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MLK's exhortation seems right for the return of common sense and Puritan shame

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 08, 2006.

It was an amazing election, wasn’t it? But rather than get lost in the congrats and the glow, the specifics and the Bronx cheers, we need to address the seven actual issues that have made the Bush administration both possible and removed from adult supervision. They are all our fault, not Rove’s genius or evil conspiracy. But last night saw the visitation of two characteristics that have always aided us in our need: common sense and Puritan shame.

Of course, these issues didn’t all happen under George W. Bush, but there are a number of problems long festering he brought to flower that need to be addressed, so that the pointlessly divisive issues of the last years aren’t repeated. They have nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion, sex or religion, flag burning or Terry Schiavo. Sorry. Rather, these are important.

First, get busy to rid ourselves of the Electoral College, something Senator Clinton pushed after her election in 2000 and then we've all forgotten about. It was put in place at a time of great physical impossibilities, no longer relevant, plus it addressed tensions between slave and free states, ditto. Unload it, and let the President be elected by direct vote. If people are so hot to put in stupid constitutional amendments, let’s constructively put one in that makes sense at a time when it is not a sore point.

Second, let’s put in some restriction about Congressional redistricting after a census that nobody will like. Something, for example, that says a minimum but significant and crippling distance of every district’s boundary shall be a straight line. Let the computers do it. In other words, general adjustment of districts can be allowed to accommodate common interests, but gerrymandering becomes physically impossible, and is removed from such connivance as Tom DeLay inflicted. Although, we note, his district is now Democratic today.

Third, insist that the Congress of the United States gird its loins and reclaim its war powers responsibilities. The executive should have and needs temporary powers to defend us, but the Constitution as designed should be obeyed, and wars subject to a vote and declared. Police actions need to be defined and restricted. This is the important work we send them to Washington to do. If they did what needs to be done, they have no time for lobby interests.

Fourth, a great deal of those lobby interest issues could go away if an honored shenanigan was given the boot. Legislation has two parts, the enabling, and the financing. No vote on legislation until the financing is part of it, depriving Congress of voting yes to one part and no to the other to appeal to different constituencies. That procedure serves no goal but deception. That’ll slap Congress upside the head, and mean that presence on the floor is constantly necessary since things will move quicker if they move at all.

Fifth, insist that everything within a legislative bill is relevant to its first sentence, limited in length, where the point and necessity shall be clearly stated. No portion of a bill cannot but be directly relevant to that statement. No earmarks for muffler shops in Topeka in a bill about Darfur.

Sixth, demand all oversight committees are vigilant, staffed, budgeted, and constantly on the prowl. For example, if a member of Congress is a well-known predator of interns for decades and finally exposed, not only he but every member of every oversight committee who should have known ought to be subject to censure, dismissal, and criminal charge for not doing their jobs to the endangerment of others. As a side note, pages are an anachronistic bauble anyway in the 21st century. Get rid of them.

Seventh, no elected member of the federal government or their family can receive any gift, any gratuity. Period. No lobbyist jaunts. Restaurant dinners. Hunting trips. Really, what does going to Samoa to sit in the sun tell you about our slave labor that the report from our diplomats does not? Besides, Congress shouldn’t have time for this crap. Oh, and pay elected officials a salary more in line with their power so temptation is less. If physical travel is needed, that’s what political parties are for, to keep their legislators informed with first hand info.

If these issues are addressed, none of the absurdities of the last years would ever have arisen, because Congress wouldn’t have had time, the President would not have been granted the power, and the common sense that America generally has had, recently misplaced, and found last night could have exerted more influence. In overdue appreciation of a deceased clergyman’s invitation, America came home again last night.

Work tomorrow, though. Hit the hay.