Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lame Duck experiements with Four Loko

The Lame Duck Congress has transformed into an enormous Energizer bunny. In a period when politicians traditionally accomplish little to nothing at all, representatives in the House, Senate and White House have shown a strange and alien characteristic - the ability to cooperate (enough). Democrats have displayed a greater willingness to compromise (mixed feelings here) in the wake of the November elections in which Republicans took back majority control of the House and made significant gains in the Senate, and a handful of Republicans - many of them retiring or resentful of the Tea Party movement's belligerence - broke ranks and gave Democrats enough votes to pass some pretty significant legislation that had been stalling for months.

Just to emphasize the fact, this generally isn't supposed to happen. For nearly 70 years, the Lame Duck session has been a time when congressmen/women accomplish relatively little, or insert text into other legislation to get earmarks or local victories.

Let's take a look at some of the wins/losses from this LDS you should have heard about:
  • Congress passes legislation to aid 9/11 rescuers and cleanup crews with ailments from their work on Ground Zero.
  • Congress and the WH agree on compromise legislation that extends Bush-era tax cuts (for poor, middle class and phenomenally wealthy Americans :/ ) for another two years, at which point the cuts will undoubtedly become part of the 2012 campaign season.
  • Congress (finally) passes a Defense Spending budget for next year. House Republicans had been blocking the legislation until the WH agreed to permanently extending the Bush-era tax cuts. (refer to previous bullet)
  • The DREAM Act fails a vote in the Senate, but President Obama vows to renew the bill next year as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
  • The military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy prohibiting gay men and women to serve openly in the armed forces was repealed this week (sort of suddenly) by the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. DADT was implemented as a military policy in 1993 as a compromise between President Clinton and a more Congress, but it's intent to protect gay men and women from prejudiced targeting was never fully realized.
  • President Obama rallies enough Republican support to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the Russian Federation. 13 Republican Senators crossed the isle for a 71-26 vote, and the Russian Duma is now expected to ratify the treaty by the end of the month. New START replaces the previous START that expired early this, and has be become a point of contention under President Bush when he moved forward with missile shield projects in Eastern Europe. It's better now.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act passes the House and Senate, and is signed by President Obama. Several amendments are passes weeks later to fix unresolved gaps issues and fill gaps in the regulations.
For the Cherry on top, the EPA is releasing new regulations for energy production and oil refineries :D This shift is a welcome last-ditch effort to wrap up some priority legislation before the new Congress is sworn in next week, at which point it's likely that nothing enjoyable or productive will come out of the legislature for a good long while.

ADDENDUM: I recently learned (thanks to SFGSA-IT) of another odd but reasonable law that was passed during this session. SB.2847, or the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (that's right, CALM), forbids television ads from playing at a volume noticeably louder than the programs during which they air. You know when you're watching a rerun of Law and Order on TNT, and it skips to a commercial that is suddenly twice as loud as anything you'd previously seen on that channel? Well, they can't do that anymore.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Law and the Multiverse

"Is Tony Stark in violation of federal arms control laws when he flies to Afghanistan in search of justice by exporting defense articles to a foreign territory?"
"Does the explicit organization of superviallains through the Legion of Doom expose all of its associate members to RICO claims and prosecution?"
"Can the Second Amendment protect Superman's heat vision?"

You may never have thought to investigate these kinds of questions, or if you have it was probably at 3am with a group of 2nd year law students who just finished finals (eh hem...). But no worries, now there is a place to address these timeless questions! Law and the Miltiverse launched on November 30 when two attorneys teamed up to explore the hypothetical legal ramifications of superhero/supervillain relations.

As an unexpected benefit of working in public risk control, this has become even more awesome. But even for those with no experience in criminal law or property insurance, it's worth a read.

Check it out.