“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Health Care Bill: The Democrat Martyrdom Operation

We have to pass the Health Care Bill so that we can see what is in it.

Parliamentary Hurdle Could Thwart Latest Health Care Overhaul Strategy

Published: March 9, 2010 NY Times

WASHINGTON — The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were bracing for a key procedural ruling that could complicate their effort to approve major health care legislation, by requiring President Obama to sign the bill into law before Congress could revise it through an expedited budget process.

An official determination on the matter could come within days from the House and Senate parliamentarians, and could present yet another hurdle for Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders as they try to lock in support from skittish lawmakers in the House.

Meanwhile, Congressional leaders and top administration officials met in the offices of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday evening trying to resolve outstanding policy differences between the chambers.

House leaders were still navigating potential pitfalls, including a dispute over provisions related to insurance coverage of abortion, while opponents of the legislation, including a leading business group, planned a new onslaught of television advertisements attacking the proposal.

Many rank-and-file House Democrats are reluctant to approve the Senate-passed health care measure without a guarantee that the Senate would follow up with changes in a budget reconciliation bill. The Senate measure included a number of provisions House members dislike, including special deals intended to secure the support of individual senators, like extra Medicaid money for Nebraska.

Democratic leaders had been contemplating an intricate legislative two-step, by which the House would approve the original Senate health care measure and both chambers would adopt a package of changes in a budget reconciliation bill. Both measures would then be sent to Mr. Obama for his signature.

Some officials said House leaders were holding out hope for a favorable ruling by the parliamentarians that would allow them to proceed as planned — or to circumvent the problem.

But Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, said the reconciliation instructions in last year’s budget resolution seemed to require that Mr. Obama sign the Senate bill into law before it could be changed.

“It’s very hard to see how you draft, and hard to see how you score, a reconciliation bill to another bill that has not yet been passed and become law,” Mr. Conrad said. “I just advise you go read the reconciliation instructions and see if you think it has been met if it doesn’t become law.”

The procedural maneuvering highlighted the acute sensitivity around virtually every step in the Democrats’ push to achieve Mr. Obama’s top domestic priority.

As Democrats considered the potential parliamentary maneuvers, a coalition of business groups announced Tuesday that it was beginning a television advertising campaign to stop the health care legislation.

The advertisement says “we thought Washington understood” that jobs and the economy should be the top priority for Congress. But instead, it says, “Congress is trying to use special rules to ram through their same trillion-dollar health care bill,” with “billions in new taxes and more mandates on businesses.”

The executive vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, R. Bruce Josten, said the groups were spending $4 million to $10 million on the advertisements. Sponsors include the chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation.

Separately, America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobby for insurers, said Tuesday that it was buying more than a million dollars’ worth of television advertising time to explain why insurance premiums had been rising.

Obama administration officials have unleashed a barrage of criticism of insurers, as part of their final push for support of the health legislation. They say the industry is reaping huge profits and overpaying top executives. But insurance companies say premiums have shot up because of soaring medical costs.

“What’s inside the health care cost pie?” the advertisement asks. “Some in Washington say it’s all health insurance. But health insurance is one of the smallest slices. Health insurance companies’ costs are only 4 percent of health care spending. Doctors, hospitals, medicines and tests are the biggest slices.”

The Senate Democratic whip, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said there was no timetable for a budget reconciliation bill. The budget bill might include a major overhaul of the student loan program, he said, but only if it helped secure health care votes.

The most immediate question seemed to be how parliamentarians would rule on the steps that Democrats must follow. The reconciliation instructions require that committees “report changes in laws” that help meet deficit reduction targets.

Democrats are planning to use budget reconciliation to make the final health care revisions because it circumvents a Republican filibuster in the Senate and can be adopted by a simple majority vote rather than 60-vote supermajority normally required.

Republican leaders have been working to fan distrust of the Senate among House Democrats, warning that Mr. Obama and the Senate would have little reason to pursue the budget reconciliation process once the House approves the Senate-passed bill.

At that point, the Republicans suggest, Mr. Obama might just as well hold a signing ceremony and declare the legislation completed, even though it would include the objectionable provisions that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, inserted.

“We believe what the president is doing is asking House Democrats to hold hands, jump off a cliff and hope Harry Reid catches them,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the No. 3 Republican, said on Tuesday. “And Senator Reid is not going to have any incentive to catch them because by the time the reconciliation bill gets to the Senate, the president will have already signed the health care bill into law and he’ll be well on his way to Indonesia.”

Some Democrats are hoping that the House will vote on the Senate bill by March 18, before Mr. Obama leaves for a weeklong trip to Guam, Indonesia and Australia. Congress also leaves March 26 for a two-week recess.


  1. The last polling estimates I saw (last couple of days) indicated Pelosi has about 201 Dems on board and is still pushing to get to the 216 or 217 needed.


  2. "Brazil has another card to play, which software, pharmaceutical and other big American industries may worry about. The Latin American country may, under the terms of the WTO ruling, “suspend certain obligations” to honour intellectual property rights (such as patents) if the amount of retaliation that it is entitled to is so high that it could not reasonably hope to exhaust it by targeting goods alone. Brazil’s government says that it intends to do this with measures later this month, to the value of $238m—the “remaining annual amount of retaliation to which Brazil is entitled”—which will be applied to intellectual property and services. The WTO has previously allowed such retaliation, although nobody has ever followed through with such steps. Brazil, if it threats are to be believed, would be the first to do so.

    Brazil-US Trade War?

    What am I missing here? How can the WHO suspend intellectual property rights and patents in a trade dispute?

    Government to government dealings. Ok. Tarriff's. OK. But how can you authorize the stealing of intellectual property from private firms?


  3. "In telephone calls and meetings, senior diplomats and specialists were forced to restate Britain’s position on sovereignty over the islands and seek clarification of the US position after a State Department spokesman in February answered a question about the Falklands by saying: “Or the Malvinas, depending on how you see it.”

    "British anger over the Obama Administration’s apparent indifference to the issue mounted when Hillary Clinton endorsed President Fernández de Kirchner’s call for talks on sovereignty while she was in Buenos Aires last week, State Department sources said.

    "The new details of British complaints emerged as influential conservatives in Washington described the Administration’s handling of the dispute as offensive, ignorant and a reflection of a lack of enthusiasm for the idea of a special relationship between the two countries..."

    British Criticize US on Falklands

    I've already indicated my preference that the US remain nuetral on the Falklands dispute. However, that being said, it appears the current State Department s intent on proving that they are indeed a bunch of amateurs. Either that or (like me on ocassion) they just enjoy stirring the pot.

    At any rate, not very diplomatic.


  4. "Lord Mandelson has tried to head off a transatlantic trade war by expressing concern at Washington’s handling of a $35 billion Pentagon procurement project that could spark European retaliation...

    "At the centre of the row are allegations made by EADS that the Pentagon has skewed the terms of a competitive tender to favour Boeing...

    "When the tanker contract was first opened for bidding in 2007, EADS-Northrop offered the Airbus A330 while Boeing offered the smaller 767. The European aircraft won but Boeing protested and, after intense lobbying by the American company’s supporters in Congress, the deal was overturned on technicalities. When the Pentagon reissued the terms of the contract it had been changed to favour a smaller plane and EADS-Northrop felt that they could not compete...

    "The Pentagon’s first attempt to buy new tankers ten years ago ended in scandal when its deal with Boeing was revealed to be corrupt. The company had hired Darleen Druyan, the Pentagon official in charge of the procurement project, after she inflated the price of the planes. She pleaded guilty to corruption and Boeing was fined $615 million..."

    Tanker Contract May Launch Trade War


  5. "At least three Swedish newspapers on Wednesday published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog after an alleged plot to murder the artist who created it was uncovered in Ireland...

    "Dagens Nyheter said in an editorial that "Vilks doesn't stand alone in this conflict. A threat against him is, in the long term, also a threat against all Swedes..."

    Swedes Publish Mumammad Cartoons

    Has anyone else noted that the normally phlegmatic Swedes appear to be getting a little feisty of late?


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  7. The WTO, Quirck, deals Nation to Nation,

    All the private ownership entities, they are parts of the Nation.
    The Nation owns the "Rights", even if they allow those "Rights" to be dispersed amongst individuals, the Nation can still be stripped and lose the international"Rights" to that property, by the WTO.

    Which, in the case of the USA, the loss of international property rights just flows to the private owners.

    I do believe that to be the process, to which we agreed to operate under, by Treaty obligation...

  8. The US government provides National property rights to intellectual property.
    It is not God that does so.

    That those intellectual "Rights" can be denied in other parts of the whirled, by governments both local and global, part of the Treaty.

    Learn it Live it, Love it.

    Here comes the Whirled Court!

  9. "At Copenhagen, many developed countries had hoped the Kyoto Protocol, which only requires emissions cuts of rich countries, would be replaced with an accord that also makes demands on developing nations...

    "Instead, the U.S., EU and BASIC countries brokered a deal requiring poor countries to propose voluntary actions. Rich countries also vowed to provide $30 billion in emergency climate aid to poor nations in the next three years, and set a goal of eventually channeling $100 billion a year to them by 2020..."

    China Tells US To Do More on Climate Change

    Hey Timmy G, better print up another $100 billion. Make sure its in small bills.


  10. Sorry, Rat, poor wording on my part.

    Instead of saying "How can the WHO ..."? I should have said, "How can we allow the WHO to ...?"

    It's the libertarian in me.


  11. There are no International Rights, except those that are guaranteed by the WTO.

    In penalty for violating the "Rights" of others, the US loses some of it's "Rights".

    Those "Rights", they were not bestowed by the Creator, but by men.

    Men, who subject to feelings.

  12. How can we "allow it"?

    We designed and implemented the Program. the WTO, it is a US invention.

    We have done it, to ourselves, from the leadership position. By design.

    Until that is realized, there will be no "Change".

  13. Agreed Rat. Mine were mere rhetorical musings.


  14. The US and its' people, we are not "victims" of the WTO.

    We are the guilty party in an international trade dispute and will be docked, accordingly.

    We allow it, because we invented the system. It is an extension of US, by design.

    That there may be some unintended consequence, just part of the deal.


  15. Former AG Mukasey Slams Liz Cheney

    Former Attorney General Mike Mukasey may have served in the Bush administration with Dick Cheney, but he has a bone to pick with Cheney’s daughter Liz. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal,

    Mukasey calls the efforts of Cheney and others to smear Justice Department lawyers who have represented terrorists as “shoddy and dangerous.” He then states the should-be obvious: “A lawyer who represents a party in a contested matter has an ethical obligation to make any and all tenable legal arguments that will help that party.” Without ever mentioning Liz by name,
    Mukasey characterizes her “Al Qaeda 7” campaign as trying to paint Justice Department lawyers as “in-house counsel to Al Qaeda” and “a fifth column within the Justice Department.”

    Fuck the Cheneys, they are neo-facists, at best.
    Dick, a five time draft dodging scum of a drunk, if ever there was one.

  16. The Associated Press - ‎29 minutes ago‎
    BRISTOL, Conn. - Robert De Niro is set to play Vince Lombardi in an upcoming movie. ESPN announced Tuesday that the Academy Award-winning actor has agreed to play the Hall of Fame coach in the film it is developing with Andell Entertainment and the NFL ...

    This should be 'something' worth watching.

  17. On Sunday, the Brookings Institution issued a letter criticizing the “shameful series of attacks” on government lawyers, which it said were “unjust to the individuals in question and destructive of any attempt to build lasting mechanisms for counterterrorism adjudications.”

    The letter was signed by a Who’s Who of former Republican administration officials and conservative legal figures, including Kenneth W. Starr, the former special prosecutor, and Charles D. Stimson, who resigned from the second Bush administration after suggesting that businesses might think twice before hiring law firms that had represented detainees. Other Bush administration figures who signed include Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general, and Larry D. Thompson, a former deputy attorney general.

    The letter cited “the American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients,” including the defense by John Adams of British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre, and noted that some detainee advocates, who worked pro bono, have made arguments that swayed the Supreme Court.

    From the NYTimes, which is not behind a subscriber wall, as is the WSJ.

  18. Kenneth W. Starr or Liz Cheney, who has the better legal background?

    Which is the expert and which is the dunce?

    Not even a contest, I'll ride with Kenneth W. Starr.

  19. John C. Yoo, the former Justice official whose memorandums on torture and presidential power were used to justify some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration, said he had not seen the material from Ms. Cheney’s group. But Professor Yoo, who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and is active in the Federalist Society, said the debate about lawyers who once represented detainees at the American prison in Guantánamo Bay serving in the Justice Department was overheated.

    “What’s the big whoop?” he asked. “The Constitution makes the president the chief law enforcement officer. We had an election. President Obama has softer policies on terror than his predecessor.” He said, “He can and should put people into office who share his views.” Once the American people know who the policy makers are, he said, “they can decide whether they agree with him or not.”

    Professor Epstein, however, said he found it “appalling” to see people equating work on detainee cases with a dearth of patriotism. He was a co-author of a brief in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court case argued by Neal Katyal, now the principal deputy solicitor general and a lawyer under scrutiny from Ms. Cheney’s group. The court ruled that the Bush administration’s initial plans for military commissions to try detainees violated the law.

    “You don’t want to give the impression that because you oppose the government on this thing, that means you’re just one of those lefties — which I am not,” he said.

    Correct, Mr Epstein is no leftie and any real FREEDOM LOVING citizen of the United States would oppose the Cheney smear of the US Justice system.