Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recess Appointments

This weekend President Obama made 15 recess appointments which has brought forth complaints from the Republicans.

The recess appointment process allows the President to make an appointment during a congressional recess to a position which required Senate approval. The device allowed for the smooth functioning of government in an era when communication was slow, travel was by horse and buggy, and when Congress could be recessed for many months at a time. The appointments serve until the next round of congressional elections.

Modern presidents have used the device to make appoints of appointees who have been stalled in the Senate, either due to the candidate being a poor choice or due to the opposition party using tactics to block the president’s qualified nominees and thereby hindering the President’s ability to be the executive in chief.

In the modern age there should be little need to make recess appointments. When a president makes recess appointments as a means to by-pass Congress or as a means to install highly questionable candidates the president is abusing the process. All parties, the press and the public should cry out against his actions. On the other hand when such appointments are necessary because a handful of Senators for political reasons are blocking qualified appointees from receiving an up or down vote by the Senate then the nation should speak out against the Senate.

It seems that the current list of appointees fall into the latter category. All have long received majority support in the committees overseeing the appointee’s area, but vote on the nominees by the full Senate are being blocked by a number of Republicans.

Speaking to President Obama’s appointments Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said the GOP would react “very strongly” if Obama bypasses the Senate. POLITICO quotes Kyle saying “It has to be done very sparingly.” This is from the man who defended the 179 recess appointments made by President Bush (that it at a rate of about 22 a year over his 8 years, about 25 if one dismisses the last eight months when such appointments are rare).

Kyle goes on to note that such appointments make it very difficult to have bipartisan cooperation when the President is arrogant with power. Kyl criticizes Obama for not adhering to the rule of the Senate while blocking the Senate from expressing its will by a recorded vote. The will Kyl is speaking about is not the majority will of the Senate but the will of a minority that is using the system to block nominees from coming forward.

Kyl needs to get a life. Would these appointments be necessary if he and his friends had allowed for an up and down vote? In the past Kyl rightly and justly argued for up and down votes on Bush nominees. Yet now that his party does not hold the White House he has demonstrated that he really did not believe in his righteous arguments in the past but that they were empty words used to score points and play a political game. If it was wrong for the Democrats to block Bush nominees so it is equally wrong for the Republicans to do the same. Hypocritically Kyl is now part of the group that keeps such nominees from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 Vacation Trips

Vacations have not been the easiest things to coordinate in our family in recent years. Between business meetings I have, periods when Evie must be in the office, other than for those real special trips it not being best for Evie to take more than one week at a time, and Josh’s Crossmen and academic calendar, finding weeks to take Evie’s four weeks is a rather cumbersome process.

This year has been no different. The last part of July is out for Evie due to reports that have to be at THQ by the end of the first week of August. ARC employees, including Evie, are not allowed to take any weeks after October 1.

The week of July 26 is off due to a business conference I must attend…fortunately it is one of the week that Evie needs to be in the office. The first week of August is out as the Crossmen are performing in the area, and so is the week going into June 26 for the same reason. The second and third week of August are out as that is when Josh returns from the Crossmen and then heads back to LSU. With taking July 17 to 25 as a vacation week, and not wanting to come back for a week and go out again, suddenly the rest of July and August are off the table.

With taking a week in a week in April we are left with two weeks to schedule, one in June and one in September. We are looking at taking the week going into July 4th and either the second or third week of September. While we have booked our July campground at a park we have wanted to visit for years, we are still settling on where to go at the end of June and in September. In September we are considering Boston for a day or two and then moving on to Acadia National Park for three or so nights. In June we may go to West Virginia or possibly to Annapolis.

Over the summer we will need to work in a few weekend camping trips in the area. My other five days will be taken here and there over the fall, mainly added to weekends to make create a few extra long weekends.

For those that are interested her is our basic itinerary for Italy starting on 9 April.
Leave Friday afternoon with a connection via Boston
Sat change planes in Rome for Venice and arrive in Venice around noon
Venice, staying in a hotel three blocks from St. Marks Square
Sunday, booked a gondola serenade trip in the evening
Tuesday morning – train trip down to Rome (about 5 hrs)
Rome hotel in the heart of ancient Rome - four blocks from the Coliseum
Wednesday – tour of the Coliseum and other ancient Rome sites
Thursday – tour the Vatican and Vatican’s art museum
Saturday – late morning, return to Washington via JFK

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Outrageous Lawsuit

Just when you think you have heard everything, along comes a story about class action lawsuits against Toyota filed in Maryland, Florida and Colorado. The filing argues that Toyota has cars so badly flawed with safety defects and the recall so botched that owners of Toyota vehicles have no other option but to return the cars for a significant cash payment.

True Toyota handled poorly the initial complaints and the recall process was also fumbled, but to say that the cars are deeply flawed that they all need to be returned stretches reasoning beyond reason. Though I am not an advocate of tort reform, the arguments put forward by Hagens Berman does cause one pause to believe that some level of tort reform is necessary. That this type of suit is taking seriously show the flaws of the American legal system.

Berman is quoted as saying, "I don't know of any parent who would be willing to put their kids in a potentially unsafe car in exchange for a few hundred bucks." He also notes that "When we have talked with Toyota owners, they all voiced the same drive their Toyota back to the dealer, hand them the keys and pick up a check." Playing upon the irrational emotions of the gulable, a lawyer can guide the client into feeling "unsafe" and with a picture of big bucks in their head get them to sign onto the lawuit.

Toyota's are being fixed swiftly. I had my Camry into the shop two days after I called. I have never felt unsafe in my vehicle. My safety is more at risk from drivers who share the road with me and have not maintained their brakes, tires and other safety systems. My safety is more at risk from drivers who drive carelessly, who cut me off, who pass to closely or turn into traffic at a questionable moment. Some of these drivers who put my safety at risk may well be members firms that file these type of lawsuits.

In my view, this lawsuit is less about judicious redress than it is for a golden tongued law firm, such as Hagens Berman playing upon the irrational emotions of the gulable and the unduly anxious, to making themselves wealthy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Guns Do Not Kill People

Guns do not kill people, criminals kill people. To fault law abiding gun owners for the shootings misses the heart of the problem. The real problem is that we are not tough enough on criminals. People need to have guns to defend themselves and others against these criminals who have guns.

And so goes above the basic argument of gun rights advocates arguing against any gun control law.

Gun advocates point out that only criminals use guns to harm others. The question is, at what point did the man who shot two officers at the Pentagon become a criminal? When did the Virginia Tech shooter become a criminal? At what point do many others who use a gun in a crime become a “criminal”? Both the man at the Pentagon, the Virginia Tech shooter were law abiding citizens until the moments they used the guns for their criminal activity. Ten minutes before they opened fire they knew what they were going to do. Thinking about committing a crime is not illegal. Thinking about shoplifting, committing theft, filing a false tax return, etc. are not illegal activities. We do not convict people for having a thought. Rather it is the excursion crime that turns one into a criminal, and that is fallacy of the gun rights argument.

When police departments help the gun trafficking industry by trading and selling ceased guns to help fill their coffers to buy new equipment the nation has a problem. Would those who defend this practice advocate that an alcohol treatment organization should sell alcohol to help fund their programs? Should the police sell ceased alcohol? We would decry such a practice as helping to further the endeavors of what they are helping to fight.

Guns being sold by police departments have and will continue to turn up and be used to kill. Read this article.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Couragous Act and Shameful Acts

Last night, March 10, the Itawamba County school board in northeast Mississippi cancelled the high school’s prom scheduled for April 2. The prom is one the major social events, if not the social event, in a high school’s social life, particularly for its seniors. School board’s have the right to withdraw prom authorizations, or authorization for any after school activity. That said, what the Itawamba County board did is disgusting and reminiscent to steps many southern government bodies went through to design and uphold racial discrimination.

Constance McMillan was planning to bring her lesbian partner to the prom. Constance would be dressed in the a traditional tux while her partner would be in a traditional prom gown. The school board has a policy that prohibits gays from bringing their partners to the prom. Constance was informed that she could attend, but could not bring her partner and wear a tuxedo. The ACLA informed that school board that their policy banning same-sex couples from the prom, a) violated the students’ rights and b) was an unwarranted and illegal discriminatory act.

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) was planning on taking the school board to court. Rather than fight an unwinnable battle in the court, the school board cancelled the event. The school board, and its supporters, by the board’s actions acknowledges that they are bigots, and that they would rather cancel the prom than to be chastised by the court for their bigotry and be “forced” by the court to have their children rub shoulders with and witness the interaction of a gay couple.

There is a move afoot to hold a privately sponsored prom. The location and date would be the same. Parents would still volunteer and the fees for the prom would be the same, but there would be no school sponsorship or school funding to help underwrite a portion of the costs. If a privately sponsored prom is held, which is highly likely, the organizers will be able to invite whoever they wish and exclude whoever they wish. You can well bet that Constance will be one of a handful, possibly the only, individual(s) to be excluded.

The board’s actions are shameful. Like their foreparents they are using their elected positions to maintain shameful bigotry.

What is even more shameful are the reactions of many of Constance’s peers and the parents of those peers who are blaming Constance for the cancellation of the prom. Constance is the victim and these fellow students and their parents should cease to victimize Constance . Instead they should give voice to and lay the blame the cause of the problem, the bigotry in their hearts, in the community and which is reflected in the school board members. The school board members who voted to cancel the prom should be shamed and voted out of office.

Rather than blamed Constance should be affirmed for her courage and willingness to expose this ugly side of her community that should be confronted and expunged from their midst.

Here is a link to one of the stories,

Monday, March 08, 2010

Message: Lets Not Dirty Ourselves

Last Monday, 2 March 2010, the Archdiocese of Washington DC announced that it will no longer be extending medical benefits to the spouses of employees. Those currently covered are grandfathered in but as of the 2nd of March, new enrollments can take place.

This move was taken in response to a new law that is going into effect in Washington that permits same sex couples to marry. The Church does not want to provide medical benefits to gay couples because they argue, it legitimized gay marriage, and the church does not want to recognize gay marriage in any form.

This situation goes to the heart of a fundamental flaw with the health system in the United States. Medical coverage is employer based. Employers at a whim can and make dramatic changes to what they will cover, the extent of the coverage, who they will cover, or even if they will provide coverage at all. Good performing employees who have given long service can suddenly find themselves forced out because the employer drops medical coverage or even worse, lays them off or finds a way to fire them to help reduce healthcare premiums the firm is paying.

Healthcare is the greatest social justice issue facing the majority of the nation. The Washington Archdiocese has demonstrated that the Roman Catholic Church is not that significant issue. It cries that it is not willing to fight for significant healthcare reform.

The Archdiocese in San Francisco took a different approach. It allows employees to pay for the medical premiums and add any adult in their home to their medical plan. Employees can add parents, adult children, grandparents, a friend as long as they reside in the home of the employee. They broadened who will be added at the employee’s cost.

As for legitimizing gay marriages by providing coverage, providing coverage does not legitimize gay marriage any more than providing treatment and care to alcoholics legitimizes alcoholism, or supporting and ministering to a sex offender legitimizes sexual abuse.

The Roman Catholic Church has the right to do what it has done but in my eyes it is contrary to the Jesus’ message of loving one’s neighbor. Like the self-righteous conservative Pharisees who criticized Jesus for visiting and sharing a meal with a publican, the Roman Catholic Church has left the banquet table rather than be “tarnished” by sharing a meal with the publican.