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Archive for February 22nd, 2010

Yoo: ‘Sure,’ The President Could Order A Village Of Civilians Massacred

TPM Muckraker

Justin Elliott | February 22, 2010, 10:10AM

In John Yoo’s vision of executive power, the president can legally order a village of civilians “massacred,” according to the internal Justice Department report released Friday.

But in a letter (.pdf) sent to the DOJ last October, Yoo’s lawyer, Miguel Estrada, accused the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility of ripping “out of context” Yoo’s statement on the massacre question.

Estrada argues that OPR included the exchange “in an effort to shock the reader and to make clear to all right-thinking people that Professor Yoo is a bad man, indeed.” (See page 5 of the letter.)

The massacre exchange comes during the OPR report’s discussion of Yoo’s August 2002 memo (.pdf) that is widely seen as one of the key opinions authorizing torture.

The document — which is known as the Bybee Memo because it was signed by Yoo’s boss at the Office of Legal Counsel, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee — argues that the U.S. law banning torture would be unconstitutional if it “impermissibly encroached” on the president’s commander-in-chief power.

An OPR investigator asked Yoo “to explain how the torture statute would interfere with the President’s war making abilities.” Here’s the back-and-forth that followed, which is quoted in the OPR report and was first caught by Michael Isikoff at Newsweek:

MORE HERE

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Phil Collins- In The Air Tonight

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Jobs Bill VOTE: GOP Filibuster Fails As Scott Brown And Others Break With Party

Huff Po- Ryan Grim  First Posted: 02-22-10 04:44 PM   |   Updated: 02-22-10 07:40 PM

Scott Brown was in and out of the Senate chamber and had voted against his party before most of his colleagues had even arrived.

“It’s a small step, but it’s still a step,” Brown told reporters after casting a procedural vote in favor of the Democratic jobs bill, bucking his party leaders and the strategy of opposition they have carried out since President Obama took office.

For Senate Democrats, it was much bigger step. Four Republicans followed Brown’s lead, giving the jobs legislation 62 votes, two more than needed to cut off a GOP filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) thanked the newly-elected Republican from Massachusetts. “I hope this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate. Whether this new day was created by the new Senator from Massachusetts or some other reason, I’m very, very happy that we were able to get this done. But there are some winners. Not any individual Senator, not Democrats or Republicans. The winners are small business people throughout this country.”

Brown was followed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who was followed by her home state GOP colleague Olympia Snowe.

Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), who are retiring, also backed the bill.

Voinovich’s vote came after he was given an assurance from Reid that the surface transportation reauthorization bill that Voinovich prizes will be given high priority.

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Crooks & Liars- By Susie Madrak Monday Feb 22, 2010 7:00am

This will be controversial, to say the least. I wonder on what legal grounds this will be asserted – and how long it will be before the insurance companies lobbyists stop it. (I also wonder why he didn’t support the public option, which would have been less directly interventionist than this, and thus, less politically risky.)

You can read the details here:

President Obama will propose on Monday giving the federal government new power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies, as he rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system, White House officials said.

[…] The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, and it would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.

The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries. States would be eligible for a portion of $250 million in grants to finance premium review and approval.

The new rate board would be composed of seven members, including consumer representatives, an insurance industry representative, a physician, and other experts such health economists and actuaries, the White House said. The board’s annual report would offer guidance to the public and states on whether rate increases should be approved.

The corporatist-friendly RAND think tank issued a 2004 report on a similar proposal in California, warning of unintended consequences:

This issue brief evaluates why health insurance premiums are rising and examines the potential long-term consequences of regulating premium costs, using examples from other insurance products such as automobile coverage and workers compensation. The findings underscore that if health care costs continue to rise while premiums are frozen, stringent rate regulation could lead to undesired consequences. These include:

* In the short term, insurers could balance their losses by reducing the quality or quantity of care — or both.
* Insurers could discourage unhealthy consumers from enrolling in plans, thus increasing the number of uninsured over time.
* If costs continue to rise and premiums are fixed, insurers may exit the market entirely.
* Over the longer term, regulation could discourage expensive treatments and technologies, no matter how beneficial, from coming to market. (A desirable related consequence is that premium regulation could motivate the introduction of cost-saving technologies.)

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