Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama's Power: short of 60, it's nil...

At first, “filibuster” referred to a “free booter” or “pirate”, who engaged in illegal activities for self gain; then it became “an endless discourse to impede the passage of an ‘unwanted’ congressional bill.

Words for a Modern Age

Well, Jimmy Stewart was a Republican and he did make that filibuster look good!

He was also one of my favorite actor of the 40's when I was young with Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda and Fred McMurray. With Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Capra made a movie about the figure of the Every American Man who watches his ideals and efforts corrupted by crooks, assaulted by thieving liars and self-serving public figures and saved by the bon-vouloir of individual power. Yes, we do know the feeling...
In the movie, the filibuster was used as the last desperate act of a desperate man, as a last measure to stop the usual going-ons of the Senate so it could pay attention to a particular injustice as a citizen used his right to petition the government and state his grievances.

But now...Now...

There is this great graph about the filibuster use in the Senate since the 1960's on the McClatchy DC web site (, a real clear trend toward catastrophe can be seen in those numbers:
The use of the threat of a filibuster to delay or block legislation have gone from 3 to 7 case in the 60's to 50 to 100 projected in 2007!!!

Paralysis is what thwarted the Clinton Presidency and what do you think those beacon of passive aggressiveness that are the Repug will do starting January (if they have not started yet): screamed of partisanship while doing every partisan trick in the book to block changes. You know that, I know that but what can we do about it?

So, here a little article by Doug Page that I stumble upon on the Black Commentator web site comes more than handy: it is a goldmine of info on the filibuster and the inner working of Congress. Let me quote some to you:

"The unanimous maintenance of Senate Rule XXII by the Senators constitutes the overthrow of our constitutional governing pattern and an overthrow of our right to govern ourselves and to guide our destiny through our elected representatives. It is a bloodless coup by the Senators, as effective as a military coup in a banana republic. Given even the normal disagreements among humans, it is impossible to muster and maintain political support for legislation or for reform by a majority of the Members of the House, the support of the President, and in addition the votes of a supermajority of 60 Senators. This Rule stands as an effective obstruction to any reform, any hope of change, and any effective governmental relief from the effects of an economic downturn....

The House of Representatives, bound by the same phrase in the Constitution, has no such filibuster rule and has functioned by vote by simple majority for over 200 years. The Senate can and should also do its business by majority rule.

Our Constitution, with its cumbersome requirement that a bill be approved by a majority of the House of Representatives, a majority of the Senate, and the signature of the President, presents difficult obstacles to any change in the status quo, and to any reform. Unfortunately, we sovereign voters have this further unconstitutional obstacle. The filibuster authorized by Senate Rule XXII requires a supermajority, the affirmative vote of 60 Senators to pass any legislation, and not merely a majority of a quorum....

Why do our Elected Senators Maintain the Supermajority 60 Vote Rule?

Senate Rule XXII gives each individual Senator immense political power to block legislation or appointments. Under Senate practice at least since 1993, there are no long speeches, no long debates, and no speeches at all. A single Senator simply asks his party leader to put a “hold” on a pending proposal. The party leader and the rest of his party honor this individual request. If the proponents wish to proceed despite the opposition, the proponents must muster the support of 60 Senators. The Rule also gives overwhelming power to “special interests,” a drug company that wishes to oppose Single-Payer Health Coverage, a Wall Street firm that wishes to prevent reform or an ideologue who wishes to maintain capitalism as totally unregulated. These unelected “special interests” initially need to “persuade” only a single Senator to stall the legislation, and only 41 Senators to block our majority will, as manifested in the 2008 election. This accounts for much of the gridlock in Washington. Senate Rule XXII makes it easy for unelected “special interests” to maintain the status quo, even when an overwhelming majority of voting citizens vote for and desire change. Senate Rule XXII makes it practically impossible to enact reform legislation.

All 100 Senators support Senate Rule XXII because it gives each of them immense individual power, and it provides them with campaign contributions from powerful wealthy “special interests” to finance their re-election campaigns. The Senators routinely betray a majority of the sovereign voters, violate their oaths to support and defend the Constitution, and accept money from the special interests. Even newly elected Senators support the Rule, even if they may secretly oppose it, because of their belief that they must go along with Senate tradition if they have any hope of getting the support of more senior Senators for their own proposals.

We all need to organize and lead a million voter march, armed with symbolic pitchforks, on both the local and Washington offices of Democratic Senators, and to keep marching as long as is necessary. There are millions of voters...with a focused demand:

1. That when the Republican Senators filibuster this badly needed legislation, that the Democratic Senators and newly elected Vice President Biden pledge to use the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster and restore constitutional legislating by majority vote in the Senate once and for all.

2. That the Senators halt the useless bail out to the very interests in Wall Street that created the problem.

3. That the Senators support legislation that will immediately and directly help voters and Main Street without making things worse.

4. That the Senators pledge to fund the costs of the Stimulus Package and other necessary rebuilding by a wealth tax on the wealthiest 1%.

5. In order to collect the new taxes, that the Senators pledge to require IRS to use the powers of the Patriot Act and DOD and CIA computers to locate that wealth, wherever on the planet the wealthy may have hidden it, to achieve the following objectives:

a. To heal the damage Wall Street has created.

b. To fund Single-Payer Health Coverage for every American, to fund alternative sources of green energy, and to rebuild the infrastructure.

c. To curtail the overwhelming antidemocratic political power that the wealth of Wall Street and the top 1% affords them.
Most of us do not know about the immense total wealth held by the wealthiest 1%. It is a well kept secret. It is at least $13 Trillion. How much is that? Well, it is as much wealth as all the bottom 95% own. This $13 Trillion is held by 30 thousand people. These 30 thousand hold as much wealth as 300 million of us. If we stack up $100 bills, a $1,000 stack would be a stack between ¼ inch and ½ inch high. A million dollar stack would be 39 inches high. A billion dollar stack would be 3280 feet high or 6/10 of a mile. A trillion Dollar stack would be 621 miles high. The $13 trillion total wealth of the top 1% would be a stack of $100 bills 8,073 miles high. The wealth of this top 1% must be taxed in order to help us build a stable functioning community as authorized by the 16th Amendment to our Constitution. We have no alternative. We ordinary citizens cannot afford further taxes during this economic downturn.

A further source of funds is a stock transaction tax. A tax of one dime on every purchase and sale of stock on our exchanges would raise $52 billion per year, assuming trades of 2 billion shares per day and 260 trading days per year.

We are motivated by our own need, and the desperate need of our human community. We seek Justice. As the moral philosopher Ronald Dworkin has written: “It is unjust for some to have more than they need when others are needy.” Our community is very needy and we the people must recapture our voter sovereignty."

Well, this is not what Mr. Smith has envisioned with his used of the filibuster!! If we do not ACT to give a clear support to Obama to make immediate change that is beneficial to mainstreet, we will be friggin' cooked. If Pelosi and co. do not turn the table on the Republican and ask them for proof of their supposedly bi-partisan fervor, we are fried. And if the Repug cashmad Senators succeed again in their hijack of public power to benefit a minority of greedy spoiled brats that love the smell of cash burning in the morning, there will be no America left to look after but a country where 1% laugh at our feeble attempt at democracy while the rest of us live in abject poverty and desperation, giving every last dollar to Wal-Mart.

Somehow, I'm sure that is exactly what we're fighting against...

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