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Thanks to the archaic Electoral College system of electing American Presidents and Vice Presidents, approximately 50% of votes cast are thrown out. Any my vote in Illinois is worth about 1/6th of a vote in Alaska. Corrupt? No, it’s the law. How could this be?

How to fix it? Rewrite the 24th amendment which established the Electoral College. Good luck with that. The other way is to support the National Popular Vote legislation in your state (Google it), which would at least assure the winner of the popular vote wins. You will hear a lot about the importance of the Electoral College between now and the election, as the campaigns game the system, but you won’t hear much now, and less after the election, about how it is stealing your vote.

Here’s how the EC works (from Wikipedia):

The United States Electoral College is the body that elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years. Citizens of the United States do not directly elect the president or the vice president; instead they choose “electors”, who usually pledge to vote for particular candidates.

Electors are apportioned to each of the 50 states as well as to the District of Columbia. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of members of Congress to which the state is entitled, while the Twenty-third Amendment grants the District of Columbia the same number of electors as the least populous state, currently three. Therefore, there are currently 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, plus the three additional electors from the District of Columbia. The Constitution bars any federal official, elected or appointed, from being an elector.

Except for Maine and Nebraska, all states have chosen electors on a “winner-take-all” basis since the 1880s. That is, each state has all of its electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in that state. Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, selecting one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and selecting the remaining two electors by a statewide popular vote. Although no elector is required by federal law to honor a pledge, there have been very few occasions when an elector voted contrary to a pledge. The Twelfth Amendment, in specifying how a president and vice president are elected, requires each elector to cast one vote for president and another vote for vice president.

The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (currently 270) for the office of president or of vice president is elected to that office. The Twelfth Amendment provides for what happens if the Electoral College fails to elect a president or vice president. If no candidate receives a majority for president, then the House of Representatives will select the president, with each state delegation (instead of each representative) having only one vote. If no candidate receives a majority for vice president, then the Senate will select the vice president, with each senator having one vote. On four occasions, most recently in the 2000 presidential election, the Electoral College system has resulted in the election of a candidate who did not receive the most popular votes in the election.

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Chances are, you will be screwed by the Electoral College in this fall’s Presidential election. 1. If you live in a relatively large population state, your vote may count as little as 1/6th of that in a small population state. Why? Because the number of Electoral Votes your state gets is determined by the total number of U.S. Senators and Congressmen you have. thus, smaller population states get a relative bonus of Electoral Votes. 2. If you live in a “non-battleground” state, chances are your vote may not count at all, because all the Electoral Votes of all states but two go to the popular vote winner in a state, and in all but the so-called 13 or so “Battleground States,” the given political majority in those states already means all those state’s Electoral Votes will go to the majority candidate for President. If your candidate is not supported by the majority, your vote is thrown away.
There is no way out for this fall’s Presidential Election, but there is a path to sanity in the future. Go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.com for the answers.

National Popular Vote
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire U.S. It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when enacted by states with…
NATIONALPOPULARVOTE.COM

National Geographic Magazine in their March cover story, The War on Science, gives some light on our exacerbated political divide as they try to explain the psychology related to the fight over what to believe about science. The author surmises that the left includes “Those with a more ‘egalitarian’ and ‘communitarian’ mindset,” who are, “generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change.” The right, on the other hand, includes “people with a ‘hierarchical’ and ‘individualistic’ mind-set who respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings of climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.”

The author believes that climate change has become a sort of litmus test about which of these warring “tribes” — the left and right, you belong to. He believes we are not so much arguing about the issue, but about who we are. On the left, we’re all in it together and must deal with consequences on behalf of all. On the right, we stand as individuals against the world, and must fight for our autonomy of belief against the “science” of the masses. Accepting a belief in climate change, one of those nasty “science things,” could get that hierarchical individualist thrown out of his or her tribe.

The author concludes, “science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining right with our peers.” We still live in a world where science (read: evidence based) often trumps beliefs (read: tradition based). I’m neither a scientist nor a psychologist, and I see some of the dichotomy in this over-simplified analysis, and so I see that the social definitions of these two tribes often overlap among us.  Yet, when it comes to politics, and after all, politics is nothing more than the quest for power within our broader community, the apparent growing gap in organizing belief systems between these two tribes is threatening our democracy.

The genius of our American society lies in our ability to find compromise and some sense of fairness between our varied personal belief systems, and then move forward as a people, individually and together. That is our democracy. And it is in trouble. The answer: we must rationalize the past, as we remember it, in light with what we know to be the truth, today.

ImageWhen Lyndon Johnson stepped before a joint session of Congress nearly 50 years ago, on March 15, 1965, to endorse the Voting Rights Act, he proclaimed,: “It is very deadly to deny your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.” Of course, he was referring to blacks.

Yet today, in 2014, the unwillingness of Congress to replace the dangerous and obsolete Electoral College system of electing our Presidents means that we are still far, far away from a one-person/one-vote democracy in America. Twice before, as recently as 2000, the candidate who got the lesser electoral votes was elected President. There is a path open to change that failure. Go to Nationalpopularvote.com to learn how.

States representing about half the electoral votes have already enacted legislation to enable a national popular vote. Has yours? Let’s bring true democracy to America in our lifetimes.

It occurred to me that there is a common break in effectiveness of both the U.S. military chain of command and the infallibility of the Catholic Church when it comes charges of sexual abuse.

Yesterday’s defeat of legislation that would circumvent the military chain of command and impose an independent military review of sexual abuse cases (some 24,000 of them per year of late!) seems to reflect an unwillingness by the military and many in Congress to accept that the chain of common is broken in this regard, and that escalating sexual abuse charges in the military is somehow acceptable.

Is this an odd and pathetic parallel to the Pope’s recent assertion that the Catholic Church is the most effective and concerned organization when it comes to dealing with charges of sexual abuses in the church, rather than civil authorities?

That the highest levels of the military and the church appear to have their heads in the sand in regard to sexual abuse is an odd comparison, but perhaps suggests that absolute authority breeds corruption of very basic human standards of conduct, and that independent review is the only way to assure greater justice for the victims of such human exploitation.

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I can only wonder what my counterparts would have said if Congress had proposed 11 more years in Vietnam in 1975. Now, in 2013, that is what is being proposed forAfghanistan! Yes, times have changed. Maybe wars should go on forever now. What do you think? I know what I’d do…

Congress shouldn’t be in a fight about whether to fund the U.S. government, closing it down in the process, but better in a fight over how much (a budget) and for which things (an agenda). In Australia, they have a solution when both houses are deadlocked, and it’s called double dissolution. In such a circumstance, their Congress is dissolved and a new election is held. What we need in the U.S. is a new Congress, because the one we have in stalemated and inoperative. By the way, why are they getting paid now? Oh, that’s right, they make the rules. We’re about ready for a quiet, non-fatal version of the French Revolution. In fact, France has peacefully replaced their entire government six times since the real revolution. Wouldn’t that be a “revolutionary” concept for our loggerheaded Congress to consider?

Just watched the 1996 sci-fi spoof, Mars Attacks, and after the Martian ambassador appears before Congress, then turns the tables and kills them all with his ray gun, the film’s star, Jack Nicholson, consoles his staff with the optimistic comment, “Well, we’ve still got two branches of government, and that ain’t bad!”

Where are the Martians when we need ’em?

My Facebook friends have already seen this, but I think it deserves a wider circulation on my blog, even if it means there will now be a low hum on my phone lines…

Mr. Toobin is naive. Whatever “damage” Snowden has inflicted to our intelligence system is more than offset by the benefits his transparency of the pervasiveness of our government’s monitoring capacity of private lives has revealed. If we are to be a democracy, even an awareness of our intelligence gathering processes is necessary, or we forsake that democracy for a totalitarian regime. Government’s fear of sharing too much of the truth with the people is a cancer which threatens our way of life. I choose to conclude that The New Yorker’s decision to run this ridiculous story is but a provocation to reasoned thinking.

Edward Snowden’s Real Impact
http://www.newyorker.com
The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy led directly to the passage of a historic law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Does that change your view of the assassinations? Should we be grateful for….

In today’s New Yorker, in an article about the NSA by Hendrik Hertzberg, he recounts how our calcifying government and political system is increasingly eating away at the core of democracy, as minority, economically-powerful interests co-opt the economic and social balances in our American society. He makes it clear how the antiquated Electoral College system of electing our Presidents is increasingly being manipulated to serve these undemocratic interests. Here’s the relevant excerpt from his article:

“The real danger to civic trust (and ultimately, perhaps, to our freedoms) is the calcification and unresponsiveness of our political and governmental machinery. The post-2000 Supreme Court is part of that long, sad story. So is the filibuster, which is a bigger threat to small-d democratic governance than the N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the I.R.S. put together. The same goes for the electoral-college status quo; the built-in, and increasing, malapportionment of the Senate; and the malapportionment of the House, both deliberate, via gerrymandering, and demographic, via population patterns.

“These structural horrors don’t make us a police state, encroaching or otherwise. But they do enable minorities—usually conservative, mostly monied minorities—to systematically thwart the will of the majority. They don’t necessarily require anybody to act in bad faith in order to do their damage. And they damage not just people’s faith in democracy but democracy itself.”

And, as to what we are losing as a society in the tightening national security state, which some describe as neutral to the interests of everyday Americans, the 5th Amendment itself is being neutralized. While the Amendment proclaims we may remain silent and not be forced to incriminate ourselves, the increasing surveillance in all aspects of our lives makes our option for “silence” unlikely to be possible, when cameras and monitoring of every kind of communications is pervasive. The anxiety alone that this sort of intrusion into our personal lives permits undermines the very sense of democratic self-determination upon which our modern society is built, and certainly undermines the essence of the 5th Amendment.

If you care about these issues, and you should, do something. Tell your family and friends, write your newspapers, blog about it, put your views on Facebook, and, of course, tell your representatives in government that you are on to the erosion of our personal rights to democracy and privacy.

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