By 2014, if an uninsured American citizen with enough income refuses to obtain health insurance, the person has a choice to resign from obtaining health insurance by paying a penalty; or, how the Supreme Court majority puts it, a tax.

But this is not the escape hatch I was referring. Of the three arguments of those defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obama-care, (1. Inactivity can be regulated under the Commerce Clause, 2. the Necessary and Proper Clause justifies the state interest enacting an individual mandate, 3. failure to obtain health care can be subjected to a penalty) the third argument won out, which is really considered a tax no matter how Congress wished to word it, according to the Court. It denounced argument 1 unconstitutional, which means the government cannot make you buy broccoli and Justice Roberts found no sufficient cause for Obama-care to be necessary and therefore proper. That means, among other things, the individual mandate can still be struck down by the legislature, not with 60 votes in the Senate, but with 50 votes instead. I consider it wise for Roberts to devolve the decision of whether or not the individual mandate is moral to officials who are closer to the people and where the people retain their authority and their freedom to punish their respective representatives. To quote Roberts majority opinion:

“Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” (National 6)

This libertarian interpretation (albeit a minority variation in today’s libertarian America) of judicial power hands ultimate responsibility over to the polis. But again, this is not the escape hatch i am referring. With all the complex legal jargon and maneuvering, Justice Roberts simply has handed the ethical decision-making on this particular matter away from the judicial branch, even though arguments 1 and 2 has been deemed illegal. Obama-care has been deemed legal. That is all. I wonder if Roberts was seen washing his hands excessively after he read his majority opinion aloud.

To my knowledge, in 2015, argument 3 (the tax penalty in Obama-care) can still be challenged in court. Justice Roberts might have to get his hands dirty once again.


“There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.”

—Walter Lippmann

The media has been colloquially called the Fourth Estate as long as I can remember. Back in Acien Regime of France, a political system established under the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties from the 15th-18th centuries, the Fourth Estate was a political force that contrasted from the other three estates (the clergy, nobility, and everyone else) and was instrumental in questioning the power of the First and Second Estates (clergy and nobility, respectively). Today, it is seen to offer a check to at least two dominant and typically insular political forces in modern society, political elites (no matter how non-elitist some claim to be) and moneyed-interests, a.k.a businesses and the rich. I have not heard much wrangling about the definition, nature, and responsibilities of the Fourth Estate, but considering it is a seemingly important institution, I am reminded of Lippmann’s quote above.

The Fourth Estate is the primary institution involved in distributing information by which a community can detect lies. But is seems so much of the media is dominated by corporations and consequently, the bottom line of business, and not the bottom line of journalism; these two bottoms are inherently a conflict of interest. So what if most of the institutions of media are corrupted like so many believe but what should be done about it or even take its place? One method I believe can truly compete in today’s world is the citizen journalist. With the internet, blogging, digital equipment, and a whole host of new technologies citizen journalists have a larger advantage than their counterparts decades ago. What can help them thrive are consumer choices, where more and more people rely on their alternative media like community newspapers and radio, among others, that are not owned by corporations or by the government. I truly believe that this is possible. I have met so many people who write or produce videos as a hobby. I’m sure many people would like to become involved. WordPress is proof. But, like most important things in life, it takes people to get off their ass and just do it.

La Jolla High students Daniela De Kervor (left) and Laura Wells release white seabass into Mission Bay. / Photo by K.C. Alfred * U-T San Diego

Union Tribune June 18th 2012 article ” Students raise seabass, replenish species,” written by Maureen Magee, is a refreshing bit of news about our educational system, and to a another degree, our environment.

While in high school the most I had experienced nature as part of my studies was on a sketchy fishing boat off the coast of Long Beach, California looking for some of the largest animals to have existed, and seriously considering downing a whole bottle of Dramamine. I did not learn a damn thing excepting my introduction to motion sickness. The cost: medicine, gas for the boat and bus, and a whole school day. The benefit: learning to stare at the horizon can help prevent vomiting. But to actually take part in raising and researching a rapidly depleting animal is what I wish I had done instead in my marine biology class.

Helping the environment is no doubt going to take massively coordinated efforts by institutions but drops in the bucket can still add up to a splash. If this were fully inculcated into school curriculum, even in only several dozen schools, this can make a lasting and significant impact for diminishing fish stocks. Maybe this idea of producing while learning can help society be self-sustainable.

Imagine taking this ingenuity (and I’m sure they’re more common than my life-experience suggests) to other subjects for group or individual endeavor. Learn microeconomics, for instance, by growing a produce and trying to market the good. I’m sure there are many youth who have a more natural and herbal-minded lifestyle who can benefit from an easy A. Or how about writing a letter of protest to a company or politician; try to get it published and study the responses (or study why there were no responses) in English/Literature class. The cost: effort and various resources subject to the topic. The benefit: among others, a High School Diploma that means something.

Rodney King in downtown Los Angeles on April 13, 2012. The acquittal of four police officers in the videotaped beating of King sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (Matt Sayles / AP Photo)

Today, someone my age and rung on the ladder may think of being beaten nearly to death by police officers is more or less what happens in 3rd world authoritarian countries and not in one of America’s “World-Class Cities,” if Los Angeles can be characterized in that fashion. The resulting city-wide riot the following year, caused by the four acquitted policemen who beat Rodney King, is of equal disbelief if it were to happen today. I consistently hear that we have a long way to go in race-relations in America (and I think they’re right).

The ’92 L.A. riots is one of the worst this country has ever seen. The scale and damage it had caused along with the video footage of the acquittals of the police officers that came before it, was displayed in living rooms across this country, and had set race-relations back. Some people throughout my life viewed those riots as a horrible  event, but with more anger against the rioters than against the police who beat King and the system who did not do King justice. The destruction of public property and harm to bystanders, like in the case of the horrific video of the near-death beating of Reginald Denny, is unacceptable; the constant harassment, intimidation, and harm of the African-American community in L.A. by the police is equally unacceptable. After decades of subjugation, was the black community in L.A. suppose to a happier bunch of folks after hearing the acquittal of the police officers charged with beating Rodney King? After all, it was something that community had experienced in their daily lives on a consistent basis and wasn’t through a television while sitting comfortably on a couch. I have also encountered from time to time black students in grade school talking about the riots in a positive light. Sad, did they not know that much of the businesses that were looted were black-owned businesses? This is the clearest evidence that the ’92 L.A. riots did set race-relations back, as people became entrenched along racial lines. The media did not help in depolarizing the communities. In writing this post, I just learned that the person who saved Denny the truck-driver, was another truck driver who happened to be black, and is perhaps conveniently not shown on any video I have seen of the incident since 1992. One might think that may be pertinent to the well-publicized and scrutinized drama and important to understanding it was not actually about black versus white or black versus Korean but something much more complicated than that. I’m sure there are more examples.

There have been a number of rational voices as well but who stands out the most is the original victim in that fiasco. Instead of spewing vengeance and hatred after the acquittal of the men who nearly beat him to death as they were calling him “nigger” every chance they had, Rodney King instead called out a phrase that became well ingrained in our cultural psyche: “Can we all get along?” Regardless of his reckless driving where he ended up meting corrupt police officers or that substance abuse might have contributed to his death, he proved himself a good man at the most important time.