Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roberts did what he always does: support interests of big business, which likes the healthcare act

By Marc Jampole

I didn’t make a prediction in print on whether the Supreme Court would rule that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional or not, but I told several friends that I thought the vote would be 6-3 in favor of the law. I figured that Roberts always votes for the best interests of large corporations, and most large corporations like the new law because it takes a lot of the burden for paying the nation’s health insurance bill off their backs.  It thus made sense to me that Roberts would support the law’s constitutionality.

Roberts chose to justify his thumb up by reducing the many moving parts in the law to a net flow of money and then characterizing that flow as a “tax.” It was the same type of convoluted reasoning that the court has used in many bad rulings it has issued in recent years, such as Citizens United (which released a flood of corporate money into political waters), Bush V. Gore (which gave the 2000 election to the loser of the popular vote) and Knox v. Service Employees (which says that union members can opt out of providing financial support to political candidates).  In this case, Roberts twisted so that he could support the law without having to deal with states’ rights and other sacred rightwing principles.

President Obama gave the Republican Party some very good advice at the end of his lunch-time speech about the court’s decision when he said that it’s time to move on. Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Eric Cantor are all making inflammatory statements about repealing the law, but unless the fall election gives them both houses, repeal efforts will do nothing but keep the issue in the news and provide another distraction from solving real problems.

Although Romney has initially said that whoever wants to appeal this law should vote for him, I think he’ll lose if he focuses a good part of his campaign around repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A lot of Tea Partiers may hate the idea of government intervention in health care (except for Medicare, of course, which serves a large number of Tea Partiers), but these folk were going to vote for Romney anyhow.  They despise President Obama.

But consider the math. When a Tea Party enthusiast decides to vote for Romney because Mitt supports health care repeal, that’s one vote. The section of the law that keeps children on their parents’ policies until age 26 gets 3 votes: mother, father and adult child.

And that’s the Republicans’ dilemma. There is something for everyone to like in the new law: benefit extensions and protections for the insured, affordable insurance for the uninsured, new funding mechanisms for businesses, fewer noninsured to muck up the finances of hospitals and a lot of potential new customers for insurance companies.

Once Romney and the Republicans start messing with any of these new benefits, someone will get angry.  And if they start giving ground on any of these benefits, the true believing Tea Partiers will object. Of course, they could go radical—what I have started calling “bat-Cantor crazy”—and call for the repeal of Medicare and its replacement by a voucher system. I don’t think a lot of seniors are going to like that idea one bit.

In short, now that the Supremes have upheld the constitutionality of the new law, the Republicans have no short-term winning strategy on health care. For that reason, I think that the health care issue will fade away, as Republicans hammer on Obama and the Democrats for the sluggish performance of the economy and the persistence of high unemployment.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue dropped off the political agenda by the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Court backs clean air and science in ruling that EPA can regulate against global warming

By Marc Jampole

Whatever the Supreme Court  announces later this week related to the Affordable Care Act, another court in the land has made a landmark decision that will improve the health and well-being of everyone in the United States, if not the world.

A federal court has upheld a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that man-made greenhouses gases pose a threat to public health that requires the EPA by law to impose limits on the emissions causing the danger. 

The unanimous decision rejected the arguments raised by the hacks hired by some (but not all) utilities, manufacturing companies and business associations. Those who brought the lawsuit against the EPA were trying to sell the old myth that the very idea that the Earth is warming is based on unreliable studies. Luckily, the judges could read and therefore understand with great clarity that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence supports the science of global warming.

As even The Wall Street Journal’s anti-EPA version of the news admits, there is little room in the decision for appeal, as the judges noted several times how strongly the law backed the EPA’s position.  Despite the great odds of winning, though, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia said the state plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Virginia was one of 14 states that sued to block the EPA rules; the list of other states that joined in the lawsuit against the best interests of their citizens reads like a roll call of Tea Party hotspots: Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas, for example.  

That 15 states, including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, supported the EPA regulations underscores the deep divisions we have in the country right now. To a great extent, those divisions have occurred because one side insists on spewing out lies and questioning the validity of proven science.

In the case of global warming, there are two sets of lies: 1) that environmental regulations hurts the economy; 2) that the science of global warming is not yet proven.  The judges did not have to deal with the first set of lies. To the second, it answered with crushing clarity, exemplified by the most quoted part of the decision: “This is how science works. The EPA is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”   

We should celebrate this victory for everyone—since everyone has to breathe the air and many millions are suffering and will suffer from the severe economic dislocations that extreme weather and resource shortages are causing and will continue to cause.

But in this victory, let’s also look at the sober fact: The appeals court ruled that it was okay for the EPA to make its decisions based on scientific truth.  Opposed to this proposition were the politicians of 14 states and the lawyers of many companies and associations. Their efforts, backed by millions of dollars, slowed down implementation of anti-pollution regulations for some 5 years.

They also acted against the wishes of their constituencies, according to a 2012 study of the public’s attitudes on energy and theenvironment conducted by George Mason’s University’s Center for Climate Change Communications.  In a study that received absolutely zero publicity, George Mason researchers found that:

·         72 % of Americans think that addressing global warming should be a very high priority.
·         92 % of Americans think that developing sources of clean energy should be a very high priority.
·         83 % of Americans think that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (58%) or has no effect on economic growth or jobs (25%).

Thus even with the law, the truth and the public on its side, the EPA still had to slog through 5 years of legal proceedings just to demonstrate that, indeed, the government can make a decision based on facts.

Monday, June 25, 2012 says that all of us can live our dreams, and uses as its example a fictional frog

By Marc Jampole

Four months ago I thought I dispensed with the website, a hodgepodge of feel-good slogans and stories, funded by billionaire Phillip Anschutz through The Foundation for a Better Life.

At that time I wrote about the following about the 88 values touted on

These values can apply to anything. A dictatorship or state ruled by one party would be just as likely to list all these values as a representative democracy would. Virtually all these values (with the exception of “true beauty”) would come in handy in training an elite force to torture and engage in illegal assassinations. Many of these values would make a perfect substitute for “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which means “work makes you free” in German and was hung as a sign over the entrance of several Nazi concentration camps. Those in favor of a woman’s reproductive rights are equally able to find solace in contemplating these values as those who wish to restrict these rights.

The amorphous quality of these values…make the campaign for “values”…mere shills for maintaining the status quo, which as people are discovering is a fixed game in favor of those who already have money and power, a game which 95% of the population is currently losing badly.

At that time, I assumed that the advertising campaign would soon end.

But months later, Anschutz persists.

Strolling along Manhattan’s Upper West Side the other day I saw a billboard on the side of a bus shelter that consisted of a color photo (or drawing) of Kermit the Frog.

Here is the text, all very large:

Eats Flies.

Dates a Pig

Hollywood Star


Pass It On

…followed by the website address.

When you go to the website, you can not only find the billboard, but an inspiring story. The story is not of how Kermit’s creator, Jim Henson, lived his dream. No, it’s about how the imaginary character, Kermit the Frog, has lived his dream, written in the inspirational style that has characterized American business fiction since the original Horatio Alger stories—not a hint of irony.

Here is the “values” lesson presented at website about the Kermit story: “After all, if a Frog can accomplish so much, we can do something, too.”

Where do we start?

Most obviously, anyone can accomplish anything in fiction. A frog doesn’t have to go to college, and if it does, it will surely graduate whatever its level of effort, prior experience or natural capabilities, unless it’s a secondary character. But it’s Kermit, so he’ll pass and probably give the graduation speech, because it’s fiction and he’s a hero. Just as everyone is a hero/heroine of his/her own dream.

But how does comparing what you’ve been doing to what an imaginary animal does to succeed going to help you? You could point to lots of people—Jackie Robinson, Lyndon Johnson, Joe Biden, Lucille Clifton, Beverly Sills, Steve Jobs and Howie Long all come to mind—as people about whom one could say, if they could do it, you can too. But an imaginary frog?

More subtle is the subtext behind the “values” message to “live your dream.” What does “live your dream” mean? Get what you want.

What kind of a value is “get what you want?” Seek the power, money, possessions, friends and whatever else defines your dream—whatever it is.

That sounds like the politics of selfishness to me. I thought a “value” was supposed to link people to something beyond themselves, to their families, communities, nation, world, philosophies and political beliefs.

Most subtle are the details that define “living the dream” in the Kermit billboard: He’s a Hollywood star, a celebrity. Not a scientist, not a president of a major university, not a business titan, not even an athlete: a celebrity. Once again, when given the opportunity to promote an ideal to which to aspire, an American thought influencer resorts to the celebrity.

In one billboard, then, uses a conflation or false analogy to propose selfish pursuit as a positive value and defines that pursuit in terms of a primary symbol of consumerism (the celebrity). The overall impact of the website is to sell the current status quo, while the particulars of the advertising campaign built around “live your dream” provides key details of what the controllers of the website want our values and dreams to be.