Orbiting Dicta

Monthly Archives: January 2010

Term Limits

Several weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court decided to overturn a century’s worth of precedents and unleash the big spenders of commerce, industry, and giant trade unions on Washington (legally), Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University  wrote a thoughtful article on public policy for Scientific American.  It may seem quaint and out-of-date after the ruling, but perhaps that is all the more reason to read it.  It was called “Fixing the Broken Policy Process,” and appeared in the February 2010 issue.

Here’s the link to the where you can find an extended version of the article:


Come to think of it, this might be a good time to reconsider the old Republican enthusiasm for term limits.  Remember term limits?

Campaign Finance Reform — R.I.P.

On Thursday, by a significantly split 5-4 decision, The United States Supreme Court overturned more than a century of campaign finance reform enacted to preserve the independence of the electoral process (and the sanctity of the one-man, one-vote rule) from the domination of financial empires such as those that produced the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal and other nineteenth-century excesses.  Oil has always been a handy lubricant for all sorts of things.

Anthony Kennedy’s vote is simply inexplicable.  But Justices Scalia and Alito, who tout themselves as originalists, should certainly be alert to the obvious fact that First Amendment “freedom of speech” pertains to speech, not financial contributions from giant corporations, and was devised to protect the rights of citizens, not industries and unions that did not even exist when the Bill of Rights was drawn up.  I wonder what Peter Zenger and Tom Paine would say?   Teddy Roosevelt and other reformers inaugurated regulations against the buying and selling of votes in Congress to prevent the kind of wholesaling of democracy that our esteemed Republican-appointed justices have now reinstituted.  Is there no shame?  (Consider that a rhetorical question.)

It must be great relief to the CEOs of phenomenally rich  and powerful multinational companies such as Bechtel, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, and Pfizer that they can now more openly suborn members of Congress, not to say presidential candidates, rather than just dealing under the table as they have done for a good many years.   Or will they even need to?  It’s perhaps even more likely that the hopeful pols will come looking for them.

Haiti and Rev. Robertson

As the death toll of Christian missionaries, many of them evangelicals, as well as the native Christians of Haiti continues to rise, the remarks of televangelist and multi-millionaire Pat Robertson are being met with widespread repugnance.  Other evangelicals, let it be said, have been quick to respond with assistance, contributions, and prayers.

Robertson seems to think that the people of Haiti made some kind of collective pact with Satan 200 years ago for which, at least by implication, Jehovah has cursed them far beyond the seven generations sanctioned by the Bible.  Even  the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass, in whose veins the milk of human kindness does not usually bubble merrily, found Robertson’s verdict well over the top.  Like Sweeney Todd, the famous preacher seems to worship a dark and vengeful god, one that delights in visiting ancient wrath on the poor and defenseless people of New Orleans, the Indian Ocean, and unwary astronauts.  The wealthy evangelist does not seem to sense the irony in declaring that the poorest of the poor are made to bear the weight of the sins of the rich.

The righteous TV mogul ended his tirade by advising the people of Haiti to turn to God.  He might well consider practicing what he preaches.