Thursday, February 12, 2009

Majority Rules

Tennessee House Member Wins Top Job, but Loses Party - How do you lose a party? Actually new speaker Kent Williams didn't lose the Republican party, it lost him.

Andrew Jackson, another Tennessean, screamed "corrupt bargain" after he won a plurality of the popular vote in the 1824 US Presidential election, then lost in the House of Representatives when Henry Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams, who thereupon named Clay Secretary of State. Clay and Quincy Adams had nothing on Kent Williams and the Tennessee Democrats.

The Republican party just won a 50-49 seat majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives, it's first majority since Reconstruction (As Good As News will graciously overlook the fact that Tennessee seems to be trailing trends in the rest of the country by a century and the rest of the South by a generation). The Republicans planned to elect Jason Mumpower as speaker, but Republican Kent Williams had other plans. In a secret deal with the Democrats, Williams won election as speaker with 50 votes - 49 Democrats and himself. Williams then voted for a Democrat as speaker pro tem and named Democrats to six of thirteen Committee chairs. Now that's a corrupt bargain. The Republicans decided they would rather lose than be led by a rat, kicked Williams out of the party and lost their majority.

Uncovering the Perks of Albany's Fallen GOP - Tennessee House of Representatives? Big deal, who cares about control of one house in a state legislature? The Democrat's just captured control of the NY Senate for the first time in decades, and look what they found. The Republicans had given themselves 800 parking spaces (the Dems had 30), a secret TV studio, a 45 person partisan political research factory, a payroll of 75 at the Senate's private printer - 75 loyal Republicans no doubt, and the Brunomobile. In a political version of Where's Waldo, the shocked Dems are still poring over payroll records trying to find the secret stashes of padded payrolls and wasted taxpayer dollars.

TARP, we don't need no stinking TARP. Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods were devastated by vacant homes, nuisances attracting break-ins, squatters, drug dealers. A civic minded organization decided to take matters into it's own hands, selling the empty homes to hard working buyers at bargain prices. Everybody wins right? Not quite. A grand jury indicted fifteen of these public spirited home vendors, noting one small problem. The actual owners of the houses didn't know anything about the sales. Let's sentence this gang to community service and put them to work for the banks who can't unload foreclosed properties. In Dubai thousands of foreigners flee, abandoning their cars at the airport. What's the problem? They borrowed money, lost their job in Dubai's economic crisis (plunging oil prices aren't good for everyone) and are now behind on their payments? So who isn't? Things are a little different in Dubai, where imprisonment for unpaid debts is still a reality. Charles Dickens wouldn't like it, but the threat of debtor's prison might have kept a lot of people, and the whole economy, out of trouble. If the words "negative amortization" don't scare you (and they should unless you expect to die soon) how do you feel about five years at hard labor.

87 months? Speaking of Pennsylvania, harsh sentences and heinous crimes, what about the two Northeastern Pennsylvania judges who collected millions in bribes for closing the public juvenile detention center, then sentencing young offenders to two private detention centers - the source for the bribes. The scariest part of this story is that stiff sentences in juvy were handed out to kids who should have gone home to their families on probation - kids like Hillary Transue, a good student with no prior history of getting into trouble who drew a three month sentence for setting up a spoof MySpace page mocking an assistant principal. The judges are taking a plea deal that includes an 87 month prison sentence. This would seem perfectly fair, if they also had their hands cut off at the beginning of the prison term. Yet another situation where a little old fashioned Dubai justice might come in handy. Just in case you wanted to see the face of evil, Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. is pictured above. He handled the sentencing end of the operation.

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