Friday, March 30, 2012

Broccoli, Vile Weed! (And Even Viler Justices)

There's a famed episode of Seinfeld where Jerry, in order to save a friend's job who works at Kenny Rogers' Roasters, accepts to switch apartments with Kramer, who had started a protest against the restaurant in an attempt to put it out of business so he could resume a regular sleeping schedule (the restaurant's red neon sign prevented Kramer from catching a good night's sleep).

Later in the show, though, Jerry discovers that in spite of the protest, Kramer (and Newman) has become addicted to the chicken, and figures out that Kramer would not have the guts to resume his ploy to put the restaurant out of business even if he had to go back to his apartment. Jerry finds out because he meets Newman at Kenny Rogers' and the clerk who hands Newman the order says "Oh, don't forget your broccoli." Jerry says "Broccoli? You wouldn't eat broccoli if it were deep-covered in chocolate sauce!" Newman's half-heartedly responds "I love broccoli!", so Jerry exhorts him to have some broccoli, then. Newman does and proceeds to spit it out after almost choking on it and exclaims "Vile weed!". That's how Jerry uncovers Kramer's ruse and forces Kramer to switch back apartments.

This week's health care arguments in front of the Supreme Court reminded me of that episode, because broccoli was a central plot twist in the Seinfeld episode and was also a central argument in Justice Scalia's opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Scalia, whose antics are legendary and whose intelligence and rhetorical abilities are obviously greatly overrated, contended that allowing one government mandate (the individual mandate to purchase health care or pay a tax penalty) might lead to another (the government's hypothetical mandate to all Americans to purchase broccoli).

Paul Krugman was one of many commentators who pointed out that Scalia's argument is disingenuous because one American's failure to purchase broccoli does not have any effect on another American's ability to purchase the vegetable or on its affordability. Justice Scalia is a sure vote in the pocket of the Act's opponents, no doubt. His clumsy rhetoric and his inability (or unwillingness) to understand the difference that goes between the grocery market and the health care market.

But where Don Verrilli, Solicitor General of the United States, caught a lot of flack in the mainstream media for his fumbling defense of the ACA's individual mandate requirement, Justice Scalia caught almost none for his pedestrian offense against logic and his attack against the Act's pivotal requirement. This difference in treatment is another example, in case one was needed, of the ridiculous job that the MSM does in informing the American public about the content of the issues. No wonder so many Americans are confused and think that both sides are equally guilty for the country's failures.

Perhaps, as Newman says in the Kenny Rogers' Roasters episode, broccoli is a vile weed. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind, however, that Justice Scalia's presumed defense of individual liberty in the name of broccoli is very vile weed.

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