Occasionally congressional leaders become nationally known figures, like Tip O'Neil or Newt Gingrich did. More often they are more low-key, known to political junkies but not very well known to the average person. That was certainly true of U.S. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner until just recently. Now with the Republicans in full rebellion against the wasteful $800 billion spending bill currently being rammed through Congress (with more and more Democrats also expressing their misgivings) Rep. Boehner is emerging as the point man in the growing struggle to save the public from a major rip-off.
Amazingly, not a single Republican voted for the stimulus bill. President Obama, who was supposed to be the great unifier of a post-partisan era, has instead proven to be instantly polarizing and has completely alientated the other side after less than two weeks in office. But it isn't just against the stimulus rip-off that Republicans have united, they have also rallied behind their fast rising leader Boehner. According to Politico he received a hero's welcome last night:
The assembled Republicans rose in a standing ovation Thursday night when Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio showed them a C-SPAN video of the vote itself, according to people present. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told the group that Wednesday’s vote reminded him of a roll call in 1993, when Republicans forced Democrats to pass a tax increase without a single GOP vote. And conservative Arizona Rep. John B. Shadegg offered a toast to many of his more moderate Republican colleagues who opposed the legislation.
“If the Republican Party takes care of America, America will take care of the Republican Party,” the former speaker said.
He then predicted Boehner, his onetime rival, would be speaker “at a speed that will shock Democrats,” according to one person in the room.
Gingrich appeared to be predicting that history will repeat itself and Obama, like the last Democrat president Bill Clinton, will lose control of Congress two years after taking office, a blow from which the Clinton presidency never recovered and which would be equally devastating to Obama.
In a statement on his website Rep. Boehner made the following statement on the worsening prospects for the stimulus bill:
“This was a bipartisan rejection of a partisan bill. Families and small businesses across America are struggling, and they are counting on their leaders in Washington for ways to strengthen our economy. House Republicans want to work with congressional Democrats on legislation that fulfills the goal set by President Obama: crafting a bipartisan plan focused on job creation. Unfortunately, the trillion dollar government spending bill before the House today was not that plan, and a bipartisan coalition of Members rightfully rejected it."
Indeed eleven Democrats walked out on Obama and joined the Republicans in trying to kill the bill. The total lack of bipartisan support for the stimulus bill puts Democrats in a position that no politician likes to find themselves in - standing alone in a do or die situation. With no Republican support, if the stimulus fails, as a rising chorus of economists predict it will, then the Democrats are trapped with 100% of the blame. This puts enormous pressure on the Democrats to give in, give up and compromise like mad to do whatever is necessary to get at least some Republicans onboard.
Fairness for All
I'm pleased to see the article this week in the Valley Advocate by Mark Roessler on the use of the publicy owned Academy of Music in Northampton to hold a public gathering celebrating the inauguration of Democrat President Barack Obama. I couldn't help but wonder whether a similar event would have been held had the election been won by Republican John McCain.
Still, I didn't think it was that big a deal, but according to Roessler the event violated the terms of the deed giving the once privately owned Academy to the city:
"First, said granted premises shall be devoted and used solely and exclusively for the delivery of lectures, the production of concerts and operas and the impressions and delineation of the drama of the better character; and such other kindred subjects as shall be approved by the unanimous vote of the Committee or board of management hereinafter named; but said premises shall never be used for political meetings or rallies or for the distinctive presentation of party politics."
I'll still give the city a pass, since no real harm was done, but I'm glad to see this issue being raised, because the use of public property for partisan purposes is a slippery slope. In fact I saw it at its worst when I lived in Springfield.
In Springfield in the Albano era, whenever candidates loyal to the local Democrat political machine ran for office, they were allowed to use the inside of City Hall to hold campaign announcements and press conferences. There was no doubt that this gave the favored candidates an advantage in how they appeared on TV and in photographs, impressing people by making it appear as if the candidates already belonged in City Hall. However, when critics of the local machine tried to use the facilities for their campaign affairs, they were told it was not allowed!
Enter into the picture Brenda Branchini (above) a local hairdresser who decided in 1997 to run for office and wanted to use City Hall for her formal campaign announcement. Branchini was a colorful character, whose Court Square shop was notorious for offering, for an extra fee, the option of having your hair cut by females in very skimpy lingerie. Sadly, that sexy side of her business overshadowed the other aspects of her candidacy, which was a shame because in many ways she ran exactly the kind of issues based campaign one always hoped to see in Springfield but seldom did.
Branchini was bold, sassy, unbossed and unbought, and at one point she held a campaign parade that included homeless people, dogs and cats, sex workers and radicals of all stripes marching down Main Street with flutes, whistles and horns and demanding to be allowed to hold an inside City Hall rally just like those candidates blessed by the political establishment were allowed to do. She was turned away, but the incident attracted media attention. Once it became public that City Hall was being used to stage campaign rallies for priviliged insiders that were forbidden to other candidates, the policy was correctly changed to close City Hall to all partisan political activity.
The situation in Northampton is not as serious as it used to be in Springfield, but lest it devolve in that direction, in the future Northampton should make a special effort to insure that partisan politics stays out of public buildings. In the meantime it seems Springfield is now backsliding, as I notice that an Obama celebration was also held in Springfield at its publicly owned Civic Center. Hey Brenda, it may be time for another parade!
Ruined Restaurant Icon
Photographer Karen Leaf found this age-worn Abdow's Big Boy statue for sale at an antique store. Is it from the Big Boy that was located in Chicopee, or on Riverdale Road in West Springfield or the one on Boston Road in Springfield's 16 Acres?
On a public computer at UMass I found these great pictures someone left behind. They are photographs taken on the UMass campus today showing the aftermath of the latest storm. They were probably originally intended to be put on Facebook or sent to a friend.
The UMass library across a sea of white.
Looking towards the science buildings.
Most of the ducks on the campus pond go south for the winter, but there are always a bunch that for some reason stay behind. With the campus pond nearly completely frozen, these hardy year-rounders are now confined to this small unfrozen section.
The delicate sparkling of the ice in the trees.
The moral - Don't leave photos in public computers or they may end up being seen by thousands.
People have been asking me whether I've started experimenting - as I said I might -with the sleep regimen suggested by Buckiminster Fuller that is supposed to give you thirty hours or more extra awake time. It works by sleeping only every six hours and then for only about a half hour per time. I haven't tried it yet and I don't think I'm going to. People have warned me that it could be bad for my health. It would also be really inconvenient to try to sleep wherever you happened to be every six hours. And how would I wake myself up after a half hour? Would I have to carry around a wind-up alarm clock? Chalk it up to one of those ideas that sound good in theory but are impractical in practice.