Kevin Drum

Friday Cat Blogging - 26 June 2015

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 2:00 PM EDT

This is a bird's eye view of cat TV. Sort of like breaking the fourth wall, feline style. But how did Kevin get on TV? He was in here just a minute ago. Very fishy, no?

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In a Few Years, Gay Marriage Will Be About as Threatening as Cell Phones

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 1:30 PM EDT

Jonathan Bernstein gets it right on same-sex marriage:

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Supreme Court’s decision today in Obergefell, which recognizes marriage as a basic right, is that it’s not going to be very controversial.

....How do I know? Because we’ve seen it in state after state in which marriage equality was enacted. There’s no controversy remaining in Massachusetts; for that matter, there’s little or no controversy remaining in Iowa, which had court-imposed marriage equality in 2009. On a related issue, conflict over gays and lesbians serving in the military ended immediately after “don’t ask don’t tell” was replaced four years ago. In practice, extending full citizenship and human rights to all regardless of sexual orientation and identity is actually not all that controversial — at least not after the fact.

I get the fact that gay marriage seems creepy and unnatural to some people. I don't like this attitude, and I don't feel it myself, but I get it.

But you know what? Bernstein is right. For a while it will continue to be a political football, but not for long. Even the opponents will quickly realize that same-sex marriage changes....nothing. Life goes on normally. The gay couples in town still live and hang out together just like they always have, and a few marriage ceremonies didn't change that. In their own houses, everything stays the same. The actual impact is zero. No one is trying to recruit their kids to the cause. Their churches continue to marry whoever they want to marry. After a few months or a few years, they just forget about it. After all, the lawn needs mowing and the kids have to get ferried to soccer practice and Chinese sounds good for dinner—and that gay couple who run the Jade Palace over on 4th sure make a mean Kung Pao Chicken. And that's it.

Are We Still Yammering About Whether the Civil War Was About Slavery? Really?

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 12:56 PM EDT

Are we still arguing about whether the Civil War was really fought over slavery? Seriously? What's next? The Holocaust was really about Jews overstaying their tourist visas? The Inquisition was a scientific exploration of the limits of the human body? The Romans were genuinely curious about whether a man could kill a hungry lion? The Bataan death march was a controlled trial of different brands of army boots?

WTF?

Canada Warns: "Goldfish the Size of Dinner Plates Are Multiplying Like Bunnies"

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 12:29 PM EDT

A Fish Out of Water was one of my favorite childhood books. A boy buys a goldfish and is warned not to feed him too much. But he does, and the goldfish outgrows his tank. Then he outgrows a flower vase. Then he outgrows the bathtub. Then he outgrows the swimming pool. Finally, the owner of the shop comes to the rescue and gets the fish back to its normal size. The boy promises never to overfeed his fish again. Lesson learned: listen to your elders. The End.

Except....what if this was more than just a charming kids' book? Could it actually have been a premonition of 21st century ecological disaster? What if there really were gigantic goldfish out there rampaging through our lakes and ponds?

If you have a goldfish, and you are kind of over that goldfish, to the point where you are now wondering whether it might be best to set that goldfish free, please rethink that decision. That's the request from the Alberta government, which is trying to get Canadians to refrain from dumping out their fish tanks into ponds. Because those ponds are filling up with those discarded goldfish, which are getting really, really big in the wild.

Or, as the CBC notes: "Goldfish the size of dinner plates are multiplying like bunnies."

If it can happen in Canada, it can happen in America. You have been warned.

Obamacare Still Isn't Safe, and Liberals Better Not Forget It

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 12:07 PM EDT

Greg Sargent warns Democrats not to get complacent about Obamacare:

House Republicans are still forging ahead with a separate lawsuit against Obama over the law (though it may not be resolved for years). Conservatives like Ted Cruz are still calling for holding spending bills hostage to roll back the ACA. GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Cruz are all pledging to keep up the fight to repeal Obamacare — “every single word,” as Cruz puts it.

....Democrats should take continued GOP opposition to Obamacare very seriously. It has serious real-world consequences. As long as states hold out against the Medicaid expansion, it could slow the law’s efforts to realize its goal of expanding coverage. One thing this means is that Democrats should redouble their efforts to regain electoral ground on the level of the states, where future decisions about the Medicaid expansion will be made.

When Obama won the 2012 election, I figured Obamacare was finally safe. Except....there was still the Supreme Court. But they mostly upheld Obamacare, and once again I thought it was finally safe. Whew. Still, Republicans kept fighting. And things remained dicey as long as Obamacare was still vaporware. Then it finally went into effect in 2014, and disastrous rollout or not, I figured that was it. Once it's actually helping millions of people, it's safe. But wait! Then there was another Supreme Court case. But that dropped this week, and Obamacare was once again upheld.

So now Obamacare is finally safe, right? You'd think so, wouldn't you? But Republicans are obsessed with Obamacare like no other law that's been passed in decades. It's kind of scary, the same way it was scary watching the unhinged Captain Ahab stumping around the Pequod. So no, Obamacare is still not safe. Not unless Democrats win at least the White House, and maybe both the White House and the Senate, in 2016. At that point, Republicans will finally have to give up. They'd have no plausible path to repeal, and by 2020 the law would have been in place for seven years; it would be covering upwards of 25 million people; and the health care industry would  be so plugged into Obamacare's rules that it would literally take years to extricate them if the law was repealed.

It sounds bizarre—not least of all to me, who badly underestimated how long Republicans could stay maniacally fixated on Obamacare—but it won't truly be safe until and unless Democrats win in 2016. I sure hope Democrats figure this out. If you want to know what we're up against, use Kevin's Quick Zeitgeist Test. Type "Obamacare" into Google and then go to image view. Here's the URL:

https://www.google.com/search?lr=&cr=&safe=images&gws_rd=ssl&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&q=obamacare&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=-HSNVfnbNMLFggSu7YbIAw

Now do a quick count of pro vs. anti Obamacare images in, say, the top 50 results. Not counting neutral photos, I put it at about 10:1 for the haters. These guys aren't giving up. Those of us who support Obamacare had better show a similar level of passion for keeping it around.

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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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.

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."

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.