Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Originally, the Senate was an ingenious compromise to a big problem. The "larger" states, like Virginia, felt that they, due to their populations, should have greater representation in the legislative body. The "smaller" states, like New York (!), felt that all the states should be represented equally. From this dispute came the idea of a bicameral legislature, composed of two distinct bodies. The House of Representatives would be based on population, and more populous states would have more representation. The Senate, however, would answer the need for states to be treated equally, regardless of population. The Senate would be the place where cooler heads prevailed. Because of that, it would be trusted with things like making treaties, the examination of federal judges, and the approval of executive appointees. The Senate was seen as less "partisan," and not subject to the momentary whims of an often fickle electorate. The six year terms were designed to give them more time for deliberation, and less need for politics.
Most people don't realize that the framers of our Constitution did not intend for senators to be "elected." It was not until the imposition of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 that senators were chosen by the electorate. Before that time, they were chosen by the states, usually by their legislatures. In the erosion of states' rights, that important measure was forgotten and forsaken. Americans had been given the unique opportunity to elect a representative from their own district; the Senate was reserved for important decisions made by, for lack of a better word, "statesmen."
In effect, popular election cheapened the Senate. What we currently have is a "House of Representatives" and a "House of Representatives Express," which has really become more of the same. There is so much duplication between the two that many people wonder why we don't just go to a unicameral legislature. After all, isn't it repetitive to have one chamber pass a bill, and then have to have the other one do exactly the same thing? The previous idea of a popularly elected body of representatives being counterbalanced by an upper chamber of statesman appointed by each state (or vice versa) was a major stroke of genius in the system of checks and balances.
It took nearly one hundred years for the "Upper Chamber" to finally devolve into the joke that it now is. Look at recent results. Minnesota is probably the most pitiful example, where it appears that a second-rate comedian is about to be awarded a six year term after a highly partisan battle and a seemingly highly partisan theft of votes after the fact that makes Louisiana politics look tame. Of course, the Senate has seen this before. In 1941, LBJ found out that a senate seat is not easily taken. He had won a special election, and even begun to celebrate, when suddenly, new "votes" began to come in. He was beaten by a clueless Pappy O'Daniel, then the governor of Texas. O'Daniel had not rigged the election. His enemies had. He was a known tee-totaler and a prohibitionist, and the liquor interests of Texas wanted him out of Austin and comfortably in Washington, so they awarded him a senate seat. LBJ learned his lesson, and seven years later, he stole an election himself. In one precinct in south Texas, all the people came in and voted in alphabetical order, even some of the dead ones. The partisan force behind Franken has refined the issues somewhat, but seems to have discovered entire precincts that weren't counted before, but voted purely Democratic.
Then there's Illinois, where the governor did what any good Illinois party boss would do -- tried to sell the senate seat. His idea was, "I did not work this hard to get this far so I could just sit here and serve the people. I'm ready to cash in!" This never would have been a problem with the original process. Oh, yes, governors can appoint senators, but I seriously doubt there would have been a vacancy to fill. Mr. Obama may turn out to be an excellent president, but he would not have been senate material if the state legislature had been thinking about it. Nor Hillary Clinton, who moved to New York just so she could be a senator. I realize that there have been many senators who became president. Lincoln lost to Douglas in an Illinois senatorial contest that was decided by the state legislature, and then Douglas lost to Lincoln in the next presidential election. If there had been a popular vote, Lincoln probably would have been an obscure Illinois senator in 1860, and Douglas might have been the president. Now that's a big change, and it shows what we may have missed in the last 100 years.
Then, of course, there's the need to fill Hillary's senate seat and, surprise of surprises, they are actually looking for someone from New York to do it! Obviously, since the governor is a Democrat, it will be a Democrat. I'm not sure if there are even any Republicans in New York. Some people tried to tell me Rudy Giuliani is one, but I think they were probably joking. If the Senate is a state matter, decided by a state legislature, then the procedure is to look for a capable, competent, experienced statesman/woman. However, the public, not only in New York, is frothing at the mouth. It's a chance to get another Kennedy!!! Caroline Kennedy, who used to have another last name until this senate seat came up, has already been crowned by the public. After all, she's JFK's daughter, so she must be a good senator. One NY politician even made the asinine comment that "she has the DNA to be a senator."
Spin, forefathers, spin. Now we're talking "royal line" and titles of nobility. Now political leadership is inherited. King George is back. I recently listened to her first "campaign" speech, and I have to say, she's probably a nice person, and good at whatever she has been doing. But she has no vision, no speaking skills, you know, uh, you only, you know, have to listen, you know, for, uh, a minute, to, you know, realize that. But forget that: she has DNA!
The framers of our Constitution, in their wisdom and foresight, knew that Americans would need one big ugly Circus Maximus, so they gave us the House of Representatives. Little did they realize that the American people would demand a two-ring circus, so a hundred years ago they turned the Senate into one, too. And while we're at it, we need to note that no circus is complete without three rings, so we have also added the Executive Branch to the mixture, making the road to the White House a multibillion dollar, tiring, boring, two-year trek of ineffective and unsatisfying primaries that lead to a meaningless convention/coronation. And to boot, most Americans would like to just do away with electoral votes and make it an across the board national popularity contest.
Perhaps the best thing we could do for our nation would be to restore the Senate to the position that the Framers intended. I know we couldn't do it overnight, but we could "grandfather" those who are in the Senate right now, let them continue to run their expensive campaigns. But each time a senator retires or is defeated in an election, we could say "last one," and turn the next one to the state legislatures.
"Oh," you might say, "but popular elections give us the senators the people want." I really have a hard time believing that Al Franken could make a good page, much less a senator. Does Minnesota really deserve Al Franken, or even his worthy opponent? If state legislatures regained what was once a constitutional power, if it were possible to do it today, in the next 24 hours, our Senate would see a sudden, radical improvement. We must face it: popular election does not produce the best leaders. Remember Nixon? Biggest popular win in history, up to that time. Was Hillary really the best New York could do? Then there's Idaho and Alaska; don't forget Florida.
You want to send a clown to Washington? Our forefathers gave us the House for that. We should return the Senate to its original dignity. It would help us all out.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
by Staff Writer B.O. Sanity
Augusta, Maine (AIP) - Sources close to the banking committee have reported that there was an eleventh-hour request submitted just before congress adjourned for the long Christmas holiday, and many on Wall Street will be running for cover when the market re-opens for a mini-session on Friday. Clause/North Pole (Nasdaq CNPL) is requesting up to 75 billion dollars of the federal bail-out money that has been set aside for troubled businesses. The call is expected to send CNPL into a tailspin when trading opens, but Clause's chief financial advisor recommends moderation, saying that there are already corrective measures on the way that will see the stock returning to pre-December levels by mid-February.
Clause cited competition from new corporations such as Kwanza and renovation of older ones such as Ramadan (which cuts into the December market much earlier in the month) and has asked for protective measures. Clause cited the dependence of American corporations on their product delivery framework, though detractors have noted that CNPL now delivers up to 70% non-American manufactured goods, most notably from China and Indonesia. Rapid downsizing in native workforce has been the trend since the eighties, when CNPL, then the pre-merger North Pole Industries, a private corporation, offered early retirement to any assembly line manufacturers who were 350 years old or older.
Many current manufacturers who use CNPL as a delivery framework are dissatisfied with several strategies that they say are now "outdated," and feel that production and distribution are suffering from a "good/bad" criterion that hampers overall production. Sony and Nintendo have threatened to withdraw from the CNPL delivery system altogether when the current contract expires in 2011 unless CNPL can redefine "good and bad." Walmart has also entered talks, calling on CNPL to be more environment friendly, and calculate green behavior into the "good" mode.
Clause, CEO of the corporation, issued a statement requesting that they be allowed a time of reorganization. Though global warming and ice melting has not yet affected headquarters, Clause requested up to two billion for contingency expenses in the possibility of a need for relocation and recovery of resources. Heavily criticized as not even being an American corporation due to the out of country location, Clause noted that applicable taxes are assessed from the corporations that contract his delivery service, and assured potential investors that, in the unlikely event of a relocation, CNPL would favor US Territory and would negotiate with American labor organizations.
Rumor has it that Target, Inc, attempted a hostile buy-out of 51% of CNPL's stock last July during Clause's executive retreat at Aruba, but the takeover bid was curtailed when Wachovia refused to advance a line of credit to Target for the 350 million dollar shortfall that would be needed for full purchase. Claus's legal team has since privatized 51% of CNPL's outstanding stock, a move which temporarily saw shares rise by as much as fourteen percent in early August, but which has seen twice the decline since.
Clause reported early this morning, returning from the annual delivery cycle, that the outlook actually is good for a short term gain in the first quarter, but there is still talk on Wall Street of cutbacks, and CNPL's employees, who uniquely receive their seasonal bonuses in late January instead of early December, are grumbling about the delayed bonuses which allegedly will not be given until the February numbers are out this year, and are said to be stock shares in the company instead of traditional cash gifts.
There has also been a rumbling over a potential split of the company, and rumors of marital turbulence between Clause and his wife are being downplayed. Ms. Clause owns 20 percent of CNPL's public shares, and it is common knowledge that she has been in extended discussions with Martha Stewart over a possible merger, which, of course, would offset Walmart business with the less viable Kmart name.
CNPL's request for funds will not go without a price. House Banking Committee Chairman Rep Barney Frank (D-NY), said that there would be some governmental control of the North Pole distribution network, and there would need to be concessions by Clause and company regarding procedures. Frank has expressed concern about traditional gay views and possible conflicts with the "good/bad" list.
Critics have said that one reason for artificial perceived growth in CNPL is the possibility of reduced delivery expenses due to an increase in "bad" children in the equation, and many corporations, such as Disney, Sears, and Time-Warner have expressed concern about loss of product, and want to see representatives from their own corporations on the conduct evaluatory board that determines who is good and bad (http://www.naughtyornice.np/). Frank has recommended a congressional committee be added as well, and says that Clause cannot expect any help unless he is willing to make this concession.
CNPL closed Wednesday at 324.23, down 17.21, and down from their all-time high in 1998 of 768.23.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Mr. Obama has been surprisingly inclusive in his selection of administration. In fact, if I had to mention just one word that has been characteristic of this transition time, it would be "gracious." He has not entered Washington as a conqueror, but as another servant in a long line of succession of public servants. However, I am pleased to see that Mr. Obama knows that he's no one's lap dog. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, with all their partisan bitterness and rudeness, have implied that they have great plans for him, and he is consistently reminding them that, come January 20, he will be their boss.
Late in the evening of November 4, cities across the world looked like the cities that win super bowls. People were dancing in the streets. Why? They were anticipating a grand new age: the dismantling of everything that the Bush administration stood for. On January 21, they thought, the cargo planes would pull all the military out of Iraq. All those filthy rich people would lose all those horrible tax exemptions, and the money would be automatically deposited in the accounts of the deserving poor. Billions of dollars would be released to abort babies of poor innocent women, and the stem cells of those feti would be harvested and all known diseases in the world would be cured. Gay people would be celebrating marriage in court houses and liberal churches in all 50 states, and any of those rustic old churches that did not allow the ceremony would be padlocked or burned to the ground.
In early February, after picking an "inclusive" jury, the war crimes trials were going to begin for Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others, with Colin Powell getting immunity for turning states' evidence. Then they would all be sent to an international court somewhere for life imprisonment.
The only unemployed people, after January 20, would be right wing fundamentalist ministers, conservative talk radio hosts, and Republican lawmakers.
Rick Warren is not a right wing fundamentalist minister. Most Southern Baptists, of which he is one (though his church does not include the word in its name), would consider him "left-leaning." Understand, however, that those "fundamentalist" Southern Baptists are far more tolerant of alternate people and views than the Left. Rick Warren is a fiscal moderate and would probably come closer to the views of mainstream Democrats and moderate Republicans in the area of medical care, government backing of social programs, and funding for research. His church has raised millions of dollars to combat AIDS worldwide. He believes that both the government and the church have a responsibility to help the poor, and is an environmental advocate and supports measures to reduce global warming, something that probably would not be said of most Southern Baptist ministers.
Mr. Warren no longer accepts a salary from his church; in fact, he has even paid back all the salary they have paid him since he started the church in the 80's. Like J.C. Penney of another era, the Warren family are "reverse tithers." They keep 10% of their earnings and give the other 90% to their church and to charitable causes. He has not gotten his money from tearful begging sessions on cable TV, but through the writing of well-researched books that people have actually wanted to buy. He is not a "money grubber" by any means, and desires no national stage or world wide recognition.
Mr. Warren hosted the first tête à tête between the two major candidates, on the stage of his own church, asking them the same questions, endorsing neither, and affirming both. It was not the first time Mr. Obama has appeared at his church, having spoken there before he was a serious candidate for president, on an issue that he and Warren have in common: AIDS eradication. There was no outspoken criticism of Rick Warren from that "fundamentalist right" for these moderate, inclusive views. We must face the truth: whether we like right-wingers or not, they are far more tolerant than their angry counterparts on the left.
If nothing else, Rick Warren is the best possible choice to lead the invocation at the Inauguration. He represents the best of both worlds. He is a man of faith and integrity as well as a man of conscience. Unfortunately for the Left, the man has a genuine, non-political conscience, something that radical leftists lack. He feels that the unborn are an oppressed group, just like the Jews of the Holocaust, and the American slaves of past centuries.
Now Katheryn Kolbert, of the so-called "People for the American Way" has the audacity to say that Mr. Obama should have selected a minister who represents the "mainstream" of America to open the Inauguration. I can think of no other way to say it, except that maybe that was the most ignorant statement I have heard since the election. She said this because Rick Warren recommended that Californians vote for an amendment to undo the damage that judges had done to the concept of marriage in California. Gays and lesbians represent 2% of Americans, and many of their own group feel that gay marriages are unnatural and uncalled for. Yet the clueless Ms. Kolbert thinks her views are "mainstream."
Abortion is and always has been a hot-button issue. When the US Supreme Court hijacked America's wishes in 1973 and by a 5-4 vote decided that it was right to kill babies after all, and that states had no say in the matter, and that taxpayers had to pay for it, regardless of their own conscience, over 70% of Americans were opposed to abortion. Even after 35 years of this murder being imposed on us, over half of Americans are against it. Yet a pro-life pastor is considered outside the "mainstream."
When gays and lesbians began their repugnant crusade to be recognized as a minority group, and invaded the civil rights issues that rightly belonged to racially displaced Americans, their battle cry was "it's not the government's business what goes on in the privacy of our own bedrooms." It would be a very hypocritical cry. Most of us did not want to look in their bedrooms. We had -- and have -- absolutely no interest in their bedrooms. We're tired of seeing them march in streets, tired of having to watch them kiss while in the movie theaters, both on the screen and in the seats in front of us. We're tired of them forcing their way into churches and civic clubs, trespassing and disrupting orderly meetings, violating the constitutional right of freedom to assemble.
The gay and lesbian movement has not been in the bedroom. If it had been, there wouldn't be propositions like the state wide ones that all passed on election night, 2008, while Democrats were making historic gains in races all across the country. If anything shows how out of touch the Liberal Left is, it is that the party closest to their views, which voted in near-record numbers, did not help out their radical agenda.
I fear a disruption of the inauguration by this vocal 2% and less. You see, they lied about diversity. They lied about inclusion. They care about neither; all they care about is the violent imposition of their narrow views on the vast majority of decent Americans. Mr. Obama chose the person he felt most qualified to lead the prayer at his inauguration (since his likely first choice, Billy Graham, at 90 years old, is now too feeble for such events). Mr. Warren is a minister who is faithful to the text that he has studied and practiced most of his life. He is supportive of his friend, the President-elect. His inaugural prayer will be neither the first nor the last prayer he offers for Mr. Obama.
Evan Wolfson, founder of the group Freedom to Marry, said "Rick Warren did a real disservice to gay families in California and across the country by casually supporting our continued exclusion from marriage. I hope in the spirit of the new era that’s dawning, he will open his heart and speak to all Americans about inclusion and our country’s commitment to equality.”
I hope that in the genuine spirit of the new era that's dawning, Mr. Wolfson and others will find the intelligence to live by his own words, and realize that it's absolutely none of his business whom the President-elect chooses to lead the opening prayer at his inauguration.
The far left has shown its true colors. Some have said that Obama was the most liberal senator we have had since his election. That may or may not be true. Hypothetically, if it is true, we need to realize the chilling fact that the most liberal of all 100 senators is still not liberal enough for the radical left.
I am pleased that Mr. Obama has been his own man so far. I'm sure I will not like all the decisions he makes as president, but he has impressed me so far by showing that he will not kowtow to anyone. He's president, and that's what it's about.
And to the leftist radicals -- the Loud-mouthed Left -- I have one message. If you want it "your way," either visit a Burger King or go buy a Sinatra CD.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
- Don't surround yourself with bad men. Unfortunately, that's what many of your predecessors have done. Some of them just want a way up, others want to work long enough to be able to write a book about you and make a lot of money, and then there are others with a thirst for power and a cruel streak that does not quit. I fear you've already started to do this, and it frightens me. Please understand that you don't "owe" anyone anything. You have been elected by Americans, and you have no favors to pay. So what if they gave you money or found you some votes? You owe nobody anything, except maybe to the voters who supported you.
- Find people of honor and integrity. I know that this sounds a lot like the first one, but you've already had problems. You are now the president of the United States, for crying out loud, and you can't have casual conversations any more with just anybody about anything. You had a small problem this week. Mr. Bush was ready to lay some things out, to talk in confidence, as one president to another. You did not take that confidentiality seriously, and apparently blurted a lot of it to people around you, who were all too ready to leak the details to a nosy media. In so doing, you lost Mr. Bush's confidence somewhat. No matter what you think of his politics or his ethics, you need his confidence. He's been president for nearly 8 years, and he knows things you need to know. He was ready to show you all the secret places, and you were not careful in whom you told. You cannot treat secrets that way. It was a big mistake. If you want to start well as a great president, you need to find those on your staff who blabbed to the media, fire them, and warn the others that you will do that for any other "leak."
- Don't try to save the world in one day. You will have time to get your programs in motion. If you do too much too fast, you will find that some things don't work out like you thought. There's only one group that will do you more damage than the conservatives you challenge, and that will be the liberals that you are going to have to let down. Don't promise them the moon. Ms. Speaker already thinks you are her meal ticket, and you have a wonderful power that Mr. Bush did not have: you can keep her on a short leash. If you are going to be president, you will have to do that. And while you're at it, you need to let Mr. Reid know that you are president and he is merely a senator, who before January 20 might have been your boss, but that things have changed.
- Take a long, hard look. It was easy to make promises when you were merely a junior senator. Now you will be president. You will know things we don't know, and see the world through the serious eyes of our chief executive. The presidency is the "great moderator." It swings conservatives somewhat to the left, and liberals somewhat to the right. You will need to do what Kennedy and others have done who came in from the left, and realize that the "right" is "right" about some things.
- Keep being human. It took quite a man to admit wrong in your first press conference. You inadvertently insulted Nancy Reagan. Presidents don't make offhand comments. They don't have that luxury. But your ready admission of being wrong puts you in a great light: you are willing to correct your errors and to grow. Several of those who opposed you from both major parties need to learn this lesson. They are never wrong, at least in their own eyes.
- Protect your daughters. Let them be normal. Don't make them some kind of sacrifice on the altar of political correctness by doing something silly like sending them to a public school. That is way too dangerous. They deserve a small, expensive private school. You can afford it, we the people can afford it, and only an idiot would have a problem with it. Let them be little girls, and as much as is possible, let them grow up normally. Let them share a room. Of course there's plenty of money for each of them to have one of their own, but they will need each other because you and mom, as much as you want to be, will not be there with them all the time.
- Don't listen to special interest groups. It is better to be a one-term president with integrity than a two-term president who worries about power brokers. Tell lobbyists where to get off. Don't pander to the extreme left who think they got you in. Don't feel than anyone "deserves" to be a justice, a cabinet member, or on your staff because you "owe" them. If someone reminds you that they gave you money for your campaign, give it back to them and tell them to get lost. You've got enough money to do that.
- Watch the old movie "Tick..Tick...Tick.." with Jim Brown, I think. He was a black man who won the election for sheriff in a southern town in the 1960's. Let him be a role model of integrity and how it's done. I hope you're as tired as I am of hearing the word "race" in this election. Black people make up only 14% of the American electorate, and you won something like 56% of the vote. You were not elected by a racial group, and you don't owe anything to anyone. You are not the first Black president; you are the 44th American president.
- Get the line item veto. I didn't vote for you, and I probably don't agree with many of your political issues. While it might seem counter-productive to people like me, I want to re-assert Get the line-item veto! It will kill pork, stop nonsense, and move sluggish Washington forward. The Republicans promised this in 1994, and that's why there was a landslide. Americans want their president to have a line item veto. Presidents want to have it. The only people that are against it are congressmen and senators. I'll bet you know why. GET THE LINE-ITEM VETO!
- Get in touch with Dave Ramsey. If you've never heard of him, google his name. Ask him for some advice. There is not a money machine in the basement of the White House. You do not have unlimited funds, and rich people will not have near the money that you think they do. Dave Ramsey would probably send you his book for free. He would even visit with you. His ideas could fix the hemmorhaging of money that we have seen for the last eight years. Fix that, and you might be president for life.
Mr. President, my president. I give you my support and confidence. I will stand up for you when people are talking bad about you. If I disagree with your politics or decisions, I will speak against them, but never against you. If you listen to the simple advice I gave you above, you will get my vote in 2012. You can be the greatest president this nation has ever had. Take a shot at it.
God speed, Mr. President.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The senators have admitted that, for the most part, the vast majority of calls and e-mails they have gotten were against the .7 trillion dollar bail-out. The American electorate is against it. So how do 3/4 of our senators arrive at the conclusion that they should support this bill anyway?
One reason is, most of them feel that they will be re-elected when the time comes. After all, they think, voters are not that intelligent. They check a party box at the top of the ballot and give it no other thought.
I hope I speak for thousands in saying that's not the way it works now. Because of the internet, constant news coverage, and rapid exchange of information, we don't have to be in the dark. As I noted in my last post, they also vote on bills with strange, non-pertinent names that only someone with a legal degree and years of experience inside the cloisters of Washington could understand. In my last post, I gave you the name of the bailout bill the House voted on. In fairness to the Upper Chamber, I would like to give you the name of their bill:
H. R. 1424
To amend section 712 of the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974, section 2705 of the Public Health
Service Act, section 9812 of the Internal Revenue Code
of 1986 to require equity in the provision of mental
health and substance-related disorder benefits under
group health plans, to prohibit discrimination on the
basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance
and employment, and for other purposes.
As you can see, they may not have even known what they were voting for. And in the old days, they could rest assured that you didn't know. But whatever they called it, and Senator Hutchison from our state changed the amount and the purpose, they still voted to use seven hundred thousand thousand thousand taxpayer dollars to pay for the stupidity of greedy bankers.
The day after the house bill, the stock market had a temper tantrum and lost nearly 800 points. The next day, like a spoiled child, they went back to their playtime and recovered over half of it. Then Wednesday night, the Senate, like an overindulgent, inexperienced parent, decided to give them their toy after all, and like a spoiled child who has gotten his way, the market decided to pout some more to show us how bad we had been.
You, the reader, have information. You have power. You have several sources that can tell you how your senator voted. I found out within the hour and was able to send a pink slip to both of my senators immediately.
I recommend you do the same. These are the people who gave you Daylight Savings Time, who made it easier for credit card companies to gouge you, and now who want to take your dollars and bail out people who are supposed to know more about money than you do.
I hope my letters to my congressmen were indicative of what is happening in Texas. If so, John Cornyn will be looking for a job in January. Maybe in a bank somewhere, since he's so sensitive to their needs. And Kay Bailey Hutchison has some time to think about it. Rumors are she may be tired of the senate and be about to challenge our governor for his job. At one time I would have tried to help her, but not now. Maybe she can be a bank teller instead.
Are you going to let the people you send to Washington continue to thumb their noses at you? The vote on Wednesday night was a no-brainer. Millions of Americans jammed phone lines and websites, pleading, "Please vote no!" Seventy-four senators turned a deaf ear to them. In four years or so, we could be rid of them.
It's up to you.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I watched as the situation built to critical mass. John McCain "suspended" a dying campaign so he could devote time to this crucial situation on behalf of America. This was spoken by a man who ranks last in the Senate this year -- for time spent in the Senate. Barack Obama came and sat in the White House and pretended he knew what was going on as he listened to economic advisers discuss what the next step would be.
A shiver runs down my spine as I realize that neither one of these men, and one will be president, has a clue about anything financial. However, they both have seen it as an excellent political opportunity.
Congress found out today that it's "kind of" important to listen to the electorate. Americans simply don't want to put our grandchildren further in debt to bail out irresponsible Wall Street sharks. We just don't have much in common with banks -- the tallest buildings in our towns, the ones that own our houses and cars and replaced knees and hips. However, we do have a lot in common with our friends and neighbors who are putting "for sale" signs in their front yards, and we don't see how 700 billion dollars sent to Wall Street is going to do anything about that.
But it's quite a photo op. The bill might have passed today if Nancy Pelosi had not made such a fool of herself. Perhaps the only poorer taste in campaigning I have ever seen was in 2002 when Democratic operatives tried to turn the late Senator Paul Wellstone's funeral into a campaign rally.
Pelosi gave us a prime example of why Congress's approval rating makes George Bush look like a rock star. They can get nothing done. Her rather crass grilling of the party across the aisle -- and a Democrat who has a few brain cells, and there are several, knows that the mess we are in is "bi-partisan" -- cost her any semblance of leadership.
But Nancy, I'm thankful. I'm like most Americans. I know that my retirement funds will be back. And one reason for that may be that your congress was not able to print 700 thousand thousand thousand dollar bills.
Having something like this happen so close to an election has been a mixed blessing. Those in the highest echelons of power are obviously not interested in what is happening to us. They are seeing this as a chance for a political move, a way to turn the elections in their favor. On the other hand, some savvy politicians and observers saw this as an opportunity to remind 435 people in the lower chamber that their jobs are on the line. Talk show host Dave Ramsey even encouraged us to call our congressional offices and tell them we would fire them if they voted for this measure. I think Dave must have a pretty good listener base. I think they called.
Pelosi was surprised. Bush was surprised. Republican leaders who were supposed to deliver the votes to GW were surprised. Harry Reid was near tears. John McCain and Barack Obama were almost speechless (that's a perk there). I thought that the evening network news anchors were going to cry on the air. A rather smug George Stephanopoulos assured us that this "necessary" bill would be passed as soon as those silly Republicans took a step back, got over their mad, and re-voted on this issue.
I'm counting on them holding their ground. I've been hearing Mr. Obama say that McCain and others are just extensions of George W. Bush and his "failed policies." Today, those same Republicans are the reason that the largest Socialist trap ever conceived in our nation did not become a reality. It was the Democrats who wanted to continue Bush's policies.
My own local congressman, a Republican, canceled a speech at our local high school to get back to DC in time to vote, and he voted against the Bailout. He's got my vote, and he would have it no matter what party he was in.
How much did this campaigning cost us? Seven hundred billion is cheap. The stock market lost a couple of trillion dollars today. That money came out of our 401k's, our educational savings plans, our teachers' retirement funds, and our personal mutual funds. It happened because government got involved in economics. If cooler heads had prevailed, and we had decided to ride this crisis out for a while and let those grasshoppers die while the ants weathered the winter, we would have seen a hiccup in the market today.
We can also thank the media, who have decided that we are about to go through a great depression worse than 1929, and are warning us about it on every corner. This is the same media that caused race riots in their irresponsible coverage of Rodney King, who showed us how bad we are for not bailing out a New Orleans that had built a city below sea level. They are the ones who continually have to remind me who's black and who's white when I want to look beyond color.
All in all, the loud ones were in a minority today. I'm sorry, GW, Nancy, Harry, John, and Barack. You are not getting our money to play with today. If you want to help us out with 700 billion dollars, I suggest you just give it back to us! We know what to do with it. Better than you do, obviously. I know you won't because there's not much to campaign about when responsible people use their own money to create business, growth, and prosperity.
We will survive. Even a trillion dollar loss will not stop those of us who avoid debt, who spend only what we make and try to give away as much as we can. We are not going to give you our money. Don't even think about it.
Oh, and a big PS that I can't put anywhere else. You want to know how messed up our congress is? Here's the title of what they voted on today. Notice there is nothing about Wall Street, bailouts, interest rates, or anything else. Most normal human beings would have given it a name that was germane to the vote. See if you can figure this one out; I am not making this up. This is the title of the bill that was voted on today:
To Amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to Provide Earnings Assistance and Tax Relief to Members of the Uniformed Services, Volunteer Firefighters, and Peace Corps Volunteers, and for Other Purposes
And you wonder why they never get anything done.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Instead of doing any of these things, Congress has continued to play the "non-binding resolution" game. They've passed resolutions against the war, against Bush, in favor of his indictment, against Republicans, against apple pie, and against hot dogs. Well, most of those things anyway. Now, they are set for a pivotal moment in history: they are poised to offer a non-binding apology for slavery! This is the stuff that single-digit approval ratings are made of!
Please indulge me. It's not that I'm in favor of slavery or anything. I'd like to think that if I had been a wealthy Connecticut land owner in 1788, I would have opted not to have slaves. But the bottom line is, I don't owe anyone an apology. I'm not responsible for my Saxon ancestors who brutally overran the agrarian Celts before the first millennium was over. I'm not responsible for anything they did, even if they are my great X 10 grandparents.
If I had a time machine, I might try to go back and find my ggg grandparents, and tell them to let their slaves go. Maybe I could help them get to the underground railroad, and follow the Drinking Gourd into Canada. Maybe I could have been Harriet Tubman's right-hand man. But the truth of the matter is, what's done is done, and I can do nothing about it.
If it had even been closer. If my own father or grandfather had kept slaves, I might feel an obligation to apologize. I might even want to sell what I own and help pay reparations, especially if some of those slaves or their children were still alive. But that's not happened.
All slaves and slave holders have been dead for generations. There are no slaves left to apologize to, and no slave owners to make the apology. When any major group, be it social, religious, or political, seeks to make an apology on my behalf, I get a little ticked. But now, congress, which has done nothing but twiddle its thumbs, has decided to issue an apology for slavery.
Don't get me wrong. I'm sorry for slavery. I'm sorry for the way our forefathers ripped valuable land away from the Indians and took it for themselves. But there are differing types of "I'm sorry." Sometimes, we intentionally hurt someone. We rob from them, or do bodily harm, or spread malicious gossip about them. Or we may just lie to them. In that case, we say "I'm sorry," which can be translated as "Please forgive me." Then, there's the moment when we are getting to our seats in a crowded theater and accidentally step on someone's toe, or we momentarily block the view of "Coming Attractions." In that case, we say "I'm sorry," and what we mean is "Excuse me." Then, there is that moment when one of our friends comes to us and tells us of the discovery of an illness that will require surgery, or of the loss of a beloved pet or family member. When we hear that, we say "I'm sorry," and that could probably best be interpreted as "I sympathize with you."
I cannot figure out what level of "I'm sorry" congress seems to be trying to use. If it's "Please forgive me," I can't join in. I've never had slaves, never been in favor of slavery, and have absolutely no control over my ancestors, of whom there may not have been slave holders anyway. After all, there never were that many slave holders in America. Even in that evil, slave-owning Confederacy, over 80% of the soldiers that died fighting for states' rights had never owned a slave, and had no plans to. So I can't figure out any reason to truthfully say "Please forgive me." I did nothing wrong. And neither did you, unless you are reading this, are over 150 years old, and were in the top 10 per cent of the socioeconomic class of the US when you were young.
If it's "excuse me," I can't join in. I haven't even accidentally had slaves. I'm rather timid, and have a problem even telling my children to run an errand for me. I don't think I've stepped on too many toes, literally or figuratively, but have found that, when I do, as in these editorials I write, I really don't want to say "excuse me," because I don't want to be excused. All the toes I step on are on purpose, and none of them has had anything to do with slavery.
If it's "I sympathize with you," I can't go there either. If I found a genuine former slave, someone who had the scars of cuffs on his wrist, or of lashes on his back, I would be able to show compassion and sympathy for what he had gone through. But I think all those people are dead. In what I believe theologically, they are in a state of eternal bliss at this moment, and even if they could hear the "I'm sorry" from congress -- on YOUR behalf, by the way, it would mean nothing to them.
I think that, as long as we're in the non-binding resolution business, I would like to propose one to my own congressman, if he's listening. How about a "Let bygones be bygones" resolution? Let's realize that the past, however evil it was, cannot be changed, and that often, it is in the midst of a series of evil things that good things are brought about. As I think of how many Americans of African descent have contributed to our culture, of how pleased I am to know personally many people of African descent, I'm willing to forget the endless procession of time and circumstance that has brought about what got them here. For all I know, I myself may be a product of slavery -- some tiny event in history may have spurred the conception of a now-remote ancestor. And I know for sure that I'm a product of the taking of lands from the American Indians. I have the blood of at least two tribes coursing through my own veins. So I really didn't need Senator Brownback's apology to us, er, them recently. What's done is done.
At a time of record low approval ratings -- just in case you're interested, Bush is 3 times as popular as congress, and even Dick Cheney is twice as popular -- maybe congress is looking for any friends it can find. But remember, potential friends of congress. This resolution will be "non-binding." And it will do about as much good as it would do to dig up your great-great-great-great grandfather's grave and chew him out for maybe having slaves.
Let the healing begin.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
As you probably know, next February, TV as we have known it since the days of Uncle Miltie, will disappear. Along with it, we will bury all those mysteries we wondered about when we were kids, like "Why is there no channel 1?" or "Why did they pick 13 channels?" and the long-solved "What does the 'UF' mean that is right after the thirteen on my knob?" I remember an ad later for a TV that said, "It gets all 82 channels." I don't think there's been an 82-channel tuner for quite a while now. But I have really digressed. Those reliable old channels, whether 12 or 82 or whatever number, have one big fault in this digital world: they take up way too much bandwidth. And those tiny slivers of digital channels can hold tons of information. The only channel that really gets to my house without static has at least two other channels streamlined in the narrow-band digital signal which my TV does not get. So I really understand the win/win situation of the FCC: with digital channels mandated, antenna-fed TV will improve, and all those gigantic dinosaur channels can be sliced up into delightful digital frequencies as well, to be sold for high dollar to wireless companies, communication agencies, and public service. It's a wise business decision, and I stand in awe that someone at the FCC figured that out. It must have been outsourced.
My TV. I bought it at KMart seven years ago when it was on sale. I really can't tell you how many channels it gets, because any time I do auto channel set-up it does it differently. But I do know this: it's not a digital TV. So I came to the realization that, on a clear February morning in 2009, the TV will no longer work. But that's almost OK with me. I've got "The Andy Griffith Show" on DVD, as well as many other favorite shows. The DVD player will continue to work, along with the ancient VCR (also analog). But I will lack one thing: local news and weather, and some college football games this fall. So I needed a digital tuner; after all, why buy a new digital TV, not to mention HDTV, etc, to get one channel here in the sticks? We have no cable. I could buy a satellite dish, but why pay 30-80 dollars a month so I can watch twice as many commercials in the middle of cut-up shows?
I am a perfect candidate for a digital tuner: we have two TV's, both analog. We don't have satellite. We will never have cable -- I'm 10 miles from the nearest cable connection. So I went online and filled out the information, being totally truthful. The last part of the form, by the way, is where you have to swear you're telling the truth -- Scout's honor -- and I had the sneaky suspicion they still didn't believe me. Oh, wait. There was another thing to fill out: one of those things where you read the scrambled box with lines through it and then type in what you see so you can prove that you're a human being and not a robot like Wall-E or something.
I did all that, and crossed my heart and hoped to die as I sent it. And got back the "request denied" page. It seems that I am living in either a multi-family dwelling or a business establishment. If there's another family in here, I've never met them, but that does explain who keeps forgetting to close doors, who's not throwing away their garbage or cleaning up after themselves. It must be another family; the IRS can vouch that there's no money-making business under this roof.
They had a little link to click to appeal the decision. I clicked that link and it gave me the "I'm not a robot" test again, and kicked me out without even saying goodbye. I went back to the site, and, paraphrasing, it said, "Oh, it's you again; I told you to beat it!" So then, I went to the phone and dialed the 24/7 hotline. After talking to computers (why do they get to be computers and robots and I don't? Shouldn't I be able to give them one of those squiggly lines tests?) a very courteous voice said, "We're sorry, but your request is rejected. If you think this is in error, please e-mail us at %#*&^@*&^%">%#*&^@*&" -- at least that's what it sounded like before they hung up on me without repeating the e-mail or telling me which button of the phone to push to hear the address again -- after I retrieved the pen that was within arm's reach.
So I dialed the number again, because I've heard if you work at those automated things long enough, you'll finally reach a human. It took a few minutes, but I finally got to dial a "0," and it thanked me and told me to hold until the next available human being could answer. Then, in about ten seconds, it told me it was impossible to talk to a human right now, and hung up on me -- click -- and gave me a dial tone.
Yesterday I found an email address on the website, though I don't think it's the one that I was given over the phone. So I wrote them and told them my plight. Last night, just before bed, I was pleased to find a response from the FCC in my inbox. Finally, I thought. It said, "Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This is an automated message to confirm that we have received your correspondence. We will review your information to determine how we can best serve you." Another robot.
When Dark February arrives, I will do what I should have done in the first place. I will go to a store, buy a digital receiver, and pay for it with the money I have saved in seven months, which is a drop in the bucket. Then I will come home and watch Magic TV. And I'll do it without welfare. When I think about how free the government is with our tax dollars -- they are going to send out millions of these rebates because people can't save 40 dollars in a year -- I'm ashamed I even tried. In fact, if the FCC relents and sends me a coupon, I will tear it up.
Now, what does this have to do with Health Care? I think you can guess. Big Government has shown it can't even deliver a simple product to the very people it was designed for (I'll repeat: if anyone qualified for one of those tuners, it was me). I'm glad I wasn't applying online for heart surgery or an appendectomy. Robots don't have hearts or appendices (appendexes?), and might not understand that I do. I also doubt that most politicians have the former, and know they've all removed the latter to use up the money in their excellent health insurance program that I pay for.
Why are 200 million people -- or more -- willing to trust the Federal Government to manage our health care when they can't even send you a Wal-Mart coupon? What scares me more is to realize that for every person like myself: someone with an honest request for a genuine need, who is turned down, there are probably two or three who have requested these coupons under pretense, and who are going to get them, and turn this government freebie around and take the FCC -- or whoever is doing this -- for huge sums of money.
Now you see where this is going. I will have no problem with saving for electronic equipment: it's affordable and dependable, with good guarantees. Why? Because the government, outside of this one little experiment, has not ventured into the world of electronics, and so that realm remains free to grow, unfettered, constantly improving. Can you imagine what a PC would look like today if the government had funded the research and there had not been capitalists like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? You would not be reading what I'm writing right now. It would be on a legal pad, scrawled out by a cheap Bic pen. I can't "just save up" for medical care because it's been living on government dole for several decades, and now is too fat and lazy to move, and the average American is incapable of paying medical expenses out of pocket.
Very soon, congress will again take up the issue of Socialized Medicine. They want to help us, and I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan's famous quote, "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." I hope you live long enough to enjoy your new digital converter that Uncle Sam was so nice to subsidize for you. Maybe if this works out, the next presidential candidates in 2012 can guarantee us a "computer in every room," or something like that.
I'm sorry, but are we really stupid enough to think that the US Government can be Marcus Welby?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
The old saying is, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Obama has done what many other candidates have done -- recruited family members as part of the campaign. There is a line that needs to be drawn. Traditionally, the candidate had the adoring wife and children around him. The wife, if the candidate was elected, adopted some politically neutral causes like hunger or literacy.
I don't know if it started with the Clinton campaign -- I'm sure it didn't -- but Hillary made it an issue. She was vocal and extremely opinionated, and assumed the the office of First Lady was more than ceremonial. As a result, she was sometimes berated or criticized. And for some reason, Bill thought that wasn't fair.
Nobody ever criticized Mamie Eisenhower. In spite of the bitter dislike that many had for Richard Nixon, Pat Nixon was left alone. Even Laura Bush is still respected. She doesn't suffer from the angry political rhetoric that Michelle Obama is already seeing. Why? Because Laura Bush has not been used by her husband as a political tool.
Look at what Obama was saying this week, in effect: "I'm going to use my wife for political mileage. She will speak out on issues that I'm most passionate about. She will speak against those who oppose us, and challenge the Republican policies that are in place. She will have a carte blanche to say whatever she wants, but if anyone says anything against her, that is unfair, and they will have to deal with my righteous indignation."
Sorry, Mr. Obama. It doesn't work that way. There is no political "king's X." You have the choice of letting her be your adoring wife, or putting her on the front lines, in the trenches. If you do the latter, expect people to snipe at her.
And Obama is not the only one to do this. He's just the latest. But the whole issue is a silly political game that many candidates are playing. Remember Martha Mitchell, the loudmouth wife of the Watergate era? It can happen to anyone, at any time.
I'm not telling Michelle Obama that she needs to stay home, making tea and cookies. She may have some good ideas, and she may want to proclaim them. All I'm saying is, if she wants to climb up on the public podium, don't expect to be treated like a happy homemaker.
She may be our next first lady, and as such, should be respected. But if she's going to talk a lot, she should expect her words to be analyzed. She seems to be erudite and professional, and I recommend that she express her views boldly and openly. We might learn something, whether we agree with her or not.
But please don't feign wide-eyed surprise when someone responds.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I'm glad he was able to get the excellent medical treatment that he got. I wish you, the reader, could get it too. Unfortunately, there is a great gap between you and Mr. Kennedy. He will not see even a small dent in his rather substantial bank account, because, you see, he has an excellent health care policy. Only the best hospitals for him. The health insurance policy that covers his medical expenses was paid for by you and me. He's over ten years past medicare eligibility, but he won't need it. He's got you paying his health care costs.
Supposedly, he and Hillary both want to give you the same excellent coverage. Let me warn you that, even with good intentions, neither of them can deliver. If Hillary's health care is made a reality (and Obama will probably let her have a free hand if he is elected), we won't get anything like Ted Kennedy's coverage.
We won't get to select the finest hospital, first. Our place of medical care will be limited to whatever the government has decided it will be. Secondly, we should not expect the speed and efficiency that Mr. Kennedy has been blessed with. Under Hillary's health care, your tumor in your head might get attention in three or four months, and then, at some local center that Uncle Sam has chosen for you.
One reason that our elected officials are so far removed from anything realistic regarding health care is because they have been shielded all their congressional lives from the daily horror of medical costs and red tape. If 535 men and women in our capitol building were suddenly given the same options that we have, they might be drawing up totally different bills from the ones they are suggesting now.
I'll venture that Mr. Kennedy would not have gotten nearly as good treatment with nearly as good a prognosis as he got this morning, if he were blessed with the health care proposals on the table by Mr. Obama and Ms. Rodham/Clinton. Mr. Kennedy might be in a bind right now.
But what they're proposing will be good enough for you. The waiting, the paperwork, the underfunding, the substandard treatments, all of that is okay for you.
I am amazed that I cannot find a congress-person, on either side of the aisle, who knows that Health Care and Insurance are two different worlds. Mr. McCain has the same problem. I live in the real world, and realize that the reason insurance rates are so high and cover so little is because hospitalization and medical costs are astronomical and unrealistic.
The only answer to reforming health care is not using public money and higher taxes to pay for insurance for everyone. That will only drive medical costs higher, and close more small hospitals, and crowd more emergency rooms, delay time for medical treatment, and bankrupt more families, who must exchange financial security for a couple more years of life.
What we need is a congressional group who is willing -- and courageous -- enough to find out why:
- Why does it cost more per day to stay in a rural hospital room than it does to get an exterior cabin on a luxury cruise ship?
- Why does a box of kleenexes in a hospital room cost 75 dollars?
- Why does any type of surgery cost more than the average American makes in six months, and crucial surgeries cost more than the average American makes in three years?
- Why are over 80% of all medical bills in error, almost always in favor of the medical institution?
- Why is it common policy for medical institutions to bill both the patient and the insurance company, and if they collect from both, not have the obligation to notify either of the double billing?
- Why are hospitals constantly losing money, yet we usually have to walk around new construction to get to the wings where we visit our loved ones?
I could name others, but that's a start. I think one reason is, most of the 535 elected officials in the Capitol building do not even know that these things are happening. They have a cover-all comprehensive medical policy -- funded by you -- that takes care of itself. It is a bottomless, limitless source of money that can easily pay for a 12 dollar tylenol tablet or a six dollar bar of dial soap.
When you multiply a policy like that by 535, and look at the base of say, 100 million taxpayers, it works. But when you multiply that coverage by 300 million Americans, and keep the same base of people who actually pay taxes, the math breaks down. There is no way it can work.
I'm glad Senator Kennedy received the best of medical treatment. I am equally glad that his outlook is good. He may outlive me; one, because the press says he is a 'real fighter,' and also, because if I get a brain tumor I won't be able to afford what he got for free that I helped pay for.
I have a crazy idea that I know will never happen, but it would work. If every American would cancel all health insurance tomorrow, hospital and medical prices would grudgingly have to settle back into fair market competitive levels, and appendicitis would not be a cause of bankruptcy. We might even see some communities of less than 5,000 that could have their own hospitals again, like they used to be able to do when everyone paid his own medical expenses.
Best wishes, Senator Kennedy. May you live to be a hundred. And in your remaining 20+ years, may you get out a little bit and realize what real people have to face every day. We're not asking for the luxurious health care that you have due to your hard work and years of service to your district. We just want something we can afford.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We have lived with this myth now for well over 100 years: that somehow, "popular vote" gets us the best candidate. It only takes a review of history to realize that some of our best presidents were not elected by popular vote. As I look at our three apparent front-runners for the US presidency, I have to ask, "Is this really the best we can do?" Somehow, I do not think I am the lone voice on this issue.
Is McCain really the best that the Republican party can do? Most Republicans don't seem to think so, yet McCain was elected by popular vote. He got a little help from the Guiliani states -- the ones that Rudy "gerrymandered" before the primaries began -- the idiotic "winner take all" idea that robs delegates of any true representative power. If popular vote gets the candidate the people want most, why aren't Republicans out en masse singing McCain's praises? Simply because popular vote does not work.
I see all the enthusiastic rallies for the two Democratic contenders. I see the ridiculous logic of women interviewed every night, "I'm voting for Hillary because she's a woman!" What in-depth thought! What intelligent analysis of the needs of our republic! "She has two X chromosomes, so I'm going to vote for her." That's popular vote speaking. We could say the same things about Obama. He deserves to be considered because of his record, his preparation, his convictions, his philosophies. Yet his candidacy is reduced each evening to a simple trait: his color. I hear Martin Luther King spinning in his grave. More than ever, we are judging people not by the "content of their character," but rather by the color of their skin or the number of x and y chromosomes they have.
When I was in high school, the cheerleaders were elected by popular vote. They would all come to an assembly of the rest of us, and perform their "try-outs," and then we would go to our classrooms and vote. While we were voting, I can never recall anyone commenting on athletic ability, on being able to say the right things to get the game crowd "in the spirit." I did hear things like "she's cute," or "she stole so-and-so's boyfriend." The cheerleader vote was a beauty contest, an analysis of trite things. No one took the ability to lead cheers into account. That's probably okay with high schools. No one is taking it that seriously anway. In the rare moments that they do, we get some macabre story of a woman hiring a hit man to "take out" another cheerleader candidate's mother. We don't want it to be serious.
But I think we do when we consider who will try to be our executive leader for the next four years. The last thing we need is a "popular vote" based on skin color, gender, or ability to convince enough voters that a candidate will do all the right things and push the right buttons.
Delegates are not perfect by any means, but they at least have a chance to seriously look at issues and make an informed choice. In times past, candidates have been elected in local precincts because people thought they were someone else. In the 70's, when I was a devout Republican, I once thought I was voting for George Bush (future 41) to be my local representative to the US house. After all, that's what it said on the ballot. I was surprised later to learn that I had voted for his kid, who was just in his twenties. What a dirty trick.
Some people don't even vote for a candidate. The lazy way is to just check the box at the top, and vote for a party. That may have even worked in times past, but it means nothing now. There are good candidates for local elections in both parties, and it is a horrible thing to avoid one of them because someone tows a party line rather than showing the diligence to see who the candidates really are.
Most people don't know enough to vote anyway. I've voted ignorantly many times, and often, couldn't even remember who I voted for later.
Popular elections don't get the best people in place. Rembember 1972? The Nixon landslide? Love him or hate him, Nixon could not be called the "people's choice." He won because of the popular vote. Was he the best they had to offer at that point? I don't know. Many think he wasn't.
In 1976, I have problems believing that the Georgia peanut farmer was the best the Democrats could do. It was almost a "gimmee" election -- running against an unelected president who had replaced an indicted and resigned one. And Carter nearly lost anyway. Why? Can you say "popular vote primaries?"
What the Democrats need this year is a good delegate fight. I'm not talking about those superdelegates -- which is just a distribution of slot machine tokens to the war horses of the party. I'm talking about real human beings who do more than mark a ballot -- who hammer out issues, and determine party and platform policy. I would love to see Democrats come together for their national convention and go through the nightmare of a deadlock, to see them have to hammer out several agreements, and finally emerge with a dark horse candidate that didn't even spend the last 18 useless months kissing babies, drinking beer, and bowling. Maybe someone who was actually voting in the Senate or House during that time, or sitting in with the pundits determining policy. Someone who really knows what's going on -- whose spouse is not saying things that need to be explained away, or whose daughter is not saying "none of your business" to people who ask questions.
The Republicans need one of these types of conventions this year, too, but that's a pipe dream. They will have a coronation. The platform and policies will already be set, and there will be posturing and moving and shaking as the post-Bush Republican party hands out the cushy jobs and people move up in the shuffle. And McCain may or may not win, but it won't matter.
Both major parties are scared to death to do anything that the Founding Fathers intended in order to get a leader. They are also scared to do what their party founders sought in getting a candidate nominated.
We are condemned to mediocrity. Popular elections are possibly the worst way to choose a leader. Drawing straws might actually be better. Remember that some of the popularly elected leaders we have seen recently were named Hussein, Castro, and Chavez. Popular elections do not produce the kind of bold, wise leadership that our nation and others need.
That's why the Framers of the US Constitution were against them.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Blue states and Red states. It goes far beyond anything as simple as "Republican vs Democrat," or "Liberal vs Conservative." In a nutshell, for those who don't like to read long posts, here is the summary of the last two posts:
- Blue is a consumer; Red is a producer
- Blue wants the government to do it for him; Red wants to do it himself
- Blue likes spending others' money; Red likes saving his own
- Blue thinks things will eventually work out if he just sits there; Red wants to do something about it.
- Blue perceives comfort, entertainment, and plenty as rights; Read sees them as privileges to be earned.
- Blue thinks it's everybody else's fault when things go bad; Red thinks that bad things should be addressed and fixed.
- Blue likes to earn and spend money fast, and spend more than he makes; Red knows that the tortoise always beats the hare, and lives on less than he earns.
This also means that we have to stop voting for Santa Clause. We need to stop voting for expensive promises, and quick fixes. Maybe, this election, the best thing we could do is vote for a candidate because of what he or she will not do.
I don't care whether you vote Republican or Democrat or Third Party. I don't care whether you vote liberal or conservative. All I ask you to do this year is not vote Blue.
Monday, May 5, 2008
In the previous post, I noted that there had been a complete shift in the "Democratic" and "Republican" designations of the parties, which was shortly followed by the change in colors. What do the colors really mean?
While I cannot prove this, and it may be unintentional, even subliminal, the colors have a meaning that follows certain values, it appears. I risk giving everything away at the beginning of this posting, but in a nutshell, the two competing values in our nation are neither "Republican" versus "Democratic," nor "liberal" versus "conservative." The colors represent "consumer" versus "producer." The old-time "red" Democrats were farmers and factory workers, teachers and police officers. They worked to build houses and buy land, and their main desire was to do this without debt. They fed the nation, built roads and communication networks, and eventually worked to launch a human being into space.
Consumers bought up corporations in order to take their resources. They looked for ways to eat more, buy more, and spend more. Entertainment is the main venue of consumers. Once, this was the venue of the blue Republican mind set, and they relied on the red Democratic producers to feed them, clothe them, and entertain them.
While it would be easy to say that the color shift represents a similar shift in party values, that would also be over-simplification. When I look at the last two GW Bush election maps, especially the one in 2000, colored by county or precinct, I don't see Democrats vs Republicans. Mr. Bush was fortunate enough to have the support of producers in the last two elections, but I don't think the Republicans who follow him should count on that same loyalty. Not after the heavy consumer-oriented spending and legislation of 8 years of "compassionate conservativism."
What is the difference between a consumer and a producer? The best way I can describe it is to show what consumers believe. If I do that, you can figure out what the producer ideology is; simply, it's the opposite:
- Consumers think that water comes from a faucet, that eggs come twelve to a carton, and that meat is some mostly-red inanimate object that comes on a styrofoam plate, neatly wrapped in plastic.
- Consumers think that food comes from a grocery store, and that highways and utilities are an inalienable right that "someone else" needs to take care of for us.
- Consumers think that gasoline grows under service stations, for free, and that those who sell it decide how many dollars per gallon they want to take from us for it.
- Consumers do not like the dirty, nasty things that some people tell them are necessary to produce their food and fuel. They hate those who kill animals so we can eat, who plow up forests so we can grow food, and who drill wells in ice so we can drive cars.
- Consumers think that the government is a limitless source of money and resources, and has the constitutional obligation to feed us, clothe us, pay for our medical care, protect us from our own stupidity and carelessness, change our diapers when we're young, and pay for our nursing homes when we're old.
- Consumers think that we're too stupid to save money or build for our retirement, and they're willing to let the government force us into that responsibility, so they can pay us a nickel on the dollar for our investment.
- Consumers believe that money is best earned fast and spent faster. They think that the best way to wealth is to inherit it, win it in the lotto, or sue someone for it. They believe that all the woes of the world can be solved by "insurance" and "someone else's money."
- Consumers feel they are the victims of fate, and that the lucky ones have an obligation to take care of everyone else.
- Consumers feel that the highest good in life is to entertain themselves, and they spend most of their financial resources on increasing and improving that entertainment. They spend only a fraction of what they make on education, protection, and prevention, but after all, that's the "government's" job, and "it's" got plenty of money.
- Consumers are willing to outsource jobs, education, and production to places like China in order that they may be able to afford cheaper entertainment and luxury. They are willing to sacrifice quality, not only in manufactured goods, but also in government, family, and faith, in order to continue to enjoy themselves and get what they want at the cheapest price possible, down the path of least resistance.
- Consumers feel that the world revolves around them, and are not really concerned with others who might suffer if things go the way consumers want them to go in the Pollyanna world they live in.
One look at a consumer/producer map will make you erroneously conclude that there are far more producers than consumers, but that is not the case. The consumers must live close to each other and their sources of entertainment.
In our nation, we are currently divided at about 50/50%, and that is why nearly every election, court case, and legislative decision is so hotly contested and violently addressed. Where do I stand with this? If our trend continues, there will soon be less producers than consumers. When that happens, more elections and court cases will be decided by consumers. Consumers can only consume if there is someone producing. While American consumers have been the most efficient and prolific in history, there will be a breaking point. When there is, there will be violence, because consumers also believe that drastic measures are necessary to address perceived violations of rights.
Consumers just don't understand. Years ago, in the famous "Rodney King" riots, stores and markets, public services and offices, all the property of "producers," were destroyed. One of the saddest pictures of all was a line of consumers, the next weekday morning, lining up at the smoking ashes of what was formerly a post office, ready to pick up their government aid, because that was where they always got it.
There are producers and consumers in both major political parties, and they also exist among both liberals and conservatives; they know no racial nor economic boundaries. But if we are to flourish as a nation or a cultural group, we must do what we can to promote the producers, to make ways for their tribe to increase. When the "blue" begins to take over the heartlands, when it inundates the sparsely-populated counties and cities, we will all be in trouble.
Friday, May 2, 2008
I remember the color of the Nixon stickers; they were the same color as the Goldwater ones later: deep blue. When did it happen -- the color shift? I suddenly realized in 2000 that the colors had traded. This was not the first, nor will it be the last, realignment. One of the biggest ones in history was the FDR revolution. Love him or hate him, FDR did something phenomenal in 1932: he switched parties, but kept his own values. Before FDR, the Democrats were the conservatives. There were no Republicans in the KKK meetings. The "solid South" was solid Democratic because they were the conservatives. The Republicans, on the other hand, were the socialist movers and shakers. Herbert Hoover was probably blamed unjustly for the Great Depression -- after all, it was a world-wide wave that caught up with America during his administration. But he had laid the groundwork for it: "A chicken in every pot." The Republicans before FDR were the ones who promised the moon and funded it with federal revenue. Republicans were the federalists who opposed states' rights.
Look it up. Republicans believed in a strong central government, in higher taxes and strong federal spending. They were the champions of social programs. Before FDR, almost all black Americans who could vote -- many were forbidden that right by southern (and northern!) Democrats, by the way -- voted Republican. Until the 60's, any Black congressional representation was Republican.
FDR changed everything overnight. He did this by taking the Republican ideals, and going further than they had in that direction. He replaced the Republican federalism with a welfare state that even the most liberal of Republicans would never have dreamed possible. The party was realigned, but not without great cost. The Democratic party would struggle with its own self-identity for nearly half a century.
The reason Harry Truman was our 33rd president is because of this struggle. Roosevelt's first choice for vice president had been powerful Texas Democrat John Nance Garner, who served under FDR for two terms -- 8 years. But Garner was an "old" style Democrat, and had problems balancing his loyalty to his constituency with serving under FDR. He was replaced in 1941 by Henry A. Wallace, from Iowa, who was then succeeded by Missouri native Truman. The truth was, it was hard to tell the players without a score card. "Democrat" meant something different in Washington from what it meant in Texas, Iowa, or Missouri. One of FDR's Texas contacts was a young Lyndon Baines Johnson, who somehow managed to stay on Roosevelt's good side in Washington while sticking close to Garner and Sam Rayburn of Texas. Johnson, for whatever else he was, knew how politics worked.
LBJ would be the architect of several impossible Senate victories. His very presence in the senate was a combination of masterful manipulation, being in the right place at the right time, and knowing how to run the seamy side of Texas Democratic politics in the 1940's. He somehow rose to the top of the Senate at breakneck speed, and did a thorough housecleaning. He knew when to ally with the enemy, and his greatest coup was his alliance with northern Republicans, with whose help he hammered out a massive civil rights bill. He was able to make strategic compromises with southern Democrats, who thought Johnson was one of them, and through their vote or their absence, engineered a bill that had his name on it and eventually led to his presidency.
In late 1963, John Kennedy had to go to Texas to try to cement the factions of the Democratic party. Johnson was supposed to guarantee Texas' electoral votes, at that time the fourth largest prize in the nation. Unfortunately, Johnson's buddies were looking at Republican Nelson Rockefeller, or even Lodge or Goldwater, as an alternative to Washington Democrats with whom they did not identify. Kennedy was not yet immortal because he had not yet been assassinated, and the tour in Texas was a desperate attempt to try to rally the troops for an election the next year that many were saying he would not win, no matter who his opponent was. From the Texas governor, down through the local representatives, Kennedy had few friends among the Democrats; the most notable was Ralph Yarborough, who didn't get along well with fellow Texas Democrats, and even refused to get anywhere near Governor Connally in the Texas motorcade. Kennedy had harsh words for Connally, who would eventually be a Republican in the continuing alignment.
Johnson's administration would do much to finally cut the last cords between pre-FDR Democrats and those who followed. He lost friends on both sides of the aisle. His support for the Vietnam war angered the new Democrats, and his social programs lost him the support of the old ones. When he decided not to run in 1968, it was because, among other things, he knew that the party was divided, and probably no Democrat, except maybe another Kennedy, could unite enough Democrats to win; in addition, he couldn't stand the Kennedy who would run.
True to form, Nixon won in 1968, mainly because the Democratic party was split between the new wave, represented by Humphrey, and the old wave of George Wallace. It would take something as serious as Watergate to get a Democrat back in the White House, and even that just barely got Jimmy Carter in. Carter was easily defeated in 1980 by Ronald Reagan, who would be the last "blue" Republican.
With Ronald Reagan as president, the re-alignment was completed. The "party of Lincoln" was now really the "party of Roosevelt." Only the names had been changed. Southern Democrats were now Republicans. Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, and others, would remain "red" states, not because they had not changed, but because the color-coding had.
I still don't know who made the decision to change the colors. Was it a subconscious recognition that the parties had changed roles in the nation? I don't pretend to believe that the Reagan Republican of the 1980's and 1990's is a carbon copy of the John Nance Garner Democrat of the 1930's, but the comparison is a lot closer than any other.
So, what's the difference? That's my subject for part II. What does it mean to be a "red" state or a "blue" state? It's not about parties, people, or politics. It's about one of the oldest social theories we can observe, but one that has rarely been put into print. I'll have more on it next week.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
If Barack Obama wins the presidency this year, it can be blamed on Star Trek. Seriously. Nobody knew the obscure Illinois state congressman until a series of fortuitous events unfolded on a steamy June day in 2004. The retiring senator from Illinois, Republican Peter Fitzgerald, had thought, as had his party, that he was leaving the seat safe in the hands of an up-and-coming Republican replacement.
With a name like Jack Ryan, anybody who's ever read a Tom Clancy novel saw the 44-year-old Republican as the inevitable candidate. Then, in a clear and suspiciously calculated move, Ryan's trophy wife, Jeri Ryan, revealed some disturbing news: that her charismatic husband had taken her to some unwholesome places and forced her to do some unwholesome things. Four years earlier. But suddenly they were news in the 2004 senatorial election.
Mr. Ryan denied the allegations at that time, and still does. They were never pursued after the avalanche of outcry overwhelmed him. Nobody has ever mentioned them again. What better time than June of 2004 to drop the bomb? Ms. Ryan, who, by the way, has kept her married name, suddenly had an attack of conscience, but it has not bothered her since then.
What timing. Too late for the Republicans to find another candidate. Too late for Mr. Ryan to clear his name. Too late for anything. Yes, there was a straw candidate that took Ryan's place: Alan Keyes, not even from Illinois. He also had a huge albatross around his neck: he had spoken out against Hillary Clinton moving to another state to run for senate. Lest we forget, she was not a New Yorker, but an Arkansan. Needless to say, Keyes never even got on solid ground with Republicans, much less with the overall electorate.
Obama, who probably didn't stand a chance in May of that year, suddenly began an ascendancy that led to a landslide election to the senate seat. Understand, Obama was a totally unknown quantity. Hey, even my Blogger spell-check keeps underlining both of his famous names (though it has no problem with "Hussein" -- go figure).
Obama's career up that time may have been "lincolnesque," with a series of small victories, but no real recognition. If you had asked Howard Dean in May of 2004 what he thought of Obama running for president in 2008, he probably would have given one of those cowboy yells he likes so much, and laughed at you.
Realize, Obama has not yet completed one full term in the US Senate. He has done nothing, really. Add to that, he's been campaigning since, it seems, the Truman administration. Yet, here he is, with at least a 33% chance of being our next president. Probably more.
All because a Borg took down his primary opponent. Though there was a somewhat crowded Democratic field, including a billionaire, in the primary, the most viable Dem candidates had probably avoided the election because they saw no future in running against Jack Ryan, a sure thing. Obama was in the right place at the right time. He ran when real candidates didn't want to waste the time, effort, and resources. Then he had no real opponent. He strolled into the US Senate.
There had been another man who had just this much luck. In 1991, the President of the United States had an 80% approval rating. Both sides of congress gave him an ovation when he entered their chambers. He was unbeatable. The best Democratic candidates thought it political suicide, not to mention a waste of money, to run against such a popular president. By the time those ratings started to fall, it was too late to put an organization together. All that were there were a handful of nobodies with nothing to lose but a little bit of someone else's money. Bill Clinton won the presidency simply because he ran. Had George Bush's ratings been closer to 50 than 80, there would have been a real Democrat running, and we never would have taken the little Arkansan seriously. I called that the "Bush gambit." Clinton had an extra stroke of luck when, just four years later, an old Republican relic called in his chips and demanded one shot at the presidency. Maybe 50 republicans could have beaten Clinton. Dole wasn't one of them -- at least the male Dole (though Elizabeth could have won).
I often wonder who engineered the Ryan debacle, and if that person had the 2008 elections in mind. What benefits did Jeri Ryan receive for her opportune victimization? Obviously, it wasn't important to her after her husband left the race. Someone big has engineered Obama's campaign. We may never know who, but it's hard to miss the machinations and perfect timing when you know the whole story.
So if, on January 20, 2009, you see Barack Hussein Obama taking the oath of office, realize that, for the first time in history, American politics has been influenced by aliens from outer space. A Borg woman, Seven of Nine, will have determined our next president.
We will have been assimilated, and resistance was futile.