Daryl and Todd:
This is pretty amazing. Usually face transplants don’t come out like this.
by Odd Man Out
[From a recent conversation with my Russian friend Sergei. We like to argue which country is less democratic — America, or Putin’s Russia.]
No, Sergei, I’m not turning into a conspiracy theorist, and I’m not having one of my mood swings. There really is a secretive organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), financed by huge corporations and billionaires, that is helping to bust unions, kill health care reform and environmental regulations, make it harder for Democrats to vote, eliminate government aid to the poor, privatize prisons, and pass “stand your ground” laws like the one that, so far, has kept Trayvon Martin’s killer from being arrested.
There go the fruit trees! Dr. Jeff Masters:
Large portions of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shivered through a hard freeze (temperatures below 28°F ) this morning, and cold temperatures will cause widespread damage to flowering plants fooled into blooming by last week’s unprecedented “Summer in March” heat wave. Growers of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries worked during the night and early morning to minimize the damage by running large fans and propane heaters in their orchards in an attempts to keep temperatures a few degrees warmer. While freezing temperatures for an extended period will not kill the trees, they will destroy the flowers and fragile buds that are needed to produce fruit later in the year. I expect that this morning’s freeze was severe and widespread enough to cause tens of millions of dollars in damage to the fruit industry, but it will be several weeks before the extent of the damage is known. It would take several nights of temperatures in the 20s to cause a more significant billion-dollar disaster, such as occurred in 2007. A warm spell in March that year was followed by cold temperatures in early April that were 10 – 20 degrees below average, bringing killing frosts and freezes to the Midwest and South that caused $2.2 billion in agricultural damage, wiping out apple, peach, winter wheat and alfalfa crops.
During the remainder of this week, temperatures are expected to be much warmer than they were this morning, so the freeze damage will be limited compared to 2007. However, we still have two more months to go this spring when temperatures commonly fall below freezing. Plants will steadily grow more susceptible to cold temperatures in the coming weeks as the growing season progresses, and the odds of more destructive frosts and freezes for the Midwest and Northeast fruit industry are high.
Things didn’t look good for the individual mandate, but here’s another view:
Over the first two days of arguments, two of the Court’s five conservative justices have expressed sympathy for key parts of the administration’s arguments. And the administration probably only needs one of their votes to fully uphold the law.
That’s the view of former acting Clinton Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who sat down with me and a handful of other reporters after watching the arguments. Dellinger tamped down on some initial criticism’s of his successor’s performance before the court. And, crucially, he highlighted an exchange that occurred on Monday — one we broke down here — in which Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to reject the cornerstone of the challenger’s argument.
“Yesterday the Chief Justice said that it doesn’t make much sense to say that the mandate is separate from the penalty or the tax,” Dellinger said. “He seemed yesterday to have accepted the government’s argument that there’s a real choice here. If you don’t want to have health insurance that you can pay the tax penalty.”
That could have broad legal implications. On Monday, in response to questioning from Justice Elena Kagan, Verrilli noted that under the law, a person who chooses to pay the tax penalty rather than comply with the mandate will not be considered in violation of the law. So it’s a choice — not a unilateral command. If even one of the conservative justices agrees, he could vote to uphold the law on unexpected grounds.
“Once the government has said that the mandate is not an independent requirement, it merely provides a choice of paying the tax or having insurance, and given the fact that the Chief Justice yesterday recognized that, it is quite possible that you could have four votes to uphold this under the Commerce power and two votes to uphold it under the taxing power,” Dellinger said.
This piece of the challenger’s argument didn’t come under questioning on Tuesday, leaving us only one snapshot by which to gauge Roberts’ views. But even if Roberts doesn’t bite, Dellinger said he thinks Roberts or Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed open to upholding the law as an appropriate exercise of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.
Both men, Dellinger said, “asked [tough] questions of both sides.”
“The court,” he said, “understood that the alternatives being offered by the challengers were really not workable,” and that the most likely policy option if the mandate is struck is a more public system like single payer.
“I don’t think either the Chief Justice or Justice Kennedy thinks that’s a good option,” Dellinger said.
But the administration argues that if the justices reject the challenger’s key claim — that the mandate and the tax penalty are not linked — then they should err on the side of upholding the whole thing. And that may be reform supporters’ best hope.
Anne Lamott and Kelly Corrigan discuss the weird state of being a mother-in-law: