Archive for March, 2010

House Democrats turn to McCarthy-ite tactics against businesses

The new federal health care law is barely a week old, and already House Democrats are using their power as the majority party to intimidate businesses and silence criticism of the massive legislation.  Not surprisingly, this first round of bullying is coming from the Commerce Committee, headed by Henry Waxman of California, perhaps the Capitol’s meanest and most feared inquisitor.

Shortly after President Obama signed the lengthy piece of legislation into law on March 23rd, several major companies released their own analyses of how the law’s many provisions would affect their companies and their employees.  Caterpillar, for example, estimated the cost to the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy construction equipment to be in excess of $100 million; the John Deere company estimated its expenses would increase by some $150 million.  Verizon and AT&T, while releasing analyses less specific than those issued by Caterpillar or John Deere,  noted that the new law would have …

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States must challenge health care law

During the six hours of television airtime consumed in 2008 by the four presidential and vice-presidential debates, there was virtually no discussion of the “Constitution” by the four candidates.  In fact, according to my calculations at the time, the word “Constitution” was uttered only once during the entire series.  In just the past week since the House of Representatives passed the massive health care legislation at the behest of the Obama Administration, the airwaves have been flooded with references to and extensive debates about the constitutionality of the measure which is now federal law.

Democrats in the Congress and in the administration assert confidently that the new law’s provisions will pass constitutional muster in the courts.  However, attorneys general in more than a dozen states, along with various public-interest legal foundations, already have filed federal suits challenging the law. While it obviously is far too early to predict with any degree of …

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Incendiary climate fueled by both parties and the media

Clearly, a poisonous atmosphere in American politics has surfaced in the wake of last Sunday’s passage of the health care legislation.  Regardless of what has sparked the threats and actual acts of violence that unfortunately have manifested themselves in recent days — and there is plenty of blame to go around – the leaders and members of both major parties have an obligation to take steps to rein in their supporters.  And this means going beyond simply issuing statements condemning violent acts and threats.  The leaders of both the GOP and the Democratic Party need to actually meet with constituents and interest groups — including leaders and organizers of the Tea Party movement — and tell them in no uncertain terms to back down and cool off.

It is probably too much to hope that party leaders would stop bracketing their remarks condemning violence with clever political phraseology implying the other party is somehow responsible; but it sure would be nice if they did.   

One …

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GOP flubs health care debate

The well of the United States House of Representatives has provided the forum over the decades for some truly inspiring speeches – some delivered by members of that body, such as former Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde; others by non-legislators invited by the House to speak to its members (Winston Churchill and Douglas MacArthur come readily to mind).  On a day-to-day basis, however, what passes for debate on the floor of the House is more proletarian than uplifting.  Eloquence is more often than not discarded in favor of partisanship, and substance frequently trumped by soundbites.

Even measured against this modern standard for what passes for “debate” in the Congress, however, the final presentations last Sunday evening in the lengthy health care legislation were depressing.  The remarks, delivered first by Minority Leader John Boehner and then by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, completely lacked substance and, in the case of Mr. Boehner, were tinged with anger and profanity.  The …

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Prescription drug database battle rages

Federal and state drug agencies want Georgia to create a database of doctors who prescribe pain medications, pharmacists who fill prescriptions for pain medications, and patients who receive prescription pain medications.  And law enforcement agencies are employing a full-court press in the General Assembly to get what they want.  Whether they succeed against a coalition of state senators and representatives concerned about such a privacy-invasive database, remains very much up in the air as the General Assembly enters the home stretch of its 40-day session.  Hanging in the balance is the question of whether law enforcement and regulatory agencies across the state and across the nation will have ready access to Georgia citizens’ private medication records — to be analyzed, cataloged and manipulated in ways they will never know.

It isn’t that law enforcement is interested in data basing every prescription a doctor writes and which a pharmacist fills; at least not yet.  The …

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Government claims right to assassinate citizens abroad

Early in February, our country’s top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), testified to the House Intelligence Committee, that the US government asserts the right to kill US citizens travelling, working or living abroad, if the government had evidence those citizens were in some manner involved with terrorist activities.  Such assassinations could be carried out without providing a court any evidence that the targetted persons are in fact guilty of any terrorist or terrorist-related activities; and without providing to such person any of the constitutional guarantees to due process, right to trial, right to confront witnesses, and so forth, which they normally would enjoy if charged with offenses while in the United States.

This startling position continues a policy reportedly instituted by the administration of President George W. Bush in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The policy also is contrary to the …

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Homeland security grant boondoggles

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, billions of taxpayer dollars have flowed from Washington to the states and to local governments in the form of “Homeland Security Grants.”  These monies are supposed to help state and local governments plug gaps in their funding needs that are directly related to addressing shortcomings in their abilitiy to deal with a potential terrorist incident.  The reality is quite different.  These billions often are used by local police to purchase fancy equipment of questionable, if any real value to “fighting terrorism.”

A rather typical example of the non-terrorism uses to which these grants have been put, was illustrated just last week in a news release issued by the sheriff’s office in Stafford County, Virginia, located about an hour south of the Washington, DC area.  The release proudly heralded the fact that this local sheriff’s office had purchased an armored personnel carrier (euphemistically referred to as an “Incident Response Unit)” …

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Alice in Wonderland on Capitol Hill

Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is drawing huge crowds to its latest movie rendition.  Yet fans of the intriguing characters and scenarios Alice encounters in her adventures, need not fork over the cost of a movie ticket to witness the nonsense that is “Wonderland.”  All they need do is watch the shenanigans now unfolding in the nation’s Capital. 

Really – who needs the Mad Hatter when we have former New York Congressman Eric Massa proudly describing how he “gropes” male staffers, but only playfully during “tickling” sessions?  And, why enter the fantasy world of Alice — where Humpty Dumpty explains that a word mean nothing more than whatever he chooses it to mean — when all you have to do is tune in and watch New York’s Charlie Rangel twist words to explain why his stepping down from his post as the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, should not be taken as an admission he’s done anything wrong?

Capitol Hill scandals are as old as, …

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Chief Justice stands up to White House bullying

As described in this blog on January 28th following President Obama’s state of the union address, the spectacle of a president deliberately and uncivilly criticizing the justices of the US Supreme Court who just days before had rendered a decision with which Mr. Obama disagreed, even as they sat politiely in front of him in the House chamber, was uncalled for and beneath the decorum which a president ought to practice.  This display of presidential bullying was made worse when, at the president’s implied prodding, Democratic House and Senate members stood, encircling the seated justices, and applauded the president’s ill-conceived — and, incidentally, inaccurate – remarks concerning the Court’s recent campaign finance law opinion.

Now, in answer to a question posed to him by a student at the University of Alabama School of Law on March 9th following a speech he delivered at the school, Chief Justice John Roberts politely but pointedly responded to the awkward position in which …

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Cheney to lawyers: “drop dead”

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, appears to have inherited her father’s disdain for the niceties of constitutional principles.  The former vice president was well-known throughout his tenure in that job, for missing no opportunity to praise the use of torture (which he referred to euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation techniques”) against those suspected of violating US anti-terrorism laws, and for often belittling those who believed that the Bill of Rights might actually apply to those charged with committing acts of terrorism.

Mr. Cheney’s daughter, now herself a darling of the GOP, has been burnishing her credentials as a chip off the old block.  From her perch as chair of the recently-formed, neo-conservative “Keep America Safe,” Ms. Cheney has publicly mocked lawyers at the US Department of Justice for having engaged in what she believes to have been a most un-American of activities — previously providing legal advice or counsel to persons …

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