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The framers respected majority rule … January 4, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2012 elections, Financial Reform, Obama, Politics.
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… and built a government around it, one that has served us extremely well over our 230-odd years. They were careful to not design their government with slavish adherence to this rule,  building in numerous checks and balances on power — among branches, within branches and with frequent elections to reflect changing public sentiments.

Over time,  both the Senate and House arrived at rules, procedures and courtesies that allowed the machinery of government to move, with a very healthy respect for minority opinion and stature. This all came together to form a government that moved slowly, with consideration and conservation — by design.

The filibuster for centuries was the Death Star — the ultimate weapon for a minority in Congress to employ to draw a very firm line in the sand on a matter not routine, a matter that went to the very core of principle.

Of late, that weapon has become a tool used by the minority in Congress to impose its will on the nation, on matters large and small, petty and of portent. It no longer relates to principle, except by extension from a minor matter down a very long tortuous logic chain to a “principal” such as a question of the relative strength of government overall, perhaps, or of methodology.

It has been used to usurp majority rule and, with intent, to bring the functioning of duly elected government to a halt.

Today the President said: “Enough.” He went ahead and used his recess appointment power to install Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a much-needed agency enacted into law in 2009.

Republicans who opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2009 lost that vote to a healthy majority after many compromises were incorporated into the bill to accommodate the minority’s views. What initially was proposed as a separate, standalone agency was moved within the Treasury Department — a concession to those who feared it could become a rogue operating on its own, with its own budget and no oversight by people with sufficient respect for the needs of lenders, be they banks, near-banks or the many non-bank actors making payday loans.

Some Republicans see no need at all for an agency acting to require fair, open and honest lending — and debt instruments a common person can understand. They have attempted for more than a year to overturn the majority verdict on this bureau with stalemate, backed by the threat of filibuster on any and all nominees to head this lawfully established agency. They lacked the votes to alter the enabling legislation, so they dug in their heels and refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the matter.

Now in nine months, the voters will listen to candidates for Congress, and all are welcome to discuss the merits of the law establishing this agency, any and all flaws in its establishment and propose any and all remedies. Perhaps their arguments will be telling and help win the election of a majority of like-thinkers to the House and the Senate — and perhaps even the White House.

At that point, they would be a majority backed by a clear vote and able to adopt a bill altering the current law. That’s how the Constitution set things up to work.

The minority view on a matter is not ignored or trampled. But the majority will holds sway until a new majority is elected and alters course.

A great many of the Republicans in Congress — and the voices over the air who urge them on — have worked now for more than a year to subvert the system that the Constitution established, many of them resorting to a suggestion that the vote of 2010 that granted the GOP a majority in the House came with a mantle anointing all of their views as blessed by a national majority.

Not so. Not so because the Founders were wise enough to not frame their government as a reflection of Parliament, to temper their democracy with systems that required the passage of considerable time to enable a majority voice to emerge fully formed, discussed and tempered.

The majority still rules in this nation and today the President spoke very forcefully in defense of that Constitutional concept — one the GOP with its long-running obstructionism has degraded to the detriment of the nation.

Voters who have watched this tyranny of a minority within a minority should mind the larger lesson: If this is how this party behaves with a share of power — with complete disrespect for majority rule — how do you think it would conduct business with majority power?

Clearly, the cadre sent to D.C. in 2010 have no respect whatever for any opinion other than their own, making them a danger to the nation and its people.

 

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Not to belittle the good folks in Iowa … January 3, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2012 elections, Politics.
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… but then again, most of them will not budge from their homes tonight to join in what kicks off the presidential nomination season, follows the spending of a huge fortune — but boils down to very little.

A few tens of thousands, at the very most, of the most fringe Republicans will caucus to declare an initial preference from a field of people who have for three months shown that, even collectively, they have no clear plan for addressing the core issues facing the nation. None.

They have mouthed slogans sure to rally the activists, pulled a seeming series of “tax reform” rabbits from a thoughtless shared hat bereft of vetting, and told us over and over and over again what they are against.   They have similarly told us over and over again whose fault simply everything is: anyone drawing a cent from any federal government program or payroll, anyone enforcing laws to protect our air, our water and our investments from unbridled bottom-line-only morals in the suites of corporations owned by who-knows-who, and anyone who thinks the government has any role in rebuilding this nation’s future.

Tonight’s choosing could very well drive the Republican Party further toward an even more radical departure from the shared core policies of both parties in the last decade that built a dominant nation. And that would be a shame, for their are a great many Republicans who know better — much better — and whose contributions are sorely needed.

They must speak up — and recapture the Grand Old Party from the destructive forces that offer no creative vision. Only smoking ruins.

 

Should you make the Earth move … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Energy, Environment, Justice, Politics.
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… you should need to explain to the rest of US why this is a good thing, what it might mean in all regards and how you plan to compensate US should your actions do real harm.

That’s all I’m saying when it comes to the 4.0 earthquake yesterday near Youngtown, Ohio, with clear circumstantial evidence that the tumbler was triggered by deep underground pressure applied near a fault line by fracking fluids injected by a company seeking oil. You can read about it here.

Nothing proven yet, and the company has paused injections to allow for an investigation. All good, rational community-minded responses.

The thing is, this is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s a coincidence that has cropped up many times down in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region where fracking is commonplace.  It’s also logical, since the concept of fracking is designed to pressure deep shale to “crack” and release natural gases to be recovered. It follows that such pressure applied in a poor location could cause other pressure “adjustments” — like shifts along fault lines, known and not known.

This is NOT an argument for banning fracking as a gas extraction method. Given the current economy and need for this fuel, such a conclusion would be knee-jerk and unsound.

But it does underscore in a huge way the stakes all of US have in what happens to that rock tens of thousands of feet below our feet. In addition to the petrochemicals and gas trapped there are things like water supplies — and the underpinnings of our communities. There is no inherent “right” to the riches down there, although our laws allow for the leasing of the privilege to gather it up. Along  with that comes the inherent responsibility to do that responsibly — meaning, with responsibility for all the results of that activity.

A simple rule applies: If you break it, you’ve bought it. No blanket waivers of liabilities to the rest of US.

That’s what the discussion of “fracking” needs to concentrate on: Holding people doing that fracking to full responsibility to the rest of US for any and all damage done in the process — to drinking water, to surface waters with any waste fluids and to anything on top should you cause things like earthquakes.

And not with some years-later claim on some multi-layered corporate shell long stripped of any resources to draw on for damages. Up front, with bonds or clear assets set in reserve to compensate. That will add to the cost, of course. But that is a legitimate cost of doing such business, just as it is in many other endeavors. This industry should not be sheltered from that cost — meaning: subsidized because the risk is offloaded to US.

This is another case where we should simply say no to profits being 100% privatized, while the risks and fallout costs are shifted to US — the public, be we just 100 people who rely on aquifers for water, or tens of thousands who rely on the Earth’s crust for our lives.

I don’t know where all the lines are. Reasonable people can draw them. But they will only be counted as “reasonable” if they  acknowledge their responsibility — to the community.

That’s not “the government” talking. It’s the nation.

 

A new year’s resolve … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Musings, Politics.
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… would be to be here — and speak — each day. To not allow sloth or the rest of living to intrude on what — detractors aside — must be a voice speaking to common sense, if not always arriving there.

So — onward.