Friday, June 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, that was disappointing, but I hadn't really expected the Supreme Court to rule differently based on the questions asked at oral argument. It is very discouraging to have the principle that the bureaucracy and administration can determine what a law means even when they have to make up their interpretation. It's ironic that so many pundits are saying that having the decision go the way it did on King v. Burwell is a political plus for the Republicans since they don't have to figure out a way to give people subsidies while still remaining committed to ending Obamacare.

Yuval Levin explains the really disheartening aspect of Justice Roberts' decision.
He makes a much broader argument about the relationship between the vague, broadly stated aims and purposes of legislators and the role of judges interpreting the meaning of the particular laws those legislators then write. Roberts presses this point most firmly at the end of his decision, writing: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

In effect, this is a version of the president’s argument: Obamacare is not so much a particular law as an overarching desire “to improve health insurance markets” and so if at all possible it should be taken to mean whatever one believes would be involved in doing so. From the beginning of its implementation of this statute, that Obama administration has treated the words of the statute as far less relevant than the general aim of doing what it thinks would improve health insurance markets, and today the Supreme Court essentially endorsed this way of understanding the law and suggested it is how judges should think about laws more generally too.

This understanding of the role of the judge threatens to undermine the rule of law in the American system of government, because it undermines the central place assigned to written law, and to the legislator, in that system. Ironically, I think the Chief Justice intends his decision to be deferential to the Congress—to keep the Court’s footprint small in this arena by not reading laws in ways that require large transformations in the forms of their administration. But in effect, this is more contempt than deference. While it would seem to suggest that the will of the legislator should guide the system, in fact it means that the word of the legislator does not govern the other branches. It implies that Congress should have just passed a law that said “health insurance markets shall be improved,” and then left it to the executive agencies to decide how they wish to do that while judges nod in approval.
The danger in basing a decision on the perceived purpose of the legislators is that purpose can often be ambiguous or contradictory.
. While it would seem to suggest that the will of the legislator should guide the system, in fact it means that the word of the legislator does not govern the other branches. It implies that Congress should have just passed a law that said “health insurance markets shall be improved,” and then left it to the executive agencies to decide how they wish to do that while judges nod in approval.

But Congress is elected by the public, based in part on how its members explain their views to the public (including their views of how things like health insurance markets might be improved) and in part also on the public’s assessment of whether their attempted improvements in fact improve things. Members of Congress express their will through the particulars of the legislation they craft and enact, and when those particulars are flawed, contradictory, counterproductive, or misguided (and they are all of those things in this case) our system does not expect judges to provide the words of the statue with different meanings based on their own assessments of how the vague, broadly stated goals of the legislators might have been better achieved....

The health-care debate, in the context of which this case might originally have been understood, will continue because what Justice Roberts insists is impossible is true: Obamacare is a law that was intended to improve insurance markets but was designed in a way that will actually harm them. We can only hope that debate will ultimately be resolved in a way that also pushes back against the unexpected implications of this case and this decision by reasserting the supremacy of the law. It has long been clear that Obamacare was digging a deep hole out of which conservatives would have to help the country to climb. But today’s decision has left it deeper than ever.

Deception and incompetence following disaster. What a surprise for this administration.
The Obama administration reportedly concealed the true amount of information compromised by a cyberattack on the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for several days after the initial disclosure of the hack, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the day after the White House admitted that hackers had breached personnel files, OPM publicly denied that the security clearance forms had been compromised despite receiving information to the contrary from the FBI. The administration did not say that security clearance forms had likely been accessed by the intruders until more than a week had passed.

A OPM spokeswoman denied the claims, telling the Journal the agency had been "completely consistent" in its reporting of the data breach.

The Journal, citing U.S. officials, reported that lengthy period between disclosures was the result of a decision taken by both White House and OPM officials to report the cyberattack as two separate breaches, one of the personnel files and one of the security clearance forms. That meant that rather than saying the hack may have compromised the information of approximately 18 million people, including some who have never worked for the government, OPM initially said that only about four million people were affected.

By contrast, the paper reports, FBI officials who had to speak to lawmakers about the incident, including director James Comey, defined the theft as the result of one breach.
Maybe it was all the result of a hateful video.

Don't pin your hopes on Bernie Sanders humiliating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire just yet. It's not clear legally whether he can even have his name on the New Hampshire ballot for the Democratic primary because he is not a registered Democrat and has a proud history of saying he's not a Democrat. What are the chances that the Clinton campaign would not take advantage of the way the NH law is worded to try to keep Sanders off the ballot? If polls like this continue, the Clintons might think that the bad press they'd get for going after Sanders would be worth avoiding a 1968-Democratic-primary-like result. A Clinton relying on legalistic wording to achieve a goal? Nyah. They'd never do something like that.

So it turns out that the sun is actually a thing. Who knew?
In a discovery scientists are calling "shocking," it turns out that solar output, that is, how much radiative heat the sun pumps out, is, get this, somewhat variable and changes over the years, and furthermore, changes in solar output may actually have effects in places as distant as -- well, let's say the Earth, for example.

And you're not going to believe this -- it also turns out the sun is currently experiencing a lower-than-normal output of radiative heating, and that this has "offset" the expected global warming, that is, this is a pretty good excuse as to why there has been no damn global warming at all for 17 years.

Now, while the scientists say that this lower-than-usual solar output may cause the current cooling, they do not, for reasons I can't quite guess at, postulate that perhaps higher-than-usual solar output was a major factor in the 1980-1998 warming cycle.

Nope- only this lower-than-average cycle can change things.

It says a lot about how terrible the President's deal with Iran is that members of his own staff who were involved with the talks and policy are publicly condemning it.
Doubts about President Obama’s Iran diplomacy are deepening, and some of the gravest misgivings are coming from his former top officials. That’s the import of a statement Wednesday from a bipartisan group under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In measured language, the statement offers a list of musts for a good nuclear deal. They include granting nuclear inspectors access to all Iranian sites, including military ones; lifting sanctions only after Iran meets its nuclear obligations; requiring Tehran to come clean on its past nuclear work; and limiting the number of advanced centrifuges Iran can test and deploy. From what we know so far, Iran has balked on all of these points.

The signers include James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who became known as “Obama’s General.” Another is former CIA Director David Petraeus. Then there is Dennis Ross, Mr. Obama’s Iran czar in his first term; Gary Samore, previously Mr. Obama’s arms-control coordinator; James Jeffrey, formerly Mr. Obama’s ambassador in Baghdad; and Howard Berman, the last Democrat to chair the House Foreign Relations Committee. Some Republicans are also on the list, but a neoconservative cabal this is not.

President Obama and his aides often dismiss opponents of his nuclear diplomacy as always preferring war over diplomacy. But the striking fact is how widespread the concerns are as the White House appears to make ever more concessions.

Seth Mandel explains why liberals are attacking Bobby Jindal for being insufficiently Indian. They can't bear for any member of a minority to resist hyphenization.
Jindal’s argument is clear: Your ethnic or religious heritage doesn’t make you any less fully American. You don’t need a qualifier just because your parents or grandparents were born elsewhere. This is America, after all.
For the left, being “American” insufficiently describes you for the cultural commissars of modern identity politics.