Slow Saturday

Well, I managed to lose this Saturday entirely. Between trying to catch up on my chronically lost sleep, running a few necessary errands (which included the great, and unexpected, pleasure of running into Charles Martel at our local Staples), and an emergency meeting of one of my volunteer committees, I just seemed to lose the day.

The whole lost day thing wasn’t helped by the fact that I made a visit to Goodwill and got myself some good books. One was a stock romance novel that I gobbled in a couple of hours. The other was the book I am now reading: Harry Stein’s How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace). Although published in 2000, it has a timeless feel. Stein was a neocon before they’d coined the word (or, at least, before it had become a pejorative).

The one thing that really stands out, funnily enough, is this review on the back cover:

With a smart aleck’s nerve and a prophet’s boldness, Harry Stein has written a wickedly funny and moral book.

The source of this glowing review? The New York Times. In a post-George Bush era, can you imagine the Times praising a book by an apostate? I can’t. It will be interesting to see what reception the Times gives David Mamet’s new book.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings in terms of my energy, organization and blogging creativity, so consider this an open thread for the time begin.

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Comments

  1. Mike Devx says

    Leaving out the closing italics on the book title… you managed to italicize *everything* below it!  Interesting effect.
    As a software guy, I blush in shame for my peeps who didn’t protect against this.    :-)

    Software bug!

  2. Mike Devx says

    Open thread sunday… I have a discussion of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, and then a theoretical question on constitutionality that I’m wondering about…

    The “Individual Mandate” (IM) is the idea that people are required under ObamaCare to purchase health insurance – money directly out of their own pocket – or be fined for not doing so.  The choices for purchase are strictly controlled within ObamaCare.

    During debate, the Obama Admin declared repeatedly the IM was not a tax. “No! We are not taxing you!”  Now that the IM is in the courts, they are declaring it to be a tax.  Actually they are following a two-pronged strategy:

    1. “It is a tax.”  I see no way this can pass constitutional muster.  Article 1 Sec 8 allows Congress to tax us via a specific set of enumerated powers.  This would fall under the (very broad) general welfare clause in its first paragraph.  But taxation is a precisely defined concept, and Congress has precisely understood mechanisms for taxation.  Forcing people to buy insurance, out of their own pocket, can’t fall under any defined taxation mechanism.  If it does, then we can be forced to buy bread at the government’s whim.  Or snowblowers.  Or *anything*, whenever the government has decided it would be “a good idea”.  Anything!  Because the precedent will have been set:  You can be forced to buy insurance out of your own pocket, and it is “a tax”.

    1B. If you don’t buy it, you are penalized.  No one has even tried to argue that this kind of “penalty” is a tax.  So this part doesn’t seem relevant.

    2. The other argument is via the infamous “interstate commerce clause”.  The argument here is that *refusing* to buy insurance is a form of interstate commerce.  In other words, your inactivity – you simply doing nothing – would now be considered an action of commerce.  I don’t think anyone foresees *that* passing constitutional study.  But the “interstate commerce clause” has in the past been stretched beyond all recognition of “commerce” in other court decisions, so I guess anything is possible.
    But I’ll go with this argument being thrown out on its ear to howls of laughter by a majority of the Justices (howls of laughter at least in their private chambers, if not publicly…  :-)

    So I’m confident it won’t pass constitutional muster for either reason.  And the manner in which they passed ObamaCare, lacking what I think is called the “severability clause”, the whole entire ObamaCare law goes out the window.  Hopefully!

    Is all the above right, am I missing something important in my understanding?

    My real question on constitutionality becomes this: Back to Artlcle 1 Sec 8 and Congress having the authority to raise taxes for the purpose of “general welfare”.  Ignoring whether they are *good* ideas or not, via the general welfare clause, “universal healthcare” laws can be considered constitutional.  What if the Obama Admin had raised taxes to cover all the costs of purchasing health insurance, and then used that tax money to cover our forced choice of health insurance?  In other words, our only human action as the consumer is to pick our specific program, *not* to pay for it out of our own pocket.  The money to cover our choice was already collected via normal taxation schemes, and it is then used to pay for our selection.  That would appear to be constitutional to me.  As much as I wouldn’t have liked it.

    Fortunately the Obama Admin did not do that…  And that mammoth a tax increase wouldn’t likely have passed anyway…

    What do you think?  Would that have been constitutional?  Or any other thoughts?

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