Senate v. House of Lords

Today, on Fox News Radio (via The Hill), Rep. James Clyburn, the House majority whip, let loose with some nasty words for the upper half of the U.S. bicameral legislature: "[Senators] tend to see themselves as a House of Lords and they don't seem to understand that those of us that go out there every two years stay in touch with the American people. We tend to respond to them a little better."

It's an easy statement to sympathize with. In the past year, the majority-rules House has seemed a paragon of populist efficiency, passing cap and trade and the health care bills with relative ease -- before the Senate's long horse-trading process winnowed public support for the latter, and before the Democrats lost their 60th Senate seat and thus their ability to stop Republican filibusters.

But it left me thinking -- if only the Senate were like the House of Lords!

At the very least, Britain realized that the institution was anti-democratic and unpopular -- and reformed it, diminishing its power and changing its crusty composition. Parliament has progressively reduced the number of hereditary peers, the land-owning barons of old, replacing them with life peers appointed for career excellence. Plus, in the future, Parliament will likely start making peers elected. (See the composition of the House of Lords here.)

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Did Romania's president use the occult to get reelected?

President Obama has brought back his 2008 campiagn manager David Plouffe to help  get his domestic agenda back on track ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, but if he really wants to throw the Republicans off their game, he may want to take a trip to the dark side (No, not James Carville) and learn from how they do things in Romania:

[Romanian Presidential runner-up Mircea] Geoana, in media interviews last week, asserted that he was targeted by waves of negative energy during a key debate just before the runoff that was won by [reelected President Traian] Basescu.

“People who were working for Basescu in this domain were present to the right of the camera,’’ Geoana told Antena 3 Television. His wife, Mihaela said Geoana “was very badly attacked, he couldn’t concentrate.’’

At first Romanians mocked their former foreign minister saying he was a bad loser. Basescu himself jokingly dismissed the allegations. But the recent publication of photos showing well-known parapsychologist Aliodor Manolea close to Basescu during the campaign has caused Romanians to wonder whether the president really did put a hex on his rival.

The photos show Manolea, a slightly built, bearded man with a round face and cropped receding hair, walking yards behind Basescu ahead of the debate. Manolea’s specialties include deep mind control, clairvoyance, and hypnotic trance, according to the Romanian Association of Transpersonal Psychology.

The Basescu campaign has not outright denied Maneola's inolvement -- only that he didn't participate in staff meetings -- or explained why he appeared with the candidate. But don't be surprised if you see a slightly built, bearded Eastern European man walking behind Arlen Specter in the coming months.