“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, November 27, 2009

Direct Election Of Senators: A Hidden Federalization

In this post from this past June, I enumerated 10 things I believe need to be fixed in the Constitution.

Since then, I've decided there should be an additional item regarding deficits and balanced budgets. But that's for another post.

Today, I want to comment on an aspect of my ninth item which I had heretofore not realized.

In the June post, I wrote,

"9. Novice politicians gaining entry to the Senate due to the amendment requiring direct election of this body intended to be more deliberative and experienced than the House."

All I really focused on, thanks to Wonderboy's misguided election last November, was making sure that Senators have more qualifications than just age and citizenship.

Watching Mary Landrieu's comic performance during the voting to bring the Senate health care bill to the floor gave me another insight.

One unintended consequence of the direct election of Senators was the removal of an important check in the Constitutional system. It wasn't between the branches, but between the federal government and the states.

I've never seen this expressed anywhere else, so I thought I'd offer some observations.

Prior to the amendment providing for the direct election of Senators, as I noted in this post from March, 2008, quoting the Senate's own website,

"Just reflecting on the original mechanism for Senate election, it's easy to see how differently Senators prior to 1913 would behave, as opposed to modern Senators. Senators chosen by their state's political party leaders would almost of necessity be committed to the welfare of their state over their own career. Because they didn't really 'run' for the office, fund-raising, politicking as it is currently understood, and the appeal to voters' baser motivations probably didn't occur as they do today.

I can imagine Senators of that day truly behaving as the Constitution's architects intended, worrying less about their seat than carefully addressing major issues to the benefit of the country and their state."

Indirectly-elected Senators were an intentional Constitutional check on federal power. State-level political parties would ensure that Senators didn't expect lifetime careers. Rather, they were beholden to the state party, which, by necessity, had to do a good job for the state's voters, or lose its control over the legislatures.

This carefully-calibrated bias for states rights in the Senate was torn away with the passage of the 17th amendment.

After some reflection, I think it's this aspect of the direct election of Senators that has been most damaging. Representatives are subject to recall every two years. Senators, by contrast, manage to go six years between elections. Without the pre-selection by their own parties, I believe they have become disconnected from their states, to the detriment of the nation.

No longer answering to their own parties, Senators today seem to be in business mostly for themselves. Mary Landrieu's deal with Harry Reid to get a $300M dispensation for Louisiana in the health care bill does, in one sense, reflect her working for her state's benefit. But, in a larger sense, she really did damage to the nation. With no need to explain the larger benefits of the bill to her state-level Democratic party, Landrieu basically bought her seat forward with that $300M.

If she were being nominated by her party, she probably wouldn't have been quite so mercenary with everyone's money.

I believe that indirectly-elected Senators had to assure their parties back in the home state that they were working for both the country's and the state's good. If the state party saw voters leaning one way on an issue, they could and probably did make clear to the Senator how s/he should vote, if s/he were to remain in the seat.

Not so anymore. Now, it's mostly a popularity contest, with Senators often feeling themselves above the state party apparatus, once elected.

Issues like tax levels and fiscal rectitude don't seem to matter to the Senate anymore. They avoid taking responsibility for excessive spending, buying votes with it.

But the Senators of old didn't need to do that, because their voters were the state party politicians in the legislatures.

It seems to me that this unintended consequence has had seriously bad long term consequences for our nation. A key states' rights linkage, the indirect election of Senators, was removed, implicitly handing much more power to the federal government, and insulating Senators from any real pressure from their own states' parties.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Now, More Inconvenient Climate Truths

Some embarrassing information- inconvenient truths, if you will- recently came to light. A Wall Street Journal piece provides some of the details.

Keith Johnson begins his article,

"The scientific community is buzzing over thousands of emails and documents -- posted on the Internet last week after being hacked from a prominent climate-change research center -- that some say raise ethical questions about a group of scientists who contend humans are responsible for global warming.

The correspondence between dozens of climate-change researchers, including many in the U.S., illustrates bitter feelings among those who believe human activities cause global warming toward rivals who argue that the link between humans and climate change remains uncertain.

Some emails also refer to efforts by scientists who believe man is causing global warming to exclude contrary views from important scientific publications."

Oops! No politicization or fraudulent behavior here, eh? And what about all those liberals contending that "the debate is over?"

The article continues,

""This is horrible," said Pat Michaels, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute in Washington who is mentioned negatively in the emails. "This is what everyone feared. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone who does not view global warming as an end-of-the-world issue to publish papers. This isn't questionable practice, this is unethical." "

Yeah, it ends faster when your side lies about the facts, doesn't it?

The Journal piece reports,

"In all, more than 1,000 emails and more than 2,000 other documents were stolen Thursday from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K. The identity of the hackers isn't certain, but the files were posted on a Russian file-sharing server late Thursday, and university officials confirmed over the weekend that their computer had been attacked and said the documents appeared to be genuine.

Most climate scientists today argue that the earth's temperature is rising, and nearly all of those agree that human activity is likely to be a prime or at least significant cause. But a vocal minority dispute one or both of those views.

A partial review of the hacked material suggests there was an effort at East Anglia, which houses an important center of global climate research, to shut out dissenters and their points of view.

In the emails, which date to 1996, researchers in the U.S. and the U.K. repeatedly take issue with climate research at odds with their own findings. In some cases, they discuss ways to rebut what they call "disinformation" using new articles in scientific journals or popular Web sites.

The emails include discussions of apparent efforts to make sure that reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that monitors climate science, include their own views and exclude others. In addition, emails show that climate scientists declined to make their data available to scientists whose views they disagreed with.

In another, Phil Jones, the director of the East Anglia climate center, suggested to climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University that skeptics' research was unwelcome: We "will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" Neither man could be reached for comment Sunday."

So, basically, these liberal global warming theorists have been at work for more than a decade lying, falsifying data, intimidating and foreclosing the publication of dissenters.

Not only does it seem that the debate on human sources of climate change isn't over. It appears that we can't even trust the data, since these emails provide evidence that it's been tainted by these biased researchers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

David Obey's Misplaced Priorities

It requires a special sort of arrogance to treat a shooting war as an inconvenient distraction from converting America into a totally socialist society.

That's the sort of arrogance displayed by Wisconsin Democrat and House member David Obey.

While griping about the cost of US military operations in Afghanistan, he proposed a "war surtax," but only on "the rich."

In an interview on ABC, Obey complained that Truman's Square Deal was ruined by the Korean War, Johnson's Great Society by that little distraction in Vietnam, and, now, on the brink of passing an unaffordable health care system redesign, fighting the War on Terror is proving, well, untimely.

So, despite having thrown fiscal caution to the wind with last year's TARP, this year's stimulus bill, cash for clunkers, several jobless benefits extensions, cap and trade legislation, and the incredibly expensive and unaffordable House health care bill, Obey chose an actually Constitutional governmental activity, providing for the common defense, to find fiscal probity.

Never mind borrowing for all those other socialistic programs which aren't Constitutionally sanctioned.

We only need to make people feel pain for actually defending the country from Muslim terrorists who are actively trying to kill Americans.

This guy is some piece of work. With Representatives like him, no wonder Congress is held in such low esteem nationwide.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ron Paul's Fed Oversight Bill

I've seen Ron Paul's two recent appearances on CNBC regarding his bill to require more detailed oversight and an audit of the Federal Reserve's activities, albeit on a 6-month delayed basis.

Predictably, the liberal co-anchors on CNBC excoriated Paul for wanting to gut Fed independence. This morning, Paul noted the central bank's miserable performance in protecting the value of the dollar, its original objective, and wondered how much worse it could get?

One astute co-anchor mentioned Congress' own role in spending us into deficits, which have complicated the Fed's ability to fulfill its mandate, and Paul readily agreed.

Still, he contended, what's the purpose of a so-called independent Fed, if they do such a poor job? And then, for good measure, in a stroke of genius, he reminded the co-anchor that Congress created the Federal Reserve System and, thus, can well decide how to modify, eliminate or otherwise reconstitute a US central banking authority.

Good point.

I'm not actually a big Ron Paul fan. I didn't vote for him in last year's primary for the presidential race. To me, he often behaves like a modern-day Don Quixote. His being from Texas lends that view a bit more credibility, being as close as it is to Mexico, a country of Spanish influence.

However, as Congress continues to spend at unprecedentedly faster rates, swelling the deficit and debt even more, at a time of sluggish economic conditions, Paul's economic libertarian concerns become more attractive. Even to a moderate like me.

I think the real attraction in Paul's arguments is for Congress to simply redesign the central bank entirely, aiming toward more simplicity, Constitutionality, and a more Friedmanesque approach to consistent monetary growth.