New Jersey

My latest article for Kaiser Health News: On Monday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, the justices will also contemplate a policy issue: Is it possible to reform the private insurance market, making affordable coverage available to all, without an individual mandate? The Obama administration has told the court that if it invalidates the mandate it should also invalidate two key insurance reforms that would prevent discrimination because of preexisting conditions.

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Saul Timisela was supposed to report for deportation at seven o’clock Thursday morning, but he didn’t show up. Instead, he went to the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey, where, as of this writing, he is still seeking sanctuary. An immigrant who arrived in the U.S. from Indonesia in 1998 after fleeing religious violence, Timisela suffers from hypertension, heart disease, and liver disease. He does not have a criminal record, say advocates speaking on his behalf.

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Before Bruce Springsteen put together the first incarnation of the E Street Band, forty years ago, he had a scrappy little bar band called Steel Mill, which played at my friend Doug Mendini’s eighth-grade graduation party. Like Springsteen, Doug and I were both literary-minded products of New Jersey factory towns (I worked for the summer before my first year of college in a steel foundry, on the late shift with my father), and a tenuous early sense of kinship with Springsteen has given me a weakness for his work.

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If sensation-gorged sound movie audiences think about silent films at all, it is in that narrow category bounded by the ridiculous on one side and the grotesque on the other.

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Vice Squad

The GOP primary is not over yet, but, with Mitt Romney firmly in control of the race, it isn’t too soon to begin asking: Who might he select as his running mate? I recently asked about a dozen Republican insiders who they would want to see on a ticket with Romney. (A couple balked at the notion that Romney was a lock for the nomination, but most agreed it was a logical assumption.) The most striking thing that emerged from these conversations was that some Republicans are a lot more excited about the vice presidential choices than about the presidential ones.

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The end of 2011 brought discouraging news for advocates of effective goods movement policy, as evidenced by new developments in the standoff between the ports of Charleston and Savannah. As reported by the Charleston Post & Courier (h/t to Peter T.

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“Something Urgent I Have to Say to You”: The Life and Works of William Carlos WilliamsBy Herbert Leibowitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 496 pp., $40)  William Carlos Williams, among the most aggressively American poets since Walt Whitman, was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883, to a Puerto Rican mother and an English father, neither of whom bothered to become American citizens after their transplantation from the Caribbean to the poisonous industrial marshes west of Manhattan.

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court confronted the latest frontier in the battle over strip searches: Does the Constitution allow prison officials to conduct a strip search of everyone arrested for a minor offense, no matter how trivial? And instead of focusing on high principles, the arguments took a surprisingly graphic turn.

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As soon as news leaked that Chris Christie was going to say (again) that he wasn’t running for president, the press immediately began beating itself up for paying any attention to the drama in New Jersey.

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I'll leave it to the pundits to decide what will happen in the Republican primary now that Chris Christie has decided to keep his talents in Trenton. What does seem worth some thought, though, is what we won't see happen that we likely would have if Christie had gotten in: a full rekindling of the war over public employee unions. The issue has receded somewhat in the public consciousness since the showdowns in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere earlier this year, even as the fight carries on in several states.

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