Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014, 2:30 PM

Halbig: The Judicial Right Takes Another Shot at Obamacare

This morning’s astonishing ruling from the D.C. Circuit decided—against logic, against any semblance of judicial modesty—that the Affordable Care Act does not authorize subsidies for health insurance plans purchased on the federally run exchanges, currently operating in the 36 states that decided not to form their own exchanges. If the ruling were to go into effect (which it won’t yet—other federal courts still haven’t weighed in, and the Supreme Court probably will too), nearly five million Americans would see their premiums increase by an average of 76 percent. In its 2-1 ruling, the Court—following the passage wherein it debated the finer nuances of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin—considered the government’s argument that, textual ambiguities aside, it is manifestly clear that the law’s drafters never intended to arbitrarily deny subsidized health care coverage to Americans who happened to live in states that would turn out to decline to set up their own exchanges. In short: Although there’s a bit of grey area in the text, a holistic look at the law’s purpose and goals makes its meaning clear. Rejecting that argument, the Court muses: “Finally, turning to the ACA’s purpose and legislative history, we find that the government again comes up short in its efforts to overcome the statutory text. Its appeals to the ACA’s broad aims do not demonstrate that Congress manifestly meant something other than what section 36B says.”

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Monday, Jul 21, 2014, 7:45 AM

The Curious Case For Scottish Independence

In just under two months, voters in Scotland will decide whether they’d like to remain a part of the UK or become an independent country. To say this is an old problem is quite the understatement: The vote is taking place in the 700th anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn, a major Scottish victory in the Wars of Independence against England. The question is both a tough political-economic issue and an emotional, historically pregnant referendum on national identity. But as a recent piece in The New York Times shows, the push for independence is also one of those bizarre issues which seems to attract people incapable of marshaling convincing evidence in its favor (not unlike the case against Justice Ginsburg’s retirement). This latest example comes from the Scottish journalist Neal Ascherson, whose effort to muster a convincing array of pro-independence arguments ends in something like poignant exhaustion.

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Friday, Jul 18, 2014, 9:15 AM

Friday Round-up: Border Surge Edition

Earlier this week, I commented on the emerging left-wing split regarding the unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the Southwestern border, a political issue that could reshuffle the 2016 Democratic primaries. But Iowa and New Hampshire are still a long way away, and the more than 50,000 children at our doorstep—a number which may reach 90,000 by the end of the fiscal year—present a humanitarian crisis right now.

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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014, 10:45 AM

Still Awaiting Vatican Reform

Garry Wills has a sharp evaluation of Pope Francis’s progress in addressing the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal—an effort characterized chiefly by the work yet to be done. The pope’s apologies, the Vatican’s panels of study, the promises of reform: all these steps are probably beside the point, Wills argues, since “without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far.”

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Monday, Jul 14, 2014, 9:30 AM

A Coming Left-Wing Split on Immigration?

This weekend’s Washington Post makes an important point about the refugee crisis at the southern border: For the first time in years, immigration politics are no longer a win-win for Democrats. Although the article admittedly indulges in the “how will it play?” obsession that plagues D.C. political reporting, it also highlights a burgeoning left-wing rupture that could help scramble the prematurely stale 2016 primaries.

Friday, Jul 11, 2014, 11:15 AM

Friday Round-up: Falsch Skandal Edition

Germany’s fury over U.S. espionage may be more than mere theater: this week, Angela Merkel’s government demanded the exit of America’s CIA station chief in Berlin. (In other words, the current Zeitgeist in Deutschland is an exaggerated Empörung). The expulsion follows the discovery of two spies that the U.S. allegedly recruited within the German government, revelations which have only reignited anger at American intelligence activities (including the NSA’s monitoring of the Chancellor’s private phone calls). But many writers are demonstrating little patience for German complaints.

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Thursday, Jul 10, 2014, 12:30 PM

America’s Refugee Crisis

The U.S. is confronting a serious refugee crisis at its Southern border: Since October, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally has surged to over 50,000. These young people are arriving not only from Mexico, but from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—countries so wracked by violence that parents are choosing to send their children alone on a long, dangerous journey, knowing they may never see them again. (As Dara Lind notes, other less violent countries in the region, like Nicaragua and Costa Rica, have also experienced huge increases in asylum applications from their more violent neighbors.) Do these children have any hope of gaining asylum in the U.S.?

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