It’s hard to look at the news this week and pretend the prevailing theme is anything other than outright rage. Protests abounded in multiple cities over multiple causes, and there was very little in the way of uplifting. (Except maybe a picture of the Pope and Fidel Castro chillin in Havana — see below.)
Here are the top stories heading into the weekend:
The Gist: The basics of this case (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius) were covered last week, and now that the oral arguments have been heard, the suspense level has risen dramatically.
The big surprise was that Justices generally thought to be open to upholding the individual mandate (Kennedy, Roberts, and even Scalia), came out the gate majorly skeptical. Scalia compared it to being forced to buy broccoli. Doomsayer observers like Jeffrey Toobin all but pronounced it dead after Tuesday’s arguments, and by Wednesday the discussion had turned to whether the rest of the law could stand on its own without the mandate, should they strike it down. At least five of the justices appeared to agree that if you lose the mandate, the whole exchange system has to go, and this is essentially in line with White House opinion. (For a great unpacking of the law itself, check out this post by Matthew Yglesias.)
So long story short, there was a whole lot of shock and awe this week, and now we get to wait three months to find out the verdict.
Conversation Starters: First and foremost, the question of the case itself: is it constitutional for the federal government to say, “If you don’t buy health insurance, we’ll tax you” in order to keep costs down for everyone else? Also, what are the implications for the Presidential race? Would the Court taking a wrecking ball (to borrow Justice Ginsberg’s phrase) to the President’s signature achievement hurt him significantly in November? Keep in mind that Romney (who with Marco Rubio’s endorsement Wednesday night thatbrought him one giant step closer to the nomination) passed a health care law with an individual mandate in Massachusetts.
The Gist: This has become an almost universally-known story, and it’s one we also covered the gist of last week. The update here is growing animosity on almost all sides of the debate: whether George Zimmerman should have been arrested, whether race was involved (in the shooting itself, and the lack of arrest), and whether anyone or everyone is jumping to conclusions. The initial police report said Zimmerman (who shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida last month) was bleeding from the back of the head and the nose at the scene of the incident, and his lawyer has since gone around claiming his client’s nose was broken. ABC released surveillance video Wednesday that appears to show a bloodless, bruiseless Zimmerman being led into the police station. Meanwhile, tensions are high nationally, demonstrations have been popping up everywhere (as have hoodies, even amongst California lawmakers, and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on the floor of Congress).
Conversation Starters: Not hard to find discussion topics here! Good god, just be careful it doesn’t reach a shouting match.
Video Enhancement: Lawrence O’Donnell And Charles Blow Give George Zimmerman Pal Joe Oliver Epic Grilling. No matter your views on what we know so far, this was a great exchange. So Joe Oliver is this guy who used to work with Zimmerman, and who quit his job so he could start going around national television telling everyone What A Good Guy George Zimmerman Is. But O’Donnell and Blow get to the heart of what I think is one of the most important points to be made right now: we just don’t know anything for sure, because charges have still yet to be filed.
3. The Miscellaneous: Governor Walker recall vote happening in Wisconsin (remember that massive protest in Madison?) Paul Ryan budget happening in the House (but zero budget happening in the Senate), and a big Arab League summit is happening in Baghdad that could have some implications for the ongoing violence in Syria.
4. Totally Not Critical But Great Talking Point: The aforementioned Pope/Castro chill sesh, during which they talked about the “difficult world situation” and called for an end to the US trade embargo.
Reports of late-night cigar-puffing wine-swirling mambo dancing are as of yet unconfirmed.