The Myth of Democratic Super Majority.

One of the standard Republican talking points is that the Democrats had a filibuster-proof, super majority for two years between 2008 and 2010. This talking point is usually trotted out when liberals complain that the Republicans filibustered virtually every piece of legislation proposed by Obama or the Democrats during Obama’s presidency. The implication is that Democrats had ample opportunity to pass legislation and that the reason they didn’t pass more legislation doesn’t have anything to do with the Republicans.

It is also used to counter any argument that Republican legislation, (passed during the six years of total Republican control,) has anything to do with today’s problems. They claim that the Democrats had a super majority for two years and passed all kinds of legislation, (over Republican objection and filibuster,) that completely undid all Republican policies and legislation, and this absolves them from today’s problems.

The Truth is that the Democrats only had a filibuster-proof majority for 60 working days during that period, insufficient time to undo even a small portion of the legislation passed during six years of Republican control. Here are the details:

To define terms, a Filibuster-Proof Majority or Super Majority is the number of votes required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. According to current Senate rules, 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster.

Here is a time-line of the events  after the 2008 election:

1. BALANCE BEFORE THE ELECTION. In 2007 – 2008 the balance in the Senate was 51-49 in favor of the Democrats. On top of that, there was a Republican president who would likely veto any legislation the Republicans didn’t like. Not exactly a super majority.

2. BIG GAIN IN 2008, BUT STILL NO SUPER MAJORITY. Coming out the 2008 election, the Democrats made big gains, but they didn’t immediately get a Super Majority. The Minnesota Senate race required a recount and was not undecided for more than six months. During that time, Norm Coleman was still sitting in the Senate and the Balance 59-41, still not a Super Majority.

3. KENNEDY GRAVELY ILL. Teddy Kennedy casthis last vote in April and left Washington for good around the first of May. Technically he could come back to Washington vote on a pressing issue, but in actual fact, he never returned, even to vote on the Sotomayor confirmation. That left the balance in the Senate 58-41, two votes away from a super majority.

4. STILL NO SUPER MAJORITY. In July, Al Frankin was finally declared the winner and was sworn in on July 7th, 2009, so the Democrats finally had a Super Majority of 60-40 six and one-half months into the year. However, by this point, Kennedy was unable to return to Washington even to participate in the Health Care debate, so it was only a technical super majority because Kennedy could no longer vote and the Senate does not allow proxies. Now the actual actual balance of voting members was 59-40 not enough to overcome a Republican filibuster.

5. SENATE IS IN RECESS. Even if Kennedy were able to vote, the Senate went into summer recess three weeks later, from August 7th to September 8th.

6. KENNEDY DIES. Six weeks later, on Aug 26, 2009 Teddy Kennedy died, putting the balance at 59-40. Now the Democrats don’t even have technical super majority.

7. FINALLY, A SUPER MAJORITY! Kennedy’s replacement was sworn in on September 25, 2009, finally making the majority 60-40, just enough for a super majority.

8. SENATE ADJOURNS. However the Senate adjourned for the year on October 9th, only providing 11 working days of super majority, from September 25th to October 9th.

9. SPECIAL SESSIONS. During October, November and December, the Senate had several special sessions to deal with final passage of ACA and Budget appropriations.

October = 13th – 15th, 20th – 22nd, 27th, 29th = 8 days
November = 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th  16th, 17th, 19th, 21st = 8 days
December = 1st, 3rd  - 8th, 10th – 13th, 15th – 18th, 19th, 21st – 24th = 20 days

Total Special Session Days = 36.

8. SCOTT BROWN ELECTED. Scott Brown was elected on January 19th 2010. The Senate was in session for 10 days in January, but Scott Brown wasn’t sworn into office on February 4th, so the Democrats only had 13 days of super majority in 2010.

Summary:

Regular Session: 11 working days
Special Session: 36 working days
Lame Duck Session:  13 working days

The Democrats only had 60 days of Super Majority between 2008 and 2010.

Discussion: One of the central themes of the Republican argument is that the Democrats had a super majority for two full years and so they had plenty of time pass new legislation or undo any problems that were caused by six years of Republican control of all three branches of government. This is argument is used by the Republicans immunize themselves against any responsibility for ongoing problems that might have been caused by their policies.

However, the fact is that the Democrats had a super majority for a total of 60 days, which is no where near the two years that Republicans are always claiming.  On top of that, the period of Super Majority was split into short sessions, none of which was longer than five days. In addition, the special session time was entirely devoted to budget issues and Republican amendments to the ACA.

Given the glacial pace that business takes place in the Senate, this was way too little time for the Democrats pass any meaningful legislation, let alone get bills through committees and past all the obstructionistic tactics the Republicans were using to block legislation. No one can seriously expect that the Democrats could undo in 60 days all the damage that Republicans created in six years.

Further, these Super Majorities count Joe Lieberman as a Democrat even though he was by this time an Independent. Even though he was Liberal on some legislation, he was very conservative on other issues and opposed many of the key pieces of legislation the Democrats and Obama wanted to pass. For example, he was adamantly opposed to “Single Payer” health care and vowed to support a Republican Filibuster if it ever came to the floor. He even threatened to caucus with the Republicans if legislation came to the floor that he didn’t like.

Summary:

1. 1/07 – 12/08 –      51-49 – Ordinary Majority.
2. 1/09 – 7/14/09 – 59-41 – Ordinary Majority. (Coleman/Franklin Recount.)
3. 7/09 – 8/09 -      60-40 – Technical Super Majority, but since Kennedy is unable to vote, the Democrats can’t overcome a filibuster
4. 8/09 – 9/09 -      59-40 – Ordinary Majority. (Kennedy dies)
5. 9/09 – 12/24-   60-40 – Super Majority for 47 working days.
6. 1/10 – 2/10 –  60-40 – Super Majority for 13 working days

Total Time of the Democratic Super Majority: 60 Working days.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_111_1.htm
http://www.senate.gov/legislative/resources/pdf/2009_calendar.pdf
http://www.senate.gov/legislative/resources/pdf/2010_calendar.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Minnesota,_2008
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/111th_United_States_Congress

Tea Party Philosophy in Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are 12,000 words from the Tea Party on the current president of the United States. Can anyone have any doubt about the true nature of the Tea Party after seeing these pictures?

A Quiz For Global-Warming Deniers.

We commonly hear that Global Warming is “junk science” and that all the claims have been discredited. If that is so, then it should be easy to address each of the basic ideas behind global warming. So, for  Man-made Global Warming deniers, which of the following facts don’t you believe?

1. We are burning more and more coal, oil and natural gas. (Doubled since 1960.)

2. Burning oil, coal, and natural gas releases CO2. (Doubled since 1970)

3. The Oceans have a fixed volume of water and have a limited ability to absorb CO2.

4. Plants have a limited ability to absorb CO2 and with deforestation it is decreasing. (10-million hectares/year.)

5. The net amount of CO2 in the atmospher is increasing; by 23% since 1959 and by 49% since 1850. (1850 = 280PPM.)

6. The current CO2 level of 390 PPM is higher than any time in the last 400,000 years. (Previous peak from Antartice ice cores 300PPM)

7. The last time CO2 levels were has high as today was 2.1-million years ago. (Previous pre-industrial peaks were around 300PPM, 400,000 years ago).

8. CO2 blocks Infrared radiation centered around 1.4um and is thus a greenhouse gas.

9. The CO2 increase over the last 150 years is responsible for the earth retaining 1.4 watts per M^2.

10. Various cycles such as sun spot cycles, orbital cycles, etc. amount to no more that 0.4 watts per M^2.

11. Positive feedback mechanisms, methane release, less snow cover, increased water vapor increase the effects by 2 to 9 watts per M^2.

12. Control quesiton: the earth is more than 2-billion years old.

1. http://www.people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch8en/conc8en/worldfossil.html
2. http://math.nist.gov/~BRust/pubs/Interface2003/MS.pdf
4. http://www.edf.org/documents/4930_tropicaldeforestation_and_climatechange.pdf
5. http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.html
http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0618-co2.html

6. http://www.daviesand.com/Choices/Precautionary_Planning/New_Data/

7. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/324/5934/1551
http://oregonstate.edu/media/smpnt

8. http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Kiehl%20and%20Ram%20JGR%2088%20C9%205191-5202%201983.pdf

9. http://www.naturalscience.com/ns/articles/01-16/ns_jeh.html

11. http://www.interflush.co.uk/htm/GlobalWarmingmeasuredinhiroshimabombs.doc

Disappearing Comments On Huffington Post

Many people who post on Huffington Post get frustrated because their comments disappear or seem excessively moderated. People often take this personally and complain that the moderators are being unfair and are picking on them. In reality, posts are rarely banned for the reasons people think. In most cases, your post disappears because of software errors or filtering software that is completely impersonal. In fact, you have a great deal of control over how much your posts are scrutinized and whether your posts are displayed.

I don’t work for HP, but I do have a lot of experience building web sites and writing computer software. With some experimenting, I’ve figured out how the HP’s software works and what things get your comments displayed and what things will get them blocked. Here are the details:

1. WORDS. There are certain words that will get your post automatically flagged for moderation. If the software detects any one of the words, the following message will be displayed at the top of your post:

“This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.”

If you refresh the display, your comment will disappear and won’t be displayed until one of HP’s moderators has reviewed it. This may take one minute or several hours. When the post is finally approved, it does not go to the top of the comments. It is inserted into the comments in a slot that corresponds to the time you posted it. That means that your comment is usually dozens of pages back when it finally appears, so no one will see it.

The way to avoid getting the “comment-pending” message is to avoid words that will be flagged. For example, avoid using obviously obscene words and scatological words. Potentially insulting or threatening words will get you flagged. Remember, the software isn’t smart; it doesn’t know if you want the bill to “die” or want the person you are arguing with to “die.” As a result, you need to be careful with words like “kill,” “death,” “die,” “bury,” “stab” etc.

Insulting words, racist words, and even words referring to various religions can get your post flagged. Again, the software doesn’t know if you are being anti-semitic when you use the word “jew,” so to be safe, it automatically flags it no matter what your intentions were.

The tricky part is that some words that seem perfectly ordinary will get flagged. For example, the word “henry” is flagged because it an obscure sexual reference. (Note: there is a collection of potentially propblematic at the end of this article.)

2. CAMOUFLAGE. If you have to use one of the sensitive words, you can disguise it from the software using various tricks. For example, you can spell the word creatively so the software doesn’t recognize it:

Chit = shit

You can also substitute non-alphabetic character the a human would recognize but the computer would not:

he// = hell or h8te = hate

Finally, inserting punctuation in a word can make it unrecognizable to the software:

de.ath = death

This is probably the easiest to because you don’t have to think much: just insert a random period, dash or underscore in the questionable word and the software won’t be able to recognize the word and won’t trigger the censorship software.

Inserting a period works because it breaks the word into pieces and the software cannot recognize the pieces. For example, if you insert a period in the word “Lied” like this “Li.ed” the computer sees it as two separate words “Li” and “ed.”

Be careful where you put the period other wise you might not fix the problem. For example, if you the period here: “Lie.d”, the computer will see it as the two words “Lie” and “d,” so the computer still sees the offensive word “Lie” and will flag your post.

3. LOST POSTS. Sometimes your post will appear initially and then will disappear. It won’t be marked with the “pending” message; it will just disappear. Here is what happen with those posts:

When you press the “Post Comment” button, two things happen:

A. First, the software embedded in the web page displays your comment in your own browser. Since this software is running on your computer, the comment is displayed quickly without any need to talk to the Huffington Post Server.

B. Second, the same software sends a copy of your comment back to the Huffington Post server so it can be stored in a database and displayed anytime a particular page is displayed.

If anything goes wrong when the comment is sent back to the server, your comment will be lost and won’t get stored in the database. Even though it appeared in your browser, it will disappear as soon as you refresh the page.

There are several things that can cause your comment to be lost. First, if the server is very busy, it may missed the comment. A server can only handle so much traffic. When the maximum traffic is exceeded, the messages will simply get lost. You will normally see this problem when an article is getting lots of comments.

Another cause is refreshing the page before the message has been sent. For example, if you press the “Post A Comment” button and then immediately refresh the page, your browser may not have finished transmitting the comment to the server. Refreshing the page causes the browser to drop what it is doing, so the comment never gets sent.

It is best to wait a few seconds after you post a comment before refreshing the display. The same thing applies when you see the yellow box at the bottom of the page that says:

“New comments on this entry 340- Click to refresh.”

Clicking on it this yellow box causes the display to refresh, so you should also avoid clicking on it for a few seconds after you have posted a comment.

If you think your post has been lost, wait a couple minutes and refresh your browser. Sometimes the server is slow to put your post in the database and it will appear later. If it doesn’t reappear, just re-post the comment being careful not refresh the display for at least 15-seconds. That will usually solve the problem.

4. WRONG PAGE POSTS. If you go through your profile and navigate to one of your old comments, you might end up on the 100th page. If you then decide to post a new comment at the top of the page, your comment will initially go to the top of the 100th page. But if the page is refreshed, the comment will shift to the first page. If you are still on the 100th page, the post will seem to disappear.

5. SCROLLED POSTS. Posts can also disappear, not because they are lost, but because they are scrolled off the first page before you see them. The first page of comments usually has about 40 posts. If you post a comment and more than 40 comments come in, you post could be on the second, third or even fourth page before the browser refreshes the page.

When traffic is heavy, your post maybe on the first page for less than a minute. Since most people don’t look beyond the first page, your post may not be seen by more than a few people. To maximize the time your comment appears on the first page, wait for the “yellow box” to appear on the bottom of the window, click to refresh it and then post your comment immediately.

6. FULLY MODERATED ARTICLES. Some articles are “Fully Moderated.” That means every post will be held up until it is reviewed by the HP staff. There is nothing you can do about this and everybody is the same boat. It makes it hard to have a conversation with anyone, but Huffington is just being carefully with an especially controversial topic. If you are frustrated, go to a different article that isn’t fully moderated.

I’ve been gradually collecting words that will trigger your post being flagged. Some of them are pretty surprising:

Evil, Dick, Henry, Trans, Ugly, Kill, troll, Jew, Jewish, Vile, Moderators, McNutt, Rove, Nut, Rove, Blows