Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Congressional Committees

Thanks to a post reproduced by David Waldman on his blog "Congress Matters", I have found an informative series produced by "Casual Wednesday" on the Daily Kos. In his latest post he (or she?) sets out the background to the allocation of committee seats, and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in particular.

Obviously, these members are the ones to contact to advance the bill that would repeal the "Don't ask/don't tell policy." These are also the committees that need a proverbial kick in the pants to advance legislation that would close Gitmo. More information below.

Committee membership

First, here are the members of the House Committee:

Democrats: Ike Skelton, Chairman, Missouri; John M. Spratt, Jr., South Carolina; Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas; Gene Taylor, Mississippi; Neil Abercrombie, Hawai'i; Silvestre Reyes, Texas; Vic Snyder, Arkansas; Adam Smith, Washington; Loretta Sanchez, California; Mike McIntyre, North Carolina; Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania; Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey; Susan A. Davis, California; James R. Langevin, Rhode Island; Rick Larsen, Washington; Jim Cooper, Tennessee; Jim Marshall, Georgia; Madeleine Bordallo, Guam; Brad Ellsworth, Indiana; Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania; Hank Johnson, Georgia; Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire; Joe Courtney, Connecticut; David Loebsack, Iowa; Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania; Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona; Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts; Glenn Nye, Virginia; Chellie Pingree, Maine; Larry Kissell, North Carolina; Martin Heinrich, New Mexico; Frank Kratovil, Maryland; Eric Massa, New York; Bobby Bright, Alabama; Scott Murphy, New York; Dan Boren, Oklahoma

Republicans: John M. McHugh, Ranking Member, New York; Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland; Buck McKeon, California; Mac Thornberry, Texas; Walter B. Jones, North Carolina; Todd Akin, Missouri; Randy Forbes, Virginia; Jeff Miller, Florida; Joe Wilson, South Carolina; Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey; Rob Bishop, Utah; Mike Turner, Ohio; John Kline, Minnesota; Mike Rogers, Alabama; Trent Franks, Arizona; Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington; Mike Conaway, Texas; Doug Lamborn, Colorado; Rob Wittman, Virginia; Mary Fallin, Oklahoma; Duncan D. Hunter, California; John C. Fleming, Louisiana; Mike Coffman, Colorado; Tom Rooney, Florida

Here are the members of the Senate committee:

Democrats: Carl Levin (Michigan), Chairman; Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts); Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia); Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut); Jack Reed (Rhode Island); Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Evan Bayh (Indiana); Jim Webb (Virginia); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Mark Udall (Colorado); Kay R. Hagan (North Carolina); Mark Begich (Alaska); Roland W. Burris (Illinois)

Republicans: John McCain (Arizona), Ranking Member; James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma); Jeff Sessions (Alabama); Saxby Chambliss (Georgia); Lindsey Graham (South Carolina); John Thune (South Dakota); Mel Martinez (Florida); Roger F. Wicker (Mississippi); Richard Burr (North Carolina); David Vitter (Louisiana); Susan M. Collins (Maine)

These are relatively large committees for several reasons. For one thing, the military is the largest bureaucracy within the federal government, so the oversight and law-making functions are important.

More importantly, this is the authorizing committee for defense projects. For more background about the difference between authorizing and appropriating, check out my diary on the Appropriations Committees. In a nutshell, authorizing committees decide which projects to pursue while the appropriations committees decide whether or not to fund them. This is particularly important since the defense budget represents more than half of the government's discretionary spending.

Senate Committee Assignments

The House committees are fairly flexible in terms of how large they can be. As a result, the more prominent committees tend to have large memberships in order to accommodate members' preferences. Senate assignments rules, on the other hand, are very formalized. The two parties make their assignments and those are formally approved early in the session.

All of the Senate committees are classified as Super A, A, B, or C depending on the prominence and workload of the committee. Armed Services is one of the Democrats' five Super A committees. The others are Finance; Appropriations; Foreign Relations' and Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Republicans do not count Commerce, Science, and Transportation to be a Super A committee.

Chamber rules state that Senators are limited to service on two Class Super A/ Class A committees and one Class B committee. There are no limits on service on the Class C committees. Both Parties' rules limit members to service on only one Super A committee. For more about committee and chair assignments, check out the Senate's web page on these rules.

Jurisdictions

Here is the formal jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee:

(1) Ammunition depots; forts; arsenals; and Army, Navy, and Air Force reservations and establishments.
(2) Common defense generally.
(3) Conservation, development, and use of naval petroleum and oil shale reserves.
(4) The Department of Defense generally, including the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, generally.
(5) Interoceanic canals generally, including measures relating to the maintenance, operation, and administration of interoceanic canals.
(6) Merchant Marine Academy and State Maritime Academies.
(7) Military applications of nuclear energy.
(8) Tactical intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the Department of Defense.
(9) National security aspects of merchant marine, including financial assistance for the construction and operation of vessels, maintenance of the U.S. shipbuilding and ship repair industrial base, cabotage, cargo preference, and merchant marine officers and seamen as these matters relate to the national security.
(10) Pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the armed forces.
(11) Scientific research and development in support of the armed services.
(12) Selective service.
(13) Size and composition of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
(14) Soldiers’ and sailors’ homes.
(15) Strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

And here's the Senate Committee's official jurisdiction:

1. Aeronautical and space activities peculiar to or primarily associated with the development of weapons systems or military operations.
2. Common defense.
3. Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force, generally.
4. Maintenance and operation of the Panama Canal, including administration, sanitation, and government of the Canal Zone.
5. Military research and development.
6. National security aspects of nuclear energy.
7. Naval petroleum reserves, except those in Alaska.
8. Pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the Armed Forces, including overseas education of civilian and military dependents.
9. Selective service system.
10. Strategic and critical materials necessary for the common defense.

(2) Such committee shall also study and review, on a comprehensive basis, matters relating to the common defense policy of the United States, and report thereon from time to time.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I won't get into the politics of DADT, except to say that I support a repeal and allowing gay and bisexual soldiers to serve in the military. For one thing, there are issues of equality to consider. For another, the military has very few Arabic and Farsi speakers and too many have been discharged under DADT.

Homosexuality in the U.S. military goes back to the Revolutionary War when Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin was drummed out of the service for attempting to engage in sodomy with another solider. For many decades, "sodomy" was classified as a crime under the Articles of War. In 1942, the policy of discharge for homosexuality was officially codified. Depending on the circumstances, soldiers discharged after being caught engaging in homosexual activity often could not collect veterans' benefits. Draftees during the Vietnam era sometimes claimed to be gay to avoid the draft.

Source

One of Bill Clinton's early efforts was to repeal the policy and allow gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly. Naturally the homophobes balked. The eventual compromise -- DADT -- was authored by Colin Powell and included in the Fiscal Year 1994 Defense Authorization Bill.

The repeal movement's current champion is Rep. Patrick Murphy (Pa-08). The former U.S. Army lawyer has introduced legislation in the last three Congresses to overturn DADT and allow gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to serve openly. Currently the bill is in the House Subcommittee on Military personnel. Murphy is a member and Susan A. Davis of California is the subcommittee chair. More information on the subcommittees appears below. Murphy's bill has 164 co-sponsors, but it is more important to get Chairwoman Davis to bring the bill to a markup/vote in the subcommittee and get Chairman Skelton to do the same in the full committee.

Other current issues

House Committee hearings: The House Committee has several hearings scheduled for this week, including professional development in the military, psychological stress of members of the military, and an assessment of the U.S.-Russian security arrangement.

Senate Committee hearings: This Week, the Senate Committee is dealing with several nominations, including Secretary of the Army.

Update: How did I miss this? The nominee for Secretary of the Army is John McHugh, the ranking member of the House Committee.

Gitmo: Both committees are dealing with the question of what to do with the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this month, the Senate Committee received testimony on the legal issues surrounding holding trials for the prisoners. Here is a link to the testimony and a webcast of the hearing. The House Committee last week marked up House Resolution 602 which would:

Requesting that the President and directing that the Secretary of Defense transmit to the House of Representatives all information in their possession relating to specific communications regarding detainees and foreign persons suspected of terrorism.

In addition, there are numerous bills in the two committees relating to the closing of Gitmo. The problem, of course, is that he have to find homes for the innocent and hold trials for the rest. Since the Bush Administration did exactly zero on this issue, this might unfortunately take a while. This is an issue we need to continue to pursue. We need to identify, try and punish the guilty and release the innocents.

Defense Authorization Act: Each year, Congress must pass the Defense Authorization Act, which sets the spending priorities for the Department of Defense for the year and make any Congressionally-directed policy changes like it did with DADT. (It will be up to the appropriations committees to actually fund those programs). The Senate passed the bill on Thursday. This was the bill that cut the authorization for those F-22s and expanded the hate crimes law. The House has already passed their version with significant differences. This bill will got to conference committee and a final vote will probably take place this fall. A full summary of the House version is on the committee's home page and here is the easy to understand round up from Congress Matters.

Subcommittees

Here is a brief run down of the subcommittees.

House subcommittees:

Readiness:

Military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance issues and programs. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for all military construction, installations and family housing issues, including the base closure process, and energy policy and programs of the Department of Defense.

Chair: Solomon Ortiz, Texas
Ranking member: J. Randy Forbes, Virginia

Seapower and Expeditionary Forces:

Navy and Marine Corps acquisition programs (except strategic weapons, space, special operations, and information technology programs) and Naval Reserve equipment. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for maritime programs under the jurisdiction of the Committee as delineated in paragraphs 5, 6, and 9 of clause 1(c) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives.

Chair: Gene Taylor, Mississippi
Ranking member: W. Todd Akin, Missouri

Air and Land Forces:

All Army and Air Force acquisition programs (except strategic missiles, special operations and information technology programs). In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for deep strike bombers and related systems, National Guard and Army and Air Force reserve modernization, and ammunition programs.

Chair: Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii
Ranking member: Roscoe Bartlett, Maryland

Oversight and Investigations:

Any matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee, subject to the concurrence of the Chairman of the Committee and, as appropriate, affected subcommittee chairmen. The subcommittee shall have no legislative jurisdiction.

Chair: Vic Snyder, Arkansas
Ranking member: Rob Wittman, Virginia

Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities:

Department of Defense counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism programs and initiatives. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for Special Operations Forces; science and technology policy, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and information technology programs; force protection policy; homeland defense and consequence management programs within the Committee’s jurisdiction; and related intelligence support.

Chair: Adam Smith, Washington
Ranking member: Jeff Miller, Florida

Strategic Forces:

Strategic weapons (except deep strike bombers and related systems), space programs, ballistic missile defense, intelligence policy and national programs, and Department of Energy national security programs (except non-proliferation programs).

Chair: Jim Langevin, Rhode Island
Ranking member: Michael Turner, Ohio

Military Personnel:

Military personnel policy, reserve component integration and employment issues, military health care, military education, and POW/MIA issues. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for Morale, Welfare and Recreation issues and programs.

Chair: Susan A. Davis, California
Ranking member: Joe Wilson, South Carolina


Senate Subcommittees
Airland
Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Personnel
Readiness and Management Support
Seapower
Strategic Forces

I don't have jurisdiction statements for the Senate subcommittees, but the membership lists are available at the link above.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Jazz and Politics

Two of the great loves of my life are Jazz and Politics. In this short video the First Lady talks about both - and the relationship between the two. There are some interesting comments - and the background music is superb. Enjoy -

Sunday, 26 July 2009

English Court Televised

Cameras are not allowed in English courts. However an exception will be made this week. The House of Lords Judicial Committee - the Highest Court in the English Legal System - sits for the last time this week. (From October there will be a new Supreme Court). The final appeals and judgments will be broadcast.



Further details are available at http://news.parliament.uk/2009/07/from-house-of-lords-to-supreme-court/

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A break - but some bad news

Washminster will be taking a short break, but will return towards the end of the month - and, as with last summer, I have some history to share with you while Parliament and Congress are on summer break.

The bad, and sad, news is that the Trover bookshop is to close at the end of the month. It is a political (though it sold a much wider range of books and magazines too) bookshop on Capitol Hill where I always spend many happy hours (and not a few dollars!) when I'm visiting DC. There were frequent book signings. I'm not sure what the origin of the name was - but I regarded it as a true 'treasure trove' where I found many books which now sit in my library in Milton Keynes, England.

I for one will miss the shop - and its friendly and helpful staff. If you are in the DC area - don't miss the opportunity to pop in one last time.

http://www.trover.com/

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Explaining Health Care Reform

A YouTube Video from the Speaker's Office explains why Health Care needs reform.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Swearing in

The swearing in of Al Franken

France and Westminster

Today is Bastille Day. It will be celebrated in the House of Lords River Restaurant with a special menu which includes French Onion Soup; Coq au Vin and there will be "French 75" cocktails at the Lords Bar.

Elsewhere in the Palace, the joint history of England and France is celebrated - with paintings of the Battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar in the Royal Gallery - and in the coats of arms of towns where the English beat the French on the staircase towards the Committee Corridor.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Parliamentary Reform

There is much talk about the need for Parliamentary Reform - and the various actions which could restore the reputation of the UK's legislature and improve its effectiveness. I asked Lord Norton of Louth, described by the House Magazine as "our greatest living expert on Parliament" for his views.



Lord Norton has written extensively on the workings of the British Parliament and on legislatures generally. [Recent Publications] He continues as Professor of Government at the University of Hull whilst playing a full part in the activities of the House of Lords. He has served as the Chairman of the House of Lords Constitution and frequently contributes to debates on constitutional matters.

He regularly blogs on "Lords of the Blog" - an indispensable site for anyone wanting to understand and follow the House of Lords.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The History of Whips

You may know that I am currently undertaking research into Whips (and Whips Organisations) in the four Houses which make up the UK Parliament and US Congress. A very interesting book - which is both an important reference point for me - and was key in fixing my research interest in this area - is Tim Renton's "Chief Whip" (London: Politicos, 2005 ISBN 1-84275-129-8).

Lord Renton of Mount Harry (as he now known, since he was appointed to the House of Lords in 1997), describes his own period as Chief Whip - during the last 16 months of Mrs Thatcher's premiership. These first five chapters are interesting enough in their own right. The second part of the book describes the history of the post of Chief Whip [formally known as the "Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury"] - and some of the holders of that title.

I'm now using the book as a reference work - it has good footnotes linking to the original material. You may enjoy it as I did, as entertaining and informative summer reading.
Today's photograph is of a fictional Chief Whip - Francis Urquhart - a wonderful Machiavellian character created by Michael Dobbs in his book "House of Cards". That too is an excellent book - but may be??? a bit hard on whips.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Senate & House Voting Behaviour

In the excellent blog "Congress Matters" (which I read as part of my daily reading for current legislative matters), David Waldman explains the different practices for "rebelling" in the two Houses within Congress.

He wrote in the blog -

In the House, when the [Democratic] leadership needs to move legislation that might be a tough vote for members from conservative-leaning districts, they let it be known that certain of their number will be free to "vote their districts." But it's a very rare event that legislation is simply pulled at their behest.

Now, most of that is due to the nature of the way the House functions versus the Senate, of course. But it's important to point out: House members are considered to be doing the "safe" thing in voting against important legislation if the think their districts "demand" it. And sometimes, if the whip count is solid, they get a pass on the rule, too. But voting against the rule is looked on with considerably less favor. (Or at least, it used to be. These days voting against the rule for no particular reason other than to lower the percentage of votes one casts in support of the leadership has come into limited acceptance.)

The point, though, is that House members are considered to have adequately protected themselves if they vote against legislation that ultimately passes despite their vote. But move to the Senate, and suddenly that's not enough.

Maybe that's because so many people know enough about filibusters and cloture voting to know that there's at least the option available to Senators to stop legislation they oppose this way. But filibusters have become far too common of late, in part because of changes to the way they're conducted. "Painless filibusters" have long since replaced the real thing, and unanimous consent agreements requiring 60-vote thresholds have made things even easier.

The failure to distinguish between procedural and substantive voting in the Senate is akin to the failure in the House to make the same distinction with regard to motions to recommit. And though much of the difficulty with those motions was removed by the rules change earlier this year that eliminated the "promptly" instruction, it remains a weapon potent enough that it continues to hold DC voting rights hostage.

The distinction between voting againgst the party on a procedural motion and voting against the party on the substantive issue is important when considering members' behaviour in Congress.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

CRS have produced an analysis of the Supreme Court nominee's judgements on a number of issues. It is available at http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R40649_20090619.pdf

A video and biography of judge Sotomayor can be found at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/05/27/sonia_sotomayor/

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Listen to Capitol Steps

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of Capitol Steps (and even got to see them on a visit to Washington DC). Every year they broadcast specials on particular holidays.

This year's July 4th broadcast is now available at http://www.capsteps.com/radio/. I am listening to it (in Milton Keynes) as I write this entry - I hope you enjoy the broadcast - I certainly am!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Apologies

Due to a technical problem, yesterday's post on "Al Franken" failed to show either the text of the post or the very amusing video that the post contained.

Despite a number of attempts, I was unable to resolve the problem. You can watch the video on the following link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_mwsDFm7bQ

A Tribute in Legislative Language

The House of Representatives is paying tribute to Michael Jackson with a House Resolution. It is of course written in the appropriate language. A reasoned argument "whereas...." leading to a resolution.


RESOLUTION

Honoring an American legend and musical icon.

Whereas Michael Jackson was not only an accomplished recording and performing artist, he was a noted humanitarian;

Whereas Michael Jackson began his stellar recording career as the featured member of `The Jackson 5', which was the first act in recorded history to have their first four major label singles `I Want You Back',`ABC',`The Love You Save', and `I'll Be There', reached the top of the American charts;

Whereas the internationally recognized `Thriller' released in 1982, which became a smash hit yielded seven top-10 singles. The album sold 21 million copies in the United States and at least 27 million worldwide. It was a monumental moment in music history;

Whereas Michael Jackson was labeled `The King of Pop', Jackson's music is internationally recognized and critically acclaimed;

Whereas Michael Jackson was one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice;

Whereas in the early 1980s, Michael Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music and the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong crossover following on MTV. The popularity of his music videos airing on MTV, such as `Beat It', `Billie Jean' and `Thriller'--widely credited with transforming the music video from a promotional tool into an art form--helped bring the relatively new channel to fame;

Whereas, on January 10, 1984, Michael Jackson visited the unit for burn victims at Brotman-Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, and demonstrated his concern with people suffering from grievous injuries;

Whereas, on April 9, 1984, David Smithee, a 14-year-old boy suffering from cystic fibroses was invited to Michael's home, in response to a dying request to meet Michael. David passed away 7 weeks later;

Whereas, on April 14, 1984, Michael Jackson was single handedly responsible for equipping a 19-bed-unit at Mount Sinai New York Medical Center. This center is now a critical part of the T.J. Martell Foundation for leukemia and cancer research;

Whereas, on July 5, 1984, during the Jackson's press conference at Tavern On The Green, Michael announced that his portion of the earnings from the Victory Tour would be donated to three charitable organizations: The United Negro College Fund, Camp Good Times, and the T.J. Martell Foundation;

Whereas, on July 14, 1984, after the first concert of the Victory Tour, Michael met 8 terminally ill children backstage;

Whereas, on December 13, 1984, Michael visited the Brotman Memorial Hospital, where he had been treated when he was burned during the producing of a Pepsi commercial. He subsequently donated all the money he received from Pepsi, $1.5 million, to the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children;

Whereas, on January 28, 1985 Michael and 44 other artists met to record `We Are The World', written by Michael and Lionel Ritchie, a project devoted to fighting global hunger. The proceeds of this record were donated to the starving people in Africa;

Whereas in 1986, Michael set up the `Michael Jackson UNCF Endowed Scholarship Fund'. This $1.5 million fund is aimed toward assisting students majoring in performance art and communications, with money given each year to students attending a UNCF member college or university;

Whereas, on February 28, 1986, after having had a heart-transplant, 14-year-old Donna Ashlock from California received a call from Michael Jackson . He had heard that she was a fan. Michael invited Donna to his home following her recovery;

Whereas, on September 13, 1987, Michael supported a campaign against racism. He made every effort to publicly support NAACP, in the fight against discrimination of African-American artists;
Whereas in October 1987, at the end of his `Bad Tour', Michael donated personal items to UNESCO for a charitable auction. The proceeds of his donation were allocated for the education of children in developing countries;

Whereas, on February 1, 1988 The Song `Man In the Mirror' entered the charts. The proceeds from the sales of this record went directly and exclusively to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a camp for children who suffer from Cancer;

Whereas, on March 1, 1988, at a press conference held by his sponsor Pepsi, Michael presented a $600,000 check to the United Negro College Fund;

Whereas on April 1988, Michael Jackson ensured that free tickets to three concerts in Atlanta, Georgia, were specifically set aside for the Make a Wish Foundation;

Whereas, on May 22, 1988, Michael visited cancer-stricken children in the Bambini-Gesu Children's Hospital in Rome. He signed autographs and gave away sweets and records to the young patients. He also announced his monetary donation of 100,000 pounds to the hospital;

Whereas, on July 16, 1988, Michael met the Prince of Wales and his wife Diana, where he donated 150,000 pounds for the Prince's Trust, and a check of 100,000 pounds for the children's hospital at Great Ormond Street;

Whereas, on July 20, 1988, Michael visited terminally ill children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. At a unit for less critical patients he stayed longer and to engage in story telling time with the children;

Whereas, on August 29, 1988, at his 30th birthday Michael performed a concert in Leeds, England, for the English charity organization `Give For Life', an organization designed as an immunization charity for children. Michael presented a check for 65,000 pounds;

Whereas on January 1989, the proceeds of one of Michael's shows in Los Angeles were donated to Childhelp USA, the biggest charity organization against child abuse. In appreciation of the contributions of Michael, Childhelp of Southern California founded the `Michael Jackson International Institute for Research On Child Abuse';

Whereas, on January 10, 1989, upon the winding down of his `Bad Tour', Michael Jackson donated tickets for each concert to underprivileged children, and made contributions to hospitals, orphanages and charity organizations throughout each stop on his tour;

Whereas, on February 7, 1989, Michael visited the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, a site of playground violence where 5 children had been tragically killed and 39 had been wounded;

Whereas, on March 5, 1989, Michael invited 200 underprivileged children of the St. Vincent Institute for Handicapped Children and of the organization Big Brothers and Big Sisters to the Circus Vargas in Santa Barbara. Following the event, the children were invited to his ranch to visit his private Zoo at Neverland Ranch;

Whereas in December 1991, Michael's office MJJ Productions donated more than 200 turkey dinners to needy families in Los Angeles;

Whereas in February 1992, within 11 days Michael covered 30,000 miles in Africa, to visit hospitals, orphanages, schools, churches, and institutions for mentally handicapped children;

Whereas, on February 3, 1992, at a press conference at the New York Radio City Music Hall, Michael announced that he is planning a new world tour, to raise funds for his new `Heal The World' Foundation. This Foundation was designed to support the fight against AIDS, Juvenile Diabetes, the Ronald McDonald Camp, and the Make A Wish Foundation;

Whereas, on May 6, 1992, Michael defrayed the funeral expenses for Ramon Sanchez, who was killed during the Los Angeles riots;

Whereas, on June 26, 1992, Michael presented the Mayor of Munich, Mr. Kronawitter, with a 40,000 DM check for the needy people of the city;

Whereas on July 1992, Michael donated 821,477,296 Lire to La Partita del Cuore (The Heart Match) in Rome and donated 120,000 DM to children's charities in Estonia and Latvia;
Whereas, on July 25, 1992, at his concert in Dublin, Ireland, Michael announced that he will give 400,000 pounds of the tour earnings to various charities;

Whereas in June 1993, Michael announced a donation of $1.25 million for children suffering as a result of the riots in Los Angeles;

Whereas on October 1993, Michael Jackson donated $100,000 to the Children's Defense Fund, the Children's Diabetes Foundation, the Atlanta Project, and the Boys and Girl Clubs of Newark, New Jersey;

Whereas on December 1993, in conjunction with the Gorbachev Foundation, Michael Jackson airlifted 60,000 doses of children's vaccines to Tblisi, Georgia;

Whereas in 1994, Michael donated $500,000 to Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS Foundation;

Whereas, on October 1, 1996, Michael donated the proceeds of his Tunisia concert to `The National Solidarity Fund', a charity dedicated to fighting poverty;

Whereas, on December 9, 1996, during the `History Tour' visit in Manila, Michael visited a Children's Hospital, where he announced that a portion of his concert earnings will be donated to the renovation of the Hospital;

Whereas the Millennium Issue of the `Guinness Book Of Records' named Michael as `the Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations';

Whereas in 2004, The African Ambassadors' Spouses Association, honored Michael Jackson for his worldwide humanitarian efforts, due to his fiscal contribution of more than $50 million to various charities, including many organizations that feed the hungry in Africa; and

Whereas we today mourn with and send our condolences to the children that Michael Jackson left behind: Prince Michael, Paris Michael, and Prince Michael II and his mother, father, brothers, and sisters: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes Michael Jackson as a global humanitarian and a noted leader in the fight against worldwide hunger and medical crises; and
(2) celebrates Michael Jackson as an accomplished contributor to the worlds of arts and entertainment, scientific advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and global food security.

Speakers Lists

In the House of Lords, for general debates (including action on a bill, except for debates on specific amendments), Speakers lists are maintained by the Whips Office. Members can sign up for these lists - either in the Whips Office itself (where there is a computer screen) or via the internet. If the debate is in the afternoon they have until noon that day - or 6pm the previous day for a morning debate.

Once the list is closed - it is arranged into order - after consultation "through the usual channels" (defined as the Leaders and/or the Chief Whips of the three main parties, and sometimes (but not always) the Convenor of the Crossbench Peers - Handbook of House of Lords Procedure - Mary Robertson and Thomas Elias (Dods: London, 2006)).

The final list usually appears at around 2pm on most days.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Week Ahead

Congress returns this week - and Al Franken is due to be seated on Tuesday. A Climate Change bill is on its way to the Senate after being narrowly passed in the House before the holiday break. However it is likely to face much resistance - Inhofe said last week that it would be dead on arrival.

House of Representative business is listed at http://democraticleader.house.gov/links_and_resources/whip_resources/weeklyleader.cfm?pressReleaseID=3176

At Westminster the House of Lords gets to look at the Parliamentary Standards Bill (2nd Reading on 8th July, provisional), minus the offending clause which was voted out in the Commons. The Commons will consider the Finance Bill - and debate ID Cards.

The Parliamentary Calendar is available at http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sulgrave

Once again Independence Day weekend approaches. It will be celebrated across the USA, and (ironically, since it celebrates independence FROM Great Britain) in many places in the UK. There is a special menu being served in some of the restaurants and cafes around the Palace of Westminster.

One place that always has a special celebration is Sulgrave Manor in southern Northamptonshire. It was the home of George Washington's Great, Great, Great Grandfather - the first in his family to hold executive office (as Mayor of Northampton).

Details of Sulgrave Manor and the weekend's events can be found at http://www.sulgravemanor.org.uk/

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Select Committes

The Hansard Society has made the recordings of the sessions of its conference on Select Committees available at http://ow.ly/gfGP

Summer in the City

It's been pretty uncomfortable at Westminster this week - it's been quite a heatwave. But any discomfort is nothing like the summers in the Victorian period. Air conditioning hadn't been invented. As the industrial age developed - and more people moved towards the growing city of London - the Thames became horribly polluted.

1858 saw an unusually hot summer. The smell, particularly of the sewerage, was so great that the work at Westminster was affected. Interim measures included draping curtains soaked in chloride of lime around the Palace. There was even talks of temporarily removing Parliament up to Hampton Court.

When the weather eventually broke, conditions improved. A Commons select committee was set up to study the causes, and produce solutions to the problems. Subsequently a bill was rushed through Parliament and became law in 18 days, to provide more money to construct a massive new sewer scheme for London, and to build the Embankment along the Thames in order to improve the flow of water and of traffic.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Costs of the Monarchy

This week we are told how little the Royal Family costs the country. Of course Kings and Queens were masters of spin long before democracy emerged. The figures that are being proclaimed are just the costs of the Civil List. Indeed, if you divide those costs by the total population (which includes non-taxpayers) you come up with a "price" similar to a loaf of bread.

A fairer picture can be found here. I guess that losing £167m from your calculations is of little concern to a very rich family. [Queen's wealth] Is it worth it? Well if you haven't read Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" - this week ending with Independence Day - now's the time to do so - it is available here.