Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Short Takes

U.S. women’s soccer team for the win over Japan 5-2.

Greece votes “OXI” (“No”) to the bailout.

Secretary of State Kerry locked in negotiations with Iran as deadline approaches.

New York prison escapee returned to the joint.

South Carolina legislators brace for Confederate flag debate.

The Tigers had a topsy-turvy weekend against the Blue Jays.

(Footnote: this is the 2,400 edition of Short Takes.  Good morning.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

That Settles It

Well, what a relief.

“America isn’t a racist country, not even close,” she wrote in an op-ed in The Hill on Monday. “The left falsely saying so promotes not progress but division. American history includes slavery and racism, but its current status and future as a whole does not.”

And she should know because she has never heard a racist epithet about her.  So there.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Everybody On Stage For The Funeral Number

Jimmy Durante, the late great vaudevillian, once noted “Everybody wants ta get inta the act!”

This Friday’s funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckey, who was one of the people killed in the massacre in Charleston last week, will be a crowded affair.  President Obama will deliver the eulogy and Congress is shortening their business week so they can all be there, including the Republican leadership.  They’re also piling on to the “take down the flag” movement which, until Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) said she was in favor of, got a lot of “well, I don’t knows” from the GOP.  But once the Republican governor of one of the first primary states said it was okay, they all joined in.

Interesting, isn’t it?  None of these people bothered to show up to the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, which is just as potent a reminder of the struggle for civil rights as the Confederate flag, but now that they perceive it’s okay to walk away from the white supremacist base of the party, they’ll be there.

Charlie Pierce:

Now, of course, we will hear a lot of ahistorical braggadocio about how it was Republicans who freed the slaves, and passed the civil rights acts in the 1960s, Party Of Lincoln and all that. And we will hear about how great we are in general because we have all come together to agree that, in 2015, we decline to further glorify the symbol of a bloody insurrection launched in defense of chattel slavery. We rock. We are so very awesome. I give it a couple of weeks before the conventional wisdom congeals that we have “moved past the controversy” and we can all get back to gutting the Fair Housing Act and undermining voting rights and performing all the rites and rituals that have come to mark the Day of Jubilee.

Jimmy Durante was right; it’s all an act.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Proving His Point

President Obama:

We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200 or 300 years prior.

It’s ironic that the right-wingers are worked up about President Obama using that word when they’re the ones who shrug (or retweet) when one of them uses it about the president.

It’s even more ironic that their twitterpation is proving the president’s point.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Another Reason To Go To Quaker Meeting

So you don’t have to watch crap like this masquerading as “news analysis” on Sunday mornings.

While the country — and South Carolina, in particular — is once again debating racism in America, NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday offered a video of men in prison expressing regret for their own gun violence. All of the men in the video are black.

The segment was part of Sunday’s show, which focused on the recent killing of nine black people at a bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, is accused of making racist statements during the rampage and in an online manifesto that describes black people as “stupid and violent.” He has been seen in photos online holding a Confederate flag and wearing the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

“The circumstances you are about to see are very different from the racist violence in Charleston,” Meet the Press host Chuch Todd said in the introduction to the video.

“But their lessons remain important, and we simply ask you to look at this as a colorblind issue,” he said.

[…]

“The last thing we wanted was to cloud the discussion of the topic,” Todd wrote on the NBC website after receiving a wave of negative feedback on social media about the video.

“The original decision to air this segment was made before Wednesday’s massacre. However, the staff and I had an internal debate about whether to show it at all this week. When we discussed putting it off, that conversation centered around race and perception – not the conversation we wanted the segment to invoke,” he said.

In a panel discussion responding to the blowback, Todd said, “It wasn’t meant to be a black and white issue. And I understand maybe it’s one of those moments when people are only seeing through black and white.”

Yessir, we’ll really get to the bottom of race relations in America by showing a bunch of pundits sitting around talking about what the black experience is like.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Crash of Symbols

If the Confederate flag was offensive enough to the Texas DMV to ban a license plate with it, you would think that it would be time to stop flying the flag on the lawn of the statehouse in South Carolina.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it.

After the fall of the Third Reich, Germany banned the symbols of the Nazi era, including the swastika.  It was an ancient symbol used by many cultures including Native Americans, but Hitler and his gang turned it into  a sign of evil, repression, and mass murder.  (John Ross Bowie tweeted, “The confederate flag is about ‘states rights’ the way the swastika is about ‘fixing the German economy.'”)

Here in America we don’t ban symbols by law.  The First Amendment protects the right of people to fly whatever flag they want as long as it’s not obscene, and besides, banning the Confederate flag would only make it a martyr to a lost cause and give its believers something to rally around.  But we can remove it from our presence by shaming the otherwise reasonable people who defend the act of flying the flag into taking it down lest they be associated with the Dylann Roofs of the world.

It Was Racism

The way some people see it, Dylann Roof’s attack on the Emmanuel A.M.E. church Wednesday night that left nine people dead was an attack on “religious liberty.”  The people who are saying that are, to be charitable, out of their fucking minds.  Mr. Roof has a long history of racism and so when he opened fire, he wasn’t doing it because he objected to bible study.

Of course the chatterers at Fox News would do anything to avoid the racism charge because as we all know, America is no longer a racist country because hey, didn’t we twice elect that guy from Kenya with the sketchy birth certificate and the secret Muslim leanings?  Besides, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act so that means we’re all getting along just fine.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clap Your Hands, Go To Jail

So this happened in America:

Four people, including Ursula Miller and Henry Walker, both of whom are black, were asked to leave the ceremony after cheering on the graduates.

[…]

A few days after the ceremony, those asked to leave for cheering were served with arrest warrants.

Foster, who is white, pressed disturbing the peace charges against the attendees by filing an affidavit with the county Justice Court, which issued arrest warrants, the police and court clerk told TPM.

Wow.  Just… wow.  (As Doktor Zoom at Wonkette notes, at least they weren’t tased.  Or shot in the back.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Notes From Post-Racial America, Ctd.

I was not the only one to notice that the coverage of Waco and Baltimore was different.

Unlike in Ferguson and Baltimore, where protests went on for days, there was no live news coverage of the Waco shootout. And yet the incident at a Texas restaurant hasn’t been used as a bridge to discuss other issues about families, poverty and crime, media critics, columnists and civil rights activists say.

They complain that there appears to be little societal concern about the gunplay at a restaurant in Texas, whereas politicians — including President Barack Obama — described violent looters in Baltimore as “thugs,” and the media devoted hours of television and radio airtime to dissecting social ills that affect the black community.

On Twitter, #wacothugs and #whiteonwhitecrime were trending, with columnists around the nation debating the differences. “So the mainstream media refuses to talk (hashtag)WacoThugs, huh? No panel discussion on their childhood? Fatherless homes?” radio and TV commentator Roland Martin said on Facebook. The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates tweeted sarcastically, “Why won’t America’s biker gangs be more like Dr. Martin Luther King?”

There are a lot of reasons for this cognitive dissonance, but the most obvious one is that we — all of us — have a tendency to think in terms of groups.  Political parties tend to think that all people in a certain group will vote a certain way, so they pitch their message to the broadest denominator they can come up with to attract them and then run with it.  For example, Republicans hope that by nominating Marco Rubio, they’ll attract the Latino vote all over the country despite the fact that Mr. Rubio is Cuban and there’s a history of animus between Cubans and Latinos who are not.  (Not to pick on just the Latinos; there’s animus between any number of groups within groups.  Go to an antique car club meeting, toss out “Mustangs kick Camaros ass,” and run for your life.)   Democrats try to find candidates who will appeal to the patchwork of groups that vote for them, so they’re on the hunt for a black Latina lesbian from a working-class neighborhood in Evansville to give the keynote speech at the convention.

The problem with that is that thinking all people in a certain group think alike, even if they agree overwhelmingly on an issue such as immigration or marriage equality, may say so for vastly different reasons.  A businessman may want amnesty-granting immigration reform not because he cares about the horrible living conditions in a foreign country but because he needs someone to pick his tomatoes.  A gay man could be unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage not because of any biblical imprecation but because he sees it as just one more way the queer community is desperately trying to conform to the ways and mores of the straight world.  It’s been shown that one reason Obamacare still polls unfavorably is because not only are there those who say it’s Commie socialized medicine, but there are those who don’t think it’s Commie socialized medicine enough.

It is hard-wired in our nature to lump people together by identifiers such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any convenient way of categorizing someone else, including social groups like clubs or gangs.  Even the most open-minded of us will still see the world in what is basically an “us vs. them” mentality, and Waco vs. Baltimore is one more example.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Notes From Post-Racial America

When members of a largely African-American community committed property damage during protest demonstrations against the killing of an unarmed black man in Baltimore, it was a sign of social decay and a need for moral clarity.

When a bunch of biker gangs had a shoot-out in Waco, Texas, and left nine people dead, it was a “brouhaha,” not unlike when frat boys get rowdy after their university wins — or loses — a football game.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

That Was Then

Radley Balko has a very good article in the Washington Post titled “This isn’t 1968. Baltimore isn’t Watts. And Hillary Clinton isn’t Michael Dukakis.”

It’s much easier to demagogue riots to exploit white fear of black crime than it is to ask complicated questions about what caused this group of people to grow so desperate in the first place. Historically, that tact has also won elections, and deviating from it arguably has lost them.

You need to read the whole article, please.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday Reading

How We Got There — Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker on what racism has done to Baltimore.

… Talk to people in Baltimore—or Ferguson or Staten Island—and invariably you hear criticism of the police not as the police but as a symbol of an entire web of failed social policies, on education, employment, health, and housing. The real question is not one of police tactics: whether the use of body cameras can reduce civilian complaints or whether police-brutality cases should be handled by independent prosecutors. The real question is what life in an American city should be. The issues extend far beyond the parameters of race, but race is the narrative most easily seized upon. (It’s worth noting our tendency to think of declining, mostly white Rust Belt cities elegiacally, and of largely black ones moralistically.)

Midway through the twentieth century, cities—especially those, like Baltimore, which were sustained by ports—connoted a kind of American swagger. Today, the population of Baltimore is six hundred and twenty-three thousand; in 1950, it was nine hundred and fifty thousand. The Second World War diminished ethnic rivalries among white Americans and, with them, the tribal allotments of urban neighborhoods, but that process was accelerated by the fact that those areas were already becoming less appealing. When, in 1910, a black attorney bought a house on a white block in Baltimore, the Sun reported that the presence of blacks would drive down property values. That helped bring about a city ordinance—the first of its kind—establishing block-by-block segregation. It is generally assumed that white flight was a product of the political tumult and the spiking crime that afflicted American cities in the nineteen-sixties, but it may well have been the other way around. Baltimore, three-quarters white in 1950, is now two-thirds black. As the surrounding suburbs became increasingly white, transportation networks that once connected the city and the outlying county crumbled. Industry and employment relocated to the surrounding areas. By the late sixties, the city was marked by poverty, a persistent lack of opportunity, and violent crime.

Conservative commentators have pointed to Baltimore as a kind of anti-Ferguson, a city where, for decades, blacks have had a secure grasp on political leadership, including the mayor’s office; a significant representation in the police force, including, now, the commissioner; and an African-American chief prosecutor, who announced the charges in Gray’s death. Yet Baltimore witnessed the same volatile dynamics that we saw in Missouri last year. The implication is that the problem is not racialized policing but the intractable, fraught nature of securing poor, crime-prone communities. That doesn’t quite square. As the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson suggests, black representation may diminish but by no means resolve policing practices that disproportionately target African-Americans. And the differences in leadership in the two cities belie their conflicts’ common historical roots in segregation. Housing discrimination, of the sort intended by the Baltimore ordinance, was outlawed by a 1948 Supreme Court case, Shelley v. Kraemer, which originated in St. Louis, just a few miles from Ferguson.

Between 1980 and 2010, the population of Ferguson flipped from eighty-five per cent white to sixty-nine per cent black. At some point soon, Ferguson, like Baltimore, may have more proportional black representation, but the socioeconomic trends in that city won’t automatically change. Gray died twenty-eight years after Baltimore’s first black mayor took office, yet the statistical realities at the time of his death—a twenty-four-per-cent poverty rate, thirty-seven-per-cent unemployment among young black men—show how complicated and durable the dynamics of race and racism can be.

Last week, the cover of Time featured an image of Baltimore aflame, with the year 1968 crossed out and 2015 pencilled in. On social media, split-screen images of the riot that followed King’s death and the one that followed Gray’s proliferated. The temptation is to believe that nothing has changed, but something has: Baltimore is blacker and poorer than it was then. It was not difficult to see who set buildings on fire there last week. The more salient concern is how cities become kindling in the first place.

What Bernie Brings to the Race — Bill Curry in Salon on how Bernie Sanders will focus Democrats on defining their message.

At 73, Bernie Sanders must still like to campaign. On Thursday he kicked off a race for president of the United States, the Iron Man triathlon of politics. He has run 20 races already, as many as Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton combined. He says this one, like all the rest, will be a grassroots movement financed by small-donor giving. All politicians say that, but in a career spanning 43 years, Sanders has shown he means it. It’s just one of the reasons why people say he can’t win.

It isn’t the only one, as Washington handicappers hasten to explain. Another is his allegedly unsociable personality. It’s true that he isn’t much of a networker; you won’t see many “Friend of Bernie” pins. He’ll do well with small groups; one on one, not so much. He doesn’t even have quiet charisma. He relies more on logic than charm — and everyone he’s met says that’s the right call.

Most other analysis is standard-issue political punditry. Noting that “there have been no top-flight hires,” Politico quotes a “labor strategist” who says Sanders “doesn’t have a shot” at union endorsements. Bloomberg says “his aversion to big-dollar fundraising raises questions about whether he can collect cash at the level needed to compete with Clinton.” No doubt working with inside sources, the New York Times’ Nate Cohn confides that Sanders “will most likely champion the liberal cause” and then explains why that can’t possibly work: “The left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton.”

Cohn backs up his thesis with a 2014 Pew poll that says lots of Democrats aren’t really liberals. How 2008 turned out the way it did, he doesn’t say.

Clinton loyalists welcome Sanders’ entry because they know she needs a contest, or at least a tune-up. Of course, to get the full benefit she’d have to agree to debate, something she has yet to say she’ll do. That Sanders is six years older than Clinton must feel like a bit of great good luck to them. Some call him a perfect foil; a lesser threat than Warren, yet enough of one to provide progressives with some catharsis while bestowing Clinton with the legitimacy that comes only from competition.

“We’re going to win,” Bernie told ABC’s Jon Karl on Thursday, but everyone assumes he won’t. That assumption marginalized him from the moment he got in the race. On his big day, “CBS This Morning” gave him 34 seconds of coverage. On the Times’ web page, a 662-word news story spent a few afternoon hours beneath a report of the American Psychological Association’s condoning of Bush-era torture tactics before being relegated to a link headlined “Bernie Sanders to Run for President, Opposing Clinton.” A 900-word piece on Hillary’s recent departure from Bill’s old crime agenda helped push it off the page.

It won’t get any easier for Sanders. I hate horse race coverage as much as anyone, but there’s no sense denying such long odds. Liberals who fretted that Hillary might escape a challenge now fret that a poor showing by Bernie may weaken their case. You’d think by now they’d have tired of tactical thinking, but no. There are better ways to think about 2016. You could, for example, think like an organizer. If you haven’t done it in a while, you needn’t worry. It’s like riding a bicycle.

Now or ThenThe Onion reports on the possibility of marriage equality ruling from the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON—Anxiously anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue, the nation was reportedly on edge Wednesday as it waited to see whether the court would legalize gay marriage now or in a few years. “Americans are standing by with bated breath while the justices decide whether to recognize same-sex couples immediately or in two or three years when public opinion has shifted even more overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage,” said legal analyst Jermaine Masse, adding that whether the court would legalize gay marriage at once or merely very soon was still too close to call at this time. “At this very moment, nine individuals are deciding whether to fundamentally alter this country’s definition of marriage right away or by the end of 2018, latest. What’s at stake is nothing less than a 24- to 36-month delay on same-sex marriage being the law of the land.” Masse went on to say that the fact that the nation’s highest court agreed to hear the case in the first place signaled that it was prepared to reject the more conservative notion that gay marriage could wait until the end of the decade.

Doonesbury — Life’s purpose.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lesson Not Learned

There was a suggestion that instead of expelling the SAE frat boys from the University of Oklahoma, they stay in school and learn about how racist videos are not a good idea.  It’s a teachable moment.

Something tells me that it won’t sink in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Short Takes

ISIS is being beaten back from Tikrit by Iraqi forces.

The Israel election is next week and getting close between the rivals.

The University of Oklahoma expelled two students connected with the SAE racist video.

President Obama signed the “Student Aid Bill of Rights” law.

Stocks fall on strong dollar worries.

Gun ownership is down in America.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

Follow The Money

Oh look, a touch of irony in Ferguson:

The judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and colleagues while inflicting a punishing regime of fines and fees on the city’s residents, also owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes.

Ronald J Brockmeyer, whose court allegedly jailed impoverished defendants unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars, has a string of outstanding debts to the US government dating back to 2007, according to tax filings obtained by the Guardian from authorities in Missouri.

Brockmeyer, 70, was this week singled out by Department of Justice investigators as being a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to aggressively generate revenues. The policy has been blamed for a breakdown in relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.

Investigators found Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fees, “many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful”. A city councilman opposing the judge’s reappointment was warned “switching judges would/could lead to loss of revenue”.

Racism and greed; what a lovely combination.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Reading

First things first: if you live in a place that observes daylight savings time in the U.S. and Canada, did you move your clock ahead?

Obama’s America — Matt Ford in The Atlantic on what President Obama’s trip to Selma says about us and his view of America.

America is, like all nations, an idea. Unlike many other nations, this idea requires a little articulation. A nation built by waves of immigrants can’t rely on Old-World, blood-and-soil ethnic nationalism to define itself. The American idea is instead built upon a civic nationalism rooted in democratic principles and self-evident truths, even though Americans often fail to meet those ideals.

And so, quoting James Baldwin and the prophet Isaiah, President Barack Obama spoke in Selma on Saturday. His address commemorated the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” during the marches to Montgomery in 1965, but his rhetorical scope encompassed all of American history.

Obama has not always spoken so clearly about American exceptionalism. At a March 2009 news conference, he told a reporter that he believed in it “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” His political opponents incorporated this into a narrative that cast the president as anti-American, mistaking his ability to understand the pride of others abroad for a lack of pride on his own nation.

Obama corrected the record at Selma, making the case that we are not exceptional in the perfection of our virtue, but rather, exceptional in our relentless struggle to live up to our ideals:

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

Many will interpret this speech as a thinly veiled rebuttal to conservative critics like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who claimed last month that Obama “doesn’t love America.” Others will focus on Obama’s sharp attack on Congress for not renewing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after the Supreme Court gutted it in a 2013 decision. But the speech’s broader themes are far more important than its soundbites.

For Obama, the marchers at Selma helped set a new course for American democracy. “Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American,” he told the crowd. “Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors.” Had one of his predecessors not already taken the phrase, perhaps he would have called this a new birth of freedom.

Few would disagree with this assessment, but the president’s speech went beyond simple praise. Obama has a rhetorical tendency to construct grand, sweeping visions of American history. His inauguration speeches and State of the Union addresses often demonstrate this, but the first, best example might be his concession speech during the 2008 New Hampshire primaries, where he linked his own presidential bid to the historical arc of American freedom.

In Selma, Obama avoided the simplistic narratives of America the perfect (or America the oppressive, as some conservatives allege) in favor of America, the struggle. Instead of relying upon “patriotism à la carte,” as my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates once phrased it, the president carefully wove the darker chapters of American history into its civic mythos:

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free—Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South. We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent, and we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, Navajo code-talkers, and Japanese-Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, and the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As he did with slavery and Japanese-American internment, Obama sought to incorporate Ferguson into the turbulence of American history. The Department of Justice’s damning Ferguson report, which it released last week after a lengthy investigation, depicted a present-day municipal government dedicated to the plunder and predation of its black citizens. Obama readily observed that Ferguson wasn’t an isolated case, but also noted that these racist acts are no longer “endemic” in America. He also refused to accept that Ferguson meant that the struggles of Bloody Sunday were for naught. “If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the 1950s,” he said to applause.

At times, it felt like Obama was addressing not the civil-rights movement veterans who had assembled in Selma, but today’s new generation of activists and marchers. “We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America,” Obama told the crowd and the country. “To deny this progress—our progress—would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.”

Transcript here via Washington Post.

Roberts’ Tell — Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the Chief Justice’s silence during the Obamacare hearing.

The Supreme Court oral argument on Wednesday in King v. Burwell featured thousands of words, dozens of provocative questions, two engaged and skillful lawyers—and one very striking silence. Chief Justice John Roberts, usually among the most active questioners on the court, scarcely said a word throughout the highly anticipated clash. The justices besieged Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Michael Carvin, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, who are challenging a central provision of Obamacare, with so many questions that Roberts gave the pair ten extra minutes a side. The chief himself didn’t take up any of that time until practically the last moment.

Roberts’s one question may turn out to be extremely important. The issue in the case is whether the Obama Administration, in implementing the Affordable Care Act, violated the terms of that law. The plaintiffs assert that the A.C.A. only authorizes subsidies for individuals who buy health insurance on the fourteen state-run exchanges, or marketplaces. Under their reading of the law, the eight million or so people in the other thirty-six states who currently buy their insurance from the federal marketplace should be denied their subsidies. Most of the justices’ questions dealt with the issue of how to read the law correctly, but Roberts, in his single substantive question, took a different tack.

Anthony Kennedy had asked about “Chevron deference,” a doctrine of law that describes how much leeway the executive branch should have in interpreting laws. Verrilli, not surprisingly, said that the Chevron doctrine gave the Obama Administration more than adequate permission to read the law to allow subsidies on the federal exchange. “If you’re right about Chevron,” Roberts said, at long last, “that would indicate that a subsequent Administration could change that interpretation?” Perhaps it could, Verrilli conceded.

The question suggests a route out of the case for Roberts—and the potential for a victory for the Obama Administration. Roberts came of age as a young lawyer in the Reagan Administration, and there he developed a keen appreciation for the breadth of executive power under the Constitution. To limit the Obama Administration in this case would be to threaten the power of all Presidents, which Roberts may be loath to do. But he could vote to uphold Obama’s action in this case with a reminder that a new election is fast approaching, and Obamacare is sure to be a major point of contention between the parties. A decision in favor of Obama here could be a statement that a new President could undo the current President’s interpretation of Obamacare as soon as he (or she) took office in 2017. In other words, the future of Obamacare should be up to the voters, not the justices.

Why No One Cares About Bill O’Reilly — Eric Alterman at The Nation.

To anyone who has paid attention to O’Reilly or any of the Fox “anchors” in recent years, none of this should come as a surprise. There are many precedents in O’Reilly’s career (including a lie about, and faux on-air apology to, yours truly). No doubt one could find plenty of similar fabrications, exaggerations and purposely misleading statements on any given Fox program. That is, after all, the purpose of the network. It flatters the ignorance and prejudice of its audience even as it corrupts the larger media discourse on behalf of those same ignorant prejudices (as well as the financial interests of Rupert Murdoch, its billionaire owner, and Roger Ailes, its president and CEO). Hence, unlike NBC, which at least evinced some embarrassment over Brian Williams’s serial fabrications, Fox is totally down with its lying, bullying, name-calling host. Indeed, a Fox anchor or host would be far more likely to lose his or her job for telling the truth. (Things you’ll never hear on Fox: “Yes, global warming is man-made and a genuine danger to the security of our nation and our planet.” “Yes, President Obama was born in the United States and is a believing Christian.” “Yes, that entire Iraqi WMD thing was nonsense.” “Yeah, OK, the security arrangements at the US Embassy in Benghazi are not really the job of the secretary of state, much less the president.”)

To recap briefly, the mainstream media and the liberal blogosphere have recently been filled with stories in which O’Reilly placed himself at the center of world-historical events—or in imminent danger—and was found to be full of it. Contrary to O’Reilly’s claims, he was more than 1,000 miles from the Falkland Islands during the war there. He did not see any nuns murdered in El Salvador. He did not cover the “troubles” in Northern Ireland. He was not threatened by rioters in Los Angeles, and he was nowhere near the suicide of a man who claimed to have information about the assassination of President Kennedy. For all we know, he may not even be named Bill O’Reilly (though there’s apparently no truth to the rumor that he stole the dog tags off a dead soldier in Korea).

What is perhaps most disturbing about this story is the bifurcated reaction of the mainstream media. Almost no one who occupies a chair in a “respectable” media organization has taken the position that O’Reilly is a liar and Fox is filled with liars and it’s about time we stopped taking the network seriously as a news source. Rather, we hear from Politico’s Dylan Byers that “the Bill O’Reilly charges aren’t sticking.” Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine believes they have “backfired.” Jeremy Stahl in Slate says the case is “open to interpretation.” And a front-page New York Times analysis by Jonathan Mahler and Emily Steel describes O’Reilly as “a man who perhaps more than any other has defined the parameters and tenor of Fox News, in the process ushering in a new era of no-holds-barred, intentionally divisive news coverage.” The Times reporters leave it to the experts to decide whether what he says is true, though some of these experts—not incidentally, also cable-news veterans—are not so sure that it matters. “Bill’s credibility with his audience is not based on his record as a traditional journalist,” former CNN/US president Jonathan Klein told the reporters. “His credibility, in the view of his fans, is based on his trenchant analysis of the events of the day, his pulling no punches, his willingness to call it like it is”—which is apparently the way one defines lying, prevaricating and bullying in the world of cable news (and the Times’s “expert” sourcing).

More from Jeb Lund at Rolling Stone.

Doonesbury — Charlie Hebdo’s denizens live on.