You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Congress’ category.
Here’s a copy of a note to a friend who asked about my opinion of the recent Benghazi hearings:
Bottom line: I fear that our government structure and processes, including the current two-party system, is failing the republic, and us.
The American news media have a blind eye, a lack of perspective, when they report on many things, including the Boston marathon bombing, the current gun issues before Congress, the U.S. record of foreign military adventures and international relations. There are too many exceptions to American exceptionalism. So perhaps its takes a foreigner, like Australian journalist Bill Hoffman, to see things as they are and hold America accountable. Here’s an excerpt from an article he wrote today, forwarded by a friend who also sees the big picture:
“THE Boston bombing was despicable by any measure, but whether it was the act of external terrorism or internal malcontent it should have surprised nobody.
“The language particularly of the right of US politics has become so loose and unrestrained that its capacity to incite some to extreme actions should never be underestimated.
“Equally a nation that has waged continuous war and constantly been an occupier of foreign countries for the past decade can hardly expect to be immune to bite-back.
“If 1% of the coverage afforded yesterday’s blast had been given inside the United States to the impact on individual civilians of its own military activity there may be a greater appreciation of the potential consequences.
“The United States considers itself the world’s greatest democracy. By some measures that may be true.
“But the reality of its economic system renders many of its citizens powerless.
“Trapped in poverty, the poor gamble with their lives as foot soldiers for military adventurism promoted by the arms industry and energy companies, simply for the right to decent healthcare and education.
“The US spends $711 billion or 4.7% of its GDP on its military, more than $90 billion of which funds its presence in Afghanistan and other conflicts.
“That represents 41% of military spending globally.
“Yet 15% of the American population or 46.2 million people live in poverty, including 21.9% of those less than 18 years of age.
“Limited access to quality education coupled with exposure to media and politicians who show no restraint, in a nation where there is a constitutional right to own weapons with the capacity to wipe out 26 schoolchildren in the blink of an eye, creates a potent mix.
Nobody should be unconcerned about North Korea’s nuclear capacity or religious jihadists. But we should be no less troubled by Iran’s ambitions than by the hypocrisy that ignores the truth about Israel’s arsenal.”
On Morning Joe today, someone suggested we should celebrate Congress, which is apparently getting together on background checks applicable to gun show and gun shop weapon purchases. I guess we are so disillusioned with our Congress, that any little progress at all is cause for celebration. BS. What little Congress has the potential to do to stem gun violence they have proven largely incapable of (biG surprise). What happened to assault gun sale prohibitions, and restrictions on large magazines?
Even if our impotent Congress did everything possible legislatively, it would hardly make a dent in the gun violence issue. Until private ownership of assault guns, large magazines, automatic weapons, and pistols (except small caliber target pistols) are restricted to the police and military, gun violence will continue substantially unabated.
The 2nd amendment calls for “well-regulated militias” to be allowed to be armed. That means the military. Is that so hard to understand? Someone said to me yesterday, “do I think knives should be restricted, too?” No. Guns offer the opportunity for remote killing, and can be wielded with vastly greater efficiency and effect than knives, or bows and arrows. That’s why guns were invented. So let’s get real — guns extend and increase our human ability to damage others, exponentially.
Yes, people deserve to be able to hunt with guns, and defend themselves, but they don’t have to be armed to the teeth with military-type and concealed weapons to do so. People, and even Congress, know this, and our collective failure to act on this knowledge could be the death of us, and not just philosophically.
I’ve been reading on Jefferson and his interpretation of French political issues in the late 1700′s. I particular, I was struck with a few lines in Jon Meacham’s biography where Jon writes, “Debt ridden, France faced a supreme test. In the mid-1780s, partly because of its spending on the American revolution, the Bourbon government of Louis XVI was in a long-term financial crisis, exacerbated by widespread hunger and by anger over the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Jefferson was shocked…” Sounds something like a description of the USA of today — wracked with the debt of two unfunded wars, widespread unemployment and anger over growing disparity between the rich and poor.
Given the discredited U.S. Congress, a relatively ineffective executive branch and a Supreme Court barely hanging on to its credibility, I wonder how secure our own republic is today, and what will be written about our American political evolution – 200 years from now.
In the New Yorker magazine. founded today in 1925, an article on French (or Belgium or Russian?) actor Gerard Depardieu, cites: “Politicians in France speak to “citizens,” not to “taxpayers.” It is a country where the politics of income inequality has run wild. There is a new, and perhaps illegal, 75% supertax on those who earn more than one million euros per year. Depardieu was described as “pathetic” by their Prime Minister for being one of thousands who have fled the country to avoid such confiscatory taxes. New York City was attacked on 9/11 by those who thought the American way of life is soft, corrupt and indulgent. There is only so much a democratic government can do to even out the social tensions brought about by ever-increasing income inequality. There must be a leavening between the rights of citizens and that of taxpayers. Economic change must accompany political action. But the France of the onetime French Revolution is an ever-looming warning over the consequences of excessive income inequality, in those times, and in these. And not just in France.
The new Steven Spielberg film, where Daniel Day Lewis looks like a photograph of the real Lincoln at least 73% of the time, is something more: it is a test.
It is a test of how much we are willing to trust the lawyerly class to govern our nation. We recognize rhetorical debates and deal-making dominating ethics and logic until the last minutes of the final vote on the 13th Amendment. The fundamental truth and benefits of human political equality is portrayed as secondary to securing postal managerships and other influence-peddling. We are taunted by how crass and dogmatic and vain is the human condition.
We are tested by this newsreel of a period film to wonder at how humanity has managed to move forward, occasionally, in the face our selfishly aggressive nature. Yet sometimes we do make progress, and this portrays such a moment, in all it’s angst.
Those of you who watch the Jon Stewart Show no doubt have noticed how often he and his research staff manage to hang politicians on the irony of contrary statements they’ve made in the past, by digging up vidoe of their previous ironic transgressions. I call this the Jon Stewart Effect. We often enjoy these clips immensly.
But it concerns me more and more that electronic journalism makes it easier and easier to dig up people’s past comments, and use them to make them look inconsistent or dangerous in the present. I see this going on now regarding Chuck Hagel’s potential nomination for Secretary of Defense. The Jon Stewart Effect is a “perfect” example of where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. We all make mistakes and say and do things we may regret. And we continue to learn from our life experiences. In Hagel’s case, his previous comments on Israel make sense in current terms, but are being taken out of context by those who choose to oppose him.
So, let’s be careful how we use selective clips of people’s previous remarks, made in another time and context. Such electronic wizardry can indeed become an enemy of the good. Howevere, for political comedy purposes, if the Jon Stewart Effect stays on his show, and out of the national news, I’ll have no complaints.
Few think the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was a bad idea. When a bill was proposed last week to approve a United Nations treaty that would extend the ADA principles to all U.N. nations, with the full endorsement of John Kerry, John McCain and the legendary former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who came to the Senate floor in his wheel chair to endorse the bill, the Senate, in its wisdom, rejected the bill. Why? Some radicalized right wingers suggested that the bill might somehow undermine the soverignty of the U.S., despite the fact that it was based on U.S. law.
To me, and to most thinking people of moderate intelligence, it’s just more evidence that our current Congress is dysfunctional, and is not effectively governing the country. I worry that the replacement of common sense deal-making by obtrusive demagogery in Congress is at risk of undermining the very stability of our society. Is Congress rejecting a functioning democracy at home and our global leadership role abroad in an attempt to create an isolationist, cowering culture intent on seeing shadows everywhere and seeming to be intent on reliving the Civil War?
It’s time to update our electoral processes, review our Constitution, get the money out of politics and expect our elected officials in Congress and the White House to govern rationally, which is what we elect them to do, right? Now, Senators, that you have embarrassed yourselves again, go home and have a nice Christmas reviewing your generous pension plan.
When I would visit Dick McDonald, the co-pioneer of the McDonald’s restuarant concept, at his home in Bedford, New Hampshire, where he lived in retirement, he would often mention his admiration for Warren Rudman, his feisty New Hampshire Senator, author of the famed Gramm-Rudman-Hollings federal balanced budget bill. He and Rudman knew each other pretty well, and had somewhat similar personalities — they bnoth were caring people, but often outspoken and blunt. Rudman, 92, died today.
I recall in the early 90s going out to D.C. to meet Dick for the premiere of a new Smithsonian World PBS film called “A Moveable Feast,” produced by Linda Ellerbee. It was the story of the history of food service for people on the move, and Dick was interviewed in the film. Dick also invited Rudman to the opening at the Smithsonian Castle. The next day, Dick in turn was Rudman’s VIP guest in Congress, and I went along. We dined on Navy Bean soup inh the Senate Dining Room, as legislators and aides gathered around Dick for a look or a word, or an autograph, from the man whose name was vastly more a household word than his host, the famous Senator. Dick enjoyed riding the miniature underground rail line used by the legislators.
I just ran across a package of matches, now resting on a tray next to my tie rack, from the Senate Dining Room that I’d kept from that day, some 20 years ago. Warren and Dick were a pair of New England characters, all right.
For more on Dick McDonald, see my essay, “Breakfast With Mr. McDonald,” at http://www.chilit.org. Search under “Ebeling.”
Two years ago, I put up the following cautionary entry on this blog. The threat still looms over us all. Also, check out http://www.nationalpopularvote.com.
Start by Fixing the Electoral College
September 22, 2010
One day again (see the election of 2000), the Electoral College will put in a President who did not win the national popular vote. This archaic instrument is not fundamental to our democracy, in fact it is anti-democratic. It was the product of a 18th century political compromise by the founding fathers. It is not needed anymore. It doesn’t do what it was meant to do. It could destabilize the nation at a time when grassroots voters demand to be heard.
What is the history? What is the risk? What are the arguments, pro and con? What can we done to change it, before it’s too late?
To join the discussion and find some answers, read my essay, “One Collage Too Man.” Go to chilit.org, click on “Roll of Members” found on the left column, click on “E”, then go to “Charles Ebeling” and click on the essay title to read or copy it.
Make up your mind, then do something! Isn’t it time for a National Popular Vote? Thanks.