Archive for March, 2010


Ahhh, those exhilerating, exuberant days of the cold war – those days when we were MAD.  Remember MAD – Mutual Assured Distruction?  The theory was very simple.  If each side (the USA and the USSR)  had the ability to destroy the other after a “first strike, nuclear war wouldn’t happen – to destroy the enemy was to destroy one’s self and that was MAD.  Tactical warfare was equally unlikely because it would quickly escalate – again nuclear war and …mutual assured destruction.  Pretty slick when you think about it, and it seemed to work.    

Our Senators, towering paragons of wisdom and selflessness that they are, have invented their own version of MAD – the New Filibuster.  Back in the days of the original MAD, a simple majority ruled the day and the filibuster was used as a tactical weapon.  Strom Thurmond, the champion filibusterer, wielded  this weapon for 24 hrs. and 18 minutes in oppostion to the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  This is a record even today.  But after his long rant about bicuit recipes and the like, things moved on – majority rule reasserted itself, there was a vote, and the of the civil rights bill passed.  But now our senators have mutated our filibuster into a more modern version, the New Filibuster.  The New Filibuster could better be term the “No-Need-to-Filibuster.”  Legislative action is brought a screeching halt if  there are not enough votes to stop a filibuster – “cloture” – a super-majority to stop debate, now-a-days, 60%.   

This is the Senate’s version of MAD.   Like the original MAD, the new filibuster is intended to stop action, and like the original MAD, it has been effective.  Imagine, Strom’s day-long filibuster – the new filibuster can go one for months without effort.  This has had a devastating effect on democracy and majority rule.   Unlike war, legislative action is a desired outcome; it is the means by which our society collectively responds to the issues and problems of the day.  I’m sure many would disagree with this statement – they would contend that inaction is the desireable outcome.  Why is this the case; why is it that the wonderful, cherished form of government that we boast so much about, is also held in such disdain?  Is it not so much action that we fear, but the tripe that Congress produces?  Our cherished legislative institution is not performing as it should.  Rather than taking definitive and sensible action, at best it is passes unworkable and self-defeating nonsense when finally does act.  Instead of making horses when we need horses, it is giving us camels (horses made by a committee, in this case a deadlocked one).  The health care debate is a timely example.   There are many ways that we could spend less than we are currently spending and still assure that all our citizens have access to adequate health care (and still maintaining a close working relationship between individuals and their chosen private, for-profit health care practicioners).  But instead of addressing the problem rationally and head on, we are going to end up (at best) with a half-baked bill.  Yes, if the current legislation is passed, it will bring access to health care to millions of Americans, but it will be unnecessarily expensive and cumbersome…it will perpetuate a wasteful, inefficient “system,” and it will accelerate the already rapid growth in health care costs.      

 While the common people languish, the ruling duopoly in the Senate (the Democrat and Republican office holders) is awash with benefits from mechanisms such as the new filibuster.  Inaction is safe, especially when its causes are ambiguous – who is responsible for insipid outcomes – intransgent right or left wingers – individual hold outs?   Take a look at the current crisis in our financial system.  Senators may pound their chests in outrage (Frank…Dodd?) at the excesses of the financial industry, but don’t they find this easy to do when they know that nothing will come of it.  Is not inaction and stalemate a cover, does it not  ignore the needs of the country and its citizens and leave the field open for the big interests?  Is it any wonder that these interests payoff  Republican and Democrat alike no matter where they stand on the issues?  The duopoly and their handlers both know that the rhetoric is necessary, it convinces the populous is looking out for them…and this is very convenient when it is mere idle babble.  

The new filibuster is only one of the mechanisms of congressional inaction, but is one of the easiest to rectify.  Simply restore the good old fashion filibuster by filibuster.  Allow opponents to a bill filibuster – let them read the entirety of the Fanny Farmer if there are not enough votes for cloture.  At least put-up-or-shut-up is straight up and honest;  it is out in the open and it deters double talk and hipocrisy.  Although the old filibuster could go on forever, it has a built in accountability that makes it time limited.  Look what happened the last time a party shut down government!

Jim from the Abyss

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