Daily-floggings-will-continue Dept.: Alaska Rep. Don Young melts down, takes it out on famous historian Douglas Brinkley

December 1, 2011

Dr. Douglas Brinkley writes history, and teaches.   In the last decade he’s been one of our premiere historians of conservation and wilderness preservation, especially as started by Theodore Roosevelt.

The issue at the hearing was the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

One may get a whiff of “skeptic” desperation at the hearing — Brinkley’s written a book on wilderness protection.  That’s why he was called to testify.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Eli Rabett.  He’s right — it’s tough to improve on the straight dope, the unexpurgated version.  So most of this post is borrowed from the Bunny’s Spartan, laconic post of this same material.

And the Big Bunny is correct that MSNBC’s interview of Brinkley following the hearing is good to see and hear.

More, Resources: 


Hochul won Congressional seat in upstate New York

May 24, 2011

I get e-mail from Nancy Pelosi from time to time, like tonight:

Ed —

It is my great pleasure to report that tonight, thanks to you, Democrat Kathy Hochul has won a triumphant grassroots victory in the special election in NY-26.

Victories like this are what happen when we fight together to protect our core Democratic values.

Congresswoman-elect Hochul’s victory in a staunchly-Republican district has shocked the political world and sent an unmistakable sign that the American people will not stand for the Republicans’ reckless and extreme agenda to end Medicare.

This is our third straight special election victory in New York — and it is truly one for the ages. All of the Republicans’ right-wing outside groups with their secret money and dishonest attacks were no match for the combined strength of grassroots Democrats.

Thank you again for fighting to protect and defend Medicare and bringing us one step closer to regaining our Democratic House Majority.

Nancy Pelosi
Democratic Leader

Is there a lesson in the election?  Yes, there is:  Republicans overreached when they started their march against Medicare.

See the story in the New York Times:

Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.

On Tuesday, she captured 48 percent of the vote, to Ms. Corwin’s 42 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 8 percent.

Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare.

Kathy Hochul on election night, May 24, 2011 - New York Times photo by Michael Appleton

Kathy Hochul claimed victory at an election party in Amherst, New York, on Tuesday night. Hochul won a seat in Congress in what has traditionally been a Republican district in New York. New York Times photo by Michael Appleton


Eugene Robinson: “The GOP’s rude awakening on health-care repeal”

January 23, 2011

Eugene Robinson stuck to the facts, and noted that by a careful count, 62 percent of Americans oppose the Republican vote to repeal the new health care law:

What actually happened, though, is that the Republican majority managed to win the votes of just three Democrats – all of them Blue Dogs who have been consistent opponents of the reform package anyway. In terms of actual defectors, meaning Democrats who changed sides on the issue, there were none. This is momentum?

The unimpressive vote came at a moment when “the will of the people” on health care is coming into sharper focus. Most polls that offer a simple binary choice – do you like the “Obamacare” law or not – show that the reforms remain narrowly unpopular. Yet a significant fraction of those who are unhappy complain not that the reform law went too far but that it didn’t go far enough. I think of these people as the “public option” crowd.

Eugene Robinson, op-ed writer, Washington Post
Washington Post header for Eugene Robinson’s columns                                                                      .

The numbers:

A recent Associated Press poll found that 41 percent of those surveyed opposed the reform law and 40 percent supported it. But when asked what Congress should do, 43 percent said the law should be modified so that it does more to change the health-care system. Another 19 percent said it should be left as it is.

More troubling for the GOP, the AP poll found that just 26 percent of respondents wanted Congress to repeal the reform law completely. A recent Washington Post poll found support for outright repeal at 18 percent; a Marist poll pegged it at 30 percent.

In other words, what House Republicans just voted to do may be the will of the Tea Party, but it’s not “the will of the people.”

[My math:  43% +19%=62%.]

The facts:

The CBO, which “scores” the impact of proposed legislation, calculated that the health-reform law will reduce federal deficits by at least $143 billion through 2019. Confronted with the fact that repeal would deepen the nation’s fiscal woes, Republicans simply claimed the CBO estimate to be rubbish. Who cares what the CBO says, anyway?

Er, um, Republicans care, at least when it’s convenient. Delving into the CBO’s analysis, they unearthed a finding that they proclaimed as definitive: The reform law would eliminate 650,000 jobs. Hence “Job-Killing” in the repeal bill’s title.

One problem, though: The CBO analysis contains no such figure. It’s an extrapolation of a rough estimate of an anticipated effect that no reasonable person would describe as “job-killing.” What the budget office actually said is that there are people who would like to withdraw from the workforce – sometimes because of a chronic medical condition – but who feel compelled to continue working so they can keep their health insurance. Once the reforms take effect, these individuals will have new options. That’s where the “lost” jobs supposedly come from.

So, in other words, Republicans voted to keep people slaves to jobs that provide health care benefits.  The party of  Abraham Lincoln has fallen so far not even Abraham Lincoln at his most charitable moment would recognize it any longer.


Wegman Scandal: Attack on climate scientists based on shoddy scholarship

October 4, 2010

John Mashey assembled a massive document that nails down the case that bad science and politics make the complaints against scientists and the science that indicates global warming occurs, and can be attributed to greenhouse gases.  It is a scandal, though it’s unlikely to be reported that way.

Mashey’s entire paper — and it’s very, very large — is published at Deep Climate.

Mashey’s paper indicts staff work done for Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas — not that any of the voters in Barton’s district will let this major breach of ethics sway their votes, but those who want to vote against him can be gratified that they are on the moral side of the ballot.

Mashey wrote:

This report offers a detailed study of the “Wegman Report”: Edward J. Wegman, David W. Scott, Yasmin H. Said, “AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION”(2006).

It has been key prop of climate anti-science ever since. It was promoted to Congress by Representatives Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield as “independent, impartial, expert” work by a team of “eminent statisticians.” It was none of those.

A Barton staffer provided much of the source material to the Wegman team. The report itself contains numerous cases of obvious bias, as do process, testimony and follow-on actions. Of 91 pages, 35 are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning. Its Bibliography is mostly padding, 50% of the references uncited in the text.  Many references are irrelevant or dubious.  The team relied heavily on a long-obsolete sketch and very likely on various uncredited sources. Much of the work was done by Said (then less than 1 year post-PhD) and by students several years pre-PhD. The (distinguished) 2nd author Scott wrote only a 3-page standard mathematical Appendix.  Some commenters were surprised to be later named as serious “reviewers.”  Comments were often ignored anyway.  People were misused.

The Wegman Report claimed two missions: #1 evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph,  and #2 assess potential peer review issues in climate science.  For #1, the team might have been able to do a peer-review-grade statistical analysis, but in 91 pages managed not to do so.  For  #2, a credible assessment needed a senior, multidisciplinary panel, not a statistics professor and his students, demonstrably unfamiliar with the science and as a team, unqualified for that task.   Instead, they made an odd excursion into “social network analysis,” a discipline  in which they lacked experience, but used poorly to make baseless claims of potential wrongdoing.

In retrospect, the real missions were: #1 claim the “hockey stick” broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “think tanks” and allies, underway for years.

Now, if only Mashey had some e-mails stolen from Joe Barton, we could get some traction on the issue, eh?  ::wink-wink, nudge-nudge::

One may wonder what it will take to rehabilitate the skeptical side of the debate, to the point that they contribute more than mau-mauing.

Mashey’s paper makes that case that Joe Barton worked hard to pull off a great, hoaxed political smear, with a high degree of success.  Who will have the backbone to do anything about it?  Global cooling will proceed to the next ice age before any Republican shows backbone, I predict.

But, how long before the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or the Dallas Morning News picks up the story?

Other Texas bloggers?  Anyone?

It’s not an air-tight legal brief (I could quibble with some of the legal material), but in a better world, a world where politicians actually do good politics and public servants do public service, the House Rules Committee and Ethics Committee would be reading Mashey’s piece, and asking pointed questions.  U.S. attorneys in Washington, D.C., and the Northern District of Texas, would also be downloading Mashey’s piece, and puzzling it out.  Journalists in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Galveston and Houston in Texas, and Washington, D.C., and New York, would also be poring over the piece.  Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia would also be paying attention to it, if he were concerned about justice.

More (watch for updates):


Chess games of the rich and famous: House Speaker Joe Cannon vs. Congress

July 7, 2010

Cartoon - Cannon, Joe, The Poltiical Chessboard, Harpers 2-05-1910 - 3b23316r

The Poltiical Chessboard, Harper's Magazine, February 5, 1910, by E. W. Kemble - Library of Congress image

Description from the Library of Congress:

Joseph Cannon playing chess with straw man labelled “Congress,” using toy men on chessboard with squares labelled “important committee” and “freak committee.”

Legendary House Speaker Joe Cannon — after whom the Cannon House Office Building is named — is remembered for the almost absolute power he held over the House of Representatives.  Here’s the generic description at Wikipedia:

House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon - Wikimedia image, photo from October 1915

House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon - Wikimedia image, photo from October 1915

Cannon wielded the office of Speaker with unprecedented power. At the time of Cannon’s election the Speaker of the House concurrently held the chair of the Rules Committee, which determined under what rules and restrictions bills could be debated, amended, and voted on, and in some cases whether they would be allowed on the floor at all. As such, Cannon effectively controlled every aspect of the House’s agenda: Bills reached the floor of the house only if Cannon approved of it, and then in whatever form he determined—with he himself deciding whether and to what extent the measures could be debated and amended.

Cannon also reserved to himself the right to appoint not only the chairs of the various House committees, but also all of committees’ members, and (despite the seniority system that had begun to develop) used that power to appoint his allies and proteges to leadership positions while punishing those who opposed his legislation. Crucially, Cannon exercised these powers to maintain discipline within the ranks of his own party: the Republicans were divided into the conservative “Old Guard,” led by Cannon, and the progressives, led by President Theodore Roosevelt. His committee assignment privileges ensured that the party’s Progressive element was essentially powerless in the House, and his control over the legislative process obstructed progressive legislation.

Progressives wished to break Cannon’s ability to control so completely the flow of legislation.  By early 1910, progressives in the Republican Party especially chafed under Cannon’s rule.  Anxious for revolt, they struck on March 17, just a few weeks after this cartoon appeared.

On March 17, 1910, after two failed attempts to curb Cannon’s absolute power in the House, Nebraska Representative George Norris [of Nebraska] led a coalition of 42 progressive Republicans and the entire delegation of 149 Democrats in a revolt. With many of Cannon’s most powerful allies absent from the Chamber, but enough Members on hand for a quorum, Norris introduced a resolution that would remove the Speaker from the Rules Committee and strip him of his power to assign committees.

While his lieutenants and the House sergeant-at-arms left the chamber to collect absent members in attempt to rally enough votes for Cannon, the Speaker’s allies initiated a filibuster in the form of a point of order debate. When Cannon supporters proved difficult to find (many of the staunchest were Irish and spent the day at various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations), the filibuster continued for 26 hours, with Cannon’s present friends making repeated motions for recess and adjournment. When Cannon finally ruled the resolution out of order at noon on March 19, Norris appealed the resolution to the full House, which voted to overrule Cannon, and then to adopt the Norris resolution.

Cannon managed to save some face by promptly requesting a vote to remove him as Speaker, which he won handily since the Republican majority would not risk a Democratic speaker replacing him. However, his iron rule of the House was broken, and Cannon lost the Speakership when the Democrats won a majority later that same year.

Instead of the Speaker’s wishes, committee assignments and chairs were selected by a seniority system.

Cannon lost his seat representing Illinois in the progressive tide of 1912, but regained it in 1914, and served another four terms in the House, to 1922.

I have found no information on whether Cannon actually played chess.

Norris’s star was on the rise at the same time.  Though he supported Theodore Roosevelt in the election of 1912, when Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party and ran as a Progressive or “Bullmoose Party” nominee for president, Norris stayed with the Republican Party and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1912.

Norris became an isolationist, and was one of six senators to vote against the declaration of war in 1917 that pushed the U.S. into World War I.  Norris also opposed the Versailles Treaty, and played an important role in keeping the treaty from U.S. ratification.  He supported Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Reforms a decade-and-a-half later, and one of the early dams of the Tennessee Valley Authority is named for him.  Norris’s role in the New Deal, and in pushing progressive reforms well into the 20th century, is not fully appreciated, for example:

In 1932, along with Rep. Fiorello H. La Guardia, Norris secured passage of the Norris-La Guardia Act, which outlawed the practice of requiring prospective employees not to join a labor union as a condition of employment (the so-called yellow-dog contract) and greatly limited the use of court injunctions against strikes.

A staunch supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, Norris sponsored the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933. In appreciation, the TVA Norris Dam and a new planned city in Tennessee were named after him.[3][4] Norris was also the prime Senate mover behind the Rural Electrification Act that brought electrical service to under-served and unserved rural areas across the United States.

Switching to the Democratic Party in 1936 when the Republicans fell into the minority, Norris generally supported New Deal efforts but did not fear to oppose ideas he found unworthy, regardless their source or party connection.  His opposition to President Franklin Roosevelt’s “court packing” plan helped smother the idea.  Norris finally lost election in 1942.  Norris is one of eight U.S. senators profiled in John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage.


Clean energy bill needs your help

June 25, 2009

Call your Congressman, the person who represents you in the U.S. House of Representatives, and urge a “yea” vote on the comprehensive clean energy bill.

You can check your representative at several places, or follow the instructions through RePower America, listed below the video from our old friend Al Gore.

Repower America said in an e-mail:

Clean energy bill needs our support

Any moment now, the House will be voting on the boldest attempt to rethink how we produce and use energy in this country. The bill’s passage is not assured. Call your Representative today.

  • Call 877-9-REPOWER (877-9-737-6937) and we’ll connect you to your Representative right after providing you with talking points. (We’re expecting high call volume, and if you are unable to be connected please use our secondary line, 866-590-0971.)
  • When connected to your Representative’s office, just remember to tell them your name, that you’re a voter, and that you live in their district. Then ask them to “vote ‘yes’ on comprehensive clean energy legislation.”

They’d like you to report your contact, here.

What?  You haven’t been following the debate?  Here’s what the pro-pollution, give-all-your-money-to-Canada, Hugo Chavez, and the Saudis group hopesHere’s where the anti-pollution, pro-frog and clean environment people say the proposed act is way too weak as it stands.  Here’s the House Energy and Commerce Committee drafts and discussion of the billConsumer Reports analyzed the bill here (and said it can’t be passed into law fast enough despite its flaws).

Call now.  Pass the word to your friends.  Tell your children to call — their kids deserve better than the path we’re on now.

More information and discussion:


When earmarks were good Congressional policy

May 28, 2009

Once  upon a time earmarks on legislation promoted the best inventions, and consequently, the economic success of the United States.  Below is the image of a vote count made by Samuel F. B. Morse on the bill to provide money to develop the telegraph.  Image and the text of explanation both come from the Morse Collection at the  American Memory Project at the Library of Congress.

Member list of the U.S. House of Representatives, with notations by Samuel Morse on vote of February 23, 1843

Member list of the U.S. House of Representatives, with notations by Samuel Morse on vote of February 23, 1843

By 1842, funding from the U.S. Congress was essential if the now-impoverished Morse was to be able to build and prove his telegraph system. On February 23, 1843, his bill for appropriated funding passed in the House of Representatives by a slim majority of 89 to 83 (with 70 not voting), but obviously every vote was crucial. This annotated member list of the twenty-six states may have been used by Morse before, during, or after the vote. The symbol “O” is thought to indicate an assenting vote, “-” a dissenting vote, and “>” no vote.


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