I just want to be a number

Imagine living in a world where you couldn’t reveal your name.  If people asked your name, you’d regard them with suspicion, only revealing it when absolutely necessary.  You have it erased from all your personal documents and even your driver’s license.  Identifying yourself would be chaos, as others would need to use lots of other information such as address, phone number, and date of birth in order to make sure you were you.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But we live in a similar world.   The Social Security Number was created in the 1930s to identify Social Security participants.  It was the numerical equivalent of a name, a unique number that could be used to ensure the money contributed by an individual was credited to them for retirement.  Today, though, your SSN is more like a password than an id.  It’s something to be guarded and kept safe, only revealed when necessary.

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John Boehner Re-Elected (Boo!)

You didn’t hear it here first, but I will admit defeat.  Boehner was re-elected, though by a razor-thin two vote margin.  There were several defections among the Republicans, mostly right-wingers who voted for someone more conservative, leaving Boehner with barely enough.

Many commentators think Boehner will need to move to the right in order to keep his right-wing support from eroding further, but I see hope in the fact that the fiscal cliff aversion bill passed at the last minute was approved in the House mostly by Democrats.  It allowed the right-wing not to vote for it while avoiding a public relations disaster for the Republican Party as a whole.

I will keep blogging about this issue, because a Speaker can be unseated mid-term, and a new Speaker elected.  Things could change if this Congress is unable to get needed legislation passed.

Hastert Rule

On January 3rd when the new Congress is sworn in, there will be 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans.  If John Boehner is re-elected Speaker, he will likely continue to run the House according to the Hastert Rule.  (See NYT series of postings, Debt Reckoning, see the posting at Dec 12 at 12:32pm.)  The Hastert Rule means that the Republican Speaker will not bring to a vote any bill unless it has the support of a majority of Republicans.

Half of the 234 Republicans is 117, so the 117 most conservative members of the House, only 27% of the total House membership, can stop any compromise legislation that has been negotiated with the Senate and the White House.  That’s why Boehner has such a hard time compromising with President Obama.

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Defeat John Boehner Video Series

I now have four videos posted online with more to come.  These use commentary and graphics to describe how John Boehner can be defeated and a more moderate Speaker elected.

Video #1: Introduction to idea of a compromise Speaker

Video #2: How moderate Republicans could be convinced to form a coalition

Video #3: Explains the problem with the current power structure in the House

Video #4: A comedic approach to explaining the issues.


Defeat John Boehner op-ed

This is the original opinion piece I wrote on this topic back in early November.  I was trying to get it published in a major newspaper or on a major web site, but to no avail.  So you can read it here instead….

As the post-election talk of bipartisan compromise rapidly degenerates into the usual intractable positions, Washington is assuming that the House leadership will remain unchanged.  John Boehner may have enough Republican support to remain the Speaker under nominal circumstances, but there may be another possibility.

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What We Owed Iraq

When the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed at the end of World War II, Britain carved up the empire into nation-sized chunks.  One of those was named “Iraq.”  Iraq contained three major populations: Shiite Muslim Arab, Sunni Muslim Arab, and Kurdish.  (The Kurds are an ethnic group; most of them are Muslim.)  The Kurds actually exist in several different countries and the issue of why an ethnicity of 30 million people does not have its own country will be the subject of a later article.

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

In 2011 after years of civil war, the nation of Sudan was divided into Sudan and South Sudan.  The predominantly Arab Muslim population of northern Sudan had long oppressed the Christian and animist southern Sudanese.  After long years, the international community finally accepted the proposition that it would be better for the southerners to be independent. Now, though border disputes continue and may flare into a border war over a small disputed territory, the region is more peaceful than it has been for years.

But the division of Sudan took 50 years of civil war (with a ten year break) to bring the international community to the conclusion that partition was the answer.  Two million people died and four million were displaced.  When the vote on separation was finally taken in a UN-supervised plebiscite in 2011, southern Sudanese from around the world were allowed to vote because of the size of the refugee diaspora.  In a world where the international community stubbornly resists partition of nations, Sudan is the exception that proves how strong the rule is.

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Speaker of the House Fred Upton

John Boehner is the Speaker of the House.  He was elected to that post by the Republicans who won a majority of House seats in the 2010 elections.  Now that the House has remained in Republican control, most people expect Boehner to retain the speakership.  But there’s a special opportunity this time around for something different to happen.

The Democrats have gained about eight seats in the recent elections and now they are only 17 votes short of a majority in the House.  If 17 moderate Republicans can be persuaded to vote with the Democrats to elect a moderate Speaker, that would change how Washington works over the next two years.

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