Posts Tagged ‘congress’

So… I’ve seen a lot of this discussion over whether President Obama should be the one to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, some saying that he should let the next President do it, some dusting off Kennedy as an example, etc. etc.
So I went back and looked at my handy-dandy pocket-sized copy of the Constitution, given to me at a semi-creepy hot dog joint in Plattsburgh NY.
It says that the President ‘shall nominate’ new justices. Not ‘shall have the power to nominate, save when the exercise of same should present a political inconvenience’. It says that he ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint’.
The President has the power to make a recess appointment right this minute, filling that seat with anyone he wants for the next ten months. Instead, he is waiting until such a time as he can not only exercise his Constitutional obligation, but also allow the Senate to exercise theirs. But he absolutely should nominate. The Constitution demands that of him.
Quite frankly, I don’t know that I would have given that much power away to that particular group of obstructionist arseholes, many of whom have already explicitly stated that they will simply refuse President Obama’s nominees on principle rather than bothering to consider them on their merits.
One of the most admired minds ever to sit on the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, was nominated in the final year of a presidential term. The guy had enemies, for sure, as did the President who nominated him. The nomination was bitterly contested, both sides fought tooth and nail for their viewpoint, but it would have been unthinkable to merely refuse the nomination – and so they considered him, and he was ultimately confirmed, and America is better off for his opinions on freedom of speech, the right to privacy and a host of other matters.
One would think that the current crop of Senators would want to uphold their own obligations, and engage in a real debate over a nominee’s merits. But maybe they just don’t have the balls.

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So L was watching VeggieTales this afternoon, and it made a little ditty go through my head…

“We are the Congress who don’t do anything
We took your government and shut it down…
And if you ask us to do anything, we’ll just tell you…. We don’t do anything…”

So who wants to do a verse of this in the comments? I’ll start.

Well, I’ve never lived on food stamps and I can afford insurance
And I don’t know why we have to turn the clocks back in the fall
And I’ve never served in combat and I don’t have a vagina
But I sure know how to legislate it all….

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Considering the increasingly obvious phenomenon that the officials we elect to represent us are largely unable or unwilling to do so, I would like to propose the following legislation. In keeping with the cockamamie names often bestowed upon Acts of Congress, I hereby present the Compulsory Limits on Earnings, Assets and Numerous Ulteriors Pending Year End Reporting Act, otherwise known as the CLEANUPYER Act.

Be it resolved that:

a. Upon election to office, an officeholder’s assets shall be placed in a savings account and will lose or gain funds at the end of the officeholder’s term according to the following principles:

  1. For each percentage point gain in the median household income during the officeholder’s term, there will be a corresponding percentage point increase in the saved funds; and
  2. For each percentage point drop in unemployment,  there will be a corresponding percentage point increase in the saved funds; and
  3. For each percentage point increase in the high school graduation rate,  there will be a corresponding percentage point increase in the saved funds; and
  4. The reverse case of all of the above will lead to a corresponding decrease in the saved funds, and;
  5. For each ‘earmark’ requested by an officeholder, there will be a percentage point decrease in the saved funds, and;
  6. Should Congress declare war and the President execute same, there will be a percentage point decrease in the saved funds for every 3 months of the war’s duration; and
  7. Should any legislature adopt this Act, the officeholders voting ‘aye’ will receive a twenty-five point increase in the saved funds in addition to the above provisions.

b. Elected officials shall receive a stipend not to exceed twice the median income of their constituents.

c. Elected officials shall for a period of one year after leaving office be ineligible to take positions with either lobbying firms or industries which have directly benefited from legislation enacted during their term of office.

d. On election day, prospective officeholders will report to a neutral area to await results, refusing contact from lobbyists or other parties which may seek to influence forthcoming legislation.

e. In addition to the existing reporting of campaign contributions, any unaffiliated entity will also disclose the sources of its funding.

It is my fervent hope that there will one day be a government which would pass this Act. Perhaps then I would even begin to trust my government.

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Members of the National Surrealist Association protested in Washington DC early Monday morning, bringing local traffic to a standstill. The specific issue at hand was never quite detailed, with possibilities ranging from the color of Mountain Dew to the involvement of the federal government in cricket matches by mail.

Three members of the Association, who referred to themselves as Larry, Curly and Sauron, held an empty picture frame in front of the Capitol building, captioned with the phrase “When is a rhinoceros!”. Others hung thousands of left shoes from the White House fence, singing Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” in a round.
A spokesman for the group wrapped reporters in clingfilm, repeatedly screaming “Climb that beanstalk now, you fuckers!”.
Other than expressing annoyance at the traffic slowdown, however, District residents largely ignored the protest. “It’s actually still much saner than anything that happens INSIDE the Capitol building,” said one. “The only difference is that I’m not paying these guys to do it.”

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Like many of you, I have been following the doings of the Obama administration and the 111th United States Congress with considerable despondency.

While the ‘politics of hope’ message inspired a great many people, it’s easy to say that sort of thing when one is campaigning, but very difficult to get it done.

This is especially true, I believe, for the left-leaning end of the political spectrum, where part of the ethos is the willingness to include a variety of viewpoints, to reach compromises and generally to try to “make nice” with as many people as possible.

At this point, however, the Republican opposition has become increasingly obstructionist and stubborn, often seemingly to the point of opposing much-needed common-sense legislation for no other reason than it having been put forth by a Democrat.

But there was a filibuster-proof Senate super-majority, wasn’t there? The Dems were going to be able to cram through any measure they wanted.

Here’s the problem. A super-majority requires party unity. Party unity is hard to come by when you’re including lots of differing views under one big tent. This is especially true when among the differing views include folks such as Joe Lieberman, representing the minor and unofficial “Whatever It Takes to Benefit Joe Lieberman” party, and Ben Nelson, representing the larger but similarly unofficial “I’m Only a Democrat Because That Made Me Electable” party.

Obama himself is similarly handcuffed by this process due to the separation of powers. By the time something makes it to his desk, it’s hardly worth his time to read it.

So scratch party unity. But the message should still be compelling, yes?

Yeah, well.

The right-siders, whether Cheney or Limbaugh, Palin or Steele, have been very good at the art of the five-second soundbite. Remember the “death panels”? The “socialist agenda”?

The Republican message, starting back in the Bush years, has been one of fear. Be afraid that the terrorists will attack your city next. Be afraid that Obama will allow doctors to kill your grandmother. Be afraid that the Democrats will tax you into poverty.

The Democratic message, from most quarters at least, has been, “Hey, that’s not true, quit being so mean. Incidentally, I still respect your right to say it even though I disagree with you, but I still think you’re being unnecessarily mean about it. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in the middle. Or possibly even slightly toward your end from the middle.”

Which of those is the more compelling message?

In this country, most of us grow up with the overarching societal concepts of divine judgment and knee-jerk patriotism, two notions which have been blended together very skillfully by the religious right. As such, being “un-American” is as much a sin as any violation of the Ten Commandments and a charge gleefully thrown at any so-called liberal to whom it will stick. “Socialist”, recalling as it does notions of Russia and Eastern Europe, has much the same effect.

So if you’re even remotely undecided, are you more likely to vote for the people who tell you you’re hell-bound if you don’t, or for the people without the balls to stand up to them?

No wonder the Democrats have gotten nothing done.

Want hope? Want change? Let’s see some real leadership from Reid and Pelosi, or a change in leadership if those two can’t get it done. Let’s see Team Blue get their own soundbites own there, show the Republicans a little backbone. Let’s see the insightful and incisive puncturing of the over-inflated rhetoric. Why are you appeasing the people who have screwed you over time after time after time?

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I know that the use of language in today’s mass media is geared toward a fifth-grade (or thereabouts) comprehension level. Surely, though, the folks we elect to serve in the highest offices should be at least a little smarter than a fifth grader. Perhaps we should have Jeff Foxworthy come and test the entire lot of our nation’s politicians for actual fitness to serve.

Jeff Foxworthy
Our nation’s savior?

Allow me to illuminate a few things for all of you in national politics.

1. Bush was not a Nazi. Obama is not a socialist. Labels of ‘fascist’ (which few of you appear able to spell) and ‘communist’ are similarly inapplicable to either of them – though it is inordinately amusing to hear words like these applied to two men of quite different ideology. Less amusingly, I believe anyone who has suffered under the rule of such regimes as those of Hitler and Stalin would be rather offended to hear the comparatively trivial measures taken by these Presidents compared to the savagery they were forced to submit to.

Enough name-calling. If you have an issue with a President’s policies, come up with a reasonable alternative and we can all have a civilized debate. If you can’t do that, then keep your mouth shut.

2. Stop talking about whether there is too much God or too little God in the running of the country. Both of these are meaningless. The country was founded in part to ESCAPE the notion of any kind of state endorsement of religion. I have no problem with people worshipping according to their beliefs and legislating according to their values, but don’t use confuse the two and use religion to justify your political acts. In a nation whose founders specifically tried to avoid mixing religion into the law, such actions are hypocritical and offensive.

3. Related to the above: if you’re a bigot, just man up and be a bigot. If you have a problem with blacks, or Muslims, or the poor, or women, or gays, or conservatives, or any other group, just say so. Don’t get into the “un-American” line of bullshit. They’re just as American as you are. They love freedom just as much as you do. (Not that you even know what ‘freedom’ means, if you’re trying to deny it to anybody else.) Last but by no means least: any right which you would claim for yourself, you should also accord to them, whether it’s specifically spelled out in the Constitution or not.

4. Keep your promises. Don’t tell the public one thing and then do another, unless you also give us a damn good reason for the change. Don’t tell one group something and another group the opposite. We live in the Internet age, and we WILL find out. When it happens, enjoy your retirement money. We won’t vote for you to keep darkening our doorsteps.

5. When you watched movies as a youngster, remember how you cheered when the schoolyard bully got his comeuppance. Look at America’s standing in the international community around, say, 2006-7. If elementary school parable is indeed the limit of your understanding, maybe it can at least be allowed to guide foreign policy in years to come.

6. The national media have provided you with a means of understanding whether you are acting logically – whether you identify with the right or left. His name is Jon Stewart. If your name is mentioned on his show more than twice in any given month, you might wish to take a look at your priorities. Jon Stewart, you see, IS smarter than a fifth grader.

7. Perhaps above all, remember this quote from former President Harry Truman – another individual who was smarter than a fifth grader:

“Don’t piss in the soup, boys – we’ve all got to eat.”

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Looks like it’s Congressman John McHugh.

Although I get the ‘team of rivals’ philosophy, any time Obama nominates a Republican for a post I find myself looking for the benefits to the Democratic party. Naming Jon Huntsman ambassador to China, for example, takes a potentially credible 2012 GOP contender out of the public eye quite handily. So why McHugh?

Here is John McHugh’s congressional district map:

Not much help there. Most of that is pretty solidly in the redder parts of NY, so a special election would most likely still result in a Republican seat. No guarantees, though – NY-20 squeaked to Murphy in their own special election, and NY-23 is considered a slightly more Dem-leaning district than that.

McHugh’s voting record is somewhat mixed – he consistently voted with the GOP on key issues regarding the “war on terror”, but has broken with them on other issues such as S-CHIP, federal minimum-wage increase and repeal of oil company tax credits. He also takes positions in favor of educational grants and fair trade.

It sounds more as though Obama would be losing a potential ally in Congress than strategically removing an obstructionist. So perhaps he really thinks McHugh is the right man for the job. He certainly has the credentials, having served on the House Armed Forces Committee for a long time now.

Here’s hoping that having a moderate choice in there will do some good.

Also of note is that McHugh apparently has something of a sense of humor; having worked hard to support the Army base at Fort Drum, NY, McHugh took issue when the TV show The West Wing mentioned closing it – and went so far as to co-write a letter (with Hillary Clinton) to the character Josh Lyman to urge him to reconsider his position.

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In order to help me keep my electoral math straight, I created a spreadsheet to track the likely winner of the Presidency next Tuesday, entering my own projections plus data for about a dozen relatively realistic alternate scenarios.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also added in worksheets to track the House, Senate and gubernatorial races (including my projections for each one of the roughly 480 races involved), plus one to provide me a running timetable of when the polls in each state will close.

OK, maybe now I’m the only one.

I think of this as geeky. D thinks I’ve strayed well into nerd territory.

However, if anybody else is inclined to use a tool like this, or just keep it handy as a running scorecard while watching Tuesday’s coverage, let me know and I’ll either put it up for download or email it to you directly.

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The legislative process in this country (and likely others) is positively out of wack.

(Note to self: find out where exactly wack is and look into living costs, because things seem to work pretty well in there)

Any bill passing through either House gets all kinds of crazy amendments, many of which have nothing to do with the purpose of the bill, and some of which are only peripherally related.

This is not legislation – this is what I would call Legoslation. Remember playing with Lego bricks and building really weird shit because your bricks didn’t match, or didn’t actually fit together the way you wanted them to? That’s the stuff becoming law in this country.

If someone wants to introduce a bill declaring September 3rd National Salad Day, that’s fine with me. If someone puts an amendment on a health care bill which mandates National Salad Day and you can’t pass the health care agenda without also mandating federal recognition of salad, I consider that a problem.

There are 535 members of Congress, and each of them undoubtedly has a different agenda. But for heaven’s sake, people! You can still co-operate while keeping your agenda separate, and holding important legislation hostage because you want your own little project funded is positively backward.

A good example of this is the recent immigration bill. I think that if you want to build a border fence, draw up a bill providing for the border fence and that alone. If you want to have a guest worker program, draw up a bill for the guest worker program ONLY. If you want to make large-scale changes to the entire immigration system, put together as many bills as can actually be kept separate from each other. This ensures that members of Congress can actually vote according to their own views and for the good of their constituents. And while I recognize that in this sort of a system it will be harder for Joe Congressman in Alaska to get funding for a $3million bridge that doesn’t go anywhere… but that’s kind of the point.

Also, it’s not as though there won’t be wheeling and dealing. Feingold (for example) can agree to vote for a bill sponsored by Dodd (also for example) if Dodd reciprocates. The votes will still be there, you just might actually have to WORK for them instead of bludgeoning the rest of the pack into giving them to you. And perhaps it will even allow for more bipartisan cooperation – if a bloc of Congresspeople (or should that be Elected-Americans?) from the states in the middle want to work together to provide a large-scale agriculture bill which will benefit all of their states, this is not a problem for me. Even amendments which would relate directly to agriculture would be fine. But if Joe Senator in Florida sticks a rider on the bill for urban development projects in Tallahassee and Pensacola, it should be stricken down as a procedural measure, and either introduced separately for a vote on its own merits or as part of a wide-ranging urban development bill. There are enough mutual back-scratching agreements in Congress to allow it to survive this sort of arrangement.

This would also be a good way to reduce the ‘pork’ projects in general – remember that being one of Nancy Pelosi’s promises for the new Democratic-led Congress? Hasn’t happened so far, it’s really just a different batch of pork.

Let’s see an end to Legoslation and a return to legislation. And maybe a National Salad Day, just for the hell of it.

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