Monday, March 29, 2010

Refocusing on the important thngs

I have been away for a few days at my aunt's funeral. Being with the family brought things back into focus for me. A focus on what is really important.

Sure, the issues I and other blog types write about are important. Sure, this stuff matters. And it is important that we remain engaged in these issues.

However, what I learned this weekend was that when it all boils down, family matters most. Family trumps politics, policy and all the rest. For those few days, we knew little of the news. Little of the political nonsense. What we knew was the precious and unconditional love of family and dear friends. Sure, we were all saddened. We all wept. We are all lessened by her passing. But at the same time, we rejoiced in each other's company and caring. We all grew a little closer and a little stronger.

We forgot that we are all different and have varied beliefs and opinions. We set those aside and dealt with things as one. Sure, we talked about all kinds of stuff in the wee hours at my aunt's home. Even politics. And even where some of us disagreed, we understood that the disagreement was petty and small compared to what binds us together. Amidst all of the grief and sadness we reached out to each other and found some happiness and even laughter.

And in all of that, there is a lesson. A lesson my beloved aunt would have approved and taught. We are all really one people. We will always have our differences and disagreements, but when it comes to it, we are all in this together. Be it family dealing with the loss of a loved one or a nation dealing with policy and issues.

The lesson carries over into today's political shouting matches. Even where good people disagree, it can be with courtesy and respect. Discussions need not become arguments. Disagreements need not become battles. As Americans, we are one giant family. And as family, we can disagree and still respect and care about each other.

Maybe we need to take a deep breath, step back from the rhetoric and remember that we all love this great nation. That conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, Tea Partiers and Movers-On share this one precious thing. We are and always will be Americans. We will always love our nation and what it stands for. And we can disagree without fighting and shouting.

Too often, this gets lost in the dust of the debate. Well, perhaps we need to tamp down that dust and treat each other as what we are - fellow Americans.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meanwhile, at the Banks

While everyone was watching the artificially hurried and rigged vote on Health Care, the issue of financial regulation slid under the radar. The importance of this cannot be minimized of exaggerated. When this president took office, we were in one of the worst recessions in history. We pretty much still are. A recession triggered, in large part, by misbehaving banks, disingenuous investment firms and lazy, incompetent (and possibly corrupt) regulators.

Once the cause of Health Care took center stage, that freed up the Senator from banking land - the ever untrustworthy Chris Dodd - to quietly push his bogus financial reform package. And it freed up his Republican counterpart - the earmark loving Shelby - as well.

The financial press took their eye off this as well in their haste to cover Health Care. This freed up everyone to have some fun at our expense. Blankfein, Dimon, Pandit and the rest took the opportunity to manipulate the process to ensure that any new regulation would actually be the same as the old ones.

Let me be very clear on one point. With a few exceptions (Ken Lewis comes to mind) most of the banks and investment firms acted barely within the law in their endless gaming of the system to make sure that they profited from our losses. And today brings more proof that the Congress in their haste to send a trillion of our dollars to Wall Street did so with no regard for the taxpayer.

Today we read that Dimon's firm - JP Morgan - having been gifted Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns by the troika of Geithner, Paulson and Bernanke can now get a massive tax refund thanks to some little known and rarely mentioned provisions in Obama's so-called stimulus package. The package that was supposed to get our economy up off the mat. The other trillion taxpayer dollars flung down the corrupt rabbit hole maintained by the Pelosi-Boehner gang.

It seems that a minor little tiny piece of that legislation allowed the banks to move their losses around to cover profitable years, thus reducing their tax burden. Something that nobody commented on at the time. Something that the deficit hawk Republicans failed to point out as a cost of the legislation. Something that the tax-happy Democrats failed to mention. Nothing from CBO either.

To be fair, the law was written by Congress and the real pirates of this time - Dimon and friends - followed it. One can only assume that they paid their pet Congress Critters to write it in there, but it passed and was signed without a single mention in the press. No objection from the White House. Not a peep from Barney Frank or the ever untrustworthy Dodd. Not even a flinch from the false queen Nancy the last.

In fact, I think I can easily say that the only time those clowns are bipartisan is when they are acting in secret to help their lords and masters on Wall Street.

You can be sure that Dodd's proposed new regulatory scheme will be the next fast track piece of nonsense coming off Capitol Hill. And this one will be high grade nonsense.

The minute the Lehman report came out, all such legislation should have been stopped. Frozen. Put on hold. After all, it only makes sense. Here we have proof of how the system was being gamed. It would make sense outside Washington to investigate those abuses and see who else is playing the game. Take a serious look at what is really needed.

The first course should have been to call Geithner down to the hill for a public hearing on just what he was doing while he was failing in his job as New York Fed CEO and principal regulator of the Wall Street banks. Then Bernanke to demand he reveal just how much money he handed out and to whom while he was failing in his job as Fed Chairman. Then Paulson to ask the same questions.

None of this happened. In fact, both parties in Congress have done everything they can to ignore it. Rather than actually find the facts and act on them, Congress persists in acting to please pollsters and pundits while actually satisfying the special interests that fund them.

This is sure to become the next partisan football kicked around. Democrats will clamor for more regulation and new agencies while Republicans will cry about too much regulation and too much government. And this once, both will be right and both will be wrong.

We already have reams of regulation but no regulators willing to enforce them. Witness the always untrustworthy Mary Schapiro, now head of the SEC. She had the raw nerve to complain that regulators did not do their jobs. Yet, she was one of them as FINRA head. Her agency ignored things like Madoff and allowed the endless trading of credit default swaps and exotic derivatives.

Yet, there she is, now head of the SEC. Somehow, this administration took her failure, Geithner's failure and Bernanke's failure and accepted them. Even promoted them. And this sham of a Senate confirmed them into their jobs. That should tell all of us what the Senate cares about. Nothing. Except themselves.

There are no less than 7 agencies currently charged with enforcing tens of thousands of regulations. Most likely a hundred thousand federal employees or more. Add in the states and their laws. We have plenty of law, regulation and enforcers at all levels. Just none of them are any good.

Now ask, do we need more law or clearer law? Do we need more enforcers or active, effective enforcers? Does the Fed really work anymore? Who supervises them? Who are these bond rating firms? Are they ever reviewed? By who? And a lot more really obvious questions like that. The ones neither Democrats or Republicans ever seem to ask. I don't care how much profit Wall Street makes. I care that they do so within the rules.

I challenge this president to appoint a non-political commission to openly investigate the banks. None of the circle currently dining at the White House. No power brokers or lobbyists. No cronies or hacks.

I say we give it over to Elizabeth Warren and Eric Bolling. They understand how Wall Street works and how the laws work. Take it away from the partisan grindhouse and have an actual open, transparent investigation. Force the Fed to keep Bernanke's false promise of transparency. Force Geithner to keep Obama' promise of the same.

One thing I am confident of with both Dr. Elizabeth Warren and Eric Bolling is that they will keep the best interests of the people in mind. These are 2 ethical, honest Americans, who care because they love this nation. Neither of them aspires to power. And both know a lie when they hear one.

When their Commission issues its report, then Congress can look at regulation. If any of them are not being investigated themselves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And so it goes.....

So the false queen raised her gavel and her disciples gave tribute in the form of our riches. They ignored our pleas and passed the travesty anyway. Even though millions of us asked them not to. Even though they knew it was wrong.

And they did it on a Sunday night. When all of the horrible decisions of the last 3 years have been made. I was so angry last night after the so-called vote, that I chose not to post here. It would have made no sense and only been a reflection of anger felt from sea to shining sea.

What made it worse from my perspective was that Pelosi, after all of her yammer about leadership could not see fit to perform her actual job as Speaker and chair the House personally. No. That would be beneath her. She delegated her leadership to a lackey and chose instead to make an Academy Award style thank you speech on the floor of the house. It is as if, having ignored the Constitution, she chose to also ignore the post she vied for and claims to cherish. Instead, she played for the glory and fame.

And why would the President of the United States need to personally make a midnight statement? The deed was done. Did he feel this was actually a victory of some kind, or perhaps the need to somehow justify the Sunday night attack on our dignity.

Dignity? Yes, dignity. For me, the single worst part of that bill is the individual mandate. The requirement that all Americans have government approved health insurance or pay an additional tax. The audacity to take away our freedom to choose whether or not to carry insurance. The insult to our dignity as free thinking adults. The assumption that we, the people, cannot make this choice for ourselves. That only the government, in distant Washington, can make a clear choice.

The irony is that these are the same people that proclaim to be "pro-choice." But not where our money is concerned. There, they feel that we cannot make our own decisions.

Republican Congressmen - do not feel good about your role here. You tried, but only half-hearted. And this morning, when the sun rose on an angry nation, all you could talk about was using this travesty of Congress as some kind of electoral tool. For shame. We did not send you there to game play. We did not elect you to somehow make a victory for yourselves out of our defeat.

Yet, there you are, talking about "retaking the House." Well, here is something to consider. It is not your House. It is not the Democrat's House. It is the People's House. Our House. And you do not own it. In fact, as the landlords, we just might have to evict you along with the Democrats.

For too long both sides have treated it as their own. They forget that it belongs to all of the people, and not just the bloated 535 that work there. Work there. That is the key phrase. To all of the House and Senate, remember, you are our employees. That is our money you are paid with. It is our labor that fills your coffers.

To the president, with all due respect, I say think about what had to be done to pass this thing. Was that your intent during the campaign? To subvert the will of the people in the middle of a Sunday night? To allow Pelosi to ride roughshod over everyone? To encourage the further erosion of the people's trust in you and Congress? Well, regardless of the intent, that is what happened. In your name, this false queen tormented her subjects in Congress. In your name, she cheated, lied and deceived. think about that next time you meet with her. Ask her if she knows the damage she has done. Ask her if she understands the harm and unintended consequences of this action. And whatgever, she tells you, know one thing - she is probably lying to you.

Well, as they say, one cannot unspill the milk. But we can make sure the next milk we get is not as prone to spillage.

We have the final say. We make the final choice. And come November, we get to fire all of them. Republicans and Democrats alike.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A song for the false queen

So now comes the news that Queen Nancy the last has abandoned 'deem and pass' for the health care debacle. I was thinking of what to say when a song popped up on the iPod that seems to pretty much sum it up. In a truly ironic twist, it is the Bob Dylan classic, "Like a Rolling Stone."

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?
You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

I could not have put it better. The false queen should read these lyrics and heed the warning: Do not endlessly abandon and betray those that made you who you are. Eventually one runs out of 'friends' and ends up all alone looking around and wondering what happened.

Well, Nancy is on that cusp with her relentless and fairly mindless push to pass a bill that even her House Democrats dislike. "Hold your nose and vote," is no way to govern. Hurrying to pass something that is flawed rather than take the time to get it right inevitably leads to a flawed law and a bad program.

During the Clinton administration, a bad welfare reform bill passed and was signed with the promise of going back and fixing it. That only made it worse. President Reagan signed the 1986 tax act with the promise of fixing it. And the 1988 Technical Correction Act only made things more complex and convoluted.

I know that the HC bill is a snow ball rolling down hill at this point. I can only hope that come November. the false queen finds herself on her own, a complete unknown, no direction home. Like a failing stone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Chance to Make a Stand

So now we come down to it. The weekend where we find out if Congress represents us, the suffering people, or simply does the bidding of Queen Nancy the last. And regardless of it being health care or anything else, what matters most now is the process.

I say that because that is where my true concern lies.

Before I continue, let me make an important point. In most other nations, when this kind of thing happens, they resort to violence. Look at the recent riots in Greece over financial restraint. Or Paris over the length of the work week and job security. Here in the United States of America, we don't do that. We protest peacefully - as the Tea party folks have - and we write letters. As Carole says, we type in all caps. But we do not resort to violence. Why? Because regardless of the machinations of Pelosi and company, Americans understand that we do have the final say at the ballot box. No matter how heated the rhetoric, we do not burn down the barn. No matter how deep the anger, we do not take it out on our fellow Americans.

I am always proud of my country, and even more so now. Sure, our government appears poised to defy our will. And, yet, we remain peaceful, but angry. No matter how mad we get at Congress, we will take the American way. The peaceful protest, the principled opposition. The simple fact that I can blog away like this and our press remains free, even if to slant their reporting, is what has made this nation the greatest and strongest in history. And it is what will keep us there. Because we know that come November and come 2012, we get to choose who takes the reins of this great engine of freedom. So, to all who bother to read my scribblings, protest away. Make your voice heard on either side of this debate. But do so with respect. Not respect for the fools on Capitol Hill, but respect for all that have fought and died to give us this freedom. For those brave men, who in the darkest hours in 1775 chose to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. Respect them and honor their desire for a great nation. We are, and always will be America.

Back to the process about to unfold. I am in Fort Worth this weekend on business, which gives me an opportunity to hear from all kinds of new - to me - people about what is happening. And thus far, nobody likes it. Not the people on my flight, or the barista at Starbucks, or the flight attendant on my plane this morning. Nobody. They are mad at Congress for what is seen as an usurpation of our democratic process. And the anger in truly bipartisan, as it should be. This is all anybody is talking about and not too kindly. We are paying attention.

Both parties have failed us and done so with an arrogance that is epic, to put it gently. Both have chosen to put party before people and electoral points before governance. As the name of this blog points out, they are treating this as a game to be scored and recorded for later awards. I would say we are the pawns, but it is not that good. We are barely worthy of their notice.

My pathetic excuse for a congressman - Kendrick Meek - had the audacity to announce his yes vote before the bill was ever published. He was voting yes no matter what it said. Well, that is an abrogation of his duty to me and the Constitution. Blind obeisance to the false queen of Congress is a failure of his oath of office.

As I believe I said in an earlier post, I am proudly and stubbornly No Party Affiliation. My vote is decided based on the candidate, not the party. It is time for more Americans to discard their party label and stand for what matters - our freedom, our Constitution, our laws and rules.

In that vein, I ask all who read here to please make that last call to their Congress Critter. Tell them to simply refuse to vote. Not a no or yes - but no vote. Why? Because the vote, as planned, is not valid and represents a tremendous betrayal of our way - the American way. Tell them not to participate in this sham. Not to line up and march in lockstep. Tell them to develop some spine and make a stand. For us, the people. For what we believe in and what we want. And make sure they know that we do not want some late night, back room, closed door, deal ridden piece of legislative junk.

Tell them we want a considered, open and thoughtful debate on the issue. And if we do not get that, then we the employers will be laying off 435 bad employees come November. Because that is the true power of the people that our Founding Fathers fought and died for. That every member of our armed forces put on the uniform and went into harm's way for. That every good American of conscience pines for.

Tell them to recall their oath of office and to fulfill it or to clean out their desks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunday, Dangerous Sunday

This morning as I was reading the latest hijinks of those kids on Capitol Hill, I noticed that Queen Nancy the last intends to bring the 'health/care/student loan/whatever else' bill to the floor for a vote on Sunday.



Ever since the whole financial implosion started, we, the suffering people, have been treated to an endless series of Sunday actions by our government. Why always Sunday?

Don't they have office hours? Don't they have time during the week to stop collecting campaign contributions to actually do their jobs?

Throughout the financial mess, literally every decision was made on a Sunday and announced Sunday night. Usually after midnight.

Bear Stearns gifted to Jamie Dimon - Sunday.
Merrill gifted to Bank of America - Sunday.
Lehman let fail - Sunday.
Goldman Sachs bank charter - Sunday.
AIG - Sunday after Sunday.
Fed opening new "windows" for free money to Wall Street - Sunday.
Washington Mutual gifted to Jamie Dimon - Sunday.
GMAC bank charter - Sunday.
Auto bailout - Sunday.

And now that the so-called emergency is health care legislation - Sunday. The bogus bill was released to the public last Sunday at 10:30 PM. And now Nancy the last wants to vote on Sunday.

I try to look at things as they are and not weave in conspiracies and the like, but this is just getting silly. They have the bill. They are in the Capitol. Why not just have the vote? Why Sunday?

I think there are three reasons:
1) They hope most of us won't actually watch on a Sunday.
2) The media tends to stand down some on weekends.
3) They look oh so heroic working the weekends.

In order -

We do watch on Sunday. Most Americans are smarter than that and will pay attention, especially after the series of giveaways that Paulson, Geithner and Bernanke pulled on Sundays.

The media is finally waking up and realizing that their weekend relax is not a good thing.

They would look more heroic if they actually did their jobs Monday through Friday instead of racing from camera to camera and contributor to contributor. Instead, they use the work week to dilly dally and make great sound bytes. And then they open the Capitol on Sunday - at no minor expense to the taxpayer - so they can appear to be feverishly tending to the people's business.

Reid, Pelosi, Boehner and McConnell have created a false timeline so that they can appear to have to work on Sunday. They seem to think that this horrific piece of legislation needs to happen immediately, after a year of stalling. And they have told that lie so often that it has become a media blessed truth.

Nonsense. It is really all about the ability to cut back room deals and then look like they have been working so hard that they need a Sunday to get things done. Well, they have been bouncing this one in the air for over a year. This is no emergency. The republic will not fail if we have to wait until Monday.

No matter. Queen Nancy wants to deliver the bill to the president before he leaves on a scheduled trip. That is the only reason. Grandstanding. And the president, who promised all kinds of transparency and a new way seems content to continue the sham with more Sunday machinations. If he meant change, then this is something that should change now.

And the Republicans? Right in there with the game. Not one of them has the temerity to actually note that Sunday is not needed here. They are just as vain and just as ridiculous.

I run my own company, and sometimes have to work on Sunday. In fact, this weekend, I will be in Texas for a regular quarterly client meeting. But we have a reason for giving up our weekends for this. The client has a business to run and our meetings require the CEO and COO to be present. This would be impractical for them on a weekday since the meetings tend to run long. But they don't open the factory and I don't open my office. We just meet and plan the next quarter's activities.

But Congress does not have a business to run. Their entire job consists of meetings and votes. So what is their excuse? They have none. Except their own incompetence and false deadlines to enhance the drama.

If you really want to send Congress a message, tell them to take the weekend off. No hurried votes to make a flight schedule. No wasted hours of debate when no votes will be changed. Monday would be just as good.

They should be more worried about what will happen on a Tuesday in November.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bipartisanship Achieved - For Themselves

Yesterday, while most of the country was trying to grasp the procedural nonsense flowing from the Pelosi-Slaughter violation of the Constitution, the US Senate voted in a very bipartisan way. What piece of legislation was so compelling that it had 14 Republicans hurtle across the aisle? What could possibly be of such national importance?


Yep - earmarks. Yesterday an amendment offered by Jim DeMint (S. Amendment 3454) to limit earmarks was resoundingly defeated in the Senate. Let me say that again for those who are not sure. The US Senate, including 14 deficit worried Republicans and all but 4 Democrats voted to continue the practice or earmarking, even though all 100 of them have publicly promised to end the spectacle of secret money grabs.

These are largely the same Republicans that are all too worried about the impact on the deficit of every bill that they see. Most obvious on that list - Senator Jim Bunning. The same Jim Bunning that grandstanded stopping unemployment benefits because of the deficit impact, voted to kill the amendment and continue the practice of earmarking. The same Bunning that is leaving the Senate at the end of his term.

Add in Alexander, Shelby, Gregg, Hutchison and Lugar and you have the core of the "impact on the deficit" choir in the Senate. I don't really think I need to explain the why of this. Leave it to be said that, in long standing Congressional tradition, they look out for themselves first and us last.

Pick any issue for the last year or two or three and you will find at least one or more of these Senators at the forefront of the "adding to the deficit" charge.

Kit Bond has been racing from camera to camera yelling that all this spending will break the bank, yet he can't seem to actually follow through. And, in a rare reversal of roles, the House actually did ban earmarks. (whether they follow the rule is another matter.)

Take no solace here Democrats - you have spent like there is no tomorrow. Need I mention Dodd's TARP end run? AIG? Their own pay raise? While talking about ending earmarks, Senate Democrats are using them endlessly.

And, of course, the president has yet to keep his promise to veto earmark laden legislation. In fact, he seems to sort of ignore it with a "next time," promise.

So it would seem that no hands are what one would call clean, but the sheer hypocrisy in this vote is blinding.

So it seems that when cameras are rolling and grandiose speeches are made, spending is a bad thing. But when it comes time to actually stop the spending, they can't do it.

Next time a US Senator whines about earmarks and spending, roll up a copy of Senate Amendment 3454 and mail it to them asking why they were against it.

Here is the vote tally:
To table the Amendment (effectively killing it):
Akaka (D-HI)
Alexander (R-TN)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Bond (R-MO)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burris (D-IL)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (D-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wyden (D-OR)

Against tabling (trying to pass it):
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bayh (D-IN)
Brown (R-MA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kaufman (D-DE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
LeMieux (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Sessions (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)

(Vote tally from US Senate web site)

Look long and hard at this vote list. Next time one of these sanctimonious Senators goes off on earmarks, see if their talk matches their actions. Most likely, it does not.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Vote..Radio!

According to the news this morning, Pelosi has come up with a way to totally avoid an actual vote on the Health Care/Student Loan bill. As far as I can determine, she wants to acknowledge the Senate bill as read via a simple "procedural" vote, thus avoiding the difficulty of actually honoring the US Constitution.

I am sure that this is within the rules of the House. But I am equally certain that the rule was never intended to slide a major piece of legislation through the House without an actual vote.

Once upon a time, I was in favor of reforming the health insurance industry. I wanted to see some changes. Not punishment, but changes. Unlike so many in Congress, I am not challenged by the idea that a company exists to make a profit. I get that. My company exists to make a profit. I just wanted the insurers to be held to the rules and forced to treat people fairly. Now, however, with all the garbage in the bill and all of the late night tricks from both sides, I have to be opposed to it. I am not happy about it, but I am honest enough to be able to say that what they propose is wrong and bad for everybody.

Which brings me full circle. The House "leadership" on both sides is basically stalling and trying to avoid an actual vote that they might have to be responsible for. Put in less pleasant terms the 435 cowards who pretend to work there would prefer to slink away from this and just blame someone else.

On the one side, we have the Democrats who are pulling every procedural loophole out of the bag to pass this bill and the other side features the Republicans who have promised to use every procedural loophole to prevent passage. On other words, none of them want to actually vote this thing. They just want to be able to declare some kind of victory and toddle off to the bar.

The only victory I am interested in is the one that replaces the entire House of Representatives with new people. These 435 are so sold out, they are no longer capable of the simplest thing - voting on legislation - without tugging on the leashes of their corporate masters.

For shame on Pelosi for even suggesting this kind of a stunt and for shame on Boehner for not calling for the vote now.

This is no longer about health care, financial reform or even basic legislation. This is now about the simple and stated fact that our Congress has chosen to operate outside Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution: "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."

In other words, a vote!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Health Care - the Procedural Prognosis

So the giant health care bill released in the middle of the night on a Sunday is actually the framework to be somewhat stripped and redone as they reconcile the bill.

Congratulations to the Congressional leadership for continuing a decades long tradition of misleading and misdirecting actions to conceal their true decision.

Maybe page 2079 - Wellness Programs - is more their true intent. Grants and special programs for companies that try behavior modification on employees to get them to stop smoking or make them eat healthy (at least "healthy" as defined by government) and the like. Sounds like the nonsense the Waxmans and Stupaks pump out daily.

Or the innumerable, Commissions, Panels, Boards and Task Forces this thing creates. All paid on a per diem, but not really federal employees. Sounds like a jobs for lobbyists program to me. And sounds a lot like the kind of garbage Pelosi, Reid, McConnell and Boehner peddle all the time.

So not only won't they put the thing to a simple up or down vote - they release this version to make sure they make their promise of days of public review before the rigged vote while they secretly rewrite it before the rigged vote.

And what is the deal with the Sunday night thing? Remember all those stupid bailouts? Sunday night. Bear Stearns gifted to JP Morgan on a Sunday night. Lehman shut down on a Sunday night. Goldman bank charter - Sunday night. And so on. Now health Care - Sunday night.

I do not know a nice way to put this, so let it be plain. Over the last 3 years, anything our government has done on a Sunday night has most likely been something we didn't want and didn't need. If only they would just not come back Monday morning.

The "Health Care" Bill

I just downloaded the final bill as it is intended to go to reconciliation. With no comment on procedure, this bill should fail. On its own lack of merit.

Just go to page 2098 and look what got added. Student loans. An entirely different piece of legislation shoehorned into one of the most controversial and important pieces of legislation. After the fact. As an add on. At the very end. In the hopes that we don't notice.

The content of the actual bill is bad enough. A 2.5 percent tax on individuals for not having health insurance (section 401). A commission that is explicitly shielded from the rules of federal employment (page 33). Tax after tax on businesses. Taxes on those earning over certain amounts.

What makes this even more pathetic is the simple and plain fact that a lot of it violates the Tenth Amendment. Health insurers are state regulated and typically not engaged in interstate commerce. This leaves the regulation to the states. This bill usurps that over and over.

I can see why this happened behind closed doors. The raw stench coming from the room probably presented a bio-hazard.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those with a "pre-existing" conditions ('broken,' as Kristen at the local Starbucks so adorably puts it). I looked forward to the health insurers having that taken away as a method to deny me coverage. But at this cost? With this many restrictions, taxes, fees and entanglements? No.

I obviously have to keep reading, but just on a first pass skimming, I am disappointed and angry. I cannot imagine how bad it will get as I continue to read.

This is a no-brainer, Congress. Reject this thing now. Strip out the student loans. Eliminate the personal mandate, enact tort reform, insure all children in the US Medicare style and end the pre-existing condition thing. That is all we needed. All we really wanted.

Sure, some wanted the public option. I was not one of them. I fear the public option. And not for the reasons most have stated. It is simple. The public option will eventually become the only option.

This happened in Florida with property insurance after Hurricane Andrew. The property insurers ran or raised rates blindingly. The legislature created Citizens Insurance as an insurer of last resort. You had to have been rejected by all the private companies and it cost more. Now, just 15 years later, the Florida Legislature in response to special interest after special interest, removed the rejection requirement and lowered the premiums to below market, making Citizens the first choice. And you know what? One solid storm and Florida is broke.

Imagine any Congress not extending the public option to favored groups - both Democrat and Republican. If you have trouble with that, well, so did I.

Here is what we really wanted and needed:

1) Cover every child in the US up to age 18. Period.
2) Tort reform. 2 words: "Loser Pays."
3) Pre-existing conditions - no longer a disqualifying factor for overall coverage.
4) Fairness in premiums and payments.
5) Repeal the anti-trust exemption.
6) Doctors making health decisions - not nameless insurance company employees.

That's it. Start there. With what we really want and need. Not some pipe dream of some frustrated Congressman like Waxman who sees his chance to push his long stagnant wealth sharing agenda. Not with a litany of tax cuts and promises to special interests like Cantor's one-sided proposal.

I am going to keep reading and reviewing. By the time I get through all of it, everyone will have chimed in and rightfully so. I look forward to the robust debate.

And, as I said last post - bring this turkey to the floor for a vote. No more counting, cajoling or arm twisting. Either vote it of shelve it. But enough with the grand theater.

Counting Your Votes Before They are Hatched

For the last few days, we keep hearing about how many votes "they" have on The health care mess. And, depending on who last spoke, maybe it can pass, maybe not. But, either way, this endless pre-voting that Congress does is not only suspect at best, it is a direct abrogation of the purpose of Congress.

By the way, "they" are Pelosi, Boehner, Reid and McConnell. The people that are slowly eating away at truly representative government. But that is another rant for a different day.

For all too long, the leadership in both houses has taken to counting and announcing counts of votes before the legislation comes to the floor. Then, once the so-called leaders are satisfied with the count, they schedule a long debate during which many passionate speeches are made, but not one mind is changed. Not one vote moves, not one.

If the idea of Congress is to debate the issue and then vote, then why the prolonged vote games? Well, it is simple. Neither side wants to appear to lose. And some members of the Congress prefer to play coy until the last moment in the hopes that they can be the deciding vote and get all the free PR.

See, it stopped being about governance a long time age and became a large, expensive chessboard on which Democrats and Republicans, bloated with power and egos that challenge the sun for attention, play out their sad games at our expense.

Given the more than a year of debate, multiple rewrites and endless hearings, they should simply put the health care thing to a vote. Up or down. Yea or Nay. Not this prolonged passion play in which Pelosi and Boehner trade jabs via an all too willing press. Nopt the declarations of deadlines. Want a deadline Madame Speaker? Schedule the damned vote, already. And keep it scheduled. Let the bill come to the floor and be voted on in the House. According to the rules, there is a Senate bill pending a House vote. Well, vote!

On the Senate side, the same thing. Bring it to the floor. If the minority has the needed 41 votes, then let an actual filibuster run. Let the process work. If the vote is to use reconciliation withing the rules, then have the vote. Let both sides make a case and then have an honest vote. On the issues and not the ideology.

This is exactly what is wrong with Congress. They are all way too worried about posturing to remember that they are the employees, not the employers. They forget that their primary, Constitutional duty is to vote on legislation. Not to quibble and wheedle. Not to pre-count votes. Not to assure a victory or defeat.

The job is to debate and then vote on the legislation. Period. If it passes, it passes. If it fails, it fails. See, that is the point of representative democracy.

And, our job, come November, is to vote. Vote them all out of office. They have performed poorly. Were they line employees, they would have long ago been fired. Well, their human resources department meets in November. And we should prepare a lot of exit interviews for a lot of bad representatives and senators.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lehman Cooks Books - Nobody Surprised

So now we have the auditor's post-mortem examination of the fall of Lehman Brothers. Most people agree that this marked the real beginning of the financial crisis that led us into this recession. And, while almost everyone knew there was some shenanigans going on, the report reveals more than just a little misdirection.

In the interest of disclosure, I am not an accountant or financial expert. In fact, I am like most Americans - a victim of this massive and ongoing fraud. Those are strong words, but these were serious crimes.

According to the report, Lehman CEO William "Whatever it takes to make me look good" Fuld ordered his people to clean up the books at Lehman to reduce the debt on their balance sheets. And clean they did. In fact, what they did was to cook the books. They even had a name and a procedure for this recipe - "Repo 105."

Yep. A publicly traded company entrusted with billions of investor dollars created a process by which they could move exorbitant debt off the books to fool regulators and shareholders as to the health of the company. Now, we all know that publicly traded companies are supposed to have independent auditors examine these books looking for just the type of thing Repo 105 was doing. So what happened there?

Well, according to the report, the auditors - Ernst and Young - were in on it. Right. The very folks who are supposed to monitor for fraud were helping to commit it. And the credit rating firms? Well, they were so corrupted it is barely worth this sentence.

Former CEO Fuld claims he had no idea this was going on. That make him either culpable in the fraud and cover up or criminally negligent. The law requires the CEO to sign off on these reports, and Fuld did. In fact, just days before Lehman joined the dinosaurs in ignoble extinction, Fuld told everyone and anyone that the firm was in good shape and not to worry. In private, Fuld was begging for Hank "Pirate" Paulson to save his company.

The report reveals a very troubling problem. Where were the regulators? Well, they were conspicuously ignoring things. One does not hide over $80 billion in debt and not leave a trail. Yet, the regulators, auditors and board members were happy to go on about their day and pretend that nothing was wrong.

To be fair, at least one financial reporter - Eric Bolling of Fox Business - openly challenged Fuld's rosy report. While most of the financial press was buying Fuld's nonsense hook line and sinker, Bolling announced on-air that the lawyers were in the boardroom. Keep in mind that some of these Wall Streeters are Bolling's friends, yet he reported the truth anyway.

Here is what the report really tells us. It tells us that the regulatory system is broken. That Wall Street cheats. That big bankers lie and get away with it. That the financial press is largely (except Bolling) a pile of sycophants. That the government looked the other way.

So what will it really take to restore our confidence in what is obviously a gamed system? Well, some prosecutions might help. Fuld in handcuffs would help. Ernst and Young punished if not shut down might help. But what would really help is real transparency. The transparency that Bernanke, Paulson and Geithner promised and then proceeded to avoid.

Maybe we need new regulation and new agencies, and maybe not. We cannot be sure until we examine - in the open - what went wrong and who failed. Not some confidential secret report, but a truly open process.

And given the state of the regulators and Congress, I nominate Eric Bolling and Elizabeth Warren to head it up. Sure, Bolling is a conservative. But he is also an honest investor and one that knows how the liars on Wall Street work. And Elizabeth Warren is one of the few truly plain spoken folks anywhere in the process.

The bottom line of the Lehman report should read, "Everyone involved failed to do their jobs. All of them had a hand in the fraud and all of them should pay."

After all, we the taxpayers are already paying for their crimes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Counting the silly

It is census time again. And with the census comes the silliness from both sides.

Before I venture further into the largest and most obvious symbol of government run looney-tunes, it is important to recognize that the census itself is mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution. And it is even more important to recognize that the Constitution only requires a simple enumeration of the people.

That said, I am still laughing and grimacing about the letter I received yesterday telling me that I would be receiving the census form in about a week. So the federal government in its infinite insanity has decided that I need a piece of mail to let me know that I will be receiving a piece of mail. Setting aside the cost, one cannot help but wonder what the point of this is.

Add in the somewhat pathetic and genuinely bad TV commercials for the census and you have government at its absolute least effective. Taking a simple process - counting people - and turning it into a complex, expensive and relatively ineffective process.

I have yet to see the census form, but I am told that it again asks a lot more than how many people live in your home. This is the only legitimate question. All the rest are intrusive and not needed.

For me, this is a simple one - only answer the one question. How many people live in your home. That is what the Constitution requires. Leave the rest blank or write in "Not Applicable." Let them count those.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Polls vs Voters

Of late, both sides in the increasingly dysfunctional Congress have taken to citing public opinion surveys as proof that their side is the right side. Needless to say, both sides have polling to support them. And, needless to say, both sides are either lying or pathetically naive. I am going with lying. Here is why.

Political polls are almost always written to support a predetermined conclusion. The question can usually draw the desired answer.

If the question is, "Do you want an Obama style national health care plan run by the government," the answer is almost always "No." Most Americans recognize government's inability to host a cocktail party, let alone run a health insurance plan.

If the question is, "Do you think the health insurance companies should have to accept pre-existing conditions and justify rate increases," the answer is almost always, "Yes." Most Americans actually dislike their health insurance carrier and have had at least one problem with them.

Most entertainingly, when told the actual content of the Senate bill (which has already passed by the way), most Americans surveyed like the plan. But when they are confronted with the dishonest statements from both sides about the bill, most of those polled disagree.

And that is the problem with this process. There is no truth, no reality, no honesty. Just posturing, lying (yes, lying) and fabrications. From death panels to covering the uninsured, nobody that reports to work in Congress is telling you the truth.

Those pushing the bill make it sound like a magic pill. Somehow spending almost a trillion dollars over 10 years will save us money. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the fallacy there. Those opposed call it a government takeover of health care. Well, that is not in the Senate bill. In fact, the Senate bill leaves the existing insurance carriers in charge.

Those in favor tell us that mandating health insurance is needed and a good thing. Mandates are never a good thing and requiring Americans to have insurance is most likely unconstitutional. Those opposed talk about Medicare being cut by "half a trillion dollars right away." Not true. It is over 10 years and almost all by way of cost reductions and elimination of duplicated services.

When all is said and done, both parties in Congress are flat out making stuff up to slam the other side around. And, to be honest, not one member of Congress cares about you...unless you happen to be handing them large wads of money.

As a historical note, the same debate was held over Medicare. The Republicans predicted the end of quality health care, called it a government takeover and socialism. The Democrats claimed it would not increase the deficit or raise taxes. As it is today, it was then. Both sides lied and both sides were wrong, yet Medicare does work and the private health care industry is alive and well.

This debate is not about health insurance. It is not about health care. It is not even really about regular folks. It is really about the next election. It is about their beloved and somewhat sad game.

Many regular people have recognized that Congress is least qualified to even talk about health insurance since they have the best plan anywhere. And a lot of voters have suggested that Congress be forced to accept whatever plan they pass. I have a better idea - let's vote them out in November and force them to deal with real insurance companies just like we do every day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reconciling Reconciliation

Depending on who you listen to, reconciliation is either the solution to getting health insurance reform passed or the act of a despotic Congress. I thought it might be a good idea to look up the actual history and procedures for reconciliation.

Reconciliation was created in 1974 to prevent the filibuster of a contentious budget bill. In short, the process is designed to allow the 2 houses of Congress to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions without needing another 60 vote cloture majority in the Senate to get anything done. Since 1975, it has been invoked 22 times. 19 of those were successful. 16 of those 19 were invoked by Republican led Senates. I have listed some of these at the end of this post.

Historically, the minority party in the Senate complains about the use of reconciliation, while the majority party calls it a valid tool. Both are right and wrong.

What we now have is the specter of luminaries like the ever redoubtable Mitch McConnell trying to make the point that there is something bad about a 50 percent plus 1 majority. This is the new theme among Republicans. Majority rule is bad. Of course, when they had the slim majority, they said the opposite.

And, as always, the Democrats are equally dishonest and hypocritical. When they were in the minority, they screamed about reconciliation as despotic. Now that they have the majority, they sing a different tune. What the Democrats in Congress will not admit is that their leadership destroyed the chance to pass the bill when they adamantly shut Republicans out of the process.

Republicans cemented their being out of the loop by failing to offer any alternative legislation, thus establishing themselves as the permanent nay sayers.

Whether either side likes it or not, this is what the concept of reconciliation is intended for. A hopelessly deadlocked Congress intent on doing nothing or as little as possible while hiding behind pointless partisan bickering.

Here are some of the bills subjected to reconciliation:

1) The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993, AKA the 1993 Clinton budget. Senate vote: 50-50 with Vice President Al Gore breaking the tie.

2) The Balanced Budget Act of 1995, which sought cuts in Medicaid and welfare programs, restructuring of Medicare and major tax cuts. Senate vote: 52-47.

3) The Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999, a package of tax cuts and health care reforms. Senate vote: 54-46.

4) The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, AKA the Bush tax cuts. Senate vote: 58-34.

5) The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, further tax cuts. Senate vote: 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote.

6) The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which included cuts in Medicaid and Medicare. Senate vote: 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote.

7) The Tax Increase Prevention and Reduction Act of 2005, an extension of tax cuts. Senate vote: 54-43.

8) Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000, which reduced certain taxes for married couples. Senate vote: 60-34.

9) The Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which included reductions in Medicare payments and the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Senate vote: 85-15.

10) The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, a tax cut package that also included education savings measures. Senate vote: 92-8.

11) The College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, which increased federal funding and loans for higher education. Senate vote: 79-12.

12) The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990, which included tax increases proposed by President George H.W. Bush. Senate 54-45.

The list speaks for itself. Note that most are not the "wide majorities" McCain pointed out, nor are they evil laws as Reid and Pelosi pointed out when they were leading the minority.

Like everything else in Congress, this has become another excuse for more flaming spitballs across the aisle and another excuse to do nothing in an election year. Well, if it is nothing they want to do, let's give them that option by voting them all - Democrat and Republican - out in November. That should reconcile the problem.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Down our throats.....

I find it highly amusing that Senate Minority Leader McConnell has the sheer audacity to complain about legislation being jammed down our throats. Of course, he is talking about health insurance reform. This is the same Mitch McConnell that ignored not only his party, but also "the American People," as he likes to say so often, in ramming TARP and AIG down our throats. Apparently, McConnell only jams things down our throats that benefits banks and Wall Street. The same McConnell that thought nothing of tossing a trillion dollars to the crooks that put us in this recession.

Hold the applause Democrats. Your leaders are no better. Harry Reid, the Majority leader that helped shove TARP down our throats is unwilling to use his authority to help regular people. And the illustrious Chris Dodd who actually circumvented the US Constitution in passing TARP (more on that next paragraph) is now instrumental in making sure that the same banks and Wall Street cheaters that put us here are not reined in.

In order to jam TARP down our throats, Dodd used a tiny little trick to get around Article 1 of the Constitution that requires tax and spending bills to originate in the House of Representatives. Back when TARP was pending, the House - in a rare moment of responsibility - rejected it. Twice. Not good enough for Dodd, McConnell, Reid and company. They picked up an old House bill that had died in the Senate, stripped out everything except the "HR" designation that made it a House bill and then amended the entire TARP package to it. The same TARP that the House had just rejected. It this legal? Sure. Is it Constitutional? Barely.

But is is wrong and against the will of the same people that McConnell and Reid purport to represent. Yet there they were, leading the charge to ignore the will of the people. And here they come again, skewering any level of financial regulation or reform, despite the will of the people.

Apparently the needs of Goldman Sachs is important enough to jam down our throats, but getting access to health care for the poorest among us is not. Ask yourself this next time you write a check to an insurance company or to pay for an overpriced prescription that your insurance has chosen not to cover: "Did TARP really help me?" Unless you work on Wall Street, the answer is going to be no. Then ask yourself: "I wonder how much McConnell, Dodd, Reid and the rest of those liars pay for their health care?" The answer will be "very little if anything."

So the same gang of Senators that decided to take over a trillion dollars from you and me for their pals on Wall Street have also decided that health care is too expensive and that any kind of financial reform would be bad for the banks.

In other words, to quote a long famous phrase - follow the money. We the people that seem so important to these charlatans on Capitol Hill apparently cannot afford the entry fee to the club that actually get taken care of.

For the record, both Obama and McCain endorsed Reid, McConnell and Dodd's shady actions by voting yes on TARP. Both disregarded the rules and the people and the Constitution. Sadly, the only time we see bipartisan action in the Senate is when it is time to reward the big contributors and ignore the people.

One important difference between us and Wall Street - we can fire the Senate come November. Even the mighty Goldman Sachs can't do that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back and laughing

I took a couple of weeks off to catch my breath and take care of some personal and family stuff. The good news is I got that done.

The better news is that the "Health Care Summit" managed to prove my point for me. Not only were the spitballs flying, but they were on TV and in the same room. Some favored highlights:

During one of the few productive exchanges between the 2 sides on cost containment, Senate Minority Leader McConnell pops us to gripe about time being unevenly divided. What makes this a favorite? Well, this is what the top Republican in the US Senate is doing during an informal debate on public policy? Looking at stopwatches? And people want to know why the Senate is broken.

After Lamar Alexander gave an interesting mini-speech on suggestions and issues with the legislation, Nancy Pelosi replied with a soppy letter from a constituent. Then Harry Reid did the same thing. No facts, no response to Alexander. Just weepy letters. And people want to know where the leadership in Congress is. Easy answer. They are looking through weepy letters hoping to find one that deflects from their own incompetence.

Eric Cantor being called out on the unneeded and unused mountain of paper he had an aide lug over a a prop.

Chris Dodd explaining why the insurance companies are also victims.

John McCain railing on after he was agreed with on a rather important and accurate point.

Overall, it was a great - although nonproductive - show. And it makes the point of this blog perfectly. Neither side had any intention of yielding one inch. Both sides came prepared to embarrass the other and nobody in that room gave a rat's tail about the actual people. Best of all, it was on television and is still available at

See, everybody in that room was playing a game. The object is to win points for their side. Not one of them actually engaged in governance or negotiation. All of them claim to represent "the American People." Well, only one person in that room won a national election. One. All of the others represent states or districts - not all of the people as they constantly claim.

Our job come November is to fire the whole lot of them for incompetence and malfeasance. If it is a game they want to play, then I think we should give them plenty of time to play.