Tuesday, 30 September 2008

What happened?

Yesterday afternoon (evening in the UK) the world's eyes were focused on the floor of the House of Representatives - and the result was a dramatic defeat for the bail-out proposals. In the following hours we saw the response from around the world. This story is far from over...

Explanation and comment will be found from many sources - but the links to those closest to Congress are set out below

Roll Call: http://www.rollcall.com/
The Hill: http://thehill.com/
CQ Politics: http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=5
Politico: http://www.politico.com/
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
National Journal: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njonline/

Here is a sobering column from today's Washington Post (Business Section)


They Just Don't Get It

By Steven PearlsteinTuesday, September 30, 2008; Page D01

Oy vey.

That is the technical economic term that best sums up a day in which the House of Representatives refuses to pass a $700 billion rescue plan pushed by the White House and congressional leaders from both parties, Wachovia is taken over in a deal that will have the government potentially owning 10 percent of Citigroup, a few European banks fail, the Federal Reserve and other central banks are forced to inject an additional $300 billion into the global banking system, the Dow Jones industrial average plunges 778 points, and investors everywhere rush to the safety of gold and short-term Treasury bills.

The basic problem here is that too many people don't understand the seriousness of the situation. Americans fail to understand that they are facing the real prospect of a decade of little or no economic growth because of the bursting of a credit bubble that they helped create and that now threatens to bring down the global financial system.

Politicians worry less about preventing a financial meltdown than about ideology, partisan posturing and teaching people a lesson. Financiers have yet to own up publicly to their own greed, arrogance and incompetence. And leaders of foreign governments still think that this is an American problem and that they have no need to mount similar rescue efforts in their own countries.

In the coming weeks and months, all of these people will come to understand how deep the hole really is and how we're all in it together. They'll come to understand that the giant sucking sound they hear is of a massive deleveraging of the global economy and the global financial system as households, governments, businesses and investment funds adjust to living in a world with less debt and more inflation.

And they will come around, reluctantly, to the understanding that the only way to get out of these situations is to have governments all around the world borrow gobs of money and effectively nationalize large swaths of the financial system so it can be restructured, recapitalized, reformed and returned to private ownership once the crisis has passed and the economy has gotten back on its feet.

In the next few weeks, the center of attention here in the United States will shift from the Congress and an exhausted Treasury to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which will now have to rescue any number of failing banks, either by taking them over directly or managing their transfer into stronger hands. It will also shift back to the Federal Reserve and other central banks, which will have to step up their efforts to maintain liquidity in money markets and prevent the credit crunch from taking down hedge funds, businesses, and state and local governments.

These will, alas, be only holding actions. Restoring real stability to financial markets will require the kind of systemic approach and extraordinary government interventions that the public has refused to authorize and finance. In better times, the public might have put aside its reluctance in response to the strong and unified recommendation of political and business leaders. But it is a measure of how little trust remains in both Washington and Wall Street that voters are willing to risk a serious hit to their wealth and income rather than follow their lead.

Private Members Bills

In the House of Commons most of the legislation is introduced by the Government - and it enjoys control of the majority of time available. However, on thirteen Fridays each session time is allocated for the consideration of Private Members Bills (PMBs). During the first seven Fridays priority is given to the Second Reading of PMBs and the remaining six to Report Stages; Third Readings and Lords Amendments.

At the start of each session a ballot is held - and the lucky backbenchers who are chosen get the opportunity to introduce a bill of their choice. Further details of PMBs can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/DOCUMENTS/UPLOAD/L02.PDF

The ballot is not the only way for a member to gain an opportunity to introduce proposed legislation. The 'Ten Minute Rule Bill' procedure gives an MP a prime time spot to ask for leave to introduce a bill - though this is often used to publicise an issue rather than to bring in legislation. MPs can also present a bill, but no time is given for further stages.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Secretary General of the European Parliament

Sir Julian Priestley http://www.speakers.co.uk/csaWeb/speaker,3590 was the Secretary General of the European Parliament from 1997 to 2007. He had served as an official within the European Institutions from the 1970s. In this interview he describes the role of the Secretary General.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Roles of the European Parliament

At the Labour Party Conference last week, I had the opportunity to ask Richard Corbett, MEP and author of what I regard as THE best book on the work of the European Parliament - http://www.johnharperpublishing.co.uk/pp007.shtml, about the roles of the Parliament and the relationship between national parties and groups within the EP.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Where the Lords Live

The New Local Government Network has recently published a study - with recommendations for reform - on the makeup of the House of Lords. It can be downloaded at http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/wp-content/uploads/lords-of-our-manor.pdf. The main finding is that some parts of the country are over represented, and some woefully under represented. It is a valid point, but the figures used can be misleading.

The data is taken from the annual House of Lords Register of Members' Expenses. Each Peer registers his or her "main residence" - rights to and amounts of expenses are related to that main residence. The reason that I say this can be misleading is that only the current residence is recorded. Former MPs who have lived for years in their constituency, may have moved in their (semi-) retirement to another part of the country - or kept only the residence in London (MPs pensions are not THAT generous - keeping two properties on a pension and Lords expenses alone would be difficult). Also, not all peers claim the expenses they are entitled to - or make the claims for travel which requires them to identify their main residence.

Having said all that, there is a regional imbalance. As financial; business and political capital of the UK - London has attracted the "brightest and best", the very people most likely to be appointed to the House of Lords.

I personally think that we need to have a wholly or almost wholly elected Upper House. I do though have concerns about the proposal in the NLGN paper for "a ‘regional list’ system of elections for either 80% or 100% of the House, with seats allocated on the basis of each
region’s population". I have taught European Union Law for many years - I often start by asking my group if they know who their MEP is. When we had single member constituencies (usually the size of about 7 parliamentary constituencies) - a few people - those with an interest in politics or local affairs could name them. On average 3 out of a group of 20 could correctly identify their MEP. After the move to regional lists the number slumped. Regional Lists - particularly closed party lists - do little for encouraging participation.

For other views on the report visit http://lordsoftheblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/where-we-live/. Lord Norton of Louth (who lives and teaches in Hull - and is a high attender at Westminster) wrote the post - and his comments have prompted further remarks from visitors to that excellent blog (Lords of the Blog - http://lordsoftheblog.wordpress.com/)

Friday, 26 September 2008

Obsessed by the Polls?

As Election Day gets closer - Tuesday 4th November [38 days to go!]- real addicts can get their fix from a number of websites which draw together the many polls being taken - and analyse them to give predictions about the results in the Presidential; House; Senate and Gubernatorial races.

Bob Carr , the former Michigan Congressman, http://www.dowlohnes.com/bcarr/
has recommended the following sites -

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/

Not only do they give daily snapshots put together from a large number of different polls; they explain their reasoning for converting that, and other information, into predictions for electoral college votes and seats in the two houses of Congress.


I'll be visiting these sites on a daily basis - as well as looking at The Cook Political Report - http://www.cookpolitical.com/ and the Rothenberg Political Report - http://www.rothenbergpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/. For detailed studies I find the reports of Greenberg Quinlan Roser very useful - http://www.greenbergresearch.com/index.php?ID=457.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

BritBowl Videos

If, like me, you missed seeing the game live - videos have been uploaded via YouTube. I enjoyed watching, I hope you do too.











Wednesday


Conference is over. Attention now shifts to Birmingham, where the Conservatives hold their conference. Although there were sessions and a handful of fringe meetings, I chose to leave for home first thing in the morning. I took the opportunity to visit my parents who live in Aldridge, just outside Walsall.

I didn't expect to post an entry today. My intention was to unpack - and do some reading in preparation for a meeting early next week. Washminster would have returned on Thursday. But just bere 8pm I had to drive to Rugby station to collect my daughter who works in an MPs constituency office in that town. However events took a different turn.

Shots were fired at trains and at the police helicopter which flew to the scene. Just after I entered the station, it was locked down. Servives along the length of the West Coast line [from London Euston - Rugby is the major junction where it branches into a line to Birmingham and the West Midlands; and another line along the Trent Valley which is the route to North Wales; Manchester and Liverpool; the Lake District and Scotland] were suspended. I was eventually able to leave the station to drive to Northampton to collect my daughter.

News Reports are available at
BBC - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/7634708.stm
Sky News - http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Armed-Incident-At-Rugby-Train-Station-Causes-Chaos/Article/200809415106672?lpos=UK_News_Second_UK_News_Article_Teaser_Region_1&lid=ARTICLE_15106672_Armed_Incident_At_Rugby_Train_Station_Causes_Chaos
ITN - http://itn.co.uk/news/7db216d6f215a8bfcee123d01cd02592.html
Birmingham Post - http://www.birminghampost.net/news/2008/09/25/rugby-gunman-hunt-leaves-passengers-stranded-65233-21896187/

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tuesday


The day of the Leaders speech. The media have been speculating for days what would be said, and its significance. For me the day began with the walk into the Conference Centre, this time beginning a little earlier. I arrived at about 7.40 and did a little reading before attending the breakfast fringe event. This was a debate entitled, "Licence to operate? The future of the public affairs/lobbying industry". There were some useful issues discussed - with the audience made up predominantly of lobbying industry professionals. Kelvin Hopkins, a member of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee (http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee.cfm), (which has recently undertaken an inquiry into Lobbying - and the report is expected to be published within the next few weeks.) spoke about his concerns. I asked a question about the imbalance of information provision which can arise.

The morning plenary dealt with the treasurer's and auditor's reports. After a while I left to talk to a colleague. Lunchtime was spent queuing. Although I had a ticket for the leader's speech - it was no guarantee of a seat. Eventually I was seated, a few rows back from my usual place. It was a good speech from Gordon Brown. It can be read at http://www.labour.org.uk/gordon_brown_conference or viewed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/ During the speech, I "twittered" - and my comments are recorded at http://twitter.com/jdavidmorgan.

Afterwards - lots of discussion about the speech with colleagues. Later on I went to have my photograph taken with Gordon Brown.

Tonight I attended a meeting about public transport. I then went to an event to celebrate 60 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. From there I returned to my accommodation.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Monday

A very full - and interesting day. Aftera two mile walk from my accommodation into the Conference Centre, I arrived just in time for the start of "European Question Time". Breakfast was provided. Chaired by Baroness Ashton, the Leader of the House of Lords, subjects ranged from campaigning, to social policy and to international security.

The plenary session had already begun by the time I'd got across to the conference hall itself. However my stay there was short - as I joined a small group of parliamentarians for a tour of the Labour History Archive and Study Centre of the People's History Museum. The building itself is of great historical significance for the Labour Movement - in 1868 the Trades Union Congress (TUC) had its first meeting there. The tour was fascinating and I saw the original handwritten minutes of the first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (12th February 1906, letters from Eric Blair [George Orwell]; Charlie Chaplin - and a handwritten letter from a young Tony Blair to the Labour leader of the time, Michael Foot. There was a fantastic collection of political posters and some banners. The People's History Museum is currently closed for redevelopment - but it has so many items of interest, that I would strongly recommend a visit when it reopens. Details of the Museum and the archive are available at http://82.71.77.169/introduction.htm

I returned to the conference hall to hear the speech by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. At lunch time I went to a debate organised by the Guardian - on who was Labour's Greatest Hero. Keir Hardie; Clement Attlee; Nye Bevan and Barbara Castle were the four nominees. It was enjoyable and interesting. A full report is expected soon on http://www.guardian.co.uk/

In the afternoon session we heard speeches from Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Defence Secretry, Des Browne. I sought to participate in the debate - with a speech on the need for Britain to work with fellow EU members; the United States and other countries to advance both Britain's and the world's interests. However time ran out and I wasn't called. The afternoon concluded with tributes to, and speeches by two retiring Members of the European Parliament - EPLP Leader Gary Titley and Glenys Kinnock.

Tonight I briefly attended a reception put on by my union branch - the UNITE T&G Parliamentary Branch http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/tgwu/default.asp. I then went to a Hansard Society/Channel 4 event entitled "People Like Us: is British society fairly reflected in parliament? This was recorded and a podcast is planned which will appear on the Hansard Society website - http://www.hansard-society.org.uk/

I enjoyed a visit to the Labour Friends of India reception; then went to a packed meeting entitled "American Election Update". The level of interest was obvious - and we were treated to some useful insights into this enthralling election.

By the time I got back to my accommodation it was nearly midnight - and now I'm off to bed - and another busy day, which will include Gordon Brown's speech.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday Evening

At lunchtime a number of fringe meetings were held. I attended the event organised by the EPLP (European Parliamentary Labour Party) - whch was entitled "Setting a peoples agenda for Europe." The panel included Jim Murphy, the Minister for Europe; Sir Julian Priestley - former General Secretary of the European Parliament and Glenis Willmot. After a series of short speeches questions were invited, I asked the following question - whih received the answers below










During Plenary sessions Crime, Justice, Citienship and Equalities were discussed. Keynote speeches were made by Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw; Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman; Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz and Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

In the evening I attended a number of events including receptions for the West Midlands and East Midlands regions; a 'Diversity' Party; a discussion on whether Britain should have its own Bill of Rights - and the Fabian Society Party.

Champions


Coventry Jets won the BritBowl final. Victory was snatched at the end of an exciting game against London Blitz - in the final eight seconds. The score was 33-32.

http://www.bafl.org.uk/artman2/publish/BritBowl_46/Jets_win_a_thriller.asp

Congratulations to all players and coaching staff!

Sunday Morning

Conference is due to kick off at 10.45 this morning. There are a couple of breakfast meetings; A team of MPs will play the Press at football- and seminars will be held for delegates. I shall be taking a long walk from my accommodation (with a few detours) to get into the conference site in time for the plenary session to begin.

There should be two major debates in the two plenary sessions (10.45-12.45 and 14.45 to 17.30) on "Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities" and "Prosperity and Work". At lunchtime there are a host of fringe meetings - and I intend to go to a meeting organised by the European Parliamentary Labour Party (the Labour Members of the European Parliament) with the title "Setting A Peoples Agenda". This clashes unfortunately with a Fabian Society fringe meeting to discuss "Can Foreign Policy be a Labour Strength?"

Tonight I have a busy schedule of events - with receptions for the West Midlands (where I live - Rugby is just two miles within the eastern boundary) and the East Midlands (where I will be standing as a candidate in next year's European Elections).
Other receptions I hope to attend have been organised by the BBC with the British Council; Save the Children and the Fabian Society.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Saturday Evening

I returned to the centre of Manchester, and the conference centre, just as the question and answer session with the Prime Minister; Chancellor of the Exchequer; Business Secretary and Deputy Leader was drawing to a close. Delegates I spoke to thought that the Prime Minister had enjoyed a good day.

The evening was taken up with a series of social events - and I had the opportunity to chat to a number of old and new friends. At the TULO [http://www.unionstogether.org.uk] reception I met the Prime Minister as he entered the marquee. Other evnts I attended were the delegates' reception; the Co-operative Group party and an event organised to highlight the issue of child poverty. Afterwards colleagues from the constituency I fought in 2001 and 2005, plus their new candidate, Sally Gimson and I went for a meal in the Chinese quarter of Manchester.

V-Blog Saturday am

BritBowl XXII

This weekend there will be a feast of American Football at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster. The British season runs through the Spring and Summer - and this is the climax. As I am in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference, I won't be able to go (last year I did manage to get to BritBowl) - but I have been promised regular updates from friends who will be in the Keepmoat Stadium.

BAFL have a website with all the details of the weekends games. http://www.bafl.org.uk/artman2/publish/BritBowl_46/index.asp and scores will be posted there. I recommend a visit - even if you can't get to Doncaster.

The weekend will conclude with the BritBowl XXII game itself between the Coventry (Cassidy) Jets and the London Blitz. These two teams met in last year's final - though as a Jets fan, I'm hoping the outcome will be different. I'm sure it's going to be a great game - but good luck Jets!!!

The teams websites are


Friday, 19 September 2008

Despatch from Manchester - 18h40

I've arrived in Manchester for the Labour Party Conference which begins tomorrow. This afternoon I drove up from my home in Rugby, and checked into my accommodation at the Luther King House, just off the Wilmslow Road. It's about 2 miles from the City Centre - and the conference venue - [which incorporates Manchester Central (Conference Centre); the Midland and the Radisson Hotels.] This was the site of the Peterloo Massacre in August 1819 - when cavlry rode into a crowd of some 70,000 people who were demanding the reform of parliamentary representation.

After a walk into the city centre to get my bearings I returned by bus to my accommodation. Tonight the Greater Manchester Fabian Society are hosting a pre-Conference event in a bar in Piccadilly Gardens. I'm looking forward to meeting fellow Fabians from this area - as well as other delegates who have arrived in advance of the start of conference.

Late Night Update from Manchester

An interesting evening of conversations at the Greater Manchester Fabians event. Lots of discussion about what should happen over the next few days - and how Labour can get its message across to sceptical voters. Also I learnt about a system of electric cars using batteries which are recharged by overnight surplus wind power in Norway. The Fabian Society has always been a forum for ideas to be discussed - and has played a very influential role in Labour history. Today's event was an informal get together - the serious business begins tomorrow.

For a list of Fabian events at the Labour Party Conference visit http://fabians.org.uk/events/events/labour-conference-08-fringes

Minnesota - The race for the US Senate

The choice of the twin cities (Minneapolis/St Paul) for the Republican Convention this year, highlighted the importance of the State for the GOP. One of the more interesting Senate races is taking place there. The current Senior Senator is Norm Coleman http://coleman.senate.gov/public/, a native of New York - he was an active member of the counter culture as a youngster - described by National Journal as "an anti-war activist", and celebrating his 20th birthday at Woodstock. He was formerly a Democrat - even serving as c0-chairman in Minnesota for Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign. He switched to the Republican Party in December 1996. In November 2004 he ran unsuccessfully for the Chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Coleman faces a challenge from the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) nominee, Al Franken. He was briefly profiled on this blog on 10th September

News from Lake Wobegon

Al Franken, comedian and commentator, has won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat from Minnesota. He rose to fame for his appearances on 'Saturday Night Live'. International fame came with his excellent books - Why Not Me?; Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot; Lies and the lying liars who tell them; and The Truth with Jokes. His website is - http://www.alfranken.com/

Thursday, 18 September 2008

First there was C-SPAN...


....then The Parliamentary Channel (now BBC Parliament). Now the European Parliament has an online TV service - called Europarl TV. Its website is http://www.europarltv.europa.eu/StartPage.aspx


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

LA 04

Covering much of western Louisiana, except for the south west (LA 07), this district includes Shreveport (200,145) and the smaller cities of Bossier City and Natchitoches (the oldest permanent city in the former Louisiana Purchase area - founded in 1714). Oil and natural gas are important and there are significant defence bases. Riverboat gambling, health care and timber also play a key role in the economy of this 11,151 sq mile district.

Republican congressman, Jim McCrery has represented the district since 1988. He is the Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committeee. He announced his retirement in Decemebr 2007. Due to Hurricane Gustav, the primaries have been postponed until 4th October.

Democrats

Willie Banks - a veteran and attorney
Paul J. Carmouche - Caddo District Attorney, who is tipped to win the nomination
Artis "Doc" Cash - minister, who ran in 2006
John Milkovich - attorney, who ran in 2002

Republicans


John Fleming - a physician
Chris Gorman - trucking executive
Chester Kelly - restaurant owner, attorney
Jeff Thompson - attorney, believed to be McCrery's favoured successor
former State Rep. Mike Powell.

Cook listed this district as "Republican Toss Up"

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

An interesting (and busy) time


The news in the UK has been dominated by rumours about the continued leadership of the Labour Party by Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. [oh, and the financial turmoil that has followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers]. The Labour Party's ruling National Executive Committee will discuss today whether to issue leadership nomination papers - as requested by (a handful) of Labour MPs. The real excitement will come this weekend and next week as the Labour Party holds its conference in Manchester.
I will be at the conference - and (in the early hours of the morning, no doubt) will be posting my observations. But before that I need to complete my marking for the Open University; prepare for a revision day for the OU's 'Individual and the State' law course (W201 in their Law Degree [LL.B.] programme) on Saturday - and prepare for conference. As a result there will be fewer postings this week. Please do keep coming back - but I may not make my target of a post each day until Friday.
But from Friday onwards - join me for a front row seat at the Labour Party Conference.

Monday, 15 September 2008

AL 02

The last district profiled in this blog was an open Alabama seat - currently held by the Democrats. [AL 05 profiled on Monday 8th September]. In the south east of the State another district is regarded as a toss up - this time the Republican seat currently held by Terry Everett. On paper this should be safe Republican territory - Bush won 61% of the vote in 2001 and 67% in 2004. National Journal describes how Democratic redistricters put most of Montgomery County into the third district "in an attempt to make that seat more Democratic. The result left the 2nd heavily Republican." Recent polls have shown widely divergent results - so could this be a surprise Democratic win?

The two major party candidates are State Represenatative Jay Love [Republican] , a restaurant owner in Montgomery and two term Democratic mayor of Montgomery, Bobby Bright. Bright is described as "Moderate-to-Conservative - Pro- gun - Pro-Life " who says on his website that "he voted for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary earlier this year".

Their websites are -



Much of the city of Montgomery is within the district, and other towns include Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Troy and Greenville. Defence and Alabama State government are important sources of employment in this district. In rural areas agriculture provides many jobs - and the district is the USA's second highest producer of peanuts.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Oh say can you see...

Today is the anniversary of the dawn which is commemorated in the American National Anthem. It was written by Francis Scott Key - who observed the bombardment of Fort McHenry whilst detained by the British. He and John Skinner had met with British commanders to plead for the release of Dr Beanes, a physician abducted by British forces. This was agreed to, but Key, Skinner and Beanes were told that they would not be allowed to leave the fleet until operations in Baltimore were completed.

The first few lines are of course well known, but the full text is -

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'T is the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause. it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Week Ahead

Forty three bills are expected to be considered under the House of Representatives suspension procedure. The following legislation is expected to be considered under a rule recommended by the Rules Committee.

H.R. 6842 - National Capital Security and Safety Act (Rep. Norton – Oversight and Government
Reform)
H.R. 3036 – No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 (Rep. Sarbanes – Education and Labor)
H.R. ___ - Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (Rep. Rahall/Rep. Gene Green (TX)/Rep. George Miller (CA) – Natural Resources/Energy and Commerce)

The full schedule is available at http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/24WeeklyLeader09_15_08.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550

The Senate will convene at 3pm on Monday to resume consideration of S.3001- the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

In the UK the Liberal Democrat Conference begins today in Bournemouth and runs until Wednesday. Further details can be found at http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference

Friday, 12 September 2008

Welsh Nationalism

Plaid Cymru (literally 'the party of Wales') is currently holding its annual conference in Aberystwyth. The party was formed as long ago as 1925, but its political significance grew only in the 1960s. It was in the Carmarthen by-election of 1966 that Plaid stunned the political world and won its first seat in Parliament. The MP elected was Gwynfor Evans, the President of Plaid - who was instrumental in developing the party.

In recent years, particularly after the creation of the Welsh National Assembly, Plaid Cymru has played a major part in Welsh politics - at all levels of government.
Its website is http://www.plaidcymru.org/content.php?lID=1

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Political Advertising on TV

In the United kingdom - political parties cannot advertise politically on radio or television. Instead political parties are allocated a certain amount of timed slots, in which they can present their case - these are known as "party political broadcasts". The time is free to the parties, though they must pay for making the broadcast. Keele University has a database of past election broadcasts available at http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/peb.htm. The legal limits are a major reason that political campaigning in the UK is significantly cheaper than in the US.

Stanford University maintains an online archive of US presidential ads - including the most recent. It is available at http://pcl.stanford.edu/campaigns/2008/

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Watching Congressional Committees

In addition to watching proceedings in the Chambers (C-SPAN 1 - House : C-SPAN 2 - Senate - http://www.c-span.org/Watch/C-SPAN_wm.aspx), it is possible to watch live broadcasts of many committee hearings. The website http://www.capitolhearings.org/ provides the easiest access to the relevant committee's 'broadcast'.

Most committees provide email updates on planned hearings and statements by the Chair. You can sign up for these by visiting the relevant committee website. (via http://www.house.gov/ and http://www.senate.gov/ )
News from Lake Wobegon

Al Franken, comedian and commentator, has won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat from Minnesota. He rose to fame for his appearances on 'Saturday Night Live'. International fame came with his excellent books - Why Not Me?; Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot; Lies and the lying liars who tell them; and The Truth with Jokes. His website is - http://www.alfranken.com/

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

TUC Conference

The major party political conferences kick off next week with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth (13th - 17th September) - although minor conferences (such as UKIP) have already taken place [Bournemouth 4th-6th September]. The first major event of the "conference season" in Britain is the conference of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

This year the conference is taking place in Brighton. Ministers will speak today - with a closed door meeting with the Prime Minister due this afternoon at 4.30pm.
Conference is described by the TUC itself -
"The policy making body of the TUC is the annual Congress which meets for four days each year during September. Each affiliated union can send delegates to Congress - the larger the union, the more it can send. At Congress 'motions' (resolutions for debate) are proposed and discussed. These form the basis of the TUC's work for the next year."

Monday, 8 September 2008

AL 05

Once a stronghold of New Deal Democrats - the district covers many of Alabama's Tennessee Valley Authority areas. Federal Government spending also boosted this area during the space race - but this district became more Republican during the 1990s. Democrat Bud Cramer announced his retirement in March - leaving this an Open Seat. The Cook Political Report lists it as "Democratic Toss Up" (Currently the only Open Democratic seat seen as a toss up).

The Fifth District covers the northern part of the State. Huntsville is the largest city with a population of 158,216.

Cramer was one of the Democrats most likely to vote against the party leadership, and was a founder member of the "Blue Dogs" group in the House of representatives. . The race is between

Parker Griffith [Democrat]: http://www.griffithforcongress.com/ - a retired physician and small business owner who has been endorsed by the 'Blue Dogs', and

Wayne Parker [Republican]: http://www.wayneparkerforcongress.com/ - a vice-President of an insurance agency. He is the son in law of Bill Archer, a Conservative Republican from Texas who was Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee in 1994-2000.

Coventry Jets Through to Britbowl

The Jets won a tightly fought semi-final to gain a place in this year's Britbowl. Bristol Aztecs played an impressive game - scoring four touchdowns. The drama continued into the last seconds of the game. Bristol are to be commended for putting up such a determined fight, and Coventry to be congratulated for making the national final again.

Britbowl will be played at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster - over the weekend of 20th/21st September. This weekend festival of American Football reaches its climax with the National Championship – BritBowl XXII – at 4:00pm on Sunday. Sadly I will miss the game due to my attendance at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester (but my heart will be 73 miles away in Doncaster!).

The National Championship game will pit the Coventry Jets against London Blitz.
Further details about BritBowl can be found at http://www.bafl.org.uk/artman2/publish/BritBowl_46/BritBowl_XXII_at_the_Keepmoat.asp - on the website of the British American Football League (BAFL).

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Coventry Jets - Further Change of Venue

Another change has been necessary -

Cov Tech RFC, Mitchell Avenue, Coventry, CV4 8DW

Here's a google map link: - http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=d&saddr=&daddr=52.391787,-1.569328&hl=en&geocode=&mra=dme&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=16&sll=52.390412,-1.567376&sspn=0.010332,0.013711&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=16

The Week Ahead

Congress returns, with the elections now less than 60 days away. The House of Representatives plans to consider 21 bills under the suspension procedure. Other bills include

H.R. 3667 – Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic River Study Act of 2008 (Rep. Welch – Natural Resources)
H.R. 3036 – No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 (Rep. Sarbanes – Education and Labor)

The Senate will begin by resuming consideration of the motion to proceed to S3001 the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

House of Representatives: http://democraticleader.house.gov/docUploads/23WeeklyLeader09_08_08.pdf?CFID=7017212&CFTOKEN=43085550

Senate: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=senate_calendar&docid=sc001.pdf

Political Humour - Steve Bell (UK)

I'm a big fan of the cartoons of Steve Bell. His amusing, though powerful cartoons can be found in the Guardian. The paper's website has many examples of his work http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/stevebell. Earlier cartoons have been republished in books such as




Maggies Farm

Further Down on Maggies Farm

The If... Chronciles

If... Only Again

Another Load of If...

The Unrepeatable If...

I'm proud to say that I have some of his earlier books - his caricatures of Thatcher; Reagan; Major; Blair; Clinton and Bush have been superb - as well as disturbingly subversive.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Coventry Jets

The weather in Britain has been appalling - not just over the whole "summer", but particularly in the last few days. Driving between Birmingham and Nottingham a little while ago was a nightmare because of the driving rain.

As a result the Britbowl Semi-Final I mentioned in Thursday's blog has been moved to the Old Coventrians Rugby Club.


The address is: - Old Coventrians Rugby Football Club, Tile Hill Lane, Coventry, CV4 9DE



If you can make it - it should be a good game!

NY 25

A couple of days ago this blog considered the vulnerable Republican seat in the south of New York State, NY 13. Upstate is another seat the Democrats hope to take. In 2006 the incumbent, James T Walsh, scrapped in with a mere 3,417 votes (For an English constituency this would be the equivalent of a winning margin of just 438 votes in Rugby - based on the total populations of NY25 & the new Rugby constituency).

The most important city in the District is Syracuse - although the district stretches west to the Rochester suburbs. The main industries are Agriculture (Dairy & Fruit); Services; Manufacturing; Higher Education and Health Care.

Representative Walsh is a moderate Republican, often at odds with the party's Conservative leaders. He announced his retirement in January this year. His challenger in 2006, Dan Maffei, will contest the seat again. Former Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Dale Sweetland was selected by the Republicans in May.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Apologies

During to a typing error - the entry for 2nd September referred to AZ 02 - while the article and map were about AZ 01. It was meant to be AZ 01

Sorry

The Profumo Scandal

Many of the most vulnerable House seats in the congressional elections have seen their existing Member involved in scandal. In the United Kingdom scandals have played a key role in the electoral defeat of governments. John Major's Conservative Party suffered disastrous results after a series of fincial and sexual scandals - but the big scandal of the last century was known after its key player, Profumo. The Guardian has claimed - "The Profumo affair was no passing sensation. It all but brought down the Macmillan government and it almost certainly finished Macmillan himself as prime minister. In October 1963, less than a month after publication of the Denning report, the prime minister resigned citing ill health."

John Profumo was a Midlands MP (Kettering 1940-45; Statford Upon Avon 1950-63) who became the Secretary of State for War. It was his affair with Christine Keeler which was at the heart of the scandal. He lied to the House of Commons about the affair. Worse still Ms Keeler was having simultaneous affairs with the Profumo and the the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy.
Christine Keeler was arrested and charged with perjury on 5th September 1963 (in connection with evidence given at the Old Bailey). Profumo spent the rest of his life working as a volunteer charity worker.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The New Football Season

The new NFL season kicks off tonight - and the opening game involves the Washington Redskins. As long term readers of this blog will know, I am a fan of American Football in general, and the Washington Redskins in particular (but not forgetting the Coventry Cassidy Jets - the British American Football Team who have had another superb unbeaten season - and on Sunday play in the Premier semi-final for this years Britbowl at Barkers' Butts Rugby Club, Bob Coward Memorial Ground, Pickford Grange Lane, Coventry CV5 9AR - starting at 2.30pm).

The Redskins began their life in Boston (as the Boston 'Braves') in 1932, but moved to the capital in 1937. They have had three bases - Griffith Stadium (1937-60); RFK Stadium (1961-1996 - orginally known as the DC Stadium)) and the current FedEx Field.

Tonight's game is against the New York Giants - winners of this years Superbowl. More details can be found at http://www.redskins.com/gen/games/gameday.jsp

Live radio coverage can be listened to online at http://www.espn980.com/. The bad news for British listeners is that kickoff is at midnight! [7pm EDT]

NY 13

New York's 13th District is another open Republican seat, made more vulnerable by scandal involving the current Member. Vito Fossella was arrested for drunk driving in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this year. A week later he confessed that he had been involved in an extra-marital affair with the woman who had bailed him, and had fathered a child were her. By the end of the month he announced that he would not stand in this year's House election. Fossella was controversial for a number of other reasons.

The District covers Staten Island plus adjacent neighbourhoods across the Verrazano Narrow Bridge in south west Brooklyn. It has the highest percentage of residents of Italian ancestry in the nation. The main industries are Health Care (Staten Island University Hospital); Retail; Communications and Construction.

Primaries will be held on 9th September. Details of candidates standing for each party can be found at http://www.elections.state.ny.us:8080/reports/rwservlet?cmdkey=candidate_32_statewide_cgs. The New York Times website is http://www.nytimes.com/

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Oliver Cromwell

Three Hundred and Fifty years ago today, the Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell died. He was born in the town which he first represented as MP - Huntingdon. (Later he was to represent Cambridge - where he had been a student).

During his life, and since his death, controversy has reigned about this remarkable man. For some, particularly those with Irish roots, he was a monster. He has been portrayed as a military dictator. To others he was a brilliant military leader; a man of faith who spurned personal honours whilst seeking to rule fairly. While some hate him as a regicide, others have seen him as the champion of liberty.
I have to admit - I am a big fan of Cromwell. He had his flaws - but never sought to deny them. [There is a well known story that Cromwell instructed Sir Peter Lely, who was painting his portrait, that it include any imperfections. "I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will not pay a farthing for it."]. He possessed undoubted military genius - but most of all he fought against the idea of an absolute monarchy. Without his political and military leadership Britain would (probably) not have had a (short) period as a republic - and parliamentary supremacy would not have been achieved.
The royalist propagandists have been active during many generations to blacken his name. There are two monuments in Naseby, one is historically correct - the other is in the wrong place, which claimed that the battle had "Led to the subversion of the Throne, The Altar, and the Constitution". It is not at all sympathetic to Cromwell.
A website about Cromwell can be found at http://www.olivercromwell.org/index.htm

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

AZ 01

John McCain won't want to see one of the districts in his state of Arizona lost to the Democrats, but at the moment that seems a distinct possibility. The seat is Open, Rick Renzi having announced his retirement. Congressman Renzi is only 50, and has served in Congress since 2003. His retirement was prompted by his indictment on 35 counts related to land deals. He has pleaded 'Not guilty', but in August announced that he would not contest this election.

The first district of Arizona covers a huge area - it is larger than 30 of the United States, including Pennsylvania. It covers both sides of the Grand Canyon and its main centres of population are Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona. It has the largest American Indian population of any district in the country. The main industries are Tourism; Agriculture; Timber and Mining.
The primaries for the parties are due to be held today (2nd September). Details of the candidates for the first (and other Arizona districts) can be found at http://www.azsos.gov/election/2008/Primary/ElectionInformation.htm
Local news can be found at http://www.azdailysun.com/elections2008/


Monday, 1 September 2008

I Laughed until tears came...

Capitol Steps are superb. If you haven't discovered them yet - you really must. Their latest offering had me in stitches - a parody of Mamma Mia. Listen in to

Week of August 25, 2008 "Obama Mia" at http://www.capsteps.com/
A number of their routines have surfaced on YouTube - try these as a taster