ObamaCare upheld

While I’m loathe to calling it ObamaCare, it has been referred to as such by both parties enough so as to negate any perceived negativity that it was intended to begin with. ObamaCare or Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was upheld (with caveats) by the Supreme Court of the United States today. In a surprising and unexpected move, the Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal judges in saving Obama’s landmark and signature legislative achievement. While the law in full is difficult to explain in its entirety, this Reddit comment comes close to explaining it like you’re a five year old.

However, the majority opinion on why the case was in front of the Supreme Court and why was it in danger of being stricken down can be best explained by SCOTUSBlog‘s succinct summary:

“In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.”

If you read the above two links, you will know more about ObamaCare than 95% of Americans who identify with it purely on ideological grounds. Of course, it is not the perfect solution but given the politics and the dire situation of healthcare, it is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. If you aren’t satisfied by these two links, you are free to read the full official opinion as written by the Justices or the full text of the bill. You may be intimidated by the legalese. It takes reading more than half a dozen such opinions to get the hang of it; something that I had to do for my Law and Planning class (by the end of the class, I had actually begun to enjoy reading briefs and opinions).

What this means for Obama’s electoral chances is a secondary concern but for millions of uninsured and underinsured, it is a much-needed relief from the uncertainty of the past two years. If the GOP, that is head-scratchingly staunchly against any healthcare reform, gets to control both houses in the Congress and the White House, they may choose to repeal it (remote possibility but still a possibility). So in that sense, it is very important politically for those who care, to get out and vote in November.

The 8 Best Innovation Ideas From Around the World

Some of the answers to our innovation challenge will come from within the U.S. We remain in many ways the most dynamic country in the world, with more top universities and multinational corporations than any other nation. But it's foolish to imagine that the best innovation ideas in the world already have a home in policies coming from Washington, D.C. Here is a world-wide tour of the best ideas that our government should import to jump-start innovation.

Several lessons for the U.S. to continue reigning atop the world but sadly no one in Washington is listening and the squabbles continue.

[Link to The 8 Best Innovation Ideas From Around the World]

The Ten Commandments of The American Religion

It’s a fickle and false religion, used to replace the ideologies we (a country of immigrants) escaped. Random high priests lurk all over the Internet, ready to pounce. Below are the Ten Commandments of the American Religion, as I see them.

[Link to The Ten Commandments of The American Religion]

Although a home owner, I can attest to the home ownership myth. If you are buying a home for investment or stability, don’t. Unfortunately, the location of a good home is a proxy for a better neighborhood with better schools and lower crime rate which makes it seem like buying a home is a pivotal factor. I’m not so sure about the ‘going to college’ myth. Not everyone is a born genius. A college education gives you head start over your other average peers who chose not to. You will earn more than they do and will lead more stable lives. Of course, if you want to change the world and are endowed to do so, nothing else you do will matter.

Disposable Miranda Rights

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Thanks to the hajaar crime drama shows on American television, almost everyone, U.S. citizen or not, is aware of the Miranda warning. It underscored the importance of due process as granted by the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is merely one aspect of the U.S. law and order system that makes America what it is. No one is above the law and you will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The process of prosecution is just as important as meting out of justice for the crime committed. The process can seem frustrating in light of heinous crime where guilt is beyond doubt but it keeps in check power of the police and the government which is easily susceptible to abuse.

Thus it is suprising that the party that allegedly supports the Tea Party Movement which is based on protesting the government’s reach into our daily lives can be so conflicting over these basic rights. The conflict arises over reading the Miranda rights to the alleged Times Square bomber, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan. Republicans ranging from the crazy wingnut Rep.Peter Kind to the so-called ‘maverick moderate’, Sen.John McCain have voiced their opposition to reading the Miranda Rights to a U.S. citizen and Sen.Joe Lieberman goes to the extent of proposing stripping him of his citizenship so the rights can be denied (imagine the precedent it may set). In a hell-freezes-over moment, Glenn Beck emerged as the voice of reason when he said, “[Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution. We don’t shred the Constitution when it is popular. We do the right thing.” The heads of Fox & Friends just exploded hearing this muttering, what the heck did just happen? If the Miranda warning can be excluded and individuals stripped off their citizenship for terrorist attempts then why not exclude them in crimes involving molestation of kids or rapes or even selling drugs? Can the citizenship be stripped only from naturalized citizens or is every citizen fair game?

The irony was that on the day this was being debated, the Indian courts in a rare display of speedy justice convicted Kasab, the sole gunman from 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai making an American blog say this:

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I never thought I would see the day when the Indian judiciary would be held up as an example against the American one. So pigs can fly.

Update: There is in fact a ‘public safety exception’ to the Miranda warning which makes McCain and King’s mumblings even more bizarre:

Law enforcement officials can invoke a public safety exception and delay reading a suspect his rights to get information that would save lives. In Shahzad’s case, the FBI invoked the public safety exception. The agency called in its crack interrogation team, asked Shahzad questions with no Miranda warning, and reaped what the FBI says was “valuable intelligence and evidence.” Then Shahzad was read his rights. And lo and behold, he waived them and kept talking [source].

Healthcare Reform comes to America

Healthcare Reform Passed

[image source] After decades of trying, healthcare reform finally made it through the halls of the U.S. Congress and is headed toward the President’s desk. In the events leading up to this historic legislative moment, several canards and lies dominated the discussion but when the dust settles after, the effects of this legislation for healthcare in America will be known. No one is coming for your grandma and socialism doesn’t reign supreme in America (if you had lived in India pre-1991, this lie will always make you laugh). Although like most, I too do not believe that this bill is perfect as it perpetuates the reliance on insurance as means of controlling healthcare costs. I would’ve preferred a Medicare for all (or for none) option but neither is politically feasible. This bill although imperfect still sets us in the right direction. So now that the bill is law, what happens immediately? Here is a list:

  • Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until age 26
  • Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
    No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
  • Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
  • The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
  • Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
  • Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment)
  • [source]

The above list makes the 2000+ page bill sound simple or probably too simple and may not cover all bases. Reuters breaks it down much better according to year of implementation and more specific changes. the New York Times also has an excellent interactive feature on how the healthcare overhaul affects you whether you are insured or uninsured. Given the number of positive and popular changes in the bill such as barring people based on pre-existing conditions, closing of the Medicare ‘doughnut’ hole, elimination of lifetime coverages, etc. it will be next to impossible to repeal this bill, as Republicans propose doing. Partisan bickering aside, this bill recognizes healthcare as a right and not a privilege, much like education.

Worsening Unemployment Map

Although the Dow might be creeping up, the rate unemployment is getting worse indicating the much-talked about gap between Wall Street and Main Street. This time-lapse map showing the worsening conditions across the nation is scary. Although joblessness claims are declining, that may indicate people giving up on looking for a job and trying to ride out the recession incurring debt in the process. No ideas yet on the turnaround mark.