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Supreme Court: Gay Marriage Now Legal in all 50 States

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 11:14 AM EDT

Jeez, sleep in a few minutes and you miss out. This has turned out to be lefty week at the Supreme Court:

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

No surprises here: it was the four liberal justices in the majority plus Anthony Kennedy, who has long been sympathetic to gay causes. And the timing was about right. It's one thing to say that marriage is quintessentially a state issue, but common sense dictates that states should (a) have roughly the same rules, and (b) should respect each other's marriages. Gay marriage has now been approved in enough states that it was time to set a nationwide standard. It's one thing for different states to have different waiting times or different medical requirements, but not fundamentally different rules on who can get married in the first place.

And for those who think the Supreme Court is locked away in a bubble, take a look at the chart on the right. 57 percent of all Americans now approve of same-sex marriage and 70 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34. This was a freight train, and obviously Kennedy thought it was time to get off the tracks and get on board.

So hooray for the Supreme Court this week. They saved Obamacare; they saved non-discrimination requirements in low-income housing; they saved same-sex marriage; and they ruled that the government has to pay for any raisins it seizes. All in all, not a bad way to end their term.

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The Supreme Court Just Legalized Gay Marriage Everywhere. Read the Opinion Here.

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 10:02 AM EDT

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage in the historic case of Obergefell v. Hodges, a decision which effectively invalidates bans on gay marriage.

Read the opinion in its entirety below: 

 

Chart of the Day: Healthcare Industry Approves of Obamacare Decision

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 9:14 PM EDT

They might not have said so very loudly, but the health care industry really didn't want to see Obamacare gutted by the Supreme Court. They've invested a lot of money into adapting to it, and to them it's not socialism run amok or looming tyranny. It's a positive development that's bringing American health care into the 21st century. As you can see in the chart below, Wall Street reflected this. When the Supreme Court's decision was announced, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and health care stocks soared.

Obamacare: Good for America, good for business.

Why Is a Whole Foods Exec Livestreaming His Empty Office?

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 5:36 PM EDT

Whole Foods recently announced its plan to open a new line of smaller stores called "365," and along with the news they launched a very, well, strange promotional website. If you type in www.wholefoodsmarket.com/365 you will find a webpage streaming a live cam of 365 president Jeff Turnas's desk. As of the writing of this post, the live stream has been going for some 170 hours; that's more than seven days.

If this tactic is meant to show how hard Whole Foods is working on its new, more affordable venture (amid growing competition and accusations of overcharging customers), it's not really working. We scanned through the seven days of footage and not once was the office occupied.

A Spanish-Language Television Network Had the Perfect Response to This Anti-Immigrant Billionaire

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 3:53 PM EDT

A piñata maker isn't the only one seeking revenge on Donald Trump.

After the Republican presidential candidate claimed that Mexican immigrants crossing the US border were drug-peddling "rapists" in his campaign announcement last week, Univision says it will no longer broadcast Trump's Miss Universe pageant next month over the "insulting remarks."

"At Univision, we see firsthand the work ethic, love for family, strong religious values and the important role Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans have had and will continue to have in building the future of our country," read a statement from the Spanish-language network.

Last Tuesday, Trump entered an increasingly crowded field of Republicans making a bid for the White House. Political pundits and news outlets mostly laughed off his announcement, which included the offensive statements about Mexican immigrants.

Now, the litigious real estate magnate is already threatening to bring forth a "major lawsuit" against Univision.

"I love the people of Mexico, but my loyalty is to the United States," Trump told the New York Post on Thursday. "Running for president is far more important to me, frankly, than running the Miss Universe pageant."

On Thursday, Colombian artist J. Balvin also announced he would not be performing at Trump's Miss USA event due to his comments.

"This isn't about being punitive, but about showing leadership through social responsibility," he explained. "His comments weren't just about Mexicans, but about all Latins in general."

President Obama Has Had a Pretty Good Week

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 3:05 PM EDT

So....pretty good week for Obama, eh? He got fast-track passed; he won the Obamacare case in the Supreme Court; and Confederate flags are coming down all over America.

Not bad for a "very lame, lame duck."

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John Roberts Now Officially the Fourth Conservative Sellout on the Supreme Court

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 2:42 PM EDT

From Quin Hillyer at National Review:

With today’s Obamacare decision, John Roberts confirms that he has completely jettisoned all pretense of textualism. He is a results-oriented judge, period, ruling on big cases based on what he thinks the policy result should be or what the political stakes are for the court itself. He is a disgrace. That is all.

So there you have it. Roberts has now joined a long line of conservative sellouts, from Harry Blackmun to John Paul Stevens to David Souter. After Souter, Republicans swore this would never happen again and insisted on nominating only hardline conservatives with a long paper trail: Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Sam Alito. But now Roberts has let them down. It turns out that the ability to hold onto conservative principles while serving under Ronald Reagan is insignificant next to the power of the Washington DC cocktail party circuit.

Still, at least Republicans can now end their embarrassing charade of pretending to have a plan to fix things up if the court had ended Obamacare subsidies in states without their own exchanges. I think it's pretty safe to say that even the pretense of "working on" a plan to replace Obamacare will now be dumped quietly on the ash heap of history—until Republicans have a presidential nominee in hand, at which point the charade will have to start all over. But I think we already know what their bold new plan will contain. There are few surprises in the land of conservative ideas.

The Wit and Wisdom of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court's Lovable Curmudgeon

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 1:34 PM EDT

Here is Antonin Scalia's dissent in the Obamacare case. Although Scalia would not approve, I have arranged the excerpts out of order so they make more sense and are more amusing. I have also eliminated all the legal arguments and other boring parts. You can always read the full opinion here if you want. For now, though, tell us what you really think, Mr Scalia:

Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.”

Yet the opinion continues, with no semblance of shame, that “it is also possible that the phrase refers to all Exchanges—both State and Federal.”

But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved. [Scalia makes it clear throughout that he's still really pissed about losing the original Obamacare case in 2012. –ed.]

Contrivance, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!

Faced with overwhelming confirmation that “Exchange established by the State” means what it looks like it means, the Court comes up with argument after feeble argument to support its contrary interpretation.

The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges....Pure applesauce.

The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed...will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.

We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.

Greece Gives Europe What It Wants, Europe Says No Anyway

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 12:11 PM EDT

European leaders were in final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks with their Greek counterparts today, which by my count is at least the third time we've held final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks in the past two weeks. This leaves me a little unsure of when the real "world will explode" deadline is anymore. But soon, I'm sure.

In any case, as Paul Krugman notes, the Europeans are no longer merely demanding concessions of a certain size from the Greeks, they now want final say over the exact makeup of the concessions:

The creditors keep rejecting Greek proposals on the grounds that they rely too much on taxes and not enough on spending cuts. So we’re still in the business of dictating domestic policy.

The supposed reason for the rejection of a tax-based response is that it will hurt growth. The obvious response is, are you kidding us? The people who utterly failed to see the damage austerity would do — see the chart, which compares the projections in the 2010 standby agreement with reality — are now lecturing others on growth? Furthermore, the growth concerns are all supply-side, in an economy surely operating at least 20 percent below capacity.

Basically, the Europeans just can't seem to say yes even when they get what they want. Besides, although tax increases probably will hurt Greek growth, so will spending cuts. There's just no way around it. The Greek economy is completely moribund, and any kind of austerity is going to make it worse. But the Europeans want austerity anyway, and they have the whip hand, so now they've decided they also want to dictate the exact nature of the concrete life preservers they're throwing to Greece.

The Greeks have little choice left, unless they're willing to leave the euro, which would cause massive short-term pain at home. Maybe they will, but it would take a backbone of steel to do it. Voters would probably cheer raucously the first night, but be in a mood to vote the entire team out of office after about the second day, when their savings and pensions were converted into New Drachmas and suddenly slashed in half. There is no happy ending to this.

John Roberts Just Saved the Republican Party From Itself

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

The Supreme Court's Thursday ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that upheld a core tenet of the Affordable Care Act is good news for the millions of Americans whose health insurance was on the line. But it's also, in a strange way, good news for a completely different group: the Republican politicians who have all but called for Obamacare to be shot into space on a rocket.

Had the court gone the other way, gutting federal subsidies while leaving the shell of the law on the books, congressional Republicans, as well as GOP governors such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie, would have been put in the uncomfortable position they've managed to avoid since Obamacare was signed into law—having to fix it. The Associated Press outlined Walker's dilemma neatly on Wednesday:

About 183,000 people in Wisconsin purchase their insurance through the exchange and nine out of 10 of them are receiving a federal subsidy, according to an analysis of state data by Wisconsin Children and Families. The average tax credit they receive is $315 a month.

Health care advocates who have been critical of Walker for not taking federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage have also called on the Republican second-term governor to prepare for the subsidies to be taken away.

And many of those Wisconsonites enrolled in the federal exchange are there because Walker put them there. As Bloomberg's Joshua Green noted in a prescient piece in March, Walker booted 83,000 people from the state's Medicaid program and put them on the federal exchange instead. That's not the kind of crisis you want to be dealing with in the middle of a presidential campaign—or ever.

Conservatives would have been thrilled with a ruling in their favor on Thursday. But Roberts' decision spares Walker and his colleagues from what would have come next, and frees them to continue lobbing rhetorical bombs at the law they're now stuck with. As previous generations of Washington Republicans can advise, it's much easier to go to war if you don't need a plan for how to end it.