The Gulag Is Upon Us

So a 71-year-old law-abiding citizen is not allowed to hand-deliver letters about campaign finance reform to members of the House. I can understand requiring the letters to go through some kind of security screening –anthrax, you know — but to not allow him to deliver the letters at all seems, um, un-American.

It hasn’t been that long since a mob of rowdy teabaggers got into the Longworth House Office Building and heckled Democratic congresspersons, in particularly black Democratic congresspersons, and I don’t know that any were so much as briefly detained. Funny how that works.

See also this article by Joan Shipps at Raw Story.

Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted in favor of “H.J.Res. 43: Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014.” If enacted, the legislation would make using employer-based health insurance for in vitro fertilization or birth control pills a fireable offense in Washington, D.C.

That’s bad enough, but in some ways this part is more disturbing:

Thursday’s House floor debate kicked off after 9:00 PM. Before I entered the doors to the House Gallery, I complied with a police request to forfeit all my electronic devices. I inquired if I could get a press pass so I could take pictures. After a few radio calls, officials on the scene told me I could not have a press pass. So I relinquished my phone and proceeded to go in the Gallery anyway.

Before going through my second metal detector since entering the building, a police officer gave my purse a thorough examination. I had already put my purse through an x-ray machine.

When I entered the Gallery, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was imploring her Republican colleagues not to use the federal authority vested in them by people from other states to overturn local laws in Washington, D.C.

I sat down near D.C. voting rights activists who were attending the hearing and began to take notes on a steno pad. A congressional staffer came over and informed me I was not allowed to take notes.

 Not allowed to take notes? Maybe C-Span was there, I don’t know. But this is just twisted. Whose House is it, anyway?

Republicans Versus Republicanism

A republican government is supposed to be one in which “power resides in elected individuals representing the citizen body and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law,” according to Wikipedia. This appears to be a concept unfamiliar to today’s Republicans.

For example — I hadn’t heard Grover Norquist had been elected to anything by anybody. But it appears he holds supreme power in the state of Louisiana.

Republican state lawmakers in Louisiana and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist are in a war of words over the state’s terrible budget options, with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), a 2016 White House contender, stuck in the middle.

The state faces an enormous $1.6 billion budget shortfall, a reality Jindal blames on falling oil revenues. However, he is one of a number of GOP governors, many of them considering presidential runs, who have found themselves with budget crises due to their unwillingness to raise tax revenue. Jindal’s anti-tax orthodoxy has limited legislators’ options for balancing the state’s budget and means the state is facing the prospect of drastic cuts in key areas like higher education.

For months now legislators have accused Jindal of kowtowing to Norquist’s “no tax pledge,” which stipulates that taxes cannot be raised unless they’re offset by spending cuts elsewhere. And this weekend they’d had enough. A group of self-described “conservative” Republican state representatives took their complaints to Norquist himself, asking him to give them some wiggle room on raising taxes and to shoot down some Jindal-backed legislation that they say would set a “dangerous precedent” in how government could mask revenue hikes.

Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform, shot back Monday in a letter of his own, in which he okayed the proposal in question and called legislators’ inability to find cuts elsewhere “disconcerting.”

I assume no one in Louisiana pays attention to the state government, since if any of them did they’d be storming the state house with torches and pitchforks.

But that’s not the worst thing I’ve heard this week. Apparently Sam Brownback wants dictatorial powers in Kansas.

On Thursday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that threatens the entire state’s judiciary with destruction if it rules against a law he favors. Brownback has spent much of his tenure attempting to curb the state supreme court and consolidate power in the executive branch. Thursday’s startling maneuver suggests the deeply conservative governor has no compunction about simply obliterating separation of powers when another branch of government gets in his way.

That rule of law thing is so inconvenient sometimes

The Kansas trouble started in 2014, when the state supreme court ruled that the disparity between school funding in rich and poor districts violated the state constitution. The justices ordered the legislature to fix the problem. Soon after, the legislature passed an administrative law that stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets.

… Just in case the court didn’t get the message, Brownback and the legislature have also threatened the justices with blatantly political reforms, like subjecting them to recall elections, splitting the court in two, lowering the retirement age, and introducing partisan elections. …

… Now the court has an opportunity to strike down the administrative law, which probably violates the state constitution. And that’s where Brownback’s insane new law comes in. The law declares that if the supreme court strikes down the administrative law, the entire state judiciary will lose its funding. Brownback and the legislature are essentially bullying the judiciary: Uphold our law or cease to exist.

On the bright side, Rushbo’s reign of error on the radio appears to be coming to an end.