Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Unfortunately, not by the Anglican Curmudgeon

The great Brahms once responded to an autograph request by penning a few measures of Johann Strauss' famous Blue Danube Waltz, and then writing: "Unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms."

I feel the same way about this marvelous post at Noncuratlex.com, leading up to the Supreme Court's decisions this Thursday on Obamacare: "unfortunately, not by the Anglican Curmudgeon." I'm afraid that, just as you would have to read music to recognize the piece that Brahms was referring to, you will have to be an attorney and Supreme Court scholar to get many of the inside gags in this parody.

At the end, I will offer a few guideposts to orient lay readers to what follows. 
Breaking News: Husbands and Wives of Nation’s Constitutional Law Professors Collectively File for Divorce  
Posted on June 25, 2012  
RENO, NEVADA (Press International), June 25, 2012: The husbands and wives of the nation’s estimated 543 married Constitutional Law professors collectively filed for divorce today in Nevada state court, alleging that their spouses’ complete obsession with the United States Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on the Affordable Care Act had effectively destroyed their marriages.  
“It all started pretty innocuously, with him writing a simple symposium piece on whether early 19th Century precedents could somehow justify the ACA’s individual mandate,” said Marla Thompson, wife of UC-Irvine law professor Farley Thompson. “But then Farley got obsessed–the ACA litigation just took over his life. He told me that we couldn’t eat broccoli for dinner because the vegetable represented a ‘tool’ in the hands of the ‘Lochnerians.’ He would come home and read nothing but ancient admiralty treatises and Whiskey Rebellion conscription notices. He wouldn’t even carpool to work with me, unless I conceded at the outset of each trip that the government could properly demand that I replace our Honda with a Chrysler.”  
Spouses of law professors known to oppose the ACA’s mandate voiced similar complaints. “I wish I had never heard of the Hkolov Cabal,” said Lawrence Tribkin, husband of Notre Dame professor Candace Yanders, referring to the law blog that has served as a central forum for anti-ACA commentary. Yanders, formerly known for her well-regarded work on the Nineteenth Amendment, “guest-blogged” on that site during May 2012. There, she revealed what she learned from 720 continuous hours of listening to the March 2012 oral argument on the ACA, as placed on a continuous loop in her office. In her post, Yanders asserted that if one plays the full audio recording of the oral argument backwards, at one point what sounds like Chief Justice John Roberts’ voice can be heard to say either “the ACA is dead,” or perhaps,”thacadad.”  
Yanders, who has petitioned to change her name to “Metta World Barnett,” subsequently was committed to a mental institution for treatment.  
On the courthouse steps, other petitioners related dysfunctional behaviors by their spouses such as: insisting, for several months running, that they were “this close” to being invited by SCOTUSblog to offer guest commentary on the ACA; repeatedly manipulating dinnertime servings of mashed potatoes into busts of Paul Clement; passing off suppositions about Justice Kennedy’s likely vote on the ACA as “bedtime stories” to young offspring; and otherwise obsessing about absolutely every single aspect of the ACA litigation.  
The worst part, many of the spouses said, was the waiting. “I thought that this would all be over by June 18.” said Ron Anders, the husband of Ohio State University’s Thomas Chavez. “But no decision from the Court. Then, maybe earlier today. Again, no decision from the Court. Meanwhile, all Tom does, twenty-four hours a day, is sit in front of his computer hitting ‘refresh’ on the Supreme Court’s website. He hasn’t showered in something like three weeks now. I wish that we could go back to a simpler time, when all we worried about was what movie to go see on Friday, and whether the Second Amendment applied to the states.”
* * * * *

Now, here are some endnotes for those who couldn't get all the references:

"Farley Thompson" is a made-up name, as are many in this post. It could refer to Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the U.C. Irvine Law School,  who has written and spoken extensively about Obamacare, and has gone from predicting two years ago a victory for the mandate, to predicting just a week ago that it could go either way.

"Lochnerians" is a reference to the much-maligned 1905 case of Lochner v. New York, in which the Supreme Court struck down a New York statute regulating bakers' hours on the grounds that it interfered with individuals' freedom to contract for themselves. Those who argue that if Congress can force everyone to buy health insurance, it could also force everyone to eat broccoli to remain healthy are said to be "neo-Lochnerians."

The "Hkolov Cabal" is, of course, the Volokh Conspiracy ("Hkolov" = "Volokh" spelled backwards), a law blog (linked on the right) that has carried extensive debates pro and con regarding Obamacare, but mostly contra. "Lawrence Tribkin" is a take-off on Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard, who predicted today that his former student, Chief Justice John Roberts, would vote to uphold the mandate.

"Candace Yanders", aka "Metta World Garnett", appears to be a complex amalgam. First, there is law professor Randy Barnett, who blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy, but who teaches at Georgetown (not Notre Dame), and who has published work on the Ninth (not Nineteenth) Amendment, as well as writing and speaking extensively in opposition to the universal mandate. (He was recognized as a target of this spoof by his co-bloggers in this post.)

Then there is law professor Richard W. Garnett, who does teach at Notre Dame Law School (in constitutional law and political science), and whose employer (Notre Dame) brought one of the lawsuits against Obamacare. He has recently written against the liberal threats made against the Supreme Court justices if the conservative majority (which would have to include Justice Kennedy) rules Obamacare unconstitutional.

"Metta World [Peace]" is, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball player formerly known as Ronald Artest, who was recently suspended from seven games by the NBA for elbowing another player.

"Thomas Chavez" appears to be another fictional character. His last name, coupled with the reference to the Second Amendment, definitely refers to the Venezuelan dictator, who recently banned all gun ownership in his country. But "Ohio State" has echoes of one of the key cases cited in support of the mandate: the 1942 decision in Wickard v. Filburnin which the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government's power under the Commerce Clause could prohibit Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio farmer, from growing more wheat for use on his own farm (and fine him in the process).

For an earlier parody by Noncuratlex of the Obamacare oral arguments before the Supreme Court, follow this link. (The name Noncuratlex is a play on the Latin maxim "De minimis non curat lex", or "the law does not care about trifles".)

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