Monthly Archives: January 2012

Why Four Marines Shook the World

Video Contains Content Which May be Disturbing to Some Readers

For the past week the media and the military have each been obsessed with the video which surfaced of four marines apparently urinating on the body of a Taliban soldier killed in action. Millions of American, and hundreds and hundreds of millions of people around the world are enraged by this shocking development. Still, many Americans, and some from other parts of the world as well, dismiss this as nothing of significance and a dramatic overreaction by those demanding reprimands as consequential as court martial. There are logical and understandable reasons for both fields of thought; though it is difficult to say that one side is completely right or wrong in their view. Key elements have been left out of each views understanding, leading to their diametrically polar views. Read the rest of this entry

Pennsylvanians Witness Heroism, as Teachers Work for Free

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in unordinary circumstances. Every so often we are graced with seeing a hero do their work. Sometimes they have names, like Pat Tillman or Dakota Meyer; but most often they are faceless. The FDNY and NYPD who raced into the burning twin towers, random bystanders in Utah who pushed a flaming car off of a motorcyclist, and teachers working to educate students…for free. The last is the case in Chester Upland school district in Pennsylvania, where due to state budget education cuts of $900 million, teachers began to volunteer their time beginning Wednesday, when the school district ran out of money to pay their salaries. Each teacher committed to work and provide an education to their students for as long as they could individually manage living without pay. This has sparked an intense debate in the steel state over the budget cuts made by Republican Governor Corbett. Corbett ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and government accountability in last year’s elections, and has made a few drastic reforms to the state budget proposed in the first fiscal year beginning under his leadership. Pennsylvania is under massive debt and state government strains; their $4 billion dollar debt is the largest state debt in the nation, and Corbett is determined to do something about it, unfortunately it comes at the expense of education. Read the rest of this entry

Obama Sets New Precedent: Making Recess Appointments with the Senate in Session

When the founding fathers structured our constitution, historians agree their fear was that Congress could become too powerful, and shut the legislative and executive branches out of the governing system, essentially becoming the government. This fear stemmed from the amount of power given to Congress in the constitution, which was done in order to prevent one man from becoming a ruler or monarch. Presidential power has been a centuries long experiment, revolving around how much a president can and should be able to do alone. When Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus many thought that outside the president’s abilities; likewise, many thought the president had no right to issue an emancipation proclamation. Since then many controversial executive orders have been issued; from the great depression “new deal” era, to President Bush after 9/11, presidential power has always been a fluid concept. So the unprecedented move by President Obama in bypassing the Senate to appoint a head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau no doubt struck controversy. The constitution clearly states that a president must have all department heads approved by the Senate unless the Senate is in recess. Yesterday President Obama appointed Richard Cordray as the head of the CFPB as well as three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) even though the Senate was not technically in recess. At first glance this seems clearly unconstitutional; however, the Obama team is arguing it is not, and their case is complicated. The Senate never officially recessed, meaning that President Obama has no constitutional grounds with which to appoint bureaucrats; however, the Senate has not been in on Capitol Hill as a body in weeks. In order to avoid these recess appointments the senators have been holding “pro-forma” sessions, where one of the closest republican senators comes in to the Senate chambers, bangs the gavel to signal the start of a session, then bangs it again to end the session. Thus the Senate is still technically in session, though in reality they are on a recess. Read the rest of this entry

Dysfunctional Congress

Slavery and secession. Though I know of nobody who supports slavery, the two words still bring up passionate feelings and discussions among all races in my home state of Kentucky and throughout the South. Are debt and taxes just as pivotal? Are they such hot button issues that we will continue to argue or avoid the super committee topic even 150 years down the road? This is highly unlikely, but you would not know it if you looked at our Congress; at least that is the conclusion of the book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. The book was written by two prestigious historians, Thomas Mann, the senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and draws some harsh conclusions toward the 112th Congress. According to their book, the last time Congress was this dysfunctional was in the years leading up to the civil war. Many polls have the approval rating of Congress in the single digits, and none above 15%; eyes can be seen glazed over whenever anyone so much as mentions Congress in a public discussion. It is clear that slavery and secession are far more drastic issues than those facing us today; nonetheless, Congress has manufactured one crisis after another this year, and the tension rivals that of the civil war era Congress. Despite all the troubles facing a nation literally torn apart in the 1850’s, U.S. history professor Daniel Feller, at the University of Tennessee said that “none of those involved the level of conflict within Congress itself that we see today.” Feller, who specializes in early to mid-1800’s American history also said “I think you’d have to go back to the 1850s to find a period of congressional dysfunction like the one we’re in today.” Read the rest of this entry

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