I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thank you

No news here. I just wanted to thank everybody for making this one of the best and most entertaining courses I've ever taken.

-Daniel Crowley


As the year winds down, I thought I'd publish a some of the Pitney quotations I've collected over the course of the semester. The following are listed in chronological order.

In Alaska, you have to carry votes across the tundra

Everybody in North Dakota knows each other so its kinda hard to get away with fraud.

Bush was less popular than athlete's foot

W ran for the House once, got his butt kicked, but that was when he was drinking so he probably doesn't remember it.

If you have a picture of Trent Lott on your wall, label it 'Don't be like this.'

Sunny Bono ended up being a good congressman...until he skied into a tree.

The etymologists have found a unique breed of cockroach found only in the FOB. I am not making that up.

If you're a prosecutor that's pretty cool, because you can indict a ham sandwich.

The fact that we show up is purely out of a sense of duty. If we were rational actors, we'd give you a one page exam, give you all A's and all go out drinking.

I don't live in Armenia, but I live in the Glendale area, which is basically the same thing.

I wonder if Bunning goes out drinking with Burris.

Here's a nice little factoid, if there's ever an awkward pause in conversation you can drop this in: the screenwriter of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was a card-carrying communist.

Those of you who have ever dealt with a mechanic or body shop know that it is basically the secular version of purgatory.

Chris Dodd if not toast, is very warm bread.

Actually, Moynihan made more sense when he was drunk than when he was sober.

I can keep doing this till I'm senile, and then it will take years for people to notice anyways.

Maybe Captain Picard knows the answer to that question...75 years from now.

You may cover your ears...we are up shit's creek without a paddle.

And the guy who was supposed to assassinate Andrew Johnson just got drunk.

Johnson was hammered on inauguration day.

The faculty have no incentive not to come to class drunk.

I'm worse than a civil servant.

Let me put it this way, the Pomona class is a very worthy opponent.

Summing Up

Barack Obama on Supreme Court nominations and the separation of powers:

Continuity of Congress

Filling Senate Vacancies:

Getting Carried Away

U.S. Secretary of State apologizes to Afghan President for the killing of up to 120 civilians by american bombs.


The 2 (re)organization resolutions are S Res 130 and S Res 131.

S Res 130 was introduced by Reid for the Democrats and S Res 131 was introduced by McConnell to appoint minority members to committees.

The text of the legislation is not on THOMAS yet, but should be up in a day or two (or so the website says)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dems Strip Specter of Seniority

As reported by the Washington Post:

The Senate last night stripped Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) of his seniority on committees, a week after the 29-year veteran of the chamber quit the Republican Party to join the Democrats.

In announcing his move across the aisle last week, Specter asserted that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had assured him he would retain his seniority in the Senate and on the five committees on which he serves. Specter's tenure ranked him ahead of all but seven Democrats.

Instead, though, on a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that made Specter the most junior Democrat on four committees for the remainder of this Congress. (He will rank second from last on the fifth, the Special Committee on Aging.) Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal... (Read more here)

Specter Gets the Short End of the Stick

Tying together several news threads we've been following this semester, Democratic leadership reneged on their previously agreed deal that Sen. Specter would receive seniority as if he had been elected as a Democrat. Evidently, Specter said he would not support Al Franken's claims in Minnesota, said he might vote against current health care proposals and has generally made himself unwelcome in his new party. Democrat fears that Specter might lose reelection or even his Democratic primary also factored into the changed deal.

Specter Will Be Junior Democrat on Committees

Despite promises from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) would retain his seniority after switching parties, Specter will be put at the end of the seniority line on all his committees but one under a resolution approved on the floor late Tuesday.

Under the modified organizing resolution, Specter will not keep his committee seniority on any of the five committees that he serves on and will be the junior Democrat on all but one — the chamber’s Special Committee on Aging. On that committee, he will be next to last in seniority.

As a result, Specter — who as a Republican was ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, as well as ranking member of the panel’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education — will now rank behind all the other Democrats, at least until the end of this Congress.

According to a senior Democratic aide, it remains unclear whether Specter — who will still retain his seniority in the Senate outside of the committees — will see a boost in his committee seniority should he be re-elected for the next session. The status of his seniority for the next Congress will be determined once the 112th Congress convenes in 2011, the aide said.

Democrats said that while unrelated, Specter’s comments to the New York Times Magazine this weekend indicating he would support former Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) disputed re-election bid against Al Franken have angered many Democrats.

“Sen. Specter better watch comments like these. They won’t help him in the caucus,” a Democratic leadership aide said, adding that the comments have “caused a lot of heartburn in the caucus.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Stephen Colbert brings down the House – or does he?

Politico recently featured a spot on "The Colbert Report" about the House of Representatives, stating:

...Colbert has gone on to make his mark on Washington in another way — as the world’s only comedian to make the House of Representatives a major part of his shtick.

On Oct. 18, 2005 — the second episode of “The Colbert Report” — the host flashed a salty eye at the camera and proclaimed: “Congressional districts: You are in one right now, but what do you really know about it? Well, there are 435 of them, each exquisitely gerrymandered by a wise incumbent.”

With that, Colbert launched “Better Know a District,” a would-be 435-part series of interviews with members that has exposed the public to the sometimes-anonymous lower-chamber members.

“He’s discovered a wealth of material that most comics give up because the material isn’t as well-known as the president or some other such official,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

See all episodes of "Better Know the District" here. They made me laugh out loud in Ryal.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District - Georgia's 1st - Jack Kingston
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFirst 100 Days

The Specter Hangover

Interesting blurb, clever title:

The Specter Hangover
CQ Politics

Arlen Specter's defection might be just a temporary crack hit for Democrats, a momentary high that falls flat once it's gone. Let's see, the Pennsylvania senator boasts that he won't be a guaranteed vote for his new party, can't be relied upon for Obama-style health reform and will reserve judgment on the President's pick for a Supreme Court vacancy.

"I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat"
-- Sen. Arlen Specter (NBC, 5/3/09)

So what is gained by Democrats clearing the field for the Republican turncoat in their 2010 Pennsylvania primary?

If Specter switched because he had no chance to win the GOP primary against an unelectable right-winger, there's a case to make that Democrats would be better off letting that happen and electing a more reliable real Democrat. That might be a more lasting high than smoking what Specter is pushing.

Congressional History, to the Present

Some artifacts of congressional history, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A glimpse at Robert A. Taft:

A timeline of campaign finance reform.
A timeline of congressional reforms.

Polarization of House and Senate.
Polarization of leaders

More on Committee Assignments

Here's a good write up from the Washington Post about the impact the Specter defection will have on the Judiciary Committee, and how the parties are dealing with the news.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Told you how much it was worth

Loyalty oath or no, Reid seems to be going back on his promises to Specter. Considering Specter's barely disguised glee at stepping into a chairmanship, I can't imagine he's gonna take this well.

It also serves as a nice reminder for how things work in the Senate compared to the House. "One senior lawmaker who spoke to The Hill on condition of anonymity said that Reid does not have the power to let Specter keep his seniority earned as a Republican." Reid's only first among equals and his deal with Specter stepped on some prominent toes.

That and a dime

Specter denies offering a 'loyalty pledge' when he decided to caucus with the Democrats in response to a Wall Street Journal report that quoted him as saying to Obama: "I'm a loyal Democrat.I support your agenda." and attributed it to an unnamed source.

Because we'd all take that seriously.

"Congress is a coequal branch of government"

Op-ed piece in the NYT that echoes some of our discussions in class about how the majority party loves a super-majority when they have it, but whine about abuse of power and checks and balances when they are on the opposite side of the table.

Republicans are made to look hypocritical when they ask for adequate checks and balances in the Senate but then defend their use of torture as within the confines of the law (when really it bypassed the confines of the law, ignoring checks and balances). Republicans negate responsibility for the allowance of the torture by stating they were doing what they were told or simply relaying affirmations for torture made by others. Clearly the system of checks and balances failed in the authorizations of torture, or checks and balances were simply bypassed .

What can be gleaned from this though, for Republicans and Democrats, is that any time a system of checks and balances can be bypassed, blame can only land in one party's lap. Whatever goes wrong under the Senate's authorization will be squarely attributed to the Dems, giving the Republicans some campaign fuel for 2010 or 2012.

Harman, cont.

Laura Rozen's well-reported blog is essential for more information and speculation on the Harman story.

Her post raises a number of important questions. Such as, CIA director Porter Goss having a history of using info to get dirt on political enemies, whether Goss had the authority to issue a FISA wiretap, why isn't this "Israeli agent" being indicted, what the motives are of her accusers, and whether she knew about or had an opinion about the destroyed torture tapes.

Congress's Responsibility for President's Court Nominees

The Washington Post has an interesting editorial about replacing Souter. Most of it praises the outgoing justice's intellectual ability and open-mindedness and urges a simliarly qualified replacement. But the last paragraph touches on an important question about Congress's responsibility in the confirmation of the President's Supreme Court nominees. Just how much deference should it provide to the President's choice? Since the constitution provides little guidance, how much is the "mainstream" of thought used as a standard?

"The temptation for Republicans will be to treat Mr. Obama's pick as some Democrats -- including, sad to say, then-Sen. Obama -- treated President George W. Bush's. It is legitimate for senators to take a nominee's ideology into account and to probe it within ethical limits, but it is also important to keep in mind that elections have consequences, and that the president is, as a general matter, entitled to name justices who reflect his own understanding of the Constitution and the role of the courts. We say this having supported Mr. Bush's two nominees -- Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- as within the mainstream of conservative legal thought."

Friday, May 1, 2009

A couple of things

New Developments on FDR:

A new book disputes widely held assumptions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was insensitive to the plight of European Jews under the Nazis, and instead concludes that he tried to arrange resettlement for thousands of refugees in the late 1930s, only to be thwarted by his own State Department.


Speaker Bass isn't the only one rescinding finances these days.

An Alum of this Class is Running for Congress

Adam Kokesh, Iraq War veteran, CMC alum, and Ted Kennedy in the 2005 simulation, is now the first person from this course to run for Congress.

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