Talking Points: Back From Vacation

I was on vacation in San Diego last week, but the no spin zone never really goes on a complete holiday and I picked up some interesting information for you.

That's the subject of this evening's Talking Points memo.

Just south of San Diego is the town of Chula Vista, where Duke Energy rents a power plant. Three guys who were fired from that plant say Duke cut power when California's energy shortage was at its worst. The men say they were ordered to do that so Duke could jack up the prices. I believe these guys.

Now the federal government is finally stepping in and scrutinizing the energy companies that raised prices dramatically when California ran out of power. That's what the Feds should have done a long time ago. We don't need price caps, we need strict enforcement of the law regarding restraint of trade. Simply put, energy, medicine and the airlines and other vital industries are so important to the public interest that the federal government must oversee them. You can't let market manipulators hurt the American people.

The reason we have a strong central government in Washington is to protect us. That's why they're there. But that protection is breaking down, in my opinion. Take this Patients' Bill of Rights, for example.

Most everybody knows that HMOs don't always give the best care, especially when it's expensive. So of course Americans should have the right to sue them. President Bush wants to limit HMO liability to $500,000. The Democrats and some Republicans like John McCain want $5 million. Mr. Bush points out that a ceiling that high would encourage frivolous lawsuits, and he's right.

But all this could be solved in a heartbeat. All these geniuses in Washington have to do is to include in the Patients' Bill of Rights Federal Rule 11. That rule says that a federal judge has the right to order anyone who files a stupid lawsuit to pay all the court costs. Just extend Rule 11 to all HMO lawsuits, state or federal, and give the states financial incentives to go along. Presto! The frivolous lawsuits become dangerous, but the sick American still has some redress against the HMO.

So why doesn't this happen? The answer is because many politicians want to grandstand these issues and pay back their supporters. The Democrats are not looking out for you. They are looking out for the trial lawyers. The Republicans are not looking out for you. They are looking out for the insurance companies. Get the picture?

The federal government has to begin to do its job, protecting us from the criminals and the exploiters. We need aggressive advocates for the people, not shills for the powerful special interests. Hey, you down there in D.C., knock off the nonsense. Put Rule 11 in the Patients’ Bill of Rights and pass the darned thing.

And that's the memo.

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Liz Daley, the wife of Senator Jim Jeffords, told the Associated Press she was against her husband bolting the GOP. Says Miss Daley, "I was angry and I mean really angry. There wasn't one person I know who said, ‘Great idea, Jim.’"

Miss Daley obviously doesn't know movie queen Sharon Stone, who says she wants to shake the hand of Jim Jeffords because, "The truth has set him free."

Our advice to the senator is, shake Sharon's hand if you want to, but don't let her take you to the zoo. Ridiculous things might happen there.

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