Cynical Synapse

Tue, 30 Mar 2010

Granholm’s “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 6:15 am

Granholm pointing down

I’m not sure what Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has in her pipe, but she continues to say the wildest things, even if she means good. Granholm told MSNBC Michigan has “a big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our number of college graduates.” Now, what kind of phraseology is that with respect to higher education?

Of course, Granholm’s remarks, 29 March, are more about her call to extend Michigan’s sales tax to services. I’m sure the Governor is all the more anxious about this since the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a budget measure, cutting K-12 funds by $112 per pupil. Increasing taxes is the easy, but unsustainable, short-term fix to Michigan’s structural deficit.

The Senate’s cuts to K-12 funding follow on the heals of there chopping 3% from public universities and community colleges. So, how does Granholm expect to get more graduates with less money across all levels of education?

student hostages

“The long-term future of the state depends upon strong universities,” said Peggy Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. In an effort to double the number of college graduates who stay in Michigan, Granholm proposed a revised Promise scholarship. Michigan college graduates would be eligible for a $4,000 refundable credit on their income tax return after working a year in Michigan past graduation. Students don’t like it and the state Senate didn’t take the bait.

Education, and students, are being held hostage by state politicians, educational institutions, local school bureaucracies, and teachers’ unions. Per pupil funding is not the issue nor is the state’s stipend to community colleges and universities. The problem is per pupil costs, about half of which are not attributable to the classroom or education. There are a lot of cost reduction efforts schools should consider before raising taxes. Remember those so-called “legacy costs” of the automakers that were in the news a year ago? Guess what? Schools have “legacy” costs, too, and they’re blatant about it. Everyone wanted Big 3 retirees to give up benefits. How about school retirees? I choose whether or not to contribute to automaker retirees by what car I buy, but I have no choice with school retirees.

protest in front of MEA

Michigan didn’t fare well at all in Race to the Top, the Federal educational dollars competition. Michigan lost points, ending up 21st, because teacher unions didn’t sign on. They don’t care about education, they only care about member benefits.

Granholm’s problem is she has great ideas, but they’re all “blown away.” She wants to double college graduates, but both K-12 and higher education are under-funded. She says college graduates are key to Michigan’s future, but the Promise grants are gone. I’m seeing big and hairy, but I’m not seeing audacious coming through.

Mon, 29 Mar 2010

Mr. Obama Goes to Afghanistan

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Military, National security, Patriotism, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 11:35 am

Obama, Karzai on red carpet

Pres. Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, 28 March. Why does the media always call such visits a “surprise”? Duh! What rational highly placed person, besides Pete Hoekstra, is going to tell al-Queda and the Taliban where he’s going to be?

In his visit, Obama told US troops the war in Afghanistan is “absolutely essential”. Obama said he was humbled by the sacrifices the military makes and declared, “The USA does not quit, you do not quit…we will prevail!” In his remarks, Obama said:

One of the main reasons I’m here is to just say thank you for the incredible efforts of our US troops and our coalition partners. They make tremendous sacrifices far away from home, and I want to make sure they know how proud their commander-in-chief is of them.

Obama greets troops at Baghram Air Base, Afghanistan

Obama praised military progress and referenced the need for continued efforts to reduce Afghan corruption. For his part, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his country “would move forward into the future” to eventually take over its own security. National Security Adviser James Jones said the visit gave the opportunity for Obama to press the issues of halting cronyism, corruption, and narcotrafficking.

A White House official said Obama also wanted to get an “on the ground update” about the war from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander. Obama also met with Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Obama in Air Force One bomber jacket

The President’s visit comes in the midst of his “surge” and at a time when US military fatalities and injuries are up. “We must steel ourselves, no matter how successful we are on any given day, for harder days yet to come,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month. Keeping things in perspective, however, 57 US military personnel died in Afghanistan in the first two months of 2010, compared to 28 for the same period last year. There are more troops in Afghanistan and they are engaging insurgents more frequently. This is because the Taliban has become more resurgent than this time last year.

Obama and Karzai meet

At the end of his Afghan visit, Obama told troops, “The Afghans have suffered for decades, decades of war, but we are here to help the Afghans forge a hard-won peace.”

Karzai and Obama met for almost a half-hour. Obama said he felt there was progress since a videoconference 2 weeks ago.

For his part, Karzai said he wanted to “express the gratitude of our people for the help that America has given us for the last eight years.” And he thanked US taxpayers for “the rebuilding and reestablishing the institutions in Afghanistan.”

Obama with Soldiers in Afghanistan

After meetings with Karzai, other Afghan officials, and Gen. McCrystal, Obama toured Bagram Air Base and talked with US troops. He also spent some time with wounded service members at the clinic.

While the surge is showing progress, Obama went to Afghanistan to press Karzai on Afghanistan’s role. Without Afghan support and greater involvement of Afghan security forces, there can be no victory in Afghanistan. How that turns out remains yet to be seen. Still, a CNN poll shows opposition to the war in Afghanistan is down. There is a lot of work yet to be done, however, for Obama’s plan to start drawing troops down later this year to be reasonable and prudent. Otherwise it’s just politics as usual at the expense of the Afghan people and US service members and their families. This is too big a national security issue for that to be the case.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010

On the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

dog attacks receiver

The passing of health care reform is just the beginning. The bill itself is more than 2,000 long, which is why John Conyers didn’t bother to read the bill. And, why should they have read the bill, besides the obvious you should know what you’re voting on? I don’t know. Maybe because bill porked them in the ass?

Still, the bill, now law, doesn’t include the specifics of how to implement health care requirements. So, what will make it all work? Why, hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations from a variety of government agencies. Many of the health care changes won’t be implemented for several years, perhaps to permit time for government agencies to draft those implementing regulations. None of those regulations has to undergo consideration by Congress and they don’t get voted on. Implementing regulations just become ipso facto laws we all must comply with.

In the meantime, several states have enacted or are considering bills to limit Federal health care impact on the states. Honestly, these are an exercise in futility since Federal law trumps state law when the federal government has jurisdiction.

US Constitution

Which leads us to the fundamental question. Does the federal government, as embodied by Congress, have jurisdiction over health care? Many would argue no, and that’s the basis the lawsuit by 13 states attorneys general who claim the insurance mandate is a living tax. This is the most plausible assault on health care reform, since it contains a provision requiring everyone to buy health insurance. The usual argument made in support of this mandate is the interstate commerce clause of the constition. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides the following powers for Congress:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

John Conyers

Most Representatives and Senators aren’t concerned about the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate in the health care overhaul legislation. In fact, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) cited the “the good and welfare clause and a couple others” as the Constitutional basis for the health care legislation’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance. But there is no “good and welfare” clause in the Constitution. And, we’ve already looked at Article 1, Section 8, regarding welfare. The word “good” only appears once in the Constitution, in Article 3, Section 1, which deals with the Judicial branch, not the powers of Congress. Seems to me a longtime Member of Congress is failing his oath of office.

Conyers also said, “there’s nothing unconstitutional in this bill and if there were, I would have tried to correct it…” Um, how would he know? This is the same guy who said “What good is reading the bill?” Did I mention Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee?

Still, many argue the health care legislation is not constitutional. Regardless of the commerce clause, requiring people to buy health insurance may violate their constitutional right to individual liberty. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of the individual in several cases regarding medical treatment. The Court held individuals have a “constitutionally protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment,” in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. Even more interesingly, in Washington v. Harper, the Court held prison inmates have a “significant liberty interest” in refusing antipsychotic medication. Similarly, children have a significant liberty interest in refusing medical treatment even if their parents requested it, according to the Court’s ruling in Parham v. J. R. It seems, then, requiring individuals to buy health care insurance is contrary to their liberty interest.

Andrew Napolitano

Judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano noted the Federal government cannot commandeer state legislatures. There have been several Supreme Court decisions affirming states rights. Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge explained.

The Constitution does not authorize the Congress to regulate the state governments. Nevertheless, in this piece of legislation, the Congress has told the state governments that they must modify their regulation of certain areas of healthcare, they must surrender their regulation of other areas of healthcare, and they must spend state taxpayer-generated dollars in a way that the Congress wants it done.

Napolitano believes the State Attorneys General lawsuit to overturn health care reform stands a good chance in the Supreme Court. “The states for 230 years have had near exclusive regulation over the delivery of healthcare,” he said. “The feds have had nothing to do with it.”

Congress dunce

Referring to the backroom deals used to garner enough support in the Senate, Napolitano said the “create “a very unique and tricky constitutional problem.” The Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, Gatorade Exception and others create a disparity in treatment among the states. Of the deals, Napolitano said they “clearly violate equal protection by forcing people in the other states to pay the bills of the states that don’t have to pay what the rest of us do.” Similarly, the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans can’t fairly be exempted for union members.

“The problem with the constitution is that those who take an oath to uphold it don’t take their oath seriously,” Napolitano said. Congress only has authority to craft legislation in the 17 aspects enumerated in the Constitution. That might explain why my Senators and Representative failed to answer my question as to what clause in the Constitution authorized the health care reform bill.

In short, the Constitution does not authorize Congress to regulate health care nor does it allow for mandating citizens buy anything, not even for their own good. The commerce clause allows for regulating interstate commerce, not creating it. Disparate treatment among the states and between groups violate the equal protection clause. And, for the record, there is no good and welfare clause in the Constitution. Someone please tell the Chairman of the House Judicial Committee.

Fri, 26 Mar 2010

Israel’s Arrogance Adding Fuel to the Fire

Filed under: Allies, Global War on Terror, Middle East, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:52 pm

Netanyahu speaks at AIPIC

It’s been a few days since US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on March 22nd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Speculation was the two would have controversial words for each other’s countries. The current cool US-Israel relations resulted from the Israeli insult to US Vice President Joe Biden during his visit two weeks ago. In Israel to repair bilateral relations, the Biden was surprised when Eli Yishai,the Israeli Interior Minister, announced buidling new housing in East Jerusalem. Falling for the MSM’s fomenting of the potential conflict from the AIPAC speaches, my intent for this post was to blast Israel for dissing the US yet again. Then I read the text of Netanyahu’s speach to AIPAC. I didn’t find where “he bluntly dismissed U.S. demands to end housing construction in the disputed part of Jerusalem,” like the Washington Post claimed he did.

There is no shortage to Israel’s arrogance; the Biden faux pas is just the latest. In his AIPAC speach, Netanyahu described Israel’s national security situation. He outlined steps toward peace Israel has and will take, stated its resolve to self-defenes, and invited the Palestinians to rejoin peace negotiations and be willing to compromise. Referring to the planned housing construction, in his AIPAC speach Netanyahu said:

The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.

Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.

Later on, Netanyahu made another telling statement.

Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

Netanyahu, Obama in May 2009

So, Netanyahu publicly admitted Jewish housing in East Jerusalem violates terms of the very armistice which allowed the formation of the Israeli state in the first place. And he wonders why Obama continues to call for a freeze on new settlements?

Pres. Obama and PM Netanyahu met at the White House on Tuesday evening. Neither side walked away with anything they desired. Just before the meeting, however, Jerusalem gave a developer permission to build, despite Netanyahu’s promise to avoid future unpleasant surprises. This is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to get control of,” a senior U.S. official said. “The current drip-drip-drip of projects in East Jerusalem impedes progress.”

Building in Palestinian or disputed areas at best interferes with peace efforts for the region. There are always two sides to a story and two views of an issue. While I strongly support Israel’s right to exist, and hope so at peace with its neighbors, I also support a free and equal Palestinian state. I am sympathetic to Israel’s security situation, but I believe the Israeli government overreacts and is an oppressive, arbitrary occupier of Palestine. My view is not the most popular in the US. For descendants of the primary victims of the Holocaust, there are just a few too many similarities between Israeli actions in Palestine and the how German officials treated those in the occupied eastern areas during World War II.

Gen. David Petraeus testifying

Most in the US see the Arabs and Palestinians as the problem. To be sure, Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations, but they don’t justify punishing all Palestinians. The week before Netanyahu lobbied the US Congress to work around Obama’s stance on settlements, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Michigan’s Sen. Carl Levin (D) chairs. Petraeus is the Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command. In his testimony, he said:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [CentCom Area of Responsibility]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.

That means, worst case, Israel’s arrogance and stubbornness undermines US national security and puts US service members at risk. Consider the Saudi reaction to Israel’s latest provocation. “These comments cast doubt on the peace process and the seriousness of the international efforts to relaunch negotiations.” Saudi Arabia had backed efforts to restart peace talks, albeit indirect, but the Israeli announcement on building in East Jerusalem essentially gutted any support from Arab countries. In the Saudi statement:

The kingdom strongly condemns the statements by the prime minister of the Israeli occupation in which he denied the rights of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in holy Jerusalem, without the slightest consideration for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, especially in occupied holy Jerusalem, or for the international efforts to relaunch peace process.

Clinton speaks at AIPAC 2010

Israelophiles need not fear, however. Despite the international outcry and despite the Obama Administration’s stance and the current frost on US-Israeli relations, the US remains committed to Israel’s existence. Sounding like she was back on the campaign trail, Secretary of State Clinton put it this way in her remarks to AIPAC.

[L]et me assure you, as I have assured you on previous occasions with large groups like this and small intimate settings, for President Obama and for me, and for this entire Administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever.

Later on, Secretary Clinton added “I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.” To emphasize the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton said:

The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations. Staying on this course means continuing a conflict that carries tragic human costs. Israeli and Palestinian children alike deserve to grow up free from fear and to have that same opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.

Never thought I’d agree with Hillary Rodham Clinton, except for that cheerleader bit. Israel needs to grow up, come to the table, and knock out a workable peace agreement. The world doesn’t have any patience for their tantrums any more. Both regional and global security depend on a successful two-state solution.

Mon, 22 Mar 2010

House Defies the People; Passes Health Care Debacle

Filed under: Bailout, Budget, Citizen rights, Congress, Government, Medicine, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 11:33 am

House passes health care reform

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released 16 March clearly shows US citizens are disgusted with Congress. Only 17% approve, while 77% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. In fact, 50% said they’d replace every single sitting Representative and Senator. We’ll see, come election time. I’ve heard the anti-incumbent rhetoric before only to see the lemings re-elect the same useless baffoons.

Some people blame the tea party movement and Republican opposition to the Democrats’ health care reform bills. Others claim Pres. Obama is pushing the Democrats to takeover health care in what many call a form of socialism. Many also see the Democrats attempting to increase government power at all costs. And let’s not lose sight of the fact Democrats have lost touch with working people.

Congress flips off the people

The health care reform fiasco really underscores the breakdown in Congress and growth of the void between our representatives in Washington and we, the people. There are claims health care reform itself led to the polarization of the two parties and the rift between the elected and the electors. The fact is, Congress has been following its own agenda for some time. Discontent of the citizenry has been bubbling for decades and has come to a head recently. Several factors play into this, including the economic sitation, the lack of responsiveness of our representatives to their constituents, and the magnitude of bills being debated and passed.

In September 2008, Congress passed legislation to bail out teetering Wall Street institutions for $800 billion. Previously, they bailed out AIG to the tune of nearly $200 billion. Of this trillion dollars, there’s been little trickledown to the common man. And, despite tanking the global economy and nearly collapsing, these same financial charlatans have regularly given themselves bonuses. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t sit well with Main Street. Next came the $800 billion dollar Stimulus, another costly program that has not done much for the middle class. In Michigan, its primary benefit has been to allow the state legislature and governor defer hard budget deficit questions, not unlike trying to plug a leaking dike with bubblegum. In seeking to raise public support for the Stimulus, Pres. Obama claimed Caterpillar would benefit, ostensibly from increased sales of the construction equipment it sells. Caterpillar’s CEO contradicted the president’s claims.

picking taxpayers' pockets

Which brings us back to health care. Caterpillar told lawmakers health care reform will cost them $100 million in the first year alone. Last week, a Fox News poll found 55% of voters opposed to the health care bill, with only 35% in favors. While support is about the same as last July, opposition has risen 8 points since then. Then there’s that matter of whether or not those we elect to represent us actually do. My US Senators both failed to answer my questions on the Constitutionality of mandating buying private insurance, as did my US Representative. Forgive the length, but House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) summarized the moral failure of Congress in remarks on the House floor before the vote on the health care reform bill; emphasis added.

Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I rise tonight with a sad and heavy heart. Today, we should be standing together, reflecting on a year of bipartisanship, and working to answer our country’s call and their challenge to address the rising costs of health insurance in our country.

Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House, should be looking with pride on this legislation and our work. But it is not so.

No, today we’re standing here looking at a health care bill that no one in this body believes is satisfactory.

Pelosi shakes fist at the people

Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens. And we all know why it is so.

We have failed to listen to America.

And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.

And when we fail to reflect that will—we fail ourselves and we fail our country.

Look at this bill. Ask yourself: do you really believe that if you like the health plan that you have, that you can keep it?

No, you can’t.

In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate need for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, to create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land?

The answer is no.

Can you go home and tell your senior citizens that these cuts in Medicare will not limit their access to doctors or further weaken the program instead of strengthening it?

No, you cannot.

Can you go home and tell your constituents with confidence that this bill respects the sanctity of all human life, and that it won’t allow for taxpayer funding of abortion for the first time in 30 years?

No, you cannot.

And look at how this bill was written.

Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals, and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?

Hell no, you can’t!

Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment?

Hell no, you haven’t!

Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes, we will cast some of the most consequential votes that any of us will ever cast in this chamber.

The decision we make will affect every man, woman and child in this nation for generations to come.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)

If we’re going to vote to defy the will of the American people, then we ought to have the courage to stand before them and announce our votes, one at a time.

I sent a letter to the Speaker this week asking that the ‘call of the roll’ be ordered for this vote.

Madame Speaker, I ask you. Will you, in the interest of this institution, grant my request?

Will you, Mr. Speaker, grant my request that we have a call of the roll?

Mr. Speaker, will you grant my request that we have a call of the roll?

My colleagues, this is the People’s House.

When we came here, we each swore an oath to uphold and abide by the Constitution as representatives of the people.

But the process here is broken. The institution is broken.

And as a result, this bill is not what the American people need, nor what our constituents want.

Americans are out there are making sacrifices and struggling to build a better future for their kids.

And over the last year as the damn-the-torpedoes outline of this legislation became more clear, millions lifted their voices, and many for the first time, asking us to slow down, not try to cram through more than the system could handle.

Not to spend money that we didn’t have.

In this time of recession, they wanted us to focus on jobs, not more spending, not more government, certainly not more taxes.

But what they see today frightens them.

They’re frightened because they don’t know what comes next.

They’re disgusted, because they see one political party closing out the other from what should be a national solution.

And they are angry. They are angry that no matter how they engage in this debate, this body moves forward against their will. Shame on us.

Shame on this body.

Shame on each and every one of you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.

Around this chamber, looking upon us are the lawgivers—from Moses, to Gaius, to Blackstone, to Thomas Jefferson.

By our actions today, we disgrace their values.

We break the ties of history in this chamber. We break our trust with Americans.

When I handed the Speaker the gavel in 2007, I said: “this is the people’s House—and the moment a majority forgets this, it starts writing itself a ticket to minority status.”

angry voters

If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people.

And In a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.

And if we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we are going to be held to account by those who have placed us in their trust. We will have shattered those bonds of trust.

recycle Congress

I beg you. I beg each and every one of you on both sides of the aisle:

Do not further strike at the heart of this country and this institution with arrogance, for surely you will not strike with impunity.

I ask each of you to vow never to let this happen again—this process, this defiance of our citizens.

It is not too late to begin to restore the bonds of trust with our Nation and return comity to this institution.

And so, join me.

Join me in voting against this bill, so that we may come together anew, and address this challenge of health care in a manner that brings credit to this body, and brings credit to the ideals of this nation, and most importantly, it reflects the will our people.

Voting for the Senate ammended version of House Resolution 3590, the health care overhaul bill, were 219 Democrats. Opposed were 34 Democrats and all 178 Republics. The measure passed 219-212; see how your representative voted in Roll Call 165. As for Michigan’s delegation, the Republicans voted no and the Democrats—including holdout Bart Stupak—all voted for the bill. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), the state’s lone representative, voted no, as did the single Democrats in Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Utah. Both of Alabama’s Democratic Representatives also sided with their Republican colleagues.


28 Mar 2010

While it might be hard to believe people are not always truthful, especially in politics, it sometimes happens that people spin things to suit their position. Such is the case with Caterpillar’s claim the health care legislation will add $100 million to their costs. As it turns out, the health care law eliminates a tax cut from which Caterpillar benefited for seven years. While this is an increase in cost to Caterpillar, what they are losing is the corporate welfare of $100 million taxpayer dollars every year.

Sun, 21 Mar 2010

Obama Going for Jobs Trifecta

Filed under: Bailout, Budget, Congress, Economy, Government, Medicine, Politics, Society, Stimulus, Taxes, Unemployment — cynicalsynapse @ 10:30 pm

stimulus signs

On 18 March, Pres. Obama signed what’s been called the jobs bill into law. Touted at $38 billion, it’s really closer to $100 billion in cost over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Besides it’s so-called jobs provisions, it also includes a $60 billion extension of unemployment coverage, an obvious back-to-work program if ever there was one. Titled the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010, the bill’s touted tax breaks are really just extensions of already existing breaks and there’s nothing uniquely job-creating in the law.

Earlier, there was the so-called stimulus bill. Officially titled the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus package was supposed to “create or save” 3-4 million jobs. The national unemployment rate was 8.1% in February 2009 when the Stimulus bill was signed into law. For February 2010, the national unemployment rate was 9.7%. I’m not a statistics whiz, but it seems pretty clear to me that more people are unemployed this year than before passing the Stimulus package. More jobs would likely have been created had the Stimulus money been put to better use.

unemployment line

so, the Stimulus bill has seen job loss rather than job creation, no matter what anyone claims. In February 2009, there were 12.5 million unemployed. With all the jobs “created or saved” by the Stimulus package, February 2010 unemployment stood at 14.9 million and 9.7%. I’m thinking that’s not an improvement.

Next up, and coming to a vote in the House, perhaps as I write, is health care reform, based on the Senate bill and a House “reconciliation” measure. Some have argued health care reform is also a jobs creation bill. This has become a “do or die” bill, as if this is the only opportunity the country will have to fix health care. I don’t think anyone disagrees there are issues with health care. The problem is the Senate bill is a Frankenstein’s monster of vote-buying and gerrymandering. Never mind whether Congress has the authority to require citizens to buy health care insurance. And then there’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) saying health care overhaul will create 4 million jobs. She must be spending a little too much time with that medical marijuana. As we approach the final hours, it sounds like the Wicked Witch of the West has gathered the necessary votes to pass health care reform.

While some, such as Pelosi, claim health care reform will create jobs, others claim health care reform is a jobs killer. In fact, Caterpillar Corp. says health care overhaul would cost them $100 million in the first year. I lived in Illinois during times when Caterpillar was struggling. So, if they’re concerned, I’m concerned. And it makes me wonder why the domestic automakers aren’t speaking out, except 2 of 3 are wholly owned subsidiaries of the government.

health care gone to the apes

Let’s see. Billions spent on job creation under Stimulus I didn’t work. The jobs bill under “mini-Stimulus” is actually nothing new for tax credits but counters job creation with extending unemployment benefits.

So, after all this hope and change, why would you support the Stimulus bill, the jobs bill, or health care overhaul? Seems to me Obama is playing a zero-sum game, at best.

Sat, 20 Mar 2010

Health Care Donates Big to Elected Officials

Filed under: Budget, Congress, Government, Life, Medicine, People, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 10:39 pm

health care bills

With the US House of Representatives vote on health care reform now slated for Sunday, 21 March, Pres. Obama delayed his trip to Asia yet again. How do you think Indonesia and Australia feel being kicked to the curb for one vote in the House? Yeah, I get it’s important to Obama, but how, exactly, is he going to rangle the 216 needed votes? Or is he going to make back room deals with the holdouts, like he must have done with Kucinich (D-OH). That didn’t yield the desired waterfall of votes.

So, who are the holdouts? As for Michigan, not pro-life Democrat Dale Kildee who broke with fellow Rep. Bart Stupak, also a Democrat. Although Kildee has not received big money from health care political action committees (PACs), he voted yes on the overhaul bill in November and thinks the Senate version still prohibits using Federal funds for abortions. Stupak is not convinced and plans to vote no unless someone proves Federal funds can’t be used for abortion. Of fellow Democrats, he said:

Well, jeez, after you tell us no to our face—”You’re never going to get anything”—why would I suddenly think you’re going to give me something now? I’m a little slow, but I’m not that slow.

Nancy Pelosi hacking on the Constitution

There are others in opposition, of course, and it’s still not clear if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is considering the Slaughter rule to “deem” the Senate version passed and avoid an actual vote as required by the US Constitution. Article I, Section 7 is pretty crystal clear, if you ask me. “But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.” So I don’t think a bill that says, in effect, we pass the other bill only we want these changes is constitutional. Period. Don’t get me started on the mandate for citizens to buy private health insurance.

In this long road to what many call ObamaCare, where has the health care industry been? Would it surprise you to know the health care industry has been donating to politicians all along? Last year, the industry donated $33,702,608 to our elected officials in Washington and spent $425,115,711 on lobbying. Since 1989—2 years after being elected a US Representative—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has received $1,668,550 in donations from the health care sector, the majority from health care providers. Last year, health care interests gave Pelosi $291,100, or 31% of the PAC money she received.

The money trail leads to Michigan, as the following charts show. While the Center for Responsive Politics data covers 1989 to 2009, I’ve also pulled contribution data for 2009 only for US elected officials with over a million in health care industry donations and select officials who may be relevant to the current discussion.

Michigan’s US Representatives

District Representative Party HR 3962 Vote 1989-2009 $ 2009 Only $
1 Stupak D Yea 781,715 66,500
2 Hoekstra R No 167,435
3 Ehlers R No 256,585
4 Camp R No 2,016,604 270,550
5 Kildee D Yea 350,925 36,000
6 Upton R No 1,353,554 73,902
7 Schauer D Yea 161,338
8 Rogers R No 1,511,531 160,999
9 Peters D Yea 199,150
10 Miller R No 251,031
11 McCotter R No 303,774 64,500
12 Levin D Yea 1,000,460 90,000
13 Kilpatrick D Yea 308,375
14 Conyers D Yea 218,075
15 Dingell D Yea 2,411,042 103,000

Michigan’s US Senators

Senator Party 1989-2009 $ 2009 Only $
Levin D 802,332 0
Stabenow D 1,747,508 139,182

Pelosi and Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took in $466,060 from health care interests last year and $2,855,876 since 1989. No bias there, I’m sure. As for his counterpart, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got $291,100 last year and $1,668,550 since 1998.

Comparatively, it looks like some of Michigan’s elected officials are doing very well in the big scheme of special interest donations. Of Michigan’s elected officials, 35% raked in significant funding (over $1 million) from health care since 1989. In fact, the Michigan delegation overall accepted $1 million or more just last year. So, health care is a political money maker. It will be interesting to see how Michigan’s big health care beneficiaries vote on the health care bill. I hope you’ve told your representative how you want them to vote. You might also ask them if they’ve read the bill; some don’t think they need to.

Wed, 17 Mar 2010

How Many Pieces of Silver for Kucinich?

Filed under: Congress, Government, Medicine, Politics, President, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 9:14 pm

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Personally, I’ve never liked Dennis Kucinich (D-Cleveland). I first heard of him as mayor of Cleveland, a post he filled for just 2 years. Before that, he first served on the Cleveland City Council in 1969, the same year Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. From my perspective, Kucinich has always been sort of “out there”. More importantly, though, I’ve never felt his ideas were grounded in reality. It’s kind of like he’s either not gotten how the world works or he’s truly convinced Utopia can be achieved. Thus, Kucinich is considered the über liberal, especially in the Democratic party.

Kucinich voted against the original House version of the health care overhaul bill. And he’s been holding out on his vote for the Senate version. Kucinich told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell:

This bill represents a giveaway to the insurance industry. $70 billion a year, and no guarantees of any control over premiums, forcing people to buy private insurance

I’m sorry, I just don’t see that this bill is the solution.

Pres. Obama and Rep. Kucinich

Suddenly, today Kucinich thinks the Senate bill is just what we need. Never mind it doesn’t include a public option, even though Kucinich’s far left view is a 100% public option is the way to go. How many pieces of silver did Kucinich sell his liberal soul for? In his announcement of support for the current health care overhaul bill, Kucinich said:

I have doubts about the bill. This is not the bill I wanted to support… However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.

Liberal Kucinich sold out for a ride on Air Force One. The ripple effect will likely be more moderate Democrats no longer feel they have a leg to stand on in opposing the health care bill. As a result, Speaker Pelosi may be able to bring the bill to a vote after all, avoiding the need to “do whatever is necessary” to secure passage of the bill.

Pelosi stretching the rules

If Pelosi can secure the needed 216 votes to pass the bill, she can avoid the potential Constitutional crisis of using the Slaughter rule to “deem” the Senate version passed by voting on a House corrections bill. Such a move would violate the US Constitution, a document our elected representatives are sworn to uphold and defend. It would also circumvent the conference process, the normal method of reconciling differences between Senate and House versions of bills. That, too, seems to be lost on Speaker Pelosi in her brainless lust to deliver to Pres. Obama a health care bill he can sign.

Assuming she pulls that off, it’s not the end of Constitutional concerns, however. Fundamentally, it’s likely the Constitution does not grant Congress authority to regulate health care.

Killing the bill is the preference of the majority, 53%. I wonder why Kucinich started acting like every other politician all of the sudden. The bill’s not any better than it was; in fact, it’s probably worse. What did Pres. Obama promise him?

I still urge you to email or call your US Representative with your views on health care overhaul and its associated bills.

Previously on health care reform:

Mon, 15 Mar 2010

Israel Thumbs Nose at US

Filed under: Allies, Hypocrits, National security, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:58 pm

thumb your nose

While I acknowledge Israel has had to fight tooth and nail for its very existence from Day 1, I’ve long felt the Israeli state is two-faced and arrogant, never missing an opportunity to bludgeon the unsuspecting into supporting its position, legitimate or not. Much like critizing Pres. Obama is labeled racist, many label critizing Israel or Israelis as anti-semitic. So, if we agree, everything’s fine. But, if we disagree, I’m a racist or an anti-semite.

At the very best, the Israeli announcement of building 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem during Biden’s visit was bad timing. The fact Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has failed to respond officially doesn’t help matters. A more likely version of the situation is Netanyahu and the Israelis screwed up. The US has never recognized East Jerusalem as part of Israel and now, like the Nazis before them, the Israelis want to evict Palestinians to provide housing for Israelis.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Israeli move insulting to the US and to the Vice President. She went so far as to call the announcement “a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship.” In the phone conversation with Netanyahu, she added, “the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.”

Ironically, the Israeli announcement of building 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem came just hours after US Vice President Joe Biden assured Israel of US support. “There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security,” Biden said. The Vice President was, ostensibly, on a trip to repair US-Israeli relations, even if officials claimed that was not the case.

Israeli Soldier holds Palestinian girls at gunpoint

Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said the pressure is on Israel to do some fence-mending. US “ability to move this peace process forward carries with it an implication that we actually have some power. And when an ally basically sticks it to us, it’s a terrible sign of weakness, and in that respect, U.S. interests in the region are set back,” he said.

Sun, 14 Mar 2010

Constitution’s Fate Hangs on Slaughter House Rule

Rep. Louise Slaughter

US Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is crafting a rule to violate the US Constitution. In essence, the Slaughter House Rule deams the Senate health care overhaul bill passed if the majority of Representatives pass a bill with Senate bill modifications. In defiance of the US Constitution, then, Slaughter’s rule avoids a House vote on the Senate version of the bill. From the Constitution, which our elected representatives are sworn to uphold (emphasis added):

US Constitution preamble

Article I—The Legislative Branch

Section 7—Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Signing the US Constitution

Seems to me the framers of the Constitution were pretty explicit about the legislative process. In short, the same bill, word for word, has to pass both House and Senate. Passage requires a vote with the majority voting for the bill.

More importantly, the people have consistently wanted a bi-partisan bill for health care overhaul. The March 3-8, 2010, poll conducted by GfK Roper showed only 27% wanted a bill passed without Republican support, but 68% wanted our elected representatives to continue working on an agreeable deal. Never mind that 53% opposed the current health care reform plan according to the latest Rasmussen poll. How can the Democrats be so unaware or uncaring of the will of the people?

If Democrats persist with their plan to move their Frankenstein’s monster of a health care bill to President Obama for signing by declaring the bill passed in another bill, we will face a Constitutional crisis of severe magnitude. RedState has a list of the previous Democratic parlor tricks on the extremely pot-holed road of health care reform. And here are the consequences he expects from an illegal passage (emphasis his).

The American public was at first peeved about this government power grab, leading to wildly entertaining August recesses for congressional Democrats. As the Dems shoved non-matching bills through House and Senate, America got positively miffed. Witness McDonnell, Christie, and Brown.

Now America is flat irritated. And if the Dems try sporting this blatant middle finger at the Constitution and America, we will all see what happens when America is finally angry. Like Dan Perrin, I think Democrats will back down before doing this. But we’ve both underestimated their stupidity several times in this process. Nothing’s a safe bet anymore.

Obama's approval rating

Before this, Democrats were already going to lose HUGE in November. There are more House Democrats retiring in “safe” districts than there are Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys in prison. But if they try this stunt, the ensuing electoral revolt will be epic and irreversible, resulting in a Democrat Party crippled so irredeemably that I predict a new center-left party will emerge in the next 10 years, attempting to shed the stench of scandal and disrepute that will be permanently connected to the Democrats. Most likely the partisan press will accelerate their own death spiral as they are unwilling to speak ill of the Democrats.

But that is November. What will happen in March?

Six things I can think of, the first three within days. I couldn’t say what order, because things will move pretty quickly. So I list them how my mind sorts them.

1. The Supreme Court will strike it down within days.

I don’t remember which of the 3 authors I cited said this (or maybe I heard it on the radio), so I don’t know who to cite. But every American has standing here, due to the exceedingly far reach of the Health Care Takeover bill. Somebody will sue. I predict GOP members of Congress will, and it will go straight to the Supreme Court. They will strike down the whole caboodle, and they will do it almost immediately. Probably 6-3, with Breyer and Kennedy voting with the originalists. Their ruling is very likely to include language extremely damning of the behavior of Democrats.

2. Numerous states will declare statutorily under the 10th Amendment that this law will be unenforceable within their borders.

I’m guessing 20 states. The move has been afoot for awhile anyway, and this blatant flouting of the Constitution will trigger the America-loving, freedom-loving instincts into bold (if rash) action. And while they’re at it, they’re going to say the same thing about everything emanating from the EPA.

violent protest

3. There will be public anti-government outrage so great that it will boil into violence.

I do not condone this; it will be ugly and more than a little scary. Lest I give anybody fresh ideas, I will not expound upon it other than to say it will be directed, not generalized — directed at objects, property, and symbols of government, not at people. Although those who voted for this Slaughter Rule would be wise to perhaps hang around in Washington for awhile.

4. (Even more) new candidates opposing incumbent Democrats will come out of the woodwork.

Many already have, but many good ones have considered, then declined. Many of those will change their minds, even in blue states. And new ones will pop up like dandelions. And a whole bunch of them will win. The leftist partisan national media currently think Republicans might, juuuuuuuust MIGHT, get 40 seats and the House back. Idiots. It was already going to be 80 and 8. But after this stunt, it might be 120 and 14. This is what happens when the entire center turns on a party.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

5. State AGs will bring charges against sitting Congressmen for whatever they can plausibly pin on them.

Sedition is the actual crime (IMHO), and that’s a federal charge. But no USA will touch this, since they work for the president. Because members of Congress cannot be recalled, citizens will be thirsting for vengeance. Very loudly. State AG’s will be chomping at the bits to exact SOME form of payback, encouraged (or pushed) by their citizenry. Things like corruption, conspiracy, bribery, racketeering, tax fraud, and so on, will be easy indictments. As the last few months have shown, congressional Democrats have been so thoroughly corrupt for so long, nobody will even have to trump up anything.

6. Republicans will shut down business in Congress until January 5.

Then it will REALLY get fun.

Democrats will lose the country days after they pull the Slaughter Rule. They’ll have their illegal law both flouted and overruled, their members will be subject to investigations and indictments, and not a single item of interest will be signed into law, nor will any appointment be approved, before January 5, when a hundred or more of them leave Washington for good.

Rep. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) predicted political suicide for Democrats on CBS News’ Face the Nation this morning.

This is the most brazen act of political arrogance that I can remember since the Watergate years, not in terms of breaking the law but in terms of thumbing your nose at the American people and saying, “We know you don’t want it, we’re going to give it to you anyway.”

[President Obama] said last year that the health care debate is not just about health care, it’s a proxy for the larger issue of the role of government in American lives. We think he’s right about that.

Imagine the political, financial, and legal crises to follow if Democrats use the Slaughter House Rule. Health care could collapse in the limbo of whether or not the legislation is actually law. Will you be entitled to insurance or not? Will it be mandatory nor not? How much will it cost? The only winners will be lawyers who just might have a shot at bypassing Wall Street’s robber barons and the second most-hated, after legislators, group in the country. Still, be sure to tell your Representive how to vote on health care and the Slaughter House Rule.

HT: theblogprof

Health care battle

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