District of Columbia

Hypocrisy in the House

With an expanded majority in the 111th Congress Speaker Pelosi has decided to revisit a fight she lost in May of 2007.

At the time it was only a few months into the new Congress, but Democrats had become frustrated with the Republicans success in forcing votes on tough issues.  Unable to maintain control under the same rules Hillary Clinton had famously accused Republicans of using to run the House, "like a plantation ... in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard," they decided to take the extraordinary step of altering the rules mid-session to limit debate.

As Politico described the plan,"Democrats suggested changing the House rules to limit the minority's right to offer motions to recommit bills back to committee -- violating a protection that has been in place since 1822."  This power grab provoked an immediate backlash, with Republicans essentially shutting down the chamber by forcing a series of procedural votes on the House floor.  In the face of such a strong response the Democrats backed down and withdrew the proposal.

But it appears that Speaker Pelosi was merely biding her time.  With the start of the 111th Congress this week Democrats unveiled a package of rules changes that go far beyond what they were attempting in 2007.  While clearly outling their opposition House Republicans were unable to prevent the rules from being adopted on a nearly party line vote of 242-181 with only 6 Democrats finding the courage to vote against their party.

These new rules: limit the right of the minority to offer motions to recommit; abolish term limits on Committee Chairs, returning the House to the pre-1995 status quo where powerful chairs refused to relinquish power, serving until death or retirement; weaken the pay-go rules that Democrats campaigned on in 2006; and reverse the prohibition on votes being held open for the purpose of changing the outcome.

This is in stark contrast to the many promises Democrats made before taking power, such as Steny Hoyer's statement that, "We intend to have a Rules Committee … that gives opposition voices and alternative proposals the ability to be heard and considered on the floor of the House" (CongressDaily PM, 12/5/2006) and Nancy Pelosi's pledge, "...to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."  It also violates the spirit of their campaign document 'A New Direction for America' published in June of 2006 that outlined a Congress that would work for all Americans instead of simply a narrow constituency.

Change indeed.

Democrats Having Trouble With Democrats Over 'Card Check'?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Big Labor is finding that it might have a bit less of a lock than it thought on its pet legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Apparently, several southern Democrats -- those that live in right to work states -- as well as some moderates are signaling Senate Majority leader Harry Reid that they are not as interested in entertaining passage of the act as they were when they knew that the GOP was strong enough to filibuster it and when they had a president that stood ready to veto it.

Instead, union leaders now say they are being told card check won't happen soon. It seems the Obama team plans to devote its opening months to important issues, like the economy, and has no intention of jumping straight into the mother of all labor brawls. It also seems Majority Leader Harry Reid, even with his new numbers, might not have what it takes to overcome a filibuster. It's a case study in how quickly a political landscape can change, and how frequently the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Of course this little incident illustrates the insincerity of much of what goes on in the Democratic Party. These guys were happy to appear to vote on this measure when they knew that it wouldn't pass. This way, they could go to their union thug supporters and pretend they were all for their anti-democratic idea in card check all along. But, when it comes to crunch time and they are finally in a position to vote for the law that they claimed they supported, suddenly they reveal that they were simply lying to their supporters. They really don't support the bill because it is a jobs killer and it takes away people's democratic rights.

Of course, it would have been better morally to simply admit their real stance on this bill in the first place. Had they have done that, we wouldn't even be in a position where such an immoral bill could possibly pass. It would have been history long ago.

President Bush pulled this immoral triangulation once, too. He signed the unAmerican and unConstitutional McCain/Fiengold campaign finance "reform" bill expected the Supreme Court to shoot it down. Bush and his cohorts did not support that bill, but he triangulated, assuming that someone else would take the heat for getting rid of it. But Bush was shocked to find that the SCOTUS refused to take the bait and now, because Bush wouldn't stand up for what is right and hoped to kick that can down the road to someone else, we are stuck with McLame/Fienmold.

When will we get a politician with some moral clarity and a backbone?

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Just a reminder... when did the Financial mess start?

Bush tried to regulate and supervise Fannie and Freddie... but the Democrats scoffed at it all and blocked Bush from trying to fix the financial mess. So, whose fault is the economic mess?

Here is what Representative Barney Frank said in 2003 about Fannie and Freddie:

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not in a crisis."

"The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the treasury, which I do not see -- I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and will withstand some of the disaster scenarios. And even if there were a problem the federal government doesn't bail them out. But the more pressure there is there, then the less I think we see in terms of affordable housing."

Here is a video that YouTube initially pulled because it proved that the Democrats are at fault.

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Why Isn’t Romney in the RNC Race?

Political observers of all stripes know that Mitt Romney wants to run for President in 2012. He seemed to have a future run in mind the day he quit the 2008 race at CPAC this past February. As the Boston Globe recently reported, Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC has barely doled out any cash to preferred candidates and is viewed as likely saving up for a 2012 run.

What then does Romney have planned for the next four years? Here are five reasons why heading the RNC would help him with another run at the presidency:

1) It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Republican Party became the party of big government conservatism and wasteful spending over the past eight years. It needs to reclaim a fiscally conservative message to broaden its base and appeal to working-class Americans. The biggest issue facing the country over the next year is likely to be the continued economic crisis, and unlike traditional party hacks, Romney has real credentials in this arena. He is uniquely positioned to be a party leader on economic issues.

2) Default Opposition to Obama: If he hopes to be successful in a 2012 run, Romney will first have to convince Republicans that he is the best alternative to a President Obama. By assuming the Chairmanship, the media will anoint him as the opposition leader by default four years in advance. Having a steady platform with which to contrast with Obama will give him a significant leg-up heading into the 2012 primaries.

3) Republican Message Control: Rather than having to worry about what the national party is saying and doing in the 2010 election cycle, Romney will be able to control that message (at least that coming from the RNC, Congress is another story). This will allow him to decide on a method of contrast and attack during his tenure that will then flow into his 2012 bid.

4) Re-shape the Party Message: Romney was sharply criticized in the 2008 primary cycle for flip-flopping on various issues, mostly social, to accommodate the Republican base. As Chairman, Romney would have the ability, both subtly and overtly, to re-shape the party message to his liking rather than feel the need to adjust his positions to fit party orthodoxy.

5) Continue to Chip Away at Mormon Issue: Being elected Chairman would not eliminate this as a potential issue for Romney. Ken Mehlman ran the RNC and it would be difficult to argue that a Jewish candidate would still not face significant opposition in certain circles of the party. But by taking on such a visible leadership role, this would allow Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to view him simply as the Republican leader rather than as a member of any specific religious faith.

After serving two-years as Chairman, through the 2010 election cycle, Romney could then announce his intentions to run for President and focus on the buildup of his campaign operation ahead of the primary election.

Critics of a Romney chairmanship would likely argue that assuming such a position would provide little political benefit for him. He would be wasting his time.

Why bog yourself down running day-to-day operations of a national party?

There is no requirement that the RNC Chairman be involved in day-to-day operations of a bureaucracy. Rather, Romney could install a capable, well-respected, and trusted Executive Director for the party while acting largely as a spokesman and big-picture planner. He would immediately become the face of the party. He could only dream of attaining this status over the next two years if he were to continue to stand on the sidelines.

Romney is too high-profile to run the RNC.

Says who? McCain had too little money to win the nomination. Obama was too inexperienced to be elected President. There is no rulebook to this game. The political media is scarcely paying any attention to the race for Chairman, let alone the average American, who does not even know that there is a race. The party has a leadership void and both the party and the media would embrace having someone high-profile at the helm.

Running the RNC may help him get through the primaries, but would be harmful in a general election.

George Bush headed the RNC in the 1970s a decade before becoming President. Given the messiah-like way in which Obama rose to victory in this election, it is hard to argue that 2012 will be anything other than a referendum on the Obama presidency. So why not accept this fact and start drawing contrasts where they exist right away? There is no better vehicle for Romney to articulate his message than by serving as the head of his party.

RNC duties would get in the way of fundraising for his campaign.

This may be true. But Romney’s considerable personal wealth makes this less important of an issue than it would be for most candidates. In addition, the benefits of traveling to all fifty states for the RNC and building up considerable institutional support amongst RNC members and GOP activists far outweigh the costs of reduced fundraising capacity.

Disclosure: This author is not supporting Romney for this position.



Obama's New School Chief Supported Creating Gay High School in Chicago

So, how often do you think that the Old Media will mention that Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Education, Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, supported to be opened in Chicago a gay, lesbian and transgender high school? Any takers?

I have looked over many of the stories on Obama's pick for Sec of Ed, but seen mention of his support of the gay high school only a few times. Only three stories mentioned it out of the first 20 I checked. Even the Wall Street Journal didn't mention it in their announcement of the Obama pick.

Of that gay-friendly school, Duncan was quoted by Chicago land news outlets in October.

"If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates...Studies show they are disproportionately homeless," Duncan said. "I think there is a niche there we need to fill."

One wonders if Duncan will bring this proposal with him to Washington D.C. and attempt to force school systems all across the country to start up their own gay, lesbian and transgender schools?

So, shall we take bets to see how often this gets brought up?

Education Week reported on the connections of Arne Duncan and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the far left organization that tried to shut out researchers from finding out about Barack Obama's connection to terrorist William Ayers during the campaign. (Ed. Week is a subscription site, but I found another place that had the full article reproduced )

In the Ed. Week article, Ken Rolling, the executive director of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and a former associate director of the Woods Fund, said that Duncan relied on the Annenberg Challenge to assist him in programing the Chicago Public Schools agenda.

Mr. Rolling said the research project helped shape the agenda for Arne Duncan, the current chief executive officer of the Chicago schools, especially on improving teacher quality.

So, there is another unsavory aspect of Duncan's connections. Will the media report it?

(Photo credit: An AP file photo courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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Raising Federal Gas Taxes Raised to... Stop Terrorism?

The Washington Post is directing a December 8 plea to the incoming Obama administration. The Post wants to raise the federal gas tax so high that it will stop people from driving. The Post thinks this will serve our national security purposes and add more money to rebuild our nation's roads. Apparently, the Washington Post has the foolishly mistaken notion that federal gas tax receipts actually go where our Congress initially claimed it was going to go; our nation's roads. In fact, nearly half of the federal gas tax receipts go to pork instead of roads and infrastructure.

But, despite the waste by government, here is the Washington Post trying to soak America's drivers even more by suggesting Congress raise the federal gas tax by 46 cents a gallon. The Post thinks that recently falling gas prices offers a "golden opportunity" for the government to emulate Europe and pile taxes high on each gallon purchased. The Post is obviously unaware that the US did not become the greatest nation on earth by emulating Europe!

So, what does the Post think will be accomplished by raising the gas tax? They think we will suddenly be safer, as if paying confiscatory taxes like Europe will suddenly make terrorism go away. Not only that, but high taxes will, in the Post's opinion, "improve highway safety," too.

This step would stimulate the market for new fuel-efficient cars; defund mischief-making petro-states; and cut carbon emissions. Not only that, it would reduce traffic, curb urban sprawl and, by giving drivers an incentive to drive more slowly, improve highway safety.

All dubious claims, for certain.

Sadly, the Post seems willfully ignorant of what federal gas taxes actually end up paying for. The Post seems to imagine that Congress can be trusted to take this windfall gas tax and actually spend it on our nation's roads and bridges. The Post is completely innocent of any thought that this money will just fuel more profligate Congressional spending instead of fueling a positive change in our infrastructure and driving habits.

It's hard to believe that a national newspaper of the prominence of the Washington Post could be so filled with naiveté. The entirety of federal gas tax does not go to the upkeep and building of the nation's highways. In fact, it goes to things that have nothing at all to do with the safety and repair of our highways. Often times as much as 42% of these taxes end up going to pork barrel spending and earmarks. In 2005, for instance, well over one million dollars of gas taxes went to several museums around the country to pay for building projects. And that is just some of the $12 billion in pork and wasteful projects funded by federal transportation spending during that year... not to mention every year before and after.

Then the Washington Post makes the most idiotic suggestion I've yet seen. The Post thinks we should soak the driver with a gas tax all year, yet then turn around and rebate it with income tax refunds on April 15th.

But surely voters can understand that, even if Congress were to triple the tax to 55.2 cents, gas would still be cheaper, in real terms, than it was in 2005. The increase could be rebated through the income tax system.

So, what exactly would be the purpose of soaking every driver in America every day, to steal his money, but then turn around and give the taxes back at the end of the tax season? How does that even make any logical sense? Would the money spent on infrastructure magically reappear in time to refund it to the tax payer? How does spent money just magically reappear?

The Post sums up their little fantasy world with an awful lot of bald faced assumptions without any real proof to back them up.

Whenever anyone mentions the gas tax, politicians are quick to warn their constituents about the costs; rarely do they mention the benefits. A higher gas tax would buy valuable public goods: national security; a cleaner environment; and safer, less congested streets. No matter what, Americans will have to pay for all of that. Why not do it the simple, straightforward way?

Sorry, Washington Post. But all a higher federal gas tax will do is give the piggies at the trough in Washington D.C. more money than ever to waste on pet projects and pork barrel spending. Sure higher taxes will stop people from driving. It will also raise the costs of transportation, food, entertainment and everything else that is connected with the trucking and shipping industry -- which is just about everything. Higher taxes will not build roads, make highways safer, or eliminate the threat of terrorism from petro-dollar infused outlaw Muslim states.

The problem with Congress isn't that they don't get enough taxes. It's that they waste most of what they already get. But you go on with your little fantasy world, there, Washington Post. Forget about the reality that stares us all right in then face.

The belief in big government is pathological with these people.

(Image credit: cfnews13.com)

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Has Joe Biden EVER Read the Constitution?

The Politico reported recently that the Democrat majority intends to "restore" the "proper" role of the vice president once Obama is sworn into office. They claim that they will somehow roll back the power that Cheney "stole" from Congress and that Biden will not be allowed as much leeway as Cheney was.

Of course, it's all well and good that what the vice president can or cannot do is reassessed from time to time. It is certainly up to each administration how to use its vice president and, to a certain degree, for Congress to assist the administration to set that role. Many vice presidents have had almost no role at all in the administration, still others have had a little while a few have comparatively had a lot of powers and duties.

So, outside of the Constitutionally prescribed role for the vp, it is perfectly in line with tradition and law for an administration to decide how much power its vp will reasonably have and what duties he will perform.

But, some of the quotes seem to show that Joe Biden himself has no idea what the Constitution says about the vice president.

Asked about the incumbent’s interpretation of the vice presidency, Biden said: “Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.”

“The primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote,” Biden said., “The Constitution is explicit. The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.”

Um, Joe, the vice president IS mentioned in Article I. Have you ever read the Constitution?

Article One of the Constitution says this of the vice president:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

Article I does not say, Joe, that the vice president "has no authority relative to the Congress." If Congress accepts a role for the vp that the president suggests, then there is nothing saying that he cannot take this role as long as it doesn’t actually encroach on the defined powers of the Senate.

What everyone should "understand," Joe, is that the vice president DOES have a role defined in Article I. The vp is mentioned there and it is obvious that he has some role in the legislative branch. The argument that Cheney made is just as legitimate as the one you are making, Joe.

So, Joe, you can argue that you don't think the vp should exercise much power, but you cannot say that the Constitution "says" he has none. In truth, the Constitution says little about what a vice president does or doesn't do. It is up to a joint decision of Congress and the administration to decide what role that will be.

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We need to do something if we are to survive!!!

There needs to be a change to the Republican Party starting with the graceful exit of the current leadership. They have done their best and they need to step aside. It is clear that we need voices that are current and no longer live in the past, mind you I do not feel we should in any way forget the past we just need to learn from it and move forward.

Further changes or a better way to put it would be that we need to take a "different direction"as a party or better yet return to the direction that this party was founded on. We need to return to our roots as the party for ALL THE PEOPLE and we need to do this by governing again.

We need to keep our values strong and we need to attract a younger base. We are not the strong the party of Conservatives that we once were. We are now considered the party of the extreme that is not willing to change. I have no issue with any one group of the party, but we really need to adjust our thinking to include everyone.

The days of the Grand OLD Party need to evolve into something that all of the people can agree with. I am not suggesting folks to give up there values, I am asking the leadership (especially the leadership in states that were defeated in) to step aside and allow the party to grow with new voices and different ides. Folks if we do not than we might as well fold up our tents and close up shop.

The clock is ticking we only have 2 years to fix the current problem and it needs to start now.




Web 2.0: Yes we will.

It's the Webster's opinion that the GOP has plenty of ideas, a solid core brand, and had a terrific '08 ticket sailing into a political perfect storm.  There are twice as many self-identified conservatives as progressives.  We easily will eclipse the Left's very impressive performance in rallying their base simply by giving space to rank and file citizens on the Web and giving them gentle guidance about practical ways they can make an impact -- with a click!

I've been speaking to the leaders of many advocacy groups and there is real enthusiasm for adopting a new, more optimistic populist model.  How?  By creating social networking webspaces that are inviting to activists and concerned citizens, inviting people to come to the fore in a site context comparable to my.barackobama.com. 

The good news is that the tech has been made ultra-simple, easier than blogging! -- and is free (or, in a premium service, at very modest cost) from Ning.com.  The Susan B. Anthony List's pilot of this model, TeamSarah.org, saw its community grow from 30 members two months ago to about 60,000 today -- with 6.6+ million internal pageviews.  And continues to grow post-election.  (Full disclosure: I architected Team Sarah for them.  Props to Emily, the site's key leader.  She really gets it.  We will get it too!)

Web 1.0 was 99% about informing and educating, 1% about listening.  Web 2.0 is 99% about listening and 1% about informing and educating.  Properly done, this is a recipe for creating intense and effective populist communities and is available to anyone who wishes to give it a try.  One has already begun to go to scale, others will too.  I've laid out a few how-to tips on www.thewebstersdictionary.com, the companion site to my recently published The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World, which was deeply informed by many astute postings by Ruffini and may be downloaded in eBook form for free.

The "net" result is that we don't have to criticize, complain, or persuade anyone -- in the party, elected officials, donors, opinion leaders -- to do anything.  Anyone so inclined can just do it herself or himself.  (And by the way, the success stories all share an implicit common factor of having a lot of women involved, which is a secret key to succcess.  The Boy's Club Model is defective for reasons that may end up as a topic of discussion in thewebstersdictionary.com's own social network found under the tab marked "Bar & Grill."  If you wish your effort to succeed, make sure that women have full presence, status and participation.  If you don't know how to do this ... and many guys do not -- ask around until you figure it out.  But if you intend to win -- do it.)

The Web has put the power in our hands.  We have the tools.  We have the model.

Use your newfound powers only for Good!

Ralph Benko

"The Webster"

;  )

Fed. Employee's Labor Chief's Demands Presented to Obama

And it begins. President of the National Treasury Employees Union, one of the Federal government's largest labor unions, has drawn up her demands for president-elect Obama to fulfill as payback for union support for his candidacy.

Colleen M. Kelly has announced her demands and two of them are quite controversial. The first, that the employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) get unionized, shows that unions want to be in a place to impede our national security. The second, the firing of all current members of the Federal Service Impasses Panel, shows that unions want to eliminate any oversight that might hinder union corruption and give them a freer hand to hide their own illegal activities.

Thus far, the Bush administration has succeeded in stopping the unionization of employees of the TSA and for good reason. Should the TSA be unionized, this would eliminate any possibility that the government could fire or even regulate the people that are supposed to be making sure our airlines are safe and free of terrorists. This would not only add another layer of distance between government (and therefore we the people) and its employees, but it would also make it harder to control the security of our airports. In fact, it would make it impossible for government to control the safety of our airports.

The second is even more obvious. If all current members of the FSI Panel are dumped and labor friendly shills put in their place, we will be handing unions a free pass to indulge in as much corruption as they wish to get away with. Currently the board as well as the Office of Labor Management Standards are a target for elimination by unions as these government groups monitor and punish unions for criminal behavior.

Obama took millions upon millions of dollars both in direct contributions as well as in campaign assistance from unions and unions expect payback for their generosity. But if Obama indulges them he will be proving that he is against security at our airports and soft on union criminals.

We'll have to see what he does. But we will be watching.

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