Month: November 2013

Something About Dana Milbank

One of the most entertaining, yet simultaneously most stupidly dangerous, maneuvers in news and commentary media is trying to make a point while pretending to offer serious analysis. The obvious response to Dana Milbank’s incendiary, idiotic reflection on the U.S. Senate is to simply shrug and wonder why The Washington Post consents to publish such trash.

It would be nice to say: Okay, Dana, you’re on: If you’re wrong, will you quit your job at WaPo and never write political commentary again? Except, of course, we can’t expect that kind of integrity from Milbank, and, quite truthfully, we shouldn’t.

He’s not actually a reporter, or even an “opinion writer”, anymore. He is a craftsman of sorts, though, scrawling out columns that, hopefully, will attract readers and get his newspaper some attention.

Dana Milbank“Congress is broken,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday before holding a party-line vote that disposed of rules that have guided and protected the chamber since 1789.

If Congress wasn’t broken before, it certainly is now. What Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats effectively did was take the chamber of Congress that still functioned at a modest level and turn it into a clone of the other chamber, which functions not at all. They turned the Senate into the House.

Right. Whatever you say, Dana. Because a Senate chamber in which the Minority Leader filibusters his own bill, freshman backbenchers stage a coup in the House of Representatives, power players boast of their bad faith, and Republicans flee their own policies because it’s more important to bring the president to failure than actually serve the nation isn’t already a macabre exercise in dysfunction and futility.

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Annoying

Okay, this is … annoying.

Maybe in journalistic circles, it’s not quite like hanging out with mystery writers. Maybe in journalistic circles, certain tacit assumptions are safe. But even among professional writers, some assumptions aren’t safe, which leaves me wondering yet again about those people to whom writing is some sort of odd inconvenience unless they’re scrawling out a grocery list or a gift tag.

The Senate voted to change the chamber’s rules to exempt executive and most judicial branch nominees from filibusters, effectively lowering the threshold for confirmation to 51 votes. The modification does not affect Supreme Court nominees.

(Bolton)

That is to say, I can certainly look at Alexander Bolton’s paragraph for The Hill and know what the internal workings amount to. There are plenty who can. But there are also plenty who are not so fortunate, and they appear to be the majority.

In changing Senate rules, Democrats are “effectively lowering the threshold for confirmation to 51 votes”, as Bolton explains. In other words: In changing Senate rules, Democrats are reiterating the longstanding majority vote for confirmation.

For those who attend the political discourse more closely or habitually, it might seem a pedantic correction. But there are also those who know exactly why it’s important.

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A Glimpse Inside the Strange World Known As the House of Representatives

Centrist gavels for House Appropriations subcommittees.There are, of course, dramatic interpretations waiting for the pundits to pounce, but four House Appropriations chair assignments last week include the sort of trivia that actually tell us a bit about how our government works. David Hawkings of Roll Call detailed some of the significant aspects of the four assignments brought on by two resignations and the passing of Rep. C.W. Bill Young (FL-13):

The altered assignments mean a changed membership for one-third of the group known all over Capitol Hill as the college of cardinals. The allusion to the power players of the Catholic Church is not only because of the significant unilateral power these chairmen have to reward or restrict federal agencies through subtle tugs on the federal purse strings. It also refers to their somewhat secretive code of conduct for rewarding colleagues in both parties who embrace the panel’s spending culture — and punishing those who don’t.

This latter code has frayed somewhat since earmarking became verboten and the GOP majority unified behind the goal of cutting the discretionary part of the budget that appropriators control. But it still remains solidly in force at the margins. And so — if a comprehensive omnibus spending package is going to be written to dictate spending for the 35 weeks after Jan. 15, when the current continuing resolution expires — the four new and repositioned chairmen, along with their eight colleagues, will each be called on to quickly bless hundreds of small trade-offs and compromises.

“Being an Appropriations cardinal is an incredibly important job with great responsibility,” said Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, because lawmakers must be “responsible and pragmatic leaders who get the job done.” That’s a rare characteristic in the total-budget-breakdown era of the moment.

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Not Unexpected

Gillian Flaccus, of Associated Press:

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Wannabe Anarchists?Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted more than 400 attendees, all bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.

The founders, British duo Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, are currently on a tongue-in-cheek “40 Dates, 40 Nights” tour around the U.S. and Australia to drum up donations and help launch dozens of Sunday Assemblies. They hope to raise more than $800,000 that will help atheists launch their pop-up congregations around the world.

So the story goes, Sanderson Jones came up with the idea because, well, why should Christmas carols and other fun stuff be the exclusive province of theists?

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A Note on the News Media

Comment by 'wangster' on 'Seahawks rally back to beat Bucs, 27-24, in overtime'Of all the complaints one might make about the state of news media these days, perhaps we ought to have expected that one day we would be wondering why the local newspaper would be quoting “wangster” on the front page of its website.

Of course, copy editors cost more than the software that stands in for them.

Let’s hear it for the wangster.