Why I’m Not Writing this Essay

Operation orange coneby Akim Reinhardt

I've been writing 3QD Monday columns for over six years now. Never missed a deadline. Not a one of ‘em. Every fourth Monday: Bang! 2,000 words. More like 2,500. I enjoy it. I look forward to it.

Each December, when the city of Baltimore mails every resident a Baltimore City Department of Public Works paper calendar, I open it up, flip through the months, and write 3QD in the box of every fourth Sunday, reminders to have my essay done in time for the Monday column to be posted. Right there, beneath color photos of workers standing in sinkholes and shoveling to get at busted water mains; of latex gloved volunteers picking up garbage; of jerryrigged snow plows rambling somewhat ineffectively through snowy streets; of schoolkids ogling a big truck at the city dump. That is where I make happy little notes so I don't forget: compose another essay for 3 Quarks Daily!

And lo and behold, today is that fourth Monday. Today I'm up to bat, along with a handful of other semi-esteemed writers, like Adam Ash (not his real name), Leanne Osagawara (not her real name anymore), and that guy who uses his real name while comparing cheesy Hollywood films to real world events (love it!). And all the others who've come and gone. There used to be some woman in Canada who was a nurse, maybe? Or a dentist or something? I don't know. She wrote good stuff. But she and a lot of others have burnt out or moved on. Yet here I remain. And it's my turn again.

But I'm not doing it. I'm not writing my essay this week. I'm taking early January, 2017 off. Why, you ask? How did it come to this? Well, there's a whole bunch of reasons, really.

I'm a Lazy Bastard: My whole life I've loved nothing better than doing nothing. Sometimes I come clean and admit my lethargy, but people often refuse to believe me. "You have a Ph.D. You've published three books. You helped negotiate the Peace of Westphalia. You can't possibly be lazy." I protest. I insist that I am. I remind them that professors are notoriously lazy, barely rousing themselves to sleep with their students. But the skeptics just pshaw and insist I'm energetic.

Yeah? Well not energetic enough to write this essay.

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America’s Move to the Right

by Akim Reinhardt

John RobertsLast week, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stunned much of America. Normally associated with the court’s Conservative bloc, he jumped ship and cast the deciding vote in the 5-4 case of Florida v. Department of Health. His support allow the court to uphold the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Popularly known as ObabaCare, the bill requires all but the poorest Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a hefty penalty.

All of Roberts’ usual compatriots, along with the court’s typical swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, vigorously dissented. Not only did they claim that the mandate is unconstitutional, they wished to scrap the entire bill. Had Roberts voted with them, as most observers expected him to, ObamaCare would have gone down in flames. But he didn’t. Instead, he infuriated Conservatives and made (temporary?) friends among Liberals by allowing the bill to stand. And in order to do so, he split the difference.

On the one hand, Roberts remained true to his philosophy of judicial restraint, stating in his decision: “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.” Furthermore, he steadfastly refused to join the Liberal wing in signing off on the bill’s constitutionality under the commerce clause; Congress, he maintained, most certainly cannot compel Americans to purchase health insurance. In these respects, at least, wore Conservative garb. However, Roberts did allow that in this case, the government's fine on individuals who buck the mandate, could be interpreted as a tax. That was a particularly liberal reading of the bill, pun intended, given that for political reasons the ACA’s architects had been careful to not to call the penalty a tax. But with that reading, Roberts found a way to join the four Liberal justices in upholding the ACA since Congress’ powers of taxation are well established. Thus did Roberts craft an opinion that eased his Conservative conscience while also allowing a Liberal piece of legislation to stand.

Or did he?

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