Roll Over, Mr. Madison

While our legislative branch, the foundational pillar of our republic, is the least trusted institution in the country, our standing army and police forces are the most. Increasingly, we trust the men with the guns, not the men in suits. The sound you hear is the founders rolling over in their graves.

Chris Hayes, Twilight of the Elites (2012)

This week everybody was talking about … the heat

Records were set all over the country. But unlike the DC snowstorm of 2010, it had nothing to do with global warming.

… and the Higgs boson

I love discussions where nobody knows what they’re talking about, including me. I caught up a little by consulting the Instant Egghead at Scientific American.

You can also get some  general background on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider from this 2008 rap by Alpinekat (a.k.a. Katherine McAlpine).

… and the political fallout from the ObamaCare decision

Some argued that the ruling was good for Romney, because it energizes the conservative base. But I agree more with Alec MacGillis:

Judging this the better outcome for Romney means seriously understating just how brutal the law’s rejection would have been for Obama. It would have allowed Romney to argue—to crow to the skies, surely—that Obama’s entire first term had been a giant zero.

From Day 1, the right-wing drumbeat against Obama has been that his presidency is illegitimate: He’s not really American, he doesn’t understand America, he doesn’t follow the Constitution, and so on. John Roberts saying ObamaCare is constitutional makes that look like the crank theory it has always been.

Of course, you fix a crank theory with another crank theory, so Roberts’ betrayal sparked wild conspiracy theories on the Right.

My theory: Roberts doesn’t want to go down in history as the Chief Justice who broke the Supreme Court. As much as people have always complained about the Court, it used to be seen as above partisan politics. But controversial decisions like Bush/Gore and Citizens United have put that image in serious jeopardy. If a party-line vote threw out the biggest Democratic legislative accomplishment of the last half century, with a majority opinion based on a new legal distinction invented precisely for that purpose, the Court might not recover.

The Court doesn’t control any money or soldiers, so it needs its reputation. If they’re just nine over-the-hill political hacks who can’t be fired, then why shouldn’t presidents defy them? Why wouldn’t some future President Nixon just burn the tapes?

[I covered the ruling itself last week. Harvard’s Einer Elhauge has an enlightening refutation of Roberts’ reading of the Commerce Clause.]

Meanwhile, the Partisans made fun of people who now want to leave the country to avoid socialized medicine.

… but I decided to write about institutional failure and Leviticus

  • In Search of a Universal F***-Up Theory. It’s not hard to come up with specific theories explaining why our political institutions are dysfunctional, our religious institutions corrupt, our economic institutions rapacious, our media institutions untrustworthy, and so on. But why is all this failure happening at once? (And no, I don’t think it’s the Internet, the Koch Brothers, or the end times.)
  • The Economics of Leviticus. You can’t have a culture-war conversation without somebody quoting Leviticus. What if you couldn’t have an economic conversation without somebody quoting Leviticus? That would change a lot of things, right down to our basic understanding of property.

Meanwhile, you might also find this interesting

Verizon has opened the next front in the corporate-personhood battle: It says that the FCC’s net neutrality rules are unconstitutional because

Broadband networks are the modern-day microphone by which their owners [e.g. Verizon] engage in First Amendment speech

Weird. I thought I was engaging in First Amendment speech, and that Verizon’s broadband network was just carrying that speech to some of my readers. But no, Verizon is speaking. Can you hear them now?

The Obama campaign is making hay out of Romney’s offshore accounts and his refusal to release tax returns before 2010.

Here’s why Romney might carry Pennsylvania: Under the new voter-ID law passed by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor, 9.2% of registered voters don’t have the appropriate IDs yet, including 18% of voters in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia. That’s more voters than Obama’s margin in 2008.

One of the mysteries of polling this year is why Romney is sometimes ahead in the Gallup tracking poll, while Obama is consistently ahead in polls of swing states and close in states Romney has to carry, like North Carolina. It seems unimaginable that Romney could win the national popular vote and not carry North Carolina handily.

Possible answer: Gallup’s methodology systematically undercounts non-whites.

Meanwhile, polling wonks will love Nate Silver’s attempt to model the influence of the economy on presidential elections.

A good, practical talk about teaching:

The Myth of the Super Teacher from EdWriters on Vimeo.

I was going to write my own decline-of-Justice-Scalia article, but Salon’s Paul Campos did it for me. Back in the day, Scalia was the kind of conservative a liberal could admire. He viewed the world through a different lens, but he challenged us to raise our game. I always learned something from reading a Scalia opinion. Now, though, he just repeats what he’s heard on Fox News. It’s embarrassing.

Anybody who goes to a big 4th of July celebration must wonder: What if all the fireworks went off at once? Well, in San Diego they found out.

I spent Wednesday evening in Lowell, where the fireworks were backlit by lightning over Boston. But if I had been in Alabama Friday I could have attended a different night-time ritual: the “sacred Christian cross lighting ceremony” that culminated a conference sponsored by the white supremacist Christian Identity Ministries. Apparently this was not a hoax.

After waffling for a few days, Mitt Romney now has his position on whether an individual healthcare mandate is a tax: It’s a tax when Obama does it nationally, but it wasn’t a tax when he did it in Massachusetts. In his own words:

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation, and it said that it’s a tax, so it’s a tax. … The chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. And as a result, Massachusetts’s mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was.

Salon checks in on the Elizabeth Warren campaign. To me that race comes down to: Do you want your senator to be owned by the bankers, or not?

Here’s the difference between public and private: Public employees have a mission that goes beyond profit. Case in point: A private Florida lifeguard company fired a lifeguard for saving a life outside company territory.

Republicans want to replace ObamaCare with “patient-centered health care”. What is patient-centered health care? A phrase that tests well in focus groups. It does not refer to any specific proposal.

A legislator who voted for Louisiana’s radical new school-voucher program is now opposed to it. What changed? She suddenly realized that a “religious school” doesn’t have to be Christian. She supports freedom of religion, just not for Muslims.

Factoid discovered while researching something else entirely: The word boycott comes from Captain Charles Boycott, who was the agent of an absentee landlord in Ireland in 1880. To protest Boycott’s eviction of tenant farmers, the local community ostracized him, and workers refused to harvest the land he managed.

Come November, women shouldn’t forget what conservatives stand for.

But let’s end on a moment of cute. Pandas on a slide are like 4-year-olds who are too round and fluffy to get hurt.

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