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Thursday, June 28, 2012

A few thoughts on today's Obamacare decision 

For those of you who have time for a deep dive, here's the link to the Supreme Court's opinions regarding the Affordable Care Act, which was upheld today in a decision that saw Chief Justice Roberts "switch" to the liberal wing to sustain the individual mandate as a tax. I have not read the opinions, but that does not mean that I do not have opinions.

The short version is that there were not five votes to sustain the ACA's "individual mandate" under the Commerce Power, but -- thanks to the Chief Justice -- there were five votes to conclude that the penalties for violating the mandate are a "tax" under the Taxing Power.

Naturally, I have a few quick opinions.

  • In bailing President Obama out on the law itself, the Court has effectively declared that in pushing through the ACA Obama broke his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Not to mention that our "constitutional law professor" of a president was profoundly wrong, or profoundly disingenuous, in his own constitutional interpretation. The GOP is already making the point.
  • The "mandate tax" will fall disproportionately on young people who do not usually need health care insurance. Once again, we are throwing people born after 1980 under the bus in favor of people born before 1965. I wonder how long the young folks will put up with that?
  • At the end of the year, and probably in to next year, we will face a huge fight over the "Taxmageddon fiscal cliff" that is already docketed for January 1, 2013, thanks to the expiration of the "Bush tax cuts," the new taxes under the ACA, and the mandated spending cuts from last year's debt ceiling deal. There is going to be a massive fight in the lame duck session, and if Mitt Romney wins it will probably continue well after inauguration day. Will the GOP throw the "mandate tax" on the table during the lame-duck session, just to drive the Democrats insane? You betcha.
  • Still, expectations after the oral argument were such that today's decision is nothing more than a huge victory for Barack Obama, both politically and historically. It will help his campaign's credibility, and raise the spirits of his own supporters.
  • That's it for now. Release the hounds.


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    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    A few pictures from Nice 

    I am in the middle of week-long swing through our European operations, which will by my return have taken me to London, Dublin, southern France, and Lyon, with stopovers in Frankfurt and Brussels. We did, however, rather brilliantly contrive to spend most of this weekend in Nice, and got in a beautiful and relaxing day on Saturday. And then, this morning I caught the swim and the first transition of the Nice IRONMAN. I took a few pictures.

    A French vintner with a sense of humor...

    French vintner with a sense of humor

    Fresh almonds in the Nice farmer's market. I had never seen them before.

    Fresh almonds

    For the life of me, I do not understand why they call it the Cote d'Azur...

    Cote d'Azur

    From the rooftop pool a the hotel (not the best sight, but the only one suitable for a family blog).

    Nice

    The same tower at night.

    Nice at night

    The churning Med during the swimming leg of the Nice IRONMAN. Cote d'Azur airport is in the background.

    Choppy sea

    A shot of the "T1" transition area, with Nice's most famous hotel in the background.

    Nice IRONMAN, T1

    And coming out of T1.

    Nice IRONMAN, coming out of transition

    On to Lyon.


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    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Accumulated tabs, and commentary thereon 

    I have accumulated a huge number of open tabs, and thought I would disgorge them upon you while I listen to Continuing Legal Education modules.

    Yes, those are the depths to which I have fallen.

    There many be other thoughts along the way. And, of course, apologies in advance for the old news. Some of this stuff is several days old.

    American mountain lions may be staging a comeback. From a small remaining population in the Dakotas, they have now ranged as far as Connecticut and Texas. While this may be bad news for smallish fauna, I think it is a very cool story and am cheering them on.

    Why our food is making us fat. It is Earl Butz's fault. (Historical footnote: Butz was drummed from his job as Secretary of Agriculture for having the incredibly poor judgment to share a racist joke with John Dean.

    The campaign against Lance Armstrong continues. The short version is that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has launched a new investigation against Lance on the eve of his first international ironman triathlon event (in France, June 24), and the triathlon authorities have therefore barred him. What hogwash. They are just afraid of him:

    Armstrong started doing triathlons after retiring from cycling, and won a half-Ironman in Hawaii less than two weeks ago. He was the fastest cyclist and runner on the 70.3-mile course, and the third-fastest swimmer.

    But with the new investigation open, the World Triathlon Corporation suspended him.

    Whatever might have happened once upon a time, Lance's second comeback Tour de France, in 2009, was clean as a whistle. Even the Justice Department, which opened an investigation against Lance with great fanfare -- prosecutors love nothing more than the publicity of taking down a big-shot -- closed its investigation in February with a big fat nada.

    Sandra Bullock is selling her house in Austin. Stalk the online listing.

    More cowbell! (Just thought you would enjoy that one.)

    The chart that more or less destroys the idea of "peak oil." More along the same lines, and with more analysis, here.

    The original recipe for Jack Daniels is from Wales? The impact of the Obama FDA on the availability of drugs.

    You think the housing market is on the verge of a recovery? Perhaps not. Be well.


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    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    The curious connection between oil prices and Iran sanctions 

    Oil prices fell again yesterday (not today), settling on an 8-month low. The post hoc reason for yesterday's decline was at least a little curious:

    June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Oil fell a fourth day after Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said OPEC may need a higher output limit and the U.S. issued more exemptions from sanctions on buying Iran's crude, cutting the risk of supply disruption....

    The U.S. added India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan to the list of exemptions from sanctions after they reduced crude purchases from Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Clinton announced in March that Japan and 10 European Union nations had qualified for an exemption for a renewable period of 180 days.

    India and South Korea were the third- and fourth-largest buyers of Iran's crude in the first half of last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. China, the Persian Gulf nation's biggest customer, and Singapore, Asia's oil-trading hub, weren't exempted from the sanctions, which are targeted at curbing Iran's nuclear program.

    Recognizing that there may well have been legitimate geopolitical reasons for the Obama Administration to grant waivers that allow various other countries, allies and otherwise, to purchase Iranian oil without suffering American reprisals, one of the consequences is that the price of crude -- no doubt relevant to Barack Obama's prospects for re-election -- has fallen to its lowest level since last fall. Mixed consequences do not always confirm mixed motives, but they often do. You decide.

    Regardless, yesterday's announcement reinforces the reasonable point that it sucks to be Benjamin Netanyahu in Barack Obama's world.


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    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Annals of the law: How Delaware became the jurisdiction of choice for corporate America 

    Bloomberg has an interesting story about how Delaware became the jurisdiction of choice for corporate America. Basically, New Jersey blew its early lead by -- thank you, Woodrow Wilson -- regulating too heavily, a lesson that the Garden State has never really absorbed.

    That said, there are at least three reasons why Delaware has retained its market share, none of which made it in to the linked article.

    First, the advantage of a huge installed base gives Delaware an almost insurmountable lead, if for no other reason than Delaware corporation law remains just about the only state law on any subject about which the lawyers of other states are willing to opine. At least that was true back when I was lawyering like a banshee.

    Second, Delaware knows how to give good service. When Ronald Reagan passed his massive reform of the Internal Revenue Code, effective January 1, 1987, there were certain very large advantages in closing corporate transactions before the end of 1986. The Delaware Secretary of State had the good sense to keep its office open until midnight, New Year's Eve, to process mergers that were closing at the last minute. Any state that delivers service like that deserves a huge market share.

    Finally, Delaware's judges, unlike the judges of essentially any other state, know their way around corporation law. That is important, because competent and knowledgeable judges improve the predictability of the law, which is as valuable to business as it is rare in practice.

    I know, I know. You're thinking, he came out of retirement for this?!>


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    Saturday, June 09, 2012

    Being George Zimmerman 

    Here is a rather, er, arresting story from the Internet age:
    Talk about an unlucky draw.

    An Orlando, Fla., man says his life has been turned upside down since May 7, when T-Mobile reportedly assigned him the cellphone number formerly used by accused Florida murderer George Zimmerman.

    It's the same mobile number Zimmerman gave police dispatchers during the notorious 911 call moments before he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin three months ago. The 911 call (with Zimmerman heard spelling out the number) has since been widely circulated by the media and on the Internet.

    The Orlando Sentinel reports that Junior Alexander Guy, the man who inherited Zimmerman's old number, immediately started getting weird calls at all hours of the night.

    "You murderer!"

    "You deserve to die!"

    The question of identity has haunted the story of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. The country has argued in the press and on the blogs and around the water cooler over the significance of their respective ethnicities, and the media's characterization of them. There are many sides to identity, though, beyond race and ethnicity. Now that phone numbers are associated much more with individuals than locations and they are nationally transferable, they are increasingly an attribute of identity. We not only call and text with them, but they trigger avatars in receiving phones tied to their owner. Employees with company cell phones want to take their numbers with them when they leave -- how else will other people locate them or identify them when they text or call?

    The George Zimmerman story reminds us of a couple of things. First, a call to 911 in a case that attracts great publicity exposes our identity as never before. Not only do people know our name, but they know in a very real sense where to find us. Perhaps worse, once a number is imbued with identity the number itself becomes a target for harassment and threats, however disassociated that number may be as a matter of law or contract. Like a transplant horror movie, the new owner of the number is now haunted by his predecessor. This, of course, raises a new question: Ought recipients of new telephone numbers be entitled to know who owned them before?


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    Texas sunset 

    The view from my backyard in Austin, last night.

    Texas sunset

    One reason, I suppose, why I am not spending much time writing blog posts and such is that I am spending more time quietly watching sunsets.


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    Friday, June 08, 2012

    Brush with greatness: Brooke Shields 

    Reflecting my much reduced commitment to blogging and such, I have only this evening downloaded the last big wad of pictures from the Big Camera. Among them, my exclusive shot of Brooke Shields, Princeton Class of '87, marching with the 25th reunion class in last Saturday's P-Rade.

    Lisbon 002

    Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!


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