24 March 2010

On the constitutionality of the individual mandate

Best argument on why the individual mandate is both constitutional and necessary that I've seen thus far. . . .

From David Orentlicher:

The Supreme Court would have to overturn 70 years of case law to side with the attorneys general challenging the health care legislation. To be sure, there is a germ of truth to the argument that the federal government may not require people to buy an insurance policy. If Congress passed a law whose only provision entailed a mandate to purchase a product, and violators of the law were automatically subject to incarceration, constitutional concerns would arise. Imagine a criminal law that required people to buy an American-made automobile to bolster the domestic car industry. But that is not the kind of mandate that Congress passed. Rather, the obligation to purchase insurance, with its financial penalty of $750, falls readily within the commerce clause authority of Congress.

Under the commerce clause, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the health care insurance industry clearly satisfies the Supreme Court's understanding of interstate commerce. Further, the new legislation constitutes an important effort to regulate the health care insurance industry. Key elements of the legislation are the provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage or raising prices because of a person's "preexisting" medical conditions. Under current industry practices, many people cannot obtain health care coverage because they have heart disease or other medical problems that cause insurers to refuse coverage or charge higher premiums. The new law would prohibit these denials and higher charges so everyone can purchase affordable coverage.

But insurers cannot be asked to eliminate the higher charges unless everyone is required to have insurance. Otherwise, many people would wait until they became sick before buying coverage. In short, the individual mandate is a necessary component of the effort by Congress to protect people from unaffordable health insurance premiums. And under the Constitution, Congress is entitled to "make all laws which shall be necessary" for carrying out its commerce clause and other specified powers. Thus, the court made it clear in the medical marijuana case (Raich v. Gonzales) that Congress may regulate in areas that might not ordinarily fall within the commerce clause power if the policy is part of a broad regulatory program that falls within the commerce clause power.

10 February 2010

Exceeding the record

Tromped through the Patuxent Woods in Columbia, MD this afternoon at the height of this week's second nor'easter. Something is wrong. Snapshots below:

























All photos from Columbia, MD, 10 February 2010.

From top to bottom:

1 - Sinewy meshwork from the one and only back patio creature me I
2 - Sinewy meshwork from the one and only back patio creature me II
3 - Implications of leaning right
4 - Welcome to Poplar Glen Apartments!
5 - Faux exodus
6 - On behalf of Populus deltoides
7 - 203, uphill, empty inside, and none too amused
8 - Synaptic futility and failure, early phases
9 - In remembrance of the red-shouldered hawk, not appearing here
10 - God damn
11 - In remembrance of the wondrous and mysterious red fox hiding
12 - Closer to dunking
13 - Tell me why, godly, tell me why (and make it stop)
14 - 11650, buttressed equally and righteously on either side I might add
15 - Corridor to Jesus I
16 - Corridor to Jesus II
17 - Most deeply felt indication
18 - This is no longer amusing
19 - 35!
20 - Bend approaching Watch Chain Way and Poplar Glen, pedestrians no more
21 - Tree of yore no doubt, tree of yore
22 - Grim battles ahead
23 - Snow monster, large, and if I may, forlorn

People are encouraged not to panic


You can quickly become disoriented. Wait for emergency help to arrive. Periodically run your engine for heat. Ensure your exhaust pipe is cleared. Crack your windows, for God's sake, to avoid poisoning. Make yourself visible by tying a colored cloth to your antenna. Move your arms from time to time, your legs, fingers, and toes. Doing so will help keep the blood from coagulating.


Adapted from National Weather Service, Howard County, MD, 10 February 2010

07 February 2010

As yet another system begins to emerge over the central United States

First, a reminder of some predictions. From the Farmers' Almanac online at http://www.farmersalmanac.com:


Although 3/4 of the US is predicted to see near- or below-average precipitation this winter, that does not mean, natalnorgs, that there will not be any winter storms. On the contrary, significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone. For the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, for instance, we are predicting a major snowfall in mid-February, possibly even blizzard conditions....

And thus:


All photos from Annapolis, MD, 5–6 February 2010.

From top to bottom:

- Hill at height
- Madison at height
- Madison after storm
- Trek up Jefferson
- West after storm
- Igloo for a car

05 February 2010

In memory of the Donners




Snow incredible here. Nearly 1900. Worst yet to come...

26 January 2010

Michael Moore interview w/ Democracy Now!

Michael Moore's approach is often misguided, bullying, alarmist, and over the top, but sometimes he absolutely nails it, and I thought his interview with Amy Brown was in many ways right on the mark about our current state of affairs. Among the topics covered: Haiti, Afghanistan, this week's Supreme Court ruling on corporate funding in elections (as he rightly points out, a very depressing and debilitating decision indeed), the weakness and ineptitude of both Obama (grow a pair, sir) and the Democrats as a whole, and the fate of Bernanke and Geithner. It's fairly long, but it's well worth a gander in my humble opinion. Nice precursor to the State of the Union tomorrow night too.

Here's hoping everyone's doing well.

- vl

17 January 2010

And in so thinking to varying degrees (as I am hereby being stripped) on perhaps another tactic to be used in the war on terror

Why Haiti Matters:
What America Must Do
and How

Adapted from http://www.newsweek.com/id/231131/output/print


During the this past week we have been moved by the devastation in Haiti. Entire swaths of Port-au-Prince are in ruins. Families seek shelter in makeshift camps. Children search desperately for their mothers and fathers; mothers and fathers search desperately for their children. Both to no avail. Anarchy reigns in the darkened streets.

We have ordered

We have ordered a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives in Haiti. We have instructed the leaders of all agencies to make our response a top priority across the federal government. We are mobilizing every element of our national capacity: the resources of development agencies, the strength of our armed forces, and most important, the compassion of the American people. And we are working closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations, and the many international partners who are also aiding in this extraordinary effort. We act on behalf of all who have been affected. We act for the thousands of American citizens who are in Haiti and for their families back home. We act on behalf of the Haitian people. And we act for a very simple reason. In times of tragedy, we step forward and help. That is who we are. That is what we do. At no time is that more true than in moments of great peril and human suffering. When we show our compassion, the world looks to us. That advances our leadership. That shows the character of our country. And it is why every citizen can look at this relief effort with the pride of knowing that America is acting on behalf of our common humanity.

Tell me who,
and why it matters

Right now, our search-and-rescue teams are on the ground, pulling people from the rubble. Americans from Virginia and California and Florida have worked round the clock to save people whom they've never met. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen quickly deployed to the scene. Hand in hand with our civilians, they're laboring day and night to facilitate a massive logistical enterprise; to deliver and distribute food, water, and medicine to save lives; and to prevent an even larger humanitarian catastrophe.

Greater help is on the way. This will be a complex and difficult rescue and recovery operation, and it takes time to move all of the resources necessary into such a devastated environment. But more American rescue teams, doctors, nurses, and paramedics will arrive to care for the injured. More water, food, and supplies will be delivered. An aircraft carrier has arrived. A naval hospital ship has been deployed. And additional aircraft and heavy equipment will restore communications and clear roads and ports to speed relief and hasten recovery.

In the days, months, and years ahead, we will need to work closely with the government and people of Haiti to reclaim the momentum that they achieved before the earthquake. It is particularly devastating that this crisis has come at a time when—at long last, after decades of conflict and instability—Haiti was showing hopeful signs of political and economic progress. As the tremors fade and Haiti no longer tops the headlines or leads the evening news, our mission will be to help the people of Haiti to continue on their path to a brighter future. We will be there with the Haitian government and the United Nations every step of the way.

11 January 2010

Grime upon which to return


My how I have not missed you.

Nevertheless, a fascinating defense in the making for your perusal...

11 January 2010
Adapted from AP report

On a balmy Sunday morning in May, on the east side of Wichita, Kansas, a man by the name of Scott Roeder rose inconspicuously from his pew at Reformation Lutheran and walked discreetly to the foyer, where two ushers had been chatting around a table. Mr. Roeder carried with him a .22-caliber handgun, and as he moseyed on into the foyer he pressed the barrel to the forehead of one of the ushers, unsuspecting abortion doctor George Tiller, and blew his brains all to hell. Roeder's premeditated, first-degree murder trial begins Wednesday, and no one—not even Roeder himself—disputes the fact that he killed Tiller. But what had been expected to be an open-and-shut murder trial was upended Friday when a judge decided to let Roeder argue he should be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because he believed the May 31 slaying would save unborn children. Prosecutors on Monday challenged the ruling, arguing that such a defense is not appropriately considered with premeditated first-degree murder when there is no evidence of an imminent attack at the time of the killing. Jury selection was thus delayed. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to give the defense time to respond. "The State encourages this Court to not be the first to enable a defendant to justify premeditated murder because of an emotionally charged political belief," the prosecution wrote. "Such a ruling has far-reaching consequences...."

See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/us/13roeder.html?ref=us