Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum, and Tweedle-none

In Washington these days, there’s no oxygen left in the room to debate anything other than the faux debt ceiling issue. As the “deadline” draws near next week, every minute of talking head time on the cable networks is focused on the game of chicken being played between the competing plans offered by the Democratic and Republican leadership. Both plans are ineffective at dealing with our chronic spending and debt problems. Nonetheless, the debt ceiling appears to be occupying every minute of waking time in the days of the dinosaurs of political leadership currently responsible for resolving the issue.

But the key actors in this little farce remind me more of characters in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland than political leaders of vision and courage:

Strange all this Difference should be
‘Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee!
The contemporary version of Alice in Wonderland we see playing out before us in the halls of power in Washington has added a third member to the Tweedle cast. Let me introduce the actors now performing their roles in our nation’s capital:

Tweedle-dee has set forward a “debt reduction plan” that will cut a grand total of $6 billion from our $1.7 trillion deficit next year. That’s less than one half of one percent of the annual deficit. There’s no debt reduction in this plan.

Tweedle-dum wants to increase taxes and refuses to cut spending in any meaningful way.

Tweedle-none has no plan other than to step up to a microphone and petulantly complain about Tweedle-dee’s plan.

You can read the rest of this article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fred Upton Snatches Defeat From the Jaws of Victory in Light Bulb Battle

In my new e-book, I, Light Bulb: A Death Row Testimonial, the condemned 100 watt incandescent light bulb has this to say about Fred Upton, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who co-sponsored the offending amendment in the 2007 law, and concocted the inexplicably strategy that led to this evening’s 233-193 defeat of efforts to repeal the ban in the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act:

I stand wrongly accused and unjustly condemned, sentenced to die by the hand of Big Government . . .

What powerful industry executives, stuck selling me at low prices and low profit margins, deceptively manipulated the government to force my execution, so they could replace me with unsafe, high-priced, high margin, swirly spiraled Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs manufactured in China?

I accuse you, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, as one of those industry executives who sacrificed my tungsten filament on the altar of your industrial planning.

I accuse you, Congressman Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan and now Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of moral cowardice and spinelessness. You denied me due process. You knowingly participated in my trial without allowing me the benefit of a defense attorney, the right to call my own witnesses, or the right to cross-examine witnesses brought by the prosecution against me.

As I wrote last week in this space, Upton erred by failing to hold committee hearings on this bill, reporting it out of committee properly, then scheduling a floor vote that requires a majority, not two-thirds, to pass. Traditionally, only non-controversial bills take the special orders route. Upton’s poor strategy put Henry Waxman of California, of all people, on the moral high ground when he complained –quite properly — that this method was not appropriate for bringing the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act to the floor of the House for the vote.

You can read the rest of this article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Fred Upton Shows Us How Not to Repeal the Light Bulb Ban

On Wednesday of this week, Congressman Joe Barton introduced the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act,” HR 2417 , in Chairman Fred Upton’s House Energy and Commerce Committee, for the purpose of repealing the light bulb ban. You can read the bill here.

The rushed manner in which this bill is being brought to the floor of the House, however, is reminiscent of the “rush to legislation” that characterized the Stimulus and Obamacare legislation passed in Nancy Pelosi’s 111th Congress. Depending on what press report you read, the bill — after some possible last minute behind the scenes “deals” — will be introduced on to the floor of the House for a vote as early as Monday of next week — July 11. Upton’s plan is to skip public committee hearings and deliver the bill for a complete up or down vote to the entire House.

Section 2 of the bill repeals the offending sections of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that established energy standards that effectively banned the current generation of incandescent light bulbs.

So far, so good.

Sections 3 and 4 are troublesome, however, and give opponents arguments to oppose the bill.

You can read the rest of this article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Glenn Beck Makes the Wrong Original Argument

Despite his recent departure from Fox News, Glenn Beck remains a media phenomenon. He’s created an organization that grinds out new books at an amazing pace. His latest, The Original Argument: The Federalist Case for the Constitution Adapted for the 21st Century, is already a New York Times bestseller.

Beck is to be credited for popularizing the discussion of Constitutional issues fundamental to the founding of our republic. However, I think it’s fair to criticize his recent effort on several grounds.

I was surprised that by the second page of his introduction Beck made a significant historical error of the sort he ought to take pains to avoid. He cites a quotation by William Byrd II as an example of the kind of dischord that existed among the thirteen states at the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and subsequent state ratification debates:

Those opposed to the new constitution, collectively called the “Anti-Federalists,” were generally wary of the power wielded by the larger states and were concerned that the structure being proposed–a true republic–could never work in practice . . . Then you had groups like the Puritans, Virginians, and Quakers, who seldom agreed on, well much of anything. As Virginian William Byrd II said of the Puritans, ” A watchful eye must be kept on these foul traders.”

Byrd, it turns out, died in 1741, almost half a century before the Constitutional Convention. A well known Virginia politician and writer, Byrd’s critique of the Puritans was probably one of the last made while such a clearly identifiable culture existed. It’s an argument, applied to a world in which there were still those in New England who could be called “Puritans.” By the Constitutional Convention of 1787, however, the “Puritan” culture of New England had disappeared, replaced as it was by the “Yankee” culture. I was surprised that this anachronistic error was caught by neither Beck nor the fairly large staff that worked on this project.

You can read the rest of this article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.