your parliamentary procedure sucks

I’ve seen about a million Facebook posts and tweets about the democracy-suspending, Reichstag-burning coup the Tea Party Republikkkans brought about on October 1, citing the YouTube video of Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-attention) standing in the face of Republican tyranny like a latter day Tank Man. The problem is that, as usual, it’s a whole mess of hyperbole.

The Popular Story

Rep. Van Hollen heroically tried to end the impasse on Saturday, October 12 by asking to bring the Senate version of the 2014 budget up for an immediate vote. The House Speaker pro tempore, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), told him that the House had already passed a resolution (H.R. 368) that allows only the Majority Leader or his minions to bring the bill for an up-or-down vote. Rep. Van Hollen was shocked by this…though he somehow had props in his hands ready to go for this exchange.

Then the internet exploded.

The Actual Timeline

Here’s the timeline of events:

  • September 20: The House passes House Joint Resolution 59, which continues funding the government for the fiscal year 2014 until December 15, 2013. This resolution eliminates all funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare” for those of you who prefer that).
  • September 21: The Senate amends H.J. Res. 59, changing the expiration date to November 15 and stripping §137 (debt prioritization) and §138 (defunding PPACA).
  • September 28: The House passed two perfecting amendments (amendments to the Senate amendments) that 1) repeal the medical device tax, and 2) again delay the PPACA, respectively.
  • September 30: The Senate tabled the House perfecting amendments.
  • October 1: The House voted for the notorious H.R. 368. The text of the bill states that:

    Resolved, That the House hereby (1) takes from the Speaker’s table the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 59) making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes, with the House amendment to the Senate amendment thereto, (2) insists on its amendment, and (3) requests a conference with the Senate thereon.

    SEC. 2. Any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to House Joint Resolution 59 may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee.

    Rule XXII, clause 4 says that

    4. When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.

    So when there’s a House-Senate deadlock, any motions to remove amendments (which presumably are the reason for the deadlock) get special precedence. That is, anyone can interrupt proceedings to get rid of an amendment.

    So in H.R. 368, the House resolves 1) to continue funding the government with the House version of the bill, and asks that the Senate meet for a conference committee to determine this, and 2) to suspend the rule by which any House member can interrupt proceedings to shed amendments (which is what adopting the Senate version of the bill would do) while this is going on.

  • October 12 Rep. Van Hollen asks to pick up the Senate version of the bill (the “clean” resolution) off the table and pass it. Rep. Chaffetz says no.

In other words…

So had Section 2 not been passed, Rep. Van Hollen would have taken a bill that was currently being debated between the leadership of the two houses of Congress and passed the other house’s version. In the unlikely event that the member of the minority would’ve been successful in the vote, he would have basically hijacked the legislative process to ram through a bill that was still being hashed out by grown-ups.

First, yes, it sucks that this process has taken so long. In my opinion, Senate Majority Leader Reid shares some of the blame in the impasse—after all, he’s opposing a funding resolution that had more votes than the PPACA had in the first place. But regardless of your side in the budget debate, let’s admit that this is the process by which bills become law, including funding bills. If the Congressman wants to bypass conference committees, then by all means, he can pass a resolution when he’s in a leadership role (which he theoretically will be the next time the Dems have a House majority) to require a 2/3ds vote to suspend House Rule XXII. Spoiler alert: he probably won’t.

Second, let’s correct some of the rhetoric:

  1. The House GOP did not “guarantee a shutdown” with H.R. 368. The House guaranteed that they’d be able to go a conference committee with the Senate without the bill changing or getting passed while they were in the middle of negotiating.
  2. This is not an unprecedented move. The House leadership—regardless of party—often changes the rules to make the legislative process go more smoothly. Newsflash: members of Congress want to get the hell out of the chambers quickly to get a drink as much as anyone else. Anything to get this process going faster is encouraged.
  3. This is not rigging the rules. The rules were changed by following still other rules. Was the Rep. Van Hollen gagged and tied to a railroad track while H.R. 368 was passed? How did he manage to lose seven fellow Democrats to the other side of the vote on this resolution? Only when the shutdown became real, and Rep. Van Hollen had a chance to score some political points, did H.R. 368 magically become THE END OF DEMOCRACY AS WE KNOW IT!!!111

Finally, the fact that I had to type all this up, and could find not one voice on the right explaining that Speaker John Boehner is not an orange Snively Whiplash is evidence enough that the GOP has no idea what the hell it’s doing, and has all the strategy of a classic wildcard. With zero PR efforts on their side, this clearly was a Republican political suicide mission.

Indians’ selective sensitivity

Ah, it’s campaign season again, which means it’s time for me to hear how I should join the Brown People Bandwagon™ and support the President—like Shefali Duggal Razdan, Deven Parekh, Sunil Sabharwal and Kavita Tankha, all named by the Hindustan Times* as typically oblivious fundraisers for the President’s re-election campaign.

Maybe I should climb aboard that bandwagon. I mean, clearly leading Indian-Americans seem to have no problem with the administration’s inability to understand innovation without their branding, let alone the Vice President’s Michael Scott-like racial observations. (Good thing he’s not George Allen or we’d have to care!)

* n.b.—I still have a grudge against the HT, who very casually linked a holy figure in my faith to an ideology that has helped kill hundreds of millions world wide. So yeah, f*ck the HT while we’re at it.

selective memory in tech politics recently posted on why the abomination known as SOPA (House)/PIPA (Senate) needs to be stopped. Good arguments all around; the law has virtually no upside and a whole lot of draconian downside. But I found this bit interesting:

Laws are not like lines of PHP; they are not easily reverted if someone wakes up and realizes there is a better way to do things. We should not be so quick to codify something this far-reaching.

What, like massive restrictions on the financial industry that make it harder for tech startups to get funding? Or a hastily-written, multi-trillion dollar health care entitlement scheme? No? Never mind, then, carry on myopically.

You must prove your love for Obama, America

The Daily Caller on Obama’s quote from Wednesday: “But if you love me you’ve got to help me pass this bill.”

What’s that? Oh, you think you can make it out there with a new president, is that it? Listen up: you were nothing before you met Obama. Nothing. So how about you just do as you’re told and shut that pretty little mouth, America. Then we won’t have any problems.

anil dash’s strawmen

Blogger/Entrepreneur Anil Dash sets up a conservative strawman to debate with in a seemingly eloquent piece on his site, and takes him down to the applause of many otherwise very intelligent people. None of them will ever read this reply, but I wanted to type it out before I forgot how much Dash’s appallingly poor logic and flippant stereotypes infuriated me.

Dash first explains that Jobs is:

…the anchor baby of an activist Arab muslim who came to the U.S. on a student visa and had a child out of wedlock. He’s a non-Christian, arugula-eating, drug-using follower of unabashedly old-fashioned liberal teachings from the hippies and folk music stars of the 60s. And he believes in science, in things that science can demonstrate like climate change and Pi having a value more specific than “3”, and in extending responsible benefits to his employees while encouraging his company to lead by being environmentally responsible.

And then Dash says that because Jobs has been successful, anyone who disagrees with any aspect of Jobs’s beliefs is inept at business and has no business voicing an opinion:

Every single person who’d attack Steve Jobs on any of these grounds is, demonstrably, worse at business than Jobs. They’re unqualified to assert that liberal values are bad for business, when the demonstrable, factual, obvious evidence contradicts those assertions.

In other words: Successful man A believes B—as do I—ergo, you’re either with us or you’re dead wrong. (Sounds a lot like a particular reviled Texan, but I digress.)

No, That’s Not Me

This strawman—Dash’s “they” who disagree with “liberal” values as espoused by Jobs—is an intellectual minstrel show. I do believe in the scientific viability of the theory of evolution. I believe in significantly more open borders. I believe we get a negative ROI on the Drug War.1 I believe that America’s strength lies in the Rule of Law, and not in any single faith. I think that Victorian-era social mores have a destructive effect on society. I’m not a white, evangelical (or otherwise) Christian conservative who can be shoehorned into a Knuckle-Dragging Conservative ReThuglican™ stereotype, and to imply that disagreeing with modern liberalism means I am is disgraceful.

The worst part of this all-or-nothing approach is that in focusing on social values, it ignores the economic values that are the cornerstone of innovation and prosperity. Any student of post-colonial India who isn’t waist deep in Marxist fables could see that India tried ruthless egalitarianism, trading away economic growth and individual profit to ensure that the nation remained equal according to Gandhian notions of fairness. They made it hard for small-business owners at every step of their companies’ development: financing projects was a sin, hiring and firing workers were determined by almost anything but the content of one’s character, buying equipment required running to government officials like a twelve-year-old asking for his allowance, and any profits that were made after all of these hurdles were stripped from the entrepreneurs’ hands. Indians had a vibrant democracy with some of the greatest freedoms of any Asiatic people. But it meant nothing because individuals couldn’t thrive without worrying that they were going to be shaken down by a government who thought they were getting too big for their britches.

This system that assumes the worst of the most successful almost destroyed the Indian economy for three generations. It led to thousands fleeing India (like my own parents, and presumably some of Dash’s family), while those who couldn’t make it out were trapped in a vicious cycle of corruption and despair.


The myopic liberal economic values that pave this road to Hell with good intentions are what “they” are protecting us from. A pretty good chunk of conservatives like yours truly don’t give a damn if Jobs eats arugula. We don’t even care that he’s Arab-American. But we do care if the next Steve Jobs is thwarted from his dreams at every turn because Washington (or Albany or Sacramento) has decided that stopping his future greed through taxation and regulation is more important than allowing his current innovation through freedom from either. Social freedom is as important as Dash says it is. But without economic freedom, innovation will never leave the cocktail napkin.

1 Incidentally, these last two are explicitly supported by those evil, conservative-backing Koch brothers everyone’s getting so many emotional hemorrhoids about.

updated 9/9 Added the link to the original post, because I’m not a jerk. This is why late night posts are terrible. Also, Anil himself commented below, so…that’s pretty awesome.

northeast flight patterns

For those in the Northeast Corridor, the WSJ explains why NYC’s three area airports suck so hard:

In 2008, the FAA imposed restrictions on airline scheduling at Newark, similar to limits placed on New York’s other two major airports, Kennedy and La Guardia. At Newark, airlines can’t schedule more than 81 “operations”—takeoffs and landings combined—per hour. But because airlines schedule to the maximum limit, any delay during the day pushes the next hour over its capacity limit, then the next and the next. There’s little ability for the airport to catch up unless airlines cancel flights, which they have been doing more often, sacrificing regional airlines and their small-jet flights for takeoff and landing slots for larger jets with more passengers.

And earlier in the same article, now it’s not just New York’s airspace that’s the bottleneck:

Much of the bottleneck is in Washington, D.C. Both flights out of Newark have to fly through heavily congested airspace in the Washington area, Delta says, where much of the traffic headed into and out of the Northeast meshes together, creating a choke point for the nation’s air travel.

The reason the limits were imposed is that air traffic controllers are using decades-old equipment that requires more padding between flights in a given airspace to avoid collisions. If this weren’t a government operation, Mother Jones would have done eighteen stories on ATC’s negligence and how it’s killing babies, puppies, and immigrant mothers. And Matt Taibbi would’ve been full of anti-capitalist butthurt to boot.

tom friedman’s wet dream ends

A bullet train crash in China killed 39 people last weekend, and the Chinese government handled the disaster pretty much as one might expect:

Officials were slow to explain how one train crashed into the rear of the other. On July 28th they finally blamed signal failure. Most astonishingly, the ministry appeared in unseemly haste to remove the wreckage and, mystifyingly, even bury some of it.

In defiance of an order from rail staff, police reportedly persisted with their search through one badly damaged carriage and found a two-year-old survivor hours after the ministry had said there were no more signs of life. A video clip widely circulated online shows what some viewers say were two bodies falling out of carriages as they were being moved away from the line. Officials have also been criticised for allegedly offering victims’ families extra money if they agree to quick compensation deals.

Somewhere, Thomas Friedman has had to stop pleasuring himself to high-res pictures of Chinese transportation projects, and he is very angry about this. I don’t know why, though—this seems like exactly the model of opaque, unrealistic infrastructure development we need.

about those evil tax cuts

One chart, courtesy the Tax Foundation:

source of swing from surplus to deficit

So let’s stop pretending to raise taxes for the deficit, and go back to talking about Jacobin schemes to eat the rich.

calling arundhati roy

I’m thinking about making this a continuing series. The Indian Communists have killed over 200 innocent civilians after they sabatoged a rail line in eastern India, causing a derailment Friday.

Neo-Marxist Arundhati Roy seems to think that war against these Communist insurgents, who have bullied, tortured, and killed the very rural villagers they claim to be saving, is “war on the poorest people in the country.” (c.f.: “Minutemen and freedom fighters.”) So exactly what is it when the Communists kill these civilians?

how's that "ignoring the root causes" thing working out for you?

Via a friend on Facebook:

it's the economic stupidity

Well, it would work out pretty well if the government weren’t easing the money supply and encouraging fiscally unsound lending to cause (1), Sen. Dodd wasn’t destroying the capital that startups need to experiment with alternatives to (2), and if the existing government regulations actually prevented (3). Yeah, looks like that hands-onny thing isn’t working so well, either.

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