Veto by lack of quorum

As you know, 15 Democratic state legislators in Wisconsin are hiding out in Illinois–beyond the jurisdiction of Wisconsin state troopers–to prevent a quorum so that Republican lawmakers can’t pass a bill cutting benefits for state workers and restricting their union.  Now Democratic lawmakers in Indiana are doing the same thing, for much the same reason.  Two Maryland legislators were briefly on the lam on the issue of gay marriage.  The tactic has been used before–Abraham Lincoln did it as a state representative in Illinois, as did Texas Democrats in 2003 trying to foil a redistricting plan–but not all that often.

Let’s bracket the specific issues that have sparked this behavior.  Though the modern-day examples I could find have all been Democrats doing it, the tactic could just as easily be used by Republicans in the minority who want to stop some bill.

Doesn’t the deliberate absence of legislators to prevent a quorum thwart democracy and representational government?  Doesn’t this give minority parties, in effect, a preemptive veto on all bills they do not like?  State and national constitutions generally give a veto to the executive branch, to the president or governor, but this seems an even greater power.  Executive vetoes can be overturned by a two-thirds majority, but this legislative veto cannot be overturned by any majority, since it prevents a majority from ever being formed.  Moreover, it prevents a duly-elected constitutional body from convening.

Isn’t this tactic unconstitutional, whether according to the national Constitution, which mandates that all states be governed as republics, or to state constitutions?  Is there any theoretical argument that can justify this practice?  If so, I’d like to hear it.  (I’m not interested in arguments that “they have a right to do this” or that “it’s legal.”  I’m wanting to know in what sense this can be considered good government.  If you defend it because of the specific bills that are being blocked, please use examples as if the other side from the one you agree on were doing this.  That is, if you like the Democrats doing it to protect unions, would you similarly like it if the Republicans did it to block health care reform?)


Democratic legislators embracing tactic to gain leverage: Fleeing.

Good writing

World Magazine is planning to set up regional online bureaus to provide local and regional news coverage.  The first one is for Virginia and is making use of journalism students at the school where I work, Patrick Henry College.  One of my former students, Hannah Mitchell, has written a feature story on a big Picasso exhibit at a Richmond art museum.  It struck me as just a very, very good piece of writing.  See for yourself:  WORLD Magazine | Picasso’s tragedy | Hannah Mitchell | Mar 01, 11.

What I’d like us to do is discuss what is good about this particular piece of writing.  Let’s not talk about Picasso, as such.  Let’s talk about how Hannah approaches him, how she sets up her article, her style, and her good lines.

For example, I like the sentence where she describes a professor speculating about Picasso’s art.  She describes him as “wondering through the exhibit.”  Get it?  wandering/wondering?  A wordplay that shows genuine wit.

What else?  What’s good about this article in the way it’s written?

American Idol this time around

Yes, I’m following American Idol again, despite the way some of you have been giving me a hard time about this particular guilty pleasure.  Last night the 13 finalists were selected.  I would just like to note that I picked every one of the male performers and voted for four of them.  The one female contestant that I was pulling for, Naima Adedapo from Milwaukee, did not get enough votes from the public, but the judges put her back in as a “wild card.”  My favorite and the one I’m predicting to win is Jacob Lusk.  As Steven Tyler said, we need his kind of singing again, a strong, jazzy, standards-kind-of-voice.  Naima is much the same way.   These are adult voices.  It’s time adults made music for adults, as opposed to kids making music for kids, or kids making music for adults.

A feature of “Hollywood Week” was a plump baby-faced 15 year old with an angelic voice getting thrown out of a group by, in effect, some mean cool kids.  The mean ones were all voted off, except for country-singer-with-a-deep-voice Scotty, who tearfully repented.

Also, I will say that the new judging team of Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and veteran Randy Jackson has, to my surprise, done a good job.  I had assumed the dark lord Simon Cowell would be missed, but the more positive panel has worked well.

This new crop of finalists is very strong, surely one of the best.

With twist, `American Idol’ down to 13 contestants.

So if any of the rest of you are following the show, I would welcome your assessments and your predictions.  (If you aren’t and if your comment would just be something on the order of “why would anyone watch this show?” you can keep that to yourself.)

The last dough-boy

The last American veteran of World War I died at the age of 110.  Frank Buckles enlisted in 1917, lying about his age, which was only 16.  After that war, he worked in the civilian merchant marine. When World War II broke out, he was captured by the Japanese and spent over three years in a P.O.W. camp in the Philippines.

Two others who served in World War I are still alive, a 109-year-old man from Australia and a 110-year-old woman from Great Britain.

Mr. Buckles, who lived in West Virginia, sounds like he was a really likeable guy.  Read his profile: Last U.S. World War I veteran Frank W. Buckles dies at 110.

You be the judge

Two Supreme Court cases. . . .

(1)  A man was shot.  Just before he died, he said, “Rick shot me.”  So Rick was arrested.  The problem is, the Constitution requires that the accused be able to face the witnesses against him so they can face cross-examination.  In this case, the witness–who was also the victim–is dead.  Therefore, according to the Michigan Supreme Court, the victim’s dying words identifying his killer are not admissible in a court of law.

The Supreme Court overturned that ruling, 6-2.  Rick will have to pay for his crime, on the testimony of his victim.  Justice Antonin Scalia, a Constitutional originalist, wrote a bitter dissent.  In this case, the court favored what might be called common sense over and against the literal reading of the Constitution.

Court: Victim’s dying words may be used at trial.

(2)  Westboro Baptist church has a ministry of picketing the funerals of dead servicemen, carrying signs that say things like  “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “God hates America.”  Efforts have been made to keep the picketers away from the funerals and from the families of the bereaved.

The Supreme Court, with only one dissenting vote (that of Justice Samuel A. Alito), ruled that the free speech provisions of the Constitution protect the protesters, who must be allowed to show up at funerals with their offensive placards.  In this case, the court favored the literal reading of the Constitution over what might be called common sense.

Supreme Court rules First Amendment protects church’s right to picket funerals

Conservatives are supposed to take the Constitution literally.  That would suggest being against allowing a victim’s dying words to be used as testimony AND supporting the free speech rights of the funeral protesters.  Is that what you believe?  If not,  what is your constitutional basis?

The greatest LCMS literary figure. . .

. . .would surely be Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.  He was a life-long member of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Yesterday would have been his 107th birthday.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss.

What does Dr. Seuss tell you about Lutheranism, and what does Lutheranism tell you about Dr. Seuss?