Review of ‘Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked’ by Chris Matthews

Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781451695991

I’ve had the privilege to be asked to review MSNBC host Chris Matthew’s newest book, “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.”  The relationship between O’Neill and Reagan has been fiercely debated by commentators on both sides, but rarely with much merit, and to settle the argument once and for all, Matthews stepped in. The […]

The Rulemaking Process: How You Can Have A Say In Agency Regulation

When a legislature creates an administrative agency, the agency has to develop rules as part of its function. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Commission on Civil Rights have to follow a procedure for making new rules. What the general public need to understand about this procedure is that it calls for the general public’s participation.

Creation of an Agency

Congress passes a statute that creates an agency to regulate a specific part of society or to accomplish a specific goal or task, like during the Roosevelt administration, when the legislature created Social Security in 1935. The statute will explain how and why the agency is being created.

Once the agency is created, it cannot act outside of the restrictions of power the statute has given the agency. The agency then sets off to create the rules and regulations it will enforce. This procedure is governed by the Administrative Care Act, and ensures that all proposed and final rules are posted on something called the Federal Register.

Creating Rules

This process is extensive because a rule must go through many steps before it can be enforced. First the agency must look at it’s role given by congress and then look at many other variables to see how the rules are going to affect that sector of society.

After careful analysis and observation where the needs for rules exist. It’s time to get started writing and proposing a rule.

Proposed Rules and Public Comments

After the agency has researched and met with interest groups involving a rule, they write it up and propose it on the Federal Register (federalregister.gov). This site gives the public access to read the proposed rule. The agency poses a 30-60 day time for the public to comment on the rule. Comments can be mailed but generally agencies prefer electronic comments that can be posted on Regulations.gov.

This phase of the rule making process is the most important for the public to understand because it is where the public has a voice in determining the regulations we all have to abide by. The agency does not pass a rule based on how many interest groups or public comments are in support of the rule, but instead, must use data and reasoning to address concerns and prove that the rule will be helpful to the general public in that realm of society.

The Final Rule

The agency must then post the final rule with a summary and an explanation of why the rule is necessary. They must also show that they have the authority to make the rule. All final rules can be found on the Federal Register and go into effect usually within 30 days of being published.

Implications

While this may seem like a small part in the overall process of rule making, over the last century, administrative law has taken over the way businesses are run, farmers farm, restaurants perform, and schools are developed and maintained. The inclusion of electronic rule making on Regulations.gov and the Federal Register gives the public more accessibility and capability to involve themselves in the process than ever before in U.S. History.

Here is a link to a more detailed explanation of the rulemaking process and instructions of how you can get involved today.

Jeremy Smith writes for The McMinn Law Firm in Austin, Texas. Jeremy is ready to get more involved in agency regulation.

4 Superstitions Believed By Actual Governments

yellow gaze

We’ve all got that one relative, the one who insists on giving you tarot readings, or won’t let you say the word “Macbeth” in their presence, or keeps referring to the house ghost every time the pipes get a bit creaky.

Whether it’s avoiding breaking mirrors because it’s bad luck, keeping dismembered rabbit body parts about your person because it’s good luck, or eating far more Chinese food than is really healthy just so you can live your life according to the instructions of the fortune cookies, everyone has a little bit of superstition in them, a few rules that they will refuse to break to protect their good fortunes.

But you know, it’s fine for people to have their own beliefs, and in their jobs they’re in relatively unimportant positions where they can’t do any damage, in their retirement home or running a shop or teaching in primary school.

Surely nobody with beliefs like that would ever get into a position of real power, right?

Hong Kong’s Government Spends Millions on Feng Shui

Feng shui is the Chinese practice of orienting your rooms in such a way as to allow energy to flow through them in the best possible way. It’s a subjective but highly thought of art, and it’s widely agreed that nothing can screw up your feng shui like somebody building a railway line right past your house.

As with any other construction project damaging someone’s home, the government will often pay out compensation to people whose feng shui has been damaged by a nearby construction project, normally to the cost of a “tun fu” cleansing rituation, a ceremony conducted at the site of the damaged feng shui to, well, cleanse it.

This was until 2010, when the South China Morning Post badgered Hong Kong city officials into admitting that at least £6 million had been spent on compensating people whose feng shui was damaged by nearby projects.

Of course, after admitting this the Chinese government admitted that this was actually all just a scam by landlords and feng shui specialists to rip money off the government.

No, I’m kidding. They said there would be improvements in “operational transparency” on the feng shui payments and stricter guidelines on the practice.

Easington Council Hires Ghostbusters

There was something strange in the neighbourhood of the Fallon family in County Durham. Sabrina Fallon called the police to her home one night after a serious of loud bangs terrified her two children.

“It all started before Christmas. We were away and my sister’s husband had the keys,” Sabrina told reporters. “He let himself in one night and heard whispering and banging from upstairs. He shouted out: ‘You better get out or I’m calling the police. He said my dressing gown then came floating down the stairs and landed at his feet. He ran out and rang me crying like a girl saying something awful had happened – I thought he was drunk, but when we came back we heard the bangs and whispering.”

The family wanted to be rehoused, but the council offered to pay half of the fee for a medium to exorcise the house, something they described as a “cost effective solution”

Andrew Burnip, a housing manager from the council said: “This family was absolutely distraught and believed what was happening – that is not to say that the council believed. What we saw was a relatively small amount to pay for an outcome which in effect saved the taxpayer many hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean Mr Burnip dared stay a night in the house…

Bombay High Court Rules Astrology is Science

When Janhit Manch, and India-based NGO, sought action against astrologers, tantriks, practitioners of Vastu shastra and other people who sell things that are technically known as “made up” it didn’t expect much of a battle. It was wrong.

The court ruled that “So far as prayer related to astrology is concerned, the Supreme Court has already considered the issue and ruled that astrology is science. The court had in 2004 also directed the universities to consider if astrology science can be added to the syllabus. The decision of the apex court is binding on this court.” So as far as the Indian government is concerned, Brian Cox and Mystic Meg are in the same game.

This is a rule that’s caused a great deal of frustration to India’s real scientists, who are working on things like the country’s own working space programme.

Iceland Won’t Let You Build on Land Owned by Elves

In Iceland elves are big deal. Not the cute, point eared ones that help Santa, or the sexy, strangely androgynous ones in Lord of the Rings, but the badass rock-dwelling ones of ancient folk lore. The ones you don’t want to mess with.

It’s not unheard of for a road to be diverted if it’s likely to go through a rock that’s considered a potential elf home. In the town of Kopavogur the aptly named “Elfhill Road” was narrowed from two lanes to one in the seventies, because equipment broken down every time they tried to move a large rock believed to be an elf home. The rock is still there today.

Featured images:

Brenda is the blogger behind Baby Sashanmom.com and lives in a haunted house with perfect feng shui, even though the elves do keep moving things around…

Does the Obama Administration Have a Case Against the AP?

Below is an article that I originally wrote for the site Independent Voter News.

As of late the Obama administration has come under increasing pressure from journalists to justify its handling of national security leaks.  Alongside these concerns is a broader debate on whether or not press leaks endanger national security, and if so, how can it be proven?

The Obama administration has indicted more whistle-blowers than any other presidency in history – six to be exact.  Recently, there has been significant press coverage of the AP leaks scandal; many opinions have been stated in the past few weeks, but there are some things to keep in mind before diving into any conclusions.  First, allow me to give a brief overview of what exactly happened.

On May 7, 2012, the Associated Press (AP) released a story that the CIA had broken up a plot to bomb a US-bound airliner in Yemen about one week prior.  The AP had known about the operation around the same time that it had occurred, but was asked by government officials to hold the release of the story until the plot was officially undermined.

Once seizure of the bomb and the suspect had occurred, the AP released the story without regard to the Obama administration’s requests to publish the story a day later once the White House had made an official announcement.

Later in the day on May 7, John Brennan (who at the time was the White House counter-terrorism adviser) conducted a conference with the press.  In that conference he had stated that the plot was never dangerously close to being carried out and that the U.S. government had “inside control” within the plot.

Once Brennan had given the conference, speculation among the media led to the conclusion that there was an inside informant within the ranks of an al Qaeda branch in the Arabian Peninsula.  This speculation eventually led to the exposure of almost the entire CIA operation and made the future use of the informant impossible.

In reaction to all of this, the Justice Department has seized phone records from 20 lines at multiple AP offices.  Now the question that must be answered is did this story released by the AP damage national security?

In order to answer this question, one must understand the great complexities of the matter and realize that measuring the impact of a news leak is an imperfect science that is bound to be stretched and manipulated by each party to prove ones point.  In the case of the Associated Press, the U.S. government made their case much weaker when John Brennan announced that there was “inside control,” and on top of that there is no available proof that the informant was giving security officials any additional leads regarding al Qaeda leadership.

As it will be difficult for the government to prove the Associated Press damaged national security, it is unlikely this will hold up in court.  In order to prove this, they would more than likely have to give up current clandestine operations in order to verify that they were damaged by the report.

The Obama administration went through the District of Columbia’s federal court to obtain the subpoena for the AP case, a court that has a history of being rather hard on leak cases.  Even though this may be the case, I believe that the AP will still come out on top of the administration if they decide to go along and press charges against the Associated Press.

The AP will argue that they did not report that there was a CIA source within the al Qaeda branch and that it was Brennan who broke that news.  The administration will claim that they had Brennan come forth with this information because they knew their cover would be blown by the press regardless if he did or not.  When it comes down to it, the speculation on the part of the Obama team is not definite and will not hold up in any court.

I don’t see any surprise evidence being brought forth by prosecutors and by weighing all the evidence in the case, there is simply not enough to convict anybody in the AP for this case.

So as of right now, I would have to come to the conclusion that the AP did not damage national security for reasons of it being immeasurable with the current information provided to the public.  Unless the government can bring brand new claims against them, there is no base to further prosecute anyone involved.

US Immigration Reform – Can the Gang of 8 Push it Through?

A group of eight senators – four Republicans and four Democrats – has submitted proposed immigration legislation that would overhaul the US immigration system in ways unseen in almost three decades.  The aptly dubbed “Gang of 8” is pushing hard for action on the bill as soon as possible, but challenges remain.  This article details two of the highlights of the proposed immigration reform and examines the changing landscape of support for such reform.

What’s Being Proposed?

The pending immigration legislation would, most controversially, provide for a path to permanent residency and even citizenship for the 11 million-plus persons presently residing illegally in the United States.  Under the bill, such persons would have to pay a fine, undergo background checks and wait in a long line before being apply to apply for a US green card – it would be 13 years from passage of the bill before these people would be eligible for a green card.  The rationale for this move is that it would bring people out of the shadows and possibly lead to more tax revenues.  Plus, advocates say, it simply is not feasible to deport 11 million people.  Critics claim that this provision amounts to “amnesty,” and say it will only encourage future law-breaking – people will come illegally to the US, knowing that they will likely eventually be pardoned by a future change to the immigration laws.

The proposed immigration legislation would also change the way USA green cards and immigrant visas (which lead to a green card) are distributed among family-based immigration and business- or investment-based immigration.  The changes would favor the latter to the detriment of the former.  This represents a major shift – US immigration law has long had as its top priority “family unification,” which bodes toward favoring family relationships over business and investment interests.  The proposed changes are especially geared to attract science, technology, engineering and math experts to the United States, along with investors and job-creators.  Proponents of family-based immigration of course take issue with this proposal; they argue that having one’s family around is vital to healthy families, which is in turn vital to having a healthy and prosperous society.

The Climate Appears to be Ripe for Reform – What’s Changed?

Something similar was proposed in 2007 but ultimately failed, while the bill (or one like it) looks primed to pass this time around.  Many credit the bill’s better chances to changing demographics.  In addition to there simply being more Latinos and other minorities in the country now than there were a few years ago, who put pressure on the Obama administration and on Congress, electoral politics are huge – Obama won some 70% of the Latino vote in 2012, waking up many Republicans to the reality that they must get behind immigration reform (which is important to many Latino voters) to have a chance at political success in the future.  Due largely to this, it looks likely that major immigration changes will happen in 2013.  Most Democrats are on board with the legislation, as are many Republicans.  More conservative members of Congress, especially those of the Tea Party ilk, tend to be against comprehensive immigration reform.

About the Author
By Brad Menzer – Brad blogs regularly for Heartland Immigration, which specializes in helping clients get an I-601 waiver. You can contact him at: info@heartlandimmigration.com
Check out the firm’s Google+ page for immigration info and updates.

The Father of the Reporter’s Privilege: An Interview with James Goodale

Recently I had to pleasure of interviewing James C. Goodale, the former Chief Counsel and Vice-Chairman at the New York Times, and represented the Times in the Pentagon Paper Trials. His book Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles outlines the decisions made by the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers era, but also looks forward into modern times and the challenges that face current journalists.

In 1969, a leaked source provided the New York Times and Washington Post with classified Defense Department documents regarding the Vietnam War, sections of which were published by both companies. Nixon attempted to use prior restraint, the government use of censorship to ban expression before it takes place, to prevent these documents from being published. In the famous Supreme Court case New York Times v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed whether the Nixon administration was in violation of the First Amendment by restricting the publication of this information. In a six to three decision, the court held that the Nixon administration was indeed in violation of the First Amendment, upholding the right of the publishing companies to release these documents.

The conclusion of the Pentagon Papers Trial was a huge victory for Goodale, when the Supreme Court came to a decision that the New York Times was within its legal boundaries because their publication did not “result in direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our Nation or its people.” When asked how he feels the outcome of the Pentagon Papers trial has affected how journalism is conducted today he responded “I think that it has given them all sorts of moral support, that under certain conditions, the courts will protect them.” Although he believes the moral support is there, he feels “nothing has changed for the most part” when it comes to First Amendment issues for journalists.

Goodale spends much of the book outlining his experience at the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers but it also goes into detail about the future of journalism under the Obama administration. Goodale makes the argument in his book that when it comes to national security that Obama is rather hawkish and is most likely the reason for his unprecedented prosecution of accused leakers of national security information. He feels that Obama, “is equally as bad and could turn out to be worse,” than President Nixon when it comes to press leaks regarding national security. He later goes on to say that “I am worried about if he will prosecute [Julian] Assange, Obama seems to be consistently going after Assange as to where Nixon would not have.”

One point he consistently stressed during his book and in the interview was to watch the outcome of the Bradley Manning trial. When asked about the eventual fate of the Manning trial he said “it would be my guess that he would get less than life.” As for Assange he said that he is still held up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London because he “wants to stay there because he doesn’t want to face Obama’s grand jury.”

I also asked him about what he believes Julian Assange’s fate will be. He believes that Assange is trying to run the clock out, maybe two or three years so people and the Justice Department will forget about him. And when it comes to his opinion of whether or not WikiLeaks damaged national security he feels that it is “too early to tell…I would say thus far there is no damage to national security.”

Finally I asked him which presidential administration was the most reasonable when it came to freedom of the press. He responded, “Clinton. Why? Because he didn’t make a big deal over classified info. Clinton vetoed a bill that would have made publication of classified information harder.”

My conversation I had with Mr. Goodale was lively and fun to be apart of. His book, from what I have read of it, is incredibly readable even though much of it is about the Pentagon Papers trial. I plan to post a full review of his book shortly, so stay tuned!

Will Further Taxing Guns And Ammo Help Curb Violence?

There are few issues that divide Americans more than the subject of gun control. Recent incidents like the Newtown massacre have shined an even brighter light on what many people consider to be a debate of epic proportion: Would stricter gun laws help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people? While there are no definitive answers to that question, the government is still brainstorming on methods for curbing gun violence, leaving many people to wonder if increased taxes can do the job.

Cook County leading the way. In April of 2013, Cook County began imposing a $25 tax on all gun purchases. It is estimated that this gun tax will raise approximately $600,000 over the course of a year for Cook County alone; it is worth noting that the tax only applies to guns purchased in the Chicago suburbs–not in the city of Chicago. In light of the success of Cook County’s gun tax program, and more than six other American states are now considering similar gun and ammunition taxes as a way of shifting the consequences of gun use to those who use guns.

The logic behind the tax. Gun use costs the public a lot of money. For example, approximately 30 percent of all of Cook County’s Stroger Hospital patients are gunshot wound victims. Each of the patients costs an average of about $52,000 in initial treatments, and further. treatment, on a case by case basis, may cost tens of thousands of dollars more than that. The financial burden of gunshot wound hospitalizations falls on the taxpayers, many of which are opposed to gun use. Therefore, gun and ammo taxing programs are a way of making those who use guns more responsible for the consequences of gun use.

The lawsuit. Of course, this new tax has gun activists up in arms, so to speak. Just recently, a group of gun owners and gun/ammo sellers banded together to file suit against a tax that they feel violates their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Lawrence Keane, a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, argues that these taxes “burden and frustrate the exercise of a constitutional right.” However, the Cook County Circuit Court asserts that there is no proof that the tax threatens the 2nd Amendment right in question.

How many other localities will follow Cook County’s lead and instate gun and ammo tax laws? Only time will tell, but it seems most logical to think that those states waiting on the sidelines with tax proposals in hand are waiting to see the ultimate ramifications of Cook County’s gun tax before taking any definitive sides.

About the Author: Milton Dolan scrutinized his income tax form this year to ensure he wasn’t paying anything unfair. He is opposed to further taxes on guns and ammunition and believes in the right to bear arms.

Upcoming Posts

I know, its been a while since my last post and I apologize to all my loyal readers but my upcoming posts will surely not disappoint.  I have secured an interview with James Goodale who is a leading First Amendment lawyer and former Chief Counsel and Vice-Chairman at the New York Times.  Goodale is releasing his new book entitled Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles and I have received a pre-release copy.  Once my I publish my interview I will follow-up with a review of the book that is set for release April 30.  So please stay tuned!

Review of “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions”

I was recently contacted by a fellow writer by the name of Victoria Stoklasa who had asked me to review her essay titled “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions.”  Once I read the essay, I quickly agreed since the issue of gerrymandering is rarely brought into the public spotlight.

The essay begins as to explain what gerrymandering is by defining it as “the process of one population—in the case of this paper, a political party—to gain an advantage over others by changing district lines.”  For years, politicians have had control over where district lines are drawn and have often come in favor of the incumbent.  The goal of the essay is to examine which options would best adhere to the National Conference of State Legislatures seven principles of fair legislation.

Stoklasa breaks down the options into partisan commissions, nonpartisan commissions, bipartisan commissions, and the courts.  She then looks to the work of Jonathan Winburn who studied which type of organization would best follow the NCSL’s principles.  His study examined partisan commissions, neutral commissions, divided legislatures, unified legislatures, and the court system.  She explained that his work concluded that nonpartisan commissions would closely follow NCSL principles, she then looked on to examine if a nonpartisan commission or a bi-partisan commission would be the better choice.

To determine whether a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission would better serve the public, she then turns to the work of Michael Lyons and Peter F. Galderisi.  Lyons and Galderisi came to the found that bipartisan commissions experienced a lower incumbent displacement rate possibly because they did not adhere to the NCSL principle of using incumbency data.  Stoklasa uses this finding and combines it with Winburn’s work to conclude that independent nonpartisan commissions would better adhere to the NCSL’s principles.

Overall, Stoklasa put together a very well-written essay and supported her argument throughout her entire piece.  Every question that may arise in your mind as you are reading the essay is quickly answered with credible evidence put together in great synchronicity by Stoklasa.  If you are looking to better inform yourself on an issue that is rarely talked about by mainstream news outlets then I encourage you to check out her essay here.

As a Democrat, I Would Vote for Chris Christie

The more that is reported about Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the more I find myself admiring his leadership style.  Christie initially gained my attention when he praised President Obama for his help with Hurricane Sandy relief just prior to the Presidential election.  So, I looked more deeply at his record in an attempt to find a major trait that I dislike.  It hasn’t happened yet.

One characteristic that sets Christie apart from the GOP establishment is his belief that climate change is real and is man made.  In 2011 he was quoted as saying “When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who study this stating that climate change is occurring and humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts.”  His emphasis in the existence of global warming isn’t just a punchy statement, it is mirrored in his energy policy.

The Governor is a staunch supporter of renewable energy and spent much emphasis on expanding New Jersey’s clean energy capacity in his first term in office.  In 2011 he finalized his energy master plan which outlines all of his energy goals and proposals.  The plan contains a large portion dedicated to outlining renewable energy goals such as making renewable energy sources 22.5% of New Jersey’s overall power supply by 2021 through mandating the private electricity suppliers of the state.  If the electricity companies fail to meet the plan’s obligation then they are subject to state fines varying in cost depending on how far they fell short of the mandate.  The plan also states that the building of new coal power plants in the state of New Jersey is prohibited and the state will also work to shut down existing high polluting coal plants. His energy master plan is widely regarded as one of the most aggressive in the United States but also believed to be attainable.  His plan’s definition of renewable energy is broad, which allows energy companies to creatively craft an efficient and cost effective strategy of balancing all sources invested by the company.  With the renewable energy market being essentially untapped, Christie states this plan will open pathways for electric companies to bring cheaper energy to their customers and at the same time explore affordable ways to bring renewable energy into the power grid.

When it comes to gun control, Christie again tries to find a middle ground between both parties.  As governor, Christie has supported New Jersey’s assault weapons ban and also stresses the expansion of the gun control conversation into violence control.  His approach to the issue is much more dynamic than either party.  In a climate where Democrats are only willing to talk gun control and Republicans have classified the entire gun control conversation as taboo, it’s nice to see a politician lead the way on the conversation.  He breaks through both party lines and emerges as the true leader in the gun control debate when both sides are dug in too deep.

On the topic of same-sex marriage, Christie again finds some middle ground.  In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, he proclaimed that “I’ve always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual,” a statement  that not only comes  at odds with many Republicans but also with his religion’s beliefs on homosexuality.

One common ground that he finds with most Republicans is the fact that he does not believe in the allowance of same-sex marriage.  He reasons that marriage should be between a man and woman for the purpose of procreation but is also a very strong supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples.  He believes that same-sex couples should be viewed equally in the eyes of the law and given the same legal benefits that opposite-sex partners enjoy.

What I see in Governor Christie is a breath of fresh air that hasn’t been matched in the American political climate for quite sometime.  His record as Governor of New Jersey is nothing less than impressive, especially with a 74 percent approval rating according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.  And his strategy is quite simple, which is combine common sense politics with core family and religious values.

But the thing that is most impressive about him is his ability to break from the Republican party as he feels necessary.  He brings realism to the GOP ,which hasn’t been seen in some time. This characteristic will prove to benefit him in a possible 2016 run as he will appeal to moderate Democrats, minority groups, and Independents that strayed away from the Republican party.  Hopefully the example that Christie sets is a trend that the GOP can follow, as in recent years his party has moved so far away from  common sense and has sped toward a delusional counter-intuitive ideology.