The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

THE SWOOSH LAW

The other day I was thinking about our law-making process and for some reason Moses popped into my head.  I’m sure that the prophet had no idea how grateful he should have been that God knew what he wanted to convey to mankind and was able to do so quite succinctly.  What would Moses have had to endure had the Creator crafted his commandments to the children of Israel in the same way as our modern legislators promulgate new laws?

There’s Moses, curious to find the source of the bright light on the top of Mount Sinai.  He experiences his encounter with the Lord and obeys God’s order to bring his commandments to his people.  So Moses takes the tablets, “written with the finger of God” and goes down the mountain to deliver them to the Israelites.  And he goes back to retrieve more … and more … and more.

After the forty-third trip his brother Aaron says, “Is that it?”

Moses, wearied from all the trudging and schlepping he’s done, wipes his brow and says, “Well, actually, there are nine more.”

Perhaps the reason that those who pass voluminous laws that no one really understands, themselves included, can be attributed to the way we were taught to do things in High School.  Maybe, like me, you had an English or history teacher who handed out an assignment which included the requirement that the essay we were to compose had to be at least two thousand words long.  What made that number of words sacrosanct was never clear to me.  How in the world did laconic President Calvin Coolidge ever earn a diploma?

But let’s get back to the Ten Commandments.   Take Number Seven, as an example.  That’s that hairy one that says, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  Notice how simple, straightforward and brief it is.  I had memorized this long before I knew what adultery actually was – but, of course, I asked – a little bit to the embarrassment of my Sunday School teacher.

Now those of us who believe that following that commandment is part of what I refer to as “normative” behavior, there is very little ambiguity – so it’s apparent that God knew precisely what he wanted people to do (or more exactly) to avoid doing.  But what if this commandment had been constructed by Congress?

The commandment comes out of the “Congressional Morality Committee,”  (wouldn’t it be remarkable if there were one – but then who would we be able to find who could with clear conscience become members?) and, like the original that the Divinity established, it’s a simple five word declarative sentence.

But then it moves forward in the process and has a hearing in the Economics Affairs Committee.  They recognize that this proposal could have serious implications and adverse impact on various business operations – specifically, those hotel/motel owners whose rooms rent out on an hourly basis.  And the members of that committee get lobbied by advocates for that industry.  So they amend the original commandment so that it reads, “Thou shall not commit adultery before six o’clock a.m. local time.”    (Since most of the commerce and congress at these hotels/motels occur in the afternoon, this effectively nullifies the original intent of the commandment).

But things don’t stop there.  Business is down at the hairstylists and beauty salons in America.  Because of the Obamacession, fewer customers have the money to spare to color their hair.  So the members of that profession press their association’s lobbyists to get something included in the law which will improve their business.  After considerable pressure, the law now reads, “Thou shall not commit adultery before six o’clock a.m. local time.  However, those whose hair has been dyed by a professional stylist are exempted from any and all provisions of this law.”

It might be well if it had ended there.  But, of course, it doesn’t.  The street prostitutes, straight, gay and transgendered can see that this might impact their business negatively.  An impassioned group of “sex workers” appear before Congress to make their case that this law is discriminatory – they being the recipients of that bias.  Of course, the Congressional committee which hears their testimony is quite respectful of this contingency since some members know those testifying on a first name, professional basis.

And then further testimony is given by several American mullahs who believe that their faith and their followers are “once again” being victimized and persecuted in what is supposed to be the ultimate land of freedom.  There can be no clearer evidence of that then that the law allows adultery to be engaged in on Fridays and during any day of Ramadan.  Furthermore, the law makes no mention of protections for virgins, quite a few of whom are required for those jihadists who die in the “holy war” against the infidel, particularly those in America.

Needless to say, “environmentalists” were outraged at this prospective law.  They commissioned a study that substantiated their belief that many of these adulterous trysts would be engaged in with one or both participants arriving at the site by using gasoline based automotive conveyances, thus contributing to the issue of “climate change”.  They demand that there be a stipulation in the law that only adulterous affairs in which both parties got to the rendezvous via public transportation will be “licit”.

Needless to say since the concept of adultery and its being wrong is based on religious moral concept, it was only reasonable to expect that members of the clergy weigh in on the subject, which they did.  A number of pastors who had fathered out of wedlock kids expressed their belief that we must view “ancient” rules in the context of the times; that times had changed and we must change with them.  Their testimony, offered in a brilliant Hip Hop style and recorded and released on MTV got more than four million hits within an hour of its release.

So in light of all this testimony, our legislators took the bill which had been introduced by Reps. Jack Mehoff and I. Fool Around and they reworked, rewrote and transformed it into The Swoosh Law with the subtitle, “Just Do It”.  This law confirmed that adultery was a highly overrated infraction of “morality” and that it was perfectly reasonable, in fact, healthy for people to engage in it in order to promote a strong, healthy marriage.

And a lot of public officials in America felt vindicated – and breathed a sigh of relief.  The bill, as it was finally presented to the full membership, got overwhelming bipartisan support.

PIPE DREAMS

After a mere five years’ worth of dawdling which is possibly a record even for moribund Washington, D. C., the Congress is now going to take up a vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The timing of this couldn’t be more transparent as Sen. Mary Landrieu grasps at straws to maintain her seat in the upper chamber for a fourth term – a contest to be decided on December 6th.  This caused me to refresh myself on the definition of a word that I think describes the reason that so many of us voted to change the makeup of not only the Congress but further entrenched Republicans in many many statehouses and legislatures.

Cynic – A person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons.

The timing of the pipeline vote, while clearly an attempt to salvage Senator Landrieu’s sinking campaign comes at an interesting moment in history as the president, acting in his capacity as Chief of Negotiating Bad Deals, makes a commitment that the United States, the world’s second biggest “polluter” will make further efforts to reign in our carbon dioxide emissions while the People’s Republic of China, the world’s worst polluter will be allowed to continue to increase their emissions until the year 2030 and then will “try” to limit those going forward.

Obama has characterized “climate change” as the most pressing issue of our time and has devoted himself during the remainder of his term to focusing on addressing the “problem.”  By pressing, if you are to accept the arguments that are advanced on the imperiling effects of “climate change,” if we delay taking remedial action even for one day, we take the risk of having put ourselves on a path which has only one ultimate destination – driving the planet past the point of no return and wiping out all life on Earth.

If those who consider themselves “environmental good guys” wonder why, despite the purported agreement of 97% of the “scientific community” that greenhouse gases are the root cause for “climate change,” there are still “deniers” who reject or at the least question their conclusions, it might be that the message which they are peddling is inconsistent.

If we are about to head into the abyss, then it is incomprehensible how the person who has the unique position of being President of the United States, a position which still has some swag, although a declining amount, throughout the world could even consider an agreement with China which allows them to increase and further entrench themselves as the world’s worst polluter – for at least another fifteen years.  Particularly if that president has gone on record as saying this is the most important issue facing the nation and the world.

The delay in determining the debate on Keystone XL has, of course, centered around the purported environmental impact which building and using it might cause.  I think it would be fair to say that no one, not the drillers, not the owners of the pipeline nor any reasonable person would want to develop a project that had the potential for causing hazardous leaks.  The operators would, should such an event occur, lose revenue and would undoubtedly be subject to significant fines.  It is in their own best interest to make sure that the pipeline, if constructed, not only functions as intended but does so efficiently on a consistent basis.  The “environmentalist” side argues that no such assurances can be given.

The proposed pipeline was intended to be developed in four separate stages, three of which have been completed and comprise an already built 2,151 miles of pipe.  That portion of the project is fully operational.  The fourth phase, the one under consideration, would be composed of an approximately similar additional amount of pipe.  In total, the entire project is composed of less than five thousand miles of pipe.  America currently has a network of more than 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines according to the National Resources Defense Council, an organization that has opposed the completion of the pipeline.  We already rely heavily on pipelines to move energy from the source of production to refineries and then the ultimate consumer.

Perhaps the most direct correlation between Keystone XL would be to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline – now forty years old.  Have there been leaks and spillages that have affected that Alaska Pipeline?  The answer is yes – there have been two that have been of significance in its forty year life.  And both of those were caused by saboteurs who purposely attacked the pipeline.  One of those was an “environmentalist” and the other was a drunk.  Should we expect the same if Keystone XL is finally approved?  Well, there are more “environmentalists” now than forty years ago – and anyone who both watches and is concerned by the machinations of this administration is probably an excellent candidate for over indulging in demon rum.

The spectre of true environmental damage, if left alone, stemming from the pipeline seems minimal at most.  Virtually every scientific study that has examined the question has returned that same verdict.  Whether the pipeline would offer continuing high salary employment to tens of thousands is a matter for debate – but it is not debatable that, at the very least, it would provide employment to thousands during its construction.  And the argument that it would not benefit Americans by way of lower energy prices as the pipeline’s product would be shipped overseas, ignores the facts of a global economy in which greater production of a product tends to lower the price of that product everywhere that it is consumed.

The real argument, one which you will seldom if ever hear, is that the “environmentalists” want to replace all fossil fuels with renewable alternate sources of energy.  While that goal might be admirable, it is, at best, unlikely as even the most optimistic sources feel that green energy might someday provide the world with ten percent of our needs.  That falls on deaf ears for people who believe that the only way we will seriously attempt to find new ways to invent green energy is if we make it so painful to use traditional fossil fuels by making them so expensive that we are forced into the effort.  Reaching that goal, whatever the price, is their “admirable” aim – and it doesn’t matter to them that hundreds of thousands might die in the process because they cannot afford to turn on and pay for the heat on which they relied their entire lives.

I try to approach every question, particularly ones of importance, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and green energy, conservation and environmentalism, with an open mind.  It would be refreshing if those who argue their position on whichever side of the issue, were actually honest and transparent.  Like much of the dogma which is preached by the left, those are two qualities that are conspicuous by their absence.  Dishonesty is one of the things that turns me off the fastest.

Perhaps one day those in the liberal camp will wake up and have an epiphany.  They’ll get out of bed and find that Santa has left them a present – a new pair of “Big Boy Pants.”  And they’ll advocate for their position truthfully and without deception.  That will be the day I will take them seriously and listen to their position with interest and without prejudice.  But that event, should it ever occur, seems to be something belonging to a far distant future.  Or that it will ever occur – well, perhaps that’s just a pipe dream.

THE PERMANENT POLITICAL CLASS

If you’ve read any of the liberal press during the last several years you have no doubt heard about the Koch brothers.  They are the favorite whipping boys for our leftist friends, spawn of the devil and the root cause of all evil in the country and the world.  Well, they have made a lot of money which used to be thought of as the source of all malevolence.

The objection that the left has toward the Koch brothers, other than that they are extremely successful, is that they are involved in the energy business which is causing “global weather change” and even more important than that, they are not ashamed to use their wealth to support candidates for public office or, as the pundits like to phrase it, “buy elections.”  That the left has no objection to other billionaires who subscribe to their own agenda doing the same thing is a matter for a separate conversation.

An excellent book by Peter Schweizer entitled, “Extortion” ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013) calls this theory into question – and does so with a great deal of interesting, detailed documentation.  The point that Schweizer makes in his work is that it is those in Congress actually extort these contributions from their constituents – and from those businesses and individuals which might suffer grave repercussions if they do not donate to them.  Schweizer uses the term extortion liberally throughout this extremely interesting book.  Incidentally, this technique is not restricted to members of Congress on only one side of the aisle but is well accepted and utilized by members of both caucuses.

Schweizer refers to those in power on Capitol Hill as the “Permanent Political Class.”  Once elected to office, we all know how difficult it is for a newcomer to unseat an incumbent.  And in the rare instance that happens, the power, influence and opportunity for self-aggrandizement is so strong that only the purest of souls can survive the overwhelming pressure to play the game – and sadly, that candidate isn’t running this year – or almost any other one.

A reasonable person might question why anyone would spend millions of dollars, and in some cases tens of millions, to secure a congressional seat which pays only $174,000 per year (plus some very attractive perks).  The spending on this year’s election is, by some estimates, going to approach $4 Billion.  That’s Billion with a capital “B” and will set an all time record for a mid-term election.

A further question is, what is it that large contributors get in return for their contributions?  Are they simply motivated by a sense of doing good for the country or are they merely trying to buy votes which are positively disposed to support those donors’ interests?  Or, more interestingly, as Schweizer convincingly points out, are they doing this because they are being extorted by those in power to make these contributions – threatened with adverse consequences and unfavorable votes should they withhold their donations.  How do veteran members of Congress perform this extortion?  The answer, while distasteful, is that they do so legally – but then, who wrote the rules?  They did.

Several years ago, two laws known by their acronyms of PIPA and SOFA were proposed.  These were supported by the entertainment industry because the two were purportedly designed to safeguard their intellectual property from theft – in large measure from Chinese pirates who stole new movies and recordings almost as fast as they were released.  Naturally, to secure a favorable vote on these two measures, Hollywood poured vast amounts of money into the PAC’s on which members of the committees that were writing these bills served.  Their lobbyists dropped millions of dollars worth of checks to secure their clients’ interests.

On the other side of the issue were companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook.  They were concerned that the way the law was written there would be a restriction on access to the internet.  They also dropped massive amounts of money in an effort to defeat the two measures.  That money went into exactly the same coffers where the lobbyists for Sony Pictures and their colleagues had left their deposits.  Schweizer refers to this procedure as “ The Double Dip,” and our politicians drool when they have the opportunity to play both sides against each other, collecting their tribute from all with great equanimity.

Another example of ways in which members of Congress can monetize the bills they pass is by passing laws which are so complex that no one understands them.  Two excellent examples are the PPACA (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Both exceed two thousand pages in length and contain language that is not only confusing but in some instances is contradictory.  Enter the lobbyists – to the “rescue” of those who are impacted by these bills.

Interestingly, each law that Congress enacts then goes into a second phase in which unelected bureaucrats “interpret and clarify” the language and meaning of the original bill.  Staff members, rather than our elected members of Congress, actually write many of the laws which their bosses then pass.  So who would know better than those who actually crafted the language of the law what that language means?

It should come as no surprise that many of these staffers realize that they can maximize their personal earnings potential by joining a lobbying firm on “K” Street – and those firms, realizing that they can charge enormous fees – sometimes at ten thousand dollars per hour – hire them.  Many times these firms hire the sons, daughters and wives of members of Congress.  Just another perk of having a seat on the Hill.  A seven figure income is not only a nice “perk” – but it isn’t a bad living.

There are additional reasons that our elected legislators raise money which go beyond making sure that they have a sufficient war chest so that they can get re-elected.  One of the most egregious of these is that, should they decide to retire from “public service” they legally can take whatever funds remain in their PAC accounts, pay taxes on them and keep whatever’s left.  But in the meanwhile, it’s perfect legal for a congressman to “lend” money to his PAC and charge “a reasonable rate of interest” on the funds so loaned.  One congresswoman “loaned” herself $250,000 at an interest rate of 18% per year.  That loan has been on the books now for over twenty years, despite the fact that her PAC has always had sufficient funds to repay the loan.  Perhaps she considers that $45,000 annual interest payment as “mad money.”

If this leaves you with a sense of corruption gone wild, then your opinion exactly mirrors mine.  It is perhaps the reason that I tend generally not to vote for any incumbent in elections, whether that person is being elected to a federal, state or local position.  There are exceptions to that rule – but they are few and far between.

“Power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The Permanent Political Class knows that – and they’re smiling all the way to the bank.

THE FLOOD

In the small town of Crawfton the city fathers gathered together.  The alert that they were to be in the path of a torrential downpour during the next several days had come in from the National Weather Service and they were deciding the most appropriate action the town’s residents should take.  Finally, they decided the safest thing would be to ask all residents to evacuate to the high school which was on the town’s highest ground and they took steps to set up a shelter with food and bedding in the school’s gymnasium to accommodate them.  They, the town’s one policeman and the members of the volunteer fire department went door to door to warn the residents and help them move to their new temporary shelter.

It happened that the mayor knocked on the door of Elder Burt Timmons, one of the community’s most well respected residents.  Elder Timmons came to the door and invited the mayor in.  But the mayor, aware of the urgency of the situation declined and explained the situation at Timmons’ doorstep.

“Please gather what you will need for several days for you and your family and come over to the high school.  We would appreciate it if you would assist in volunteering to help organize the rescue effort when you’re there.   Perhaps your wife, Marcie could help the other women in the cafeteria and your kids could help supervise some of the younger children.”

“Well, Mayor,” Elder Timmons replied.  “Marcie and the children are visiting Marcie’s mother.  And I have faith in the Lord that he will spare me from any danger.  In fact, moving to the high school would, in my view, be a denial of that faith.  So I’m going to stay here and wait it out.”

Despite the mayor’s insistent pleas to reconsider, Elder Timmons remained adamant and the Mayor finally went on to his next call.

As predicted, two days later the skies darkened and the rain began falling.  The intensity of the storm increased and the volume of the downpour gained strength.  All of the town’s residents but for Elder Timmons were warm and safe in the school.  And as the water pooled up and grew higher, it began seeping into the Timmons home.

Undeterred by the rising water which ran freely on the first floor, Elder Timmons held to his faith and prayed for deliverance when Jimmy Anderson, a high school senior came by the house in his row boat.  He could see Timmons through the front window and yelled at him, “Elder Timmons.  Get in the boat.  I’ll row you over to the high school.”

But Timmons shouted back, “No need to worry Jimmy.  I have faith in the Lord and he will save me from any harm.  Thanks for stopping by.”  And Timmons returned to his prayers as Jimmy rowed away.

The following day the water had risen to the point that Elder Timmons had to abandon the first floor of his house, taking refuge on the second floor.  Jimmy’s father came by in the row boat and again offered to row him to the school.  But just as he had done the previous day, he declined the offer, citing his faith in God’s goodness and provision.

The water continued yet the next day and the second floor of the Timmons home was completely inundated from the deluge, forcing Elder Timmons to seek refuge on the roof of his home.  Although he was clad with a slicker, the torrential rain and the wind made its way into his clothing and he was feeling cold and wet, but his faith was unperturbed.  So when the FEMA helicopter flew over and threw down a ladder for him to climb, he refused their assistance.  Several hours later, the water engulfed his roof and Timmons was swept away.  He had never learned to swim and as a result drowned.

But Elder Timmons’ faith had not gone without its reward.  At his passing, Timmons’ soul was immediately taken to the pearly gates where St. Peter himself greeted him and then quickly ushered him in to see God himself.  One would have thought that with the promise of eternal happiness fulfilled, Timmons would have been overjoyed.  Yet he seemed downcast and troubled.  God saw that and asked him the source of this sullenness.

“Lord, You know that I’ve always been faithful to You since my baptism.  I’ve never broken one of your commandments or missed a Sunday service and tithed with joy.  Yet, in my most trying moment as I prayed to You to save me from the flood, You abandoned me.  I don’t understand how I might have done any more to keep to my faith and be deserving of Your compassion.”

“My son, you are mistaken,” God replied.  I sent you two row boats and a helicopter to rescue you.  What more did you expect of me?”

This old story reminds me a great deal of the 2014 election.  Sadly, the GOP has decided to take on the role of Elder Timmons.  At this point, we should not be wondering whether the Republicans are going to take control of the Senate but how much of a majority they will hold.  That is not the case and those of us who hope for positive change find ourselves with a nail biter that may not be resolved until January.

Potentate Obama handed the GOP the absolutely most convincing argument that he could (he was off teleprompter) when he said, “This election is about the Obama administration’s policies.”  Amen.  If you liked what you have seen over the past six years, and most Americans do not, then it is clear that you should go out and vote for the Democrat hack who is running for office.  If not, you should be calling your neighbors who feel as you do and urge them to get out and make a real change – a change for the better and one that is long overdue.

Elections are not won other than at the ballot box (and subsequently the counting of those votes in the canvass).  That fact is not lost on the Democrats.  That is the real reason for their opposing voter ID laws.  That is the reason for their supporting an open immigration policy.  That is something that is still not apparently clear enough to Reince Priebus and the Republican Party.  Otherwise, there would be a nationwide ad campaign that asked the following:

“Are you tired of hearing about a new scandal and example of incompetence every week?  Fast and Furious; Benghazi; the IRS; the NSA; the Veterans Administration; ISIS; and now the Ebola outbreak?  If so, we welcome you as a new or returning Republican voter.  It is time for a change – a change to get America back on track – a change for the better.  Vote Republican – and vote proudly.”

I wonder if there’s a job waiting for me at RNC headquarters?  I think I’ll wait to apply until after the flood waters have abated.

THE VA – IF IT’S BROKE DON’T FIX IT

We all love a good news story.  And I’m going to be among the first to put one up if it should arrive on the scene.  So, you think I missed one – don’t you?  Juwannadoright, didn’t you notice that Congress just passed a bill that is going to reform the VA?  Well, sadly, I did notice – and the “reform” bill isn’t that promised good news story.  But it does look pretty good – as long as you don’t read it.  (Nancy Pelosi may her words be praised).

The bill comes on the heels of what might actually be some good news for the VA – the confirmation of Robert McDonald as its new Secretary.  The vote was unanimous in the Senate – which is perhaps the first sign of anything resembling bipartisanship in a coon’s age.  That’s a good thing.  Mr. McDonald has a great deal of management experience and, if permitted to do so, might actually bring some positive changes to the medical care of our sick and injured veterans.  But that is the question.  Will Secretary McDonald actually have the authority to reform this agency?

After a number of decades of watching politicians and how they generally act, I have reached a general conclusion (although there are some few but notable exceptions to this observation) that politicians are far less concerned about doing good than they are about looking good.  Unfortunately, the VA reform bill is just another example of that kind of legislation.

Let’s recap the VA problem for those of you who have been hiding in their bunker for the last several months in an effort to stay out of sight of any Obamadrones which might be in your neighborhood.

The VA, the largest medical provider in the U. S., has had problems for years in providing care to serve its large population of veterans who look to it for medical care.  In some respect the recent problems are the VA’s own fault because they set for themselves a mission goal of providing every veteran who requested an appointment a fourteen day window for that appointment.  That was an admirable goal – but unfortunately, one that simply wasn’t achievable.

The result was that in order to appear to be doing good, certain people in the VA developed a system that gave the appearance of looking good by creating multiple appointment lists which appeared to achieve that goal.  Sadly, at least fifty of our veterans died while being on one of these phony lists.  Now into this mix add the additional issue that employee bonuses were based on how closely to achieving this fourteen day goal each facility came.  This, of course, introduces the idea that it might have not been mere “face saving” but also greed which contributed to the problem.

Shortly after we realized that the creation of phony waiting lists was not something that was unique to the Phoenix VA, in fact the same system was in place in twenty-six VA facilities nationwide, one of the proposed solutions was that each veteran be given a voucher which he or she could take to any medical provider in the event that there was an inordinate delay in securing an appointment at a VA facility.  The bill that Congress passed attempts to address that.

The second issue that was raised was with reference to accountability within the VA and making it easier to fire employees who engaged in doubtful practices, such as developing or maintaining phony lists – among other issues.  The new law only peripherally addresses this issue – so one can only wonder how now Secretary McDonald will be able to implement any management changes he might develop to benefit our veterans.

Let’s look at what the bill actually says.  (Follow the bouncing ball Minority Leader Pelosi).

Should a veteran require medical attention. be unable to secure a VA appointment within fourteen days and live more than forty miles from a VA facility, he or she can request a letter from the VA. authorizing treatment at a private facility.  (There is no specificity in the law as to how long the VA has to provide that letter).  Now, armed with this authorization, the veteran may make an appointment with a non-VA doctor or facility.  But then that doctor or facility has to request a letter confirming the contents of the original confirmation before the veteran can receive treatment.  (Again, there is no specificity as to how long the VA has to respond to that second request).

As I read through this bureaucratese, I could see the loggers out in the Pacific Northwest, felling the giant redwoods to provide the pulp for all the paperwork that will be involved in this process.  No doubt we will have to add to the bureaucracy within the VA (much to the delight of the unions that represent its employees) to handle this new program.

As to the second point – enabling top VA management to fire incompetent or malfeasant employees more easily – the bill does absolutely nothing.  In its inimitable way the Congress did skirt the issue and address the question of bonuses which might have been one source of the problems.  It limited future bonuses to a mere $360 million – a moderate reduction from the amount that was handed out in the last fiscal year of $393 million.

How could the VA actually offer our veterans quality, timely care?  The answer is fairly straightforward.  It would require the VA to identify and classify its clients as being in need of “Urgent,” “Maintenance” or “Ordinary” care.  The most critical patients should get appointments within seven days; those who are going in for routine follow ups should get an appointment within thirty days; and those who need the VA’s services only occasionally should get vouchers to get treatment at private providers, thus freeing up the VA’s appointment calendar for those who have more critical needs – an area of medicine that the VA handles quite well.

How should we deal with employees who are less than fully competent since apparently outright firing is, at least for the moment, off the table?  If an employee is found to be less than fully competent, he or she should be ineligible either for a bonus or for any pay increase or COLA adjustment for a five year period.  That might encourage those who are not pulling their weight either to see the light and reform or seek employment elsewhere.

Who knows?  Someday there will be an act of Congress that passes that not only makes the legislators look good but actually does good.  I’ll keep you posted when I run across it.

INVITATION TO THE DANCE

 

There was a time when people dressed for dinner, dressed for church and most certainly dressed for balls and for proms.  We still consider a prom something special and so we attire ourselves specially.  Sadly, Maren Sanchez will not be dressing for anything anymore as she will be dead three months on July 16th, murdered by one of her “friends,” Chris Pakson who hacked her to death in their school’s stairwell with a kitchen knife.  The two were sixteen years old.

Pakson apparently had a history of mental illness being described as a “hacker” – a person who inflicted knife wounds on himself.  He also had been diagnosed with ADHD.  The prosecution in Connecticut is planning on charging him as an adult after he undergoes a thorough mental evaluation.  The reason for Maren’s death was that she rejected his invitation to attend their school’s prom.

It seems that even with apparent medical diagnosis and attention, Pakson was given free reign to walk, attend school and murder his long time friend.  Here was a young man whom the medical community recognized as having “issues” yet certainly no one thought that those “issues” would result in such a tragic ending.

On our open southern border we have been seeing a growing influx of “children” who are escaping the horrible conditions in Central America.  Honduras is the murder capital of the world.  Under the guise of humanitarian concerns, the Obama administration effectively is inviting these youngsters.

Now we have a proposal to spend $3.7 Billion, ninety-seven percent of which is designated to the care, housing, feeding and schooling of these children – and three percent to adding more border patrol agents to try to stem the flood of these immigrants.  Estimates are that comes to an approximate expenditure of about $75,000 per new immigrant – a number that dwarfs the amount that we spend on our own children who are recipients of various social benefit programs.

Despite the picture which is generally conveyed that these kids are “toddlers” who have on their own made a fifteen hundred mile trek to emancipation, it appears that many of these children are in fact young juveniles in their mid to late teens.  Perhaps that is the reason that the administration is essentially barring not only the press but members of Congress from taking a first eye view of the holding centers where they are temporarily being housed – before being shipped off throughout the country to places unknown.

Recent estimates are that the “coyotes” who specialize in assisting those who are seeking a new home in the United States are collecting $5,000 per person for those in this latest wave crossing the Rio Grande.  That is a phenomenal amount when you consider that the average person in Honduras earns less than $2,000 per year.  Where are these indigent people obtaining such a relatively large amount of money to make the journey?  Could it be that some of our foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is being used by those countries’ governments to encourage the export of their own citizens?

In one respect, until the Congress changes a 2008 law which granted special protection to illegal immigrants who come from anywhere but Mexico and Canada, our border crisis will continue.  It is surprising that the president has not taken out his pen and written an executive order to alter that law.  He has shown no hesitancy doing so with respect to other laws.  Nor has he picked up the phone and called the presidents of the three Central American countries who are losing their citizens and threatened them with a reduction in the aid that we supply unless they co-operate in helping to stem the flow.  For that matter, a call to President Nieto of Mexico would be in order as well – encouraging him to apprehend these migrants before they reach our border.

There is no one who does not have empathy for these kids and their plight.  But at the same time, we ought to have empathy for our own children and our adult population as well.  Allowing youngsters whose backgrounds are uncertain, who may or may not be gang members and who almost certainly have the potential to bring infectious diseases into the country where they can spread these among the general population does not seem like a well-reasoned policy, humanitarianism or not.

At the least, we should treat those who are in their mid-teens as adults, as the Connecticut prosecutors are treating Chris Pakson for murdering his schoolmate.  That would at least moderately ease the backlog of illegal Central American youngsters who are awaiting deportation hearings – a process that will take many years to accomplish.  The ultimate answer is to have an administration in power that recognizes the absolute sovereignty of our nation’s borders and comes to the table with a sincere proposal both to secure those borders and negotiate a workable, reasonable and compassionate path to citizenship for those who want to resettle in America.

We may have to wait several years if not longer before that happens.  In the meanwhile, there will be no Central American wallflowers at our “Open Border Dance.”  You can’t blame them for wanting to escape the deplorable conditions in their native countries.  Nor can you blame them for wanting to come here.  After all, Obama and his administration have sent them an engraved invitation for them to attend.

FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

 

When my parents took me to see “The Wizard of Oz” my mother shushed me for speaking out after the above scene was shown on the screen.  I didn’t understand why Dorothy went around the road at its circular beginning instead of just starting at the part of the road where it straightened out.  I think Mom believed she had released a hellion on the world.  Maybe so.

This, of course, brings me to she of our time who is the queen and diva of convoluted thinking , Nancy Pelosi.  Possibly of all time – although I haven’t reached that conclusion quite yet.

Leader Pelosi has categorized the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, granting that company an exemption from the Obamacare mandate on providing abortifacients as just one more bomb in the war on women.  Furthermore, she categorized the five male Justices as being participants in that war, if for no other reason, because of their gender.  Well, everyone is entitled to her opinion – however warped it might be.  But let’s see where this kind of thinking on the part of the liberal left, of whom Ms. Pelosi is an outstanding example, logically leads us.

For purposes of this conversation, let’s assume that Ms. Pelosi is correct.  A man simply cannot properly adjudicate an issue that is related to women simply because of a difference in our sexual apparatus .  But the “logic” of this argument would suggest that having a different experience de facto disqualifies a person from making judgments about others whose experience is different from their own.

Certainly if it’s true that a man should have no involvement in questions regarding women, it should be equally true that women should have no involvement in questions regarding men.  While I have never heard anyone on the left make that statement it does seem logical enough to me.  But should we stop there?

Let’s take the case of a man who is accused of rape.  Obviously, a woman should not serve on a jury adjudicating this case as her lifelong experience has been different from that of the male rapist and therefore it is impossible for her to come to an objective determination because she lacks the mindset to do so as a simple result of her gender.

But if that is true, then might we not go further?  Should we not restrict the jury pool not only just to men, but to men who have themselves also been accused of committing rape?  Would they not be the best  equipped to understand the mind of the accused rapist – far better than the general population – and therefore be better able than others to cut through all the legal jargon and actually penetrate to  the crux of the matter?

It disturbs me that someone who holds a position of “leadership” in our government and at one time was third in line of succession to the presidency does not understand that it is not the role of the Congress to critique the Supreme Court but it is the role of the Court to critique the laws which Congress enacts.  More disturbing is that Pelosi will win re-election by overwhelming margins until she dies or retires.

But perhaps there is hope.  I have dropped her an email explaining that the Yellow Brick Road on the way to Oz begins just off of San Francisco near Fisherman’s Wharf and submerged only about thirty feet under the Pacific’s surface.  Perhaps she will lead a brigade of her supporters on a journey to Oz, thereby making the country and the world safer for the rest of us.  Bon voyage!

POLITICAL PERFIDY

As a child, my parents were certain that at every opportunity they exercised their right to vote.  They viewed it as a responsibility and the only way that they could make their opinions heard.  However, I do remember my father referring to most politicians as “People who over promise, under deliver and lie at every opportunity.”  I believe that was a non-partisan view of those who ran and spent their lives in public office.  Dad seemed to feel that voting for the better of two not so good alternatives was still the right thing to do.

The example that my parents set stuck with me.  Since I was first able to do so I have voted in every primary and general election.  But I must admit that with very few exceptions, I cast my ballot with little enthusiasm for those who were listed.  I simply tried to find the better of two poor alternatives.  There have been several exceptions, times at which I was truly enthusiastic about a candidate and not only worked for him or her but actively campaigned on their behalf.  Normally, they lost the election.

There is a sort of moral vindication in my voting.  As an estimate I would say that only twenty percent of those for whom I have voted actually won.  That number may be a bit inflated.  So, I can say that I did my civic duty – and bear very little responsibility for the outcome.

There are some who believe that people who serve in public office should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us.  Frankly, I would be satisfied if they were merely expected to observe the same standard – and actually met it.  I don’t believe that in election to public office, somehow there is a “Deus ex machina” moment in which a person who is base and corrupt is transformed into a better person.  In fact, with the new power which has been bestowed on them, quite the reverse seems to happen as mere venality becomes pure corruption.

In Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) is running for the senate against incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.  Former Democratic Governor, Edwin Edwards, now 86 years old, has announced his decision to run for the seat that Cassidy is vacating.  Edwards is a veteran politician having served as Louisiana’s governor for four terms.  In the last of those elections he ran against David Duke, the head of the Ku Klux Klan.

Louisiana’s constitution prohibits anyone from holding more than two terms consecutively.  So after his second term, Edwards took a hiatus, but immediately began raising money for his third term, four years later.  This might have proven to be a good thing in terms of voter perception as his first two terms were filled with charges of corruption.

He was accused by a former associate of selling political appointments for cash and both he and his wife were investigated when a Korean rice broker, looking to gain advantageous prices on rice exports from the state, gave Mrs. Edwards an envelope containing ten thousand dollars cash.  The Edwards admitted to accepting the money but claimed it had been given them out of friendship and Edwards opined that “It was ‘super moralistic’ for the government to prohibit Americans from accepting gifts from foreign businessmen.”

Edwards soundly defeated the man who succeeded him to the gubernatorial mansion, David Treen.  Treen had only been elected by a narrow margin when he succeeded Edwards and during the campaign, Edwards quipped to reporters, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.”  Today, being caught in either of those acts might serve more as an endorsement than a negative.

Apparently the old saw, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” held true in Governor Edwards’ case.  There were further charges leveled against him for corruption in the awarding of contracts to those vendors who provided products to state hospitals.  This resulted in both a mis-trial and a re-trial in which the governor was acquitted.  He laid the blame for these “phony charges” on politically motivated prosecutors.  However, the governor’s reputation was well known to voters.  With a wide field of contenders in what would have been Edwards fourth term, he withdrew from the race at a late date.  But he was to make another comeback.

In his fourth and final campaign for governor against Duke, the most popular bumper sticker bore the message, “Vote for the crook – it’s important.”  Edwards, who was minority friendly was up against someone who was an avowed racist.  Edwards defeated Duke handily in an election that gained nationwide attention.

Old habits die hard.  Edwards was accused of accepting an $845,000 bribe so that he would approve a private juvenile correctional facility in the state and also was charged with accepting a $400,000 bribe from Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., the owner of the San Francisco 49er’s so that DeBartolo could obtain a gaming license.

Edwards was prosecuted by U. S. Attorney Eddie Jordan and convicted on seventeen of twenty-six counts which included racketeering, money laundering, extortion, mail fraud and wire fraud.  On his way to prison, he quipped, “I will be a model prisoner as I have been a model citizen.”  As a result of his conviction, Edwards served nine years in state and federal prison and an additional three years on probation.

Edwards petitioned President George W. Bush for a commutation of his sentence, a request which Bush denied.  He also petitioned President Obama but has not received any response from the current White House occupant.  Notwithstanding his criminal conviction, a poll of Louisiana residents indicated that thirty percent of them believed that Edwards was “The best governor Louisiana ever had.”  I wonder if Huey Long was included in that poll.

As I write this post I have a vision of a very brief film in which an animated Statue of Liberty looks over the American landscape, removes her crown and lays it on the ground next to her torch and as she rises, uses the folds of her robe to wipe the tears from her eyes.

I guess it’s true that, “the people get what they deserve.”  Nothing could prove that old saw more true than if Edwards is successful in his most recent comeback and is elected to the House of Representatives.  But while he may be able to vote on the floor of the House, I do take some comfort in the fact that as a convicted felon, he won’t be able to vote for himself in the general election.

THE FOREST AND THE TREES

In addressing the Senate’s passage today of the so-called “Nuclear Option” to allow for a simple majority to have their way, greatly reducing the ability of the minority to object or delay presidential nominations, President Obama referred to “arcane rules” which do not reflect what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote them.

He who has been described as “The Great Orator” should realize that the idea of a supermajority to pass legislation or confirm appointments is anything but “arcane” – which simply means something that is obscure or known by only a few.  Anyone who knows how the Senate has conducted its business for two centuries understands that it was intended to be the more deliberative branch of the Congress.

After Sen. Majority Harry Reid pushed this through he also gave a press conference.  As you might expect, he (and Obama later) both lauded this rules change as a good thing which will allow that body to fulfill their role in “doing the people’s business.”  The sad truth is that it is not the “people’s business” about which either the senator or the president are concerned – but rather it is advancing the administration’s agenda.

Both Sen. Reid and then Sen. Obama spoke out strongly against going down this road when President Bush was in the White House and Republicans controlled the Congress.  But anyone who has not seen a consistent pattern of this administration’s only enforcing the laws and regulations which fit its political agenda and ignoring those which do not meet their “standards,” is not following the news very closely.

As we are now on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, there are probably more conspiracy theories than ever about what actually happened that day in Dallas – and we are no closer to knowing the truth.  So in such an environment, I thought I would advance my own conspiracy theory for your consideration.

The subject of my “conspiracy theory”  is very simple.  Will there be a Congressional election in 2014?

If you were to ask most Americans to state what appears in Article 1 – Sections 2 and 3 of the U. S. Constitution which stipulate when the members of the House and Senate shall be elected, I suspect very few could answer correctly.  By Obama’s definition, that makes this fundamental governing document, rather “arcane.”  Actually, I think if you were to ask the majority of Americans the easier question of how often we elect the members of the House and Senate to office you would get a depressingly small number of those who could answer the question correctly.  Lack of information (and lack of concern) are the prime building blocks on which tyrants build their sand castles.

With Obama’s popularity and credibility in serious decline – at the nadir of his term in office – Republicans are poised to make significant gains in next year’s election and might well retake the Senate.  Obamacare, his “signature achievement” is plummeting in free fall and will certainly crash and burn as next year reveals that employers will be dropping insurance coverage for millions and the so-called “savings” which were sold as being a benefit of this law will prove to be premium increases which few want and fewer can afford.  And Republicans will focus on this law to throw those who voted for this nightmare into retirement.

But what if there were no election?  What if there were some sort of “national emergency” which occurred – an outbreak of some virulent disease – or some massive nationwide terrorist attack?  What if Obama declared a state of “martial law?”

Farfetched?  Perhaps.

But it should concern all of us that in the name of “national security” the NSA is collecting our phone calls, emails and texts; that Obamacare whether through malevolent intention or otherwise collects all our personal health information; that the IRS targets the administration’s political opponents; that all sorts of government agencies including Social Security are stocking up on hollow point bullets which are designed to inflict the maximum damage on their targets; that drone aircraft killing machines “may be used against American citizens”; and that we have a person in the White House who is quoted as saying, “He’s pretty good at killing people.”

Our closest allies have severe reservations about the reliability of the United States as a partner and friend.  They are, of course, distant from what happens here – which might enable them more clearly than we, to be able to see both the forest and the trees.

MANTRAS AND SPENDING

Thanks goodness for catch phrases.  If they did not exist a significant portion of our population would be speechless.  These phrases which soon become mantras, appear to emerge from oblivion almost instantaneously, just as Athena sprang from the head of her father, Zeus.  And the phrase which is currently in vogue among the political non-intelligentsia refers to the legitimacy of Obamacare, “It’s the law of the land.”

Those on the left utilize that phrase as an argument against the Republican effort to eliminate or delay the implementation of Obamacare.  It is employed by them as though it were a response to a Divine litany.  They believe that utilizing this phrase is the final word – although they then go on to add that the law has additional legitimacy because it was ruled to be constitutional by the Supreme Court.  End of discussion, we win, you lose.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

When it was ratified, the 18th Amendment didn’t need the validation of the Supreme Court.  It was, by definition, “The law of the land.”  That was until it was determined by the American people that it was a bad law and was repealed by the 21st Amendment, thirteen years later.

Humans write a lot of laws to govern our conduct as a society.  Because we are imperfect, our view of some of those changes and evolves.

I have heard no one speak of Harriet Tubman as a fanatic when she worked to establish the underground railroad to assist runaway slaves escape their masters, despite the fact that they lived in states where the ownership by some humans of others was, “The law of the land.”

I have heard no one who believes in a free and equal society refer to Rosa Parks as a law breaker when she refused to give up her seat on the bus, despite the fact that in so doing she broke, “The law of the land.”

I have heard no one who supports gay marriage argue that it should not become “the law of the land” because it violates the Defense of Marriage Act which was already the “law of the land.”

And the vindication for the radical left of their adulation for Obamacare is that those who tried to defund or delay its implementation are taking a significant hit in the polls.  By that I refer to Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and other conservatives in the Senate who did something that Washington seldom sees – men who tried to fulfill their campaign promises and vote and act in accordance with the mandate that was given to them by those who elected them.

If you look at the “resolution” that was reached, you have to admit that there was no resolution – merely a continuation of the policy of avoiding a real resolution.  This was crafted together in the Senate by the “leaders” on both sides of the aisle – the good ol’ boys who’ve followed practices of fiscal irresponsibility for years which got us here in the first place, Sen. Harry Reid (D – NV) and Mitch McConnell (R – KY).

These two senators who have respectively “served” for 26 and 27 years in that august body certainly understand, far more clearly than freshmen senators Cruz and Lee, how Washington works.  These two men refused to incorporate an amendment offered by Sen. Vitter (R – LA) to include themselves and their staffs in Obamacare.  They also managed to incorporate a nice bit of pork ( about $2.7 Billion) to fund the re-habilitation of a bridge which benefits Sen. McConnell in Kentucky.

And so, America has gone nowhere to make an attempt to solve our serious problem of spending more than we take in, nor will we given the current construction of those who sit in the White House or the Congress.  Until the cast of characters changes, and that is something that is up to the American people if they choose to take up the challenge, business as usual will continue in Washington.

The truth of the matter is that we don’t really have a spending problem.  We have a “sending” problem.  And the people whom we are sending to Washington are, by and large, more interested in serving themselves than the voters whom they purportedly represent.

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