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All hail Senate ‘democracy’
by Jake Highton
Jan 16, 2010 | 807 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The National Labor Relations Board has been deadlocked 1-1 for months, unable to decide important cases. Why? Vaunted American democracy.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona put a hold on one of three appointments by President Obama to fill out the board. McCain objects to the appointment of Craig Becker, lawyer for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union. Becker’s crime? He is pro-union.

The chokehold cannot be broken unless the Senate musters 60 votes. Sixty, a supermajority to begin with, is abetted by “senatorial courtesy” that loyally supports a club member’s obstruction.

One man can paralyze a major federal agency and thwart democracy.

Gail Collins, New York Times columnist, recently cited another glaring example of the undemocratic Senate. Her population math showed how the Senate can stop any bill from passing. The result is both astonishing and embarrassing in a purported democracy:

“U.S population: 307,006,550,” Collins wrote. “Population for the 20 least populated states: 31,434,822. (Each state has two U.S. senators.) That means that in the Senate all it takes to halt legislation is one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the population.”

U.S. wrong — again


One hundred and ninety-three nations have ratified the U.N. treaty on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified  human rights accord in history. The two balkers: the United States and Somalia.

Nuclear double standard

The New York Times has a double standard on nuclear proliferation. It constantly cites the Iranian nuclear “threat.” It never mentions that Israel refuses to admit it has nuclear weapons.

Misguided policies

Headline in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Ungrateful Pakistanis and Afghans hate U.S.” What a surprise! People are dying every day in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan because of the cruel and misguided policies of Presidents Bush and Obama.


Palin beyond satire

News item: Sarah Palin has joined Fox News as a commentator. The know-nothing has found her niche.

Palin proclaimed that it was “wonderful to be a part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.”

The statement is beyond satire. Fox is an unabashed propagandist for the Republican Party.

Yet Fox knows where the money is. Palin has 1.1 million Facebook followers. Her coloring book “Going Rogue” is a runaway best-seller. She is a darling of the Right.

Hamlet vs. Lear

The literary “hot stove” debate is endless and fruitless but always exciting. It’s a matter of individual taste and judgment.

An English professor friend of mine argues that Robert Frost is the best American poet. No, I argue, it’s Walt Whitman. Whitman is deeper and broader than Frost.

Charles Isherwood, New York Times theater reviewer, wrote last Friday that many people consider “King Lear” to be Shakespeare’s best play — perhaps the greatest play ever.

I disagree. “Hamlet” is the best Shakespeare play. It is the greatest play ever written.

Both plays are powerful. But “Hamlet” is far more cerebral. “Lear” is visceral. It contains two of the gloomiest lines in all literature: (1) “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.” (2) Gloucester, after being blinded, is told to “smell his way to Dover.”

But to me the intellect prevails over the visceral.

Eric Rasmussen, who teaches Shakespeare at the University of Nevada, Reno, writes in an e-mail to me:

“My twenty-something UNR students prefer ‘Hamlet’ hands down. But my octogenerian ElderCollege students plump for ‘Lear.’ If it’s any indication, the number of scholarly books and articles published on ‘Hamlet’ each year is invariably greater than ‘Lear.’ ”

Monarchial mummery

Prince Charles, the future king of Canada, was met with yawns on a recent 11-day visit to Canada. Justly so.

The sooner the Canadians sever all ties with Great Britain the better. The mummery of monarchy is outdated by two centuries.

Yes, the Brits once owned Canada. But Canada has been a self-governing dominion since 1931.

In separatist Quebec the royal party was met by a barrage of egg-tossing protestors. Justly so.

The monarchy is old and feeble. Canada is young and dynamic. It is not a museum conserving ancient relics.

Two cheers for Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America will mark its 100th anniversary in February. Bully! Scouting was extremely important to me as a boy. I recommend joining even though I oppose its anti-gayism and anti-atheism

Jake Highton teaches journalism at UNR. He can be reached at
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