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Archive for the ‘Aw shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii’ Category

There’s much hand-wringing today from liberals regarding the oral arguments for the Health Care Cases, with Jeffrey Toobin calling the oral argument a “train wreck” for liberals, and Dahlia Lithwick fairly pessimistic about the affair.

It’s worth asking, though, whether these oral arguments will matter at all. In smaller cases, the Court may actually care about the quality of arguments floated at oral argument, in order to better define the contours of the case for them. Let’s not kid ourselves; the Justices didn’t need to ask any questions today to get the answers they were looking for.

That’s not to say that oral arguments don’t show some sign of the arguments to come, but that’s only the case if the lawyer is totally blindsided by the arguments. For example, in United States v. Lopez, the first case since the New Deal to actually limit Congress’s Commerce Clause powers, everyone assumed that the case, which involved Gun-Free School Zones, was a no-brainer. After all, no one had challenged Commerce Clause power seriously in 60 years. But then, in the first few minutes, Justice O’Connor (the then swing Justice) asked then-Solicitor General Drew Days whether there were any limits to Congress’s Commerce power. It was a shock at the time, because everyone assumed it was a settled question.

By the time of the Health Care cases, these issues are well-known and in the open, so when Solicitor General Verrelli got the question today, he was ready with responses, even though commentators found his performance wanting.

My point is that from oral argument alone, particularly in cases where the stakes are as high as this, you can understand almost nothing. This is the grand theater of the Supreme Court, but honestly, the operation of the Court is behind closed doors and won’t really be known for a decade or so (or more).

Justice Thomas is often criticized for not speaking during oral arguments, but he’s just not willing to acknowledge that it’s mostly a sham. Justice Thomas knows he won’t learn anything from oral arguments, and that much of it is about showing off for the Justices, not about developing theories of law.

We agonize over and parse the oral arguments because that’s all we have. Tea leaf reading must occupy us while the Supreme Court does the debating in chambers.

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With modern materials, motors, etc., humans have apparently achieved flight like birds, flappy wings and all.

I wonder often about path-dependency and determination, particularly when it comes to inventions and innovations. For example, if there had been more advanced fabrics and miniaturized motors in the early 1900s, would we have seen flappy flight before fixed wing flight? Or did we need fixed-wing flight to get miniaturized motors? It would seem impossible to imagine a world with flight, but without fixed-wing flight. Yet, is it really so implausible? Certainly experimenters at the time liked the idea. With different materials, who knows what they could have done?

When the term “thinking outside the box” is bandied about, I always wonder who among the human race will actually go out and do the crazy thing that everyone thinks is stupid. Apparently this guy. Also these dudes. Flying looks fantastic:

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It’s not that they’re rudderless, or that they have few defined principles. I think they do have defined principles, so that’s not my beef.

My thing is — they’re not radical enough.

Here’s an abridged list of demands (cobbled from various sources):

  • Remove the influence of money in government, presumably by campaign-finance legislation (but see Citizens United?)
  • Return to Glass-Steagall
  • Raise taxes on the rich
  • Raise taxes on corporations
  • Eliminate corporate welfare
  • Keep Medicare and Social Security benefits at current levels

By contrast, here’s a list of Tea Party demands:

  1. Identify constitutionality of every new law
  2. Reject emissions trading
  3. Demand a balanced federal budget
  4. Simplify the tax system
  5. Audit federal government agencies for waste and constitutionality
  6. Limit annual growth in federal spending
  7. Repeal the healthcare legislation passed on March 23, 2010
  8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Policy
  9. Reduce Earmarks
  10. Reduce Taxes

One of these agendas contains relatively sensible policy; one of them is totally bonkers. One group is essentially pushing for what was conservative U.S. policy as recently as the Bush I administration; the other group is pushing for a complete reimagining of the purpose of the federal government not seen since the New Deal (or possibly the Civil War). The problem is that the two are now being equated; in fact, the Tea Party is given more credence by the media because they’re old (and actually vote).

Instead of actually calling for radical things (say, nationalizing and breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks, or creating massive public works programs akin to the New Deal, or a financial transactions tax), the Occupy Wall Street movement is pushing for normal sensible policy.

If anything, this puts Obama further into a box; now he will want to appear as if his plan is not merely appeasing the protestors. If the Occupy Wall Street marks the radical position on the American left, we’re even more fucked than I thought.

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I read Calculated Risk (and you should too!) for its aggregation of various economic indicators and trends.

But every once in a while, Bill McBride will write some editorial comments and, well, this one’s short and depressing.

Basically, McBride lays out the terrible options the Obama administration is considering, namely literally nothing (passing things through Congress) or targeted tax incentives for hiring workers:

Tax incentives are the “bigger idea”? It sounds like the debate is between doing nothing and doing very little.

If I arrived on the scene today – with a 9.1% unemployment rate and about 4.6 million homes with seriously delinquent mortgages or REO – I’d be arguing for an aggressive policy response.

Indeed, it’s weird to think about this without the history of the stimulus, but if Obama stepped into office today, instead of in 2008, he would be calling for stimulus. So much for that ship.

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This may be out of date soon, but there is word of a compromise on the debt ceiling.

But bear in mind, no matter what this compromise looks like, it will almost certainly be bad for America in the short-term and long-term.

It will almost certainly be composed of some massive spending cuts in FY2012.

It will almost certainly include no revenue increases of any kind.

It will almost certainly not preclude another budget fight in September over funding the government.

It will almost certainly take government funding away from the poorest Americans.

It will do absolutely nothing to stimulate an increasingly stagnant economy.

It will set the precedent of turning the debt ceiling into a regular hostage situation.

It will do absolutely nothing to stop the long-term debt problem, most of which is tied up in health care costs.

Roosevelt gave us the New Deal.

Truman gave us the Fair Deal.

Johnson gave us the New Society.

Obama and the Republican House are about to give us Austerity Society.

Bruce Ackerman may not be depressed, but I sure am.

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I’m not even linking to the stupid op-ed in WaPo by the Tea Party founder guy bashing the Boehner plan as not radical enough. Because fuck that guy.

But what irks me the most about it is the idea that if we don’t cut enough, we’re going to turn into Greece.

Hey, idiots, the only reason we are at any risk of turning into Greece is because YOU REFUSE TO RAISE THE GODDAMNED DEBT CEILING.

Unlike Greece and the UK and others, people are still willing to invest in U.S. Treasury Bonds because they are the safest investment on earth. That means we still get ridiculously low interest rates on our global credit line. The only way the debt crisis is going to become a crisis is if IDIOTS LIKE TEA PARTY DUDE CONVINCE AMERICA TO DEFAULT.

It’s like punching yourself in the face because you’re worried that someone else might punch you in the face sometime later and you just want to preempt them.

Or something.

See title.

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It’s time to pay our penance for steaks. Someone should make that movie.

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