Daily Archive: 11/27/2012

Nov 27 2012

The Election Industrial Complex

Nov 27 2012

Post Election Redux: What Republicans Have Not Learned from Losing

While Republicans at the federal level appear to understand that they have a huge demographics problem with Latino and women voters, the lesson of the loss has failed to reach the Republicans at the state level. As Rachel Maddow explains in states where Republicans control the legislature and governorship, they are taking further steps to pass legislation that cracks down on undocumented immigrants, gay rights and women’s access to abortion and reproductive health care:

But where Republicans are really in control of government, as in Kansas for example, Maddow said the party is taking steps to “crack down on immigrants who want to go to college.” She also said that the Republican leadership in Indiana is moving to add a constitutional ban on gay marriage to the state constitution-in a state where gay marriage is already illegal. In Ohio, Maddow said, one of the first things the state government did after the November election was hold a hearing on defunding Planned Parenthood. [..]

Maddow added that Republicans at the state level are still “waging wars” on issues like immigration, abortion, and gay marriage, even though members of the party seem to be saying otherwise on a national level. Speaking of the differences between Republican messages, Maddow said, “Somebody should tell the Beltway, or maybe it’s funnier if we don’t.”

Keep in mind some of these same Republican governors, like Wisconsin’s union and women hating Scott Walker and Louisiana’s creationist Bobby Jindal, are considered top contenders for the 2016 presidential ticket. And you thought they couldn’t do worse that Mitt Romney.  

Nov 27 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial: Leadership at the S.E.C.

In appointing Elisse Walter, a Democratic commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission, to serve as the agency’s next chairwoman, President Obama appears to be aiming for continuity when Mary Schapiro, the current chairwoman, steps down next month.

That’s understandable on one level. With markets especially touchy in fear of the so-called fiscal cliff, now is no time to leave the agency with an interim chief. By elevating Ms. Walter, Mr. Obama ensures that she has the full power of the position, while leaving open the door to nominate someone else later, as he is expected to do. Seen in that light, Ms. Walter is a place holder, but with authority.

But on another level, the naming of Ms. Walter is problematic. The S.E.C. badly needs to be revitalized, not held to its present course.

Joe Nocera: Obama’s New Cabinet

Is that really whom President Obama named on Monday to be the new chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission? A woman who has been at the S.E.C. for the last four years? And, to boot, someone practically joined at the hip with her predecessor, Mary Schapiro? Say it ain’t so, Mr. President.

No doubt, Commissioner Walter is a fine public servant. What she is not, however, is a fresh face with new ideas. And isn’t that half the point of second-term appointments? They give a president a chance to name cabinet or agency directors who can breathe new life into their departments. Second-term appointments are presidential do-overs.

Robert Reich: Why Is the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers Helping the Republicans?

If the President’s strategy is to hold his ground and demand from Republicans tax increases on the wealthy, presumably his strongest bargaining position would be to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on schedule come January – causing taxes to rise automatically, especially on the wealthy.

So you’d think part of that strategy would be reassure the rest of the public that the fiscal cliff isn’t so bad or so steep, and that at the start of January Democrats will introduce in Congress a middle-class tax cut whose effect is to prevent taxes from rising for most people (thereby forcing Republicans to vote for a tax cut for the middle class or hold it hostage to a tax cut for the wealthy as well).

Eugene Robinson: Cracks in the Anti-Tax Wall

Maybe the fever is breaking. Maybe the delirium is lifting. Maybe Republicans are finally asking themselves: What were we thinking when we put an absurdly unrealistic pledge to a Washington lobbyist ahead of our duty to the American people?

I said maybe. So far, the renunciations of Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” amount to a trickle, not a flood. But we’re seeing the first signs in years that on the question of taxation-one of the fundamental responsibilities of government-the GOP may be starting to recover its senses.

Dean Baker: If the Budget Debate Had a Nate Silver

At this point almost everyone has heard of Nate Silver, the New York Times polling analyst who had all the pundits looking stupid on election night. Silver managed to call every state exactly right. He ignored the gibberish about momentum or voters’ moods and simply focused on the data given by the various polls taken in the final weeks of the campaign.

While Silver’s work has likely permanently transformed election coverage, it is interesting to think about a similar analysis being applied elsewhere — for example, the debate over the budget. Suppose that we had someone focused on actual data involved in the budget debate instead of the silly rhetoric coming from the Republicans and Democrats. [..]

Unfortunately, there is no one like Nate Silver in the budget debates who can force the participants to look at logic and evidence. For the foreseeable future the budget debate will be dominated by the Karl Roves of both political parties. This is too bad, because the Karl Roves in the budget debate don’t just want to mislead us about Governor Romney’s election prospects; they want to take away our Social Security and Medicare.

Frank Bruni: Is Grover Finally Over?

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina dissed Norquist on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that “when you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Peter King of New York also stressed that the country’s current fiscal woes trumped vows made in less debt-ridden times, and over on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator John McCain signaled a receptiveness to new revenue, another dagger to Norquist’s dark heart. [..]

There’s no place for absolutists and absolutism in a democracy, which is designed for give-and-take, for compromise. That’s one of the lessons of “Lincoln,” which moviegoers are thronging to and intellectuals are swooning for precisely because it illuminates and validates the intrinsic and purposeful messiness of our system. It exalts flexibility. It venerates pragmatism.

And I hope that Republicans and Democrats alike will keep those principles in mind as we approach the so-called fiscal cliff. Norquist certainly hasn’t, but then he bears no responsibility for governing and is concerned less with voters and their welfare than with those of us in the news media, who have been too quick to summon him, rewarding his staged and reliable vividness.

Nov 27 2012

On This Day In History November 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 27 is the 331st day of the year (332nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 34 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1703, a freak storm over England, that had begun around November 14, peaks.

The unusual weather began on November 14 as strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean battered the south of Britain and Wales. Many homes and other buildings were damaged by the pounding winds, but the hurricane-like storm only began doing serious damage on November 26. With winds estimated at over 80 miles per hour, bricks were blown from some buildings and embedded in others. Wood beams, separated from buildings, flew through the air and killed hundreds across the south of the country. Towns such as Plymouth, Hull, Cowes, Portsmouth and Bristol were devastated.

However, the death toll really mounted when 300 Royal Navy ships anchored off the country’s southern coast-with 8,000 sailors on board-were lost. The Eddystone Lighthouse, built on a rock outcropping 14 miles from Plymouth, was felled by the storm. All of its residents, including its designer, Henry Winstanley, were killed. Huge waves on the Thames River sent water six feet higher than ever before recorded near London. More than 5,000 homes along the river were destroyed.

Eddystone Lighthouse is on the treacherous Eddystone Rocks, 9 statute miles (14 kilometres) south west of Rame Head, United Kingdom. While Rame Head is in Cornwall, the rocks are in Devon.

The current structure is the fourth lighthouse to be built on the site. The first and second were destroyed. The third, also known as Smeaton’s Tower, is the best known because of its influence on lighthouse design and its importance in the development of concrete for building. Its upper portions have been re-erected in Plymouth as a monument.

The first lighthouse on Eddystone Rocks (first picture above) was an octagonal wooden structure built by Henry Winstanley. Construction started in 1696 and the light was lit on 14 November 1698. During construction, a French privateer took Winstanley prisoner, causing Louis XIV to order his release with the words “France is at war with England, not with humanity”.

The lighthouse survived its first winter but was in need of repair, and was subsequently changed to a dodecagonal (12 sided) stone clad exterior on a timber framed construction with an Octagonal top section as can be clearly seen in the later drawings or paintings, one of which is to the left. This gives rise to the claims that there have been five lighthouses on Eddystone Rock. Winstanley’s tower lasted until the Great Storm of 1703 erased almost all trace on 27 November. Winstanley was on the lighthouse, completing additions to the structure. No trace was found of him.

Nov 27 2012

Congressional Game of Chicken: Fixing Filibuster, Part II

Jon Walker at FDL Action was pretty miffed at this editorial in the Los Angeles Times regarding filibuster reform, especially this really stupid paragraph:

One response would be to eliminate the filibuster altogether. As a Senate rule, it can be changed by the majority party, and Democrats could eliminate it (though, of course, Republicans would almost certainly filibuster such a move). That, however, would also do away with the filibuster’s legitimate and historic place. Rather than eliminating the rule, the better approach would be to amend it in such a way as to preserve the ability for minorities to fight against one-party steamrolling while scaling back the filibuster’s capacity for obstructing everything.

Yikes! This is not only stupid, as Jon said, but it is wrong about how the Senate rules can be changed. Rules changes can’t be filibustered. While making such a rule change in the Senate would normally require a 67-vote majority, but when the Senate comes back into session in January, Democrats could use a set of procedural rules often called the “nuclear option” and pass the changes with a simple 51-vote majority. That scares the pants off the Republicans and had Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blustering and making:

The Kentucky Republican said changing the filibuster – which was designed to protect the minority but has become a tool for constant gridlock in the modern Senate – would fundamentally alter how the Senate operates.

McConnell accused Democrats of trying to employ a “naked power grab.”

“In the name of efficiency, their plan is to use a heavy-handed tactic that would poison party relations even more,” McConnell said in a lengthy floor speech Monday. “In the name of efficiency, they would prevent the very possibility of compromise and threaten to make the disputes of the past few years look like mere pillow fights.”

Sen. McConnell was exaggerating since no one, not even Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said he “favors” filibuster, has suggested eliminating it entirely. But who would expect anything less than hyperbole from a man whose party has set a record for filibusters with over 360 since the Democrats came into the majority. But not to be outdone by their fearless leader other Republican senators voiced their objections in strongly worded terms:

Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.

“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”

“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

I’m not exactly sure how they would accomplish a “shut down” if the tool they’ve been using to shut down the senate is taken away from them or changed so that they can no longer obstruct the business that the majority was elected to do. After all for six years the Republicans, with Dick Cheney George W. Bush in the Oval Office, used the threat of the “nuclear option” to end any Democratic attempt at filibuster. Now the shoe is on the other foot and suddenly ending filibuster will destroy democracy.

We’ve been down this road before:

With the obstruction of a very united minority, there has been a great deal of debate about the filibuster and the reform of Senate Rule 22. In a New York Times op-ed, Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, recalls how in 1975 when he was a Senator, the Senate voted to reduce the number of votes required to end filibuster from 67 votes, a super majority, to the current 60 votes. Clearly, he states this was not enough. Filibuster threats and cloture votes blocked legislation nearly 100 times in the 111th Congress.

Mr. Mondale argues that essentially, these rules abrogate the Constitution which only requires a 67 vote majority for the approval of treaties, “in all other instances it must be assumed that the Constitution requires only a majority vote”. In other words, many of the Senate rules are unconstitutional and could be done away with on a simple majority procedural vote under Parliamentary rules. That was the “[nuclear option ” that was used as a threat by the Republicans to force the Democrats to capitulate when they were in the minority.

One more time from me:

I have said this a number of times, the filibuster as it is currently being used to obstruct the Senate is unconstitutional. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and cannot be abrogated by the Senate merely making a rule. The Vice President presides over the Senate and has a duty to make rulings on order and procedure when the Senate is in session. The Constitution provides for “one-person-one-vote” and “majority rules”, there is no mention of “filibuster”.

It is amazingly simple:

  1. During debate, a Republican Senator engages in a standard obstruction tactic, such as a hold, actual filibuster, or proposing numerous, non-germane Amendments.

  2. The Vice President, as Presiding Officer, rules that Senator’s hold, filibuster or spurious amendments out of order.

  3. The Senator who holds the floor, and had attempted the hold (filibuster, or amendments), could then appeal the decision of the Presiding Officer to the Senate as a whole.

  4. A simple majority (51) can then vote to uphold the ruling of the Presiding Officer that the hold (filibuster or amendments) were out of order.

 

This mechanism is not without precedent:

In 1975 the filibuster issue was revived by post-Watergate Democrats frustrated in their efforts to enact popular reform legislation like campaign finance laws. Senator James Allen of Alabama, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and a skillful parliamentary player, blocked them with a series of filibusters. Liberals were fed up with his delaying tactics. Senator Walter Mondale pushed a campaign to reduce the threshold from sixty-seven votes to a simple majority of fifty-one. In a parliamentary sleight of hand, the liberals broke Allen’s filibuster by a majority vote, thus evading the sixty-seven-vote rule. (Senate rules say you can’t change the rules without a cloture vote, but the Constitution says the Senate sets its own rules. As a practical matter, that means the majority can prevail whenever it decides to force the issue.) In 1975 the presiding officer during the debate, Vice President Rockefeller, first ruled with the liberals on a motion to declare Senator Allen out of order. When Allen appealed the “ruling of the chair” to the full Senate, the majority voted him down. Nervous Senate leaders, aware they were losing the precedent, offered a compromise. Henceforth, the cloture rule would require only sixty votes to stop a filibuster.

And what Jon said:

There is no legitimate reason for allowing the minority, the party which lost the recent election, to have a veto in the Senate. The founders never intended a Senate minority to have such awesome power over basic legislation. The Constitutions clear stated the few  very important issues that should require a super majority in the chamber, everything else was intended to be a simple majority vote.

The idea that without a filibuster a majority in the Senate is going to steamroll are system is laughable. A senate majority is already checked and balanced by the House, the President and the judiciary. If a party does manage to dominates multiple elections allowing them to full control, they should be able to enact the agenda they run on. That is how democracy are suppose to work.

The US Senate has always been the slow deliberative body, it was not the intent of the Founders that it become bogged down to a halt by the minority misusing a rule that is probably not even constitutional in the first place. Sen. Reid was far too trusting of the duplicitous Republican leadership at the start of the 112th congress when he accepted their “gentlemen’s agreement”, shutting down the reform proposed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The Republicans are not to be trusted.

I’m with Jon. It’s time the Senate ended the obstruction and put an end to Rule 22 altogether. Neither the Senate or the world will end and our elected officials will get back to governing.