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Health Care & Environment
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
11.12 This Land is Your Land: The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]
11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]
11.15 Democrats Won Big. Can They Go Bold, Too? [it's about suppressing the influence and leadership by Republican-like Democrats who counsel 'íncremental' (no) change, such as Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Shumer and Joe Biden]
11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]
11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.16 Amazon’s HQ2 Will Get a Tax Break Designed to Help the Poor [a Republican program that directly helps participating wealthy companies—but only helps workers if and when 'trickle-down' occurs.]
11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
International & Futurism
11.15 Cuba to pull doctors out of Brazil after President-elect Bolsonaro comments [terms must be negotiated for fairness to Cuba's health professionals without disruption of healthcare for Brazil's poor]
11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]
U.S. DEMOCRACY DYSFUNCTIONAL:
The GOP's Filibuster Hypocrisy9 February 2009
Though seemingly forgotten by most TV talking heads, it was only three years ago, when the Republicans had control of both the White House and Congress – and “filibuster” was a dirty word.
It was usually coupled with “obstructionist” amid demands that any of George W. Bush’s proposals deserved “an up-or-down vote.”
Yet now, with the Democrats holding the White House and Congress, the Republicans and the Washington press corps have come to view the filibuster fondly, as a valued American tradition, a time-honored part of a healthy legislative process.
Today, it’s seen as a good thing that Democrats must muster 60 votes in the Senate to pass almost anything.
When the TV pundits talk about Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan squeaking through the Senate, they're actually referring to a vote that might fall in the range of 60 or more yes votes to perhaps 38 no’s, a three-touchdown “squeaker.”
The only thing close about the vote is whether the package can overcome a Republican filibuster and get 60 votes for “cloture.” To reach this super-majority, Democrats have been forced to accept a higher percentage of tax cuts, even if leading economists consider tax cuts one of the least effective ways of stimulating the moribund economy.
Yet, this anti-democratic fact about the GOP strategy – that it seeks to frustrate the will of the American majority, which rejected the Republicans and their policies in the last two U.S. elections – is rarely mentioned in the news.
Nor is the fact that Republicans railed against even a hint of a filibuster when the Democrats were in the minority just a few years ago.
Back then, when the Republicans controlled everything, the big story was how a threatened Democratic filibuster against, say, one of Bush’s right-wing judicial nominations would be met by the Republican “nuclear option” – using a majority-vote on a rule change to eliminate the filibuster permanently.
For instance, in 2006, when Bush wanted to put Samuel Alito on the U.S. Supreme Court, the move amounted to a direct threat to the Republic. Alito was a staunch believer in the imperial presidency, a promoter of a “unitary executive” who would wield unlimited powers at a time of war – and the “war on terror” promised to be an endless war.
If confirmed, Alito would join three other justices – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – who shared his extreme views, and possibly another, Anthony Kennedy, who was considered only slightly more moderate.
In effect, the Alito nomination raised the specter of five right-wing justices effectively gutting the U.S. Constitution and its checks and balances in favor of Bush’s personal rule.
The Republic in the Balance
With the future of the American Republic in the balance and Bush short of 60 votes in favor of Alito, a filibuster could have stopped this radical nomination in its tracks and could have forced Bush to select a less extreme nominee.
Many in the Democratic “base” urged Senate Democrats to use the filibuster at this critical moment – a time when Bush was viewing himself as a new-age monarch and his political aides were fantasizing about a “permanent Republican majority,” transforming the United States into a virtual one-party state with the Democrats kept around as a cosmetic appendage.
As this drama played out, the Washington news media weighed in heavily against a Democratic filibuster, essentially repeating Republican talking points about the need to give the President’s nominee an up-or-down vote and bemoaning the anti-democratic nature of the filibuster.
Republican leaders thundered that any use of the filibuster against Alito or other Bush judicial nominees would force them to go “nuclear” by outlawing filibusters forever. Then, the Republicans could ram through whomever – or whatever – they wanted.
Rather than call the Republicans’ bluff, “moderate” Democratic senators joined a bipartisan group called the “Gang of 14,” which agreed to forego filibusters except in “extraordinary circumstances.” And despite the alarm of many Americans about Bush’s moves to eradicate the Republic, this “gang” did not believe Alito’s confirmation reached the “extraordinary” standard.
So, when a few Democratic senators led by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts tried to mount a filibuster, the Senate Democratic leadership refused to put up a fight, even as their former standard bearer was mocked by Republicans as a “Swiss Miss” for first urging the filibuster while he was attending an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.
Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan piled on Kerry at a White House press briefing. “I think even for a senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps,” McClellan laughed.
In support of his filibuster, Kerry could line up only 25 votes, while the Republicans amassed 72 votes for cloture – a dozen more than the 60 needed to shut off debate. Those votes included 19 Democrats.
On the final confirmation vote, however, Alito was approved by a much smaller margin, 58-42, meaning that he could have been kept off the Supreme Court if all those who considered him a poor choice had backed the filibuster.
[As for the fate of the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy turned out to be less of an extremist than some Republicans had hoped. He joined with more moderate justices in key 5-to-4 opinions that rebuffed President Bush’s assertions of unlimited powers.]
Despite the timidity of Senate Democrats in the Alito battle, an energized Democratic “base” – joined by Republican constitutionalists – fought on against the “permanent-Republican-majority” dreams of Bush, Karl Rove and the neoconservatives. In November 2006, the Republicans were repudiated at the polls.
Suddenly in the congressional minority, the Republicans did a flip-flop on the filibuster, discovering the high principles behind the tactic. The GOP used the filibuster routinely in 2007 and 2008 to block Democratic initiatives, especially any challenges to Bush’s expansive claims of executive authority.
Typical of the modern Washington press corps, its leading voices changed, too, joining the Republican chorus hailing the filibuster as an honored tradition of democracy and finding value in the need for the Democrats to muster 60 Senate votes to pass any significant bill.
Today, the press corps continues in that pattern, forgetting the GOP’s earlier contempt for the filibuster and treating its use by the Republican minority against the stimulus bill as normal.
There are rarely any comments about obstructionism, nor are the Republicans compared to the Southern segregationists who famously used the filibuster to resist civil rights laws in the 1950s and 1960s.
Given this pass by the press, Republicans are making the filibuster their chief weapon in pressuring Obama and congressional Democratic to accept more of a Republican-style stimulus bill with less spending and more tax cuts, regardless of whether that represents the best hope for the U.S. economy.
But the stimulus battle is likely to be only the first taste of the GOP strategy to hobble the Obama presidency. The Republicans can be expected to use the filibuster again and again to prevent many of the social and economic changes that the American voters endorsed in November 2008, policies like national health insurance and spending on long-neglected domestic needs.
In this obstructionism, the Republicans appear to have a powerful ally in the Washington press corps that – with few exceptions – treats the GOP’s promiscuous use of filibusters as some responsible application of a time-honored tradition. The press also forgets to remind the U.S. public that just a few years ago, the Republicans hated filibusters.
[For more of Consortiumnews.com’s coverage of the Alito nomination, see “Alito & the Point of No Return,” Or take a look at another historical moment “When Republicans Loved a Filibuster.” Or see our book,Neck Deep.]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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This story was published on February 9, 2009.