Daily Archives: November 23, 2009

Definition of Cloture: An Agreement to Limit Debate NOT to Begin Debating

Posted by Guest Contributor Will Johnston from Mind Muse

UPDATE: Looks like I was wrong on this one. While cloture is a motion to end debate, on Saturday the Senate invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill, not on the bill itself, making the statement that the senate agreed to begin debating the bill a true one. I should have looked more closely!

Time for a quick civics lesson! Countless news agencies are misreporting that yesterday’s Senate vote on the health care bill is a vote to begin debating the bill.

From the Washington Post:

After days of indecision, the last two Democratic holdouts — Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (La.) — joined their caucus in supporting a motion to begin debate.

From the New York Times:

The Senate voted on Saturday to begin full debate on major health care legislation

From CNN:

the Senate voted to move ahead with a floor debate

These are just a few examples, but you can find countless others on Google News.

The problem?

They’re all wrong. The Senate voted to invoke cloture, a motion to limit debate on a bill or other matter (i.e. nomination) pending before the Senate.

In olden days, you couldn’t actually ever stop debate on a bill if any Senator wanted to keep talking about it. As you can imagine, this meant that if a couple of Senators were really opposed to something, they could just take turns talking about it until the rest of the Senators caved and moved on to the other things they needed to vote on. In an effort to help move things along, the Senate changed its rules so that if two-thirds of the Senators wanted to end debate, they could do so by invoking cloture. Yes, it sounds a lot like closure, and the two words have very similar meanings. They’re about bringing something to an end.

The bar for invoking cloture was still so high that it was nearly impossible to do. Getting two-thirds of the Senate to agree on everything is like getting two three-year-olds to eat all of their vegetables. In fact, cloture was only invoked five times during the next 46 years. Consequently, the Senate changed its rules to require only three-fifths of the Senators to vote for a cloture motion in order for it to pass.

I hope this little history and civics lesson has helped you understand what the Senate voted on last night. The fact is that the news agencies weren’t reporting what really happened. Cloture takes a bit more to explain well than can be put in a news article about another topic, so they took a shortcut. The party in control of Congress (currently the Democratic Party) sets the agenda and can debate whatever they want. They didn’t have to win a Senate vote to debate health care reform, they had to win a Senate vote to put an end to debating health care reform so they can actually vote on passing the bill.

How do I know so much about cloture? Well, I used to work for a Senator, so I learned a lot about what it was and how it worked. I didn’t really know the history part, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and Wikipedia pointed me to two articles on the Senate website that give the history of cloture.

Cloture Rule~March 8, 1917
Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate

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SC Governor Mark Sanford Faces 37 Charges By Ethics Panel– Impeachment hearings begin today

TPM/—South Carolina’s ethics commission is investigating 37 allegations of lawbreaking by Gov. Mark Sanford in connection with travel and use of campaign funds — charges his lawyer described just last week as “minor, technical matters.”

Sanford is accused of violating ethics laws barring officials from buying high-priced airfare — including on trips to visit his lover in Argentina last year — as well as using state airplanes for personal travel, The State reports.

Sanford’s lawyers told The State that amid the investigation, the governor had added disclosures of flights he took on planes owned by friends and donors, as required by law.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan panel of South Carolina legislators are set to take up impeachment proceedings against Sanford on Tuesday. He has over a year left in his term.

SC State Ethics Commission Complaint Against Gov. Mark Sanford (11/23/09)

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**44-D Update**:
SC legislators begin Sanford impeachment hearings

Columbia, S.C. (AP) —

Legislators irked for months over Gov. Mark Sanford’s summertime vanishing act and his tearful revelation that he was in Argentina for a rendezvous with his lover plan to start debating a measure Tuesday that ultimately would remove him from office.

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23 years of silence: Belgian man breaks through “coma” and communicates

“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear”: Man trapped in 23-year ‘coma’ reveals horror of being unable to tell doctors he was conscious

Conscious but unable to communicate for 23 years after a car accident that was thought to have put him into a deep coma, a quadriplegic Belgian

Rom said he wants to enjoy life again - now that his friends and family know he is not in a coma after all

man has described how medical science finally put an end to his agonizing years of silence.

Now able to make himself understood via a computer and specially built keyboard, the man, Rom Houben, said in the Monday issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel that when doctors made the correct diagnosis, it was like starting a second life.

“I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me — it was my second birth,” Mr. Houben, now 46, was quoted as saying.

Mr. Houben, who was an engineering student at the time of the accident, lives in a care home near Brussels. He was assumed to be in a persistent vegetative state until three years ago, when the breakthrough was made.

In the interview he recalled the aftermath of the car accident that paralyzed him and the realization that no one understood that he was fully conscious.

“I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,” he said. He added that he then became a witness to his own suffering as doctors and nurses tried to speak with him until they gave up all hope.

Read the whole story here:

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Prosperity, Peace and Opportunity: The Legacy of American Service in South Korea

Posted by Buellboy

People in the crowd listen as President Barack Obama rallies the U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2009.

People in the crowd listen as President Barack Obama rallies the U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2009.

WhiteHouse.gov—In a particularly moving address to troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, the President thanked American troops for their continued sacrifice and service, and took the opportunity to a share a short anecdote with the crowd. The story reminded troops of America’s great responsibility and privilege to protect freedom and promote democracy around the world, and offered rare historical insight from a longtime ally:

I want to deliver, actually, just a quick story, go a little off script. President Lee talked to me about what it was like when he was a young child here in Korea, this country having been torn by war, and the poverty that still existed in the country. And he said, I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you’ve done, because we would not be the extraordinarily strong, prosperous nation that we are, had it not been for the sacrifices of your armed services and the continued contributions that you’ve made.

And I thought, when the President of a country that’s become so successful says that America, and America’s armed services in particular, had something to do with the extraordinary success of their country — he said, that’s something you should take great pride in. And I want all of you to know that, because you are carrying that tradition on right here at Osan.

I couldn’t come to the Republic of Korea without coming to see you to deliver a simple message — a message of thanks to you and your families. Because of all the privileges of serving as President, I have no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known.~President Barack Obama

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White House Celebrates the 540th Anniversary of the Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji

Posted by Audiegrl

Guru Nanak Dev ji

Guru Nanak Dev ji 1469-1539

Whitehouse.gov—On Friday we hosted a reception commemorating the 540th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first guru in Sikhism. It was the first time that this holiday has ever been celebrated at the White House. Members of the Sikh community from around the country were invited to celebrate the occasion with traditional hymns led by the Sikh Kirtani Chanters from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Several administration officials were in attendance, including Dr. John Holdren (Office of Science & Technology Policy), Tina Tchen (Office of Public Engagement), Michael Strautmanis (Chief of Staff to Valerie Jarrett), Adolfo Carrion (Urban Affairs), and Nancy Anne DeParle (Health Reform).

Representatives from the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, United Sikhs, and other grassroots leaders came together to recognize the important contributions of Sikhs to our national life. The first Sikhs arrived as laborers in the western United States around 1899 and gradually moved around the country. They went on to become owners of successful businesses, serve honorably in the U.S. military in both world wars and other conflicts, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and members of many other professions.

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The Pit Bull in the China Shop by Frank Rich

Op-ed by Frank Rich

Frank Rich

Frank Rich/The New York Times

New York Times/Frank Rich—At last the American right and left have one issue they unequivocally agree on: You don’t actually have to read Sarah Palin’s book to have an opinion about it. Last Sunday Liz Cheney praisedGoing Rogue” as “well-written” on Fox News even though, by her own account, she had sampled only “parts” of it. On Tuesday, Ana Marie Cox, a correspondent for Air America, belittled the book in The Washington Post while confessing that she couldn’t claim to have “completely” read it.

Going Rogue” will hardly be the first best seller embraced by millions for talismanic rather than literary ends. And I am not recommending that others follow my example and slog through its 400-plus pages, especially since its supposed revelations have been picked through 24/7 for a week. But sometimes I wonder if anyone has read all of what Palin would call the “dang” thing. Some of the book’s most illuminating tics have been mentioned barely — if at all — by either its fans or foes. Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves.

The book’s biggest surprise is Palin’s wide-eyed infatuation with show-business celebrities. You get nearly as much face time with Tina Fey and the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in “Going Rogue” as you do with John McCain. We learn how happy Palin was to receive calls from Bono and Warren Beatty “to share ideas and insights.” We wade through star-struck lists of campaign cameos by Robert Duvall, Jon Voight (who “blew us away”), Naomi Judd, Gary Sinise and Kelsey Grammer, among many others. Then there are the acknowledgments at the book’s end, where Palin reveals that her intimacy with media stars is such that she can air-kiss them on a first-name basis, from Greta to Laura to Rush.

Equally revealing is the one boldfaced name conspicuously left unmentioned in the book: Levi Johnston, the father of Palin’s grandchild. Though Palin and McCain milked him for photo ops at the Republican convention, he is persona non grata now that he’s taking off his campaign wardrobe. Is Johnston’s fledgling porn career the problem, or is it his public threats to strip bare Palin family secrets as well? “She knows what I got on her” is how he put it. In Palin’s interview with Oprah last week, it was questioning about Johnston, not Katie Couric, that made her nervous.

The book’s most frequently dropped names, predictably enough, are the Lord and Ronald Reagan (though not necessarily in that order). Easily the most startling passage in “Going Rogue,” running more than two pages, collates extended excerpts from a prayerful letter Palin wrote to mark the birth of Trig, her child with Down syndrome. This missive’s understandable goal was to reassert Palin’s faith and trust in God. But Palin did not write her letter to God; she wrote the letter from God, assuming His role and voice herself and signing it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” If I may say so — Oy!

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44-D’s Book Diaries: R. Scott Reiss’ Black Monday

“Name the most powerful narcotic in the world,” he asks the former beggar boy. “Oil,” the mentor says. ” More than opium, more than heroin. The pipelines are syringes. The addicts pay anything for their supply, kill for it, steal for it, topple governments for it.”

Black Monday by R. Scott ReissThis gripping, high-concept thriller about an oil-eating microbe is written by best-selling author R. Scott Reiss. “Black Monday” is in movie development for release in 2012.

A plague that will cause the death of millions. A plague that will destroy countries. A plague that will plunge the world into a dark age. A plague that will make nobody sick…

When the first planes go down — in Europe, in California, in Asia — authorities blame terrorists. All flights are grounded as world leaders try to figure out how the global assault has been coordinated. And when cars, ships, and factories stop running too, it becomes clear that the common link is oil. Somehow a microbe, genetically engineered to destroy petroleum, has infected the world supply. The world descends into a new dark age.

Dr. Gregory Gillette, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, is a disease hunter specializing in microbes that attack human beings. When the Pentagon taps him to be part of the Rapid Response Team assembled to track and kill the devastating Delta-3 bacteria, he quickly discovers that his expertise is ignored, his presence meaningless. The leader of the task force is an old nemesis who sidelines Gillette.

Gillette returns home to Washington, where he watches in horror as food becomes scarce, neighbor attacks neighbor, and government collapses. With winter approaching, the capital faces anarchy and Gillette faces a choice: to stay with his family or to disobey orders and find the microbes’ antidote through clues that may not even be real.

Best-selling author R. Scott Reiss

Best-selling author R. Scott Reiss

Black Monday is an involving thriller with a timely theme. The author’s use of the present tense provides an excitement and immediacy that rapidly propel the narrative forward…Reiss includes enough solid detail to make his improbable plot seem almost realistic. He handles his complicated scientific explanations with aplomb, takes the time to focus on a variety of compelling characters, and creates a terrifying scenario that will make thoughtful readers think twice about the world’s dependence on the ultimate narcotic–oil.”~~Mostly Fiction Book Reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Black Monday

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US Envoy Jon Huntsman Criticizes Coverage of Obama China Visit

Posted by Audiegrl

AP/Christopher Bodeen—Washington’s ambassador to Beijing hit out Friday at negative U.S. media coverage of President Barack Obama’s visit to China, saying it failed to take into account important progress on many issues.

Although producing no breakthroughs on key issues, Obama’s first state visit to the Asian giant that ended Wednesday was heralded by both sides as a success.

The trip was the top news story in China, drawing strong interest from the Chinese public who, surveys suggest, are largely positive in their view of the American president.

However, much of the U.S. media coverage was strongly negative, accusing Obama of failing to gain concessions on key issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and climate change, as well as being weak on human rights.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the reports missed the fact that the visit had yielded important progress on cooperation in areas such as clean energy, military-to-military exchanges and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

I attended all those meetings that President Obama had with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao,” Huntsman said, referring to the Chinese president and premier.

I’ve got to say some of the reporting I saw afterward was off the mark. I saw sweeping comments about things that apparently weren’t talked about, when they were discussed in great detail in the meetings,” he said.

Huntsman made the comments during a question-and-answer session with Chinese and American students attending an international relations program at elite Peking University.

He said criticism about limited Chinese exposure for Obama’s remarks at a town hall-style meeting with students in Shanghai failed to consider the ubiquity of the Internet and blogging in China, where 350 million people use the Web.

Go check some time and see how messages bounce around from Web site to Web site and blogger to blogger for a very long period of time and you’ll get a sense of what the communication revolution is all about,” Huntsman said.

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Great Britain: Tamiflu-Resistant Strain of Swine Flu Spreading

Posted by Audiegrl

Resistant strain discovered in Cardiff hospital, prompting concern among health officials

guardian.co.uk/Owen Bowcott—Doctors in Wales have discovered a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu that has been spreading from patient to patient in a Cardiff hospital.

The emergence of an easily transmissible, resistant strain is a worrying development for health officials and appears to be the first documented case in Europe.

Five patients at University Hospital Wales, in Cardiff, were infected and isolated for treatment. All had severe underlying conditions that left them with weakened immune systems. At least three had acquired the infection in hospital.

There have been a handful of reported cases from around the world of Tamiflu-resistant strains of the H1N1 virus. Only one previous case, at a US summer camp, however, involved person-to-person transmission.

The Cardiff patients have been treated with an alternative anti-viral drug. Two have recovered and been discharged and three others remain in hospital, one in intensive care.

Dr Roland Salmon, the director of the communicable disease surveillance center in Wales, said: “The emergence of [H1N1] viruses that are resistant to Tamiflu is not unexpected in patients with serious underlying conditions and suppressed immune systems, who still test positive for the virus despite treatment.

In this case, the resistant strain of swine flu does not appear to be any more severe than the swine flu virus that has been circulating since April.

For the vast majority of people, Tamiflu has proved effective in reducing the severity of illness. Vaccination remains the most effective tool we have in preventing swine flu so I urge people identified as being at risk to look out for their invitation to be vaccinated by their GP surgery.

Any spread of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of the virus into the community would constitute a serious public health concern. The government recently reminded those who caught swine flu to take Tamiflu as a first line of medical defense.

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FLU.GOV LIVE-H1N1 Briefing for Bloggers and Their Readers

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