Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Some Observations on the House of Representatives

The House of Representatives in Session.

I thought I’d be a nice guy and give the U.S. House of Representatives a chance to actually get itself in order by electing a new Speaker but it looks like it is not going to happen anytime soon. The problem, as I see it, for the GOP House caucus is both simple and complex. It is simple in that the fundamental issues are easy to identify and define. It is complex because there is no easy way to resolve conflicts between these issues.

The first issue I’m going to identify is the newest and least expected. The major the GOP caucus has in the house is microscopic only three votes over the 218 needed to elect a speaker and only 9 more that the Democrats. This tight a margin makes for difficult going for any political leader but it is especially difficult if the party is badly fractured like the Republicans in the House currently are.

This brings us to the next issue facing the GOP, it is a badly divided party and the Republicans has historically not dealt with competing political factions well. Ever since its founding in the 1850’s the Republican Party has usually had a dominant faction that controls the party. This dominate faction then makes deals with either the minority faction(s) in it’s own caucus or, failing that, the could find the votes they needed south of the Mason/Dixon line in the Democratic Party (note: I call this strategy the Dixiecrat strategy). The few time this strategy was either not used or did not work the Democrats could gain control. The Dixiecrat strategy stopped working once the new “Nixon Southern Strategy was adopted in the late 60’s early 70’s.

Still things could, and did, be made to work in the House but then came the Newt Gingrich Revolution and the concept of constant conflict as the way to get things done in the House. An while this strategy work a little in the house it did not play well with the Senate.

So now we come to that one of the biggest mistakes made, the idea that Politics can be successfully modeled using ‘Zero Sum’ game theory. This is a very seductive idea because it looks so simple. The problem is that you can end up worse off using a game theory that is incorrect than you can using the correct game theory a loose. Also most people who just have a casual understanding of Zero Sum game theory is that it has one deadly trap, there are actually three results possible. You can Win, you can loose and you can end in a draw. Even worse is that given the rules of the game you can end up where ending is a draw is the most likely result. Don’t believe me, talk with a ‘rated’ chess player.

An now to the last issue, seeing your opponent as the embodiment of everything you despise. This can be expressed as anything “D” touches we have to oppose. This is the death knell to getting anything done in a democratic polity where compromise is the name of the game.

So that is where the Republicans in the House find themselves. They have a small (45) subgroup (the Freedom Caucus) that is to the extreme right of the party and they see everything in a win/loose view. Worse yet they see it as if ‘they win’ I have to have lost. Next the majority of the Republicans in the House have very little to trade away to the Democrats and nothing that doesn’t mater much to their local base. So we end up with game after game after game in a draw, but what is worse is that the larger game, that game of running the country is about to be lost.

Next Posting: Thought experiment “What happens if the congress can not function for 6/12/18 months?”

Two Lessons To Learn From the Speaker’s Election

US House of Representatives 4 Jan 2023

It came to me today that we can learn from the battle to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives. There are, of course, many lessons that can be learned but there are two that can easily over looked. The effects and costs of ”Zero Sum” politics and a ”Three Party” system.

Lets look at the last first, a more than two political parties in the House of Representatives. Usually when people think about having more than two national political parties they think that everything is decided by a simple ”plurality” (the most votes) wins the issue. Unfortunately that is not the case. There are times that the issue needs a majority + 1 of the persons voting to decided the issue. In other cases it can take 2/3 vote. So let us look at the simplest case, three parties in the House and lets call the X, Y, Z. and lets give them the following members X:200, Y: 202, and Z: 33.

If the vote needs only a simple majority of persons voting to pass and the Y’s all vote in favor it passes. but it needs 50% +1 of the total persons voting it wont pass unless it can pick up 16 votes from the X or Z parties. Sounds easy, right? It’s not because you have to be sure not to loose any votes in your horse trading and this can be as easy as make a deal with the worst enemy of someone on your side. If you don’t believe me go back to the 1950/60 and look at the problems they had when the sub group of the Democratic Party known as the Dixicrats held sway in the old south.

This issue with a strong an united sub-group or even a formalized caucus is what the GOP leadership is having to deal with. The real issue is not who will be Speaker, but who has the power to stop anything they want, when ever they want. This is who will control the House of Representatives in the 118th Congress.

Now lets get to the first lesson, the effects of using ”Zero Sum game theory” in politics. Just for those of you who are not very clear of just what I’m talking about just go to this link (Zero Sum). With that lets just go with the back idea that in every transaction you can only win or loose. It is strictly Binary. There are no ties if a deal/transaction is made. You can have a ’tie’, of a kind, when a trade/deal is not made. Both sides loose. Now lets add just a little spice into the game. All players must be seen to be winners to stay in the game.

Now lets say your in a league where if the people watching it decide you are a ”looser” you are removed from play, forever. An now lets add in that it doesn’t mater how successful you wins are compared to your losses:

example you make 10 deals where you make $100 and 20 deals where you loose $40 for a total of $60 in the black but all your judged by is 20 losses to 10 wins. in basic zero sum game theory every win is exactly equal to every loss. This is really true. Now lets and in just a little more hate to the game.

Lets say that what constitutes a win/loss is variable? Lets look at a chess move for example. I get to move a knight and it can do one of three things: first it can just move to a empty space. Second it can take a pawn and third it can take a Bishop. in the simple zero sum game only the first move would be seen as a loss for me and all the others a win. now lets judge by the value of the pice taken, the only the third move would be a win. An now lets do real chess, and the first move places my opponent into check-mate.

An now I can hear you all saying that chess is a zero-sum game. An it is, an it is an excellent example of why it is not as simple as counting win/loss. You have to keep the end objective in mind. The value of any move is not just the value of the piece taken, but the position the trade puts you in. An this is the trap people who don’t understand game theory fall into. The only see the immediate value in the trade and not where it will place you for future trades.

This is the trap some of the members of the GOP in the House are falling into. They see every deal as just win/loss. Ignoring the relative value of the things exchanged, nor the relative position each member of the trade is after the move.

So I say to them, if you insist on using Zero-Sum game theory for politics remember chess. Chess is a zero-sum game but every move is not equal, to win you need to think many many move ahead and finally remember that all optimally plaid games end in a draw. In politics this means nothing gets done. Not something the electorate like to see in the next election.

And Pound on the Table

Donald J Trump

With less than 24 hours to go before the first open testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on possible impeachment of Pres. Donald J. Trump I will take some time to point out what is obvious to any with eyes to see. Unfortunately in this new Partisan age I fear there are few eyes willing to see. Anyone who has even the most cursory acquaintance with how Donald Trump has dealt with being on the loosing end of a legal battle recognizes the current tactics he and his are employing.

When it becomes obvious to him that he will loose his case, Donald Trump attempts to do one of two things. If he can, he settles out of court, failing that he goes to cut a deal. Just like he did with the his Trump Foundation fraud case. It is a given that with impeachment there is no settling out of court as this is not a civil case. Therefore he is now maneuvering his assets to enable him to cut a deal with the American electorate.

First and foremost he is trying to “run the clock out” by putting everything off as long as possible. This is why, more than anything, he has ‘ordered’ everyone involved to not testify and to fight all subpoenas in court. Ideally he want’s the House to go to the DOJ, as has been the way for almost 100 years, to get it’s subpoenas enforced. With the current AG this is a total non-starter and could waste years if work correctly. Unfortunately the House leadership was on to this tactic and has chosen to just add the refusal to honor the subpoenas as just one more count to the “Obstruction of Congress/Justice” charge in impeachment. A small thing granted, but not insignificant.

The next tactic is to obfuscate the issues. So far, it is change use of change the subject and admit the act but deny the criminality. And finally we are now seeing the use of ‘Not me, they did it.’ All of these are being mixed together into a Goulash of epic proportions. We have yet to see just what effect this will have. This Goulash has two goals. The first is to give the Republicans in the House talking points that have some semblance of respectability. This they dearly need at this time. How do we know this, simply because they keep changing their objections to what the House Committee is doing. Until last week it was all about transparency and procedures. Now that both the depositions are being made public and the public hearing scheduled they are complaining about the rules of the hearing trusting that the average voter will neither know of care that the Committee is using the rules crafted under Republican leadership. (Personally I thank it is crass of the Democrats to use the rules that the Republicans crafted. Don’t they know it is just not done? The principle is I get to use ‘These rule and you get to use those rules’. Really now, how low can you go?)

The goal here is two fold. First is to take so long in actually passing the Impeachment in the House that the Senate Trial will not start until spring of 2020 or later. Then Trump and the Senate can say “Let the people decide.” Failing that, and so far it is looking like it is failing, have enough fog and smoke that the Republican Senators who are up for re-election in 2020 have some effective cover when they vote for acquittal. So far this looks to be on track. After all the last thing the Republicans need is a ‘smoking gun’ like what took out Pres. Nixon.

On this last point I have little hope for anything happening like what took out Nixon. This is not the 1970’s and the Republican Party of 2020 is not the Republican Party of 1970’s. I see no Howard “Henry” Baker, nor Barry Goldwater in this Senate. At this time we need people, in all parties, who can stand above Partisanship and put the Country and Constitution first. But maybe they are there in the Senate they will stand up and be counted. I hope and pray it is so.

Nightmare After Christmas

A lot has been said, on both sides of the isle, about getting the Impeachment investigation(s) of Donald J. Trump done by Christmas. Many reasons have been given. Some good, some bad, some reasonable, some not, but all have one thing in common. Most Americans aren’t paying the reasons any mind. Also most people are not paying any mind to what comes after. I hate to think the number of times I’ve heard people talk as if the Impeachment is an end in itself. It is not.

Impeachment is JUST an indictment. A formal accusation of wrong doing by a government official. We will still have to go thru a trial. An what’s more it has to be a public trial. It must also be seen to be a scrupulously fair trial. Why? Several reasons but for most to me is that not only will Donald J Trump be on trial but so will the House of Representatives that voted the Impeachment. If the people believe, even for a second that the impeachment was not fair and just, if it was brought for partisan and/or political reasons, then Donald J Trump and MAGA will win. They will win even if Donald J Trump is convicted and removed from office.

The Impeachment document must not only be legally valid it must be clearly understand able by the vast majority of the American people. The actions that Donald J Trump are impeached on must be simply and clearly seen to be wrong, but also corrupt and beyond the pale of any action of an elected official. It can not just be a ‘technical’ violation of some arcane election law. At best it should be shown that the actions were not only corrupt, but they were taken for corrupt reasons and that anyone with any decency would know are corrupt. People need to be able to not only put themselves in the position of the victim but also the perpetrator(s) and be able to say “Yes, that is corrupt, that is wrong. An I know it is corrupt and Wrong.”

Will this insure that the Senate will convict? No, It won’t. Nothing can ensure that. Given the current mood of the Senate Republicans I don’t think anything Donald J. Trump does, or can do (sort of selling part of the USA back to Russia) could get him convicted. But what it just may do is assure that the Donald J Trump, MAGA, and the Republican Party that supports him will pay the price come November.

What May Come

With all the ‘talk, talk, talk’ going on about the Impeachment investigation I thought it would be nice to lay out the possible paths we may be fallowing in the near future. I’ll start with where we are now, with the Secretary of State Pompeo not honoring the House subpoenas for depositions by State Department employees. We can now ignore, or prune, that branch of the tree that starts with full cooperation.

What are the possible actions now? In no particular order of preference there seems to be three possible branches. Branch one: Increased resistance by the Executive branch. The next Branch is that the resistance stays as low key as possible and the final branch is acquiescence to the subpoenas.

I do not find the third Branch likely but it is the cleanest/simplest. What can follow it is that the House Committees either find sufficient evidence to recommend to the House to vote Impeachment or It doesn’t. If the person(s) being investigated are truly innocent of any impeachable actions this would be the best course for everyone concerned. Given the current evidence available to the public this does not seem likely as it does seem to show that Donald Trump did, in fact, attempt to get a foreign government to provide a thing of value for his upcoming campaign. Of course it is possible for the President to argue that Op Research is not a thing of value. Also it can be argued that he really didn’t ask for this. The problem is both arguments are quite thin and really don’t play well with an impartial jury.

So let us take on the first Branch of the tree, complete non-compliance subpoenas has and total resistance to giving evidence to the House Committees. This branch leads very quickly to either the House caving in and waiting to see just what the election in 13 months brings. Or the house can attempt to use it’s more usual method of enforcing it’s subpoenas by asking the Justice Department to bring criminal contempt charges. This would lead to another set of branches, the JD could honor the request or just ignore the request or responded that they see no merit in the request.

Let’s look at this last one first. Finding that the request for criminal contempt was with out merit would force the House to either just cave in or move quickly to using inherent contempt. More on inherent contempt later. Just ignoring the request has the advantage of burning time while leading eventually to the same two branches of finding no merit. As far as honoring the request for Criminal Contempt this leads to the problems of having the Attorney General go against the wishes of the President, something the current President doesn’t take well. Look for this to happen if Pres. Trump has found a way to get someone else to take the fall. In any case this path leaders inevitably to either the House passing/not passing a bill of Impeachment.

So now let us look at the possibilities of those branch’s above that lead to the use of inherent contempt which will entail having the House Sargent at Arms arresting the person or persons. As inherent contempt has not been used since 1934 (85 years) it is almost anyone’s guess on just how it will be worked now. Something to what for is actions taking place in the House Sargent at Arms office and in/around the cells in the House basement. This action by the house could quite easily lead to one of two events/branches. First, and most likely is that the person or persons peacefully submit to arrest. They also could resist the arrest. The resisting could take many forms, all the way from just not letting the persons from the House Sargent at Arms into the building the person to be arrested is in all the way up to having the persons own security detachment forcefully protecting their charge from the people attempting to make the arrest. This last would be very bad for all concerned and while possible I really don’t see it happening.

Let us look at the breach that leads to the person or persons who are defying the Congressional Subpoena(s) being taken into custody. The House would have to hold a trial and this trial could be long or short depending on the House Membership and just how strong the person(s) being held is. It is customary to drop the Contempt Charge(s) if the person so charged takes action to make amends. If the House does find them in Contempt they have several options ranging from fines to imprisonment. This can last till the current congress expires in just over a year from now. It is also possible that if these persons are of sufficient rank, that is they hold a non-selective service job (and in some cases even if they do) they too can be impeached and removed from office. (Please note that being removed from office by conviction on impeachment is tantamount to being fired for cause and you loose all benefits etc.)

That is all I can foresee for now. More later as thing become either more murky, less murky, or stay the same.

The Sheldon Crisis, part III


The Sheldon Crisis the U.S. is currently experiencing is going into it’s next faze today with the first of the Donald Trump Impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee. An it did not go well for anybody. While the supporters of Pres. Trump seem to have won on points this is only round one of the match. There are many more rounds to go and maybe a few more matches.

As a person who watched much of the Senate Watergate Hearings and the most all of the House Impeachment process Of Pres. Nixon. I also followed closely all the sordid process of the Clinton Impeachment and trial. I can say that today was not a good start. I hope the chairman and the House leadership rethink just how this process needs to work. Or, just maybe we all are missing something. This is more than just a legal process, there is a lot of politics involved.

Things just might get more interesting as time goes on. The House GOP seems to have won the day today with the witness standing his ground and refusing to say anything that is not in the testimony given in the Mueller Report. I just wonder if the GOP really want’s to go down this road to the Prerogative State. The use of Executive Privilege as done by the current Administration is quite expansive and would easily lead to no one who has anything to do with the Executive branch ever having to testify about anything to any body.

Let’s run a little thought experiment here. Let us suppose that no one who has any contact with the President, either directly or indirectly can not be forced by either the Congress or the Courts to give any testimony about anything the President may know, or could have know, or should have known or does not know. Ever! Now let us suppose the Executive Branch acts to confiscate all arms not in the possession of their party membership. An now let us suppose that it is taken to court and SCOTUS rules against the Administration and then the President orders the agency/persons charged to ignore the court order and they do? Now lets say the Court orders the arrest of those persons for criminal contempt and sends US Deputy Marshals to do it and these marshals are met with armed resistance by Federal security officers. Now what?

This is, of course a bad to worse case scenario. We don’t have to go this far to be in trouble. What would happen in the case of absolutely blatant corruption, like the Tea Pot Dome scandal but involving a siting Secretary. If the President could order all witness’ not to testify how could the House and Senate Impeach and Convict? How could you even try some one? Could not the President order the forensic witness and the investigators not to testify about their findings?

I think we can see where the unfettered use of any privilege can lead to. Privilege needs to be highly limited to keep it from being abused. We may live in the 2nd Guided Age and if we do it is paramount for the citizenry to flex it’s mussels and reign in the excesses of this age. The time to start is now. This election. Each an everyone of us needs to look at our Representatives, both House and Senate and see if they are putting Self or Party before the people and the country. To do that we need to stop listening to the Hate Mongers who want to tells that all are troubles are do to ‘THEM’. We must remember who we are and what we stand for. We are Americans and we Stand for more than just wealth, power, and prestige.

Some thoughts on “National Emegancy” and Impeachment


As we pass thru the 34th day of what I call the ”Great Wall Impass” and others the Government shutdown we once more hear about the Trump Whitehouse talking about declaring a “National Emegancy” to get his wall built.  If this happens I think the House of Representatives will have good grounds to start the Impechment process.

I do not take this step lightly but if Donald J Trump does declare a National Emegancy it will be, in my view, a High  Misdemeanor.  Specifically it will be the abuse of power under the color of law.  It is clear from the both the congressional debates on the law that grants the President the power to declare a National Emegancy (and from the use of this power by all other holders of the office) that the event(s) that require the President to declare a National Emegancy are both catastrophic and time sensitive.  The situation on our southern boarder is neither catastrophic nor time sensitive.

To declare a National Emergancy to both defy the will of Congress on the expenditure of tax money and to  seize private property to build his wall would be a gross misuse of Presidential power.  Even if the courts rule agains Donald J Trump in these actions it will not change the facts at issue.

Finally, we can not let any President, ever, to act in such a gross and blatant use of power.  On that road lines the end of American democracy.