Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Editorial: Measures should stand on their own

Today the unnamed Courier editor condemns Congress for using longstanding standard procedures in an attempt to push through legislation that's favored by clear majorities of Americans.

The practice of using must-pass bills to carry other legislation goes back decades, and is a common tactic, made more so since the Republicans decided to start filibustering everything. I didn't see the editor complaining when the Rs have used it, but suddenly it's an issue for him. Why?

Could it be that he's more concerned that these bits of popular legislation might actually pass into law, fulfilling the promise of majority rule? Heaven forfend!

We'd all be better served if the editor would man up and just say that he wants to enforce exceptions on civil rights for homosexuals, reduce available manpower for the armed forces, and punish children for the sins of their parents and prevent them from becoming fully productive in the only country they know. These crocodile tears over Senate rules aren't fooling anyone.

For the record I would agree absolutely with the editor about eliminating bill riders if he would also accept the abolition of the other legislative rules that senselessly impede progress, like filibusters, imperial chairmanships and secret holds. Our state legislature is similarly bound by rules that ensure dictatorial powers for majority leadership. If voters in general knew the whole megillah on the nonsense that goes on as a result of ridiculous rules, there would be torches and pitchforks.

But bitching about a rule that just happens to not favor your minority argument at this particular juncture is childish, editor.


Catalyst said...

Steven, you must know by now that the "editor" is sworn to defend the blind conservative mind-melt that seems to be dominant in Prescott, Yavapai County and Arizona. He will never change his ways, he will never become a true journalist. Regrettably, intelligent readers must pick and choose through the Courier's pages to avoid becoming rabidly angry every day.

Steven Ayres said...

I understand the feeling completely, Catalyst, but if I had no hope of change I wouldn't be writing this blog.

In the past I've worked with many organizations where cultures developed in isolation from their professional peers, usually due to lack of competition or sophistication, and wrong practices became "the way we do it here." Since we have no other local paper, we only have the readers who depend on it and comment on it to call the editors to account and make them think about what they're doing.

Over the course of the several years I've been doing this blog, I have seen some egregious practices diminish. and I'm fully confident that my most loyal readers are in the Courier offices. I won't assume credit for any change, but I can hope I'm part of it.

Justin Rains said...

Whatever your personal misgivings about the Courier aside, the editorial gets it right in saying that these sorts of things aren't to be piggybacked into legislation.

Things such as the DREAM act or Don't Ask, Don't Tell are way too big of issues to not be discussed in the public setting before passing. Whether you agree, disagree or don't give a rats about the issue, these aren't the types of things that true representatives of the people of this country should hope to "sneak in" without some form of public acknowledgment of the issue itself.

Political earmarks, in general, really need to be looked at ethically and objectively. Why should lawmakers be forced to decide if they want to OK a road project in Nebraska, give a stimulus to renewable energy in Washington state and add an additional 35 billion to military spending (all hypothetical, of course) with one vote? They shouldn't, it should be three votes. That's not the way it should work, I don't care if that's how it's been done or not.

Mia Connolly said...

I'm wondering what your thoughts are regarding the clause that to achieve permanent legal residency, they have to serve in the military or attend college for two years? What rights or priveldges are denied with residency vs citizenship? And why wouldn't they become a citizen if they serve in the military especially? I know that my husband and I both work, and I can't afford college. So what percentage of kids will join the military as an only resort? I know we've used the path to citizenship through the military in the past, but there's something about it that feels immoral. Am I being overly liberal here? And for the record, I've talked to quite a few American kids at YC who say they're joining the military because there aren't any jobs, and I am very disturbed by that too. But that type of reluctant enlistment will wane when there are more jobs, but the DREAM Act won't change. One of the most disturbing parts for me is the minimum age of enlistment (17 with parental consent). But we have found that our frontal lobe isn't even developed until we're 20. This part of the brain, along with other functions, is responsible for self-control! I'm going way off here, but I was just wondering how that struck you? I'm not a fan of riders, or reckless filibusters, and I don't even know what imperial chairmanships or secret holds are. More Wiki..

Steven Ayres said...

I agree completely, Justin, as I said. The point I'm trying to make is that given the overall rule structure of these bodies, this sort of maneuver is unavoidable.

The Dems have majorities in both houses and clear polling majorities among the public at large on both DADT and DREAM. They would certainly pass them both as freestanding bills if they could, there's no sensible reason to "hide" these issues in other legislation -- where it's obviously no secret anyway -- other than quirks in the rules that allow minority opponents to obstruct literally anything. I don't think it's fair to call out legislators for playing the hand they're dealt by established rules.

Justin Rains said...

I wasn't saying that, by any means. I was merely stating that the system in place is broken. I agree that when you work within a broke system, it's all you can do to do things however they have to be done. I'm not trying to blame anyone for doing it, I merely stating that the fact that it has to be done is the problem. And, anything that's still in place--filibustering, etc.--that's forcing it to be done this way is a problem.

I get that at times it has to be done this way based upon certain factors, I just take issue with the fact that it has to be done this way, if that makes any sense. It doesn't seem fair to the American people.

Steven Ayres said...

Lots of good questions, Mia.

Wikipedia: "According to the 2009 version of the senate bill, DREAM Act beneficiaries must:
* Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16.
* Have proof of residence in the United States for a least five consecutive years since their date of arrival, compliance with Selective Service.
* Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment.
* Have graduated from an American high school or obtained a GED.
* Be of "good moral character"

If passed, the act would provide this limited demographic with a six-year temporary residency visa, during which time they have to complete either two years of college toward a BA or better (no tech schools, apparently) or two years of good-standing military service. Clearing those hurdles will qualify you to apply for permanent residency, where before you had no legal options.

The act is a compromise between those who feel that kids here illegally through no choice of their own be awarded legal status outright, and those who would deport them outright. Given that context, I don't think asking them to do something to qualify for residency is a bad idea. I do wonder about those who fall outside the parameters, like the kids who are under 12 right now.

The equivalency between military service and higher education is an odd quirk that Americans have bought into in the last few decades with the escalating glorification of war. It sucks, but it's a necessary part of the compromise, and we can hope that most kids are smarter than that.

The difference between permanent residency and citizenship are, essentially, that permanent residents can't vote or hold public office, and can be deported if they don't toe the line.

=> why wouldn't they become a citizen if they serve in the military especially?

As I understand it, honorable military service has always been a consideration in citizenship petitions, but never an automatic qualifier. That may not be just, but for all of our self-image as a nation of immigrants, we've never made it anything like easy.

One thing I'd like to emphasize at this point is that most immigrants, legal or otherwise, have no abiding interest in US citizenship. Its value is inflated in the minds of most Americans as some sort of international Holy Grail, but that's a laughable myth. So if a kid decides to join the Army as part of his path to citizenship, he's unusually motivated. More likely he's just going after a steady job that can translate into a career if he doesn't get killed. Like crossing the border.

=> we have found that our frontal lobe isn't even developed until we're 20.

It's this lack of full cognitive development that makes teens the best soldiers. Once we understand more about how the world works and what war is all about, we generally avoid it like plague.

Steven Ayres said...

You and I are entirely on the same page, Justin.