Apparently, the buzz on the internet today is that Gov. Rick Perry has blocked some reporters from following his personal twitter account. It was mentioned on Washington Post’s blog The Fix, CNN’s Tech Tumblr, has been reblogged and tweeted about. But it all began last week when Tom Benning of the Dallas Morning News noticed he had been blocked and then blogged about it. Mr Benning asked the Governor’s office for clarification, and according to his update, this was the response: “Yes, it is the governor’s personal account, so he manages it as he likes. He uses non-state resources.” This actually reminds me of the hullabaloo raised when Gov. Perry wouldn’t meet with the editorial boards of newspapers around the state, which is why I find Matt Stuart’s comment on the CNN post - “Internet PR fail” - curious. If it’s Perry vs. the Press, then Perry wins. He may look bad among the media, and liberals may bash him for it (all of which occurred last year during the campaign), but like him or not, he wins that PR battle. Granted, Twitter and social media in general is a different medium; however, it’s the same chapter different verse: Rick Perry vs. the Press. The more important question in this scenario is the one not being asked or looked at by many people, and that is: Should Gov. Perry’s personal twitter account (or the personal account of any public official for that matter) be subject to the Public Information Act? In April of last year, the Texas Senate State Affairs had a hearing on social media and open records (read here and here). The findings of their interim hearing can be read here.
Evilteabagger recently blogged about legislating morality. He claims that as an atheist he is disadvantaged by legislation based upon morality, specifically legislation based on religious values. However, all legislation is based upon some moral or ethical precept (even the decision to decriminalise activity is predicated on some moral/ethical foundation). Would he be disadvantaged by legislation based on Randian Objectivism? Or is he only offended by religious values? This is why I cannot put much stock in the argument that we cannot legislate morality. Randian Objectivism is an ethical system of moral values, and if we base policy on it, then we are legislating morality. Even his argument against the prohibition proposed by Sen. Reid (“to allow the individual make these choices for themselves”) is a moral argument.
Then siv1787 commented on the post by saying that legislating morality goes “against the clause in the First Amendment which states that the government shall make no law respecting a religion.” This is a complete misunderstanding of the establishment clause as it was understood by the Founders, and comes dangerously close to suggesting that moral values are not permissible in the public sphere. As to the establishment clause, it prohibited the establishment of a particular religion - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. - or religious denomination - Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc. - from being the official religion of the federal government and that religion receiving the official support of the federal government (as was the case in some states). Madison’s original version of the 1st Amendment clearly establishes this: “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.” The debate in Congress further evidences this plain fact of the language in the 1st Amendment (see Footnote 5). You can read the full debate in the Annals of Congress (available here).
Morals and ethics are a part of the public sphere and public debate, including legislation. And as long as human beings are engaged in the process of public policy, morals will be a part of the legislative process. To say that you don’t think we should legislate morality simply because you do not like the precepts of a particular lawmaker or agree with his value system, ignores that you too are arguing from the perspective of your particular value system, which you would use to legislate if placed in office.
Well, it’s official; I have finally finished reading The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler (and it’s only the abridged version). As mentioned in a previous post, it has taken a long time for me to finish reading this particular book. It is an intriguing review of world history, and an interesting contrast to other philosophies of history, such as that of G.W.F. Hegel.
In his work, Spengler identifies three major cultures: Classical (Greek and Romans), Magian (Egyptians, Persians, Jews and Arabs), and Faustian (the West). Spengler identifies how each Culture views the world, the symbols of each culture, and how this affects the art, philosophy, religion and science within each Culture. He argues that each Culture is unique, and when it dies, it’s art, science, etc. die with it. For example, Spengler does not see the Renaissance as a rebirth of the Classical period, because that Culture had died: ‘The Renaissance never even touched the real Classical, let alone understood it or “revived” it’ (p. 124).
Spengler’s main line of attack is against the idea of that history has a universal destiny towards which all mankind is inexorably moving. Instead, there are different cultures which arise, grow, fade and die (not limited to the 3 cultures listed above). As he writes in his introduction, “Each has it’s own new possibilities of self-expression, which arise, ripen, decay and never return” (p. 17). However, there is a pattern which Spengler identifies in the rise and fall of cultures.
The last stage of this pattern is “Civilization,” which ends in Caesarism. Caesarism is defined as an age of Imperialism, and the model is obviously the Roman Empire. Spengler notes that by the time Caesar took power many people, especially the most capable, had long since stopped participating in politics and elections. In this final period of a culture, what Spengler calls “high politics” comes to an end, and it is all private feuds, ambitions, etc.
I can’t say I understood everything Spengler was writing about (e.g., my understanding of science is limited), nor can I say I agreed with everything he wrote, but it was definitely worth the read. It puts many things in perspective, and gives one a lot to chew on when considering the movement of history.
A link shared with us by precinct1706 has allowed me an opportunity to share with you how to keep an eye on what your state representative or senator is doing for you, particularly if you live in Texas.
The link is from the Texas Democratic Party in relation to legislation filed by Rep. Paul Workman, who owns a construction firm in Austin, TX. This is a standard oppo technique: look up the filed bills and find those related to the legislator’s profession (since the Texas Legislature is a part time gig, legislators have other employment - attorneys, businessmen, ranchers, etc.). They also released this information the same day that the building associations are at the state capitol visiting with their state legislators. The link gives to impression that Rep. Workman is only filing legislation relating to construction, while ignoring jobs (an odd claim given that bills helping construction would presumably lead to more construction jobs) and education (not true when you look at the bills he has authored).
I say all of this to get here. The Texas Legislature Online is an excellent resource for those who are interested in what is going on in the Pink Building. For example, here is a list of all the bills filed by Rep. Workman. You can look up the legislation filed by each and every of the 181 legislators in the Texas Capitol (House and Senate). You can even get their contact information if you would like to call or write to them about a particular piece of information.
A group of 14 Democratic senators in Wisconsin reportedly have fled the state to forestall a Republican-pushed bill that would greatly curtail labor union strength in that state.
Hopefully, they took notes from the grand Texas tradition.
Mrs Hoppe mentions Texas Democrats using the procedure twice: during the 2003 redistricting fight, when the House, and then the Senate, Democrats broke the quorum to stop the Republican redistricting plan (read Steve Bickerstaff’s Lines in the Sand); and 1979, when the Killer Bees - 12 Democratic Senators - broke the quorum in the Senate over an effort to move up the Texas primary date for 1980 to give former Gov. John Conally an advantage - as part of a larger battle between conservatives and liberals in Texas (read Robert Heard’s Miracle of the Killer Bees; Bill Hobby’s How Things Really Work, pp. 133-138; and John Knaggs’ Two Party Texas, pp. 236-241).
The quorum break goes back a long, long way in Texas politics. In the 12th Legislature a group of senators attempted to break the quorum during debate on the militia bill. They were unable to because the chair ordered the immediate arrest of anyone who attempted to leave the Senate floor (source: Edmund J. Davis of Texas, p. 168-69). During this particularly contentious time, Jack Hamilton used the lack of a quorum to frustrate demands of some Texas Unionists during the 1869 Constitutional Convention.
Best line of this blog was the last:
The high Wisconsin sheriff’s might check at hotels just over the stateline. It’s where elopees and Democrats-on-the-lam tend to hideout.
Referencing the Killer Ds (as the 2003 quorum breakers came to be known) stays in Oklahoma (House D’s) and New Mexico (Senate D’s). 10 of the Killer Bees held up in a single room apartment during their quorum break.
According to reports yesterday, Ron Paul won CPAC’s straw poll with 30 percent of the 3,742 participants (“fewer than half of the total registered to attend” - CSM). Romney came in second with 23 percent. Now, I think this demonstrates the split within movement conservatism, but the question really is: does it matter who wins this straw poll (or any other)? CNN asked this question on Friday. The Christian Science Monitor asks the same question today. Before the 2008 Republican primary elections, Ron Paul had the most straw poll victories with 25 (source). How many states did Paul win in the Republican primary? None (and he only received 4.8% of the vote in Texas). What was his delegate total? 35 (1.6%). Straw polls are an exercise for activists, and it gives reporters something to talk about, but still a full year away from the Republican primary, most people who will be voting in the primary are not fully engaged in the process, so the results of straw polls has no impact on them (even the participants at CPAC were not fully engaged). Campaigns are about more than winning over activists; unfortunately, most Paul supporters, as well as activists for other candidates, don’t seem to understand that.
There are probably a lot of books I could place in this category, but considering many of the political debates on Tumblr and elsewhere, especially regarding the budget and related fiscal issues, I think the book more people should read is:
It was written by Donald F. Kettl, and was written in 1992. It is a wonderful introduction to the budget process and the role of deficits upon the process. I wish more people would read this book, because it would make the debate much more informed, and perhaps more factual. I recently cited Kettl’s work in this post in response to a budget cartoon. What I would hope people would conclude from reading Kettl’s book is that the budget process is a difficult, and there are no easy solutions.