Fist bump your way to good health?

So, you want to avoid that antibiotic-resistant bacteria?  Avoid hospitals.  But also, maybe replace shaking hands with the fist bump:

So McClellan’s team had a small group of clean-handed research subjects shake and fist bump at various intervals. They then cultured the bacteria grown on their hands. The handshake exposed more than three times as much skin surface area as the fist bump, and the contact averaged 2.7 times longer. More bacteria were transmitted, as expected, with the handshake.

“We surmise that the fist bump is an effective alternative to the handshake in the hospital setting,” McClellan et al. wrote in the journal. “[Bumping] may lead to decreased transmission of bacteria and improved health and safety of patients and healthcare workers alike.”

Also, stay away from door handles. 

Both sides, but…

Of course, one frequent response from Republicans has been that Democrats have over-used the filibuster, too.  They’re right.  But it truly is to an amazingly different degree, as Drum points out:

The chart below tells the tale. Under George Bush, Democrats mounted filibusters on 38 of his nominees. That’s about five per year. Under Obama, Republicans have filibustered an average of 16 nominees per year.

The last straw came when Republicans announced their intention to filibuster all of Obama’s nominees to the DC circuit court simply because they didn’t want a Democratic president to be able to fill any more vacancies. At that point, even moderate Democrats had finally had enough. For all practical purposes, Republicans had declared war on Obama’s very legitimacy as president, forbidding him from carrying out a core constitutional duty. Begging and pleading and cutting deals was no longer on the table. Eliminating the filibuster for judicial and executive branch nominees was the only option left, and on Thursday that’s what Democrats finally did.  [emphasis mine]

I love what John F. wrote on FB today, “BTW- “they started it” and “they do it too” are generally considered amongst adults to be the epitome of childish arguments.”  Indeed.  Yet, somehow we pretend that these are reasonable arguments when it comes to politics.  The reason Democrats had to end the filibuster is because as Drum says, it was genuinely preventing government from functioning as it should.  In that context, whether Democrats “started it” or not, is irrelevant.

It’s the Democrats’ fault!

Wow– Dana Milbank (who certainly has some good columns in him) reminded me of why I ultimately find him so disappointing:

“Congress is broken,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday before holding aparty-line vote that disposed of rules that have guided and protected the chamber since 1789.

If Congress wasn’t broken before, it certainly is now. What Reid (Nev.) and his fellow Democrats effectively did was take the chamber of Congress that still functioned at a modest level and turn it into a clone of the other chamber, which functions not at all. They turned the Senate into the House.

Democrats were fully justified in stripping Republicans of their right to filibuster President Obama’s nominees — yet they will come to deeply regret what they have done.

Ouch– the stupid!!  As if the filibuster was somehow ingrained in Article I.  Umm, and Dana, I’m pretty sure the Senate is already quite broken.  You might might want to consider reading Wonkblog.

Certainly, Republicans have abused the dilatory tactics that Senate minorities have, for centuries, used with greater responsibility; they seem intent on bringing government to a halt. And the Senate in 2013 is hardly a healthy institution. Yet it has achieved far more than the House —passing bipartisan immigration legislationand a farm bill and working out deals to avoid default and to end the federal government shutdown — largely because, until Thursday, Senate rules required the majority party to win votes from the minority.

Nope.  It passed all these things because Democrats are in charge and there’s a few not-insane Republicans.  You can’t gerrymander a Senate seat so that a far-right whacko can win (the states of Texas and Utah excluded).

“Cloture has fostered more bipartisanship in the Senate,” Donald Ritchie, the Senate historian, told me Thursday after Reid detonated his nuclear device. “The majority leader of the Senate is expected to try to work out some kind of a bipartisan deal to get enough votes to get cloture. Because the House is run by majority rule, it is seen as a sign of weakness if the majority leadership of the House has to get votes from the minority side.”

Now the Senate will be just as dysfunctional.

Got that?  Majority rule is “dysfuntional.”  Damn, Milbank must really hate all those dysfunctional Parliamentary democracies out there.  The dysfunctions that exist in the House are there largely do the establishemt vs Tea Party split in the Republican Party.  Not because it is a majoritarian institution.

I’d almost feel better if Milbank was a partisan hack just trying to defend Republican obstructionism.  It’s all the more frustrating that any non-partisan hack columnist writing for the Post should be so much more informed than this.

Shorter Hasen

No, he didn’t shrink, but he did a really nice job of distilling his talk at NCSU last month into this excellent NYT Op-Ed:

IRVINE, Calif. — IT’S the latest fad among state officials looking to make voting harder: We’re not racist, we’re just partisan.

Some background: In June, the Supreme Court struck down a core provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, under which nine states and portions of others had to get federal approval before changing their election laws.

One of those states, Texas, is again in court, facing a Justice Department suit seeking to get the state under federal oversight again. To do so, the Justice Department must prove intentional racial discrimination.

Texas’ defense? It’s discrimination, all right — but it’s on the basis of party, not race, and therefore it’s O.K…

Unlike with race-based discrimination, which, if proved, could violate both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, the Supreme Court has refused to recognize a standard for policing even nakedly partisan gerrymandering.

But now, supporters of strict voter-ID, registration and other voting laws are trying to use the same defense they have used to defend gerrymandering. They can claim ostensibly good reasons for their laws: preventing fraud or saving money. As a fallback, they can claim, like Texas, they are engaged in permissible partisan discrimination, not impermissible race discrimination.

But this is specious. First, it is artificial to separate race and party under current political conditions. When Don Yelton, a Republican official in North Carolina, recently told “The Daily Show” that if the state’s strict new voter-ID law “hurts a bunch of lazy blacks,” then “so be it,” it was easy to see old-fashioned Southern racism. But just as significant was Mr. Yelton’s saying that the new law “is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.” …

Few states will be as bold as Texas and admit naked partisanship. Most will engage in polite obfuscation.

Federal judges should see through these cynical pretexts. They should hold that when a state passes a law that burdens voters, it must demonstrate, with credible evidence, that the burdens are justified by a good reason and that the laws are tailored to their intended purpose. When North Carolina says it needs a strict voter-ID law to prevent fraud, courts should be skeptical, both because such laws haven’t been found to stop much impersonation fraud (there isn’t a lot) and because the same law eased absentee voting, which increases the risk of fraud.

Shifting the debate away from the “race versus party” question toward protecting voters has many virtues.

Good stuff.  Spot-on and important.  Alas, my fear is that when you get down to it too many judges themselves are nakedly partisan and will ignore the obvious logic Hasen makes clear here.

More filibuster thoughts

Mostly some others, some mine…

1) So wrong and historically dishonest for Republicans to prattle on about the hundreds of years of precedent this undoes.  Or, as John McCain was saying today how it makes the Senate just like the House, rather than the “cooling saucer” is was intended as.  Oh please!!  Somehow the Senate was a cooling saucer for well over a hundred years without a filibuster.  The frequent use of the filibuster is a thoroughly modern invention.  Most definitely not part of its intended functioning.

killing filibuster

2) Great, great post from Ezra.  Key parts:

4. The practical end of the Senate’s 60-vote threshold is not plunging the chamber into new and uncharted territories. It’s the omnipresence of the filibuster in recent decades that plunged the chamber into new and uncharted territories. At the founding of the Republic, the filibuster didn’t exist. Prior to the 1970s, filibusters — which required 67 votes to break for most of the 20th century — were incredibly rare.

5. As Gregory Koger, a University of Miami political scientist who researches the filibuster, told me: “Over the last 50 years, we have added a new veto point in American politics. It used to be the House, the Senate and the president, and now it’s the House, the president, the Senate majority and the Senate minority. Now you need to get past four veto points to pass legislation. That’s a huge change of constitutional priorities. But it’s been done, almost unintentionally, through procedural strategies of party leaders.”

6. The rise of the filibuster and the death of the filibuster can be traced to the same fundamental cause: Party polarization. Before the two parties became reasonably unified and disciplined ideological combatants, filibusters were rarely used as a tactic of inter-party warfare because each political party had both members who supported and opposed the bills in question. As that era waned, the filibuster became constant because parties could agree on what to oppose. But that’s also why the filibuster’s days were (and are) numbered: The majority party agrees on what to support, and continual filibusters against those items increase the majority party’s anger at the filibuster itself.

7. Republicans take a lot of the blame here. They’ve used the filibuster more aggressively than Democrats, by a wide margin.[emphasis mine] They’ve also been less willing to cooperate with Democrats on general legislative efforts, making the presence of the filibuster more costly to the Democratic Party. And they’ve been so unwilling to work with Democrats this year that they essentially removed all reason for Democrats to stay their hand.

3) Dave Weigel on the important benefits to progressive politics.

4) Great piece from Emily Bazelon:

That’s pretty much how the presidential power of appointment is supposed to work. You win the White House, you control the courts, until the next time around, when it’s the other party’s turn to pick judges. But the Republicans in the Senate have indefatigably changed the game…

The real reason for the Republican united front was simple math: The D.C. Circuit now has four judges appointed by Republicans and four judges appointed by Democrats, plus six senior judges, five of whom are Republican appointees. Fifteen of the 19 last picks have been made by GOP presidents. The senior judges hear plenty of cases. The appeals courts issue rulings in panels of three. And so, as Moshe Marvit pointed out in Dissent in May, the number that matters most is this: At that point in 2013, almost 80 percent of the D.C. Circuit panels were majority or exclusively Republican appointees.

That’s the Republican advantage. It’s been working well for them. They saw no reason to give it up. Why not keep pushing the filibuster envelope if no one makes you back off?

That’s why Reid finally pushed back. The fight for bipartisan normalcy has already been lost. The majority leader merely sounded the death knell. There will be lots of loud lamenting at the wake that follows. Don’t be fooled. If the Republicans were in the Democrats’ position, they’d have done the same thing months ago. Now Millett, Wilkins, and Pillard can take their seats on the bench. And soon the funeral speeches will end, and the next phase of life in the Senate will begin.

5) Ruth Marcus displays the Washington Post reflexive centrism that is just absurd in its logical incoherence.  To wit:

This was not the sort of “extraordinary circumstance” that both sides had agreed would justify a filibuster. If this obstruction-as-usual finally eroded the patience of frustrated Senate Democrats, it’s hard to blame them.

And the argument that deploying the “nuclear option” to change the rules by majority vote will “break” the Senate has long lost its persuasive force. The Senate is broken. It can’t get much worse.

Still, the Democrats’ move is a mistake…

Judges are different, and this is where the Democrats erred. Their move — unlike previous proposals — eliminated the filibuster except for Supreme Court nominees. The simple reason for subjecting judicial nominees to a higher hurdle for approval: lifetime tenure.

This is not to argue that filibusters should be routine or that Republicans were justified in the frequent deployment of a tactic they once denounced. But there are circumstances, even outside the context of the Supreme Court, in which a judicial nominee might be so outside the mainstream or otherwise unqualified that filibustering would be justified.

These are reasonable points, but she fails to address the fact that the Democratic nominees are well inside the mainstream and yet were filibustered anyway.  If the point is to keep extreme cases only off the courts, that seems reasonable enough.  But exactly what are Democrats supposed to do when Republicans use the filibuster to keep any liberal justice off the courts?

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