THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin

One helluva way to run a railroad…

…or our country!

Filed under: economy,

70 Percent: The Myth of the Consumer Economy – By Kevin D. Williamson – Exchequer – National Review Online

70 Percent: The Myth of the Consumer Economy – By Kevin D. Williamson – Exchequer – National Review Online.

Filed under: economy

Dr. Cassell and the shot heard around America

Dr. Cassell and the shot heard around America.

Filed under: healthcare, ,

THE PYRRHIC VICTORY OF “OBAMACARE”

Cartoon by Erin Bonsteel

On National Review online, Jeffrey H. Anderson has written a piece called, “The Battle Is Lost, and the War Has Begun”.  His views are worthwhile to read on this day after our hard fought battle against Obamacare has ended in defeat.  Mr. Anderson is right, I believe, concerning the conflicts to come over this Bill that was narrowly passed in the House last night. Obamacare is not the last word on our health care system.  It will not stand, but neither will it have its legs cut off in quick fashion.  And, let us not lose sight of the fact that this is only the opening gambit in a war against the American people and their Constitution.  Obama and his soldiers will not long linger on this victory.  They have immigration “reform”, Cap and Trade, card check, regulation of the airwaves and internet, among other things, still to accomplish.

It is important for us to ensure that the passage of this Bill is simply a “Pyrrhic Victory”.  Read its definition:

The phrase is named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch  relates in a report by Dionysius:

The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.-Wikipedia


Obama has expended tremendous political capital, as well as financial capital, to pass this very unpopular Bill—the thing that will define his Presidency.  We, on the other hand, are like the Romans that Pyrrhus describes, “not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war”.

Ben Stein offers these words of comfort and encouragement in the aftermath of this exhausting contest:

For those of us who still believe in the Constitution, I offer the words of the great civil rights anthem, “We shall overcome, ” and “We are not afraid.” In that spirit, we continue the fight for the return to Constitutional government. Loyal to the nation and the Constitution, but most certainly opposed to the subversion or either.

As Churchill said, “In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance.” And this is a war for Constitutional government. A war of words, to be sure, but a war we must win.

For those of you who have read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, (or have at least seen the movies), remember that the Balrog did not pass Gandalf on the bridge, but took him into the void using one last desperate lunge.  However, even then Gandalf did not stop fighting it, and in the end the Balrog was defeated.  May this be a parable for our own circumstances and give us true hope.

Hang on until November, and during the ensuing 7 months let our battle cry be, “Resist.  Roll back. Repeal.”

God bless you.  God bless our beloved America.

Filed under: healthcare, LEGISLATION, liberal activism, U.S. GOVERNMENT, , , , , ,

UPDATE: U.S. CONGRESSMAN WITH SPLIT PERSONALITY

At National Review Online, Jim Geraghty just posted a list of those vulnerable Democrats who voted for the “Slaughter Rule”, a.k.a., “demonpass”.  At the top of the list is Rep. Jason Altmire.  In my previous post today, I provided a link to his interview with Sean Hannity that occurred yesterday.  If you haven’t already viewed the interview, you may want to do that now.  Here is what he said about the “Slaughter Rule” yesterday.

HANNITY: The Slaughter Rule–are you for it or against it?

ALTMIRE: Absolutely, absolutely against it.  It’s within the rules.  I don’t think it’s the appropriate way to do healthcare.

HANNITY: Deem and pass, it’s the same thing?

ALTMIRE: It’s the same thing.

I posed a question in my last post asking whether these Reps are ignorant or lying.  What’s your call on this one?

Filed under: healthcare, LEGISLATION, , , ,

THE “STUPAKERS” AND SPLIT PERSONALITY DISORDER

Over the past three days I have been offline due to the huge Nor’easter that blew through New Jersey over last weekend.  However, I have been closely following, as I am sure all of you have been, the race toward a final vote on Obamacare.  The general consensus is that this vote will take place on Sunday, if the Bill is indeed posted on the internet today and 72 hours elapse before the vote is taken.

Now, I am not at all sure which Bill will be posted on the internet.  Will it be the Senate Bill, or the House Reconciliation Bill or both?  And, why should we care about the House Reconciliation Bill?  Why does anyone want to know how the CBO scores it?  What difference does its language make?  If passed, it is not the Bill that will become law; the Senate Bill will become law.  The Senate Bill is the only Bill that is guaranteed to become law.  The House Reconciliation Bill is simply a “wish list” from those House Democrats that have concerns about the Senate Bill.  As we are all aware, just because a “wish list” exists, never means that it will be fulfilled.  However, in listening to the Democrat “fence-sitters”, I have the distinct impression that they are waiting with bated breath for the “language” of the Reconciliation Bill before they decide how to vote on the Senate Bill.  This is absolute nonsense, but this is exactly what they are saying.

This morning, for example, it was reported that Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) stated that he “likes the CBO numbers”, (reportedly ~$940 billion over the next ten years).  Now, remember, these are the numbers for the House Reconciliation Bill, i.e., the one that is not going to become law after the House vote.  Rep. Smith went on to say that he understands the contents of the Senate Bill, but that he wants to make sure that he understands the items added by the Reconciliation Bill before he decides how to vote.  Got that?

Other Democrats have used this convoluted, and flawed, logic to explain their decision making process.  In his recent interview with Greta Van Susteren, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) seemed to exhibit split personality disorder as he tried to explain his reasoning about the upcoming vote.  For the sake of simplicity, it may be useful to think of these personalities as “Stupak-A” and “Stupak-B”.

REP. BART STUPAK, D – MICH: … We’re still not planning on voting for health care unless we can address some concerns. As I said before, there’s many concerns with this bill, especially with the House — with our vote, we sort of pass the Senate bill without any amendments. It goes to the president, he signs it, and then we have to do reconciliation. What if reconciliation does not get through? I mean, I’m sure we can pass it in the House, but what about the Senate?

Members of the House are very uncomfortable, in a way, voting on a piece of legislation and you don’t know — going to be corrected by the Senate. We have over 250-some pieces of legislation sitting in the Senate, waiting for them to pass it. Is this going to be another one?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, are…

STUPAK: That’s — that’s a concern. You’re asking us to vote for a very unpopular bill, and the correction, if you will, may never come.

Okay, so far so good.  Rep. Stupak (Stupak-A) seems to grasp the inherent defect of the House Reconciliation Bill.  He then morphs into Stupak-B.

STUPAK:  We expect a long week. But the few members that I’ve seen, their votes haven’t changed. No one has seen the reconciliation, the correction bill, if you will. No one has seen it. So it’s hard for members to pledge their vote on a piece of legislation we’ve never seen.  I have deep concerns with this bill, especially on the abortion language. And he [Hoyer] also knows that I don’t give up until we can get matters resolved. And hopefully, we can resolve these matters yet.

…representations are made to members that, you know, Look at this, you should really do this. And members are saying, Sure, we’re open-minded. We’ll look at it. We’re trying to work this out, whether it’s abortion language, whether it’s the doctors’ payment, whether it’s the sweetheart deals that are found in the Senate bill.

We haven’t seen any language to placate our concerns. There’s been a lot of discussions, but no language yet. So again, we’re open-minded. We’re willing to work with the administration, willing to work with House leadership, but we want to see the legislation. We want to make sure it takes care of concerns.

What “language” is he talking about?  The “language” of the House Reconciliation Bill.  That is what Stupak-B says will convince him, and his like-minded colleagues, to vote “yes” on the Senate Bill and make it law, i.e., that the “language” of the House Reconciliation Bill is acceptable.  But, immediately prior, Stupak-A had said that he did not trust the Senate to change the bill that the House passes to reflect the House Reconciliation Bill’s “fixes”.  Confused yet?  Wait, there’s more.  Stupak-A reappears and continues:

STUPAK: Remember, all the Senate needs to do is throw one monkeywrench or something different in that piece of legislation, the whole thing falls apart.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you think the Senate will — if you see the reconciliation package before you vote on the Senate bill, essentially, you would be fine if the language is right? You’d trust everyone?

STUPAK: No, I didn’t say that.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK.

Okay?  Poor Greta, she seems bewildered at this point, but not as bewildered as she will be, because next Stupak-A and Stupak-B both speak simultaneously:

STUPAK: I just can’t vote for it. I mean, until you see the language, Greta, it’s really hard to say you’re going to do this or that.

Greta did not seem to fare better with Rep. Lipinski (D-IL).  It is notable that he, too, is afflicted with split personality disorder.  Consider the following excerpt of his interview during On The Record:

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Have you heard anything from the leadership, from Speaker Pelosi or Congressman Steny Hoyer in the last five or six days?

LIPINSKI: Yes. I just simply told them I cannot vote for the Senate abortion language.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who did you speak to?

LIPINSKI: I talked to Steny.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did he say?

LIPINSKI: We talked a little about it. He said well where do you see this does cover abortion? I plainly went through the bill and said I think it’s very obvious that funding is in there. I just cannot vote for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he give you any indication he would be willing to move off that language and change that language to satisfy you?

LIPINSKI: As of that time, no. There was no indication of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were you offered anything? OK we understand you don’t like that language, would this be OK, or would you like something else?

LIPINSKI: No. And I’m really letting Bart Stupak — we can only have one real person who is in charge in terms of working on any kind of language, because the last time we went through the same thing when the bill was in the House.

And it wasn’t until the last minute that they came to us and said OK, we can — we understand we need to change the abortion funding language. And they did it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it uncomfortable going again your party?

LIPINSKI: It is never comfortable being in a Democratic caucus and having such overwhelming support for the bill — obviously not enough to pass it, but yes, it’s uncomfortable. But it is something on this issue especially that I know this is where I’m at. And most of the caucus is not in the same place, but I know this is the right thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything at all short of changing the language that would make you change your mind? Anything offered to your district to anything else to you to change your mind that would give you any wiggle room so you can accept that language?

LIPINSKI: Absolutely not. If that language is not changed, I will vote no.

Crazy-making, isn’t it?  Will the real Rep. Lipinski please stand up?  However, my personal favorite is the exchange between Rep. Altmire (D-PA) and Sean Hannity:

ALTMIRE: I haven’t seen the final language, I don’t think I’m asking too much to read the final bill and see the CBO score and hear from my constituents before I make my decision.

Uh, Rep. Altmire, you have the final language of the Bill that will become law if you vote for it.

ALTMIRE: I’m going to give them a chance to rectify those [concerns] in the reconciliation package.

Hannity then listed items included in the Senate Bill, e.g., abortion funding, the Cornhusker Kickback, etc. and asked Altmire whether he supported a bill including these.  He made the following perplexing reply:

ALTMIRE: Not if we had voted in isolation. I’m going to give them a chance to make this right…before I make my decision.

Somehow, all of these Congressmen have conflated the Senate Healthcare Bill with the House Reconciliation Bill.  Either they are ignorant about how a bill becomes a law, or they are simply lying about their indecisiveness.  There is a Schoolhouse Rock episode that would fix the former.  Nothing at all fixes the latter.

Filed under: healthcare, LEGISLATION, , , , , , , ,

VOTE-A-RAMA: LET THE GAMES BEGIN

I know that President Obama says that “the time for talk is over”, but I just can’t help myself.  So here goes.

Last night on Fox News, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) explained how Republicans could impede the Healthcare Bill reconciliation process in the Senate.  He stated that even though a reconciliation bill requires only a simple majority to pass, there is a way to delay the final vote.  The given time for debate of a reconciliation bill is 20 hours.  However, unlimited amendments can be offered to a reconciliation bill at any time during the debate time, or after the “20 hour clock” has expired.  Time spent in offering amendments during the debate itself are not deducted from this “20 hour clock”.  Hence, offering amendments during debate will actually stop the “20 hour clock”.  After each amendment is voted on, the debate clock would restart.  Amendments can continue to be offered after the “20 hour clock” of debate has ended.  These need to be “germane” amendments.  (The Senate Parliamentarian rules on the relevance of the offered amendment).  To dispense with each amendment, according to Senator Santorum, takes approximately 20 minutes.  As long as amendments are being offered and must be voted on, the final vote cannot be taken.  This is called a “vote-a-rama”.  It can be thought of as a “filibuster by vote-a-rama”.

Jeff Davis, legislative expert, has a thorough discussion of this process at, of all places, The New Republic site.  It is worth reading to better understand the process.  Below is an excerpt of the article from The Patriot Room blog:

Interesting lesson on what the GOP could do if Democrats try reconciliation. Here’s a portion:

Some critics of the modern filibuster process have expressed a “bring it on” mentality towards the prospect of filibuster-by-vote-a-rama, since it would require Republicans to be physically present during their dilatory tactics, like in an old-school Mister Smith Goes to Washington filibuster. But it would also require most Senate Democrats to be present at all times, to prevent any Republican amendments from actually passing and torpedoing the deal. So under the current precedents, the vote-a-rama will last until the opponents of the bill are physically unable to continue standing up and offering amendments.

What a mess – almost sure to widen Americans’ “trust deficit” with government.

President Obama is expected to ask for an “up or down” vote on Healthcare Reform, thus initiating the reconciliation process.  The potential fallout from using the “nuclear option” has been discussed in various places by various authors.  They all agree that the outcome will be grim for the Democrats.  I agree.
In the days to come, however, what is most important is the degree of opposition that the Senate Republicans will offer.  If they can continue to delay the ultimate vote until the Congressional Easter break, we the people will at least have the opportunity for one more shot to make our voices heard by our elected representatives.  Indeed, if that opportunity is given to us, we must take complete advantage of it.

The actions of the House, of course, are still in question.  Should Speaker Pelosi be unable to convince her members that the problems with the Senate Healthcare bill will be fixed, but only after the present version is passed by the House, then the “filibuster by vote-a-rama” may be unnecessary.  We can hope that the original close vote in the House to pass their version of healthcare reform cannot be repeated under the present circumstances.

This is not the time to surrender, Sparrows.  As this process unfolds, stay engaged.  Encourage or shame your elected representatives, as the case may be.  If we are to go down, at least we can go down fighting.

Filed under: congress, LEGISLATION, POTUS, U.S. GOVERNMENT, , , ,

VOILA–OBAMACARE VERSION 4.0

Obamacare Version 4.0 snuck up on us.

This morning Fox News reported that on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will announce a “smaller version” of his Healthcare plan that may include some “Republican ideas”.  He really was listening during the bi-partisan “Healthcare Summit”.  Uh-huh.

There seems to be some confusion among the Democrats about exactly how much “smaller” Version 4.0 will be.  Nancy Pelosi opined that it will be “big enough”.  So, smaller, but not that much smaller.  A price tag of around $1 trillion over the next ten years is still probable.  The prevailing opinion is that this scaled back version would still seek to cover an additional 30 million people over the next ten years.  (Note the important point that healthcare coverage does not equal actual healthcare).  This plan is expected to still include mandates for everyone to buy health insurance, and it would still include government regulations on insurance companies and employers.  Despite excluding a government-run health insurance plan that would “compete” with private companies, the mandates and regulations nevertheless smack of a government take over of the health insurance industry.

Including the Republican ideas for tort reform and buying across state lines might be a step in the right direction, depending on how they are actually implemented.  During the “Healthcare Summit”, Mr. Obama seemed to be willfully misunderstanding the difference between allowing people OUT of a state to buy elsewhere vs. allowing companies INTO a state in order to sell policies.  Melody Barnes, a White House policy advisor, parrots the President’s position:

“We’re going to be borrowing from those conversations…to come up with a bill that we hope can receive bipartisan support,” Barnes said.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Friday that the White House would work on GOP ideas for health reform over the weekend. Barnes identified two: tort reform and allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines. (My emphasis).

The Democrats seem to artlessly misstate the Republican idea of buying health insurance across state lines, pretending that they are proposing the same thing Republicans are—they are not.   This provision as the Democrats interpret it begs the question: What will be done, if anything, about state mandates?  As long as these are in place, increasing the number of companies that are allowed to compete within a state would make no appreciable difference in the cost of coverage, since they, too, will be required to only provide policies that meet the mandates of a state.  This will not create true competition, nor does it offer true freedom of choice.  And how Mr. Obama and the Democrats will define “tort reform” is anyone’s guess.

Putting lipstick on a pig does not come close to describing what Obamacare Version 4.0 will attempt to do.  It’s more like gluing feathers onto a pig in an effort to convince us that it is really a kosher turkey!  No matter how it is spun, passing this kind of bill creates the foundation for socializing American healthcare.  Will it be enough to garner the necessary Democrat votes in the House?  Maybe.  Will it convince the American people that it is a bi-partisan bill?  I don’t think so.   Bottom line—kill this turkey, because it’s still the same pig it always was, and this pig  just can’t fly .

Filed under: congress, healthcare, LEGISLATION, , , , , , , ,

ARE WE TO BE “RECONCILED” TO THE OBAMA HEALTHCARE BILL?

There has been much discussion, especially following the “Healthcare Summit”, about using “reconciliation” to pass Obamacare in the Senate.  The justifications for using the measure, even over the objections of its author, Senator Robert Byrd, (D-WV), are variations on the theme, “We won.  You lost.”  Reconciliation is “fair”; it is “majority rule”.  Besides, the GOP used it more times than the Democrats ever did.

It is informative to read about how “reconciliation” has actually been used in the Senate since its inception.  “Reconciliation” was designed for budgetary items, i.e., spending measures, taxation issues and extraneous items.  Historically, “reconciliation” has been used for relatively small details within a bill.  In fact, when the GOP, during the presidency of George W. Bush, considered using “reconciliation” to confirm judges to Federal benches, thereby circumventing the filibuster which takes a two-thirds majority to overcome, Democrats howled about how ruinous such a move would be.  The GOP demurred in the face of Democrat criticism, and as a result, many judges failed to be confirmed, leaving a paucity of judges within the Federal system under President Bush.  Interestingly enough, as is noted below, only a simple majority is required to confirm a judicial nominee under the “advice and consent” article of the Constitution.  (My emphasis in bold italics).

The Process
Nominations of Supreme Court justices and courts of appeal judges are now driven by staff working in the White House.  (Nominations of federal district judges, on the other hand, are more likely to start with a member of Congress serving the district where the vacancy occurred, especially if the congressperson belongs to the President’s party.)  There are no objective criteria for whom a President might nominate; nothing in the Constitution even requires that a nominee have any legal training.   The staff evaluates a candidate based on prior opinions (if the nominee has judicial experience), writings and speeches, and background to determine ideological compatibility with the President’s goals, as well as the likelihood that the candidate could be confirmed by the Senate.

Judicial nominations are forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts its own review (using its staff and those of its members) of the merits of the nominee.  Hearings are held in which the nominee, as well as other persons knowledgeable about the nominee’s qualifications, offer statements and answer questions posed by Committee members.  After the hearing, the Judiciary Committee votes on whether to recommend confirmation of the nominee by the full Senate.  A nominee who fails to win a majority of Committee votes usually sees his prospects die, unless the Committee chooses to forward the nomination to the full Senate without recommendation. The full Senate, once a nomination is sent to it, will debate the merits of the nominee and schedule a final vote on confirmation.  On rare occasions, as happened when charges of sexual harrassment surfaced at the last minute against Clarence Thomas, a nomination might be sent back to the Judiciary Committee for further hearings. A simple majority is required for confirmation. The average time in recent decades between a presidential nomination of a Supreme Court justice and a final vote by the Senate has been a bit over two months.

It remains to be seen whether the Senate will employ “reconciliation” in order to pass Obamacare, or whether it will risk the House approving the bill already passed in the Senate.  If the Senate does eventually use “reconciliation” to pass a bill that will impact around 1/6th of the U.S. economy, it is unimaginable that any justification they offer will satisfy an, understandably, furious electorate.

Filed under: congress, LEGISLATION, , , , , ,

GOING NUCLEAR! So, what’s the catch?

President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion US in loan guarantees on Tuesday to help build the first U.S. nuclear power plants in nearly three decades, a move he says “is only the beginning.”  So reports Canadian CBC News.  This sounds like (suspiciously) good news.  So, what’s the catch?

First of all, public funds will be used to guarantee 80%, or more, of industry loans in the case of default.  In an industry that has had both loan repayment and cost overrun problems in the past, a loan guarantee of this type puts the taxpayer at risk.  (I thought Obama wanted to avoid risk, hence all of the regulation of the financial sector!?!)  Furthermore, the nuclear energy industry has other demands it wants the Government to meet.

The industry also continues to press for regulatory changes to speed the time it takes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve a nuclear application. Industry officials say the long process of winning regulatory approval discourages potential investors. Utilities like Constellation and Exelon, which operate nuclear plants, also continue to press for a cap-and-trade bill that would give the plants a competitive advantage over coal and natural gas plants that emit carbon dioxide. And Connaughton said the industry would press for an even higher level of loan guarantees. “

Second, Obama pointed out in his announcement that constructing nuclear power plants will create crucially necessary jobs… in about two years.  Ummm, guess we hope people can hang on for that long?

Then there is the problem of storing the waste generated by nuclear energy production.  Since Mr. Obama closed the Yucca Mountain long-term waste storage facility, what are we to do about the ‘waste’ problem?  Carol Browner, Energy Czar has the answer.  Yesterday, she explained about “on site” storage and that it was a “very safe” way to store nuclear waste.  Yet, in January 2006, she was far from definite about the safety of using the Yucca Mountain facility.

Carol Browner expressed reservations about using nuclear power because of the so-called ‘waste’ problem at the C-Span-televised 35th anniversary meeting of former EPA administrators in January, 2006. On January 19, 2001, Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner moved to finalize stringent water radiation exposure standards for Yucca Mountain to the White House for signoff.”

Finally, Mr. Obama intimated that now that he has agreed to constructing new nuclear energy plants, he  expects the Republicans to work with him in a “bi-partisan manner” to pass a Climate/Clean Energy Bill.
Can we say “quid pro quo”?  At this point, Republicans have nothing to lose by supporting Mr. Obama’s nuclear power initiative while at the same time opposing any Cap and Trade Bill.  After all, we will have no energy benefit for a number of years from nuclear plants, but we will all immediately, and negatively, be impacted by a Cap and Trade Bill.

NOTE TO SELF:  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Filed under: congress, LEGISLATION, , , , , , , ,

"His eye is on the sparrow, and He surely watches me." --Mrs. Doolittle, 1905

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