Do androids dream of electric sheep, I mean voters?

A few years ago, a team of researchers attempted to build an android replica of the late, great science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. They did a good job but somehow lost the android’s head — the most important part, of course — at an airport. The story is told in a nonfiction book called How To Build An Android, reviewed this week in the NYT. The review makes the Dick android sound amazingly like the first android to run for president, Mitt Romney:

The [android] was a dazzling blend of technology and art. He was also erratic, as you might expect any first-generation android to be. Unexpected questions and loud noises threw him off. Androids have a hard time responding to human speech cues, knowing when to answer and when to stop. Sometimes Phil would get into a self-­perpetuating conversational loop. His handlers — who monitored his responses on a computer screen — had to keep a close eye.

Let’s hope Romney’s handlers are more careful in transporting their android than handlers of the Dick android were.

Rand Paul, idiot protector of the special interests

That’s the thing about pandering: It often makes you look really, really stupid.

Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t think the Supreme Court gets the last word on what’s constitutional.The Kentucky Republican belittled the high court’s health care decision as the flawed opinion of just a “couple people.”

“Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.”

Funny story, Rand: That thing you said in a press release that doesn’t make a law constitutional? “People on the Supreme Court declar[ing] something to be ‘constitutional’”? Turns out, that’s exactly how we here in the United States determine whether or not a law is constitutional. And we’ve been doing it that way since the 1700s.

So, to review, the Supreme Court, not embarrassing junior senators from Kentucky, determines what is and isn’t constitutional. For more information, see Article III of the Constitution.

Flu news


MONDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) — The pandemic H1N1 flu in 2009 may have killed more than 500,000 people around the world, 15 times more than reported, a new study suggests.

During the pandemic, 18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths were reported to the World Health Organization from April 2009 through August 2010, but as many as 575,400 may have actually died, an international group of scientists now says.

“This is a better approximation of the number of deaths that occurred,” said researcher Dr. Marc-Alain Widdowson from the influenza division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This study also confirms that the majority of deaths were in the under-65s, which is very different than seasonal influenza, where the vast majority of deaths are in the over 65s,” he added.

SCOTUS upholds ACA as tax

UPDATE: The opinion is now up.

Update: UPHELD. Not under the commerce clause, but under the taxing authority of Congress.

Via SCOTUSblog:

“Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.”

On the Medicaid issue, a majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it w/b unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions.

The key comment on salvaging the Medicaid expansion is this (from Roberts): “Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.” (p. 55)

Hmm. This part is not so good. Removes big stick that permits administration to compel states to comply with Medicaid expansion. Republican governors could be really big problem.
Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn’t. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.

Justice Ginsburg would uphold Medicaid just as Congress wrote it. That, too, is not controlling.
In opening his statement in dissent, Kennedy says: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”

Strikes down mandate. Sort of. “Upheld as a tax.”WTF? Looking for details. No, apparently it’s been upheld. CNN was wrong.

Roberts joins the left of the court in the decision. Medicaid provision is “limited but not invalidated.”

“The exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.”


I feel so much better now, don’t you?

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown.

In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said.

Tillerson blamed a public that is “illiterate” in science and math, a “lazy” press, and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear” for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Shopping at Urban Outfitters — how ironic

Never underestimate the apathy, ignorance or sheer stupidity of young American consumers, especially the “hip” ones:

…There are a few reasonable explanations for why the Urban Outfitters Romney tees exist, actually. For one thing, Urban Outfitters (which also owns Anthropologie and Free People) is owned by a far-right conservative, Richard Hayne. All that youthful, vaguely hippie-feeling merchandise in his stores? That’s just a way to make some dough – dough that Hayne, in turn, gives to right-wing politicians like Rick Santorum. For Hayne, the young people and lefties who shop in his stores are just chumps to whom he can sell $69 peace-sign tank tops while supporting conservative politics.

Now the company is selling shirts that represent Hayne’s political perspective while appealing to hipsters’ penchant for irony, with slogans like “Mitt Is the Shit” and “2 Legit 2 Mitt.” Ironic conservatism: hilarious(ly stupid)! As Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams put it:

What’s revolting about the latest Urban Outfitters gambit is its sneaky ploy of making conservatism seem so uncool it’s cool, all funny and retro and Kelly Kapowski. Which, in turn, is how some doofus winds up using his chest as free advertising for a candidate he’d otherwise never in a million years vote for…

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