Tag Archives: News

My Constitutional Amendment Wish List

It’s the Christmas season and there’s a certain wish list I’ve had for years now – a couple of decades really – that I hope to see passed as law in this land someday.   I don’t really expect to get any of them – especially since they would all require Constitutional Amendments – but I still hold out hope.  Let me share it with you.

Congressional Term Limitations

The 22nd Amendment states, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”  It was proposed and ratified at least partially in response to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election to a third and then a fourth term as President.

The idea behind it was that if any one person spent too much time in office, their power would grow too great.  If he had lived, FDR would have served sixteen years as President of the United States.  Meanwhile, according to this list, there have been over 100 Senators and Representatives who have served over thirty years in office.  Robert Byrd of West Virginia served for over 57 years and John Dingell of Michigan served for over 59!  How come it’s dangerous for a President to serve more than eight years but not for a Congressman?

A Presidential Line Item Veto

My reason for wishing for this can be summed up in one word.  Riders.  In case you want to skip the Wikipedia definition, a rider is a bad bill that gets tacked onto a good bill because the good bill has a better chance of passing.

There are two reasons for this.  The first is that it’s an easy way to get an unpopular bill passed since it’s riding on the coattails of a popular bill.  The other reason is to kill the popular bill by tacking poison pill riders onto it until it dies. If enough crap gets tacked on, the best bill in the world won’t pass.

Either way, a line item veto would clear all the dead wood off of those ‘good’ bills and stop a lot of bad legislation from becoming law.  It wouldn’t stop the poison pill riders from stopping a bill but it would help clear up a lot of the cruft that gets attached to other bills.

A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

On the surface this sounds pretty straight-forward – don’t spend more money than you have.  After all, I can’t so why should the Government be able to.  Except that I can spend more money than I have.  Yes, you and I indulge in deficit spending just like Uncle Sam.  We do it whenever we buy a car or a house or buy something with a credit card.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have $20,000.00 or more just lying around so I can buy a car for cash.  I have to get a car loan…or a mortgage if I want to buy a house.  The thing is, there are rules on how much I can borrow.  If my income doesn’t leave me enough room to make the car payments, the bank won’t give me the loan.  And if we do get the loan, we have to pay it back on time with interest if we want to preserve our credit rating and be able to get more loans in the future.

Uncle Sam doesn’t have to meet those same criteria.  He can pretty much say, “I want to borrow eleventy-seven gozillion dollars.  I’m good for it.  I’ll pay it back someday.”  and he gets the money.

Yes, I’m simplifying this a LOT.  And no, we couldn’t just say, “Starting tomorrow, we’re balancing the budget.”  That’s just not workable.  We would have to have a mandatory yearly reduction in deficit spending phased in gradually over 10 or 20 years until we get to the point where the budget is balanced.  That would give us time to adjust.  And it would keep our grandchildren from having to pay for our decisions…literally.

While we’re on the subject…

…there are a few other items I’d like to add to the list.

Congressional salaries (and raises) should be based off of an established, public economic indicator such as the Gross Domestic Product index or something similar.  If the GDP goes up, Congress gets a raise.  If the GDP goes down, Congress takes a pay cut.

A more extreme suggestion I’ve heard on this subject include putting every financial asset owned by a Congressman and Spouse into a blind trust keyed to the GDP.  When they leave office, they’re cashed out and they make or lose money based on the economy.  “Sorry about your vacation home and your kids college, Senator.  Maybe you should have voted FOR that Jobs Bill.”

Another wrinkle is to make it illegal for any sitting Federal elected official to have any overseas financial assets or investments.  This might make them a little more interested in the health and stability of the US economy.

How about we just roll all of these into the Term Limitations Amendment to keep it nice and simple?

Congressional Pensions.  The rules for Congressional pensions are complicated but one rule is that if a Congressman is 62 years old and has served at least 5 years, they can receive a full pension.  In 2002, the average pension payment ranged from $41,000 to $55,000. I wish I could get that kind of deal in my job.

The thing is, a Senate term is 6 years.  That means that I can run for the Senate at age 57, get elected and serve out my term sitting on my butt.  Then, when I get voted out of office I can still collect a full pension.  Hmmm…I’m gonna have to think about this one.  A Common Man for Senate, 2018.  Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Outlaw Super PACs.  There are precious few restrictions on where Super PACs can get their money from or how they can spend it.  There’s just too much room for private interests to play fast and loose with things here.  Which means that the rich and powerful (both people and corporations) can assert undue influence over our political system.

Outlaw Paid Lobbyists.  Please note that I specified “Paid Lobbyists”.  If someone wants to volunteer their time to push a political agenda, they have every right to do so.  In fact, the Bill of Rights makes that Right unassailable.  But Paid Lobbyists are beholden to no one and nothing except whoever is paying them.  That might be The Boys Scouts of America.  Or it might be Big Business.  Or it might be a foreign Government.  Regardless, there is too much room for abuse.  Limit it to volunteers and carefully controlled and regulated non-profits.

That’s it…at least for now.  Let me know what you think.  Did I miss anything?  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments.

Guns in America – A Modest…and Moderate Proposal

Gun Control.  I don’t think there’s ever been two words that could spike blood pressure so high in such a large portion of the population.  Ever.  Half of us want  tighter gun control up to and including completely outlawing guns all together.  The other half wants no gun control up to and including letting anyone buy and carry anything they want to just because they want to.

Or at least that’s what the News wants you to believe.  The percentages are probably more like 10-15% want more gun control and another 10-15% want less gun control.  That leaves the remaining 70-80% of us stuck in the middle going deaf from all the shouting.  That’s not to say that those of us in the middle of the Bell Curve don’t have an opinion.  We do.  We’re just not as extreme or strident about it.

Be that as it may, we still have a major disagreement going on.  One one side of the argument are the people who want stricter gun laws / better enforcement of existing gun laws / guns to be completely outlawed / all of the above.  On the other side are the people who fewer guns laws / fewer restrictions on concealed carry / no gun laws at all.  These two groups of people do not see eye to eye.  So, in an effort to save everyone’s hearing and sanity…and hopefully some lives…I’d like to make a proposal.

Accept reality.  We have a gun culture in this country.  Accept it.  It’s not going to change…at least not any time soon.  The writers of the Bill of Rights mandated that every citizen of this country has the Right to keep and bear arms.  For America that’s a reality right up there with, “The sun rises in the East.”  So…all you people on the Gun Control / Gun Registration side of things…people like…me…accept that guns are here and they’re here to stay.

But…and here I’m talking to the pro-gun / Constitutional Rights people.  You know who you are…people like…me.  Start acting like grown-up, responsible Citizens.  You have your guns.  The Gub’mint ain’t gonna take ’em away.  They can’t.  Do the math.  There’s too many of you and too few of them.  So stop acting like spoiled kids on the playground who think the teacher is going to take away your favorite toy.  It is not going to happen.

Let’s try something different instead.  Let’s try to actually talk to each other and maybe come up with a compromise solution that everyone can live with.  Here’s my suggestion for a starting point.  Oh…and before I get started, a word of warning.  There are suggestions here that are going to piss off both sides.  That’s kind of the point.  Nobody gets everything they want.  One side gives up a little, the other side gives up a little.  That’s why I called it a compromise.

Here we go…

  1. Universal Gun Registration.  I have to register my car.  I have to register my house.  If I ever get rich enough to afford an airplane I’ll have to register that.  Why is it so terrible to have to register a gun?  Oh, and no loopholes!!!  UNIVERSAL.  Pro-gun people keep saying that registered gun owners aren’t responsible for most gun violence…which means that unregistered gun owners ARE responsible for most gun violence.  So why not stop unregistered gun purchases?
  2. Universal Carry Permit availability but with mandatory training on safety and all pertinent laws before a Permit is issued and mandatory, periodic relicensing.  I can get a Drivers License in any State and use it to drive in any State.  But first I have to take a class to learn how to safely operate a motor vehicle and then take a test to prove that I can safely operate a motor vehicle.  Then, I can get a license…which I have to periodically renew.  Same with a plane.  Why not with a gun?  Oh, and a standard drivers license does NOT allow me to operate a tractor-trailer rig.  That requires a different class of license…and training…and testing.  If a gun owner wants to own more powerful guns they should have to receive more stringent training, undergo more stringent testing and be subject to more stringent penalties.
  3. Stricter penalties for gun law violations patterned after drunk driving laws.
    • 1st offense – temporary lost of gun license, fines, short jail time and a criminal record.
    • 2nd offense – permanent loss of gun license, mandatory forfeiture of all firearms, much higher fines and longer jail time.
    • 3rd offense – thrown them in a hole and thrown the hole in after them.

Gun ownership is a Right.  There can be no argument on this.  But rights have responsibilities.  A gun owner must be willing to accept the responsibility for keeping his guns safe, carrying them safely, being knowledgeable in the pertinent laws and using them in full accordance with those laws.  And he must also be prepared to accept the full consequences of his actions if he screws up.

There you go.  My suggestions on Gun Control.  Personally, I don’t think they have a chance in hell of ever becoming law.  But what do you think?  Let me know.

The Gun Control Nuts are Assholes…and the Pro-Gun Nuts are Assholes, too!

Nine people are dead. Nine! Some pathetic, psychotic nutbar decided that he didn’t like something so he started shooting people. The reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is that nine people are dead.

So of course, the Gun-Control Lobby – including President Obama – are calling for tougher gun control laws. To quote the President, “…we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these mass shootings every few months.” This is true. The other countries that have mass shootings like this are vacation spots like Syria, Iraq and Libya. Meanwhile, nine people are dead.

At the same time, the Pro-Gun groups are saying that if we didn’t have Gun Free Zones  and all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry permits then someone else with a gun could have shot the shooter before the shooter shot the victims. So we don’t need more Gun Control, we need more guns. And the nine people are still dead.

At the time I’m writing this there are unconfirmed reports that the nutbar was asking people what religion they were. Non-Christians got shot in the leg, Christians got shot in the head. Conservative Christians, in a country founded upon Freedom of Religion, get upset when people of other faiths use the Constitution to secure equality and religious freedom for their faith.  Someone singling out Christians for a hate crime is terrible, unfathomable, unpardonable…and proof that Christianity is under attack.  I wonder if any of those so-called Christians bothered to pray for the victims or their families.  You remember the victims?  The nine people who are dead?

Everyone is so caught up in pushing their own agenda these days that we’re turning into a nation of Us vs. Them.  We’re losing the willingness to listen…REALLY listen…to other opinions and give them due consideration.  We’re losing our soul.  We’re losing what makes us great because we’re so busy tearing the other guy down that we can’t be bothered to build ALL OF US up.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Now is not the time to talk about Gun Control or Religious Hate (two words that should never be in the same sentence).  Right now is the time to weep.  Right now is the time to mourn.  Right now is the time to embrace, the time to keep silence, the time to heal and most especially, the time to love.  And maybe…just maybe…if we do that then there will be time to listen and time to talk and time to understand and time to come together as a people…as a great nation…and find acceptance of our differences and find solutions to our problems.  But right now is not that time.

May God Bless the families of those that died.  May he heal their hearts and comfort their souls.  And may He guide us all to a better tomorrow…together.

Geography, Economics and why the Middle East is such a pain in the ass

The Middle East is in the news again…or maybe I should say it’s in the news still.  It seems to be a constant thing…probably because it is.  And it has been for a good portion of recorded history.  Take a look at this map…

That’s Russia at the top of the map, China on the right edge and France on the left edge. All that in an area roughly equivalent to North America.  Look at all the different countries, cultures and histories involved.  Now think back to High School World History and Sunday School and remember what you learned about:

Marco Polo
The Old Testament
The New Testament
The Spice and Silk Caravan routes
The Crusades
The Roman Empire
The Empire of Alexander the Great
The Persian Empire
The Mongol Empire
The Ottoman Empire

What do they all have in common? They all either happened in the Middle East or passed through there on their way to somewhere else. Simply put, up until fairly recently, a big, damn portion of Human History happened in or around the Middle East.

OK.  Fine.  But that’s all ancient history, right?  Nope.  The Ottoman Empire didn’t end until 1922.  That happened in part because they were pushed out by the British Empire during World War I.  And let’s not forget the discovery of oil in the region in 1908.

OK.  But that’s still a long time ago.  So what?  Well, then there’s World War II.  A big portion of that happened in and around the Middle East. That makes it a bit more recent.  Take the Cold War into consideration and we’re up to the 50’s and 60’s.

The oil and the Cold War were what really brought the U.S. into the Middle East.  We need oil to run our economy so we couldn’t let Communism win in the region.  Looking at things from the point of view of someone native to the area, the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and now Russia) are just the latest in a long, long, long history of people NOT from there screwing around with the people that ARE from there.

Maybe I should correct what I said earlier.  Simply put, a big, damn portion of Human History happened (and is still happening) in or around the Middle East.  Geography made the area important.  It was the natural cross-roads for caravan routes in the ancient world and that’s been continued with more modern innovations like the Suez Canal.

But the reason for all the traveling through, fighting over and drilling for oil beneath boils down to one thing.  Money.  More money has been generated in the Middle East than just about any other region on the planet.  That’s the real reason the Middle East has always been so important.

However, the game has changed.  Instead of just being pawns in someone else’s game, the locals have gotten rich enough (again) to start playing in the game themselves…and a lot of them are pissed off about how they’ve been treated throughout history and are still being treated.  This means that along with the locals trying to direct their own lives there are people that have decided that they want to direct other people’s lives as well…the same way others have been trying to direct their’s and their ancestors since time out of mind.

The thing is, they’re taking a more direct approach.  They’re trying to enforce their will on others through violence…and again, there are historical precedents whether you’re talking about the actions of Europeans and Muslims during the Crusades or the tactics of the Jewish Sicarii during the Roman Empire or the actions of the Barbary Pirates that led to the formation of the United States Navy in 1794.

But just because somebody was a murdering, thieving asshole a long time ago is no excuse for someone else to be one.  I’m not surprised some of them are pissed about how things are and have been in the Middle East.  I would be if it was me.  So would most Americans.  Imagine how we’d feel if all that fighting, looting, killing, etc was happening in the Midwest instead of the Middle East.  But nothing…NOTHING…justifies terrorism and only cowards murder innocents and unarmed civilians.  Dress it up in whatever religious or moral rhetoric you choose.  It’s still murder and the perpetrators are still cowards.

So how do we fix the problem?  At this particular point in time, the big attraction in the Middle East isn’t trade routes, it’s oil.  The locals have gotten rich selling it to the rest of the world and all the trouble makers are using some of that money to buy the weapons and cause trouble.  So to fix the problem you need to find a substitute for oil that doesn’t come from the Middle East.  Cut off the money supply and that tree with wither and die.

The only problem with that solution is that we don’t have an oil alternative.  So we need to do what the United States does better than anyone else.  Innovate and invent one.  Whether it’s bio-diesel from algae or alcohol from corn or  unobtanium from whatever-the-hell, we need it.  And we need it now!  And once we have it we need to sell the product…not the process…to the rest of the world for LESS than an equivalent amount of oil.

It won’t be easy and it wont’ be cheap but it’s the best long-term strategy for this country to fix the problem with the Middle East.  And it’ll work…until the next problem crops up there.  Sooner or later, it will.  History says so.

Sanctimony, Hypocrisy and Cherry Picking the Bible

If you’ve been anywhere near any news anything lately you’ve seen, heard or otherwise been subjected to the ongoing saga of Kim Davis.  She’s the County Clerk from Kentucky who has recently been in the news, been arrested and been released because she won’t issue Marriage Licenses to same sex couples.

Ms. Davis has taken her stand because of her religious beliefs.  Basically, she considers same sex marriage a sin and won’t issue a marriage license for it.  She’s been told that she has to by pretty much everyone up to and including the Supreme Court but By God (literally) she’s going to stand her ground and not do the job she was elected to do.

If I did that – refused to do my job whatever the reason – I’d be fired….and rightfully so.  Because I’m paid to do X and if I refuse to do X because I’ve found religion or smoked too much dope or decided that I just don’t want to, then I should be fired.  Why?  Because I’m not doing the job I was hired to do.  You know…like Kim Davis.

As an Elected Official, Davis can’t be fired.  However, the good people of Rowan County might want to consider a recall election or impeachment.  Whatever recourse the local laws make available, she should be brought to task and relieved of her position because she is refusing to do her job.  Period.  End of statement.

“But wait!”, you cry.  “What about her religious freedom?”  What about it?  Her religious freedom is NOT BEING INFRINGED UPON!!!!!  She’s free to believe anything she wants.  However, she is NOT free to impose her religious beliefs on anyone else.  That is a violation of the other persons Constitutional Rights because she is imposing her religion and beliefs on them.  So the person who is violating the 1st Amendment is…Kim Davis.

Of course, the thing that really pisses me off is that Kim Davis and everyone else who is losing their collective shit about same sex marriage uses the Bible to justify their prejudice…and they do it by being very selective on which Bible verses they quote.

Leviticus 20:13 says, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.”

Of course, they seem to miss some other verses like…

Romans 7:2-3 which says, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.”

Did I mention that Kim Davis has been divorced three times?

Then, of course, there’s Exodus 20:14  which states, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Did I mention that Kim Davis conceived twins out of wedlock?  With her fourth husband?  While married to her first husband?

Davis and her supporters seem to be okay with all of that but they don’t like same sex marriage?  People who live in glass houses…nope, never mind.  I don’t want to get into that whole ‘stoning harlots’ thing.  Better if we just let that one go.

I’m reminded of something my father told me.  Dad was a Lay Minister in the United Methodist Church.  At the time I’m talking about he was also a Regional Sales Manager for an Encyclopedia company.  Along with running his Region and training the new sales people Dad made his own sales calls.

One day he made a call at the home of a small, back-country preacher.  While talking the Preacher’s wife, Dad mentioned that he was a Lay Minister.  The wife was very disappointed that her husband wasn’t home because he was such a great Biblical Scholar – entirely self taught.  Apparently he could prove using Scripture from the Bible that Heaven was located at the North Pole.

When Dad related this story to the rest of the family at dinner he said, “You can prove anything with the Bible if you’re willing to quote scripture out of context.”  Dad wasn’t wrong.  I’ve seen it done over and over.  But he missed something.  You can also justify any prejudice using the exact same technique.