Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Supreme Disappointment

A bad day begins at the Supreme Court. Picture by yours truly.

During the night before the Supreme Court's ruling on the "Patient Protection Affordable Care Act," or--let's be honest--"Obamacare," as it is now fated to be known, I had trouble sleeping. This fitful rest was a symptom of the anxiety I've had for months over the potential outcome of the decision. Yes, there were five justices on the bench appointed by Republican presidents, outnumbering the four appointed by liberals. And yes, the Act represented an expansion of federal power so extreme that I thought even an institution with such an inconsistent record as a defender of liberty (as I shall explain a few posts hence) might take the bait and strike the mandate down, at the very least.

But even with these caveats in mind, I was simply never able to imagine a future in which the Court upheld this law. My visit to the Court on the morning of the ruling did not change that. Even so, when the very first news reports came out at 10 a.m. Thursday morning, announcing that the Court had struck down the mandate, I was briefly delighted; all too briefly, as it turned out. For, as the Elder Son has so skillfully explained below, the Court did strike down the individual mandate at the center of the legislation--as an exercise of Congress' power under the Constitution's Commerce Clause. But Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the law anyway, as a justifiable exercise of legislative taxing power. This despite repeated assertions by the administration that the mandate was not a tax (click here for one from the President himself, back in 2009); despite the Act's lesser likelihood of making it through Congress if it had been recognized as a tax from the start; and despite the new reality that a precedent exists for Congress to tax inaction to induce the purchase of a product.

I, for one, did not expect Roberts to be the fifth vote in the first place (I thought, if anyone, it would be Anthony Kennedy), much less that he would issue his ruling by answering a question he wasn't asked. To me, it seems that Roberts conceived his ultimate decision first, and worked backwards logically to support it. Now, any lawyer--or even participants of high school Mock Trial--will tell you that this is speculation. But until we learn what happened behind the scenes of this ruling--if we ever do--speculation will have to suffice. Still, all proper conjecture must have some root in reality, and there are certain facts that support this possibility. For one, if you read the dissenting opinion filed by Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito, they refer to Ginsburg's opinion as "the dissent"--which is sort of strange, since her view won out in the end (in a way--more on that below). Is it possible that these dissenters had Roberts on their side until something forced his hand? I think so.

That leaves the question, however, of what did the forcing. Allow President Obama and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to answer that question. If you cannot view those links, here is the story they tell: two elected officials, from the executive and legislative branches of government, respectively, attempted to coerce the Court into ruling the way they wished it to on the constitutionality of Obamacare. And they certainly were not alone among liberals. Indeed, if anything, they were merely the first to do so. In the days leading up to the ruling, liberal academics and journalists were preparing to brand the Roberts Court as "radical." In the alternate universe in which the Court struck down Obamacare, this talking point would have been passed around the liberal universe without end. Undoubtedly, the president would have spoken out against the Court, like he did after Citizens United. Undoubtedly, the "paroxysm of rage" from which the New York Times editorial board claimed Roberts' decision saved the country would have emerged--but only among liberals (the rest of the country remained solidly opposed to Obamacare before the ruling; we do not yet know if the ruling has changed this significantly). The appearance of Occupy-style protestors on the steps of the Supreme Court would not have surprised me, nor would have vandalism against the building itself.

But we do not inhabit that universe, and to describe it again calls for speculation. Meanwhile, in this one, the liberal elite chose to create a climate of coercion toward John Roberts; he, mindful, as Chief Justice, of his Court's legacy, chose to acquiesce. It is by far the most brazen attempt at judicial subordination since FDR's "court-packing" scheme, which essentially began the era of liberal-dominated jurisprudence which still mostly dominates (more on that in a subsequent post). How fitting for our FDR-wannabe president to act as such!

Some conservatives have attempted to discern some silver linings in the ruling, but I find these to be rather strained. The main argument of these contrarians is that Roberts simultaneously appeased liberals, constrained the authority-granting of the Commerce Clause, and proclaimed the individual mandate to be an implicitly unpopular tax--all in a feat of Marbury v. Madison-like* judicial jujitsu. Of these corollaries, I find only the third to be in any way consoling. The first implies that Roberts made a political decision rather than a judicial one. As for the second, Roberts was the only member of the upholding majority to rule that the Commerce Clause was an illegitimate justification for the individual mandate; the Court's four liberals had no trouble justifying it as such. Roberts' opinion, being his alone, does not even serve as precedent. (Incidentally, why do we only hear about the "conservative bloc" of the Supreme Court, and why do its members alone tend to cross over for decisions such as these?)

As for the third argument, there are some possible, though still cloudy, silver linings. Having deemed the mandate a tax, Roberts has now forced Obama to defend passing one of the biggest tax increases in history. Moreover, as a tax--inherently a revenue-raising measure--a bare majority of 51 Republican Senators, plus a Republican president and House, could gut the Act's mandate, at the very least, leaving it in tatters. This assumes many things, however, not all of which might be true: that Republicans will gain enough seats for a Senate majority and win the presidency; that Democrats won't continue their sophistry by claiming that the mandate isn't a tax except when they need it to be; and, perhaps most importantly, that Republicans will have the courage to use their moment in the majority to reverse the most serious advancement of the entitlement state since the Great Society, courage which past Republican majority moments have cast into doubt (two words: Medicare, Part-D).

The greatest short-term effect of the Court's ruling is to raise the stakes for the 2012 election. Many conservatives were, I imagine, hoping that the Court would strike down Obamacare so that Mitt Romney--whose record is, indeed, somewhat unreliable--would not have to receive the full measure of their support. With this decision, however, all conservatives must come, if they have not already arrived, to the realization at which we Sons arrived many months ago: Romney's not perfect, but there's really no other choice. To their credit, signs point to acceptance of this; for example, Romney's campaign raised 4.6 million dollars within 24 hours of the Court's decision. This November represents the last practical chance for opponents of Obamacare to strangle the baby in its crib.  Otherwise, the country is stuck with it for good--at least until the fiscal collapse to which it is bound to contribute.
                                       
If Obama wins in November, Obamacare becomes Hercules.

In short, Roberts has turned the 2012 election into a genuine conflict of visions, as James Pethoukoukis has argued, in which, quite simply, one side will prevail over the other--no "centrist compromise" about it. It is up to the country now to decide which side that will be.



*In Marbury v. Madison, Chief Justice John Marshall simultaneously issues a ruling that favored the position of President Jefferson while expanding the purview of the Supreme Court so much as essentially to establish the Court's power of judicial review; that is, its ability to assess constitutionality as a check on the other branches.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Verrilli's Last Laugh

Did Perry Mason stutter?

By the last of three days of oral arguments at the end of March – which now seems like years ago after yesterday’s ruling – at least one verdict was in; Paul Clement, the silky smooth attorney representing the plaintiffs challenging the Constitutionality of ObamaCare, wiped the floor with the hapless Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli.  It was Verrilli who was charged with the considerable task of defending what appeared to be the indefensible.  Even the liberal commentariat was robust in its criticism of the Sad Sack SG following his performance.  He seemed ill prepared and unsuited to the moment, seemingly overwhelmed by the momentousness of his task.  Channeling Albert Brooks from the movie “Defending Your Life”, Verrilli stammered and stuttered his way through oral argument, especially the Opening Statement.  He could not muster even a weak single off the easily thrown softballs of Justices Kagan, Sotomoyor and Breyer, and appeared feeble at the plate against the sinkers and curveballs expertly and gleefully thrown by Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and, believe it or not, Chief Justice Roberts.  You could almost feel sorry for poor Verrilli; if you had been in the room with him when he presented his opening statement, as a fellow human being you would have been gazing at the floor to spare him the embarrassment. 
Yet still, there was some indication that this may not be the throwdown it appeared at first blush.  There were hints that we could be witness to an historic bait and switch by Chief Justice Roberts.  On Day One, the Court entertained the arcane question whether, if the individual mandate was deemed a tax, would federal law prohibit a lawsuit until the actual tax was imposed?  Since the provisions regarding the mandate and the penalty are not effective until 2014, this could theoretically delay the Court’s consideration and determination of the lawfulness of this ‘tax’ until that time.  Eager to have the ruling behind it by the 2012 election, the Administration’s representative, SG Verrilli, argued that this was not a tax and not subject to the Anti-Injunction Act.  Justice Alito peppered the SG, noting -- in hindsight, prophetically -- ‘you argue today this is not a tax, but you’ll be here tomorrow arguing that it is a tax.  Are you aware of any cases where a tax was not subject to the Anti-Injunction Act?’ (paraphrasing)  SG Verrilli assured the assembled Justices this outcome was not supported by any precedent. 
While this was not the sexy Commerce Clause argument the assembled media had pined to hear, as fate would have it this was the very fulcrum upon which CJ Roberts would uphold the turgid ObamaCare legislation.  Just as Justice Alito had predicted the previous day, SG Verrilli indeed argued the next day that even if the Justices could not find it in their hearts or heads to hold the legislation constitutional under the Commerce Clause, the Court could find the mandate a tax, which is well within the Constitutional power of Congress to impose.  This argument seemed at the time to be an afterthought or not too clever lawyer’s trick.  Almost like the defense presented by the country lawyer representing the owner of a dog who attacked the neighbor: Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my client does not own a dog; if my client does own a dog, the dog did not bite Mr. Smith; and if my client’s dog did bite Mr. Smith, well Mr. Smith bit him first. 
Not a single of the veteran Court watchers predicting Thursday’s outcome could have, in their wildest dreams, suggested that CJ Roberts would author the opinion upholding the legislation not as a Constitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause, but rather as a proper exercise of Congress’ Taxing Authority.  And who could blame them?  The Obama Administration and various and sundry Democrat leaders took pains throughout the fourteen months leading up to the passage of the law, and then in the two years following its implementation, to emphasize that this was NOT a Tax.  Leave it to CJ Roberts, and the four liberal Justices who were desperate to grab any hook to hang this ruling, to advise the Administration that no, you’re wrong, this IS a tax and, oh by the way, still not subject to the Anti-Injunction Act. 
While I haven’t read the entire 193 page decision, I still don’t understand how the majority could rule the mandate as a tax, thereby ensuring its legitimacy, while still look the other way on the implications of the Anti-Injunction Act.  It would have been more intellectually honest had CJ Roberts and the majority ruled the mandate a tax and invoked the provisions of the Anti-Injunction Act, but that would have also guaranteed at least two more years of litigation and uncertainty.  And while it is true that Congress can exercise its taxing authority in a broad way, I don’t understand if there are any limits on its authority to tax and how a government, any government, can tax inactivity.  A tax on the purchase of cigarettes and liquor to curb their consumption – sure.  A tax on the purchase of gasoline to pay for roads and bridges – OK.  But how do we explain and justify the authority of the Federal Government to tax us for not buying something.  Keep that in mind the next time you walk into a 7-11 or other convenience store and are instructed by the cashier to pay your 5% surcharge for not buying a beef jerky.    
I’m sure Jack and I will be posting further on the various ramifications of the Court’s decision, so please stay tuned.  But for now, we must give SG Donald Verrilli his due.  Not only did he get the last laugh as he prepares the frame for the first page of the 5-4 decision upholding ObamaCare, he also sticks in his litigator’s pouch a 5-3 decision striking down the majority of the immigration law passed by the State of Arizona, probably the other most Constitutionally significant ruling of this term.  And this was another oral argument in which most Court observers concluded that the sly, Columbo-like Verrilli was woefully undermanned by the stellar Paul Clement.  So SG Verrilli gets to play Perry Mason to Paul Clement’s Hamilton Burger twice in less than a week.      
Just another reminder that, as Rod Serling used to remind us at the end of episodes of The Twilight Zone, things are not always as they appear. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Night Before Thursday

Pictured: the best secret-keepers in Washington
Well, here we are. After months--years, even--of anticipation, tomorrow the country will learn to what fate the Supreme Court has consigned the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The stakes could not be much higher. Liberals fear that the Court, if it were to strike down even just the individual mandate to purchase health insurance which lies at the center of the statute, might restrain the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which Congress has used with the Court's backing to expand the power of the state over economic life since Wickard v. Filburn. On the other hand, conservatives fear that, were the court to uphold the mandate, then any limiting principle on the state's authority would vanish. Moreover, at least four justices most likely think from each of the opposing sides, leaving Justice Anthony Kennedy as kingmaker, and perhaps one of the most powerful men in America. In a way, it's a sort of perverted Christmas, with each side unable to handle the anxiety from the possibility that it might not get what it wants. Whatever opinion emerges tomorrow--though decided before--will have repercussions both as near as the doctor's office and as far as the sort of country which generations hence shall inhabit. Whatever happens, be sure to turn to the Sons of Cincinnatus for analysis and commentary. Readers can be assured that many subsequent posts in both the short and long-term will pertain to the Supreme Court, whether the nature of the Court as an institution or the character of the Roberts' court in general, or its recent decisions in particular. But for now, one can only wait. Or, on the subject of Christmas, enjoy this version of "A Visit From St. Nicholas," modified appropriately for the occasion.

With apologies to Clement Clark Moore:
"A Visit from Lady Justice"


'Twas the night before Thursday, when all through D.C.
All the pundits were screaming, even on MSNBC.
Their opinions were said not often with care,
In hopes that Lady Justice soon would be there
The pundits were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of mandates danced in their heads;
And Obama in the White House, with Romney still fighting,
Continued to argue for a vision of righting
When out on the Court-steps there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from the Trail to see what was the matter.
Away to reporters they flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors and took up a dash.
The sun on the rise of the presidential row
Gave the lustre of mid-day to columnists below,
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But the Supreme Court, with nine and one in the rear,
A blindfolded lady, so beautifully austere
I knew in a moment that Lady Justice was there.
More rapid than eagles the justices they came,
And She whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now Roberts! Now Scalia! Now Kennedy! Now Thomas!
"On Bryer! On Alito! On Sotomayor! On Kagan! On Ginsberg!

To the top of the steps! to the top of the hill!
Decide away! Decide! Decide, until..."

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When she met with a microphone, she looked to the sky,
And up to the cloud-top the justices flew,
Full of opinions, and Lady Justice too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the news
The dissenting and controlling of nine justices' views.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Out the T.V. screen came Justice with a bound
She was dressed all in a robe, from shoulders to toes,
And her words were untarnished by mistrust or throes;
A bundle of cases She had flung on her back,
And she looked like a peddler just opening her pack.
Her eyes -- still blindfolded! Her dimples unmoved!
Her cheeks were uncolored, her face short of mood!
Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And face 'round the blindfold was fairer than you know;
The scales of the law she held tight in her hand,
And in the other, the sword of reprimand;
She had a small face and a slim figure,
That barely moved at all, as if fixed to a rigger.

She was incredibly fair, in more ways than one
And I gasped when I saw her, wondering which side had won;
Beneath her eyes, the ruling remained unrevealed,
Much though I wanted what she had concealed;
She then spoke the word, and I was amazed,
Then she let all the justices have their ways,
And then, taking the nine around the scales,
And giving a nod, into the T.V. She sails;
Springing out of sight, to Her team gave a whistle,

But I heard Her exclaim, ere she moved out of vision,
“Happy Term to all, you have heard the Decision! ”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Obama vs. The Bishops

Render unto...Sebelius?
This is my maiden voyage on the Sons of Cincinnatus.  I'm proud and honored to be one of the two primary bloggers on this site -- specifically the 'father' of the 'father and son duo' to which Jack refers in his introduction.  I am not nearly as lyrical or clever with the pen (or keyboard, as the case may be) as the 'son' portion of this duo, but I hope that some of my posts may provoke some thoughtful discussion among family, friends, and readers of this site. 

My first entry takes us back to the HHS mandate which requires all employers which provide insurance to their employees to include coverage, at no cost, for birth control, sterilization, and abortifacents.  While time and the news cycle has generated many new controversies since that mandate was announced months ago  -- Fast and Furious, the imposition of immigration laws by executive fiat, the EuroCrisis, the increasing dominance of Islamic rule in the 'Arab Spring' -- the discussion of the mandates is timely since the Catholic Bishops have announced the 'fortnight for freedom', which runs from last week through July 4th.  Also, we are on the eve of the Supreme Court's decision regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which is the fulcrum of the mandates, so the time is right to consider the genesis of the mandates. 

As a Mass-attending and practicing Catholic, I hope this discussion plays some part in convincing the readers of the lawlessness, the cynicism, and the divisiveness of the mandates.  We must also consider that, if the Court upholds the constitutionality of the legislation, Americans of all stripes, faiths, and backgrounds will be subject to similar mandates imposed by the HHS, the IPAB, or some other Federal bureaucracy in the not too distant future.  

The first question I pondered when the mandates were announced in the winter was: why would the President and his Administration choose to pick this fight with the Catholic leadership, particularly in an election year?  Specifically, why didn’t Obama and Sebelius negotiate with the Bishops an alternative to the draconian measures imposed by HHS, which they had to know the Bishops were dutibound to oppose and take a public stance against.  While I personally would not have been happy with this scenario, I think a compromise between the Bishops and the Administration was achievable and while the Bishops would not have been 100% happy with the outcome, they also would not have gone so public in their opposition.  So why did the Obama Administration choose to pick this fight with the Bishops?  I think there are five possible scenarios:

1.     Obama and the Administration didn’t think the regulations would generate this degree of opposition from the Bishops.  This scenario seems almost unthinkable, particularly since this Administration is led by the 'smartest person to ever hold the office' (just ask David Brooks).  This scenario reflects a degree of ‘inside the Beltway’, liberal mind-speak which may exist amongst the decision makers.  In any Administration, regardless of party affiliation, the President surrounds himself with similar thinkers, and rather than testing hypothesis against possible outcomes, the President's people create reasons why the decision the President supports is the right one.  Some of this President's key advisors are aggressively pro-abortion (I choose to not call their position 'pro-choice', because there really is only one 'choice' which they support), including Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS, so this hypothesis may well be the correct one.  (The counterweight to this argument is the leaked story that both VP Biden and then Commerce Secretary Daly warned the Administration that the Bishops would oppose the mandates strenuously.) 

2.     Obama chose to pick a fight with the Catholic leadership because, for whatever reason, he concluded it is politically expedient.  Maybe he thinks the pro-abortion groups would rally to his cause, similar to the way he hopes that environmentalists would rally to his cause with his decision to not support the Keystone Pipeline and Hispanics would cheer his unilateral imposition of immigration 'reform.'  The Administration likely concludes it is politically more important to keep the pro-abortion groups satisfied than the political downside of alienating Catholic leadership and the faithful Catholics supporting the Bishops (of whom there are millions).

3.     The President doesn’t really care how the Bishops would respond to the mandate because he thinks the Catholic population, by-in-large, doesn’t respond to this group of Catholic leaders and/or will actually discount their pronouncements.  A previous generation of Catholic leadership lost credibility and the support of many of their faithful with their scandalous handling of the Priest sexual abuse scandals.  (Indeed, a Pennsylvania jury just last week found a monseignor guilty in a criminal trial for the way he dealt with an abusive priest under his authority.)  Obama may have calculated that the Bishops no longer have the 'juice' to influence or impact their flock.  The fact that he would hang out to dry some of those Catholic leaders who supported him in the 2008 election and during the health care law campaign isn’t really important to him. He’s shown the ability to throw former supporters under the bus when politically expedient.

4.     As a corollary to theory #3, Obama made the political calculation he can win in November without the support of the Catholic leadership and, if he’s estimated this correctly, he won’t owe them anything if/when he’s reelected.  This scenario would mean goodbye to the purported Executive Order prohibiting federal funding of abortions in the new health care exchanges (you know, the Stupak Amendment which sealed the fate of the health care legislation in the House); goodbye to any pretense of religious liberty; and hello to a new age of religious tyranny by federal bureaucrats.

5.     Finally, Obama may simply a true believer in the cause, and the core principle of providing women contraception and abortion financial assistance, and requiring Catholic institutions to do the same, is more important to him than any blowback from troublesome Catholic Bishops and some votes lost from the Catholic faithful.  We know from his history in the Illinois Legislature that as a neophyte State Senator Obama aggressively opposed even the Born Alive legislation, which would have simply authorized hospitals and health care institutions to provide medical care to babies who surived an attempted abortion.  Obama also famously stated he wouldn't want either of his daughters to be 'burdened' by an unwanted pregnancy.  So, using the Occam's Razor theory, this may be the simplest yet most persuasive explanation for the imposition of the mandates.  

Whether the decision of the Administration is motivated by any or some combination of these theories, or some other explanation, it is not overly dramatic to suggest that these mandates present one of the most significant Constitutional challenges between the Federal Government and organized religion in the history of the Republic.  As a practicing Catholic, I am proud of and applaud the stance and bravery of the Bishops in not backing down or shrinking away from the oppressive imposition of insurance requirements which are in stark contravention to Catholic dogma and principles.  I urge Catholics and men and women of principle and of any faith to support the Bishops in this effort.  This is not a fight against Catholics; it is a fight against the free exercise of religion in this country. 

Within hours we will know how the nine Justices of the Supreme Court decided the battle over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  Regardless of the outcome, the battle for religious freedom must and will continue to be waged.  This is one of the primary reasons why brave men and women fought and overthrew a tyrannical king and crown two hundred forty years ago, risking their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, and created our great Republic.  As we near yet another celebration of that historic event, we owe it to those men and women to carry on their legacy.

Are you all in? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Salvete!




Welcome to Sons of Cincinnatus! I am Jack, the younger half of the Sons. As a member of the famously tech-savvy generation which has not yet been named, I suppose it is fitting that I have the first post here. But this will be a collaborative effort, you may be assured, as both of us will have many thoughts to contribute, especially as this 2012 election approaches. In fact, I would argue that the perspective of the Elder Son is more valuable, wizened as it is by the passage of time. But first things first: let me explain the origin and intent of this blog.

At least since the Presidential Election of 2008, my father and I have been discussing politics, culture, history, and other things amongst ourselves. We were doing this to some extent before then, but I was so unaware of the nation's and the world's various goings-on that I was hardly a suitable discussion partner. But my understanding and awareness of both have grown considerably since then, such that we now discuss these on as equal a footing as a our still distinct ages and experiences allow. Both of us, in observing daily occurrences, and reading about them in various media, have and continue to conceive and share many opinions about them. Until now, these have mostly stayed between us, whether via email or kitchen table discussion.

This blog, however, intends to bring our discussions to whomever wishes to see them. For one of the many things that we Sons concluded from our multifaceted imbibing of opinion, news, and commentary is that the internet has significantly lowered the participation threshold. This has been a boon for conservatism, as it--rather against character, some might argue--rapidly took advantage of so-called "new media" so as to pose a worldview against what it views--rightly, in our estimation--as a mainstream worldview that tilts to the left. But it has also had some negative effects; as with any democratizing trend, the good become mixed in with the bad--just check the comment thread of your typical yahoo! news story.

Regardless, that is one of two reasons that we Sons have chosen to create this blog. The second is that we perceive the urgency of the present time as such that we must do all we can to disseminate our points of view to the widest possible audience. As we shall detail in forthcoming posts, never before has an American president been so boldly disparaging of the Constitution; never before has the government been so entangled in the daily affairs of men; and never in modern times has the economy performed so consistently inadequately. We intend to advance a common thread that ties these and other problems together. This thread has been woven by many throughout history, but we have chosen Cincinnatus in particular because he embodies what we deem ideal political behavior: engaging nobly and ably in public service when called, but preferring to cultivate virtue in private life.

The Sons of Cincinnatus wish, while acknowledging that government has a proper place in national life, to maximize the private sphere. This is not to say that we are completely individualistic; indeed, we hold as true and good the institutions and traditions which have guided man into civilization, and worry that excessive government vitiates them. We loathe as well that too many in modern politics live lives in too great a contrast to Cincinnatus. Many branches of the government have their place, but when we speak without disgust of "career politicians," and when greater dependency on government is incentivized instead of seen as a temporary relief measure for most and a safety net for the indigent, then something is out of whack.

This is the vision of the Sons of Cincinnatus. Visitors to this blog are welcome to agree or disagree, but only competent and respectful argumentation from either direction will be accepted here. We aim, as a tertiary goal, to elevate the level of discourse in electronic media, for one of their most worrisome tendencies is to degrade it. Whether or not you disagree, we hope that you, at the very least, enjoy our attempts to make sense of the intricacies, paradoxes, and foibles of the modern world.