September 17, 2005

  1. Judge John Roberts
  2. Collins: No experience necessary to be FEMA director
  3. Snowe can't get her own party to schedule a vote on her small business health plan
  4. Death and taxes

1. Judge John Roberts

I rearranged my work schedule last week to watch as much as I could of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge John Roberts last week. And as the week progressed, I became more and more uncomfortable with the idea of putting this man in charge of the United States Supreme Court.

Yes, he appears to be extremely intelligent. He knows the law well, and he is able to process information and come up with relevant legal information with apparent ease. But the overriding sense I came away with is of a man who looks at the law and the Constitution as an intellectual challenge - as an overblown chess game if you will. Strikingly, I found very little humanity in his responses to critical points.
2. Collins: No experience necessary to be FEMA director

I came across this interesting news story from Newhouse News Service, about the importance of appropriate experience when hiring someone for jobs such as the one Michael Brown held as director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the committee, said the panel, in investigating the Katrina disaster, would discuss whether future FEMA directors should meet a specific set of qualifications. But Collins said she dislikes the idea, citing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Rudy Giuliani didn't come from an emergency preparedness background, but he did an extraordinary job," Collins said. "So (past experience) is not necessarily a predictor."
This position, that appropriate job experience and training is not essential for heads of critical emergency agencies, is inexcusable. And it is one reason why I think an INDEPENDENT commission, removed entirely from Congress, needs to investigate the government failures so evident in the response to Hurricane Katrina. A Congressional commission, no matter how outwardly bi-partisan, will not be able to override such inappropriate sentiments as that expressed by Senator Susan Collins in her capacity as chair of the committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security.
3. Olympia Snowe can't get her own party to schedule a vote on her Small Business Association Health Plan

Olympia Snowe has a bill on Association Health Plans, or AHPs that she introduced in the Senate earlier this year. S. 406, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2005, would allow small business owners to band together to purchase health plans across state lines with uniform benefits packages. Sounds interesting, and while it is not the single-payer national health care plan that I would like to see, it might be an improvement on the current situation.

However, according to an op-ed written by Olympia Snowe herself, that is posted on, Maine's senior Senator can't get her own party to schedule a vote on the measure. Despite her seniority and her best efforts, she can't get the Bush administration, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, or other members of her party to pay any attention to her.
She wrote: "Unfortunately, the Senate has not passed legislation to confront this deepening national crisis that continues to harm small businesses' ability to create jobs and compete in today's global economy. The time to act is now... In the coming weeks, I will continue to work closely with the Bush administration, Majority Leader Frist and other members of Congress to ensure that association-health-plan legislation moves onto the Senate floor for a final, long-awaited vote. The Senate must pass AHP legislation this year so that millions of small- business owners can provide health insurance to our nation's most indispensable employees. Doing nothing is no longer an option."
Unfortunately, Olympia is wrong on that count. Doing nothing on health care is what her party specializes in.
4. Death and taxes

Hurricane Katrina caused massive destruction and hundreds of deaths on our own beloved Gulf Coast. President Bush on Friday promised that the federal government would make things right, at a cost estimated to be more than $200 billion.

But, according to President Bush, that does not mean a rollback on the tax cuts for the wealthy. They should not be the ones to suffer in any way from the hurricane's carnage and devastation. Neither should the Republicans stop in their tracks their attempt to separate death and taxes, to repeal the Estate Tax on multi-million-dollar estates that pass from one generation to another, despite the healthy and much-needed boost to the federal budget that the once-in-a-lifetime tax brings in each year.

No, Bush says, to pay for making things right in New Orleans, more "unnecessary government spending" would be cut from the deficit-ridden federal budget.

Just where is this "unnecessary government spending"? Does he mean further cuts, beyond the $10 billion already cut, in the Medicaid program? How about more cuts for the Army Corps of Engineers? What exactly is the "unnecessary government spending" that Bush is talking about?

I wish with all my heart that the Iraq War was on his list of "unnecessary government spending," but I know it is not.