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Showing posts from March, 2012

Limiting principles for the ACA

I feel a little less ignorant after reading some things about the idea of a limiting principle for the ACA and individual mandate in particular. It didn't make sense to me months back . Here's Matt Yglesias with a specific example as to why I was confused that this would be an issue:

I'm not a lawyer, but I have to say that I found the entire "limiting principle" discussion at the Supreme Court somewhat confusing. After all, if the government can charge you a 20 percent marginal tax rate what's to stop them from going to 39.4 percent or 99.7 percent? Nothing, it seems to me, and yet life goes on.

But Congress could, if it wanted to, completely vitiate economic freedom purely through the tax code. You would impose a statutory rate of 100 percent and then create deductions for the stuff Congress wants you to buy—houses, health insurance, broccoli, whatever. I don't think anyone would reasonably conclude from the fact that Congress could do that stuff that w…

More ACA arguments

In light of my attempt to convince the SC from my little desk in my little room I figured I would post some arguments from some people who have slightly better credentials than myself. And yes, this is also about patting myself on the back for coming up with similar arguments, which you can see in my previous post. Hey, I've got an ego that needs attending every once in a while. Here's former Reagan solicitor general:

But the business of insurance is commerce. That’s what the Supreme Court decided in 1944 in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n and the law has not departed from that conclusion for a moment since then. One need only think of the massive regulation of insurance that is represented by ERISA to see how deep and unquestioned is that conclusion.

If insurance is commerce, then of course the business of health insurance is commerce. It insures an activity that represents nearly 18% of the United States economy. (In this connection recall Perez v. United St…

The ACA oral arguments

They are underway at the Supreme Court. And apparently the pro-ACA side struggled with some of the questioning from the justices, particularly the limiting principles issue which I've talked about before. As we could have predicted, the broccoli question came up. So I wanted to give it a shot to see if I can make a better argument than the gov't did yesterday.

I think it was Scalia that asked, if the gov't can force you to buy health insurance, what can't it force you to do?. First of all, even conservatives like Scalia will admit that the gov't has the power to regulate interstate commerce. That's plainly in the constitution. I don't hear anyone arguing that the health insurance market doesn't fall under interstate commerce. So it would appear that the gov't has some sort of power to regulate said market. Why can the gov't exert the specific power it's putting forth in this case, that being a mandate that fines you if you don't acquire…

Mitt Romney, not just a liar

It seems as though he is also kind of clueless on the foreign policy front:

BLITZER: You think Russia is a bigger foe right now than say Iran or China or North Korea? Is that what you’re suggesting governor?

ROMNEY: Well I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors. Of course the greatest threat the world faces is a nuclear armed Iran and a nuclear North Korea is troubling enough. But when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the UN looking for ways to stop them … and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worst actors, it is always Russia, typically with China alongside.

So in terms of a geopolitical foe a nation that is on the Security Council that has the heft of the Security Council and is of course a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe and the idea that our president is planning on doing something with them that he’s not willing to tell the American people before the…

Secrecy and democracy

Democracy, in it's various incarnations, requires some level of citizen participation. Whether citizens are learning about an issue so as to show their support or not, or voting for a representative that will decide the issue themselves, a citizen needs some level of knowledge about the issue. It would be difficult to make a decision if we didn't have something like the press or if the gov't did let us know what it was doing. And it would obviously be difficult to hold representatives accountable and discourage corruption if we don't know what the gov't is doing. The Obama administration doesn't seem to care about these important aspects of democracy:

The ACLU is suing the Obama administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking to force disclosure of the guidelines used by Obama officials to select which human beings (both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) will have their lives ended by the CIA’s drone attacks (“In particular,” the group exp…

Community: the line between awesome and weird

This post contains spoilers from tonight's new episode.

Usually Abed is firmly on the awesome side of the line. But the show continued with it's theme of growth or growing up in this episode and showed Abed cross to the weird side, and even a dangerous side. We saw Troy and Abed choose to act normal for Shirley's wedding last week. And like many other fans, it got me a bit worried about how their growth could mean less awesome and funny things for the show.

Like only Community can, this episode went meta and addressed those very concerns. Abed has been hiring celebrity look-a-likes to help him reenact scenes. And now he owes 3 grand for those services. If he doesn't pay he will get his legs broke. But if the group dresses up as celebrities for a party his bill will be paid. Annie and Shirley see what this will lead to if the group helps and say they shouldn't do it. But Troy jumps in and says that they should help Abed continue to live in his fantasy land because …

More on Republican budgets and taxes

Yesterday I discussed Republican budgets and some of the reasons they are constructed the way they are. Today, Bruce Bartlett traces the history of the main issue regarding Republican budgets, taxes:

Instead of worrying about the deficit, he said, Republicans should just cut taxes and push for faster growth, which would make the debt more bearable.

Mr. Kristol, who was very well connected to Republican leaders, quickly saw the political virtue in Mr. Wanniski’s theory. ...

Republicans didn’t immediately embrace the two-Santa theory, but began to after Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, when he ran mainly in favor of a big tax cut, with far less emphasis on deficit reduction. In office, Reagan pushed for domestic spending cuts but also sharply raised spending for favored programs such as the military.

Although the budget deficit rose to 6 percent of gross domestic product in 1983 from 2.7 percent in 1980, Reagan easily won re-election in 1984. This further convinced Republicans that the …

Chipper Jones' last season and the HOF

I've talked about Chipper's place in baseball history before. Now that Chipper says he will retire after this upcoming season I wanted to bring it up again.

The new show on the MLB Network called Clubhouse Confidential, hosted by Brian Kenny, is fantastic. It focuses on statistical evaluations and predictions of players. And aside from yesterday's show where Brian suggested Tim Tebow was a good player, the show has been great. A few episodes ago they addressed the HOF status of Chipper Jones. They came to a similar conclusion that the link in my first link above did, which is that Chipper is among the 3 best 3rd basemen ever and thus should be a lock for the HOF. Today I ran across another link making the same argument. Here is an interesting fact:

For historical perspective, were he to retire today he would become just the seventh player to finish with a .300/.400/.500 career batting line, joining Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams. Co…

Dolphins QB situation, updated

Since I gave my thoughts on the Dolphins QB situation there have been a few developments. Peyton Manning signed with Denver. That made the Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the Jets. And before all of that happened the Dolphins signed David Garrard to a one year deal. It seems we flirted with Matt Flynn and Alex Smith. But after the free agency smoke cleared we are left with Matt Moore and David Garrard.

I'm fine with that. As you know, I'm ok with giving Moore another year to try and improve. Though I did overlook one thing about him and how he relates to our new head coach, Joe Philbin. Philbin comes from a west coast style offense in GB. There were a lot of 3 and 5 step drops which resulted in a lot of short timing routes. Matt Moore was his best last season when he took deep drops and was able to push the ball downfield. He wasn't so good at the shorter routes. This isn't to say that Moore and Philbin can't get along. I think Philbin will work with Moore to try and t…

TN legislature flings some poop

My home state's legislature is trotting out some oldies, just in case people weren't sure if the state was still conservative (cough nutty cough) enough:

The text of HB368 / SB893, sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson), requires all administrators and educators to work to teach “scientific subjects” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as “scientific controversies“:

The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy . . . The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific contro…

Republican budgets

Ezra Klein explains why Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have to try and balance their budgets by cutting funding to the poor:

The Republican plans we've seen share a few basic premises. First, taxes are too high, and must be cut. Second, defense spending is too low, and should be raised. Third, major changes to entitlement programs should be passed now, but they shouldn't affect the current generation of retirees. That would all be fine, except for the fourth premise, which is that short-term deficits are a serious threat to the country and they need to be swiftly cut.

The first three budget premises means that taxes and defense will contribute more to the deficit, and Medicare and Social Security aren't available for quick savings. That leaves programs for the poor as the only major programs available to bear cuts. But now cuts to those programs have to pay for the deficit reduction, the increased defense spending, and the tax cuts. That means the cuts to those …

Obama on Iran, via 2004

This would seem to explain his fairly aggressive stance towards Iran. From a 2004 interview:

"In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in," he said.

"On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point."
At least he recognizes that there would be problems with an attack on Iran. I'm sure he has an even better understanding of that now that he has the military at his disposal. But he falls into the conventional line of thinking that Iran with nukes would be worse than every oth…

Can Biopolitics explain everything?

Probably not everything. But some think that a lot of political ideology is determined by genetics. Before linking to the article, I want to give you a heads up that it's on So you might want to hold off clicking it if you're at work. Anyway, here is the NSFW article. The whole thing is fascinating. I wanted to focus on a few parts and give my personal experience as it relates to it:

Getting down to particulars, Alford and Hibbing found that people tended to be either “absolutist” (suspicious of groups that challenged the prevailing social order, seeking unity for their own particular group, desirous of strong leadership, unbendingly moral, willing to tolerate inequality and pessimistic about human nature) or “contextualist” (tolerant toward those challenging groups; less focused on rules; suspicious of hierarchies, certainties and strong leadership; and optimistic about human nature). As Alford and Hibbing put it, “All of these vexing perennial dichotomies are rel…

Battlestar Galactica: dissention in the ranks

Spoilers ahead for those of you who are like me and either haven't seen the series or are following along on BBC America. Sorry for those of you who might have been spoiled previously. Though really, you should expect it at this point.

I've spent the whole series talking about how well the show addresses political issues. Tonight's episodes were no different. But the issue they addressed was different than any I can relate to modern or even history American politics, which is a coup. Lt. Gaeda (sorry if I fracked up that spelling, too lazy to look it up) and the vice president overthrow Adama and take over Galactica. Once they've done that an some of the crew tries to resist the VP has the council, the representatives of the 12 tribes, killed. So the rebels aren't fracking around.

Eventually Gaeda backs down and Adama retains command. It was very dramatic tv. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But when it comes to relating this to real world politics, this episode scares m…

Duke embarrassed yet again

I've been saying it all year long, for years in fact. Duke doesn't have athletic enough players to consistently beat good teams and to go deep into the tournament. When Lehigh is more athletic than your team, you have problems. When Lehigh is getting into the lane any time they want, you have problems. When Lehigh is forcing you out of your offense and preventing you from getting a decent look or set shot, you have major problems. Yeah, Ryan Kelly was hurt. He might have been enough to win. But when you are supposed to be one of the top programs in the nation and your bench can't help your starters overcome the loss of one decent player and get you past a 15 seed, you have major problems.

Frankly, I don't know how the hell we won 27 games this season. Let's run down each player and evaluate them. I'll begin with the starting five. Tyler Thorton is a mediocre player. He is supposed to be a good defensive player. But if he is so damn good defensively how in the …

Free speech, literally

Rick Santorum on the prospect of letting Puerto Rico becomes a state:

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Santorum told the paper, according to Reuters. “And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language, such as Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language.”
I'll give him credit for the compliance with federal law part. He could have easily gone all 10th amendment on us and waxed frothily about the inherent value of state sovereignty. Though I doubt I'd have to wait more than a week to find a quote from him doing so. Anyway, I'm not sure what he means with the whole English as the principle language thing and it's relation to compliance with federal law.

Does federal law really dictate that states have English be their principle language? I thought Republicans liked to push for some kind of law or amendment that sa…

Community returns from hiatus

Spoilers for tonight's episode will follow.

Our long national nightmare was officially ended upon tonight's airing of Community. And it once again proved that even an average episode of Community is better than most everything else. This felt like a setup episode for the most part. Shirley's wedding to her ex-husband was the main story. But each character was given solid parts that efficiently highlighted their core traits.

Britta and Jeff struggled with their emotional reactions to the wedding and relationships in general. Britta comes from a sociological perspective which focusses on the role of women in marriage and the fact that despite the history of problems with marriage, there is some value to it and she might one day feel compelled to engage in the activity. Jeff's perspective is mostly personal due to the fact that his father left him and his mother and thus broke the promise that marriage is supposed to be about. I think this aspect of the plot was to reint…

The Dolphins' QB situation

I still don't know enough about the Brandon Marshall situation to give any further thoughts. I'll just say again that it makes for a lot of uncertainty about the team and what they have planned for the immediate future. One of those uncertain issues is the QB position. So I wanted to give my thoughts on it since there seem to be a lot of options.

The first option I want to address is the only one that is currently on the team, Matt Moore. I was increasingly impressed with Moore after every game last season. He started out a bit slow. But given a new team with an offensive line that had struggled to protect Henne, that could be expected. He wasn't much better than Henne at avoiding sacks. But one thing he was unquestionably better than him at was throwing the long ball. Moore was top 5 in Air Yard %, which is a stat from AdvancedNFLStats that shows what % of your total passing yards came from the air as opposed to receiver yards after the catch. Basically what the stat sho…

Obama presses to keep journalist in jail

Via Glenn Greenwald, here is a link to a video that explains the entire situation. If you don't feel like watching the video here is a summary:

The Obama administration is facing scrutiny for its role in the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who exposed how the United States was behind a 2009 bombing in Yemen that killed 14 women and 21 children. In January 2011, a Yemeni state security court gave the journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a five-year jail sentence on terrorism-related charges following a disputed trial that was condemned by several human rights and press freedom groups. Within a month of Shaye’s sentencing, then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he was going to pardon the journalist. But Saleh changed his mind after a phone call from President Obama. Thirteen months later, Shaye remains behind bars.
These drone strikes are ridiculous. Beyond the question of whether the targets are really terrorists and have committed crimes, which is a very important q…

Former 10 commandments-loving judge getting his job back

He refused to comply with a federal court order to remove the 10 commandments from his judicial building. People would flip their shit if a judge did the equivalent of this guy's actions but with a different religion or some sort of atheist thing. And as far as the 1st amendment is concerned, they would be correct to dislike it. But this type of thing with the 10 commandments is tolerated obviously because most of this country is comprised of christians. But that is why we have the 1st amendment, to protect minority rights.

So I think it's a shame that this guy will get another seat on the bench. He clearly has a distorted view of the first amendment. Hopefully his biases don't affect other areas of law for the sake of the people he is presiding over.

Mitt Romney's soul is the one at stake

Well, if I believed in a soul it would be. But I say that because this is what he claimed about his campaign:

Mitt Romney calls his campaign "a battle for the soul of America."
I know every candidate thinks that and in some way or another says that. But coming from a guy who has a very weak political identity, or soul if you believe in that kind of thing, this seems extra ham-handed. (Speaking of America's fate, I saw this question asked a few days ago around the political blogs. If Obama was the person Romney and the right says he is, why hasn't he implemented the radical, socialist, Muslim, secular, anti-colonial policies that are all part of the liberal conspiracy to destroy the country yet? And when does he plan on doing it?)

What politicians really mean when they say "the soul of America" is control of the gov't. And losing it's soul simply means that Democrats have control and Republicans don't. However, the war never really ends because t…

Dolphins trade Brandon Marshall

For two 3rd round picks. I have no idea why they would want to trade him. And I have no idea why they thought two 3rd round picks was good value for a pretty good receiver. I could write a few paragraphs speculating on what they are thinking. But really, I have no idea. And depending on what their plan is, assuming they have one, I'm likely not going to be a fan of this trade.

Duke: the tourney and some fun with the past

I was pretty frustrated with the way Duke played this weekend. Not having Ryan Kelly hurts. That's 11 points and 5 rebounds a game we had to make up for. And Florida State is a really good defensive team. But I don't think that explains the poor offensive performance in the two games of the ACC tourney. Rivers and Curry were ok. But both of them struggled from the outside. And no one else stepped up to make up for it. The Plumlees were also ok. But they were inconsistent on both ends of the court. And to be fair to them, I don't think they got the ball enough to get comfortable.

I think the #2 seed was fair. We beat a lot of good teams and had mostly tough losses. But I'm not very confident in this team going into the tourney. Even with Kelly healthy we were inconsistent if not downright bad defensively. You can get away with that in the first few rounds, assuming you aren't equally as bad offensively. But if Kelly isn't healthy I think we could struggle in th…

Dennis Kucinich's 'wackiness'

I didn't follow his career very closely. Most of my recollection of him is from the 08 Democratic primary. But from what I've read he was a good liberal. And now he is being mocked by some liberals. I don't have much to add to Glenn Greenwald explaining why he is being mocked. I'll just quote at length:

So let’s recap the state of mental health in establishment Democratic circles: the President who claims (and exercises) the power to target American citizens for execution-by-CIA in total secrecy and with no charges — as well as those who dutifully follow him — are sane, sober and Serious, meriting great respect. By contrast, one of the very few members of Congress who stands up and vehemently objects to this most radical power — “The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience” — is a total wackjob, meriting patronizing mockery.

Both the Prospect and Post r…

Random thoughts of the night

I enjoyed the season of Top Chef: Texas. I don't care much for the manufactured drama and the judging. But it's interesting to see the plates they come up with and how they get through the challenges. And Padma is gorgeous. I'm about to watch the newest episode of Happy Endings. I've been lukewarm towards this show since I started watching it very recently. But last week's episode was great. Hopefully they have a good follow up.

Speaking of good tv, The Soup had a great trailer for Community. If you haven't seen the Community/The Dark Knight Rises mashup you need to finish reading this post and go to YouTube. In case you don't follow me on Twitter and haven't heard, Community returns on March 15th. It will be a great way to distract me from the fact that two days before that I will turn 28 and be closer to fully embodying George Costanza, minus the paranoia.

The president of Planned Parenthood was on The Daily Show tonight. If I had any money I would …

Obama's AG says the gov't can kill you

If you are an American citizen and some secret panel decides that you are a terrorist and believes you pose an "imminent" threat to the US, they can decide to kill you, if you aren't on American soil. That's the most basic point in Eric Holder's speech he gave yesterday. I'll direct you to Glenn Greenwald for more of the facts and analysis. What I wanted to focus on is one of the reasons the Obama administration claims it can do these types of things, which is the fact that we are at war. I won't go too "Man, the State, and War" on you. Even I found some of that poli sci stuff dry. Plus I don't feel like dusting off articles to try and sum up the relevant IR literature.

Traditionally, wars are conflicts between either two or more states or two or more groups within a state. And a state is basically a geographic location that has widely recognized borders that encompasses a group of people who share a common identity as a nation. On top of…

Lebron can't pass the buck

Lebron James has been getting heavily criticized for passing to Udonis Haslem for the last shot in a game over the weekend. I don't feel like doing a full breakdown of why I think the clutch narrative in modern sports is overblown. But aside from that, I thought Lebron made the right play.

He was dribbling into a double team, meaning he probably wouldn't have made it to the basket, which is the highest % shot. I guess he could have dribbled into the second defender and tried to create a foul. But that's risky. And he could have pulled up before that second defender got right up on him and attempted a mid-range jumper. But that would have been a more contested shot than the one he got Haslem. Haslem isn't a very good shooter, 40% this season. But from that range and pretty open, I think the odds of him making that shot were around 50%.

Some have argued that Lebron should have at least forced a shot because he is a great player and he was hot at that moment. That just …

How Rush Limbaugh could change his legacy

I'm breaking my unwritten rule of mentioning the talk radio host by name. But I felt compelled to do so after reading this post by Andrew Sullivan. Usually Rush doesn't apologize. And I'm sure this time it was mostly about the advertisers pulling away from his program. So he is probably just trying to save face with them and keep earning the huge money he does.

But if the man has any decency at all, he could really improve his standing with the country at large and use this opportunity to support the woman and this issue he has spoken out against. If he came out and genuinely had a change of heart about these types of women's issues I think he could do a lot of good. I don't think that would mean he has to become a liberal. He could still believe in conservative principles when it comes to governing. But when it comes to women's rights and how women are perceived of in our society he could help his large audience see how women are marginalized and try to solve…

Duke vs Carolina

I'm too frustrated to write a long post. I'll just say what I have said about this team and this program for years now, that we aren't athletic enough to play the kind of defense Coach K wants to play. Sure, we missed quite a few open shots in the first half. I think that did affect how we played. And people can say we live and die by the 3. But we aren't a 28% 3 point shooting team. If those shots fall like they normally do it's at least a close game.

But that's the thing with modern Coach K teams. We no longer have the athletes who can just use their skills to overcome an unlucky shooting performance. We don't have a Brian Zoubeck who can get rebounds and protect the rim if the other players don't shoot or defend well. We don't have a Jason Williams or Shane Battier than can carry the team on their backs on either end of the court when the team isn't playing well. The Duke teams of old could beat good teams despite not playing well. This Duke…

Battlestar Galactica: finding Earth

Wow. They've built up to the reveal of four of the final five cylons for the entire series. Like with just about everything in the series I thought they did a really good job with revealing the four to Adama and the rest of the crew. Not to mention that they finally found Earth. But it's not exactly what they thought they were looking for, if that is indeed Earth.

I've tried to relate the stories to real world politics. Since the third season they have done too many stories that are directly relatable. But for the sake of me posting about these two episodes I'll try to relate it to politics. In the US it takes big coalitions to get legislation passed. Madison and the founders wanted it this way. They didn't want small factions having too much control over policy. That was the problem with true democracies, small groups that could be extremists had too much power, which meant they could help enact bad policy or prevent good policy. So that's why we have a major…