Patterico's Pontifications


Akhil Amar: Refusing to Let Congress Force People to Buy Healthcare is Like Refusing to Let Congress Ban Slavery (Update: Lincoln and the Definition of Liberty in the Dictionary of the Wolf)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 1:58 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Update: Look at the end of the post for some Lincoln quoty goodness on the definition of liberty.

Professor Akhil Amar, who teaches Constitutional Law, had a piece over the weekend in the LA Times attacking Judge Vinson’s opinion striking down Obamacare, and while other competent people have torn into this POS editorial (here, here and here), I thought I would go after him, too.  He starts right off personally insulting the judge, explaining that as he read the opinion:

One thing was immediately clear: My students understand the Constitution better than the judge.

Well, Akhil, I know many of your former students and I can say this.  Most of them understand the constitution better than you do and Supreme Court precedent, I might add.  He goes on:

As every first-year law student learns, lower court judges must heed Supreme Court precedents.

Except of course the idea of Congress forcing you to enter into a contract with a private company under the Commerce clause—or the Commerce clause combined with the Necessary and Proper clause—is literally unprecedented.  Congress has literally never tried to do it and thus the courts have literally never ruled on the issue before Obamacare came along.

The central issue in the Obamacare case is how much power the Constitution gives Congress, and the landmark Supreme Court opinion on this topic is the 1819 classic, McCulloch vs. Maryland.

Except of course, every first year student also knows that technically the only precedent set is bound to the specific facts of the case.  In other words, McCulloch v. Maryland only stands for the proposition that a state cannot tax a Federal bank.  The rest of it is obiter dictum, or dictum for short.  That means extraneous stuff that isn’t binding in the future, but might still be considered persuasive.

Of course the courts would be wise to follow that dictum, and they do, but for someone asserting that the judge was making a rookie mistake, maybe you shouldn’t make one yourself, Professor.

But in fact if you read Vinson’s opinion, he did follow McCulloch, by name.  But you see Judge Vinson took a different principle from McCulloch than Amar did.  Vinson recognized that this meant that the Necessary and Proper Clause only justified laws that were the means by which the powers of congress were executed.  By comparison Sebelius and company argued that it could also be used to mitigate the damage done by other congressional laws.

To see how dangerous this interpretation is, imagine that this was at any point in our history before 1859.  Imagine Congress passed a series of regulations and liabilities upon doctors that was so onerous that they began to quit the profession entirely.  So then Congress passes a law forcing those doctors to re-assume their old professions and occasionally conscripting citizens into the medical profession to replace those doctors who became too old to treat patients or died.  According to Sebelius’ theory of the constitution, this involuntary servitude would be fully constitutional and would only present a constitutional problem after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.  Vinson wisely rejected that radical approach.


A Parent Shares Her Experience With Vouchers

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 10:27 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

From 2004 to 2008, Washington, D.C. had a vibrant voucher system before Democrats ended enrollment in it.  One parent, Vivian Butler, shares her story.  The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s a highlight:

I’m so glad I didn’t give up, because slowly but surely Jerlisa’s grades and education advanced. That made everything worthwhile. As ninth grade ended, I just couldn’t believe how much she had learned and grown. I said to myself: “By George, I think she’s got it now!”

Jerlisa isn’t the only one who has benefited from this experience. I, too, started to feel more confident. Now I ask about resources and fill out scholarship applications with ease. I found a way to buy new uniforms for my daughter. Instead of washing uniforms every afternoon, I use the time to help my daughter with her homework.

And seeing Jerlisa’s growth over the past six years has inspired me to take some hard steps in my own life. I’m now applying to programs to become a home health-care nurse. Meanwhile, Jerlisa is deciding where to apply for college.

These are things we never dreamed were possible before. I am extremely proud of my daughter, and she is proud of me. Jerlisa’s scholarship has been worth so much more than $7,500.

And before you (logically) cry “anecdotal evidence,” Cato @ Liberty points out that her experience is hardly unique:

The latest federal study of the D.C. voucher program finds that voucher students have pulled significantly ahead of their public school peers in reading and perform at least as well as public school students in math. It also reports that the average tuition at the voucher schools is $6,620. That is ONE QUARTER what the District of Columbia spends per pupil on education ($26,555), according to the District’s own fiscal year 2009 budget.

Better results at a quarter the cost. And Democrats in Congress have sunset its funding and are trying to kill it. Shame on them.

And of course, no post on the state of our schools would be complete without this picture:

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

AOL Buys HuffPo for $315 Million

Filed under: Blogging Matters,General,Morons — Patterico @ 7:31 am

Since they get 500 million page views per month, that’s about $0.63 per monthly page view.


That caused me to run a few numbers here. Over the past year we received 5,041,591 page views, for a monthly average of 420,133. Multiply that by $0.63 and you get a web site worth $264,683.

AOL finance dudes, listen up! Bargain of a lifetime: I’ll unload this puppy for a cool $200,000.

Call me, babe.

UPDATE: A commenter caught me cooking the numbers by turning the fraction upside down. Busted. I am changing the post to reflect the correct numbers. Dude, you just cost me over $400,000!

UPDATE: I should not have trusted the commenter. The actual number is not 57 cents, as he claimed, but 63. I updated the numbers yet again.

In Other Super Bowl News, Christina Aguilera Screwed Up the National Anthem

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:04 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Yep, she screwed it up by wailing and generally over-singing it, and overall coming off about as comfortable as a prostitute in church.

And she got the words wrong, too.

Seriously, I didn’t notice she got the words wrong last night, because after five seconds of it, I pressed the mute button.  Why can’t anyone just sing this song straight?

And personally I consider this to be the definitive got-the-words-wrong rendition of the song:

Update: Thanks to Noah in the comments who points me toward this performance:

I prefer my renditions even simpler than that, but its a massive improvement over the wailing most pop stars seem obligated to do.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Yes, Car Companies That Take Government Loans Should Advertise

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:25 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

So last night as Green Bay held on to its early lead against a surging Steelers, this ad appeared:

And for those who can’t watch, it’s a long ad (two minutes) where first a narrator claims that Detroit is coming back, and then Eminem appears.  I don’t remember if he actually sang or just almost did.  I thought it was a pretty effective ad, myself, although 1) I wonder how much middle America even cares about Vanilla Ice Eminem, and 2) I was faintly annoyed by how drawn out the Eminem part was, including about 3 seconds of just allegedly meaningful silence.  Why can’t rap stars just get to the point in their (alleged) mini-masterpieces?

Anyhoo, so this morning I wake up to see, via Instapundit, J.P. Freire complaining about it as follows:

Chrysler releases $9m Super Bowl ad while requesting more taxpayer dollars

You may have noticed that Chrysler released the longest ad in Super Bowl history on Sunday night, featuring the new Chrysler 200 driven by Detroit native rap star Eminem, an ad that CEO Sergio Marchionne says cost less than $9 million. But given that the company’s CEO also announced this past week that is seeking a “better deal” on government loans, it is likely that this ad had more to do with getting political support than selling cars. Besides, is spending millions on a Super Bowl ad appropriate for a company that received a taxpayer bailout to recover from a bankruptcy?

Well, first, I don’t think it is so obvious that it was purely aimed at Washington, D.C.  Of course the way to know, one way or the other, is if the ads are repeated nationwide or just where I live, in the greater D.C. area.  I mean if you just visit D.C. for a week you will hear constant ads that can be characterized as nothing more than lobbying, such as “X company deserves Y contract. It’s good for America and puppies.  You don’t hate America and puppies, do you?”  (Or alternatively, “Tell Congress you like America and puppies.”) But I don’t think this ad is obviously only meant to get more money. Lots of companies play the patriotism and/or local pride card to sell their stuff. I remember in 2002, the Budweiser Clydesdale bowing toward the ruins of the World Trade Center. The justification for this expense was certainly the theory that they wanted to be associated with that kind of patriotic sentiment.

But more basically, no, I don’t regard a company advertising its product as suspicious or unreasonable.  And spending a lot on the Super Bowl is just how the game is played.  This isn’t a trip to Vegas supposedly for a seminar but mainly to gamble, etc.  Making good cars isn’t going to do this company a lot of good if no one buys them.  And as much as I despise the bailout, the fact is we will never see any of that money back if they don’t sell any cars.  Advertising is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity.

That being said, I do oppose giving them more bailout money or even a better deal on the bailout they received.  But the reason for that has nothing to do with the fear that they will induce necessary expenses to move product.  In fact, I positively hope they will do that, so long as they have my money.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

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