Category Archives: gurvey

Parliament: At Least Debate

One of the more esoteric debates in academia for those studying politics is the contrast between the American form of government, with a strong executive and an elected legislature wielding equal power, with the democratic parliamentary system in which the elected legislature is the ultimate power, the head of state subservient to it and the executive chosen by it. In other words, America v. England.

I frequently got into this debate with my father, a true Anglophile, and we never resolved the issue. The compare and contrast form of discussion was, in many way, ironic because of the historical circumstances. England had a strong executive at the time of the American revolution. King George III reigned at that time, had considerable real power compared with today’s Queen Elizabeth II, and was for Americans the perfect example of a leader to be avoided.

And they did at first avoid entirely the idea of an executive. There was a president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation which preceded the Constitution of 1787. But the president, like the Congress itself, lacked real power. Every decision required a consensus, the agreement of all 13 independent sovereign states.

What is ironic is that while England has evolved into a system where the popularly elected legislature is most powerful. America has evolved into a system where a powerful executive, elected not by the people but by an electoral college chosen according to practices set by state legislatures, often dominates the political debate.

Moreover, America has evolved into a two party system, something the framers of the Constitution generally opposed, while England has evolved into a multi-party system where coalitions between parties with different legislative agendas are often needed to dictate policy.

I don’t have an answer for the obvious question, which is better? But I do have an opinion on one aspect of the differences between the systems. One that is apparent to anyone following the British parliament debate over Brexit, the plan to leave the European Union. The difference is, in Britain, there is a very public, acrimonious and, in my opinion, healthy, debate.

Watching the British members of parliament go at it is something I find curiously refreshing. When was the last time we saw a major issue of the day being robustly debated in the American Congress? In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the party with a majority of the votes controls the floor proceedings. That has meant of late that issues not supported by the leaders of the majority party simply never come up for discussion and often never even come up for a vote.

The President, unlike England’s Prime Minister, never appears in Congress except by invitation generally for the once-a-year State of the Union address. He is constitutionally required to sign legislation, but there are times when his position is not publicly known.

Watching the Parliament debate I was both entertained and informed. Congress could learn something from its ancestor. In 1776, one of my favorite musicals, Rhode Island’s Stephen Hopkins casts a deciding vote in favor of having the Continental Congress debate Virginia’s motion that the 13 colonies declare their independence from England. Hopkins says he’s never heard of an issue so dangerous it cannot even be discussed.

A lot of the dialogue in the play comes from the historical writings and speeches of the characters. And it is remarkable how prescient many of them were. However, I’ve never been able to locate proof that Hopkins actually cast such a vote or spoke those words. Or if they were the invention of the late Peter Stone, who wrote the book. Still, I agree with the sentiment. And I wish Congress would debate the issues of the day in public and not, if at all, behind closed doors.

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5G and Wi-Fi 6—Evolution and revolution

As you can tell by all the marketing hype, 5G is upon us. The mobile telephone carriers are touting their plans to roll out 5G, the Fifth Generation of wireless service, although specifics about the timetable, fees and applications are difficult to come by.

Wi-Fi 6 is somewhat more obscure. That’s because the branding has never really caught on with the equipment makers who instead opted to describe their gear with the string of numbers and letters referencing the IEEE standard which defines the technology. Wi-Fi 6 is 802.11ax. And that is a mouthful for consumers to remember.

This story continues on The Network by Cisco….

 

 

 

 

 

The Name Game

Calling another kid by an unflattering nickname is a habit most of us left on the grade school playground. Of course, Donald Trump is not “most of us.” Donald Trump seems to take a particular delight in coming up with a derogatory nickname for people he is not too fond of. “Crooked Hillary” is just one example.

Some of the people he attacks don’t take the bait and engage him in this fashion. I admire them. I don’t think I would capable of that much self restraint. If a punch in the nose wasn’t an available option, and the guy is of course surrounded by Secrete Service agents, I’d at least resort to the obvious retorts. “Donny Draft Dodger” is a good fit. And “Pussy Grabber” would work for an adult audience.

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Winners. Losers. 2020.

We’ve done it. We’ve survived Election 2018. And of course there are winners, losers, and implications for 2020. A few, in no particular order.

We the People. Tough call here. On the one hand, we won. We decided that an unconstrained government is not a good thing and we restored at least the potential for a check and balance for the next two years by putting the House of Representatives in the hands of a different party. We also turned out in record numbers for a midterm. Can we keep it up?

On the other hand, we proved once again that we are a deeply divided nation. Moderates lost to partisans. The future for bipartisanship seems as bleak as before. Race remains the greatest dividing issue. Even a geography based solution involving the dismemberment of the nation doesn’t seem practical as the divide is between urban and rural residents, not between states or regions. The election of 2018 was decided in the suburbs. 2020 may be decided there too.

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The Preachers of Hate

PittsburgMemorialThe last of eleven funerals was held today. Eleven people, shot dead in simply because they were Jewish.

A federal grand jury has charged 46 year-old Robert Bowers with 44 crimes including hate crimes resulting in death. Bowers has pleaded not guilty. So we’ll do the journalism thing and note that he is the “alleged” assailant and that he is considered innocent until proven guilty. We will also note that the indictment alleges that on the morning of the Sabbath, October 27, 2018, Bowers drove to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, entered the building with multiple firearms, and opened fire. He also engaged public safety officers, wounding several before he was wounded and captured. While inside the Synagogue, Bowers made several statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”

It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. But of course Jews have faced many millennia of persecution and oppression and even in America Jews are no strangers to anti-Semitic incidents, which an Anti-Defamation League audit found rose 57% in 2017.

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No. Just No.

I’ve had it. I’ve had it with whataboutism. I’m done with false equivalency. No more political correctness. You can take your gaslighting someplace else. I’m tired of demonizing, of disinformation, of scapegoating, of rationalization and of lying and deception of all kinds.

Thirteen pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats, including former presidents Obama and Clinton, and other Trump critics. That’s a fact. The FBI has arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, and charged him with a long list of crimes in connection with the bombs. That’s a fact. They also impounded a white van, which they say was Sayoc’s, its windows covered with political images and stickers of President Trump and his critics, including pictures of some of the bomb recipients with gun sights superimposed on their images. That’s another fact.

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Constitution Day

We celebrate September 17 as Constitution Day, marking the day in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution of the United States in Philadelphia.

I remember when I first studied this great document. You couldn’t graduate from the eighth grade in the Chicago Public Schools without passing an exam on the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Illinois. In class of O’Keeffe Elementary I was fascinated by the text and the little we learned of the history. And I have remained impressed today, after much more detailed study in college and graduate school, and as I teach First Amendment law to young journalists.

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