Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Most of the commentators seem to think it doesn’t look good for the health care bill. At SCOTUS Blog, there’s an index of yesterday’s coverage.

The New York Times editorial addresses the “test” the Supreme Court faces in their decision on this case.

In ruling on the constitutionality of requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, the Supreme Court faces a central test: whether it will recognize limits on its own authority to overturn well-founded acts of Congress.

The skepticism in the questions from the conservative justices suggests that they have adopted the language and approach of the insurance mandate’s challengers. But the arguments against the mandate, the core of the health care reform law, willfully reject both the reality of the national health care market and established constitutional principles that have been upheld for generations.

The Obama administration persuasively argues that the mandate is central to solving the crisis in America’s health care system, which leaves 50 million people uninsured and accounts for 17.6 percent of the national economy. The challengers contend that the law is an unlimited — and, therefore, unconstitutional — use of federal authority to force individuals to buy insurance, or pay a penalty.

That view wrongly frames the mechanism created by this law. The insurance mandate is nothing like requiring people to buy broccoli — a comparison Justice Antonin Scalia suggested in his exasperated questioning of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. Congress has no interest in requiring broccoli purchases because the failure to buy broccoli does not push that cost onto others in the system.

It’s really frightening to think of the possible implications of the justices overturning this law. Will the right wingers challenge Medicare and Social Security next? Dahlia Lithwick says the right wingers on the Court seem to want to return the country to “freedom” circa 1804.

The fight over Obamacare is about freedom. That’s what we’ve been told since these lawsuits were filed two years ago and that’s what we heard both inside and outside the Supreme Court this morning. That’s what Michele Bachmann* and Rick Santorum have been saying for months. Even people who support President Obama’s signature legislative achievement would agree that this debate is all about freedom—the freedom to never be one medical emergency away from economic ruin. What we have been waiting to hear is how members of the Supreme Court—especially the conservative majority—define that freedom. This morning as the justices pondered whether the individual mandate—that part of the Affordable Care Act that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty—is constitutional, we got a window into the freedom some of the justices long for. And it is a dark, dark place.

But the “conservative” justices, who are covered by government subsidized health insurance appear to think freedom means the right to let people die if they can’t pay for health care.

[Sonia] Sotomayor…pondering whether hospitals could simply turn away the uninsured, finally asks: “What percentage of the American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and that child was turned away because the parent didn’t have insurance—do you think there’s a large percentage of the American population who would stand for the death of that child if they had an allergic reaction and a simple shot would have saved the child?”

But we seem to want to be free from that obligation as well. This morning in America’s highest court, freedom seems to be less about the absence of constraint than about the absence of shared responsibility, community, or real concern for those who don’t want anything so much as healthy children, or to be cared for when they are old. Until today, I couldn’t really understand why this case was framed as a discussion of “liberty.” This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live. It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.

The quotes from Scalia and Kennedy in Lithwick’s piece are unbelievable. Please go read the rest at the link.

There were some bombshells in the Trayvon Martin case last night. ABC news obtained video of George Zimmerman arriving at the police station after he shot Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman had no visual signs of injury, no bandages, no sign of grass stains on the back of his jacket, no sign of a broken nose, no blood on his nose or the back of his head.

Last night on MSNBC’s The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell spoke to the funeral director who prepared Martin’s body for burial. The funeral director saw no sign of damage to Martin’s knuckles or any other part of his body that would indicate he had been in a fight. The only damage this man observed was a gunshot wound to Martin’s chest.

O’Donnell also had as a guest Cheryl Brown, the mother of a 13-year-old boy who witnessed the shooting. He couldn’t see much, because it was getting dark, but the boy told the 911 dispatcher that he saw a man lying on the ground and another man standing over him. One of the men was crying out for help, and then there was a gunshot and the crying stopped.

Another issue that arose last night on both MSNBC’s The Ed Show was that the police report on the incident listed Trayvon Martin’s full name and address; yet police listed him as a John Doe for three days. When Sanford police finally informed Trayvon’s father that his son was dead, the man who came to the house was Chris Serino, the investigator whom we recently learned wanted to charge George Zimmerman with manslaughter on February 26, the night of the shooting. Serino told Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, that he (Serino) didn’t believe Zimmerman’s story.

I don’t have any links, as I write this late on Wednesday night. I will try to add them in the morning when news articles become available.

The autopsy on Trayvon Martin’s body will obviously be key in determining what happened that night, but the autopsy is currently under seal.

The autopsy on Trayvon Martin was performed by a medical examiner who works for the Volusia County government, and therefore Byron has been in the loop regarding the autopsy, which has not yet been released as the investigation into the killing is ongoing.

“In Florida when a death is being actively investigated by any agency … the autopsy information is shielded under the Florida public records law until the investigation becomes un-active, or inactive,” Byron told the IBTimes via phone Wednesday morning. “So in this case I think we can all agree this is an active death investigation, so what I need to do is refer all calls to the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville.”

The LA Times reported yesterday that: Black residents in Sanford, FL say they’re often harassed by police. Here’s one example from the article:

To many black residents of Sanford, the escalating national anger over how local police have handled the [Trayvon Martin] case reflects years of tension and frustration over their treatment by authorities.

Murray Jess, for one, can’t shake the memory of an evening two years ago, as he drove through Sanford at dusk, heading home after attending an art show with his fiance and his 14-year-old nephew.

A police cruiser began following Jess’ silver-gray 1996 Mercedes. Two unmarked police cars blocked the road in front of him, forcing Jess into a Pizza Hut parking lot. An officer got out of a van and pointed a video camera at the bewildered Jess as another officer, his hand on his gun, approached the car.

Jess asked the officer why he had been stopped. “He said, ‘We’ve had a lot of reports of these kinds of cars being stolen lately,’ ” said Jess, a black Sanford resident and business owner whose voice still shakes with rage.

I have several other news links for you on a variety of subjects that I’ll give you in what Minkoff Minx and Wonk the Vote call a “link dump.”

On Tuesday, Minx reported that a group led by Magic Johnson has purchased the LA Dodgers. The team has been in limbo for the past couple of years after the former owner, Frank McCourt went through an expensive divorce that drained his funds. Actually, McCourt really never had enough money to be the owner of an MLB team. The LA Times reports on Dodger fans’ reactions.

The Pope visited Cuba and met with Fidel Castro.

Pope Benedict called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and met with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro on Wednesday as he ended a trip in which he urged the communist island to change.

He also spoke at a public Mass in Havana’s sprawling Revolution Square where the Vatican said 300,000 people gathered to hear the 84-year-old pontiff.

In a trip laced with calls for change in Cuba, his last message was aimed at the United States, its longtime ideological foe, which for 50 years has imposed a trade embargo trying to topple the Caribbean island’s communist government.

Speaking in a departure ceremony at a rainy Havana airport, Benedict said Cuba could build “a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled,” but it was more difficult “when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.”

A terrible wildfire has been burning in Colorado. Authorities believe the fire was started by a “controlled burn.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper suspended prescribed burns used to mitigate fire danger on Wednesday after a controlled blaze apparently ignited a wildfire west of Denver that killed an elderly couple and destroyed some two dozen homes.

“Through this suspension, we intend to make sure that we have the procedures and protocols in place so that prescribed fire conditions and management requirements are understood and strictly followed,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Although the origins of the so-called Lower North Fork Fire are officially under investigation, the Colorado State Forest Service has said that a controlled burn it conducted was the likely source of the fire.

A Jet Blue pilot who apparently had a psychotic break during a flight has been charged with a crime.

U.S. authorities filed criminal charges on Wednesday against a JetBlue Airways pilot who yelled incoherently about religion and the 2001 hijack attacks and pounded on a locked cockpit door before passengers subdued him in a midair uproar.

Flight 191 was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, on Tuesday, following what authorities described as erratic behavior by Capt. Clayton Frederick Osbon, who allegedly ran through the cabin before passengers tackled him in the galley….

The Justice Department filed a complaint charging Osbon with interfering with the crew. It is unusual for a commercial airline pilot to be charged in this way, and a U.S. official said he could not recall a similar case in recent years.

Osbon, 49, remains in a guarded facility at a hospital in Amarillo, and U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana said he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The man sounds mentally ill to me. I’ll be interested to learn more about what happened.

If you’re interested in some juicy gossip from Arlen Specter’s new book, you can find it at The Washington Post and Huffpo. There appears to be quite a bit in the book about naked Senators–including Ted Kennedy. I think I’m going to pass on reading this book.

Sooooo… what are you reading and blogging about today?


Wednesday News Reads: Day Three

Good Morning

Today is day three of the Supreme Court hearings on Obamacare. For a preview of this morning’s activities we go to SCOTUS Blog:

Argument preview: Health care, Part III — Beyond the mandate : SCOTUSblog

Argument preview: Health care, Part IV — The Medicaid expansion : SCOTUSblog

The articles are best read in full, so I won’t quote from them, there is also a main page for the healthcare hearings you can go to at SCOTUS blog: Health Care : SCOTUSblog

From Reuters, U.S. top court weighs all-or-nothing on healthcare law

* Asks if law can survive without insurance mandate?

* Justices to end three days of historic arguments

* Will also take up Medicaid expansion for the poor

The fate of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul will be on the line on Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the entire law must fall without its centerpiece insurance mandate.

Completing three days of historic arguments, the nine justices will hear arguments on whether the rest of the law, Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment, can survive should the court decide Congress exceeded its powers by requiring all Americans buy insurance by 2014.

The Obama administration faced skeptical questioning on Tuesday from the court’s five-member conservative majority on the insurance requirement. But it was unclear whether it would strike it down or let it stand.

A ruling on the mandate that most people obtain health insurance or face a penalty appeared likely to come down to Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, two conservatives who pummeled the administration’s lawyer with questions.

If even one of the five conservative Republican appointees joins the four liberal Democratic appointees on the court, the law would be upheld. If the five conservatives remain unified, the law would fall. A ruling is expected by late June.

The Raging Cajun had a lot to say about yesterday’s hearing…Carville: A Supreme Court loss will help Democrats

While the Obama administration fights to protect the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville said a Supreme Court overruling may not be such a bad thing for the president, politically.

“I think this will be the best thing that has ever happened to the Democratic Party,” Carville said Tuesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

He added: “You know, what the Democrats are going to say, and it is completely justified, ‘We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority’.”

Video of the interview at the link.

I am going to stay away from Trayvon Martin links this morning and give you a look at the murder of an Iraqi woman in California.

Killing of Iraqi Woman Leaves Immigrant Community Shaken

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Kassim Alhimidi wept over the body of his wife, Shaima Alawadi, at a prayer ceremony on Tuesday. She died after being found severely beaten in her home near San Diego.

There are still no leads, which seems both strange and frustrating.

Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son, Mohammed.

Ms. Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. Like many others in the neighborhood, the couple were immigrants from Iraq. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said.

Last week, Shaima Alawadi’s was found by her daughter, she was beaten with a tire iron and died from her injuries three days later.

“At this point, we are not calling it a hate crime,” said Lt. Mark Coit of the El Cajon police. “We haven’t made that determination. We are calling it an isolated incident, because we don’t have any evidence of anything similar going on at this point.”

What about that obvious hate filled note found near Alawadi’s body?

Anyway, this NYTimes article focuses on the neighborhood and comments from people who live in the “tight knit” community of El Cajon.

Yves has a post about  Foreclosure Fraud 101: A Step-By-Step Look at One of the Most Common Fixes for Securitization Fail « naked capitalism

One thing that foreclosure defense attorneys have seen as a huge red flag of servicer chicanery is the use of allonges. An allonge is a separate piece of paper used for endorsements that is required by the Uniform Commercial Code to be “affixed” to the note and used for endorsements when there is no more space left on the note for signatures. Allonges were pretty much never seen until the robosigning scandal, since all the space on a note (meaning the back and the margins) can be used for endorsements. But they have a funny way of showing up out of nowhere and solving all the problems with a particular foreclosure. Of course, if an allonge really was “affixed,” it shouldn’t be possible for it to materialize out of nowhere.

So readers can see how this looks up close, I’m attaching this pleading from Lynn Szymoniak (the foreclosure fraud investigator who appeared on 60 Minutes and later received $18 million in settling a qui tam case as part of the national foreclosure settlement). Lynn in still embroiled in an an ongoing foreclosure fight and a major bone of contention is whether the party trying to foreclose has standing.

I suggest you read this filing in full; it’s pretty comprehensible on its own. For newbies to this sort of thing, one thing that is it important to understand is that all the documents pertaining to a specific mortgage (the note, the mortgage, which is the lien on the property, title insurance, etc) go in a single file called a collateral file. It is supposed to be with the trustee or a custodian hired by the trustee, unless it has been sent out for a specific purpose. The documents in a collateral file are put in in a particular order (generally chronological) and are supposed to remain in that order.

And one last link for you, this time we will go back to L.A., Magic Johnson’s Group Wins Dodgers Auction With Record $2 Billion Bid – Forbes

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt announced an agreement Tuesday night to sell the team to a group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and former baseball executive Stan Kasten for $2 billion, a record price for a North American sports franchise.

The Johnson group’s bid was bankrolled by Guggenheim Partners, a privately held financial firm that manages over $125 billion. If the deal is approved in federal bankruptcy court, Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter would become the controlling owner.

That is all I have this morning, sorry it is a bit late…and on the short side. I will post more news links in the comments below. So what are you reading about today?