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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired for two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

01-07-2023 - McCarthy Finally Speaker, Immigration, and a nod to Football Violence

 

Republicans Finally Elect a Speaker


Well, very early Saturday morning, on the fifteenth ballot, the Republicans, who hold a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, finally elected Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker.  

The repeated, day after day, balloting was caused by the votes of the ultra-right-wing part of the party. For fourteen votes, just a few of such votes had been sufficient to postpone McCarthy’s victory, but by a combination of Republicans voting ‘present’ this time around thereby reducing the number of votes a winner would require, and some voters switching their earlier choices, he eked out a victory, albeit a hollow one.   But at a price.

McCarthy actually came within one vote of doing so earlier on Friday evening, but enough of the ultra-rightists stood fast to further delay a decision.  Within minutes of that defeat, however, after some last-minute wheeling and dealing right there on the House floor, including a failed motion to adjourn and some apparently successful attempts at getting Representatives-elect to switch votes, the House proceeded to the fifteenth and final ballot early on Saturday morning, much to the relief of the increasingly embarrassed Republican Party. 

There are about 20 ultra-right-wingers who were at the core of this rebellion although many Republicans who supported McCarthy all along have similar antediluvian views as to the role of government (including McCarthy himself) and many even join with them in denying the validity of the 2020 presidential election and in refusing to denounce the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.  All of them are a very sorry lot if not a scary one.

To get their support, Speaker McCarthy had to surrender many of the powers usually held by the Speaker to that extreme right-wing group, sometimes referred to as the Freedom Caucus.  This probably included, at a minimum, the power to remove the Speaker from his position at anytime that he did not support their positions.  This means the Freedom Caucus, a clear minority, would rule in the House of Representatives, the ‘people’s house.’  That is not the way it ought to be in the democratic republic prescribed in the Constitution.  McCarthy had to promise them key committee appointments and chairpersonships, including the committee which makes House rules.  Each of these Freedom Caucus votes had to be ‘bought’ at a high price by the incoming Speaker.

The only bright side to this is that the other Republicans might have to cooperate with the Democrats to get any legislation passed, who will of course insist on some input if not compromises as their price.  Of course, doing such a thing would put them in the crosshairs of the Freedom Caucus’ attacks. They are good at attacking, possibly their only skill.

Meanwhile, the normal day-to-day business of the House of Representatives, including appropriating funds to run the government, its committees’ hearings and meetings, and voting on measures requiring a House vote, was delayed almost a week. They hadn’t even been able to swear it its 435 ‘Representative-Elects,’ until the wee small hours of the night, or been able to deal with the liar from Long Island.  (The Republican majority will probably accept him, since they are very experienced at accepting liars, sharing a party label with Donald Pinocchio, the defeated former president, whom most of them worshipped. They will manage to ignore where this poverty-stricken candidate, who couldn’t even pay his rent, got $700,000 to lend to his campaign.)   

The bottom line on this is that the Republicans, as presently constituted, do not know how to govern, probably because they believe government itself is an evil.  Do you remember Grover Norquist who preached drowning it in a bathtub at White House luncheons during George W. Bush’s presidency? That’s the way these guys and gals still think today.

It should be noted that Nancy Pelosi’s majority was as thin as today’s G.O.P. margin, but she did not have to deal with members of her own party whose aim was the demolition of government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, rather than legislating what was necessary for them to operate.

I cannot avoid comparing the House’s dilemma in choosing a
Speaker with the State of Israel’s selecting Bibi Netanyahu as its prime minister. His party does not have a majority in their one-house legislature, the Knesset, so he chooses as an ally a small, extreme, right-wing party to create a majority, agreeing to support some of their radical, otherwise, unpopular, agenda. 

Well, the Freedom Caucus is not a separate party from the rest of the Republicans, but they might just as well be, because they demanded the adoption of much of their radical agenda in exchange for their support for McCarthy, along with changes in the rules by which the House operates. 

When important legislation like debt limits, a budget, health care, regulatory agencies, going to war, dealing with natural disasters, climate change, etc. comes before the House, necessary to run the government, the Freedom Caucus will be calling the shots for the same reason because their votes will be needed for any Republican measures to pass. Thus far, they have not shown any interest in running the government, or any hint of competence in doing so … which makes the extremely wealthy Ayn Rand libertarians very happy … because they want to live in a totally unregulated, tax-free, practically ‘government-less’ society.

It also pleases Vladimir Putin because that Freedom Caucus includes those who want to limit our aid to Ukraine.

Fortunately, our Constitution provides for a separate election of our Head of State, and a separate Senate, something Israel’s parliamentary system lacks, so we are in better shape than they are.  We have checks and balances that usually work. 

It is the Senate and the President that will stand in opposition to this crazy Republican House of Representatives.  Anything outlandish that they might pass will not make it through the Democratic Senate. And It should be kept in mind that if the ultimate legality of what is going on becomes an issue, expansion of the Supreme Court, possible because of Democratic control of the presidency and the Senate, could enter the equation.

Clearly, McCarthy will be totally beholden to those who provided the votes to put him into the Speaker’s chair and could remove him if they so wished at any time.  The incoming House of Representatives will accomplish nothing because of this situation unless they taste of the forbidden fruit of cooperating with the Democrats.  Otherwise, they will  make a lot of noise, and give Democrats a thoroughly documented illustration of Republican incompetence when it comes to governing. 

There is only one solution to this problem.  The TV broadcasts of the selection of a House Speaker, showing Republicans, like some lower forms of life, figuratively eating their own offspring, is reason enough for sane Americans to never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, vote for a Republican.  It’s like unknowingly swallowing poison.

And as for those Republicans who know better, the ones who do not deny election results nor excuse the January 6, 2021 insurrection, it is time for them to leave the party, become ‘independents’ or even consider becoming Democrats, or at least joining with them when votes are cast on a measure before the House.

Historical Note:  During the 1850s, our political parties played a game of musical chairs and the Whigs were left standing when the music stopped without any place to sit down.  The game continues today, and when the music stops, it looks like the Republican Party, as we have known it for years, will be left standing without any place to sit down.

Speaker McCarthy may nominally be identified as a Republican but in reality, he has been reduced to a puppet of the Freedom Caucus, even before he sits down in the Speaker’s chair.

JL

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Near Tragedy on the Gridiron

There has been enough comment on TV and in the press on the near-fatal injury suffered by Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin, the other evening.  Periodically, Jackspotpourri has included comments on the violence present in NFL (and college) football, so no additional posting is planned at this time.  But take a minute to check out my posts on 10/18/22 and on 11/14/22 when I wrote that ‘sometimes this is closer to street fighting than sports.’ 

Could it be that the American public gets a vicarious thrill from seeing their favorite teams commit acts of violence that they would never do themselves?  Ancient Rome experienced the same thing involving prisoners challenging lions in the years preceding its decline.

JL

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We Need a Solution to the Immigration Crisis ... and it ain't a wall!

In the blog’s 12/30/2022 posting, I promised to report further on the immigration crisis on the Southern border.  Let’s start that with a quote from a recent column by the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell on this subject, in which she gently took President Biden to task for not doing all that he could. 

“So what should the administration and Congress be doing instead?

 Among the more obvious steps: Send more resources to border communities, including to the many faith-based organizations assisting migrants.  Beef up the asylum system so that cases can be adjudicated more efficiently and expeditiously.

 Also, enable asylum seekers to apply for work permits much earlier – currently they must wait six months before they can even submit an application – so they can achieve the financial independence necessary to leave shelters.

 Most important: Create more legal, safe, orderly pathways for people to come to the United States, both to seek protection from persecution and to pursue economic opportunities.

 Americans often complain that immigrants should come here ‘the right way,’ but for many immigrants, showing up at the border unannounced and turning themselves in is the only legal pathway available.  If given options to come here that don’t require paying gangs and crossing deserts, people would gladly take them – which would in turn alleviate stress at the border.

 To its credit, the Biden administration has taken baby steps on the last recommendation.

 Its Uniting for Ukraine program, for instance, has vetted and ‘paroled in’ more than 82,000 Ukrainians and their immediate relatives abroad, which has discouraged Ukrainians from showing up en masse at our southern border.  A similar but much more restrictive program was created for Venezuelans, whose numbers are capped at 24,000; a parallel program is reportedly in the works for Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians.

 But again, these additional legal pathways can be created while still upholding the ability to apply for asylum at our borders.  That’s what U.S. law requires – and what Biden has, repeatedly, promised to do.”

 There’s a lot of meat in Ms. Rampell’s ideas, particularly programs to have immigration paperwork done abroad before the immigrant even leaves for the United States, a plan already being put into motion by President Biden, but difficult if not impossible in countries with which we do not have sufficiently close relationships.  

Still unmentioned is a numerical cap on total immigration.  Back on 12/30/22, I suggested that their number could not be unlimited.  The ‘Golden Door’ cannot remain wide open forever.  The entire world might find a reason to try to come here, and really, that is impossible.  I think a solution to this rests with the States bordering Mexico, and other areas from which immigrants seek entry.

These are the places where the pressure of immigration is felt the most, and where real opposition to it is the strongest, probably because immigrants are most visible there.  (I don’t mean the bogus opposition which claims immigrants bring crime and drugs with them. That is malarky spread by right-wing politicians.)  Many of the immigrants already here are living their lives in a many-years-long suspended animation waiting for their asylum request to be adjudicated. The backlog is tremendous and grows each day.

I feel that the federal government should totally and generously foot the bill for expenses these States incur in hosting, even temporarily, immigrants.  But this should be done in direct proportion to their number present in those States.

With dollars pouring into their treasuries, I suspect States would suddenly find room for immigrants and the ability to provide services for them, even temporarily if they were moving on elsewhere once their status was established.  And this might apply to States other than those on the ‘southern border’ as well, those bordering on Canada and of course, on the open sea.

This might result in an artificial, but effective, cap on the number of immigrants accepted, which might kick in only when both a State’s space for immigrants and services that it might provide for them, and more importantly, the necessary federal financing, dwindles. 

Can you come up with a better idea?  This one would have problems in the House, but it also might offer the opportunity for compromise there.  Otherwise, Executive Orders from the President seem to be the best solution until 2024's elections change things..

Am I still supposed to lift my lamp
besides the Golden Door?


JL

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Three Items of Interest:

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·       PaintingsRecently added to the blog is a feature showing one of my paintings.  (Besides writing, I also paint with acrylics for recreation.)  Right now, it features one of my recent paintings, but it will be periodically revised to show earlier ones as well.  You can find it off to the right on your desktop or tablet. 

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Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is    prepared, has revised its forwarding abilities.  If you click on the envelope with the arrow at the conclusion of every posting, (it looks like this:), you will have the opportunity to list as many email addresses as you wish, along with a comment from you, each of which will receive a link to the full blog that you now are reading, with all of its bells and whistles.  This is a great advance from the very basic format Google Blogspot originally provided when they forwarded something for you.  It might take a few minutes longer for your message to be transmitted but this method of forwarding offers the advantage of being able to forward jackspotpourri to many addresses simultaneously. Try it.

 

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