"Used to be that the idea was 'once every two years voters elected their representatives.' And now instead it's 'every ten years the representatives choose their constituents.'"
Obama won Ohio by two points, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won by five, but Democrats emerged with just four of Ohio’s 16 House seats. In Wisconsin, Obama prevailed by seven points, and Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin by five, but their party finished with just three of the state’s eight House seats. In Virginia, Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine were clear victors, but Democrats won just three of the commonwealth’s 11 House seats. In Florida, Obama eked out a victory and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won by 13 points, but Democrats will hold only 10 of the Sunshine State’s 27 House seats. The Revenge of 2010: How gerrymandering saved the congressional Republican majority, undermined Obama's mandate, set the terms of the sequestration fight, and locked Democrats out of the House for the next decade. It's not a new problem. But if the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act, it could get a whole lot worse. And the electoral college may be next. (What's gerrymandering, you ask? Let the animals explain. Meet the Gerry-mander. Peruse the abused. Catch the movie. Or just play the game. Previously.)
Just in case you haven't overdosed on American politics: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Most Corrupt members of Congress (Full 2012 report - pdf). [more inside]
The November 6th elections saw a lot of historic decisions made in the United States -- the first black president re-elected, marijuana legalized for the first time in two states, gay marriage affirmed by the voters in four, and even the first openly gay senator. But perhaps the most underreported result yesterday came from outside the country altogether: in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a solid majority voted to reject the island's current status and join America as the long-fabled 51st state. How the bid might fare in Congress is an open question, but both President Obama and Republican leaders have vowed support for the statehood movement if it proves successful at the ballot box (while D.C. officials ponder a two-fer gambit to grease the wheels). Though it would be the poorest state, joining the Union might bring economic benefits to both sides [PDF]. And politically, some argue the island might prove to be a reliably red state, despite the Hispanic population, although arch-conservative governor and Romney ally Luis Fortuño appears headed toward a narrow loss. But the most important question here, as always, is: how to redesign the flag? (Puerto Rican statehood discussed previously.)
Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy writes SciAm, as part of their election coverage, which also includes rating two candidates' answers on particular sciencey topics (full replies here, marking sheet here), as well as inquiring about the positions of other congress critters. Use 'Print' button for single page presentation
Revelations From Running For Congress Steve Packard writes a blog called "Depleted Cranium," which debunks bad science in the media. Last spring he decided to run for Congress on a "Science-based" platform. It was ultimately a heartbreaking experience for him and he had to quit, as he'd run out of money for food. He has a pretty great post up summing up his experiences now. And at this point probably wouldn't mind if you donated a couple of cans of beans.
"Republicans stand the chance of controlling Congress for the rest of the decade if they don't screw it up."
"The Republicans’ dominance in races throughout the country in the 2010 elections eviscerated the Democrats’ farm teams in state after state." Former Bill Clinton political director Doug Sosnik offers an 8-page analysis of the U.S. election that discusses the likelihood of an Obama win, the chances of a complete Republican takeover of Congress, continued Republican dominance of governorships and state legislatures for the rest of the decade, and more. There's also a related slideshow. [more inside]
Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of revered civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, Sr., has been missing from the public eye since June 10th, failing to cast votes and making no public appearances. After weeks of vague statements raising more questions than answers about his mystery illness, Jackson's office has stated that he is seeking treatment for "debilitating" depression at the Mayo Clinic. Jackson's office denies alcoholism or drug addiction. [more inside]
Earlier this year, six scientists and doctors filed a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration alleging that the FDA had secretly monitored their personal e-mail accounts after they (legally) warned Congress that the "agency was approving medical devices that they believed posed unacceptable risks to patients." The agency said it had done so to "investigate allegations that the employees had leaked confidential information to the public." At the time, the FDA indicated their computer monitoring was limited to five scientists. But now, the New York Times is reporting that "what began as a narrow investigation" "quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process.". [more inside]
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (previously), R-MI 11, is a very conservative politician and a colorful character, to say the least. [more inside]
Apparently, the USHOR Appropriations Committee feels uncomfortable about permitting convenient bulk access to THOMAS database of bills.
Calls are growing for a special counsel to investigate leaks of classified information by the Obama administration. Concerns have been raised over leaks involving classified information on cyberwarfare, infiltration of an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen, and drone warfare procedures. [more inside]
The Sunlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to transparency in government, has analyzed 17 years of Congressional speech (per the Congressional Record) and found that the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of speech on the floor of the House and Senate has dropped by nearly a full year in the last decade. [more inside]
What do John McCain, Rick Santorum, and George Voinovich have in common? They have all been seated at the Senate's candy desk throughout their careers. [more inside]
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
At the instruction of House Republicans, US Capitol Police arrested Josh Fox for filming a public hearing—a meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. Josh directed Gasland (previously), a documentary on the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process used by energy companies which has been linked to causing earthquakes in Arkansas and other side effects. [more inside]
Pictures are making the rounds of a younger Ron Paul in the 1975-1979 Houston Astros "rainbow" uniform. Why, you might ask? "An 1889 editorial in the New York Sun advised 'all statesmen of any aspirations for the future to consider that if they have not yet recorded themselves as lovers of our national game [baseball] or some other sporting interest, they should do so immediately.'" This isn't lost on the 21st-century GOP hopefuls, either (you have to see the Rick Santorum video). Since not long after that editorial--1909 actually--the "two parties" in the U.S. Congress have faced off in the Annual Congressional Baseball Game. [more inside]
SOPA and PIPA dropped by Congress. The ideas present in both SOPA and PIPA may return, but both bills in their present form—and with their present names—are probably done for good.
Presidential appointments that require Senate confirmation can be made without confirmation by the President when the chamber is in recess: a so-called recess appointment, wherein the appointee is allowed to serve until the end of the next congressional session. During the Bush II administration, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid began holding pro forma sessions every three days—a local Senator gavels the session in and immediately back out—to ensure that the Senate never went into recess and as a result, Bush stopped confirming recess appointments. When the Obama administration took over, the Republicans began holding the same pro forma sessions to prevent Obama from appointing any positions in recess. This week, Obama made four appointments, including Richard Cordray to the newly created role of director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, despite the fact that the Senate is not in technical recess. [more inside]
How Money Corrupts Congress (previously) - John Baez sez: "It's easy to get distracted in a thicket of issues. Thoreau said 'There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.' But what's the root? Watch this video for Lawrence Lessig's answer."
Tomato: fruit or vegetable? In 1893, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Nix v. Hedden that the tomato is legally a vegetable and not a fruit, botanical definitions be damned. In 2001, the European Union disagreed, saying that "tomatoes, the edible parts of rhubarb stalks, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and water-melons are considered to be fruit". [more inside]
Lt. Gen. Russell Honore has a solution to the increasing splintering and radicalization of Congress: send all the members of Congress to boot camp and keep them there until they recognize their duty to America.
Worst. Congress. Ever. "With the debt ceiling impasse and legislative gridlock sucking all the air out of Washington, Foreign Policy asked the experts: Is this really the worst Congress ever?"
The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA has proposed a spending bill that would cut funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble and the telescope many astronomers consider the best chance to continue and expand the Hubble's legacy. Here are the Subcommittee Members.
Although much has been said about the demographic composition of the United States Congress, much less has been said about the thousands of staffers who work behind the scenes, drafting legislation, interacting with constituents, and advising their congressperson. The National Journal has created two infographics that attempt to describe this silent, but influential workforce.
In a 32 page report to Congress [pdf] President Obama concludes:
...the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision.Now, the New York Times reports that this legal opinion was reached by rejecting the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department. It is instructive to compare President Obama's actions with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. [more inside]
Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner, of New York's 9th congressional district, will resign from Congress today at 2 p.m. in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. [more inside]
"I, Amy Myers, do hereby challenge Representative Michele Bachmann to a Public Forum Debate and/or Fact Test on The Constitution of the United States, United States History and United States Civics."
Open Letter TO JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. The Democrat from Springfield responds to the Chase CEO's letter to shareholders.
$1,000 per pound to orbit is the holy grail for rocket pricing. Elon Musk claims that his SpaceX corporation's new Falcon Heavy will be able to lift 117,000 lbs. to low earth orbit for 1/3rd the cost of the next most capable launchers, the space shuttle and the Delta IV Heavy. [more inside]
The US House of Representatives has voted to cut all federal NPR funding. To take effect, this would still need to make it through the senate, which most likely would not succeed. [more inside]
Hearings on the "extent of radicalization" of US Muslims initiated by Rep. Peter King are underway in Washington. [more inside]
Enjoying your Friday night? Be careful out there. In between other things, including voting for huge cuts to the EPA's budget and regulating power, the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to eliminate Title X, originally signed into law 40 years ago by Republican President Richard Nixon, which provides funding for Planned Parenthood. [more inside]
The Patriot Act lives! The US House of Representatives has agreed to extend some of surveillance powers granted by the 2001 Patriot Act after the 9/11 attacks. In a 275-144 vote, the chamber voted to extend until December provisions on wiretaps, access to business records and surveillance of terror suspects.
"The House Republicans' first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing." [more inside]
'The new Republican leaders in the House have received millions of dollars in fresh contributions from banks, health insurers and other major business interests, which are pressing for broad reversals of Democratic policies that affect corporations, according to disclosure records and interviews.''Much of that money flowed to the GOP chairmen overseeing banking, energy and other key committees, who will play a central role in setting the House agenda over the next two years. The impetus behind such largess is simple: Many companies and industry groups hope that House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and other Republicans will succeed in rolling back Democratic policies they find objectionable, including environmental and Wall Street regulations.' [more inside]
HR 2, officially the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act", has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 245 to 189. 3 Democrats (Reps. Boren (OK), McIntyre (NC), and Ross (AR)) joined all 242 Republicans voting Aye. The bill will not be brought for a vote in the Senate, nor would it escape veto by President Obama. [more inside]
USA PATRIOT is up for renewal again. Tim Nichols of the Independent Examiner reports that "nobody notices" as Mike Rogers (R-MI) floats the renewal. As we noted last year during another quiet renewal, this is not the first time the Obama administration has been confronted with the idea. While groups as disparate as the Cato Institute and the Randolph Bourne Institute's antiwar.com speak out against the possibility, mainstream media sources seem uninterested.
Following the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others, Peter King (R), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, plans to introduce legislation banning firearms within 1000 feet of a government official.
The incoming Republican majority in the US House of Representatives is right now reading the text of the Constitution on the House floor. Representatives chose to omit superceed portions of the text including The Three-Fifth Compromise and Prohibition
The Senate has cleared the way for a final vote to repeal the U.S. military policy, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.. [more inside]
Since 10:24 AM ET, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has held "a filibuster [or] a very long speech" on the tax cut deal brokered between the president and congressional Republicans. Watch it live on C-SPAN 2. Vermont's Peter Welch leads the charge against the deal in the House. The President has called his opponents "sanctimonious" and "unrealistic."
Ron Paul, 11-term Republican Congressman for the 14th Congressional district of Texas, original Tea Partier (warning: YouTube), libertarian presidential candidate, and author of End the Fed (Bloomberg review) today announced that he is next in line to chair the United States House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology in charge of, among other things, oversight of the Federal Reserve. [more inside]
In remembrance of the Confederate and Union soldiers who served in the American Civil War, the Liljenquist Family recently donated their rare collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. These achingly poignant portraits speak volumes. [more inside]
It's Election Day in America, and as is so often the case in this fickle land, the results of the 2010 midterm elections are up in the air. Although President Obama's party is expected to suffer significant losses, record numbers of districts remain competitive, and even minute errors in polling could mean the difference between a historic Republican landslide and an unexpectedly robust Democratic defense. At stake are control of not just the Senate and House, but myriad state and local offices, many of which will play key roles in the dynamics of the 2012 presidential race -- and, more subtly but no less crucially, the once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting process. Much uncertainty surrounds the behavior of the electorate -- how many will turn out, and how informed will they be? To help move those statistics in the right direction, look inside for voter guides, national and state fact checkers, and an assortment of other resources to keep tabs on as the results roll in. [more inside]
"This just blew my mind out of my nose and onto my keyboard." A spectacular show of 3D mapping light projections on 3D surfaces at the last Mobile World Congress presented by Alcatel-Lucent. Originally found via this blog:
Meet Rich Iott, Ohio Tea Party candidate for Congress and currently America's most famous WW II reenactor. Rich Iott, Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio's 9th Congressional District and Tea Party favorite, has recently gotten a huge amount of national press for his hobby of dressing like a member of the German 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. [more inside]
We make this pledge bearing true faith and allegiance to the people we represent, and we invite fellow citizens and patriots to join us in forming a new governing agenda for America. [more inside]