Supreme Court’s grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

Supreme Court's grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are
John Roberts at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 13, 2005 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)


It’s great that we’re no longer pretending the Supreme Court is immune to politics

Cue up the sad David Brooks violin playing softly in the corner of a dark alley at 3 a.m., because Americans have no faith in powerful institutions anymore. One of those institutions would be the marbled shrine atop our third branch of American government, the Supreme Court. A new Associated Press poll shows that “only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the [Affordable Care Act] rather than their personal opinions” in the Court’s impending King v. Burwell decision.

To us, that 10 percent figure seems way too high. As far as we can tell, it’s not 1 in 10 Americans who view our Supreme Court as a neutral collection of jurists who just want to call “balls and strikes,” but 1 American total: Chief Justice John Roberts. And maybe even not him?

The American people, the always trusty American people, have the Supreme Court’s number here. As with so many cases about why the American people have lost trust in a powerful institution, we can look to some of the powerful institution’s recent actions, going back at least to Bush v. Gore through Citizens United and Hobby Lobby and whatever primetime hit job comes next.

That next hit job may come soon in King v. Burwell, which, if ruled for the plaintiffs, would invalidate premium subsidies for those who’ve purchased individual health insurance plans on federally facilitated exchanges. The expected decision based on tea-leaf readings coming out of oral arguments was 5-4 or 6-3 in favor of upholding the subsidies, which tells you a lot about how weak the case is. But there is another possible outcome: 5-4 to strike down the subsidies, because the Supreme Court is ruled by a five-member majority of conservative justices who think that the Affordable Care Act is dumb.

The last time a legal challenge to Obamacare of this breadth made it to the Supreme Court, four justices voted not just to strike down the individual mandate but the entire law as well, because they believed that the law was dumb. They didn’t like it! Get rid of it! John Roberts originally sided with them but then, to the consternation of his conservative colleagues, switched his vote because such a hackish decision would have made the Supreme Court look too hackish. Roberts contented himself merely to gut the hell out of the Medicaid expansion and force the Obama administration to acknowledge that the individual mandate is a tax.

Very few Court watchers are basing their predictions of the King decision on the merits of the case, and rightly so. If it was being decided on the merits of the case, everyone would be betting that it would be upheld 9-0. Does anyone think that’s going to happen? No. It will all come down to how John Roberts, and perhaps Anthony Kennedy, feel about managing the politics. They want to screw over Obamacare but yeeeesh, would that backfire on the Court and conservatives? Would that make life more difficult for the Republican party heading into 2016? On the other hand: Would John Roberts ever eat lunch in Conservative This Town again if he sided with The Libruls to uphold a core component of Obamacare? It’s all about finding the right balance of these competing political considerations. The Democratic and Republican parties rightly recognize the nature of the situation here and have spent months trying to get inside John Roberts’ head. It is what it is.

Let’s consider a more generous version of what’s happened to the Supreme Court of late: that it’s merely followed the broader trend in American politics towards polarization. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be looking at the same piece of legislation before them but seeing something completely different, so divergent have the liberal and conservative worldviews become. And these are justices who were appointed a generation ago. The next round of justices will have made their careers during this time of high-stakes judicial polarization.

That next round of justices may come very soon, since several Supreme Court justices are approximately one million years old. As Ian Millhiser writes at Think Progress, Rick Perry correctly emphasized the importance of the next presidential election in a speech this weekend:

“Something I want you all to think about is that the next president of the United States, whoever that individual may be, could choose up to three, maybe even four members of the Supreme Court,” Perry told the South Carolina audience. So this election “isn’t about who’s going to be the president of the United States for just the next four years. This could be about individuals who have an impact on you, your children, and even our grandchildren. That’s the weight of what this election is really about.”

I hate the “you have to vote in the next election because of the Supreme Court!” argument. I hate it because it lets the candidates off the hook: they can offer nothing whatsoever to voters and then rely on SCOTUS fearmongering to get out the vote. I also hate it because it’s a very credible argument. There is never going to be another David Souter, or a justice who gets confirmed and then has an ideological shift on the bench. This next presidential election will also be an election for the next generation of the Supreme Court, and it’s no tragedy that most Americans understand this cynical reality.

GOP’s Obamacare conspiracy: Sabotage from the inside

GOP's Obamacare conspiracy: Sabotage from the inside
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, asks a question during the committee’s hearing with contractors that built the federal government’s health care websites, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. (Credit: AP/Evan Vucci)


Yes, the Affordable Care Act rollout of the exchanges is a mess — and I agree with Brian Beutler and Jonathan Cohn that liberals should be pressing the White House hard to get it fixed, and with Ezra Klein that the ACA’s “success doesn’t depend on spin or solidarity. What matters for the law — and for the people who are depending on it — is how well it actually works.”

So I definitely don’t think the president and his administration should be let off the hook for the very real problems that have plagued the program this month.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that whatever their own responsibility for what’s gone wrong, the White House shares responsibility with the Republicans who have spent three years actively attempting to undermine the law. I’m not talking about repeal votes, which (while silly after a while) were totally legitimate, or about running against the program in subsequent elections, which was again entirely fair. No, I’m talking about actions designed — usually openly — not to make the law work better in their view, but to make it harder for the law to work well.

While some of these had obvious direct effects, most of them did not. And it’s hard, in most cases, to draw a direct causal line between disruptive actions and specific malfunctions in the Web site. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that any of these actively helped make the program run smoothly, and very easy to believe that the cumulative effect had at least some part to play in the October fiasco. So with all that said, here’s a very incomplete set of eight ways that Republicans attempted, perhaps successfully, to undermine the ACA:

Filibustering personnel: In particular, Senate Republicans prevented the confirmation of an Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid until May, 2013. That’s the agency that has the lead in getting things running. The general conventional wisdom, almost certainly true, is that neither an acting director or a recess appointed director has the clout within an agency of a properly nominated and confirmed presidential appointee.

Passing on state-run exchanges: With over half the states refusing to set up their own marketplaces, the job of the federal government was much larger than originally envisioned. And this was clearly not done with good intentions: ask 100 Republicans whether they believe the states or the federal government does a better job running things, and at least 99 are going to say the states.

Defunding: While the recent major defunding push failed, House Republicans successfully restricted funding for Health and Human Services and the agencies in charge of implementing the ACA, forcing Secretary Sebelius (and presumably various others at the department and various agencies) to scramble to make up for it.

Myths and lies: How many times since March 2010 has someone at the White House or a Democrat in Congress called over to HHS to ask about some crazy rumor that the press or a constituent was asking about? How much time was dedicated to figuring out what it was all about so that it could be properly refuted?

The big lawsuit: Granted, there’s some legitimacy in challenging the Constitutional status of a law, as long as it’s not frivolous, and the partial success of the lawsuit is sufficient to show it wasn’t entirely frivolous. Still, the type of attack involved in the lawsuit made it clear that reform opponents, if they couldn’t defeat the law, would be happy to leave it dysfunctional.

Other lawsuits: There have been plenty of these, and many of them really have been frivolous. As with the one that reached the Supreme Court, all of these have had the effect of delaying implementation, given that the status of the law was under fire.

Medicaid expansion: Not only did the state-by-state fights over Medicaid expansion mean that the program could not work as intended — the ability of states to opt out opens up a large hole for the not-quite-poor — but again, just dealing with this must have been yet another distraction.

Suppressing outreach: The administration knew that it had a major task in publicizing the rollout. What made that harder (and, presumably, distracted them from the critical task of making everything work smoothly) was a bizarre and perverse effort to undermine outreach: organizations such as the NFL were threatened if they helped to publicize the law, and an advertising campaign attempted to scare young people away from wanting to carry any health insurance.

Again: it’s hard to draw a straight line between any of these efforts and the administration’s failures. What we do know, however, is that time is limited; any day that a department secretary spends on one part of her job is a day she can’t focus on a different part. And then some of these had direct effects of increasing the amount of work the federal government had to do (such as the decisions not to run state exchanges) or to delay when they could do that work (such as the lawsuits). Others restricted the resources available. And some were just distractions.

Which leaves the question: how does the October rollout go if none of this had happened? If there had been aggressive oversight by Republicans in the House, and perhaps a few repeal votes, but otherwise elected Republicans had done their best to carry out the law even if they disagreed with it? We’ll never know the answer, and again this kind of question is definitely not intended to deflect the share of the responsibility that the president and his administration should take. But my guess? It would have been a whole different ballgame.

– Don Babets


20 Questions You Have About Obamacare But Are Too Afraid To Ask

Supreme Court Health Care

The following links will lead the reader back to Think Progress.  Each numbered link will connect to the corresponding answer on TP.

Think Progress

If you’re confused about Obamacare, you’re not alone. Over the past several years, every survey on the subject has revealed that Americans consistently fail to correctly identify the provisions that are actually in the Affordable Care Act. In April, a poll found that 40 percent of Americans weren’t sure about whether Obamacare was still law at all.

Administration officials are racing against the clock to reverse those incorrect public perceptions, ramping up their outreach efforts before the health law’s new state-level marketplaces open for enrollment this upcoming week. As the open enrollment period draws near, you may be wondering how it affects you or what you need to do. Or you may simply want to understand more about the law that’s dominating the news. Here are simple answers to 20 questions about Obamacare that may have you mystified (click on each question to jump down to the answer, or just scroll down to read all of them):


1. Will Obamacare end up costing me money?

2. What if I already have health insurance?

3. If I’m keeping my current health insurance, does Obamacare benefit me?

4. Health insurance is so hard to figure out. How can I even tell what’s in my plan?

5. Why did I get a check in the mail from my insurance company?

6. Are dental or vision insurance plans affected by the new law?

7. What are the “exchanges,” and should people like me join them?

8. If I want to sign up for a new government-organized health plan, how can I?

9. Why am I hearing so much about October 1? What does that date mean for me?

10. What if I can’t afford any health coverage?

11. If I don’t want to get insurance, am I going to have to pay?

12. What happens to my insurance if I change jobs?

13. Is Obamacare still at risk of getting repealed or defunded?

14. Is it true that Obamacare keeps getting delayed?

15. Who will wind up benefiting most from the new law?

16. How do gay couples factor into Obamacare?

17. Is it true that Obamacare will force me to switch doctors/ make my company cut my hours/ violate my privacy/ end employer-run health insurance as we know it?

18. Will my spouse lose his or her health coverage under Obamacare?

19. What’s the timeline for rolling out all of these features? What’s already happened and what are we still waiting for?

20. Where do I go to ask more questions?



Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack criticizes constituent for wearing a Mexican flag shirt to town hall meeting

arkansas rep. steve womack

This is wrong on so many levels, especially since the questioner mentioned at the onset that he was a proud Mexican-American

The Raw Story

At a heated town hall meeting, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AK) chose to address the most important issue of the day: the shirt that a constituent, Yardley Leonard, was wearing when he asked the Representative a question about immigration reform.

Leonard, who identified himself as being “Mexican-American” and was wearing a shirt with a Mexican flag on it, asked Womack if it would be possible “to legalize the 11 million [undocumented immigrants] who are here and contributing.” After providing Leonard with a boilerplate Republican response — that this is “a country of laws” and people here “illegally” want him to “walk away [and] just say ‘the law doesn’t count for a day’” — Womack stopped Leonard as he walked back to his seat.

“It does strike me as a bit odd,” Womack said, “that I would get a question as to why we shouldn’t just automatically make it legal for people who didn’t come here in a legal circumstance, with a flag of another country hanging around his neck.”

He then offered Leonard “some good ol’ friendly advice.”

“If you want to win friends and influence people on the issues that you are talking about, I would suggest a little different approach in terms of my attire when I’m appealing to an audience like this.”

The mostly white “audience like this” lustily applauded Womack’s wardrobe advice.

Watch a video of Leonard and Womack’s exchange here:

The Right’s Blind Hate

Republican depravity –

Mario Piperni

This is one of the hot stories of the day so you’ve probably come across it already. I’m posting it here in the event that I ever forget why I loathe the tea party and Republican politicians as much as I do. I’ll just come back to this story, read the first sentence below, and instantly know that every ounce of repulsion I feel for these people is justified.

A Tennessee tea party Republican congressman told a frightened little girl at a town hall meeting on Thursday in Murfreesboro, TN that laws are laws and that her undocumented father is going to have to be deported. According to, 11-year-old Josie Molina told Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R) that she has papers but her father does not.

During a question and answer session at the meeting, Molina stepped up to the microphone and, with a quavering voice, asked, “Mr. DesJarlais, I have papers, but I have a dad who’s undocumented. What can I do to have him stay with me?”

Rather than make any attempt to assuage the girl’s fears, Desjarlais said, “Thank you for being here and thank you for coming forward and speaking,” but “the answer still kind of remains the same, that we have laws and we need to follow those laws and that’s where we’re at.”

Disgusting, right? But what would you expect from a former doctor who had a number of adulterous affairs with female patients. Desjarlais had run on a strict anti-choice platform although he insisted that one of his mistresses have an abortion after discovering that she was pregnant with his child. That’s how it works with pigs like Desjarlais. In front of a microphone, they’re anti-choice conservatives preaching family values. Away from the stage, they’re screwing around like rabbits on Viagra and setting up abortions for their daughters and mistresses. And if they get caught, they know that simply informing the pea-brained baggers who will vote for them that God has forgiven them for their unfortunate act of indiscretion is all that is required to make the pain go away.

In case you think this story could not get any uglier, there’s this. After Desjarlais destroyed a little girl’s dream of keeping her family together – and doing so without a single word of compassion or concern for her impending and tragic loss – here’s what happened.

The tea party crowd whooped and applauded wildly as the little girl took her seat, head down. Progressive Populist reported that Josie Molina’s father is currently in the process of being deported and that the girl is seeing a child psychologist in order to cope with the stress and anxiety.

Is there any doubt that blind hate is at the core of tea party politics?

With Voting Rights Act Gutted, Florida Set To Resume Voter Purge

The Department of Justice and other civil rights advocates have their work cut out for them…

Think Progress

Florida’s controversial initiative to screen for suspected non-citizens and purge them from the voter rolls is allowed to officially resume, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A Hispanic civil rights group and two naturalized citizens sued last year to block the purge, arguing that it needed to be approved by the federal government because five Florida counties were covered under the Voting Rights Act. After the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a key section of the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had little choice but to dismiss the suit. Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) said he plans to resume the voter purge.

In 2012, the Department of Justice warned that Florida’s voter purge, which targeted roughly 180,000 people, was illegal, and all of the state’s county election supervisors refused to execute the purge. The lists of flagged individuals — many of whom had Latino-sounding names — also turned out to be largely inaccurate. These flagged individuals would receive notifications in the mail notifying them that they had 30 days to contest the purge.

The state had to partially settle with a civil rights group and restore suspected non-citizens to the rolls, but soon tried to re-start the purge just a month before the November presidential election with a drastically pared down list of 198 voters.

After all the legal battles and thousands of wasted taxpayer dollars, the state could not turn up virtually any non-citizens who were registered to vote.

Florida voters, particularly in minority-heavy urban areas, suffered some of the longest lines and most chaotic elections in the country last year. The mayhem was largely created by Republican lawmakers’ efforts to suppress votes. Besides trying to purge voters, Republicans cut the number of early voting days in half, changed ballot length restrictions so they could add frivolous constitutional amendments to 12-page ballots, and restricted voter registration. These voter suppression efforts discouraged at least 201,000 Floridians from voting, and black and Latino voters waited nearly twice as long as white voters. The backlash was so fierce that even Gov. Rick Scott (R), the primary defender of these voter suppression laws, agreed to sign an election reform law undoing most of the damage.

Prominent Florida Republicans admitted shortly after the election that the motive behind all these election law changes was to make it harder for Democrats to vote.


I’m a bit late reporting this…

The Huffington Post

The Supreme Court has thrown out lower court rulings that blocked a Texas voter identification law and the state’s political redistricting plans as discriminatory.

The court’s action Thursday was a predictable result of its major ruling two days earlier that effectively ended the federal government’s strict supervision of elections in Texas and other states with a history of discrimination in voting.

The justices ordered lower courts to reconsider in light of Tuesday’s ruling.

In both the voter ID and redistricting cases, the court stopped the state from putting in place the laws under the advance approval requirement of the Voting Rights Act.

The court has said that part of the law cannot be used unless Congress develops a new formula for determining which states and localities should be covered.

Tea Party Whining Backfires as All Political Groups Could Lose Tax Exempt Status

Dave Camp greets Becky Gerritson (right) of the Wetumpka, Ala., Tea Party on June 4. | AP Photo
Dave Camp greets Becky Gerritson (right) of the Wetumpka, Ala., Tea Party on June 4. | AP Photo

Irony, thy name is the Tea Party…


More lawmakers are beginning to call out the fact that social welfare groups should not be subsidized by the American taxpayers if they are violating the law with political activity.

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) excoriated Republicans for failing to understand the basic language of the laws governing 501(c) 4s. He explained that the statue says they shouldn’t have any political activity, and so the real scandal is why aren’t Republicans even bringing the statute up in their hearings and why isn’t the IRS following the law.

Appearing Tuesday night on the Last Word, Blumenauer said, “They shouldn’t be shielded from public disclosure by the 501(c)4 status where they get millions of dollars and not required to disclose…. They shouldn’t disguise political action behind the guise of social welfare. It is not healthy, it’s not right, it’s not legal, we should stop it.”

Watch here via NBC news:


Republicans paraded Tea Partiers in front of the cameras Tuesday to decry the “jackboot” of tyranny descending upon them via the IRS, never realizing that they are all in violation of the law. Tea Partiers put on an embarrassing display of ignorance combined with a staggering sense of entitlement with the following hyperbolic claims:

“This is about tyranny on the field of our founding documents.”
“I feel our country turned a corner into tyranny.”
“I am not here as a vessel, I am not begging the lords for mercy.”

Republicans made a huge miscalculation in bringing national attention to the blatant abuse of the statute by some social welfare groups. The law is very clear: The group must be engaged exclusively in social welfare.

Lawrence O’Donnell was pleased to report that more lawmakers are now talking about that scandal — the real scandal of the IRS, which is that the law is not being upheld in regards to social welfare groups. In the hearings Monday, the IRS auditors explained that one of the troubling things they found was a failure to review groups that were intervening in political campaigns.

Continue reading here…


Police Chief Calls Out Armed Protest Threat In Washington DC

Think Progress

A July 4 march encourages gun advocates tocarry loaded rifles into Washington, DC and knowingly break the law. Although described as a nonviolent “act of civil obedience,” organizer Adam Kokesh implied a threat of violence if “the government chooses to make it violent.” He encourages participants to peacefully submit to law enforcers but underlines that point with, “We are truly saying in the SUBTLEST way possible that we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.”

Since Friday, more than 2,000 people have RSVPed to the march to “put the government on notice.”

In a local news channel interview pointed out by Politico, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier explained that this is an open disregard for DC law:

[W]hen you cross with firearms and you’re not in compliance with the law now you’re talking about a criminal offense and there’s going to be some action by police. Obviously there has been no permit filed by the organizer and we’ve not made contact with the organizer yet. But we will, and we’ll make sure they understand that if they want to pass through the District of Columbia with loaded firearms as long as they are in compliance with the firearms laws for transportation of firearms to the District, we’re all for it. But passing into the District of Columbia with firearms is a violation of the law and we’ll have to treat it as such.

Whether Lanier’s warning invigorates or extinguishes the protest remains unclear.

Kokesh’s plans, along with a series of other open carry protests, undermines arguments made by the National Rifle Association against gun violence prevention. The NRA claims that it is unfair of the government to strengthen background checks or ban assault rifles for law-abiding citizens. Yet this protest plans to purposely break the law.

That point is missed by Kokesh. Open carry is illegal in the District, but Kokesh wants to aim his message at the federal government for attempting modest background checks supported by gun owners and non-gun owners alike.


The Greatest Failure Conservatives Make When it Comes to our Constitution


Forward Progressives

Perspective—it’s something I always encourage people to use.  Unfortunately many people are reluctant, or incapable, of doing so.

This is especially true when it comes to our Constitution.  How dare anyone say an unkind word about the “infallible Constitution.”

But let’s take a look at just a little bit of what the original interpretation of our Constitution allowed.

Our Constitution, when it was written, allowed for very young women (13-14 in many cases) to be married off by families in arranged marriages to much older men.  Well it didn’t “allow” for it as much as it didn’t prevent it from happening.

This probably had to do with the fact that the average life expectancy in the late-1700′s was around 35 years of age.  Probably another reason why our right to health care wasn’t that big of a deal back then.

However, now days if a 13 year old girl was married off to a 30 year old man we would call that child trafficking, statutory rape, child molestation—or all three.  The man would be labeled as a sex offender, then be required to register as one for the rest of his life.  By the rest of his life I mean as soon as he was freed after serving a very lengthy prison sentence.

Then we have the almighty Second Amendment and the words “shall not be infringed.”  Many believe this amendment is one of the foundations of our rights as Americans.  It’s meant to empower people against a tyrannical government.  When people use this argument, based upon words written over 200 years ago (during a time very different from our own), they completely ignore the glaring fact that our society has changed drastically.

The Second Amendment was written during a time where militias were our primary means of defense against enemies, Native American conflict was frequent and “going out to dinner” meant a family hunting trip in the woods.

Oh, and when guns were single-shot muskets.  (Ed. Emphasis are mine)

Do you really think that if the Founding Fathers knew what our society would become, and what weapons would evolve into, they would have been so general with the wording of our Second Amendment?  After all, couldn’t some argue that “right to bear arms” means all arms?  Things like plastic explosives or military style rocket launchers and missiles.  I mean, if weapons are meant to “keep our government fearful of its citizens,” why is it that the federal government gets to have all of the really kick-ass weapons?

Shouldn’t we, as American citizens who celebrate our Second Amendment, be allowed to own F-22 Raptors loaded to capacity with however many missiles or bombs it can carry?  What could possibly go wrong with selling RPG’s at Walmart—without a background check?

Just imagine if someone could travel back in time and tell a father in 1780, “No, you cannot marry off your daughter to that much older man, that’s illegal.  Oh, and so is owning slaves.”  That father would have scoffed at your attempt to “infringe upon his rights as an American” and you would be deemed unconstitutional by many—if you were lucky enough not to be shot, or hung as “treasonous” for even suggesting something so preposterous.

Yet, in 2013, if someone advocated for the rights of families to sell off their young daughters to older men and for people to be allowed to own slaves, sane people would call them disgusting monsters.

Perspective is not a dirty word.  In fact, it should always be used when referencing the “core of our Constitution” (something written over 200 years ago) and how it translates into a modern society. Refusing to acknowledge proper perspective is the greatest failure conservatives make when discussing our Constitution, and how it should be applied today.

Because I hate to break it to conservatives, but progressive liberal ideas are an American tradition.  They’re what freed the slaves, gave women the right to vote, ended child labor, created Social Security and Medicare, built public schools and our Interstate Highways, integrated schools, brought groundbreaking technologies, discovered life changing health advancements and pushed our country forward.

Those were all done by “radical liberals” bucking tradition, not conservative Americans sticking to it.