Archive for August, 2011

There is a term that all career legislative politicians know and cherish. It is “voting from cover.” This is a device whereby your typical unprincipled politician can vote either way on a piece of legislation, but the leadership allows him or her to vote according to which way would most assist the politician’s re-election because the leaders had enough votes to pass the measure. In other words the politician was willing to vote for passage but voted against it because his vote was not needed. Given this frequent scenario, it is no wonder that citizens have become as cynical as their elected officials.


When one examines the voting record of a political professional, one often discovers some contradictory results. A politician may vote for a measure the first time around, but vote against a nearly identical version on the second pass. The suggestively schizophrenic behavior is generally an indicator that the so-called public servant was voting from cover. You may recall the legendary John Kerry statement from the 2004 campaign that he “voted for funding the Iraq war before he voted against it.” There were some commentators and of course, Republicans, who ridiculed Kerry’s apparent two-faced approach to such a vital issue. Many in the mass media, however, did not condemn Kerry because they understood that his votes reflected a total self-serving attempt to appear on both sides of the issue. They correctly understood that Kerry’s waffling…his unprincipled position…was not rare, but it was all too common among our United States’ political class.


At first blush an observer might seek to find some mechanism or penalty for those who choose to vote from cover to enhance their political fortunes. The problem with a remedy that directly addresses the issue is that there is no allowance for the politician who actually changes her or his position because of conscience, principle or payoff. We cannot fully trust the politician’s explanation for the position switch because so many of them are either slick liars or self-delusional. The observer can assume from the beginning that the leadership allowed the member to vote from cover if the vote was close, and the member voted against the majority. An overwhelming vote on either side of an issue is not a good barometer for testing the legislator’s principles because aside from the chicken or weasel, congress critters most often resemble lemmings. One of the first skills developed by a legislator is learning how to jump in front of a parade and pretending to lead it.


Unfortunately, it is difficult to detect which unprincipled politicians were voting from cover on any particular bill unless one is closely observing the roll call on C-SPAN. If the watcher knows who the Whips are for the party, they can see who they’re “babysitting” as the vote rolls in. As the numbers of “Ayes and Nays” approach finality, the Whips will release their wards to vote. If the Speaker “needs” their votes, they’ll vote for his position, but if there are a sufficient number supporting the Speaker’s stance, the captive Congresspersons will be allowed to vote consistent with their constituents’ preferences. So, what if the leaders are wrong (we have 100 years of recent history to suggest that our political leaders are often wrong)? Are our elected representatives so politically motivated that they would sacrifice principle in order to prevent embarrassing the leadership? Apparently so and historical evidence supports the premise. Certainly it is helpful if there is unity within the caucus when they are pursuing an ideal or policy that is based on principle and integrity. Unity for unity’s sake, however, when promoted and enforced to achieve damaging compromise merely reinforces the cynicism of the voters. Deal-making, deal-cutting and bet-hedging are reprehensible positions when the integrity of the nation is at stake. Yes, this type of legislating has been in place since the beginning of our Republic, but heightened scrutiny and moments of sustained crisis have illustrated the folly and damage that such an approach creates. “Business as usual” should become unusual and undesirable.


Our political system has become so corrupt and decayed that fixing it seems nearly impossible. I am convinced that most of those who are first elected to Congress or their respective legislatures enter with high hopes and sincere desires to make a difference. They become part of the system without realizing how compromised they are. Voting from cover is just another example of how unrepresentative our political system is. If you recall, 22 House members voted against Boehner’s sell-out deal on the debt ceiling, but the real number of steadfast fiscally-responsible patriots is 19. Three Members were being herded by Whip Kevin McCarthy until the vote was “locked.” They were willing to vote with Boehner, but because there were sufficient votes, they were “allowed” to vote for principle. I’m still trying to confirm who those three were, and they do not merit inclusion in the roll call of courage and conviction. There were 19 Spartans standing at the gates as the Persians advanced. There were three opportunists standing behind them….under cover….away from the arrows. Luke’s Gospel is good. Lukewarm is tepid.


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Crisis Creation

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Capitalism, Communications, Economy, Media, Oppression, Politics, Rants, Taxes, Tyranny
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If you have been on this earth for any significant time, you have probably and painfully learned that there is a difference between thoughtful consideration and procrastination. Dithering does not qualify as deliberation. Certainly prudence demands that we examine our options to determine which one will yield the most favorable outcome. Undoubtedly you are familiar with the term, “paralysis by analysis,” wherein over-examination of a difficult decision leads to a failure to act or respond. These scenarios are common for most of us, and we recognize the pitfalls that arise because of our inability to respond. These are some of the rules of life, but in certain quarters the rules are suspended. Take career politicians for example.


Most professional politicians suffer from an aversion to critical decision making. As you know, on an issue that is prominent and divided, the politician risks annoying or infuriating a large portion of his constituents no matter how she or he may vote. As a result, many crises in our affairs of state arise because of the career politicians’ refusal to deal with an issue promptly and forthrightly.  Issues become problems that beget crises that cause nervous handwringing and intense arm twisting. Generally, the politician succumbs to expediency and meekly follows the leadership to a minimalist response to the moment to escape the volcanic wrath of the electorate. Thus, the “can” of concern is kicked further down the road only to rise again at a later time with consequences far greater.


Abscessed characters and absences of integrity are too common among the careerist political class. The most self-centered among them weigh every decision on the scales of electoral expediency. In some respects the self-serving types are preferable to the indecisive cowards because their positions are so predictable. Whatever vote or pledge has the greatest potential for maintaining or advancing the politician’s career is the one that is taken or cast. The concept of a principled vote or position is alien to the class of politician who is consumed by opportunism. It is the expedient politician who has helped to elevate his class on a par with used car salesmen and snake oil peddlers in the popular views of the people.


Another factor besides the personalities and preferences of the politicians for the sense of crisis that seems pervasive is the sheer size of government…at all levels. Their consistent expansion and overreaching for the past century has resulted in bloated monstrosities that are ineffective and impossible to manage. Factor in the overlap and redundancy elements of many governments, and we often find ourselves in crisis mode because of competing bureaucracies or sectors of interest that are unaddressed because the various bureaucracies remain stuck in “turf-protection” gear. Large sluggish enterprises are inefficient and ineffective. Large public sector institutions are much worse than their private sector cohorts because it is nearly impossible to dismiss incompetent or lazy workers. So the massive organizational structure of government is a primary contributor to the frequency of crises in our public discourse.  Government agencies often overreach and frequently under perform. Either of those response modes could germinate a crisis.


Closely associated with the unrestrained growth of government is its insatiable need for operating funds. With Big Brother and Nanny State gobbling more control of our lives and our commerce, the financial requirements escalate. So, it seems there is a constant crisis for funding…at all levels of government. Their incestuous relationships and complex network of grants and mandates place an increasing financial burden on the taxpayers. When the bureaucrats and political class decide that additional funding is required, they claim that a crisis is imminent, and the funds are vital for averting a catastrophe.


There are two aspects of crisis that may not have so large of a domestic human component in the chain of causation..…attack by foreign entities and a natural or commercial disaster. Time and again our government’s response to a provocation or natural disruption has been too little, too late. Often when lives were saved, it was the heroic actions of individuals—some from the public sector and others just ordinary citizens—whose actions were the most helpful and effective. We may never know what involvement government had in the generating of the crises, if any, because of foreign policy, the inadequate construction and repair of levees, unrealistic environmental restrictions that limit the building of water-breaks and dams. The point is that people, local people, respond more quickly and effectively in many cases than does the government-controlled response agency. Does the memory of thousands of unused FEMA trailers for the Gulf Coast ring a bell? Many of those trailers were sources of breathing problems because the gaseous releases from the interiors….typical.


In every crisis for the nation, governments play an instrumental role. Sometimes government’s failure to act initiates the problem or makes it worse. On other occasions government’s response is inadequate or inappropriate and may exacerbate the problem. Finally some issues may be precipitated by government so as to assume more power and control over the population. In summary, big government and crisis appear to be synonymous. Friends, we have a crisis, and as Rahm Emanuel advises “we should not let a crisis go to waste.” Continue putting the heat on them, jump on your pony, Patriot, and let’s get control of this monstrosity.


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