The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘voting’ Category

WILL XX MARK THE SPOT?

Once upon a time in America, long before we had large clunky voting machines which now have largely been replaced with far smaller, more sophisticated and technologically advanced apparatuses which enable us to determine who will mis-govern us for the next few years until we repeat the exercise, people cast their ballots using paper and pen.

With the introduction of the voting machine, at first we used them for the “important” races – president, senators, congressmen, governors and the like.  Things like constitutional amendments and people running for judgeships were still conducted using paper.  After all, no one understood the implications of those constitutional amendments and it was virtually impossible to get any information on any of the people running for judicial office so people, if they bothered to vote in those elections did so based on whether the name of one of the candidates appealed to them.  It seemed as good a way as any to cast an uninformed vote.

This is not to say that the votes cast on the machines were necessarily much better informed.  In Chicago, the Cook County Democratic party typically handed out a simple instruction guide for those who were unclear on which candidates might best represent their interest.  The one page instruction guide was simply entitled, “HOW TO VOTE.”  That pretty much said it all – and despite the fact that many voters in Chicago were Polish or Hispanic, the simple guide was only available in English.  But the graphics certainly overcame the prospective voter’s possible lack of familiarity with the lingua franca.

The “guide” instructed the voter to:

1)  Pull the red lever to the left.  (This closed the curtain to ensure privacy as the citizen went about his or her important business).

2)  Pull Lever “A”.  (This was a straight Democratic party vote).

3)  Pull the red lever to the right.  (This opened the curtain and recorded the vote on the meters at the back of the machine).

The guide concluded with the congratulatory message:

“YOU HAVE NOW VOTED.  THANK YOU.”

As simple as this was, there were some precincts in which technological advances somehow languished.  Interestingly, these were often in precincts which had a heavy concentration of SRO’s – Single Residence Occupancy buildings whose tenants were often street people who would panhandle during the day, buy their bottle of Ripple and return to their residencies at night to curl up with their bottle and a tattered copy of “Tropic of Cancer.”

These voters were often hung over on Election day and every other day, yet getting them out to vote was an important part of the local Democratic precinct captain’s job security plan with the city so a different strategy was adopted to make sure that they not only got out to vote but that they voted “correctly.”  The entire voter fraud scheme relied on stealing one blank paper ballot.

The precinct captain, perhaps in conjunction with the Judges of Election for that precinct, would obtain a blank ballot and mark it with black ink and then go about his business of knocking on the doors of the SRO’s residents to get them out to do their civic duty.  The prospective voters would have only one responsibility, other than to hand the pre-marked ballot over to the Judge in charge of dropping it in the secured ballot box, thereby ensuring the integrity of the election.  It would be his duty to return to the precinct captain one blank ballot which he would be given after he presented the Judges with his name and they certified his right to vote in that precinct in the election.  The reward, other than taking pride in performing his civic duty, was a pint bottle of booze.

Now the city of Chicago, concerned that people voted in a conscientious and sober manner prohibited liquor stores, bars and restaurants from selling alcoholic beverages during the time the polls were open.  So the precinct captains had to obtain the hootch in the days before the actual election.  Rumor has it that there were quite a few liquor stores that did a land office business during that period and there was one incident reported where a precinct worker’s car was vandalized while the polls were open and a substantial amount of cheap alcohol was stolen from it.  I never heard whether that precinct captain met his quota for getting out the vote that particular day.

Those who were all atwitter about the Florida “hanging chad” controversy, might have been interested to know that in the primitive days of paper ballots, we had our own controversies on how ballots were marked and whether those ballots were marked legally.  According to the Cook County Board of Election Commissioners, a valid ballot was one in which the voter had made an “X” in the little square to the left of the candidate’s name.  Some voters, unclear on the concept, circled the name, marked an “O” in the square or wrote the word “Yes” there or failed to have the lines of their “X” intersect – all of which were grounds for disqualifying that particular vote.

But we’ve come a long way from those days of marking an “X” to identify our choice of a candidate.  The main theme of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency next year will probably revolve around one issue – casting a ballot for an “XX” chromosome candidate.  As Ms. Clinton put it recently in one of her rare public appearances, (oh, I forgot this was a speech for which she received a $250,000 honorarium to spout forty minutes worth of generalities), “Isn’t it time we elected a woman president?”

She and the American people would have been better served if she had said, “Isn’t it time we elected a competent person president?”  That question, however, might not work well with her playbook.

HILLARY CLINTON AND THE MOB

It would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I’ve never been a fan of Hillary Clinton’s.  In fact, I wrote a piece elsewhere about twenty years ago in which I spoke of her as “The most dangerous woman in America.”  If my feelings on that have softened over the years it is for several reasons.  The first is that Mrs. Clinton seems to be embarked on a course of self-destruction which may well minimize her ability to attain a position of serious power.  The second is that a substantial number of challengers to that title have emerged, Sen. Elizabeth Warren being in the vanguard of those.

Despite the fact that I’ve never signed on to the Hillary Fan Club, I wish her nor anyone else any harm.  And I fear for her safety because of some statements that she recently made, specifically her remarks this week that, “Trickle down economics doesn’t work – we’ve seen that fail rather spectacularly.”

The economic theory to which Mrs. Clinton referred in that speech suggests that by lowering tax rates on those who are the wealthiest, that saves them money which they will in turn invest in creating jobs and that those jobs will create more jobs and that everyone in the economy will benefit because there will be more people employed and the taxes that they pay on their earnings will more than overcome the amount of the tax reduction which was originally given.

Of course, those like Mrs. Clinton on the left will naturally acknowledge a corollary that is the reverse of the trickle down theory.  If you believe that cutting tax rates on the wealthiest does nothing to stimulate job creation, then you naturally must believe that increasing them will have no negative impact on job creation, the consumer or the economy overall – other than to raise additional tax revenues which can then funnel into the national Treasury to be misspent by those in positions of power in Washington.

That is a statement that might involve some personal peril for the former First Lady.

In Nevada we have three propositions on the ballot.  The third of these, (cleverly named Proposition 3), wants the voters to decide whether to allow Nevada to collect a 2% tax on the revenues of companies if those companies’ revenues exceed $1 million per year.  Incidentally, it doesn’t matter whether the company is profitable or if it loses money.  That’s Govthink at it’s finest.  The purported beneficiary of these funds to be collected will be our schools.  As one might expect, the NEA has endorsed this proposal.  And the AFL-CIO which initially supported the idea has, perhaps because of their experience in sponsoring Obamacare, have now changed their view and opposes its passage.

Without discussing the arguments pro and con, (I voted “NO”), this is yet another tax which purportedly will benefit a specific cause – and which will, almost as soon as it is passed, wind up being something that goes into the General Fund and will be used for whatever purposes those in Carson City choose.  I saw this same scenario when Illinois authorized the creation of the state lottery – which was to benefit education.  I gave it three years before those proceeds were swept into the General Fund – and, as I recall, it only took two.

Among the plethora of political ads that one would expect the week before an election, there have been a substantial number which have urged Nevadans to vote “NO” on Prop 3.  I have yet to see one that advocates its passage – which suggests to me that the “NO” side has a lot of money backing it.  Considering the fact that casinos are the principal source of revenue to the state and that they clearly would be subject to this proposed tax, it doesn’t require an Einstein to guess that they are among the funders for these ads.  And if you questioned that, one of the spokespeople advocating the defeat of the measure is none other than His Honor, the much beloved former Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman.

Before becoming Las Vegas’ mayor, Goodman spent most of his career as an attorney – more specifically as a defense attorney.  He handled many high profile clients and represented them with vigor and very positive results.  Among those he defended were people associated with “the Mob” including Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein (whose grandson owns a maintenance company that services my pool), Nicky Scarfo and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.  It would be fair that many in the underworld viewed Mayor Goodman as their “go to” guy when it came to defending them from prosecution.  And it’s hardly a secret that before Nevada’s casinos became corporate entities, they were controlled and run by “The Mob.”

As I write this, one of Mayor Goodman’s ads appeared on FOX News.  The text of the ad (slightly paraphrased because I don’t type as fast as he can speak) is:

“If Prop 3 passes it will have an impact on everyone in Nevada.  Do you know what happens when a corporation gets a tax increase?  They pass it on to all of us.  They fire their own employees.  This will cost us more in what we pay at the grocery store, what we pay for health care, it’s going to smack all of us right in the jaw.”

Wait a minute.  That’s trickle down economics.  The only difference is that in this case the former mayor discusses the impact of an increase in tax rates rather than a decrease.

While I don’t recall reading any stories that Hillary Clinton plays polo or enjoys horseback riding, I would suggest that before she snuggles up for a good night’s rest, it might behoove her to check for any equine body parts that might have unexpectedly been placed under the covers.

SHOULD WE REPEAL THE CONSTITUTION’S 26TH AMENDMENT?

Amendment XXVI

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Perhaps you will think that because I’m older (and you probably think crotchety as well), I decided to write this post.  Well, I am older than I used to be and I would hope my bubbly upbeat personality and rosy view of life will dispel the other issue from your minds.  But I just decided to write on the subject because I haven’t put up anything very controversial lately – and I was in the mood for doing so.  Call it personal whimsy.

LBJ’s explosive expansion of the war in Viet Nam in the mid – late ‘60’s ignited one of the greatest hell fires of division in American society that we had seen since the Civil War.  The college protests against the war were viewed by mainstream America as being nothing more than a few radical leftists who were lucky to live in a country where freedom of speech was a part of our heritage.  Most Americans supported our war effort.

Soldiers started coming home in body bags, mothers lost sons and sisters lost their brothers.  The attitude of Americans shifted from one of support for the war as more “non-radical”, mainstream people were personally affected by the mounting number of American deaths.

It was from this climate that we began considering the issue of whether, for the fourth time we should expand the right to vote by extending this to 18 year olds.  The mantra of the day was, “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.”   In 1971 the amendment was passed and ratified.

When the Constitution was written, the average life expectancy was approximately 35 years.  By the time the 16th amendment was adopted, that had increased to about 75 years.  (As an interesting side note, in the last 43 years, despite all our medical advances, the current expectation is approximately 80 years).

So a young man in the newly constituted United States of America might be able to vote in only seven congressional elections and three presidential elections before he went into the great beyond.  Given the short life spans, establishing an age of maturity of 21 seemed to be rather a high bar – intended to insure that people who were sufficiently mature and informed would be the participants in the voting process.  With the lack of universal mandatory education, it is reasonable to believe that not every voter was as well informed as the Founding Fathers might have hoped.

Americans have been both blessed by and suffered from out relative size and our location on the globe.  We have been blessed because we are generally isolated from hostile governments and have been spared incursions by them on our home soil.  We have suffered because our isolation has kept up generally insulated from an understanding of what is happening in much of the world as the following video demonstrates:

Okay.  I’ve tried to offer an explanation for why we may not be as well informed as we should with respect to foreign events.  But that is hardly an excuse for our lack of information about basic facts regarding our own nation:

In reviewing these two videos, it should be apparent that age is no respecter of stupidity.  So no matter what age we deem a person to be “eligible” to vote, it is apparent that is no guarantee that the citizen so empowered will exercise good judgment in exercising that right.

I would like to reiterate my belief that while voting might be a “right,” its intelligent exercise is a responsibility.  I have previously suggested that all voters, irrespective of age be tested – say once every 10 years – to make sure that their cognitive functions are still operational.  By that I mean that they be able to meet the same standard of scoring at least 58 correct answers out of the 99 questions as we require of those who apply for citizenship.  I have provided the link to “The Christian Science Monitor’s” citizenship test so that you may review your own knowledge of America and American history.

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0104/Could-you-pass-a-US-citizenship-test#Could-you-pass-a-US-citizenship-test/Who-signs-bills?&_suid=139829406131408742607584329032

Good luck.  NO GOOGLING.  And no talking among yourselves.  Grab your pencils, open your test books – GO!

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

The title of this post is pure plagiarism – coming as it did from one of the catch phrases of the ‘60’s.  At that time it was one of the rallying cries of the ultra far Left.  But how things have changed.  Now the power resides in the ultra far Left and their phrase calling for empowerment lies on a forgotten dusty shelf in a government warehouse.  It’s time to dust it off and have it become the mantra for those who believe in limited, effective, Constitutional government.

Last week’s recall election of two anti-gun Colorado State Senators, Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron may be a small first step in the right direction.  In media underplayed (this should come as no surprise to any thinking person) reporting, both senators lost their bid to keep their seats.  The media coverage that was reported emphasized the “vast amounts of money” that the NRA spent to achieve the successful recall effort.  Notably absent was that those who supported the senators spent three times as much as the NRA – including a $250,000 contribution from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

For years the left has descried the absurdity of “trickle down economics”.  Of course, in a different format, that is precisely the economic and cultural policy that they themselves employ.  The only difference is that rather than allowing the private citizen to do the “trickling” they have substituted Big Brother government.

Well, there is one other difference.  Instead of allowing the individual to arrive at moral, rational decisions on how to govern his or her life, the government “for our own good and based on its incredible storehouse of wisdom” will tell us how to think and how to behave, how to speak to each other and, most importantly, how to redress our grievances should someone have the audacity not to follow the government’s rules.  In another time we would have called this tyranny – and it’s time to dust that phrase off as well.

If those who have a belief in the value of the individual are ever to hope to re-establish that way of life in these United States, we need to set aside our prim and proper ways and get down in the trenches.  Change for the better will never come to this country based on rulings and new laws promulgated in Washington – at least not as it is presently constituted.  The reason is that those in power have the significant advantage of incumbency which is almost impossible to overcome – unless they receive real challenges in primary elections.  The only way to get the SOB’s out is to replace their names on the ballots in the first place.  Colorado has shown us that can be done.

Some of the pundits in commenting on the recall election (including Senator Giron) cited the low voter turnout as the reason for their defeat.  Well, the nature of elections is that the side getting the most votes is the winner – irrespective of the size of the turnout.  That is something that conservatives need to keep in mind.  We may be smaller or larger in number than our political opponents – but they are by far more catalyzed to do something that is fundamental to politics – getting out the vote.

Perhaps it is ironic that we conservatives frequently point correctly to one of the failings of government – lack of accountability.  I thoroughly endorse the idea that it’s easy to spend money when it isn’t yours.  Of course, the government considers all of our wealth and assets as really being theirs.  They simply allow us the privilege of holding on to some of what we have earned for a period of time before they impound it.

Consider how they tax every American’s wealth.  First we earn it and they tax it – Income Tax; Second we spend it – Sales Tax; Third we save it – more Income Tax or AMT; Fourth we die – they tax it again through Estate and Inheritance Taxes.  My father when he was audited for the third year in a row by the IRS – all of which resulted in no changes being made to his returns – made the comment to the auditor, “Perhaps we could simplify the process.  Why don’t I just turn over all my income to you and you can give me back what you think I’m entitled to live on for myself and my family.”  That was in the 1950’s – and we’ve pretty much devolved to that condition.

But returning to accountability, it’s interesting that once ensconced in power the government, since it has no personal skin in the game – other than yours or mine – is so wasteful.  Yet they only are able to be in that position because they have well orchestrated the effort to get them elected.  Having lived most of my adult life in Chicago I have seen that first hand.

If you are a Democrat precinct captain you no doubt hold a city job.  Although not written into that job description is one that is tacit to your maintaining your livelihood – getting out the vote on Election Day.  It’s a little like having your four year college career determined by one test given on one day.  And if you don’t think that motivates the Democrat precinct captains you are sadly mistaken.

Of course, this does lead to vote fraud and abuse.  That is almost inevitable when one party holds nearly absolute power and control.  I am sure there are examples of the same which could be found in Republican strongholds as well.  But it points to the underlying premise of this post.  People, at a grassroots level who are highly motivated can make a difference and can make history.

It’s time that conservatives grasped that concept and worked to return the power to the people.

THE CIVIL RIGHTS BUSINESS

In the beginning there was the Civil Rights Movement.  That transformed into the Civil Rights Concerto for Left Hand Percussion instruments.  That transformed into the Civil Rights Business (For Profit).  This business has one product and one mantra – victimization.

Like the Phoenix it seems that the incarnations this business has are infinite.  That is because if you can attribute racism to anything that exists or anything anyone does, you have a never ending amount of material with which to work.

The state of North Carolina offers us a case in point with their passage of changes to their voting law requirements.  No sooner was the law signed by the governor than the NAACP and ACLU filed suit to get it overturned.  The premise is that the law is intended to “restrict” those who will be allowed to vote in that state’s elections.  The presumption, if we are to believe those in the Civil Right Business who have already spoken out against the law is that “restrict” means disenfranchising qualified voters who happen to be black.

One of the premiere objections to the North Carolina law is that the state will require every voter to provide a valid picture ID in order to receive a ballot.  “Valid” includes a variety of options:  a North Carolina Driver’s License, a student ID issued by a state college or university, a current United States Passport or a North Carolina issued ID.  The law, incidentally, does not go into effect until 2016 – three years from now.

A reasonable person might say that a three year time span should allow almost anyone the opportunity to obtain a valid ID so that he or she could exercise the right to vote.  In that time period a woman could bear four children and a man could father a lot more.  Isn’t that passionately concerned voter able to find the time to get a (free) North Carolina ID card?  The card, incidentally is available at over 180 different locations throughout the state – and North Carolina isn’t one of our geographically larger states.  But if a short ride is too long for that concerned voter, the entire process can be accomplished through the U. S. mail.

So taking this one portion of the law, what reasonable objection can opponents have to it?  Frankly, I’m a bit mystified.  But I am empathetic to their concern about voter suppression.  My concern takes the reverse side of their argument – and it centers around those voters who have a legitimate right to vote and who exercise that right.

You see, every vote which is cast illegally disenfranchises the voter who actually has that right.

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