Obamacare Ruled Constitutional

June 28, 2012

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Official 2005 photo of Chief Justice John G. R...

Chief Justice John Roberts, author of the majority opinion.

Don’t spike the ball. This is what the Crying Man and his cohorts in Congress focused on leading up to today’s decision by the Supreme court on the Affordable Care Act or more commonly known as Obamacare. They did not want to upset the common folk and possible voters in the upcoming elections by having too joyous of a reaction to what they felt was going to be a Supreme Court ruling in the favor of their ideals. Man, they must have really been blindsided when the ruling came down today in favor of upholding Obamacare, especially when the deciding vote ended up being one of their own. So it has already been a pretty chipper beginning to a day for me, but should I have this good of a feeling. Oh what the hell, screw this I am spiking the ball. IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL.

Actually that was a tweet this morning from the DNC executive director when the ruling came out, but its sums up my sentiments exactly. A man the Republicans thought they had in the palm of their hand ended up being the deciding vote against them and Kennedy sided with them. Oh the irony. Granted in his opinion on the ruling Chief Justice John Roberts was pretty political with his rhetoric about the President, but did uphold the right of Congress to mandate people having healthcare coverage as it is in ways a tax. I bet Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito are now no longer on speaking terms with the Chief Justice after his ruling. I mean the same Court that brought you the personhood of Corporate America and unlimited secret campaign spending to buy elections, just saved Obamacare. Oh the agony!

The ruling was pretty much a sweep across the board in favor of upholding all of what was before the court. The ability for 26 year olds to be on their parents’ insurance was upheld. The ability for Congress to regulate that people with pre-existing conditions to be able to be covered by insurance was upheld. Most importantly and the most debated part of the decision is that the individual mandate was upheld as a taxing mechanism. Now I do not really like the wording with the ruling there as it just added more fuel to the fire for the illogical right. The only down part in the ruling was that the Medicaid expansion was struck down, but would be upheld if Congress were to take out the clause punishing states by withholding current Medicaid funds if they did not comply with the expansion. I agree that that part should be taken out and if it were not for the Congress that don’t do anything (sorry my kids have been watching Veggietales a bit much lately) it would be able to be remedied quickly.

Well that is about it for this month. Ah what a feeling. I will open up the comments section to discussion on the SCOTUS ruling. I will try to answer comments as soon as I see them. I’d love to see some discussion on this. Certainly a phrase I would never have thought I’d say. Thank you Chief Justice Roberts for making my day and slightly restoring my view of the Supreme Court if only just for one ruling.

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The Supreme Court and Health Care

March 29, 2012

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With the case of Florida vs. Department of Health and Human Services, the circus came to Washington this week in and outside of the Supreme Court. Now that the arguments are over we will sit back and debate over things ad nausea until the opinion of the court is released, which is not expected until sometime in June. It basically will come down to how Justice Kennedy will decide upon the issue of the individual mandate. It is going to be a 5-4 decision either way, and I am really unsure at this point how things will fall in the end.

On one hand you had Kennedy discussing an analogy of burial insurance on the arguments over the individual mandate. Would you go up to a young person and say that you are going to die one day so you must buy this burial insurance policy from me to cover your expenses. Now I liked this analogy, at least in the fact that it was original, unlike that partisan hack Justice Scalia and his talking points handed broccoli analogy. Then on the other hand, later in his talks Kennedy talked about maybe healthcare being different.

Like I said at this point I have no idea how his vote is going to sway. I do know though that depending on how the majority opinion gets worded and whether they go all Bush v. Gore and state that this cannot be used in any other case, it is going to have a profound effect on many things if it is a 5-4 decision striking down the individual mandate.

Like I said it all depends on how the opinion comes out, but after decades of trying to do so, the Republicans have backed into a way of getting rid of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the Justices’ line of thinking on those obviously voting to get rid of the mandate both Social Security and Medicare can be deemed unconstitutional. What gives the government the right to come to me as a young worker and say you must put side this money for later on in life for you and to pay those older workers currently receiving the benefits of this if I choose not to. Hey I’m young I can do that later, if I really want to. Hell even the Republicans tired old private accounts argument would be unconstitutional. So you are going to force me to put my money into the market? What gives you the right? Then the same applies on to Medicare as well. What gives the Government the right to force me to put money forth for older people’s medical coverage now and mine in the future if I really don’t want to? Under the argument set forth in the Justices’ line of questioning this rational would be the same for these as well.

Another effect that a ruling that strikes down the law would have is disturbing as well. If you don’t like something the opposition party writes into law, have it brought to the court to strike down. Say Mittens or Santorum by some evil joke of God wins the election. A state with liberal control will just bring its argument against the law before the court. It’s a long shot in any circumstance to succeed, but right now it’s a 4-4 split of hard conservative to moderate liberal on the Supreme Court. Then with Kennedy and is usual swing vote there is a shot you can get things done and with this precedent set try and try again will constantly be the partisan fight from now on to get rid of whatever is passed that you don’t like.

Maybe Gingrich is right. Did I just say those words; I am throwing up in my mouth just a little. Anyways, I have been thinking this all day in hearing the arguments on what the Justices felt on different parts of the law if the individual mandate was struck down. We really do need to just arrest these partisan Judges from legislating from the bench. Your job in my opinion is over with you striking down the individual mandate, you don’t have the authority on which legislation is worthy to be kept or not, or what can be salvaged for cost reasons. That is Congress’ job, not the Judicial branch’s



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Supreme Court of … the Highest Bidder

February 10, 2011

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Like most young children growing up, at some point I learned about government.  I learned about the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial.  I learned that the role of the judicial branch is to interpret the law and apply facts and the law to each case that comes before it.  Sometimes there comes a case before a judge where the judge or a direct relation or friend of that judge has a stake in the outcome.  To avoid favoritism a judge will normally disqualify themselves from a case where there is a conflict of interest and this is called recusal.  Sandra Day O’Connor routinely recused herself from cases involving telecommunication industries because she owned large amounts of stock in those firms.

I figure that it’s fairly routine to do this; Elana Kagan did so in a recent case involving workplace law and harassment due to her previous work as Solicitor General and the law in question on that case wasn’t even signed when she held that job.  So here’s a little scenario for you:  You’re a supreme court judge, and your spouse has accepted almost $700,000 from firms standing to gain quite a bit by the Citizens United ruling, do you recuse yourself from the case?  Not only did Clarence Thomas not recuse himself from that case, he had routinely checked “no” on ethics forms that require him to disclose if his spouse received noninvestment money.  Is he required by law to disclose this?  No, but what’s the point of having ethics forms if you lie on them?  Heck, if we have Supreme Court Judges lying on ethics forms, why bother even having a court?

Well, there’s a case on the horizon looming, pretty much everyone knows it’s coming:  Obamacare vs. Virginia and Florida will be in the supreme court before too long, possibly scheduled by the end of this year.  Virginia Thomas, Clarence’s wife, has done quite a bit of work the past decade for companies that have been outspoken against the new health care law, and there is already a movement going to demand Thomas’ recusal for when this case finally comes about.  Don’t hold your breath on that one.

The last few decades have seen Supreme Court justices acting more and more like they’re Teflon, like they can get away with anything and as long as they claim impartiality they’re fine.  Antonin Scalia has his own list:  going on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney weeks before a case involving Cheney was heard in the Supreme Court, speaking at a Tea Party rally organized by Michelle Bachmann, and most recently Scalia and Thomas were guests at an invitation-only gathering fully paid for by the Koch brothers.

How do we solve a problem like Scalia?  Once again, transparency.  The Supreme Court is not a get-away-with-whatever club where once you join you get to toss your code of ethics (if you ever had one) out the window.  The whole point of that office in the first place was to interpret the law with as much impartiality as is humanly possible and two members in particular are turning it into their own personal gain machine.  Second, we need to start limiting the terms of justices, or at the very least have some sort of re-confirmation every number of years.  If it’s ludicrously rare for anything more than a slap on the wrist to come down on Supreme Court justices in terms of punishment and they’re starting to show themselves as not being ethical enough to be above greed or partisanship we need to show them that they’re replaceable.

Should Sex Offenders Be Locked Up Forever?

May 18, 2010

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On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (with Thomas and Scalia dissenting) that the federal government has the power the keep some sex offenders behind bars indefinitely if officials determine that those prisoners may “prove to be sexually dangerous in the future.”  (Note: this affects only inmates in the federal system, not those in state prisons.  See United States vs. Comstock for more information).

I think that most people would agree that sex offenders do pose a threat to society and that they should be dealt with harshly by the justice system.  I agree with this, and the rest of this article should not be construed as condoning any of the actions of the offenders.  I most certainly do not condone their actions.

I do, however, have a problem with this Supreme Court ruling.  The primary building block of justice in this country is the jury trial.  The accused is entitled to a trial, and if convicted, is sentenced appropriately.  At the end of the sentence (or, more often, earlier), the prisoner rejoins society.

This SCOTUS ruling appears to subvert the decision made by the jury.  The ruling makes a complete mockery of the sentencing process.  Why should the jury waste their time determining an appropriate sentence when, in the end, it really won’t matter?

I understand the severity of sexual crimes, and also am familiar with research that suggests that it may not be possible to rehabilitate these criminals.  However, murder is also a severe crime, and we do set some murderers free after they serve their sentences.  This will continue to be standard operating procedure for all other crimes – criminals will be arrested, be convicted, serve their time, and then rejoin society.  Only sex offenders in federal prisons will be at risk of having their sentence extended indefinitely.

Are the current sentences handed down by juries too short?  If that’s the case, there is a better way to fix this.  Have congress and state legislatures impose more strict punishment for those crimes.  Then, from this date forward, impose those sentences upon those convicted of sex crimes.  However, I do not feel that it is appropriate to retroactively impose the law upon those whom have already been sentenced.

Am I defending sex offenders?  No, certainly not.  I am, however, defending justice.  It brings to mind a line from the movie Ghosts of Mississippi.  The defense attorney, defending the killer of civil rights leader Medger Evers, reminds the jury that “if the system doesn’t work for Byron De La Beckwith , it doesn’t work for anyone.”  If the system doesn’t work for sex offenders, does it really work at all?

I have discussed his ruling with several people, including a couple of hard-on-crime guys with backgrounds in law enforcement.  At this point, everyone seems to agree that the prisoners should be set free when their sentence is complete – while at the same time acknowledging the serious nature of the crimes and the high probability that the criminals will re-offend following their release.

I expect this Supreme Court ruling to remaining in place for many years.  The fact that it was a 7-2 decision means that change 1 or 2 members of the court will not swing the court to the other side.  The president’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, actually argued the case on behalf of the government in her role of Solicitor General.

It seems, then, that it would be left up to congress to pass a law that would neutralize the impact of this ruling.  I’m not holding my breath – supports of such a law would no doubt be painted as supporters of sex offenders by their opponents.  I doubt that any politician is willing to risk being slapped with that label.

The Most Important Qualification for a Supreme Court Justice: Life Expectancy?

May 12, 2010

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This week, we found out that President Obama’s nominee will be current Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

Let’s get one question out of the way. What, exactly, does the Solicitor General do? She represents the government of the United States before the Supreme Court in cases where the government is one of the parties involved in the lawsuit.

Kagan is coming under fire on a few different fronts. Kagan hired 32 tenured and tenure-track professors when she was Dean of Harvard Law School. Only seven of these faculty members were female, and only one was a racial or ethnic minority. This could be explained by a relatively small sample size, or simply by the overabundance of white males in the law school ranks. Or it could be indicative of bias during the hiring process.

Kagan’s lack of judicial experience is also a concern to many. Although Kagan has considerable experience in academia, she has never presided over an actual trial.

Despite this, it is quite possible that Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate. If she joins the high court, it would have three female justices for the first time ever (Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor being the other two).

Perhaps more important is her age. At 50, she would be the youngest justice currently serving on the court (although she’s considerably older than Justice Joseph Story, who was just 32 when he was appointed by President Madison in 1811).

Age is an important consideration in a Supreme Court Justice because the justices are appointed for life. A justice cannot be fired. There is a good reason for this, of course – to insulate a sitting justice from political pressure. An influential senator cannot strong-arm a justice with any threats.

While the judicial branch is separate from the executive and legislative branches, it is nonetheless affected by those branches. Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The end result is that the justice often represents the views of the president who appoints them. It would be nice if justices were selected based solely on merit, but this simply is not the case. Every president attempts to influence the court with the justices they appoint.

Appointing a Supreme Court Justice is perhaps the most impactful thing a president can do – influencing important judicial decisions for decades after the president leaves office. I’m not a big fan of having the other two branches exert so much influence over the judicial branch, but I’m also not sure how this could be achieved in a more fair manner, aside from setting the confirmation bar very high (80%?) to ensure bipartisan support? I’m not sure if even the ghost of George Washington could get 80% approval in the Senate.

The justices are also not oblivious to political ramifications. Justices will often time their resignations to occur during the tenure of a president who is likely to replace them with a similar justice. When a justice is unable to this – for example, if they die suddenly – there can be a seismic shift in the makeup of the court.

From a partisan perspective, then, the perfect justice would not only align with the beliefs of the President and Senate, but would also be young and in good health in order to influence the direction of the court for many years to come before voluntarily stepping down at the perfect time for a suitable replacement to be seated on the court. The next step in vetting a nominee (if it isn’t already being done) may be a deep look into the medical history of the nominee and the nominee’s family, in an effort to determine the nominee’s susceptibility to heart attacks, strokes, and other ailments that could kill or incapacitate a justice.

I wonder what sorts of birthday presents a justice gets? Perhaps a health club membership and a fruit basket from the leader of the party that aligns with their beliefs – and an annual membership at the Gorge Yourself 24 Hour Buffet from the leader of the opposing party?