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Monday, August 28, 2017

Brookings Institution: Governance Studies- Molly Reynolds: Limitations of The Senate Filibuster

Source: Brookings Institution-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat 

Warning! This article is only for truly hard-core political and Congressional junkies and people who haven't slept in days and need to fall asleep real quick. Great bedtime reading for your hard-core insomniacs. Because this is not just about Congress, but the Senate in particular and not just the Senate, but Senate rules and not just Senate rules, but a rule called the filibuster. One of those inside Washington words that people from outside of the beltway might think is from a different language. Let alone able to explain what that word is and what it means.

For people who need to fall asleep real quick I'll give you a little background and history about the Senate filibuster to explain the current limitations of it today and for those people who see this they might be able to sleep for weeks after reading this.

Before then Senate Leader Harry Read and about 52 or so of his Senate Democratic colleagues nuked the filibuster as it has to do with executive nominations and judicial nominations in the fall of 2013 in the 113th Congress. The Senate Minority Leader (the person who leads the minority party in the Senate) and his party colleagues in the Senate could block almost every piece of legislation on their own. If they had at least 41 seats and votes in the Senate.

The only exceptions having to with the budget and what's called reconciliation. Which is a Congressional term that has to do with the budget. Meaning that any bill that has to do with spending tax dollars like tax cuts and reforms and expansions of entitlement programs like Medicare, would only need 51 votes including the Vice President to break a tie to pass the Senate.  Now for someone who is a Congressional junky like myself and loves studying and reading about Congress especially the history of it, the Senate filibuster and Senate rules in general are fascinating to me and learning any information about it like that would make me so charge up it might keep me awake until the next solar eclipse. But for your average insomniac this kind of material might send them into a coma.

Thanks to former Senate Leader Harry Reid and his Senate Democratic colleagues in the Senate, the majority party only needs 51 votes to not only move to voting on presidential nominations for both the executive and judiciary, but for final passage on those nominations. During the spring this year Senate Democrats lead by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, blocked President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch with the filibuster rule. I think Senate Joe Manchin, Senate Joe Donnelly, and Senate Heidi Heitkamp, were the only three Senate Democrats who voted to cut off any filibuster of then Judge Gorsuch.

And when Senate Democrats blocked Gorsuch, current Senate Leader Mitch McConnell moved to eliminate all filibusters of Supreme Court nominees which passed on a party-line vote. Which means almost everyone in one party votes one way and almost everyone in the other party votes the other way. Not people standing in line to go to some party.

So under current Senate rules the majority party can only eliminate filibusters on legislation if they have 60 votes. Meaning they either have 60 seats in the Senate (which rarely happens) or they get a compromise with the minority party generally the Minority Leader or the minority manager of the bill that is on the floor. And that compromise leads to at least enough minority members of the Senate to cut off any potential filibuster of the current bill.

Or to get back to that crazy arcane word of reconciliation and the Senate majority party brings up some legislation that has to do with the budget. Something that they want as part of the budget that has to be passed that year. And if they're able to do that they pass tax dollar related legislation with just 51 votes including the Vice President of the United States.

But even reconciliation has it's limits because that rule has to be passed first and the time for that is limited if a budget is not passed during that year in Congress, then bills can only be passed through reconciliation through September. And then if a budget is still not passed every piece of legislation that is considered in the Senate is subjected to the cloture rule (meaning the filibuster) and needs 60 votes to pass for the rest of that year. Which means again unless the Senate majority party has 60 seats (which rarely happens) the majority party needs cooperation and votes from the minority party to move legislation in the Senate.

I hope these explanations of the Senate filibuster and it's usage and limitations help people who are interested in learning about Congress, especially the upper chamber which is the Senate. Or at the very least helps people who are in badly need of sleep finally get the sleep that they deserve.

I realize reading about Congressional rules or perhaps reading about anything outside of new technology and celeb culture especially in today's world reality TV world and overdose of celebrity culture and smartphones which of course is far more important (to too many people) can seem intrusive and time consuming. And reading about how legislation that affects over three-hundred-million Americans as far as what laws we have to do live under and will our civil liberties, property rights, civil rights, will be protected or expanded. Will any of our relatives be sent to war, how much we're going to have to pay in taxes, or in interest on the national debt and budget deficit. Just to show some examples of how Congress and the Federal Government in general can and does affect our lives.

But it's worth learning and knowing about any institution in America that can have that much power  over how any of us live in America. Because we all pay for the government that we get whether we think that government is interesting and worth our time knowing about it or not. Whether we like it or not.
Source: Discerning History 

Discerning History: History of The Filibuster

Monday, August 21, 2017

BBC: 1999 Jayne Mansfield Documentary

Source: BBC- Jayne Mansfield-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

I guess in one way Jayne Mansfield was a great actress and not just a great comedic actress and comedian, but a real great actress at least in the sense that she had so many people fooled. She wanted to be seen as the dumb blonde who needed her hot adorable sexy image to pay her bills. But in actuality she always knew what she was doing. An intelligent woman who wanted to be viewed as a bimbo and was such a great actress that she pulled that off. She had people thinking she was exactly as she came off which was as a bimbo.

Marilyn Monroe had the famous quote that it takes a smart woman to play the dumb blonde. Well that was Jayne Mansfield, the smart woman who played the dumb blonde. She knew what Hollywood was and how she could be successful in it and played her talents to the hilt. A hot adorable woman with a great body, but who also had a great sense of humor and comedic timing, who was also an accomplished singer. But knew exactly what people in Hollywood and what the fans noticed first and what they wanted.

Which was to see hot this adorable woman with the great curve appeal and then you add to that which was she was a great entertainer. Someone who should exchange wisecracks with funny people like Tom Ewell, Edmond O'Brien, Merv Griffin, Jack Benny, Cary Grant, and many others. She was better than Marilyn Monroe at least in this sense that Jayne knew she was really good and had made it and deserved what she accomplished. Unlike Marilyn who was battling mental illness and depression and was heavily medicated for a lot of her adult life and had even attempted suicide and been committed at one point.

Jayne had a plan from day one and knew what she needed to do to make it in Hollywood. But unfortunately Jayne Mansfield falls in the class of what could've happened if only and ends up dying at 34 in 1967 because of a car crash where she wasn't even driving because her and her crew were in a big hurry to meet a big appointment that they had in New Orleans the next morning.

By the time Jayne died in 1967 she was woking the nightclub circuit as a singer because her Hollywood career at burned out because the major studios no longer wanted to work with her. Jayne mentally in many ways was just as adorable as she was physically. She came off a little girl both physically and personally. And was fairly immature and developed bad habits like drinking heavily and not able to take criticism very well and work to expand her image so she could get better and bigger parts. Which is why she fell out of Hollywood and down to the nightclub circuit just to pay the bills and keep working.
BBC: 1999 Jayne Mansfield Documentary

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Baseline Scenario: Opinion- James Kwak- The Importance Of Fairness: A New Vision For The Democratic Party

Source: James Parks- Congressional Democrats-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat Plus

Economic fairness and social justice even is a good debate in the Democratic Party and it seems to becoming from two wings in it.

From the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren social democratic wing that believes the problem with the American economy is that rich people have too much money and everyone else simply struggles just to survive and in many cases can’t survive on their own and in some cases don’t even have a job. And are complete dependent on public assistance for their survival. Well, they’re half right about too many Americans simply not having enough in society to live well. And argue that what we should be doing is taking from the rich in high taxes to support the middle class and poor with bigger current Federal social insurance programs and new social insurance programs for the middle class and poor.

And then you have this Cory Booker/Martin O’Malley wing that believes there are too many Americans who struggle and there should be something done about it, but it becomes a question about what should be done. The Center-Left liberal wing of the party that’s still in existent today that John F. Kennedy and many other Democrats did a lot to build don’t take a class warfare approach. And blame rich people for everyone else’s struggles in life. And say the problem is not that there rich people in America but the problem is that there aren’t enough successful people in America. You have very few at the very top. And then you have a lot of Americans who struggle to get by but generally do. And then you have a lot of people at the bottom who simply live in poverty.

I come down with Center-Left of the Democratic Party. If we want to remain a major political party in America we’re going to need to connect to more blue-collar Americans particularly in the Midwest who believe and in many cases are accurate in this belief that they’re already taxed too high. And aren’t looking for more government welfare but instead for an opportunity for them to do well in America. For good jobs and more economic development to return to their communities. Government even the Federal Government can help in seeing that these things happen with more and better infrastructure investment in these communities. Including inner cities and underdeveloped rural communities. As well as tax credits to increase job training and education for adults who simply don’t have enough education to get a good job right now even if the new economic development happens in their communities.

But at the end of the day if you want more economic and job growth, you want wages to increase in America, an expanding workforce where most of the jobs that are created are good middle class full-time jobs instead of part-time jobs and you want less poverty in America, then Americans have to continue to be encouraged to do well in America. And that means not taxing everyone so high including the wealthy to the point that they’re wondering why are they working so hard and being so productive when Uncle Sam just takes most of their money from them in taxes and gives it people who aren’t doing well economically.

If you want a definition for economic fairness, I’ll give you one anyway but the same definition for economic fairness is the same definition I have for social justice. And it’s about equality of opportunity. That every American has a quality opportunity to do well in life no matter their race, ethnicity or gender, or where they’re born and how they start off in life. That every kid in America has an opportunity to go to a good school no matter where they live. And aren’t sent to school based on where they live, but instead sent to school based on what’s the best school for them.

And even for adults who didn’t take advantage of that opportunity to go to a good school as a kid and are now a low-skilled adult working multiple jobs and still living in poverty or perhaps not working at all and completely dependent on public assistance, that they are given the opportunity to finish and further their education so they can get themselves a good job and do well in life as well.

The same economic debate in the Democratic Party about what our vision should be what type of party we should be on economic policy I believe gets down to one question. Do we as Democrats believe in equality of opportunity which is where the Democratic Leadership is where every American as an opportunity to do well in life, but what they make of that opportunity is completely up to them. Or are we going to become a party that believes in equality of results which is what Sweden essentially practices as a country. Where the national government essentially collects all the resources of the country and then gives them back equally to everyone in the country in the form of welfare state payments.

Again I come down with the Center-Left wing of the party and I’ll paraphrase Senator Cory Booker here and say we should be a country where we all rise. Where everyone has a quality opportunity to do well in America. But how they do will be based on those quality opportunities. The old cliche that you make the bed that you sleep in. And for people who take advantage of those opportunities those Americans will do very well in America. And get to live of their production and enjoy the fruits of their labor even if they’re very wealthy, but obtain that wealth by getting a good education and being very good at their job and with their investments.

And for the Americans who didn’t take advantage of those quality opportunities they had they won’t do very well. But not because of where they were born, or maybe they only had one parent, or because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or any other circumstances that they couldn’t control. But their lack of success in life will because they didn’t finish their education and perhaps made other mistakes early in life that has weaken their economic outlook.

You need government to see that everyone can do well in life, but not to babysit us and try to take care of us from cradle to grave. But to see that there’s an environment where everyone can do well.

Where everyone is treated equally under law and not denied opportunities in life, because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religion. But to see that everyone can go to a good school.

Where the infrastructure system is modernize so everyone can get around and where economic development can be done and good jobs are created.

Where you have  tax system where people and business’s are encouraged to do well and aren’t taxed out of business.

A regulatory state to see that consumers and workers are protected from predators but not to try run business’s in a way that big government would run them.

And a safety net for people who truly need it but not to babysit them and instead tries to lift them up so they can rise in America as well.

That will be the debate going into next year when the Congressional mid-terms take place and Democrats fight to win back the House and perhaps the Senate as well. And into the 2020 presidential election and Democrats pick their next party leader. What kind of party are we going to be on economic policy. And it will be between people who want to see more Americans do well and be empowered to create their own freedom and life independently. And Democrats who believe our economic problem is that government is too small and Americans at all levels are undertaxed and that we have rich people at all.
James Parks: House and Senate Democrats on Economic Agenda

Monday, August 7, 2017

TV Fanatic: The Jayne Mansfield Story 1980- CBS Wednesday Night Movie

Source: TV Fanatic-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

At risk of sounding old here, when I was growing up in the 1980s and even when I was in high school in the early 1990s. network original movies that were made and produced by the networks, were actually worth watching. CBS, NBC, and ABC, all had their own movie companies that were part of their entertainment divisions and had one night a week and sometimes multiple nights if they were showing a mini-series where they should show two-hour movie and sometimes longer than that. The networks would produce their own movies and of course would show movies that were from Hollywood and perhaps had been out for a year or so, or longer.

Very similar to what HBO, Showtime and others do on cable. Probably watched 5-6 of  James Bond series of movies  in the summer of 1992 alone on ABC. The networks did this because they were good at it and knew what movies to pick and how to promote them and what kind of cast they could put together and so-forth. But also because cable wasn't as dominant in the 1980s as it became in the 1990s. CBS, NBC, and ABC, were worried about each other. And not so much what HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, TNT, USA, etc, were doing on cable. Because the cable networks simply didn't have the resources that the broadcast networks had back then. And to certain extent today as well, but cable networks are much powerful and influential today than they were back then.

I only mention all of this because I'm trying to bore you into a coma. Especially if you weren't even born yet in the 1980s. Actually, because the Jayne Mansfield Story was a TV network movie that CBS put together with the producers, directors, creators, and writers of the movie. And The Jayne Mansfield Story and I'm only 4 years old when it came out in October, 1980 so I didn't see it and only finally heard about it a year or so ago and saw a video for it on YouTube and the finally got to see the whole movie on cable (of course) on Get-TV last February and saw it again a few months after that.

And this was a network movie where you have Loni Anderson as the lead actress playing Jayne Mansfield and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing her husband and long time lover Mickey Hargitay.  (The father of Mariska Hargitay) Loni was already a star at this point with her guest appearances on Threes Company in the late 1970s playing Jack Tripper's love interest. And then she lands WKRP in Cincinnati in 1978. (One of the best sitcoms of all-time) Arnold wasn't a star as an actor yet, but he was a superstar professional bodybuilder and already well-known at this point. Mickey Hargitay ws a superstar bodybuilder before become an actor as well.

This is a very good and funny movie and a lot of that has to do with Loni Anderson. Who has great comedic ability and one of the top comedic actresses of her generation at least. And she happens to playing a very funny woman in Jayne Mansfield who was very funny in real-life both intentionally and unintentionally, because she was so adorable and very immature and then add her comedic timing and you had a very funny woman who might still be working today had it not had been for her tragic car accident in 1967.

The movie covers Jayne's life from when she became star in the early 1950s looking for work and basically forcing herself on her future agent Bob Garrett (played by Ray Buktenica) and he tells her if he's going to represent Jayne that she's going to have to change her hair and a few other things. But sees potential in her as a comedian. And the movie goes from Jayne being discovered in the early 1950s where Hollywood wasn't ready for her alway up to her fall and struggling to find work in the early and mid 1960s, to her tragic death in 1967.

Loni Anderson is just plain hot, sexy, adorable and funny as Jayne Mansfield. She's as cute as a little girl with personality to match, but with body of a goddess with those legs, curves, chest and everything else, as well as the face. Arnold playing Jayne's wife is also great as a very loving and caring husband of Jayne who tries to look out for her best interests and tries to manage her immatureness and irresponsible behavior, but fails at both and they split up in the movie.

I believe Jayne Mansfield in real-life would have been proud for how Loni played her and at least give her credit for doing such a great and accurate job. Because I think knew herself real well and didn't try to be anyone other than herself even if she seemed overly adorable and even childish to even the people who loved and cared about her like Mickey Hargitay and her business people. This is a very entertaining movie that covers the struggles as Jayne making it as a great comedic actress, but someone who also wanted to be taken seriously in Hollywood and get serious parts with more meaning.
TV Fanatic: The Jayne Mansfield Story 1980- CBS Wednesday Night Movie