Monday, July 2

Commercial Intercourse

George Eff Will, "Conservatives' consolation prize". June 28

I KNOW the Sundays should be left in the capable hands of Pierce, who has the brains and the stomach for the job. But I couldn't resist checking in after the Hugest Supreme Court Decision Ever, so I taped all three while I did something altogether more pleasant. I got back to it, opened up Georgie Alphabets hosting ABC's long-running Betcha We Can Eventually Make You Miss Sam and Cokie Hour, and tried to relax. 

I swear to God, I lasted one George Stephanopoulos question before I fast-forwarded my way out of the entire interview half-hour, pausing only to marvel at how a worthless turd like Paul Ryan is listened to by anyone. The man couldn't win a freshman dorm argument. This is the fucking United States of America. I know, we're not the most intellectual-friendly society in the history of the world, but did we line them up and shoot them all while I wasn't looking?

(Speaking of which, why does ABC even have one of these bleetfests, anyway? ABC made its one and only journalistic point thirty-five years ago when it hired Roone Arledge to do for televised news what Gene Roddenberry had done for televised science fiction ten years earlier. ABC had to reanimate the corpse of NBC's David Brinkley just to have enough gravitas to even attempt a Sunday. And it's been downhill from there.)

I stopped fast-forwarding when I reached the panel, just because I wanted to see George Eff Will reread his most recent column. This proved to be a mistake, since Alphabets first made the introductions, and immediately after Will I leaned they'd unearthed yet another African-American Republican, I'm sorry, independent  from the Deep South, former Rep. Artur Davis, who was on the panel as the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the Affordable Care Act. (Is it only in America, or only inside the Beltway where baldly selling out to your professional ambitions is a mark of integrity? We owe Axis Sally an apology.)

This was bad, but what was worse was the following introduction, none of than Keith Olbermann, the one-time Official Spokesman for Liberalism. In the end I would last just long enough to hear Olbermann prove his worth. 

With everyone's c.v. established, the Chair recognizes Will, because who better to initiate the discussion than a guy who was on the wrong side of the decision and is now spinning it like a row of plates on sticks? Will tosses off a sneer about how "elitist law professors" had all predicted the bill's demise. Take that, all you people who said I'd win! 

And first of all, what? Elitist Law Professors have to work Sundays? Just once I'd like to see Will--or any of those fuckers--have to argue with a real person, instead of recycling Reagan zingers.

Anyway, after Davis gets the opportunity to call Will something like "the panel's Constitutional scholar"--Davis has a law degree, and has just finished listening to the man garble the notion of precedence, if not the very concept of jurisprudence itself--Olbermann steps up, clears his throat, and proceeds to make the argument that stupid people will interpret this as a win for the President. At which point I not only erased the tape, I erased Meet the Press and Senior Moment with Bob Schieffer, just for good measure.

Fer chrissakes, Keith, you had the weekend to study precisely what Will was going to say, and you went with "on the other hand, people who don't know anything about the law will…" which ceded Will an intelligence he doesn't have, something which accounts for his entire thirty year career. Okay, so maybe "no making George Eff Will look like anything less that the premier Conservative intellectual" is written in everybody's contract at ABC, but I seriously doubt that's necessary. And, I dunno, maybe your marital record's as spotty as your employment record, and you're currently living on Green Room gift baskets. 

And while it is, maybe, a point that the average American has little interest in politics, and grasps only the Win/Lose blather of the headline writers (we know, already!), it's also true that at that moment you were sitting in one of the power centers where facts are shrunk to fit the narrative, and you'd just listened to George Eff Will recite the latest rewrite of those facts for "the other" end of the political spectrum, which is willfully engaged in blurring the facts. Jesus Christ. the "conservative" "argument" that the Affordable Care Act was "unConstitutional" was pure fabrication. It only made it to the point of The Most Anticipated Decision in Court History because of politics. I know, I know: Will has a formidable arsenal of McKinley anecdotes. Wade in, take a punch or two, and deck him. It's three decades overdue, and there's no excuse for some light-punching British club fighter to have survived anywhere near that long on fancy footwork. Fer chrissakes, liberalism--at least historical liberalism--in this country is pugnacious and muscular. When did "no hitting back" become its watchword? 
The health-care legislation’s expansion of the federal government’s purview has improved our civic health by rekindling interest in what this expansion threatens — the Framers’ design for limited government. Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate — Congress’s rationale — that was pregnant with rampant statism.

Fer cryin' out loud, the reason it's necessary to "rekindle" "conservative" interest in the only thing "conservatives" have been talking about since the 1980 election is the lack of fuel once you get the fire started. 

The "Framers' design for limited government", such as it was, didn't survive the Washington administration, let alone two centuries of unimaginable scientific and technical advancement. 
The case challenged the court to fashion a judicially administrable principle that limits Congress’s power to act on the mere pretense of regulating interstate commerce. At least Roberts got the court to embrace emphatic language rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for penalizing the inactivity of not buying insurance:

Roberts leads a 5-4 majority of corporate wingnuttery, allied with general wingnuttery. To suggest that he "got" the Court to go along with the questionable, if not rabidly partisan, reading of the Commerce clause in this one instance is simply disingenuous. There were--and are--five anti-Obama votes on the Roberts Court, a majority with a record of making decisions rather notably devoid of established principle. Faced with a frankly amateurish argument which was nothing but an ad hoc--and sui generis--attempt to overturn social spending, Roberts found a way to rule in the Act's favor; he did so in what can only be imagined as an attempt to head off a serious diminution of the Court's prestige and reputation for serious, non-political deliberation, if any such still exists, and perhaps in fear of the rather jumbo-sized can o' worms which would have been opened by overturning post-Gilded Age precedent on Commerce. Ya think this ruling, and this Court, is still gonna persuade people decades from now? I don't care if the man stays on the Court for forty more years. He's Roger Taney. 
The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. ... The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. ...

Is anybody gonna be quoting this nonsense in fifty years? The Sacred American Right of non-activity in non-commerce? Regulating activity presupposes regulating non-activity, and it happens all the time, in commerce and elsewhere. (To this extent, Olbermann was right.) The government prohibits me from hiring a licensed contractor to do non-code work, and forbids me from selling my house if I do so anyway. It requires me to cut my grass, make necessary repairs, and hook up to the public sewer line. It prevents me from smelting ore in my garage, even if I do so only as a hobby. It forbids my discrimination due to race, creed, or national origin, even if I "opt out" of being reasonable. That argument was never worth the vapor it was created out of, sorely with the intention of challenging Obamacare. 
If the mandate had been upheld under the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would have decisively construed this clause so permissively as to give Congress an essentially unlimited police power — the power to mandate, proscribe and regulate behavior for whatever Congress deems a public benefit.
Y'all let me know when this becomes the "conservative" bĂȘte noire, will ya? 


Where was this supposedly going in the hands of Democrats? Was broccoli the best you had?

Do we really have to note just how much the modern "movement" "conservative" gleefully accepts (Republican Presidential war powers, the five-ocean Navy, warrantless government eavesdropping, "extraordinary rendition", the entirety of corporate law) which would have made John Adams blanch? Can't we at least hold them responsible for their facile libertoonianism? Can't somebody punch George Eff Will in the nose, just figuratively, just once?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Forget it, Doghouse: It's Sunday talk show.

G.EFF.Will will never be challenged in a public forum. Like ugly buildings and hookers, Will's been around long enough to become respectable despite his history.

Expecting someone to punch him, either literally or figuratively, is asking far too much of the dead, uncaring stars.

KWillow said...

Ya know... if, way back in the 18th century, doctors had actually been able to do much more than Purge and Bleed their patients, and an occasional agonizing and septic amputation, if their had been effective drugs other than opium and willow-bark tea, then I'd bet anyone a million bucks that the Framers of the Constitution would have included single payer. Those guys were smart, and I don't think any of the Main Ones were "Libertarians" or Winger-republicans.

Weird Dave said...

Dear Sir,

Please have mercy on my poor ancient eyes with your font size (your anti-spambot thing is more than torture enough).

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Point of order, Dog.

The government prohibits me from hiring a licensed contractor to do non-code work, and forbids me from selling my house if I do so anyway. It requires me to cut my grass, make necessary repairs, and hook up to the public sewer line. It prevents me from smelting ore in my garage, even if I do so only as a hobby.

Yeah, but all of this is regulated under state and local law, not under the federal commerce clause.

And this,

It forbids my discrimination due to race, creed, or national origin, even if I "opt out" of being reasonable.

This is just wrong. Federal law does not forbid discrimination by individuals. Only businesses with 15 or more employees are forbidden to discriminate under the commerce clause (how legal minds arrived at this arbitrary line I do not know). In Indiana, discrimination in businesses with 5 to 15 employees is regulated by the ICRC. Individuals and businesses with under 5 employees, not involved in housing, are virtually unregulated regarding discrimination.

Anonymous said...

"The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. . . . The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce."

This reminds me of the "conservative" argument that "freedom of religion" doesn't mean "freedom from religion". A distinction without a difference.