January 8th, 2008

Congress and the Sunlight Rule


photo credit: djotal

Ron Paul’s “Texas Straight Talk” for this week highlights his proposal of the “Sunlight Rule”, a change in procedure mandating that Congress be given at least 10 days to review any bill proposed for passage.

This is a much-needed rule on an important issue: the integrity of one’s vote. Surely we should not support any politician that blindly votes (regardless of it being a yea or nay) for a piece of legislation. The power our representatives wield necessitates a careful study of what is being proposed. Recklessly voting without understanding what they are voting for shows the intellectual dishonesty of those we have sent to Congress.

But as Paul notes in his article, the fault does not entirely rest upon the individual members of Congress. They are often given little time, once the legislation has been finalized, to review and consider it before they must cast a vote. For this very reason, Paul has proposed the rule that would allow our representatives to have sufficient time (and thus be held fully accountable for their votes) to understand the given issue.

With some bills spanning pages (enough to give somebody a hernia when carrying them), we see the wisdom in James Madison’s words when he commented on the result of such circumlocutory congressional concoctions (say that ten times fast!):

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed? (James Madison, via Quoty)

Laws so unnecessarily verbose nearly guarantee that there exist some portions unnoticed by the public at large, lurking in the dark shadows of the massive pile of pages. In pursuit of fair representation and intellectual honesty, time must be provided to illuminate the abyss such monstrous bills create. For that reason, I support Paul’s “Sunlight Rule” and hope that our representatives pass and support this measure.

21 Responses to “Congress and the Sunlight Rule”

  1. Connor
    January 8, 2008 at 2:58 pm #

    Much like other legislation he proposes, this is not the first time that Paul has introduced this idea. Looks like our Congress has something they’d rather hide?

  2. Scott
    January 8, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    I would add rules that require all that vote to verify that they have actually read the entire text of each bill and rules that limit the amount of text that each bill may contain. Congress would move a lot more slowly and would pass far fewer laws. I think that would be good overall.

  3. Connor
    January 8, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    Congress would move a lot more slowly and would pass far fewer laws.

    …and then hopefully something like this would never happen. :)

  4. doug
    January 11, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    I admit it…when Ron Paul is in the news I visit your blog. :)

    I’m wondering what your reaction to the TNR piece is, and the (apparently) devastating quotes unearthed by Reason which suggest that Ron Paul defended in the 90’s the stuff he now distances himself from.

  5. Connor
    January 12, 2008 at 4:48 pm #

    Doug,

    Check out the various entries on the LRC blog for January 8. They discuss the sheer bias of the neoconservative TNR and the tactics they’re using to bring this hit piece to light the day before New Hampshire. Pretty trashy.

    Regardless of TNR’s intentions in airing the piece, I think it’s been made abundantly clear by now that Paul didn’t write theose pieces. It doesn’t sound like him, it’s not in harmony with any single one of his votes, he’s never once spoken like what these pieces say, and he totally repudiates them. He’s never once shown any reason to distrust him, so I’m not sure why people are quick to jump on him now. And I think his response is a good one. More on the issue here.

    When lobsters are in a bucket together, they pull down any fellow lobster that tries to arise and escape. I see this happening not only with Paul, but with anybody who tries to rise above the fray and be a moral example. Detractors will look for any chink in the armor to attack, ready to pounce and exaggerate any potential mistake or downfall.

  6. doug
    January 13, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    I think it’s been made abundantly clear by now that Paul didn’t write theose pieces.

    The Reason post I had linked to seems to suggest otherwise. Back in the 90’s it appeared that Ron Paul was claiming a lot of the quotes were taken out of context. Now he is saying that he didn’t write them at all.

    In either case, why can’t Paul’s supporters admit that it speaks poorly of Paul?

    For example, let’s assume that I was working for you, Connor. Don’t you think that if for over a decade I was ghostwriting a newsletter entitled The Connor Boyack Political Report you would, just maybe, have a passing interest in what it contained? Wouldn’t you read it once in a while? If I was to write racist and homophobic drivel, wouldn’t your friends at least tip you off to that fact? “Hey, Connor, talk to that Doug idiot who is sullying your name. You need to get rid of him.”

    It strikes me as implausible that someone as bright and politically active as Paul could be so appallingly ignorant of his immediate political surroundings, so to speak.

    Yet, as someone who likes many of Paul’s libertarian leanings, yet was never impressed with his candidacy, I’m left wanting to assume the very best of Paul (that he didn’t write any of the offensive stuff, nor was he aware of it). But where does that even leave me? That he would be an inept president and ineffective chief executive? After all, he couldn’t even control the content of a newsletter with a few thousand subscribers…

  7. Connor
    January 13, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    The Reason post I had linked to seems to suggest otherwise.

    Many of the comments on that post are quite interesting, alluding to the fact (with which I agree) that this is nothing new, nor important, nor incriminating.

    I agree that it speaks poorly of Paul. But good grief, do people expect perfection? Go back in my blog archives a year or more, and I’ll be you’ll find some stupid stuff worth taking me to task on. And so people want to nail Paul to the wall on some newsletters he may or may not have written one, two, or three decades ago? For a couple off-hand remarks?

    Please.

    To be sure, the fact that Paul’s name was on the newsletter shows he had some responsibility to moderate the content. But as he responded to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, the man was quite busy, and so delegated many of his tasks to others. It very well may be that this newsletter was very low on his totem pole of priorities. And so he should be charged with ignorance at best, incompetency at worst. Heaven knows that I distance myself from plenty of silly things I said, did, or believed years ago…

    After all, he couldn’t even control the content of a newsletter with a few thousand subscribers…

    You’re assuming that this was every brought to his attention around the time the letters were published. Those who read the newsletters either believed likewise and thus didn’t raise the issue, or were assured Paul didn’t write it, or something else to placate them from causing a fuss over this stuff.

    I think that when somebody delegates a task to another person, they may follow up initially and make sure the job is being done correctly, but once things are running smoothly they move on to other things, trusting that operations are proceeding normally. The person would have no idea of any foul play (or un-politically correct words) unless it was reported to them by another.

    So until we find any occurrence of these things being reported to Paul within a short time frame of their being published, I’m not worried. If such reporting occurred years later, it is obviously in the past and not worth raising as a big issue, since it had already come and gone and been forgotten… until desperate opponents looking for a chink in the armor dig it up and aggrandize the issue to bring a good, honest man down to his knees. Or so they hope.

  8. doug
    January 14, 2008 at 3:14 pm #

    Connor,

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    Ever since I first heard Ron Paul speak back in the late 90’s at a conservative dinner in D.C. I have liked him. Over the past year I’ve become less of a fan of his overall policy vision, but I’ve never thought bad of the man personally. For me, these newsletters give me pause.

    Again, imagine that you have delegated to me the task of ghostwriting The Connor Boyack Political Report. In a couple newsletters I write the following:

    Opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions…

    and

    Order was only restored in LA [after the 1992 riots] when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began…

    and

    [Advice to local militias:] You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head. Keep the group size down. Keep quiet and you’re harder to find. Leave no clues. Avoid the phone as much as possible. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.

    Troubling thoughts, to be sure. If you don’t immediately shut my drivel down it would suggest three possibilities:

    1 – You sympathize with my writing, so you do nothing to stop me.
    2 – All your friends sympathize with my writing so they never mention it to you.
    3 – You friends may or may not sympathize with my writing, but they know that you do, so they say nothing to you.

    A final thought…

    As someone who doesn’t have anything invested in the Paul candidacy, I’m troubled by the newsletters but they aren’t a make-or-break thing for me since I wasn’t planning on voting for Paul. However, that his enthusiastic supporters, such as yourself, kind of casually wave the newsletters off as no big deal…that is perplexing.

  9. Connor
    January 14, 2008 at 3:25 pm #

    However, that his enthusiastic supporters, such as yourself, kind of casually wave the newsletters off as no big deal…that is perplexing.

    Again, this entire thing falls flat if Paul was never immediately alerted to the content. We do not know that he was.

    I wave this off as “no big deal” for various reasons:

    • Paul has accepted responsibility and publicly apologized for the remarks, regardless of whether or not he knew it had been written in his newsletter.
    • Not one single thing he has ever publicly said is in line with this content. In fact, in many cases it’s quite the opposite.
    • Regardless of the offense some people have taken to the content, this is small dice. I mean, really. It looks bad, it’s medium racist, but is it worse than openly advocating certain policies (pro-abortion, pro-torture, pro-socialism, etc.) that are “bigger fish to fry”? Could it be that this is simply to divert attention from Paul’s policies and issues? Don’t know, but it certainly is being pursued in this manner by some.
    • By your fruits ye shall know them. Paul’s fruits are evident in his decades of fighting for individual liberty, honoring civil disobedience, and promoting Constitutional values. One may call these newsletters a “fruit” of his, but again, that assumes he wrote the pieces. If he didn’t, but knew about them, then all he can be charged with is ignorance, sympathy, or failing to take prompt action to fire or censure the author(s).

    The importance of these newsletters pales in comparison, in my mind, to the larger issues: sound money preventing government officials from printing money whenever they want; illegal, undeclared wars that never end and expand our empire while emptying our national coffers; limiting privacy and civil liberties among citizens in the name of “protecting us”; filling prisons with non-violent “criminals” in the name of the so-called “war on drugs”; a porous border enticing and encouraging further illegal immigration through subsidizing the programs and incentives that bring them here; and on and on.

  10. doug
    January 14, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    It looks bad, it’s medium racist, but is it worse than openly advocating certain policies (pro-abortion, pro-torture, pro-socialism, etc.) that are “bigger fish to fry”?

    I don’t mean to sound trite, but to me racism is a pretty big fish. ;)

    In any case, I suppose we’re looking at it from different perspectives.

  11. Connor
    January 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm #

    Doug,

    Here is an interesting article you might want to peruse on this subject.

  12. doug
    January 15, 2008 at 3:10 pm #

    Connor,

    Yikes. All that guy does is attack the messenger. Attack, attack, attack. He sounds like a press flack for Bill Clinton in the 90’s, “Pay no attention to the stained blue dress, Ken Starr is a horrible person!!!”

    To summarize the linked article:

    Marty Peretz hates Arabs. TNR has had major scandals with reporters making stuff up out of whole cloth.

    Ergo, Ron Paul isn’t racist? Is less racist than believed? Paul’s racism doesn’t matter? He doesn’t say. He ends the article by concluding that TNR’s writers are too young, and then invites readers to donate to VDARE.

    Ironically, attacking the messenger seems to cut both ways in Mr. Sailer’s case. He is rather, well, free-spirited in his racial prose. Here is what he wrote back in 2005 about Katrina and Louisiana’s unofficial motto, Let the good times roll:

    What you won’t hear, except from me, is that “Let the good times roll” is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.

    Count me among the unsurprised that Sailer now defends the content of Paul’s newsletters by arguing:

    I’m not quite sure exactly what Kirchick proves, other than that Dr. Paul’s newsletters weren’t as boring as the MainStream Media.

    Boring? Geez.

  13. Connor
    January 15, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    Yikes. All that guy does is attack the messenger. Attack, attack, attack.

    I guess it depends which side of the argument one is on. I don’t agree with the tone the author uses, but the principle he’s following is one of scrutinizing who is behind the original attack.

    I see this often with anti-mormonism: the importance of understanding who these people are, why they do what they do, and how they go about doing it. Truth does stand on its own regardless of the source (Brigham said you can find truth in hell), but I do feel it important to know who is behind what I read and consider newsworthy. It’s why I study the ownership of the mainstream media organizations (take, for example, Rupert Murdoch’s admission that Fox News and his other organizations were used to shape public opinion on the war in Iraq).

    Ergo, Ron Paul isn’t racist? Is less racist than believed? Paul’s racism doesn’t matter? He doesn’t say.

    I suppose it’s the “throwing a stone from a glass house” effect. As you illustrate, Sailer (this is the first of his articles I’ve read) has his own skeletons to deal with. We all do. This is my point! We go around pointing to everybody else’s faults, when the motes and beams we each carry would, if discovered and publicly aired, create a stir of their own. TNR holds no moral high ground, as Sailer discusses, to cast aspersions at others, especially when they have no solid evidence of their claim.

    You may disagree as you have already, but I feel that racial statements (just words) don’t hold a candle to other stances and policies (actions) advocated by the rest of the presidential crowd. This, especially, when RP’s actions are polar opposite to the words he’s been accused of writing/printing/condoning.

  14. doug
    January 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm #

    As you illustrate, Sailer (this is the first of his articles I’ve read) has his own skeletons to deal with. We all do. This is my point!

    No. Sorry. All past statements and skeletons are not created equal.

    And to be blunt, I think that you fundamentally misunderstand politics, and America in general, with regard to race.

    Racism is a pernicious evil. It is a vestige of our great national sin, slavery. It is politically nuclear and an insta-black-spot-of-electoral-death.

    Think about it. Would you honestly vote for a GOP candidate who was “medium racist” in a general election against a Democrat simply because the Republican agreed with you on the “bigger fish to fry”?

    I doubt it.

    Racism is not a moat or a beam, it’s a ten ton concrete pylon.

  15. Connor
    January 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm #

    All past statements and skeletons are not created equal.

    Indeed. My point is that each of us has them. I didn’t claim that they’re all equal and thus negate each other somehow. This is the whole idea behind the “he who is without sin, let him first cast a stone” lesson: each of us has issues.

    I think that you fundamentally misunderstand politics, and America in general, with regard to race.

    Perhaps I’m not effectively communicating myself, then, because I stand by my belief that it’s worse to hold a policy that torture is okay than it is to hold one that a higher percentage of black people are on welfare (they are) or that they are usually less educated (they are). To be sure, some people use statistical facts (such as current demographics in southern cities) in a way that is not politically correct, or downright demeaning. But this mistreatment (whether it is a vestige of our great national sin or not), while evil, is down a notch on the “evil ladder” from condoning abortion, promoting torture, etc. Or, at least I think so.

    Would you honestly vote for a GOP candidate who was “medium racist” in a general election against a Democrat simply because the Republican agreed with you on the “bigger fish to fry”?

    Are we expecting perfection? Good grief, look what the president himself was saying back in the 70s.

    This issue is entirely moot (in the context of Ron Paul), however, until it can be proven or firmly demonstrated that he wrote that stuff, or even agreed with it. Until that happens, I still feel that Paul comes closest to the Lord’s admonition of supporting wise and honest men.

  16. doug
    January 15, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    First, I can’t believe that you (or any sane conservative) would consider voting for a GOP candidate who was “medium racist” in a general election because the Republican agreed with you on the “bigger fish to fry”. Sorry, I just don’t buy it.

    Second, did you just link to WizzNutzz as a source of political history? If not, and were simply dropping some subtle snarky humor, the “good grief” threw me off. ;)

  17. doug
    January 16, 2008 at 5:51 pm #

    As an aside…

    Since you linked to Lew Rockwell’s blog earlier, it’s interesting to note that Rockwell appears to have been Paul’s principal ghostwriter.

  18. Doug Bayless
    January 17, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    Wow. I can’t believe I missed this discussion. It almost makes me want to pick a posting-name other than “Doug” just to differentiate myself more clearly on this site.

    I do understand your concerns about racism though. When you say “Racism is not a moat or a beam, it’s a ten ton concrete pylon” I’m right with you.

    In fact when these newsletters hit, I’ve got to admit I backed off of active Paul support for a while. It just seemed too much and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was appreciative of the timely press release the campaign made here Statement about Old Newsletters but as I posted in my comment at the Utah statesman yesterday:

    “At first I concluded as you did that he was either previously suprisingly tolerant of racism or totally and completely inept and inattentive. I knew he wasn’t racist from the great many speeches and writings known to be written by him – which completely contradict the juicier elements of those newsletters by effusively praising MLK as a hero for twenty years, etc. But the ineptitude I just couldn’t get past.

    The South Carolina Republican debate solved that for me. Regardless of past ineptitude in letting those newsletters go out under his name (major mistake), his current leadership is so far ahead of the other candidates that I can’t support anyone else.

    Not only is Paul decidedly non-racist about people living in our own nation, Paul is the only candidate not buying into Middle-Eastern-collective racism and condemning innocent Iranians to the ‘gates of hell’ — like Huckabee (and the rest save Paul, quite frankly) did in that debate for instance.

    In my opinion, though he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve like a couple of the other candidates, Paul is the only candidate who is consistent with his Christian religion on his foreign policy. There are things about both Romney and Huckabee that I really like (I’m a Utah Mormon for heavens sake!) but both of them are on record as fully supporting this new dangerous doctrine of pre-emptive agression in the world.

    To support borrowing billions a day from foreign nations to continue agressive warmaking, killing thousands of our young men and women – not to mention far more innocent ‘collateral damage’ caught in the crossfire – is far, far more racist, inept, and unfit than anything Paul might have done in mismanaging his newsletters.

    I stand for hope, peace, and liberty for all people. I’m continuing to support the only candidate I’ve seen who seems fit to stand for that too — Ron Paul.

  19. Doug Bayless
    January 17, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    and I actually think you mean “mote” not “moat” although if I really thought RP was a racist that would indeed create a “moat” between him and I. I frankly find that — especially amongst the Republican candidates — he is the most antithetical to any racist message of any of the contenders. I don’t find anything ironic in the fact that my second choice for President at the moment is Obama. I find Paul speaking out more convincingly on issues I take seriously — our foreign policy being the most important but economic issues being closely related and so I support Paul right now.

  20. Connor
    January 21, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Back to the original message. I found this enlightening quote I wanted to share, as it’s very relevant to the original post:

    “Mr. Speaker, today the Chief Executive sent to this House of Representatives a . . . bill for immediate enactment. The author of this bill seems to be unknown. No one has told us who drafted the bill. There appears to be a printed copy at the speakers desk, but no printed copies are available for the House Members. The bill has been driven through the House with cyclonic speed after 40 minutes debate, 20 minutes for the minority and 20 minutes for the majority. I have demanded a roll call, but have been unable to get the attention of the Chair. Others have done the same . . .

    “I want to put myself on record against procedure of this kind and against the use of such methods in passing legislation affecting millions of lives and billions of dollars. It is safe to say that in normal times. after careful study of a printed copy and after careful debate and consideration, this bill would never have passed this House or any other House. Its passage could be accomplished only by rapid procedure, hurried and hectic debate, and a general rush for voting without roll call.

    “I am suspicious of this railroading of bills through our House of Representatives, and I refuse to vote for a measure unseen and unknown. … I want the RECORD to show that I was, and am, against this bill and this method of procedure; and I believe no good will come out of it for America. We must not abdicate our power to exercise judgment. We must not allow ourselves to be swept off our feet by hysteria, and we must not let the power of the Executive paralyze our legislative action. If we do, it would be better for us to resign and go home-and save the people the salary they are paying us.

    “I look forward to that day when we shall read the bill we are considering, and see the author of the bill stand before the House and explain it, and then, after calm deliberation and sober judgment- after full and free debate-I hope to see sane and sensible legislation passed which will lift America out of this panic and disaster into which we were plunged.”

    You may think that this is Ron Paul regarding the Patriot Act, or Dennis Kucinich sounding off on the Iraq Resolution. But it’s not.

    This is actually a quote from March, 1933. The author is Rep. Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota, decrying the process that brought about the Emergency Banking Relief Act that, among other things, legalized the theft of gold from private citizens, demanding they accept in exchange paper notes that were equivalent (but subject to inflation, as inevitably occurred).

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