Saturday, June 30, 2012

Healthcare Roundup

Lots and lots of ink (at least electronic ink) has been spilled since Thursday morning’s ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the healthcare act (our review is here). Below is a collection of some of the better articles floating in cyberspace.

Paul Mirengoff, Why Did Roberts Do It?

I propose a related but somewhat different explanation – Roberts’ strong commitment to “judicial modesty.” Roberts has spoken clearly about this commitment, and it’s time to take him seriously.
Judicial modesty is related to promoting the perceived legitimacy of the Court. An aggressive, immodest judiciary risks losing esteem. But the two explanations – Krauthammer’s and mine – aren’t identical. Judicial modesty is a theory of judging, not a theory of pure political expediency. And it is independent of Roberts’ status as Chief Justice. Unlike Krauthammer, I believe Roberts would have reached the same decision had he been an Associate Justice.

Deroy Murdock, A Pyrrhic Victory for Obama

By sticking with Obamacare, Obama must admit that he has imposed a new tax on nearly everyone, not just the “millionaires and billionaires” whom he decries by day and with whom he dines by night at $40,000 per plate. America’s Spender-in-Chief now seeks another term as America’s Taxer-in-Chief.

Second, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen, 54 percent of Americans want Obamacare repealed. Those numbers will go up, not down, as citizens realize that this 2,801-page monstrosity is an unworkable, bloated Washington power grab turbocharged by a near-universal tax hike.

Sean Trende, The Chief Justice's Gambit

The loss is especially galling for conservatives because they were extremely close to having the whole thing struck down in its entirety, immediately. That’s what Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito would have done, and there’s some pretty good evidence that Scalia’s dissent was the majority opinion until fairly late in the day.
But Roberts is only a few years further into his chief justice-ship than Marshall was at the time of the Marbury decision. His tenure is likely to be equally as lengthy, if not more so. I think the forest for him is quite a bit different than the trees that people are focusing on.
* * *
The most important aspect of the ruling, however, comes with respect to the spending clause. Seven justices just agreed to real limits on Congress’ ability to attach strings to legislation. This is significant. Until today, these limits were hypothetical, and it was believed that Congress could, for example, remove all Medicaid funding as a punishment for a state’s refusal to comply with the Medicaid expansion. I did not expect the court to rule the way it did here, much less to do so by a 7-2 vote.

David Bernstein, More Hints that Roberts Switched his Vote – reasons why the dissent reads like the initial majority opinion

1. The dissent has a whole section on severability that is completely beside the point except on the assumption that the mandate had been struck down, and now “We” have to decide whether and what to preserve of the rest of the act now that the mandate is gone.
2. Notice also that his response to Roberts is tacked on at the end, rather than worked into the body of whatever he was writing (see page 64 of his dissent). For example, one would have expected Scalia to directly take on Roberts’ application of the Anti-Injunction Act, but his brief section on that act only mentions what “the Government” argues (see pages 26-28).

Bert Atkinson Jr., Why Chief Justice Roberts Made the Right Long-Term Decision With ObamaCare

Here’s what really occurred — payback. Yes, payback for Obama’s numerous, ill-advised and childish insults directed toward SCOTUS.
Chief Justice Roberts actually ruled the mandate, relative to the commerce clause, was unconstitutional. That’s how the Democrats got Obama-care going in the first place. This is critical. His ruling means Congress can’t compel American citizens to purchase anything. Ever. The notion is now officially and forever, unconstitutional. As it should be.
Next, he stated that, because Congress doesn’t have the ability to mandate, it must, to fund Obama-care, rely on its power to tax. Therefore, the mechanism that funds Obama-care is a tax. This is also critical. Recall back during the initial Obama-care battles, the Democrats called it a penalty, Republicans called it a tax. Democrats consistently soft sold it as a penalty. It went to vote as a penalty. Obama declared endlessly, that it was not a tax, it was a penalty. But when the Democrats argued in front of the Supreme Court, they said ‘hey, a penalty or a tax, either way’. So, Roberts gave them a tax. It is now the official law of the land — beyond word-play and silly shenanigans. Obama-care is funded by tax dollars. Democrats now must defend a tax increase to justify the Obama-care law.
Finally, he struck down as unconstitutional, the Obama-care idea that the federal government can bully states into complying by yanking their existing medicaid funding.

Tom Scocca, Obama Wins the Battle, Roberts Wins the War

The scholars expected to see the court gut existing Commerce Clause precedent and overturn the individual mandate in a partisan decision: Five Republican-appointed justices voting to rewrite doctrine and reject Obamacare; four Democratic-appointed justices dissenting.
Roberts was smarter than that. By ruling that the individual mandate was permissible as a tax, he joined the Democratic appointees to uphold the law—while joining the Republican wing to gut the Commerce Clause (and push back against the necessary-and-proper clause as well).
* * *
This is a substantial rollback of Congress' regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it. It is what Roberts has been pursuing ever since he signed up with the Federalist Society. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts' nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as "whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce." Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do.
Roberts' genius was in pushing this health care decision through without attaching it to the coattails of an ugly, narrow partisan victory. Obama wins on policy, this time. And Roberts rewrites Congress' power to regulate, opening the door for countless future challenges. In the long term, supporters of curtailing the federal government should be glad to have made that trade.

Jonathan Adler, Lose the battle, win the war?

The Chief Justice’s opinion also confirms that he is a judicial minimalist – and more so than any other member of the Court. His decision to adopt a narrowed, if strained, interpretation of the minimum coverage opinion so as to preserve the statute’s constitutionality is of a piece with what he has done before . . . .  When possible, the Chief Justice prefers to decide less, leave precedents undisturbed and, as in this case, avoid overturning a federal statute – even if it means stretching statutory text or adopting stingy interpretations of prior opinions.  Whether or not one likes this approach to judicial decision-making, it is what we have come to expect.  It is thus no surprise that, as a 2010 NYT analysis found, the Roberts Court overturns precedents and invalidates federal statutes far less often than did the Rehnquist, Burger, and Warren Courts.
While commentators largely focused on the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses, the Court’s treatment of the Spending Power is likely to have the greatest practical effect.  For years the Court has insisted that Congress’ power to impose conditions on the receipt of federal funds is limited without ever finding a limit it would enforce. The criteria outlined in South Dakota v. Dole made for a nice test, but it was a test that nearly every statute passed.  Today, however, seven Justices concluded that Congress could not condition the receipt of existing Medicaid funds on state acceptance of a Medicaid expansion, putting teeth into Dole’s admonition that Congress could not use the promise of federal funds to “coerce” state obedience.

Randy Barnett, A weird victory for federalism

Today, the Roberts Court reaffirmed the “first principle” announced by Chief Justice Rehnquist some 17 years ago in Lopez: the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers. It accepted all of our arguments about why the individual insurance mandate exceeded the commerce power:  “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”  Then the Court went farther to invalidate the withholding of existing Medicaid funding as coercive, thereby finding an enforceable limit on the Spending Power.
* * *
Academics are sure to react to today’s decision by declaring the New Federalism dead, but they would be wrong to do so.  The Founders’ scheme of limited and enumerated powers has survived to fight another day.

Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Victory in Defeat

Some will suggest that this is no victory at all, given the Court’s ruling that the money one must pay for failing to obtain insurance can be supported as a use of Congress’s taxing power. However, by confining within the taxing power the ability of Congress to adopt such schemes, the Court has greatly limited Congress’s ability and political appetite to attempt them in the future.
Now everyone will know that when Congress does something like this, it is without question a tax increase. Is there any doubt that if PPACA had been presented as a middle-class tax increase, it would have failed? Because the American people have made clear that elected officials raise taxes at their peril, it is unlikely will we see this particular gambit repeated.
Another thing to note is that Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion on the taxing power is limited. He noted that it could not be considered punitive because the amount citizens are required to pay for not having insurance is far less than they would have to pay to obtain insurance. He strongly suggests that, if Congress were to require citizens to pay an amount greater than the costs of insurance, that would constitute a penalty, and thus would be unconstitutional.

Michael Knox Beran, Why Roberts Was Right

There is a larger point. If the only way Americans can defend their liberties is to hide behind the verbiage of a Supreme Court opinion, it’s already too late for freedom here.
My guess is that the chief justice doesn’t think it’s too late. He knows, as we all do, that the remedy — a remedy far more potent than any judicial decision — is at hand.
If conservatives in an election year like this one can’t win the battle of the ballot box, no Supreme Court judgment can save them.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (6/29)

Dr. Mark Mitchell contrasts the current gay-rights movement with the Booker T. Washington.

According to one new peer reviewed study, modern evolution theory is becoming a conclusion without an underlying theory. "Darwinism in its current scientific incarnation has pretty much reached the end of its rope."

Ron Paul has indicated that he is not intending to hijack the Republican convention (not that this has stopped his supporters).

Yesterday’s healthcare opinion has already led to $2.5 million in donations to the Romney campaign.

An atheist blogger is converting to catholicism and now faces the question of what to do with her blog.

Although this author makes some really good point, I don’t think handsaws for kindergartners is a selling campaign strategy.

I’m always fascinated by stories that show just how little we know about the ancients. We think of them as isolated tribal groups. And then something like this--ancient roman jewelry in an ancient japanese tomb--is found.

The student loan bubble is getting closer to bursting.

Landlords in DC have so many legal obligations to meet that it’s almost comical. It leads to results like this:

I asked my property manager whether we could meet with potential tenants and interview them. She told me that, as a general rule, she does not like to meet any potential tenants.  Why? Because if you never meet them, you cannot be accused of discriminating against them.  It would be funny if it were not so Kafkaesque.

Christianity Today has conflicting articles on President Obama’s faith.

Someday, maybe, I’ll have a library/study like some of these. At least I can dream, right?

The Atlantic’s article on modern feminism and why women can’t have it all is making lots of waves.

Exodus International, a ministry for homosexuals, is modifying its message.

Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt. If my blogs are correct, this is the first time in US history this has happened to a sitting cabinet member. Heritage has the backstory (Fortune tells a slightly different version). PowerLine lays out the case against Holder. For his own good, Obama needs a new AG.

And finally, not all cheeses are made equal:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Accidentally Constitutional

That was the effective verdict of the Supreme Court this morning with regards to the healthcare reform bill’s individual mandate. Or, as it should now be rechristened, the healthcare tax. (You can read the decision here.)

Needless to say, it initially baffled the news reporters. Below are the conflicting screenshots of CNN and the Washington Post, both captured at 10:17 this morning.

But what does it mean?

Well, most simply, the healthcare reform survives constitutional challenge. It will now be either repealed or implemented, and we get to live with the results either way.

But from a larger perspective, there are two levels of ramifications: the legal and the political.

First, the legal ramifications. Chief Justice Roberts split the difference. He gave the statute’s challengers everything they wanted except the victory. He limited both the commerce clause and the necessary and proper clause powers, which were the first and second arguments the government used to defend the act. Those parts of his opinion give credence to the restrictive reading that most constitutional scholars hadn’t found convincing. And on that issue, five of the nine justices agreed. This shows that the Court still believes that there is an outer limit to the commerce clause and continues the tradition started in Lopez and Morrison. Only on their third argument—almost an afterthought of defending it as a tax—did the government prevail. (As a side note, I’ve wondered why it wasn’t defended as a tax from the beginning. I thought that was the best argument the government had.)

But the tax portion of Robert’s opinion is not a major expansion of federal power. Even at the oral argument it was conceded that Congress could incentivize purchasing insurance by means of a tax credit (similar to buying green appliances or houses or furthering education—or having children for that matter). There is strong legal precedent on the expansive power of Congress to tax, which goes all the way back to the Butler decision of 1936. (Ironically, Butler was a conservative decision that tossed out the first Agricultural Adjustment Act on the grounds that it violated the commerce clause, but adopted Hamilton’s interpretation of the general welfare permitting broad taxation powers. The commerce clause portion of Butler was subsequently overturned by Wickard, the wheat case that has received frequent mention in the healthcare arguments).

So the conclusion is that for the most part Roberts neither expanded nor contracted federal power in this case. He expressly stated that the commerce clause and necessary and proper clause did not permit the mandate. However, as a tax, he found sufficient constitutional grounds.

What I would have liked to see more of is argument about the direct tax issue. The Constitution prohibits direct taxes that are not apportioned (or collected from the states on the basis of population. The sole exception to this is income taxes, which are permitted by the Sixteenth Amendment. I think there is grounds to label the insurance tax an unconstitutional direct tax, since it applies to everyone regardless of income but is not apportioned. Roberts does address this and finds that it is not a direct tax, but this portion of his opinion is somewhat cursory. However, it includes more detail than I’ve seen anywhere else. Were I challenging the mandate, I think this would have been one of my primary arguments: that it is a type of tax that is expressly prohibited, and therefore (since the specific prohibition trumps any indirect permission under the commerce clause) it is unconstitutional. But that wasn’t the strategy taken.

So from a legal perspective, there is more good than bad here. Roberts upheld the law while successfully construing it in such a way as to avoid the broad expansion of federal power that so many feared. My prediction is that when future law students study this case, it will be in the context of a limitation on the commerce clause rather than an expansion of federal power. The fact that the law was actually upheld as an exercise of tax power will be relegated to a footnote in the textbook.

But the political ramifications are even more fascinating. To some extent this decision is reminiscent of Marbury v. Madison, where Chief Justice John Marshall gave Jefferson the win using a method (judicial review) that he knew Jefferson disagreed with. The same is true here, Obama won the case—which removes the politicization of the court argument that would have been raised had the mandate been overturned—but lost the legal argument.

Furthermore, because the law still stands, it remains a campaign issue for this fall. And since it’s now classified as a tax (and a regressive one at that, since it will affect the middle class more than anyone else), Obama can be painted as the President who raised taxes not on the rich, but on the middle class. And going into the week of the 4th of July, no less. In effect, the Republicans get to have their cake (limited federal power) and eat it too (an unpopular new tax to campaign against). It has been constitutionally defanged, but possibly made even more unpalatable for the general populace. After all, if there is one thing worse than the government making your healthcare decisions, it’s the IRS making your healthcare decisions.

Roberts also successfully avoids putting the court in the middle of the political battle. He upholds the constitutional limitations on commerce power, but does so in a non-political way. He doesn’t show an interest in solving the policy questions—exemplifying the conservative principle of being a judge who doesn’t make law. Instead, he pushes the policy questions squarely back into the political ream, not letting Congress get away with taxes under another name yet leaving the mess at their doorstep. In contrast, both the concurring and dissenting opinions have a stronger ideological/political tone to them. Roberts also supplants Kennedy as the deciding vote, taking credence away from the “Kennedy Court” approach many observers have writing about in recent years.

In large part, this decision reminded me why I like Roberts. He very carefully narrows down on the important issues and doesn't get distracted very easily by the politics. His approach is preeminently legal. Which, even when we dislike the outcome, is exactly what we want in a judge.

So no, despite what you’ve heard, the sky is not falling (but if it does, we’ll all have health insurance).

Reforming Political Parties (Blair's Lessons, part I)

No, I am not obsessed with Tony Blair. (Well, not too much.) But I am reading his book, and my blogging tends to reflect what I am reading. And I am finding Blair’s perspective on politics both refreshing and—in light of our own political drama—instructive. The book itself is quite long, and if I have one complaint it is that his narrative keeps getting in the way of his political insights (most writers have the opposite problem). He can be in the middle of an elaborate name-dropping description of the minutiae of internal party politics and then mid paragraph drop a gem like “The single hardest thing for a practicing politician to understand is that most people, most of the time, don’t give politics a first thought all day long.” Or regarding answering questions from constituents: “You may think: Well, if it’s simplicity that’s required, you don’t need a whole lot of detail. Wrong. The simplicity is not born of superficial analysis. It is simple precisely because it is the product of being worked through.”

What I have found particularly both fascinating and relevant, though, are Blair’s reforms to the Labour party. He took a proudly socialist party that was largely dependent on the dwindling influence of the labor unions and modernized it, dropping the call for state ownership of capital and expanding beyond the union base. He describes the transition this way:

In my view, we needed a complete, top-to-bottom reorientation of our programme and policies. In particular, we needed to separate conceptually a commitment to our values (timeless) from their application (time-bound). So, of course, we should and always would fight for social justice; but in today’s world that didn’t mean more state control. And on issues like defence and law and order, being tough was not striking a pose but a sensible reaction to the threats of the modern world, whether globally or in our street corners.
* * *
The essential problem with Labour in the post-war period was that it had lost touch with its basic purpose. That purpose was always, at heart, about the individual. A more powerful state, unions, social action, collective bargaining—all those were means to an end: to help the individual gain opportunity, to let him or her overcome limitations unfairly imposed by poverty, poor education, poor health, housing and welfare. It was all about opportunity not in general but in particular: for you, as an individual. That echoed and captured something deep within human nature: the desire to be free, to be the best you can be.
The problem for all progressive parties was that by the 1960s, the first generation of those helped in such a way had been liberated. Thus on the ladder of opportunity, they didn’t want more state help; they wanted choice, freedom to earn more money and spend it. They fractured the homogeneous class base. They started to resent the freeloaders they paid for. Above all, they wanted a different relationship with the state: as partners or citizens, not as beneficiaries or clients. The private sector, driven by the markets, shifted fast under such pressures. The public sector got stuck. This is why by the end of the 1970s, Thatcher and Reagan were able to push forward major change.
For me, New Labour was all about understanding this social evolution. It wasn’t at all about changing the basic values or purpose of progressive politics; on the contrary, it was about retrieving them from the deadweight of political and cultural dogma that didn’t merely obscure those values and that purpose, but also defeated them.
What is more, it wasn’t about “coming to terms” with such evolution. It was about rejoicing in it, recognizing that this was not an unfortunate reality that we had to learn to acknowledge in order to make progress; it was progress.

Blair succeeded in freeing the Labour party from that backwards thinking and reinvented it to reflect modern realities. The result was a party that won elections, making Blair the first Labour Prime Minister in eighteen years. But it took him quite a few years to set up.

The lesson here is that Blair did not run against his party from the outside. Instead, he slowly worked his way up the party leadership until he took it over and then used it to propel both himself and his party into power. To a large extent, the party made the politician, not vice versa as is so often the case in the American model. Part of this reflects the different governmental model between the United Kingdom and the United States; the UK is parliamentary, which means parties are stronger than they are here.

But Blair’s model is something that I think could be implemented here, at least to some extent. He started his political reforms as party reforms, and he started his party reforms from the ground up. He didn’t try to take over the party mechanics in one election, or start with the most powerful position. There is a lesson for us in that. If we who are politically active are dissatisfied with a party, abandoning it may not be the best way to encourage it to change its platform. Instead, pushing for reforms from within can lead to a stronger party in the long run. Tony Blair’s example shows us that.

To be continued...

Also in this series:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yesterday's Immigration Ruling

Yesterday the Supreme Court determined that portions of Arizona’s immigration law were unconstitutional under our federalism scheme. In particular, there were four provisions of the Arizona law that were challenged, three of which were overturned. All eight justices (Kagan did not participate) agreed that the provision requiring police officers to determine the immigration status of those they reasonably believed are here illegally was permissible. This was the most contentious portion of the law.

The other three portions—the creation of a new state crimes for filing to complete immigration documentation, the creation of a new state crime for applying for a job without documentation, and the ability for police officers to arrest anyone they believed were deportable—were overturned by either a 5-3 or 6-2 vote. The theory for all three was that it is the federal government’s prerogative to define immigration laws, and states have not retained any authority to govern that area. Only Scalia and Thomas would have upheld the entire law. SCOTUS Blog has a good “plain English” explanation of the ruling.

The best line comes from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion: “Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter.” This principle has been blurred in recent years as new methods of enforcement have been tried, often incorporating local law enforcement. But it must be remembered that the failure to have proper documentation does not equate to criminal activity any more than driving without a driver’s license equates to reckless driving* or homeschooling without submitting the proper paperwork equates to educational neglect. And because the Federal Government treats it as a civil issue, it is problematic when the states try to convert it into a criminal issue. Justice Kennedy’s clarification on this point provides a much needed starting point for analyzing the immigration policy problems we face today.

* Update: a reader has since pointed out that driving without a license--at least in some states--is a criminal offence. Furthermore, some aspects of illegal immigration, such as reentry after deportation and assisting another to enter illegally, are federal crimes. So this is not an entirely clear distinction in the law. However, I think the underlying distinction still holds even if it is blurred in the law. There is a fundamental conceptual difference between a lack of documentation and criminal activity.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Our Propaganda is Working!

Recently, while I was held prisoner in the dentist's chair, he, in true dentist form, took the opportunity to interrogate me.

Once his fingers were in my mouth, he demanded the location of the rebel base.  When he went on to ask if I had any teeth-related problems, I decided to fully cooperate in the hope of getting off for good behavior. So I replied honestly: "I have a reoccurring nightmare that my teeth are falling out!" The words fell out of my open mouth before I realized that my dentist probably didn't care about that sort of problem. His response, however, upped the ante.

He laughed. Not because what I said was funny; this wasn’t a Santa Clause laugh. It was a maniacal laugh that really lent itself to the mental picture of me being interrogated by an evil agent. "Mwahaha!” he cackled. “Our propaganda is working!"

Needless to say, I think I must have the best dentist in the world. ...Or the worst.

Either way, Dr. Smith has convinced me to religiously brush my teeth twice a day. (Religiously, in this case, means that I do my best, but I’m far from perfect.) How did he do that? Because his propaganda worked.

We are all message-carriers. Every time we open our mouths to talk, we are trying to convey the message in our minds into someone else's mind; we’re trying to make our propaganda work. Some of us are good at it: I went to school with some of the top communicators in the country--their mountains debate trophies are evidence of that. I, however, often find it difficult to get my message across. One of the biggest battles when convincing anyone of anything is keeping them from jumping to conclusions about what you mean.

Sometimes, the words we use distract from the message we are trying to get across. For example, when you talk about voting, many people will hear one political buzz word and write you off as a crazy person. You say that you’re "Conservative" and they put you in a box of being close minded and wanting to repress gay people. I've had people accuse me of that to my face (as well as to my Facebook). They assume all kinds of things without asking me any questions.

These people get bogged down before I can even get to the point of what I am trying to say. They put me and my ideas in a box.

I struggle to communicate in ways that don't put me in a box. Once you are in a box, you’re separated from whoever you’re talking to and you’re easily ignored. So, the trick is to try to get inside someone else’s box. Sometimes you can turn the tables by figuring out which box they’re in. Then, you can find the words to connect with them.

For example, if they are self-identified as politically independent, go out of your way to build credibility. Show them that you’re not in anyone's pocket. Show that you care about the same sort of things that they care about and learn as much of their "language" as you can.

Really, that’s the key to any communication: speaking the right language. If you want to talk with someone from Siberia, I recommend you learn Russian. It is a simple concept, when you think about it.

What’s more important than what we think we’re saying is what the other person is hearing. No matter how right we think we are, if the message doesn't make it from us to them, no one will be better off. It’s better to keep silent then to have your words miss the mark entirely.

So here are some tricks I use to make sure that my message gets across:
1.    Listen first. You can’t know what language to use if you don't listen first and find out.
2.    Don't use "insider words" when talking with outsiders.
3.    Stay focused on your main point. People like to get distracted by side issues because it allows them to write you off. Don't let them--stay on target!

I know I still have a lot to learn about this, so have you found any ways to make your propaganda work with people?

Posted by Jeremiah Lorrig

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brave Movie Review

From Pixar's Facebook. 
Any movie with the line "We'll expect your declarations of war in the morning" is going to catch my attention. This is even more likely when it is said in a fetching Scottish accent. Ever since I saw the poster for Pixar’s Brave on the wall of the theater almost two years ago I have been waiting for this movie with great anticipation.

It is not often that we get to see a mother/daughter movie. Brave grasps the complexity of the relationship between a maturing girl and her mother and centers this awkward time around the conflict of the princess’s impending marriage.

The girl, Princess Merida, rejects her mother and becomes so caught up in herself that she ends up causing major trouble for her whole family, specifically her mother. Through a twist of fate, she ends up being the only one who stands with her mother when things get really tough out in the wild. Merida discovers that she was wrong and that her mother has always loved her deeply. The queen discovers that having some hunting skills can be very useful (although she still insists that princesses do not put their weapons on the table).

In the course of the story, Merida begins to follow the path of one of the characters from one of the legends her mother taught her. In fact, Brave cleverly takes two stories separated by generations (Merida’s life and a legend her mother describes) and contrasts them against each other to teach valuable lessons.

In both cases, someone feels like they are not being treated fairly. Both decide to take fate into their own hands. Both tear their families asunder.

Repentance, however, leads to redemption. In the end the film shows the consequences of breaking the 5th commandment as well as the Scripture that says “do not provoke your children to wrath.”

I encourage anyone to see the movie. It is the only mother/daughter movie that I have seen that really is not a “girl's movie” and can be enjoyed by anyone. When I saw the promotions for Brave I knew that it would be a must see. The acting is grand (the little girl reminds me of my little sister). The music is breathtaking. The animation is flawless. In the trailers, they wisely leave out major plot points so that you don’t know where the movie is going, so you really can get caught up in enjoying the movie.

And as has become custom in Pixar movies, they touched my heart, and I cried.

Review by Jeremiah Lorrig
Check out our other reviews here.

(Listen to the music! It is amazing.)

Click here for more movie reviews.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bus

The other day, I was on a bus. I love riding on buses because you never know what is going to happen: Are you going to sleep? Are you going to have a conversation with someone interesting? Are you going to pretend to sleep while you are really listening in on someone else's interesting conversation? (I hope I am not the only person who does this...)

On this particular bus ride, I climbed into a bus and there were enough seats for everyone (that’s always a plus when the ride is going to be over an hour), so now I had to decide where to sit. In the back of the bus, all the cool people were hanging out and chatting up at storm. Up in the front of the bus were the quiet people who looked like they needed sleep. I would have been perfectly happy with either group. As I deliberated, however, I felt a nudging inside to sit in the front (with the sleepy people) and have a conversation. There was a young man there with an iPod plugged into his ears. He looked like he wanted sleep more than I did (and I had been up ‘til 2:00 a.m. the night before), but I felt like I should sit next to him, and that I was supposed to talk with him.

This feeling made me excited; I love having a mission!  I figured that I would sit there and God would lead us in a really deep conversation about something deep and personal. So, I happily obeyed that nudge.

I was disappointed. I struck up a conversation with the young man, and we chatted about different things. We talked about where I went to school, world travels, and adoption. We had a good time, but it was not what I expected at all. So after I got off the bus I was kinda (okay, really) disappointed.

But I went on with my life like always. I rationalized that maybe that feeling I had felt on the bus was something I ate and not something spiritual. In short, I wrote it off.

This is where the story usually stops. I can talk about what I learned or speculate about the possible results, but not much more. And we all have stories that end like this. If you’re an optimist, you assume that God used you in a significant way. If you’re more like me, you assume that you misunderstood the situation in the first place.

But, for some reason, (likely because it taught me a huge lesson about expectations), I was allowed to see the rest of the story, in this instance. Through a series of surprising events, I discovered that my conversation with that young man thrown his world into a spin. In the course of the conversation, I had almost carelessly mentioned that I had my plans and God decided to do something else. I had said, "If God wants something done, He will make a way for it to happen."

This young man didn't let on at all, but that comment stuck in his head. He had his own plans for his life and that moment helped him see that God might have a whole different plan and that might be harder (and better). And God could make it happen.

The lesson God wanted to show that young man was the same lesson that I lived in this experience: Following God may lead you to something you didn't expect and you may not see how he is going to use it, but He will. It is not all in our hands. And that’s a good thing.

I don’t know who learned more that day, but it just makes me excited when I get on a bus, because even if I am not the one having a Divine conversation, I might be able to listen in on someone else’s while I pretend to be asleep.

Post by Jeremiah

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...