Politics, Washington

I’ll take politics for 100, Alex. America’s oldest stall tactic. What is the Filibuster?


Have you ever heard or said to someone, “you’re talking that to death?” That saying paints a pretty accurate picture of what a filibuster does.

“Using the filibuster to delay or block legislative action has a long history,” describes the United States Senate website.

filibuster
For decades, members of Congress have used the filibuster to stop legislative action that they fiercely disagreed with. There are two types of filibusters, silent and spoken.
THE SPOKEN FILIBUSTER

So how does it work? When a senator wants to get a piece of legislation passed, it is presented on the Senate floor and voted on. It must have a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. You can imagine how much lobbying and convincing a group of senators must do to pass a particularly controversial bill. But that’s not all they have to worry about.

“In the [..] Senate, unlimited debate continued on the grounds that any senator should have the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue,” describes the United States Senate website.

Which means that a vote can be delayed as long as any senator wants to debate it or simply take the floor to speak.

The record for longest spoken filibuster was by Senator Strom Thurmond (R) in 1957. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes reciting the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and even President George Washington’s farewell address.

You can take a look at the text here but I doubt you would want to.

It can all sound a bit romantic when you think about it. I mean, don’t you want senators who truly have their constituents best interest in mind to the point that they will talk for hours just to stop a bill from passing?

mr smith goes to washington filibuster

In the film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” A senator carries out a filibuster by reading baskets of letters from schoolchildren to stop a corrupt bill from passing. He dramatically collapsing from exhaustion at the end.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Remember Sen. Thurmond? He spoke for more than 24 hours to keep the Civil Rights Act of 1957 from passing.

That freaked you out a bit, didn’t it?

With senators spending less time in Washington however, the spoken filibuster has been used as a last resort, for the most part.

The most recent filibuster took place Wednesday March 6, 2013 when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held a filibuster of President Obama’s CIA director nominee for nearly 13 hours.

“I discovered that there are some limits to filibustering, and I’m going to have to go and take care of one of those in a few minutes,” said Sen. Paul, reported by USA Today.

As far as recent filibusters, they haven’t been killing legislation as much as they have been bringing attention to the issues around those bills.

But a silent filibuster can be a deadly one.

THE SILENT FILIBUSTER

A silent filibuster is a threat to delay action. A simple threat. It can be in an email for crying out loud. These are the ones you don’t really hear about on the news or see video of because senators don’t even need to be in the room to invoke one.

However, there does need to be a supermajority of 60 votes to override a filibuster of any kind and this is called a “cloture.” The record for cloture motions filed was between 2007-2008 at a whopping 139. Last year it was 115 but only 41 of those clotures was invoked. That’s less than 40 percent.

“Too often over the past four years, a single senator or a handful of senators has been able to unilaterally block or delay bipartisan legislation for the sole purpose of making a political point,” President Obama, a former senator, said in a statement to Politico.

The good news is, the wheels on the filibuster reform train are already turning. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are working on a reform deal that will curb the use of filibusters and amend some of the rules for the way filibusters currently work.

They’ve made some headway by reaching a deal to limit any single senator’s ability to stall a bill. With Sen. Paul’s recent performance, we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the months to come.

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Uncategorized, Washington

If you know the name Kony, you should know who the Alawite sect in Syria is too


In the past week, social media has facilitated the rise in awareness of the atrocious acts of Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony.

Likewise, awareness of the nonprofit group, Invisible Children, behind the movement to bring down Kony has grown and along with it, gained opponents who claim the organization isn’t using it’s legitimate as it says it is.

People are rallying by the thousands behind this cause. The video that went viral four days ago has already has 57,733,541 views.

But this isn’t news. Kony didn’t start kidnapping kids and reigning terror over Ugandans last week.

In October of last year, President Barack Obama said troops will act as advisers in efforts to hunt down rebel leader Joseph Kony and sent 100 troops to combat the LRA in Uganda.

An article by The Guardian states, “Long considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago but has been pushing westward.”

20 years ago.

“Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court under a 2005 warrant for crimes against humanity in his native Uganda,” writes The Guardian.

So why is everyone suddenly up in arms?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great and noble quest to bring down a man and army reeking devastation all over Uganda.

But what about the other parts of the world up in arms trying to defend themselves who aren’t receiving any of our likes, tweets and shares in support?

When Kony 2012 made it’s debut, I spent hours reading everything I could find about the issue online. It was the phenomenon of the mass reaction that hooked me in. After reading what I deemed was enough to form an opinion on it I was appalled by what people on my social network streams were saying about it. I read things that were blatantly wrong about Invisible Children and the state of Uganda–things a simple Google search would have cleared up.

I was also surprised by the sheer number of people I knew suddenly wanting to play Superman and outraged with people who “weren’t caring enough” about the ordeal.

This made me think, and realize about myself, that we all are guilty of not caring enough.

With torrents of information bombarding us day in and day out, it is unfortunately too easy to glaze over world tragedies. I’ll be the first to admit, until today, I only knew what the headlines told me about the events in Syria.

So I did some research and I hope you will give it a read.

In December of 2010, Tunisia security forces shoot a protester dead during a demonstration that took place in the central town of Menzel Bouzaiene, a region that was reportedly in tension over youth joblessness.

BBC reported, Agence France-Presse news agency quoted an unnamed interior ministry official as saying: “The groups involved in these acts of violence and trouble encircled and attacked a national guard post by throwing fire bombs and stones.”

This was only the beginning of the Tunisian Revolution that led to the downfall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January of last year and democracy for the country.

Then same thing happened in Egypt last year in January sparked by the success of the Tunisian Revolution. This is currently on-going. But do a search in Google for Egyptian Revolution and you will find almost nothing new written about it.

After Egypt started their revolution, Libya followed suite. This actually became a proper civil war and not just a revolution because the forces loyal to the then ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic, Muammar Gaddafi fought back. Hopefully you see the news enough to know how that one ended.

Now we turn our attention to Syria. Protests happened, the government fought them and so did the army. The Arab League and the UN Security Council are trying to intervene, but Russia and China are blocking resolutions because of their better interests–mainly economical. Sounds like a massacre now doesn’t it.

The New York Times reports, according to the United Nations, more than 7,500 civilians have been killed in the year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. And you want to know the craziest part about this whole thing, the Assads and much of the nation’s elite, such as the military, belong to the Alawite sect which is a small minority in a mostly Sunni country.

Alawites make up about 12 percent of the 23 million Syrians and Sunni Muslims make up about 75 percent of the population.

CNN reported, “At least 39 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday, as government forces took aim at citizens across the country.”

Tuesday.

The same day the Kony 2012 video made its way to households everywhere.

The bloodshed in Syria doesn’t have an ending in sight. The oppostion, composed of mainly Sunni Muslims, the majority of the population in Syria, still exhibits disunity on many issues.

Today the Associated Press reported, “A high-profile international mission to end the Syrian crisis stumbled Friday before it began as the opposition rejected calls by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad as pointless and out of touch after a year of violence.”

I feel we as humans have the power, now more than ever, to help each other across continents. I hope that the way Kony 2012 spread only encourages more people to become better informed about events all over the world and how we can lend a hand to those in need. We have all these amazing tools starting with a little thing called the Internet that we are taking for granted. This isn’t a time to be petty about who cares more based on Facebook shares, it’s a time to use these resources to better our lives and those of others.

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DC, Food, Washington

Government shutdown or NFL lockout?


Yesterday, The Daily Beast dared readers to test their knowledge of the NFL and the U.S. government.

A government shutdown looms and the NFL is locked in a labor dispute. But which conflict costs the most? And which has the most bitterly embattled players?

Undoubtedly, both conflicts are going to cost Americans a whole chunk of change. But who are the fiercest players in the game?

Maybe Republican Rep. Darrell Issa should be starring in those famous California commercials.

Darrell Issa has an estimated net worth of at least $156 million. As far as the highest net worth for a pro footballer, your guess is as good as ours, but Peyton Manning was the top-paid last year, with a $15.8 million guaranteed salary.

That little fact should be an ego boost for the priorities of Americans. At the very least it seems we know it takes a well-paid beast of a man to win football games but it takes far more incentive to have the power to subpoena, investigate and, some would say, harass the Obama Administration.

Truth be told, Rep. Issa made is fortune recording voice alarms for cars. So he doesn’t count.

Moving on, where would Americans be without pizza? Probably a ton of stretchy pants less.

But did you know…

The 1995 shutdown boosted the business of a local D.C. pizza eatery thanks to the needs of overworked congressional staffers.

Melting cheese and assorted meats isn’t only for frenzy football fans. Issa knows how important it is to keep his staff happy.

He tweets, “If gov’t shuts down, we won’t. I believe those who choose to come into work fall under my Constitutional arm. Accountability must continue.”

I bet he is bringing them pizza.

After all it is all about negotiation right?

Sadly, some have been accused of a “take it or leave it” attitude! Can’t we all just get along?

At a press conference in the lobby of RNC headquarters in February, Boehner said. “If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We’re broke.”

If that is who you guessed too then you are wrong.

John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants, has criticized the NFLPA for refusing to budge at the bargaining table.

“This obviously is a very disappointing day for all of us,” Mara said.  “I’ve been here for the better part of two weeks now.  And essentially during that two-week period the union’s position on the core economic issues has not changed, one iota.  Their position has basically been ‘take it or leave it,’ and they’ve in effect they’ve been at the same position since last September.”

Ok so we’ve covered the important things such as pizza, who is make the big bucks and who is willing to hold hands and sing Cumbaya around the campfire.

But now to the crucial questions.

Which shutdown would affect approximately 115,000 workers?

I’m not entirely sure how to take this.

NFL Strike. The government shutdown would affect as many as hundreds of thousands of workers—though a precise estimate is impossible to glean.

I’m sure the thousands of workers will understand that this isn’t an easily resolved fight between millionaires and billionaires. If you stop to think how many small businesses are directly affected by the NFL, you would probably take longer than it is taking the commissioners and owners to come to a conclusion.

To put the lockdown into perspective…

Each of the 32 national football teams could reportedly lose $160 million, which boils down to about $46 million a day for the league for each of the 112 days of play in the season. What’s the comparative cost at stake in a government shutdown? Around $90 million per day, based on an inflation-adjusted calculation of the $1.4 billion lost during the shutdown in 1995.

As is stands both looming decisions will bring dire consequences. So who will you be writing a letter to? Your congressman or your NFL owners?

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DC, Uncategorized, Washington

How do you explain this to your kid?


So today I miraculously heard something on the news worth reporting that wasn’t already being covered at work.

Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, resigned this morning.

If you’re not from around D.C. you may or may not have heard. She is in the movie “Waiting for Superman.” She was praised by Oprah and Obama for being a hard-core education reformist.

She fired over 200 teachers and shutdown around a dozen schools that she found unfit.

The problem came when the soon to be ex-Mayor Adrian Fenty was beat out in the primary by Vincent Gray. Rhee was not pleased by any means and said the results of the primary were “devastating” for the children of D.C. She basically foreshadowed the event this morning the day she made those comments.

Anyways, besides watching adults be political and literally squirm at the idea of having to stand next to each other. I got to witness an actual event that wasn’t cut for t.v. I saw a lot of distress. Sadly, it was the teachers sitting next to me that were at a loss.

Now I don’t know much about Rhee and I know less about Gray. But why can’t we all get along?
Seriously, the numbers don’t lie. The reform Rhee started was revolutionary. But it was clear from the beginning she didn’t think much of Gray. Gray didn’t say much about her either.

They said they came to a “mutual agreement” to hire a new chancellor. It’s like when people say they have had a “mutual” break up. No one buys that. Someone always wanted to break up more than the other. It’s not like they were sitting next to each other and suddenly said “I think we should break up” at the same exact time.

It’s kind of disgusting watching people refuse to put aside their differences for the greater good. But I guess. I’m just a reporter.

Here’s the story I wrote.

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DC, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington

Protesters at U.S. Supreme Court


So I woke up and walked to the U.S. Supreme Court today. There were literally hundreds of people. Half had spent the night on the sidewalk. This is the story I wrote for The Daily Caller with a fellow intern.

I don’t agree with what the Westboro Baptist Church and supporters say, but I do believe they have the right to protest and say what they want as long as they aren’t causing enough emotional strain to endanger others.

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