What if the USA had a PARLIAMENTARY System?

The government of the USA was officially created  in the US Constitution in 1787.  That document defined a representative form of government that split power more or less equally (or so it was intended) between three branches of government:

1.  Executive (president & vice-president, both to be separately elected by the citizens either or via electors voted by the people, and thus primarily answerable to the voters; this is known as a presidential system. ),

2.  Legislative (two houses of congress; one based upon actual population, the House of Representatives and the other based upon the number of states, the Senate), and

3.  Judicial, which established the US Supreme Court.

In the USA, the Executive branch is elected by the Electoral College, whose members are elected directly by the voters.  This system has resulted in US elections where the presidential candidate who received the most popular votes was not the one who received the most electoral votes.  Notwithstanding the popular vote, the candidate with the most electoral votes is always the winner.  Most recently, this situation occurred in 2000, when Al Gore received the most popular votes, but George W. Bush, who received the most electoral votes, was the winner (unfortunately).

The parliamentary system, on the other hand, is used in one form or another in most of the democracies on Earth.   People elect the members of parliament.  Those members then elect the Prime Minister, who is primarily responsible to the Parliament.  In both cases, the winner must garner a majority of the votes cast.

If no US presidential candidate receives a majority the resolution is quite different from a parliamentary system.  In the USA, if there are three presidential candidates but none receives a majority of the electoral votes, the US Constitution directs that the House of Representatives of the US congress will elect the president from the highest vote-getters in the general election, with each state having one vote.  If their vote still does not produce a majority win for one candidate, the vice-president becomes president.

In a typical parliamentary system, if no single party wins a legislative majority , the political parties must negotiate among themselves until a coalition is formed which represents a majority in Parliament.  In a system like this, the majority requirement forces the creation of a political coalition which prevents the near-continuous legislative gridlock that seems to be the present way of doing business (or actually NOT doing business) in the US congress, as long as the coalition among the political parties holds together.  If it falls apart, parliament can be dissolved  and new elections called to elect new members of parliament.

The above descriptions are simplified and are not all-inclusive of all the possible eventualities, since there are multiple forms of parliamentary systems and presidential systems.  But the gist of their differences is clear.  Parliamentarian governments generally don’t suffer from the years-long legislative gridlock that occurs in the US Congress.  A no-confidence vote in a parliamentary system can result in new elections being called, while such a vote in the USA would be considered nothing more than political theatrics and a waste of time and money.  Each partisan house of the US congress is free to exercise grid-lock and get nothing done by playing partisan politics ad nauseam .  The republican House of Representatives has in fact passed multiple partisan bills with no democratic support, knowing full well that the their legislation would be dead on arrival in the democrat-controlled US senate.  It’s a waste of public money and time for the sole purpose of politics, but the country as a whole suffers because of it.

At least in a parliamentary system, proactive and successful multi-partisan negotiation is part of the process if the members want to keep their jobs.

So consider the following;  When the US Congress finally returns from their month-long summer break in September, President Obama will be proposing job-creation legislation in an effort to help the unemployed, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and improve the economy.  Since a bad economy and increased unemployment would help the GOP politically in the upcoming 2012 general elections, one might guess that their motivation to support Obama’s proposals will be met with utter disdain, disapproval and dismissal by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.  While millions of Americans continue to be unemployed and the economy continues to stagnate, the GOP will gridlock congress for their own political gain.

If the USA had a system such as, for instance, the United Kingdom, a compromise solution would emerge up front, be debated and possibly amended, and then passed in time to do some good, all because a coalition already exists in parliament.  And if that coalition fell apart…members of Parliament might face a new election…and be thrown out.

Just imagine… if we could have called for new congressional elections subsequent to the extremely partisan (and embarrassing) debt ceiling debacle in July….

How cool would THAT have been??  🙂

Blog on Break But Check Out Politifact!

Greetings, We, the PEOPLE!! fans!

This slow news week seems the perfect time to take a breather, and give everyone the opportunity to become enriched with truth, justice, laughs and increase the ability to demonstrate superior knowledge of the political world to friend and foe alike.

There is a web site where that that superior knowledge is instantly available on a real-time basis.  It is Politifact  and is a great site whose sole purpose for existence is to check the accuracy of statements made well-known politicians from both parties, as well as those nasty emails we all get from time to time claiming the most absolutely absurd stories as truth.  You can reach it HERE.

And for even more intensive fun, check out Politifact’s “Pants on Fire!” page, when the falsehoods are so far out of whack with reality that their pants are on fire (from “liar, liar, pants on fire” fame).  That page is HERE.

Once you’ve visited these sites, you’ll want to bookmark them so that you can find them easily whenever you need them.  Then next time a conservative sends you an email claiming something outrageous, you can check it out for yourself.

And for maximum enjoyment, feel free to the copy the web address of the appropriate web page with the “pants on fire” info and send it back to everyone listed on the email you got.

Those folks will eventually stop sending you their garbage, since they don’t want to be repeatedly seen by everyone else as naive, childishly gullible and hate-and/or fear-mongering…even though they are!

Enjoy!

Torturing & Killing Children in the Name of Religion

This week CNN released a very disturbing  two-part video report about a couple from the northern California town of Paradise.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz had 8 children, three of which were adopted.  The Schatz’s beat and tortured one of them in the name of religion for seven hours until they killed her.  They also beat another so severely that some of her wounds could not be shown in the video due to their horrible graphic nature.  She survived because she was brought to a hospital in time by law enforcement.

These folks are devout Christians who read a book called “To Train Up a Child”, written by Michael & Debi Pearl of Tennessee.  Pearl is a farmer and a practicing evangelical preacher of his own “No Greater Joy Ministries”.  Their book essentially tells parents that spanking children with implements such as belts, switches, wooden spoons, plastic plumbing water supply lines, etc., is “God’s gift” and that the bible directs that “God” wants parents to spank their children to inflict pain, teaching children through the primitive and largely discredited practice of painful negative reinforcement.  They further claim that the bible specifies all of this by stating “Spare the rod and spoil the child!”

Of course, this phrase is actually not contained in any scripture.  Yet, because such heinous practices such as child abuse in the name of religion and/or one’s deity require only faith and blind belief in the the words of whomever taught them, the folks who read the Pearls’ book and adopted such practices have no use such “interfering” facts.

Perhaps the scariest part of all of this is that religion-based child and/or human abuse, whether physical, psychological and/or sexual, probably occurs thousands of times every day in the USA alone. Philosophies people might have been taught as a child can become faith-based established practices when they, themselves, become adults and parents.  Despite education and laws, there doesn’t seem to be a very effective way to stop this sort of thing from happening here.

Yet, as utterly repulsive as religious child and/or human abuse is in the USA, it is only a drop in the bucket when one considers the rest of the fundamentalist religious/ritualistic world.  For example, Female genital mutilation is practiced in Africa and to a lesser extent in some parts of Asia.  Though sometimes linked to religious faith and other times linked to cultural ritualism, it is always linked to a fundamentalist belief of some sort.  In some Islamic countries, a woman can be raped without fear of punishment by the perpetrator if she is out without her family or husband, and women are routinely denied rights to education and their only destinies because of fundamentalist religious and/or cultural ritualism passed from generation to generation.

Ironically, much of the criticism against the people who follow such practices elsewhere comes from the very fundamentalist US Christians that believe that every word in the Christian bible is the literal truth, (even if some of those words aren’t actually IN the bible), and thus, all non-Christian bibles are false.

Though most believe they are beyond this fundamentalist reach, at least two GOP candidates for US president, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry seem to share certain stated religious views that seem awfully close to those fundamentalist religious philosophies which also see beating a child as the work of “God”.   Bachmann’s views on “curing” gays is one example;  Perry’s view that the constitutional right of freedom of religion only applies to Christians, and that prayer is an operational tool of government is another example.  Those are some that are already public; others may yet be revealed as these folks gain more political confidence.

There is always the hope, however, that enough voters will have enough common sense to stop any fundamentalist from gaining enough power to implement their fundamentalist agendas.

Stopping the much less visible fundamentalist religious fanatic is much more difficult.  But at least there’s hope with one long-term plan to stop the child/human abuses committed in the name of religion:  effective and valid universal education.  Unfortunately, public education is a deficit-reduction target of the right-wing conservatives;  they want to cut its funding and allow vouchers for private religious schooling or home-schooling by none-professionals, where those teaching could quite possibly be religious fundamentalist wingnuts such as the Schatz’s.

Short-term, though, there’s only tool the rest of us can rely on to stop what happened to those little girls in northern California:  The investigative press reporting that exposed the story to the public in the first place.  There are those (mostly conservatives) who have nothing good to say about the US and international press. But in this case, the press deserves acknowledgement for quite possibly saving the lives of other innocent children.

We, the PEOPLE!!  says THANK YOU, CNN, for your work on this story.

Praying for Solutions: Like Using Psychics for Birth Control

While the financial markets of the world continue their psychotic moth-death-spiral-into-the flame performance, there are those who believe that the real solutions to our collective national and global problems can be find in heaven.  That is the presumed domicile of the almighty, all-powerful, all knowing deity purported to have 100% control over everything on Earth, in the universe, and everywhere else, per the teachings of Judeo-Christian-Islamic scripture.

In the USA, as in every other enlightened nation on the planet, people are free to believe in and practice whatever religious institutions they wish, or none at all, as they see fit.  This basic human freedom is supposed to ensure that people can publicly practice their religious beliefs without fear of government persecution.  Put another way, even if you practice paganistic witchcraft and believe you can cast spells on others, the government will not come after you for practicing a not-so-mainstream faith.

However, freedom of religion does not give people the right to impose their favored religion on others.  That is important because it is completely contrary to the basic concept of freedom of religion;  If a powerful majority could impose their brand of religion, you would no longer be free to publicly practice your own anymore, would you?

This important protection is provided for in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, which states, in pertinent part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”  Over the years, the US Supreme Court has legally defined this to mean that church and state are separated.

When the US president is sworn it, he/she takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.  So it stands to reason that no one running for US president should be using any religion as an operative arm of government, since such a practice could be construed to be not only “respecting the establishment of religion”, but also uniting religion and government into a single entity for the purposes of governing the nation and its citizens.

Enter religiously right-wing republican Rick Perry, currently the governor of Texas who replaced GW Bush in 2000.  He is positioning himself for a run for US president and may well announce those intentions sometime this weekend, at the end of a campaign swing through all of the early primary states.  Although he holds many of the same political positions that his predecessor, GW Bush, did, in one specific way he is very different…and much more dangerous:

Perry believes that prayer, particularly organized prayer of many voices at once, is an effective method of fixing problems that truly are within the scope of government.  And he as governor he has actually put this “religious arm of government” into practice more than once.  In April of this year, he issued an official gubernatorial proclamation for three days of prayer for rain to end the drought in Texas.  (Note:  After the three day prayer-in, the drought actually got worse.  Texas has since experienced the hottest summer on record, breaking hundreds of heat records over the past months!)

To add to this dubious practice by someone who wants to be president, he sponsored last Saturday’s National Prayer Event known as the “Response” in the 70000-seat Reliant Stadium in Houston.  The pray-a-thon was attended by perhaps 30,000 Christians;  no non-Christians were allowed to participate.  The event was financed by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Mississippi-based ultra-extreme-right-fundamentalist-religious-group that believes that the constitutional right to freedom of religion applies only to Christians!

Subsequent to the Saturday event, the Dow Jones tumbled over 630 points on Monday and today suffered another loss of 520 points.  Pray at work, right?

Perry is just what the USA needs right now (not):  a president who thinks he can simply pray away all our problems…and pray away all those dirty non-Christians who are interfering with small  government, which works best when operated by scripture in a church and empowered by cheering believers assembled in a football stadium.

On the other hand, however, one does have to give Rick Perry credit for accomplishing something that no one thought was possible until now:

He actually made fellow GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann look less extreme by comparison!

US President, US Economy: Can’t Win For Losing

Today (Wednesday, 3 August 2011), the New York Stock market just barely missed its 9th consecutive daily loss in a row, which would have matched an extremely undesirable record not seen since February of 1978.  It’s not the sort of thing that makes anyone, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, happy.  In fact, several economic experts are saying that the USA may be headed back into a recession, even as the USA had been slowly climbing out of the Great Recession of December 2007-June 2009 (dates according to the National Bureau of Economic Research).

Most expected, based upon all of the media hype, that the stock market and the general economy would finally breathe a collective sigh of relief once the US debt ceiling was raised at literally the last possible second, avoiding by the closest of margins a national financial default and probable subsequent economic disaster.  But after an in initial pre-opening positive reaction on Monday morning to the debt ceiling agreement, the stock market shoot down over 100 points by the end of Monday.  And by close of business yesterday (Tuesday, 2 August 2011), the stock market had gone negative 8 days in a row.

President Obama obviously inherited a really ugly economic mess when he took office in January 2009.  The recession was raging, the economy had lost millions of jobs, the housing market had painfully tanked, banks and mortgage insurance companies were failing because of the burst mortgage bubble, and it was all caused by the 2001 & 2003 Bush tax cuts for the very rich and biggest corporations, two unfunded wars, deregulation of the banking & mortgage industry, and an unfunded Medicare Part D drug program that hugely benefited the mega-pharmaceutical industry.   (Note: “big pharma” sells its drugs in the USA for 20% and 80% more than anywhere else in the world, because US law prohibits the US government from negotiating lower prices with them.)

Republicans claim that the economic stimulus packages passed in the early days of the Obama administration didn’t work.  But that legislation did save the US auto industry (among other saves) from failure and the loss of countless jobs, not only at the actual auto companies, but also at all of the countless companies that supply the parts that go into a car or truck.  And those saved auto companies have paid back the stimulus money they received…with interest!

While the economy was slowly getting better and unemployment was slowly dropping (until last month), Obama chose to use the opportunity he had with democratic control of both houses of congress to push through historic health care reform, which, though it doesn’t go far enough, was at least a good start toward ending the death grip that the private health insurance industry has had over health care in the USA.

The GOP and their Tea Party extremists say that that time and effort could have been better spent “increasing jobs”.  However, they also were screaming about cutting spending…ALL spending…except defense.  So if a president can’t get programs passed that put people back to work the way President Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1930’s, how else can jobs be created which will help power the economic recovery?

Answer:  It can’t be done

In the midst of this dilemma, the GOP and their tea-bagger terrorists decided to turn a routine debt ceiling raise into a political football, demanding indiscriminate cuts on social safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare, while protecting at all costs the continued tax breaks for the very rich.  Their fantasyland claim, of course, is that those tax breaks finance job creation.

Oh yeah?  If that’s true, then how come 23 million jobs were lost in the five years after ex-president GW Bush provided most of those tax breaks in 2003?

Answer:  Voodoo economics; “fuzzy” math;  sex, (big pharma’s) drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll; and most importantly, lifetime free access to the oil-industry-financed “fact-finding” trips to south Pacific islands and lifetime membership in Wall Street’s secret private (and INTIMATE) night club.  Plus maximum campaign and PAC contributions.

Meanwhile, both the president and the economy suffered significant drops.  And to make matters worse, tunnel-visioned far-left liberals publicly dissed Obama for caving to the tea-baggers by giving up tax increases on the wealthy (in the interest of avoiding a global financial meltdown, don’t forget).  These folks are just as short-sighted as the teabaggers, and they are making the numbers of support for an Obama second term look worse than they really are.  After all, who else would these liberals vote for?  Michele Bachmann?

Yeah, right.

Actually, maybe electing Bachmannis just what these lunatics deserve.  the up side is that after 4 years of her, these opinionated, short-sighted folks might actually “get it”, and repopulate the US government with democrats.

Not because they are particularly courageous or wise (’cause they’re not!) but because the alternative is much, much worse.

No pain, no gain?