant business of cremating the homeless and indigent. Best of all, we can pass it with the support and action of people who can already afford to pay for their own funeral services and burial plot, so they’ll totally understand!

That’s basically the sum of the government’s point of view, as demonstrated by its arguments. ‘Cause, like, not buying a burial plot is a kind of action! Continue reading

Midnight Roundup

Two items from the How Stupid Does the Left think We Are? Department:

#1: Look, it’s not okay for Michele Bachmann to gloss over history. She’s got a vag, for crying out loud! Best to leave that to the professionals, the men who run Time Magazine.

#2: Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim “Fuck Israel” Moran was caught feeding the Arab media the old “people are racists and that’s why Democrats fail” meme. His actual quote:

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said Republicans made big gains in November in part because “a lot of people in this country … don’t want to be governed by an African-American.”

Even more objectionable to some Americans, he said, is that Obama is a black president “who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society — that’s a basic philosophical clash.”

Way to agitate your base, Moran. Then there’s the answer given by his press secretary when the US press found out about his comments:

“With nearly 1,000 identified hate groups in the U.S. and recent studies showing a majority of Americans believe racism is still widespread against African-Americans, it is no secret that our country has and continues to struggle with racial equality,” Hughes said. “The congressman was expressing his frustration with this problem and the role it played in the last election. Rather than ignore this issue or pretend it isn’t there, the congressman believes we are better off discussing it in order to overcome it.”

1,000 hate groups identified by whom? And just because a bunch of people believe something to be the case doesn’t make it so. We do continue to struggle with racial equality, thanks to a lot of people who use the subject to brow-beat other people who they assume are racist, and because policies set in place by Democrats fifty years ago supposedly to ameliorate racial inequality actually helped solidify it.

More linky goodness after the jump…

Continue reading

Too Funny

I thought y’all might get a kick out of this. I actually cackled at the headline: Sarah Palin on Barack Obama speech: ‘WTF’

Money quote:

“His theme last night was wtf, winning the future,” she continued. “I thought, okay, that acronym – spot on. There were a lot of wtf moments throughout that speech.”

Bonus: It comes with a graphic!

Abortion and the Art of Compromise

Today is the 38th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, so I thought we’d talk about abortion. If you need to turn away, I understand. For me, the subject has been a part of my life as a reproductive-aged woman for a long time, and it used to define my political stance. I was a single-issue voter for many years. I was and remain firmly pro-choice.

However, I have grown over the last few years and now no longer support unrestricted abortion-on-demand, and I no longer think that those with a pro-life point of view are sexist pigs, or duped by sexist pigs. I’m writing about this now because I have seen ample evidence in recent weeks that the country is catching up to those of us with more evolved points of view on abortion. Changes are happening that signal to me a growing consensus for ratcheting down the rhetorical wars on abortion, and I thought those signals were worth a discussion, no matter where you fall on the scale of opinion.

Let’s start with the left, because honestly, a certain faction within that group has been accidentally on the vanguard of this issue for a while. It started way back in 2006 when Jane Hamsher began to question the commitment and credibility of abortion rights groups and their leaders, most notably Nancy Keegan. Like the blogger boyz she learned from, Hamsher was half making a point and half picking on her favorite target to rile the base. I said “accidentally on the vanguard” because she didn’t go after the Democratic Party for its piss poor record on preserving abortion rights. Instead she chose the woman who doesn’t have any say in the political mechanisms of abortion policy, she just manages a fund dedicated to it.

Flash forward two more years to 2008, and a huge awakening over the topic began to happen to women on the left, especially those who supported Hillary Clinton, as the base—led by the blogger boyz—attempted to use the abortion divide to badger women into voting for Barack Obama. Suddenly lots of women were asking what the Democrats had actually done to protect access to abortion, and many began to realize that the party had spent the better part of 20 years capitulating on every demand of the pro-life right. They weren’t even smart enough to use their capitulation to barter for things like sex education or access to birth control. They were definitely not the party for pro-choice constituents.

The combination of events has led to even further questioning by some on the left, and a realignment has emerged that promises a chance for a mature discussion of what abortion means and how it should be handled, as well as a discernable loss of defensiveness on the part of many. What’s not being talked about in mainstream discussions or among those that still cling to their left-identity but have adopted this mature point of view is that a similar realignment has been happening on the right. Continue reading

Wake Me After the Games

It’s football playoffs Sunday and I can’t bear to watch the packing, or the steeling of jets, and obviously a propensity for puns is just obnoxious. I’m taking my crazy self to bed for a nap. I was up until 4 writing that last long piece, so I think I deserve it. Hope you enjoyed.

I do love those narrativey blog posts we occasionally get treated to when real people take to the keyboard, and crowds come along to recognize something universal in it. I got the treat of being exposed to such a post today, and I thought I’d share it before I ship off to dreamland. It’s is from Firedoglake, and details the life of an aging union worker via his wife. It’s a great story, and I encourage you to check wavpeac’s post out.

I also found an interesting post on the ever-sensitive and divisive topic of abortion. The discourse over abortion in America is a rhetorical wasteland. So it’s nice when I find something that can be said to genuinely reach out and attempt to bridge the chasm. These are often imperfect attempts, and Mom-in-a-Million’s post is no exception, as her political leanings get less tolerant toward the end of her essay. But I still thought it was an interesting piece, and agreed with her on many of the issues, including support for access to safe abortion, as well as reproductive healthcare for all American women. Even if you don’t share those beliefs, there may be something here for you.

I’ll see y’all on the flip side.

American Civility: Hamilton-Burr Edition

Let’s go back in history, shall we? Feature this: It was July 11, 1804, and the sitting Vice President of the United States and the former Secretary of the Treasury took separate boats across the Hudson River to a bank below the New Jersey Palisades. They were gathering for a duel.

The events that led to this fateful meeting provide an interesting context for our continuing discussion about political speech in America today. If our major political parties today have their roots in this era, and they do, I think it’s fair to say that the men involved, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, provide us with actors analogous to our current right/left division. Burr was a thin-skinned conservative, earnest as the day is long, but also the creator and product of a machine he didn’t understand. Hamilton, for his part, was a clever urbanite known for his wit and sarcasm, sometimes cheating and deliberately provoking those he deemed as less intelligent, and thus less worthy, than he and his kind.

Burr, a Democratic-Republican, and Hamilton, a Federalist, didn’t like each other, and they competed in the same corridors of power in America at that time—namely New York and Washington. They worked at screwing each other over. For example, when the electoral vote for president resulted in a tie between Burr and Jefferson in 1800, Hamilton used his considerable power and influence in the House to ensure Jefferson, who he didn’t much like either, won. Burr was relegated to the office of Vice President, a pretty powerless position, politically speaking. Hostilities escalated after Hamilton and his family attacked Burr’s character when Burr ran for Governor of New York in 1804.

Now understand that a lot of this involves friends and families. And if you think what you’re reading today sounds like a load of childish garbage, you should read how these men fought it out in letters they published in newspapers back then. Tit-for-tat journalism is apparently nothing new, either. Hamilton, Hamilton’s father-in-law, and Burr, as well as some guy named Charles Cooper all had their letters published in newspapers around New England before things escalated to the duel. The controversy centered on an impolite comment made by Hamilton’s father-in-law at a party. Burr kept demanding retractions of the slander. The Hamilton side feigned memory loss and demanded specifics before an apology would issue.

Apparently unable to accept that, in a country with a Constitution that included the First Amendment, people were free to dish dirt on him at parties, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton for his part, out of an oversized ego or a decidedly suicidal streak (historians aren’t sure which; Hamilton had lost his son two years before in a duel and prepared his will the night before this one), agreed to it. Duels were outlawed in New York, so they convened in New Jersey, which had also outlawed dueling, but which had less harsh penalties. Now here’s where things get tricky.

Hamilton, as the challenged, got to pick the pistols according to the dueling rules. He chose a pretty deadly set for the time (Wogdons, for historic gun fans), which had hair-pin triggers on the inside that could be set for more rapid fire. Reports conflict, but historians believe that Hamilton used the hair-pin trigger on his own pistol, but left Burr unaware of the feature on his.  This bit of trickery backfired (pardon the pun) in the end, as Hamilton fired past Burr’s shoulder while Burr’s musket ball penetrated Hamilton’s gut and ricocheted, wounding him fatally. He died the next day.

That’s the basic story as I understand it. There’s lots more to the aftermath, including the fact that Burr eventually returned to Washington and completed his term as Vice President (Cheney anyone?). It was an early warning to our country about the hazards of partisanship, a warning we still have not taken seriously. When this story even comes up in our cultural dialogue, we treat it as a joke a la the “Got Milk?” commercial (in the 1980s, dating myself here) or that funny rap song about being “Aaron Burr ‘cause we’re dropping so many Hamiltons.” But it was serious. It ended Hamilton’s life, and ended Burr’s career, however eventually. Continue reading

Dana Milbank on Palin

Brevity being the soul of wit, translation: He’s past the cooties stage and now onto the silent treatment stage. He even turns eleven years old this year!

And so I pledge to you: Sarah Palin’s name will not cross my lips – or my keyboard – for the entire month of February. Who’s with me?

I’ll believe it when I see it, Dana.