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HOW TO ACCOMMODATE AN UNINFORMED ELECTORATE

HOW TO ACCOMMODATE AN UNINFORMED ELECTORATE....


If you're reading this blog, you're almost certainly well versed on the basics. You're well aware of the fact, for example, that Republicans have opposed health care reform en masse and that overcoming constant filibusters poses an almost insurmountable challenge.
But you're far more informed than the typical person. And there are consequences associated with an uninformed electorate.
The public has consistently expressed strong interest in the health care debate, but relatively few Americans can correctly answer two key questions related to the Senate's consideration of health care legislation.
In the latest installment of the Pew Research Center's News IQ Quiz, just 32% know that the Senate passed its version of the legislation without a single Republican vote. And, in what proved to be the most difficult question on the quiz, only about a quarter (26%) knows that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate and force a vote on a bill.
This obviously poses a serious political problem. Americans don't really know what's in the Democratic health care reform proposal, but just as important, the vast majority of Americans don't know what it takes to overcome a filibuster.
It creates a situation in which the public sees a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, and doesn't understand why more isn't getting done.
Democratic strategists and officials occasionally think Republicans will be punished for their unprecedented, reflexive obstructionism. But it's worth remembering that most of the public doesn't really follow this stuff. They don't know about the constant filibusters -- they may not know what a filibuster even is -- and generally don't care about procedural matters.
In other words, Republicans have embraced one simple tactic -- the single most important weapon in the GOP arsenal -- and used it to prevent the governing party from functioning. And Americans aren't really aware of that.MORE



Obvs the media ain't doing the job of informing Americans. But what I want to know is, are we taught in school how congress works? Are kids taught why this is important? And this is creating serious black humor for me as well...


Why FL just got High Speed Rail


The American public unfortunately lacks patience for and understanding of civil works projects. Frustration with perceived high costs and delays dovetail into conservative anti-government and anti-labor memes.

The Florida high speed rail project is expected to take a mere 4 1/2 years. Even accounting for construction delays, should President Obama be reelected, he can indeed fulfill his promise and ride the first train while in office. We are looking at a project that can be completed possibly before the 2014 midterm elections, and hopefully with certainty before the 2016 general election.

Allowing for the low cost of the 84mi rail line is Florida's uniformly low grade and plentiful right of way, with an elevation change of less than 150ft along the route. Interstate 4, known for its traffic and congestion, currently permits about 90min of travel time between Tampa and Orlando. At 160mpg, the Florida High Speed rail link could make the trip in a mere 44min.

3. The Domino Effect:

By starting with the easiest effort first, that is most likely to succeed and produce a tangible (and hopefully attractive) result quickly, other regions of the community will hopefully demand equal federal investment in high speed rail travel for completion long after President Obama has left office. It's no longer a matter of pointing to Europe or Japan, but come 2014, pointing to Central Florida. If they can build a high speed rail line there, quickly and inexpensively, why can't they build one everywhere?

As progressives, it is so tempting to be impatient.

Why only $8.5 billion for high speed rail? Why not $85 billion in high speed rail, especially when compared to the Pentagon's budget or what Nations like China are investing?

But we must never forget that something so appealing to the sane is still a hard sell in a country populated by so much insanity. A case in point would be the "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Bullet Train" bumper stickers, combined with successful lobbying from Southwest Airlines, that doomed the Texas high speed rail plan.MORE




In the good news dept:In the meantime, Pres. Obama apparently beat the living HELL (rhetorically) out of the Republicans this morning at their GOP conference in Maryland. And FOX news decided to cut off the questions in the middle of the question time:




Transcript
Obama: Let me say this about health care and the health care debate, because I think it also bears on a whole lot of other issues. If you look at the health care package that we've presented ... But at its core, if you look at the basic proposal that we put forward, that has an exchange so that businesses and the self-employed can buy into a pool, and can get bargaining power the same way that big companies do, the insurance reforms that I've already discussed, making sure that there's choice in competition for those that don't have health insurance -- the component parts of this thing are pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year. Now, you may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and certainly you don't agree with Tom Daschle on much, but that's not a radical bunch.
But if you were to listen to the debate -- and frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot! No, I mean, that's how you guys, that's how you guys presented it. And so I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist' -- no, look, I'm just sayin', I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans -- it's similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.
So all I'm saying is, we've got to close the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. I'm not suggesting that we're going to agree on everything, whether it's on health care or energy or what have you. But if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me.
I mean, the fact of the matter is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your home base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion, because what you've been telling your constituents is. 'This guy's doin' all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America!' MORE



And the Repubs themselves are regretting that they allowed him in with TV cameras.
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What to watch for in 2010:An American world of war


We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom. After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that "war" came to "the homeland," a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and—had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania—political power.

Since that day, however, war has been a stranger in our land. ...


Although our country delivers war regularly to distant lands in the name of our "safety," we don't really consider ourselves at war(despite the endless talk of "supporting our troops"), and the money that has simply poured into Pentagon coffers, and then into weaponry and conflicts is, with rare exceptions, never linked to economic distress in this country. And yet, if we are no nation of warriors, from the point of view of the rest of the world we are certainly the planet's foremost war-makers. If money talks, then war may be what we care most about as a society and fund above all else, with the least possible discussion or debate.

In fact, according to military expert William Hartung, the Pentagon budget has risen in every year of the new century, an unprecedented run in our history. We dominate the global arms trade, monopolizing almost 70% of the arms business in 2008, with Italy coming in a vanishingly distant second. We put more money into the funding of war, our armed forces, and the weaponry of war than the next 25 countries combined (and that's without even including Iraq and Afghan war costs). We garrison the planet in a way no empire or nation in history has ever done. And we plan for the future, for "the next war"—on the ground, on the seas, and in space—in a way that is surely unique. If our two major wars of the twenty-first century in Iraq and Afghanistan are any measure, we also get less bang for our buck than any nation in recent history.

So, let's pause a moment as the New Year begins and take stock of ourselves as what we truly are: the preeminent war-making machine on planet Earth. Let's peer into the future, and consider just what the American way of war might have in store for us in 2010. Here are 10 questions, the answers to which might offer reasonable hints as to just how much U.S. war efforts are likely to intensify in the Greater Middle East, as well as Central and South Asia, in the year to come.




1. How busted will the largest defense budget in history be in 2010?


Strange, isn't it, that the debate about hundreds of billions of dollars in health-care costs in Congress can last almost a year, filled with turmoil and daily headlines, while a $636 billion defense budget can pass in a few days, as it did in late December, essentially without discussion and with nary a headline in sight? And in case you think that $636 billion is an honest figure, think again—and not just because funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal and actual "homeland defense," among other things most countries would chalk up as military costs, wasn't included.

MORE
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How I lost my health insurance at the hairstylist's


THEN you need to do this. The life you save may be your own. And I am really really NOT exaggerating, here.


More links here

“Progressive Block” Strategy: Is It Really Happening?

Mission Accomplished

via: Hullabaloo:

The Story of the Governor And IHSS(In-Home Supportive Services) As a result of all that they used wheelchairs to block the Governor's office over the budget cuts and demanded that the Governor find new sources of income


Why it is so hard to pass good legislation: This is how your government works


Hey Democrats!How Can We Believe You're Not Influenced By All The Money You Get From Insurance Companies? video at link

And the Washington Post occasionally does good journalism, like here: Familiar Players in Health Bill Lobbying Firms Are Enlisting Ex-Lawmakers, Aides

The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

...
Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.
MORE


But its not just the money. Its the relationships

Suppressing your instinct to trust a former chief of staff and legislative director is a hard thing to do. Refusing to return the calls of favored staffers and colleagues goes against every social grain in our bodies. It should be easy to separate professional responsibilities and personal feelings. But it isn't.

Journalists consistently use this to our advantage: When you hear that someone is well-sourced, it generally means they have good personal relationships that make it more likely that insiders will tell them things. A big part of the job is leveraging social pressures to gain access to protected information. And, somewhat amazingly, it works. But the relationship between a journalist and a longtime source is nothing compared to the relationship between a senator and a longtime staffer. One of the secrets about lobbying in Washington is that money doesn't buy access. It buys people who already have access. And that makes it much more insidious.MORE


You CANNOT ignore this. This is going to affect you up close and personal for the rest of you life. Go hold your congress person's feet to the fire
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Friday Constitutional 3- Article One, Sections 5 And 6.
Section Six
Clause One:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, beprivileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
The first part of this clause allows for the paying of Senators and Representatives out of the Treasury of the Untied States. The Framers did not want an aristocracy and made sure that you did not have to be wealthy to participate in the Congress. It was altered by the 27th Amendment, in 1992, so that any pay increase that is voted by the Congress shall not take effect until the next Congress convenes. This was 203 years after it was first proposed!
The second part is commonly called the Speech and Debate clause. It sets out that during a session (two years) of Congress, a member can not be arrested at the Congress, except in the cases of felonies, treason and breach of the peace. This is intended to keep anyone from drumming up misdemeanors in order to prevent a member from doing his duty. It is interesting that Rep. “Dollar” Bill Jefferson has based most of his defense on the idea that a search of his Congressional office was unconstitutional under this clause. That seems spurious to the Dog, since the bribery allegations are clearly felonies. This clause also protects the members of Congress from being prosecuted for anything they say in the course of making speeches to or during debate in Congress. That is another pillar (again spurious) of Rep. Jefferson’s defense, that since he is member of Congress taking money from a foreign government to get help from the Representative was a part of his duties. It is very frustrating that this kind of behavior is allowed in the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives. As we know from Section Five, Clause Two all it would take is 286 members of the House to expel him for being such a corrupt fool.
Clause Two:
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
This clause says that no member of the Congress can be a member and hold an office of the Untied States at the same time. This is why President Elect Obama resigned his Senate seat. This also seems to mean that no sitting Senator or Representative could hold office and be a Cabinet Secretary. The Framers seem to be less concerned with the power such a joint position would wield than the amount of compensation that a person with two jobs would receive. So, if Sen. Clinton really is going to be Sec. State, she will have to give up the Junior Senate seat from New York.MORE
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Via Daily Kos
Officials NEVER have money for affordable housing, or public schools or roads. But they do have money for these corporate welfare queens


Diligent readers of the newspaper business section learn about these deals all the time. A new auto assembly plant receives hundreds of millions of dollars from a Southern state. One city offers a major corporation huge tax breaks to entice it to move its headquarters. Another city gives similar breaks to another company to prevent it from leaving. A major retailer is allowed to keep a large portion of property or sales tax revenue associated with the creation of yet another big-box store.

Most of these are what are known as discretionary subsidy deals--ones that are negotiated with individual companies, supposedly to influence an investment decision. These are distinct from entitlement-type subsidies (such as investment tax credits) that are automatically available to all companies that meet certain criteria. What makes discretionary subsidies so controversial is not only their fiscal impact but the fact that there are often no specific guidelines for determining which companies get them. These deals pit communities against one another, forcing them to engage in an ill-advised bidding war for the investment; or, a company may concoct a phony threat to move out of an area in order to extort subsidies for staying put.

Good Jobs First is a leading monitor and critic of company-specific subsidy deals. We track which companies go most often to the public trough for assistance, and we critique egregious giveaways. In this section of the website, we have company profiles of some of the leading over-users and abusers of economic development subsidies, including household names such as Boeing and Dell. We summarize their major deals and provide resources for additional information. Given that the terms of discretionary subsidies are often not completely disclosed, the information available may unavoidably be incomplete. MORE

Consider this example:


Dell Inc.
Dell is as aggressive in seeking subsidies as it is in marketing personal computers. In a 2004 deal in North Carolina, Dell pulled off an unusual feat by getting much more in subsidies--up to $267 million--than it was planning to invest in a new assembly plant.
...

Round Rock, Texas: 20 years of property tax abatements, $50 million in tax-exempt industrial revenue bond financing, and 40 percent of sales tax revenues collected by Round Rock on Dell's sales. 1993

In 1999 Dell announced plans to locate its first manufacturing facility outside Texas somewhere in the area of Nashville, Tennessee. The plan, which set off a scramble among local cities and counties, was expected to create thousands of jobs. The winner of the competition was Nashville itself, which offered Dell a package including:

Nashville, TN:
*free land for the site worth $6.5 million;
*40 years of property tax abatements;
*$20 million in infrastructure improvements
*one-time credits of $2,000 per employee against state franchise and excise taxes
*Metro Nashville tax credits of $500 per employee for 40 years
*industrial machinery state tax credits
*$4,000 per employee to pay for job training costs (refundable after workers were hired).

Some observers estimated the cost of the incentives over the life of the Nashville agreement would be more than $200 million. However, in February 2002, Dell announced that it was eliminating all manufacturing operations at the Nashville facility.MORE



You might also be interested in this...

HIDDEN TAXPAYER COSTS. In addition to the explicit subsidies granted to companies in the name of economic development, taxpayers may end up subsidizing business inadvertently. For example, the failure of many larger employers to provide adequate health insurance benefits to their workers means that many of those workers turn to public programs such as Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance for coverage. The availability of these programs, which were not intended to be used by people working at big companies, means that taxpayers are in effect enabling employers to avoid substantial healthcare costs.

This issue of hidden taxpayer costs has become a matter of growing controversy. To highlight the dimensions of the problem, more than a dozen states have disclosed the names of the employers with the largest number of workers (or their dependents) using programs such as Medicaid. We present a summary of these disclosures.



Naturally, Walmart's egregious actions are so multitudinous that they get their own complete section
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Friday Constitutional 2 - Article One, Sections 3 and 4

Now onward to Section Three, which deals primarily with the structure of the United States Senate.
Section Three
Clause One:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,3 for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
This clause is pretty straight forward, it sets out that each State shall have two Senators, and they serve for a term of six years. What is interesting to the Dog is that the Framers thought that it was important enough to make clear that each Senator would only ever have one vote. It must have been important to them, specifically in the Senate, as they did not use the same language when setting forth the rules for the House of Representatives.
Also notice that originally it was the State legislature that elected Senators not the public at large. In 1913 the 17th Amendment changed that to state that Senators would be elected by the people of the state. Historical fun fact, the State of Utah was the only state to vote against ratification. It was never subsequently ratified by that state.
Clause Two:
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
In this clause the Constitution sets out the rules for the dividing the Senate in to the “classes” so that only one third of the Senate will face re-election at any given time. The Dog wonders how much political infighting went into the selection of each class as two thirds of those first Senators did not have a six year term but a two or four year one. As with Clause One the way that Senators are replaced has been changed by the 17th Amendment. In that amendment it directs the Governor of the state to hold an election to fill any vacant seat, but it allows the State legislature to give the Governor the power to appoint a temporary Senator until the seat is filled in an election that the Legislature determines the timing of.MORE
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Friday Constitutional 1 - Preamble, Article One; Sections 1 And 2.

The basic intent of this series is to look at the base document of our Republic the Constitution of the United States of America... Each week this series will look at a section of the Constitution and give a basic explanation of what it seems to mean. The Dog knows that interpretation of the Constitution is a contentious field of expertise and that he is likely to be thought to be wrong.

...



The Constitution starts with the Preamble, which many of you might remember from the great School House Rock animation:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The above are some of the most powerful and meaningful words that have ever been written in the English language. To the Dog this one very long and run on sentence is the core of what our country is. It talks of the people, not citizens, not land owners, not whites, not men but all the people. It is true that at least some (if not most) of the framers thought people equaled white, land owning men, when they wrote that, but the choice of words speaks to the inclusiveness that is a hallmark of our current democracy. Without those first six words, we would be a very different country. The preamble goes on to describe what the People intend to do with this document, the core needs that the framers felt had to be enshrined if their new country was to prosper and not become decedent. Work towards a more perfect (but not completely perfect or stagnant) Union. To establish Justice (which is different from revenge), insure domestic tranquility (avoiding war within the new Union), Provide for the common defense (we are stronger together than we are apart), promote the general welfare (we are only as strong as the weakest among us) and live in liberty for now and the future.Those 18th Century politicians set lofty goals for themselves and their decedents didn’t they? Call the Dog a freak if you like, but since he was a kid, any time those words are spoken or he reads them, a chill comes over the Dog. Now lets look at Article One:
Section One:
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Article 1, Section 1 sets out the form of the Congress, two houses, one called the Congress (thanks for making that confusing, founding fathers!) and the other the Senate. It also reserves all legislative power for these two Houses. Those elected to these Houses have the right to make all laws. It is their responsibility alone that brings new Federal laws into being. Of course they are not the final say, as the framers where very concerned that too much power would accrue into the hands of a few, but they are the only ones that can write and pass legislation.
Section Two:
There are five clauses in Section Two, all of which deal with the who can be in Congress and what responsibilities they will have.
Clause One:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
This clause sets out that we will elect our Congressmen/woman every two years from each state. They will have to be qualified as set out in Clause Two.
MORE
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What Obama Has to Look Forward To
When Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) requested a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) listing questions his fellow senators might ask President-elect Barack Obama's political nominees at their upcoming confirmation hearings, he probably didn't expect a 150-page list of Bush administration screwups. But that's what he got.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress that frequently exposes waste, incompetence, and corruption in the federal government, supplemented its proposed questions with summaries of problems in the executive branch. The result is a catalogue of hundreds of unresolved issues that the Bush administration is leaving behind for Obama and his administration.
...

Department of Homeland Security
The section on DHS begins with the big picture: "The department lacks not only a comprehensive strategy with overall goals and a timeline, but also a dedicated management integration team to support its management integration efforts." In other words, the agency that's supposed to protect American citizens is really screwed up—spinning wheels and wasting money.

But problems exist at the granular level, too. The department has largely failed to define the Transportation Security Agency's role in securing such vital (and vulnerable) infrastructure as rail systems, highways, and pipelines. DHS and FEMA have not clarified "how prepared they expect first responders to be." Immigration paperwork is ending up in "long-standing backlogs." A program costing hundreds of millions of dollars that aims to collect and share information on selected foreign nationals who enter and exit the United States "still does not have an operational exit tracking capability." The Coast Guard suffers from a shortage of personnel and other resources, and the GAO reports that it is concerned it is "just reducing operations arbitrarily to meet budget constraints."MORE


IL-GOV Legal Explainer

A few questions about which you may be wondering:
1. With what was Gov. Blagojevich charged?
The indictment criminal complaint (PDF) has two counts: conspiracy to defraud the State of Illinois and the people of the State of Illinois of the honest services to which each was entitled, which is a crime under the mail fraud statutes, and a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666, theft or bribery around federal funds. The former involves the alleged pay-to-play issues around the Senate vacancy and other schemes, including a threat to rescind $8M in state funds from a Chicago children's hospital unless its CEO made a $50K contribution to his campaign. The latter charge regards threats to withhold financial assistance to the Tribune Company for its failure to fire "certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical of" the Governor.
The "honest services" charge under mail fraud was also central to the indictment of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, and I am compelled to direct you to some blog posts by my Criminal Procedure professor, Al Alschuler, on why one might want to be skeptical of giving prosecutors such a broad tool to use, one which then-prosecutor, now-Judge Jed Rakoff famously once called "our Stradivarius, our Colt .45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart -- and our true love."
2. Can Blagojevich still appoint Obama's Senate replacement?
Yes. As long as he is still Governor, Rod Blagojevich retains all the powers of the office, which includes the power to make appointments when a Senate seat is vacant.
3. So what can be done to stop him from, say, appointing himself right now?

MORE
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An interesting bit on what the Canadian government is like

OK.
The first thing you need to know is that Canada has a parliamentary democracy, and that we are a Constitutional Monarchy. This is a very, very different system than the US uses, and it allows for a lot of interesting political variation. The most significant to the majority of my readers will likely be that our head of Government (The Prime Minister) is not the same person as the head of state (The Governor General). The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada, and plays an important role. (She's also the Commander-in-Cheif of the Canadian Forces.) In addition, we vote for parties not individuals. (Edited to add: There's been some debate about this in the comments, and as usual, the commentors are right and I was unclear. When I say this, I mean that we do NOT vote for a Prime Minister in an election. We vote for the person at our local level, they represent a party, and then the party's leader becomes Prime Minister. Clearer?) We vote at the local level and elect a Member of Parliament, and the party that gets the most MPs wins, and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister.MORE
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ViaPams HOuse Blend
John @ Americablog posted the current SCOTUS bench, noting only two were nominated by a Dem:

John Paul Stevens, 88 (Ford)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75 (Clinton)
Antonin Scalia, 72 (Reagan)
Anthony Kennedy, 72 (Reagan)
Stephen Breyer, 70 (Clinton)
David Souter, 69 (GHW Bush)
Clarence Thomas, 60 (GHW Bush)
Samuel Alito, 58 (GW Bush)
John Roberts, 53 (GW Bush)

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Crashing the Government: Corporate Power at OIRA

Now that the administration is moving into power, it's time to stretch beyond our known universe to the nuts and bolts of administrative power wielding. I want to flag one specific agency called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a Reagan-era internal executive agency that analyzes all potential regulations for cost/benefit analysis. This paper on what Obama can do with climate change (h/t Scott Paul at the Washington Note) notes.
For several decades, OIRA has been perhaps the most powerful agency in the Executive Branch standing in the way of needed environmental regulation. In the last eight years, the White House, working through OIRA, delayed, relaxed, or rejected many regulatory proposals. Most often OIRA did so for reasons having nothing to do with promoting economically efficient regulations (its ostensible purpose). Indeed, perusal of OIRA's comments on agency proposals reveals almost no engagement with economic issues. It reveals, instead, persistent efforts to water down scientific conclusions about environmental harm and a stubborn insistence that government regulation cannot be effective.
OIRA is situated within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the sprawling White House office that handles budgeting and management throughout the executive branch, and there's no way of knowing which corporate interests are lobbying or controlling its agenda. And every regulation goes through OIRA. MORE



Pragmatism versus Progressivism
Meanwhile, this post I wrote about a little known bureaucratic threat to good policy called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the bureau that 'regulates the regulators', received zero comments but several emails from people in decision-making roles who have been fighting this office for years. If Obama makes the right choice in downgrading OIRA's authority, or opens it up to transparency, there's a lot of leverage in achieving good policy ends. Pragmatism is about recognizing and working the levers of power to further good policy-making. Whining about people who disagree with you or say things you don't like so you can feel smart is just that. It's time to start recognizing the difference. Let me just say again that OIRA is really bad news, and its head Susan Dudley was put in as a recess appointment as the top regulatory official at the White House. Here's just one of the adventures she went on, making hundreds of poor people sick through needless exposure to toxic chemicals by gutting the EPA's ability to assess toxins. In the waning days of this administration, OIRA is also gutting the Family Medial Leave Act, limiting access to contraception, and giving away wilderness to oil and gas interests.MORE

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