Day: 2015.03.04

The One About How Nine Justices Walk Into a Bar ….

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. Scalia and fellow Associate Justice Stephen Breyer testified to the subcommittee about the Administrative Conference of the United States. (Photo: Stephen A. Masker)

“Congratulations, Congress, you’ve literally sunk to the level of a punch line.”

Steve Benen

The proposition that Congress is a punch line strikes few as new material. Even the idea that a Solicitor General would take the shot is not so strange. Yet Steve Benen makes the point about Justice Scalia’s blithe view of the 114th Congress:

Scalia wasn’t kidding. “I don’t care what Congress you’re talking about,” he added. “If the consequences are as disastrous as you say, so many million people ­­ without insurance and whatnot – yes, I think this Congress would act.”

On a purely theoretical level, this is not ridiculous. Major new laws have routinely needed minor technical fixes for generations, and many of these corrections are intended to bring clarity to ambiguous phrases. Under normal circumstances, the King v. Burwell case wouldn’t even exist because Congress would have clarified the ACA structure years ago.

And, again in theory, if the Supreme Court were to decide in this case that the statute needs clarification, a sane, mature, responsible legislative branch would simply add a few words to the ACA law and ensure that consumers receive the same insurance subsidies they’re receiving now.

But that’s all the more reason to understand exactly why Scalia is wrong.

Perhaps it is Justice Scalia who is the punch line. Then again, neither is that news.


Crossposted (Facebook Fairy Cake Edition)

One thing about the American attitude is that we’ve transformed our outlook during my lifetime; one opens a business not with careful planning, but with an idea and a perception of opportunity. Many of these small, family-run businesses survive by the skins of their teeth, and develop functional business plans on the fly.

There is this aspect; a small bakery in Indianapolis likely does face constant financial challenges, and that in turn sucks the vitality out of the dream of being a baker or confectionist. As with all things, art is much more fun when it’s not a living.

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 27 February 2015.But we are also a nation that believes in the proverbial fifteen minutes. Fame brings opportunity for profit. Though it is unclear what role this plays, the Indianapolis bakery is the second or third to gain headline traction for closing as a protest of conscience against civil rights; there was one in Oregon, and I believe also down in Arizona, but I’d have to check.

What we’re noticing on our plentiful American ground is that nobody really gives a damn. It’s as if American society is simply shrugging and moving on, and nobody is making the explicit point because nobody wants to be the one to pretend it is important enough to stop and take the moment to explain it to a bunch of people who won’t listen, anyway.

But there it is: Whether they were going under before, or simply fell out of love with their business dream, or are genuinely pursuing their consciences according to some perverse assertion of self-interest, the conventional wisdom on these outcomes seems to be that they did it to themselves. On some level, people are thinking, “Well, you could have just made the fucking cake and found some other way to chase everyone away from your business beating your chest about the conscience of your bigotry.”

This way, though, whatever the reasons one’s business is going under, blaming the government and calling yourself a victim is one way to appeal to the fifteen minutes; maybe social media will bring them a pile of cash from sympathizers. Then again, it’s not like we only left them a Negro―that is to say, nobody’s dead―so it’s not quite spectacular enough to get people sending that reward money.

It seems like almost a side note, but watch how showbiz and the fifteen minutes become so many Americans’ backup plans. Maybe one of these bakers will run for state legislature. Or, hell, Congress. House seats carry a low bar for admission among Republican voters.


Note: Would you believe this was crossposted from Facebook? Yeah, it happens sometimes. A special tip of the hat and many thanks to Sean and Ben for inspiring this brief consideration in the wake of reports that another bigot bakery broke.

Image note: Detail of Mary Death by Matt Tarpley, 27 February 2015. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this one.