As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Senators Against Democracy

OK, is this thing on? By this point you probably know about the great and glorious bipartisan deal to sack Senate rules reform and replace it with something that can be called the same. A week or so ago I crawled out of retirement to castigate the bogus PR of the McCain-Levin compromise, which didn't only do nothing but actually would make the Senate operate worse in some respects. It comes as little surprise that this is almost precisely what will go into effect, right down to the sunset on the reforms to nominations and the motion to proceed, meaning they expire at the end of this Congress. Basically the changes amount to "Majority Leader Time Management Reform." The Majority Leader will get to stack some nominations together and move from one bill to another faster. It makes Harry Reid's job easier. It won't allow for much else. No wonder Reid pulled the trigger on it. The various changes are here and here. I've already said my peace about them. They're accompanied by a "gentlemen's agreement" that the leadership of both parties will force more accountability on the individual Senators doing the filibustering. Somehow I don't believe that a Majority Leader this pissed off about, well, accountability for his colleagues, will enforce that gentlemen's agreement.
At Tuesday's closed-door caucus meeting, Merkley was upbraided by Reid for breaking unspoken Senate rules and naming specific senators in a conference call with Democratic activists last week, according to sources familiar with the exchange. "He's pissed off so many in the caucus," said one Democratic aide piqued at Merkley. "He has been having conference calls with progressive donors and activists trying to get them energized. He's named specific Dem Senators. Many are furious. He was called out on Tuesday in caucus and very well could be again today."
I'm not in the Senate, so let me call them out. Carl Levin, Max Baucus, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Mark Pryor, and perhaps Jack Reed and Joe Manchin. You can go back and forth on why these mostly old lions did what they did. Maybe they were concerned about "protecting minority rights" in the instance that Democrats return to it. This is a B.S. argument. The Senate aide who said "Roe v. Wade might be dead and Social Security would be private accounts" in a filibuster-less world apparently doesn't know that Roe v. Wade was a court case and that private accounts in Social Security, the last time it was introduced, didn't even come up for a vote in the majoritarian Republican-led HOUSE, let alone the Senate. The main usage of the filibuster in its early history was to block anti-lynching legislation. It's been employed most vigorously to stop civil rights laws. The history of the filibuster is a history of blocking liberal progress. And even if it WASN'T, there's a very direct and determined hatred of democracy here. Tom Harkin is pretty much the only Senator who dares to say this, but if the nation decides to elect a particular majority, that majority should have the ability to enact an agenda, and if the public doesn't like it afterward they can vote them out. That's basically how it works, or rather how it should work. Obviously this is a simplistic rendering that doesn't take into account gerrymandering and malapportionment (my top 5 Senate reforms are actually 1) abolition, 2) turning it into the House of Lords and making it irrelevant, 3) majority rule, 4) the "talking filibuster" or 5) shifting the burden on the minority), but that all ought to be worked on as well. The "but the Republicans have the House now, who cares?" argument is similarly bogus and shows no long-term strategy whatsoever. That's particularly true on Senate confirmations, where cabinet-level officials and all federal judges above the district level face basically the same playing field as they always did. House Republicans don't factor into that at all. Most everyone involved in the process, including Harry Reid, said at one point or another that there were 50 votes to do more than the crappy McCain-Levin template we're getting. Put another way, what there really weren't 50 votes for is using the process of changing the rules with 50 votes.  And that's a sad commentary on the upper chamber, which is so afraid of the small-d democratic process they refuse to use it to govern themselves, let alone the rest of the country. This was the first time that outside groups really forced themselves into the conversation on Senate reform, and brought it to a larger segment of the public as a democracy-distorting crisis that needed to be fixed. Fix the Senate Now had a broad coalition. They had money. They had a grassroots strategy. They ran ads. It wasn't Health Care for America Now, but it was pretty darn big for an internal procedural matter. Ultimately, they couldn't help people who refuse to help themseles. As I understand things, it took 22 years to get the cloture threshold lowered from 67 to 60 votes. Incoming freshmen Democrats almost totally supported stronger changes, and while it's not as simple as just picking off the old lions (the Senate does things to your mind, I'm afraid), I don't think the Fix the Senate groups will disband. They may come back stronger, in fact. The problem is that the planet may not have that kind of time. The Senate does move at a glacial pace, but the question is whether or not we'll still have glaciers by they time they get around to fixing things.


Friday, August 19, 2011

The End of Gadhafi?

(FDL is undergoing some maintenance, so posting here for the moment)

There have been a lot of ups and downs in the Libyan civil war, and with the unpredictability on both sides I think it's fair to question whether anything can be decisive. But the rebel taking of the oil refinery at Zawiya is crucial because it cuts off the key supply line and the key supply (oil) to Moammar Gadhafi and his forces in Tripoli. It turns Gadhafi into a sitting duck.

On Thursday , jubilant rebels set up checkpoints at the refinery. Engineers were turning off the supply of petrol to Tripoli, the besieged capital of Gaddafi's rapidly shrinking empire. "Some people were for Gaddafi. Today, these people are less. Sooner or later he is finished," (refinery engineer Yusuf) Hamad predicted, adding that it would be possible to get the refinery going again soon.

After an uprising that has already gone on for seven months, it would be rash to make predictions about when, or if, the Gaddafi regime will crumble. But the government's options are narrowing. The rebels now control the coastal highway between Tripoli and the Tunisian border, a crucial gateway and main supply route for water, petrol, rice and tomatoes.

The rebels are now confidently predicting that they will control Tripoli by the end of the month. A UN envoy is meeting with both sides of the civil war in Tunisia. I don't believe the report that Gadhafi will flee to the neighboring country, but he certainly may be looking for an escape, either to Venezuela or inside Libya as part of a negotiated settlement. That's if the rebels agree to any concessions when they have Tripoli staring them in the face. If they are motivated by freedom and not revenge, they will cut a deal and reduce the loss of human life.

I share the uncontroversial opinion that Gadhafi is a bad guy, and that he should be brought to justice. This six-month ordeal still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Even today we don't have a full picture of who the Libyan rebels are. There have been reports of atrocities and frontier justice against regime supporters. There has been infighting which led to the assassination of the top military commander. Employing NATO for close air support puts the coalition in a position of responsibility in the future that may or may not be desirable.

Throughout I hoped it would work out, and the potential end of Gadhafi's reign of terror is an objectively good thing. Like all of the Arab uprising revolutions, it's a beginning, not an end.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Did It

I knocked down Blogger so Ann Althouse would be vanquished.

Ain't I a stinker?

Labels: ,


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The 23 Judicial Foreclosure States

This is mainly for reference.

Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Total Offense

Because this thought doesn't fit on a political news blog...

People are talking about my man Denard Robinson for the Heisman Trophy because of his "total offense" stats. This is a wildly misleading statistic. A quarterback who also primarily runs the ball for his team is going to have very eye-popping stats. Robinson didn't run the ball or pass against Notre Dame on, I believe, 12 plays. 500 yards total offense is pretty impressive in and of itself, but the spread system will generate those kinds of yardage numbers.

Robinson's obviously a good quarterback, but he's a system quarterback who will gain 300-350 yards pretty much by accident every game, simply by virtue of getting the call in the running game 25 times and throwing short outs another 10-15 times.

This has been a random sports post.

Labels: ,


Saturday, August 21, 2010

How It Works

Just wanted to put this here to remind myself:

Democrats propose X.
Republicans propose Y.
Democrats propose X and Y. This would build confidence that Democrats can get things done.
Republican say no, they can't accept X.
Democrats pass Y.
Then they tell everyone they really wanted to pass X, and they'll fix Y later.

Labels: ,


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Workers Memorial Day In Los Angeles

I'm a blogger fellow with Brave New Films on their 16 Deaths Per Day campaign for worker safety. Join us on Facebook.

Today is Workers Memorial Day, the day we remember those who have died on the job. They come from all walks of life, merely trying to get ahead and create a better world for themselves and their families. And yet, each year, thousands of people die from unsafe working conditions or hazardous duty; 16 deaths per day, in fact.

Over the weekend I attended a Workers Memorial Day event in Los Angeles, at the UCLA Labor Center near MacArthur Park. I saw the makeshift memorial to some of the 404 workers who died at their place of employment in California in 2008, adorned with pictures, flowers, and also the tools of work - cleaning supplies, a computer mouse, fruits and vegetables, a surgical mask, and paint rollers. I read about Damien Whipple, 24, who fell off a train into the tracks while working to switch out rail cars. I read about Abdon Felix, 42, who collapsed in 108 degree heat while loading grapes at Sunview Farms in Delano. I read about Carlos Rivera, a 73 year-old dockworker at the Port of Long Beach who was struck by a forklift carrying rolls of sheet metal.

Every year, worker rights and safety advocates, unionists, clergy, and the families of the victims gather in Los Angeles, to honor these workers and bring awareness of the real problem of worker fatalities. They hold a mock funeral procession around the area, to make everyone in the community aware of the issue, and to demonstrate solidarity with the cause. Leaders read names of 40 of the 404 who died, and after every name, the crowd assembled replied "Presente!" in a show of unity.

Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA) of nearby Long Beach spoke at the event. She's a former member of the Machinist's Union, and she talked about her employment history. "I worked at 'The Bomb Shelter,' a restaurant area, when I went to UCLA. I cleaned the toilets and the tables, and I never recall anyone offering me any gloves," Richardson said. "I worked at UPS, and no one offered me steel-toed shoes." She painted a picture of workers often taken advantage of on the job, of a lack of protective gear and supplies, a lack of training, a lack of empathy by forcing workers to show up even when sick or injured, upon threat of termination.

"That's why I support HR 2067, the Protecting America's Workers Act," Richardson announced to the crowd. "Even though our laws in California are better than most, they're not good enough, and the federal laws haven't been improved in 40 years."

In fact, Workers Memorial Day Coincides with the anniversary of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Richardson is correct - many of those statutes have not been updated for a changing workplace since their passage. "It's not good enough to put a poster on the wall," Richardson said, "we need supervisors following the law, and if they aren't they should be penalized."

We're seeing with the recent high-profile cases of worker deaths, like with the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion, that employers have grown savvy at beating the system and circumventing regulations. That's why they need to be strengthened and given the teeth needed to truly provide for a safe workplace.

And if anything, the recession has deepened that need. We've seen corporate productivity rise as their workforce gets reduced. Basically, most companies are producing more with less. The staffs have increased stress and that can lead to more accidents. Some advocates for hotel workers told me that hotel staff has been slashed across the board even as amenities increase and the workload rises. This can easily lead to preventable accidents.

In a proclamation today on the 40th anniversary of OSHA, President Obama recognized the need for constant vigilance in protecting America's workers:

Although these large-scale tragedies are appalling, most workplace deaths result from tragedies that claim one life at a time through preventable incidents or disabling disease. Every day, 14 workers are killed in on-the-job incidents, while thousands die each year of work-related disease, and millions are injured or contract an illness. Most die far from the spotlight, unrecognized and unnoticed by all but their families, friends, and co-workers -- but they are not forgotten.

The legal right to a safe workplace was won only after countless lives had been lost over decades in workplaces across America, and after a long and bitter fight waged by workers, unions, and public health advocates. Much remains to be done, and my Administration is dedicated to renewing our Nation's commitment to achieve safe working conditions for all American workers.

Providing safer work environments will take the concerted action of government, businesses, employer associations, unions, community organizations, the scientific and public health communities, and individuals. Today, as we mourn those lost mere weeks ago in the Upper Big Branch Mine and other recent disasters, so do we honor all the men and women who have died on the job. In their memory, we rededicate ourselves to preventing such tragedies, and to securing a safer workplace for every American.

Now OSHA merely needs the proper tools to succeed in their mission. And the Protecting America's Workers Act can provide it.

Labels: , , , ,