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By 2014, if an uninsured American citizen with enough income refuses to obtain health insurance, the person has a choice to resign from obtaining health insurance by paying a penalty; or, how the Supreme Court majority puts it, a tax.

But this is not the escape hatch I was referring. Of the three arguments of those defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obama-care, (1. Inactivity can be regulated under the Commerce Clause, 2. the Necessary and Proper Clause justifies the state interest enacting an individual mandate, 3. failure to obtain health care can be subjected to a penalty) the third argument won out, which is really considered a tax no matter how Congress wished to word it, according to the Court. It denounced argument 1 unconstitutional, which means the government cannot make you buy broccoli and Justice Roberts found no sufficient cause for Obama-care to be necessary and therefore proper. That means, among other things, the individual mandate can still be struck down by the legislature, not with 60 votes in the Senate, but with 50 votes instead. I consider it wise for Roberts to devolve the decision of whether or not the individual mandate is moral to officials who are closer to the people and where the people retain their authority and their freedom to punish their respective representatives. To quote Roberts majority opinion:

“Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” (National 6)

This libertarian interpretation (albeit a minority variation in today’s libertarian America) of judicial power hands ultimate responsibility over to the polis. But again, this is not the escape hatch i am referring. With all the complex legal jargon and maneuvering, Justice Roberts simply has handed the ethical decision-making on this particular matter away from the judicial branch, even though arguments 1 and 2 has been deemed illegal. Obama-care has been deemed legal. That is all. I wonder if Roberts was seen washing his hands excessively after he read his majority opinion aloud.

To my knowledge, in 2015, argument 3 (the tax penalty in Obama-care) can still be challenged in court. Justice Roberts might have to get his hands dirty once again.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS ET AL. v. SEBELIUS, SECRET HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (aka Obama-care)

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The Fourth Estate

“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.”

—Walter Lippmann

The media has been colloquially called the Fourth Estate as long as I can remember. Back in Acien Regime of France, a political system established under the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties from the 15th-18th centuries, the Fourth Estate was a political force that contrasted from the other three estates (the clergy, nobility, and everyone else) and was instrumental in questioning the power of the First and Second Estates (clergy and nobility, respectively). Today, it is seen to offer a check to at least two dominant and typically insular political forces in modern society, political elites (no matter how non-elitist some claim to be) and moneyed-interests, a.k.a businesses and the rich. I have not heard much wrangling about the definition, nature, and responsibilities of the Fourth Estate, but considering it is a seemingly important institution, I am reminded of Lippmann’s quote above.

The Fourth Estate is the primary institution involved in distributing information by which a community can detect lies. But is seems so much of the media is dominated by corporations and consequently, the bottom line of business, and not the bottom line of journalism; these two bottoms are inherently a conflict of interest. So what if most of the institutions of media are corrupted like so many believe but what should be done about it or even take its place? One method I believe can truly compete in today’s world is the citizen journalist. With the internet, blogging, digital equipment, and a whole host of new technologies citizen journalists have a larger advantage than their counterparts decades ago. What can help them thrive are consumer choices, where more and more people rely on their alternative media like community newspapers and radio, among others, that are not owned by corporations or by the government. I truly believe that this is possible. I have met so many people who write or produce videos as a hobby. I’m sure many people would like to become involved. WordPress is proof. But, like most important things in life, it takes people to get off their ass and just do it.

La Jolla High students Daniela De Kervor (left) and Laura Wells release white seabass into Mission Bay. / Photo by K.C. Alfred * U-T San Diego

Union Tribune June 18th 2012 article ” Students raise seabass, replenish species,” written by Maureen Magee, is a refreshing bit of news about our educational system, and to a another degree, our environment.

While in high school the most I had experienced nature as part of my studies was on a sketchy fishing boat off the coast of Long Beach, California looking for some of the largest animals to have existed, and seriously considering downing a whole bottle of Dramamine. I did not learn a damn thing excepting my introduction to motion sickness. The cost: medicine, gas for the boat and bus, and a whole school day. The benefit: learning to stare at the horizon can help prevent vomiting. But to actually take part in raising and researching a rapidly depleting animal is what I wish I had done instead in my marine biology class.

Helping the environment is no doubt going to take massively coordinated efforts by institutions but drops in the bucket can still add up to a splash. If this were fully inculcated into school curriculum, even in only several dozen schools, this can make a lasting and significant impact for diminishing fish stocks. Maybe this idea of producing while learning can help society be self-sustainable.

Imagine taking this ingenuity (and I’m sure they’re more common than my life-experience suggests) to other subjects for group or individual endeavor. Learn microeconomics, for instance, by growing a produce and trying to market the good. I’m sure there are many youth who have a more natural and herbal-minded lifestyle who can benefit from an easy A. Or how about writing a letter of protest to a company or politician; try to get it published and study the responses (or study why there were no responses) in English/Literature class. The cost: effort and various resources subject to the topic. The benefit: among others, a High School Diploma that means something.

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jun/18/students-grow-sea-bass-replenish-species/?page=2#article

R.I.P. Rodney King

Rodney King in downtown Los Angeles on April 13, 2012. The acquittal of four police officers in the videotaped beating of King sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (Matt Sayles / AP Photo)

Today, someone my age and rung on the ladder may think of being beaten nearly to death by police officers is more or less what happens in 3rd world authoritarian countries and not in one of America’s “World-Class Cities,” if Los Angeles can be characterized in that fashion. The resulting city-wide riot the following year, caused by the four acquitted policemen who beat Rodney King, is of equal disbelief if it were to happen today. I consistently hear that we have a long way to go in race-relations in America (and I think they’re right).

The ’92 L.A. riots is one of the worst this country has ever seen. The scale and damage it had caused along with the video footage of the acquittals of the police officers that came before it, was displayed in living rooms across this country, and had set race-relations back. Some people throughout my life viewed those riots as a horrible  event, but with more anger against the rioters than against the police who beat King and the system who did not do King justice. The destruction of public property and harm to bystanders, like in the case of the horrific video of the near-death beating of Reginald Denny, is unacceptable; the constant harassment, intimidation, and harm of the African-American community in L.A. by the police is equally unacceptable. After decades of subjugation, was the black community in L.A. suppose to a happier bunch of folks after hearing the acquittal of the police officers charged with beating Rodney King? After all, it was something that community had experienced in their daily lives on a consistent basis and wasn’t through a television while sitting comfortably on a couch. I have also encountered from time to time black students in grade school talking about the riots in a positive light. Sad, did they not know that much of the businesses that were looted were black-owned businesses? This is the clearest evidence that the ’92 L.A. riots did set race-relations back, as people became entrenched along racial lines. The media did not help in depolarizing the communities. In writing this post, I just learned that the person who saved Denny the truck-driver, was another truck driver who happened to be black, and is perhaps conveniently not shown on any video I have seen of the incident since 1992. One might think that may be pertinent to the well-publicized and scrutinized drama and important to understanding it was not actually about black versus white or black versus Korean but something much more complicated than that. I’m sure there are more examples.

There have been a number of rational voices as well but who stands out the most is the original victim in that fiasco. Instead of spewing vengeance and hatred after the acquittal of the men who nearly beat him to death as they were calling him “nigger” every chance they had, Rodney King instead called out a phrase that became well ingrained in our cultural psyche: “Can we all get along?” Regardless of his reckless driving where he ended up meting corrupt police officers or that substance abuse might have contributed to his death, he proved himself a good man at the most important time.

I recollect consumer responsibility a notion existing before the Great Recession and my impression of it being a left-leaning, albeit fringe, endeavor. Granted much of my adult life centered in urban jungles and not rural pastures, my impression might be a matter of circumstance. Nevertheless, John Gerzema, a veteran advertiser, has much to say about consumer responsibility, not only in its seemingly co-optation by middle America but by the positive response from a good part of corporate America. Anyone who has taken —or still takes— consumer responsibility to heart has in the link below some good news. If your thinking that this Ted Talk is another Ted Talk bore, Gerzema stands out as an entertaining orator with a few neat facts. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVU9C-kzGj8

He has guided the brand strategies of McDonald's, BMW, Coca-Cola, United Airlines, and Holiday Inn, just to name a few.

To contrast, a candlelight vigil is an assembly or gathering of people outdoors after sunset for one or more purposes to protest for an oppressed group of people, and such vigils may also be used for religious or spiritual purposes whereas a candlelight memorial is for a person or group of people who has died tragically or unfairly. A candlelight vigil and memorial are often mixed together. A memorials significance is understandable, especially as a condolence to a victim’s friends and family or solidarity to like-minded people. In short, in its most basic element, it is an expression of love. But for people who frequent candlelight vigils, what is its significance?

If it is to change minds or even to pressure people to sway to favor…good luck. There would have to be reasons….a speech…something emotional and symbolic for people who do not share the vigil. The only other way I can see that goal being accomplished is if someone is deeply swayed by emotion to change their opinion. Like I said before….good luck.

If it is to “show the presence of” (a cause, a community, etc) or to simply “never forget,” doing something else will pretty much guarantee either. Holding a debate on an issue, for instance, will not only check those two just mentioned off the list but may actually change some minds.

What I am trying to lay out is that it seems candlelight vigils are useless, tantamount to saying something while saying nothing at all. It reminds me of a candidate running for office. However, I do find one useful thing about it. I have been to several candlelight vigils in the past and I have found most of them sobering experiences. Check candlelight memorial on the list. Causes including Transgender Remembrance Day, AIDS Day, and many others may easily illicit melancholy but I have also felt a sense of doing “something.” But another issue arises if you look deeper into that feeling. That “something,” in the shadow of anything is very, very easy to do. Just show up. Then, if you have felt what I have felt from the realization of actually caring for what you are supporting then you will come to see the joke of what you have done or been doing. To be less abstract, if you really care about a cause, ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT. It takes at least a bit of humbleness that comes with self-reflection to not only notice but truly appreciate when people really do care. Those people get their hands dirty.

Armed with a bag of skittles and ice tea, a child shot dead in a neighborhood by a Neighborhood Watch leader was shielded by Florida’s  “Stand Your Ground” law. Basically, the law states that you can stand you ground and even use deadly force to protect yourself. Sounds legit at first glance but anyone with an imagination can perceive complications. If you are against such laws understanding its interpretation, or rather, the interpretation of law itself is essential. The same morning the day this post is published, I happen to hear a co-author of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law making a point that the law he helped write does not say anything about following and confronting a person who is a perceived threat. This alone should have warranted the arrest of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Apart from that illuminating tidbit of information, it can be seen how the law can easily be corrupted. Look at these other cases where “Stand Your Ground” laws have protected some very shady people from “protecting” themselves.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/23/trayvon-martin-other-stand-your-ground-cases-from-florida-to-north-carolina.html

This is not to absolve any incidence where theft was part of the circumstance but think of the moral high ground: does a car warrant the death of a person? You will also notice that in all of these incidences (many do not involve theft) it has involved the death of a young person, some even mere children.

There should be some form of “Stand Your Ground” laws. I would not like to find myself in a position to have to defend myself but hesitate simply because I have to take into account of some unrealistic consideration that some authors of SYG laws try to prevent. Example: you have to run to a place of safety first to use deadly force, which is what some laws in America require. But what if I’m trying to run from somebody who is much faster and stronger than I? But at the same time I should not have the liberty to just shoot random people who happen to step on my lawn and then claim self-defense, as in the shooting of 15 year old Brandon Robinson.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/23/trayvon-martin-other-stand-your-ground-cases-from-florida-to-north-carolina.html