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Is it time for a REAL third party?

October 14, 2013

Apparently Sean Hannity brought up that old conservative trope – that we need a conservative third party – today on his radio show.

It’s not a new idea, but it may be that this time it’s a good one. In the past, a third party has served as spoiler in Presidential elections – especially in the 1992 election, when Ross Perot received almost 19% of the vote. According to this interactive map, practically every state won by Bill Clinton would not have been, had Perot’s votes gone to George W. Bush instead.

So maybe all of Perot’s votes would not have gone to Bush. (Although I think the majority of them would have.) Still, it would have been a different election, if for no reason other than eliminating the distraction from the messages of the two main parties.

If a third party was created before the 2016 Presidential election, or if the Tea Party folks decided to co-op the standing US Conservative Party, the Republican Party would have exactly zero chance of winning the White House – and if that new party got involved in Congressional elections, they could lose the majority in the House as well.

I think the leadership of the GOP knows this. I think they believe there isn’t a chance of such a thing happening, for a couple of reasons. First, I think they arrogantly believe there is really no way the people in the Tea Parties around the country could ever organize at that level. Second, I think they believe that the Tea Party voters will be there to vote Republican because they for sure would never vote Democrat.

The Democrats were fairly confident for years than their more conservative voters, especially those in the South, would never vote Republican – then came Ronald Reagan. He resonated with a whole segment of the Democratic Party, especially those who were concerned about the Cold War. (For you youngsters, there used to be a bear in the woods.)

I won’t say at this moment that Ted Cruz is that guy, but he is a principled conservative who is not afraid to defy the Republican Senate leadership – and he has a few years to fine-tune his message.

Sarah Palin seems a bit more of a stretch, but she won’t go away. By the time the next Presidential Election comes around, the character assassinations from 2008 will be ancient history. She has shown herself to be more than just a one-term governor from Alaska. She continues to travel the country, speaking to all kinds of groups. Last weekend she, Cruz, Senator Mike Lee and others were involved in the citizen reopening of the Washington Mall…when the group picked up the barricades and dropped them in front of the White House.

And Sarah is a household word, and pretty darned charismatic, in a very unaffected way.

So Hannity may be right. I can’t see a presidential election won by a third party in 2016, not at this moment, but I also think the establishment Republicans, should they continue to malign the Tea Party, could easily make themselves the minority party for generations to come.

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And the GOP blinked…again.

October 11, 2013

From what I can gather tonight (10:30 PM on Friday 10.11.13), the House and Senate Republicans are falling all over themselves to give the President what he demanded in order to stop the “slimdown” and raise the debt ceiling. He hasn’t accepted anything yet, and probably will extract as many concessions from them as possible before giving them the OK.

Various folks have referred to the last couple of weeks in Washington as “kabuki theater” – although the term is used incorrectly – but it gets the point across. All of this was done for show, except for the full-court press led by Ted Cruz, who is still a believer that something can be done about this mess in Washington. I think the Senate GOP leadership never wanted any of this to happen, and were forced into it by the House and by a few conservatives, notably Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Cruz. Apparently the polls show that Americans know Obamacare will be a total disaster, and if they had had a voice in it in the first place it never would have become the nightmare-in-waiting we have on our doorstep.

The debt ceiling thing just complicated matters. The GOP really doesn’t want to hold fast on the debt ceiling any more than the Democrats do – they want the money to throw around too, after all – but they think they need to look like they are against it. In that way they are as big a bunch of liars and hypocrites as the Democrats.

And the Imperial President finally deigns to give them an audience, then tells them what to do. Again. And they cave, again. And they pat themselves on the back for how tough they were. Again.

And we get screwed. Again.

Both Hannity and Levin have come out saying today that the GOP Congressional leadership needs to be replaced. I agree wholeheartedly. But Boehner is a lock in his district for probably forever, and who wants that job? It practically has to go to somebody who isn’t very bright or very dynamic – and certainly not anyone principled.

There is at least one Constitutionalist-type Republican challenger for Mitch McConnell’s seat, maybe more. hard to believe Kentucky elected Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, but there it is. Illinois has a squishy Republican (Mark Kirk, still not up to full speed from his stroke) and a real hard-left Democrat (Dick Durbin), so I guess anything is possible.

Waiting for the slow change of elections looked good from the Framers’ point of view, where it could take weeks to travel to the capital by horse. The whole pace of life was so different from today. Now a totally bullshit 10,000 page bill can be rammed through Congress in a heartbeat, and no one even reads it. I don’t know if the Republic can survive until we can clean these idiots out.

Finally…a post! The fundamental problem with the Federal Government.

October 9, 2013

It’s been a long time since I had much to say here, for a variety of reasons. First, I had some family issues (illness and death of a parent). Then the subsequent disposition of the estate, which is going to take another year, probably.

Also, I was pretty unhappy with the progress of practically everything going on in Washington, and in Springfield, Illinois, since the election of Barak Obama. I never thought George W. Bush was the most brilliant President we’ve ever had, but I do think he was one of the most moral. Because of that I think he and his Administration were completely blindsided by the machinations going on in the fall of 2008 – the manipulation of stocks and currencies than tipped the economy over into recession. I’ll not get into that here, but the evidence is pretty clear now that in September of that year a number of financiers started seriously messing with the economy. It was in tender shape to begin with, but they knew exactly where to push to start the slide. Granted, Dodd-Frank and other incredibly stupid legislation was already setting up a house of cards that only needed a little more stress to completely collapse.

Anyway, that set up the possibility for a first-term senator with meager government experience to win against one of the worst candidates the Republicans had ever fielded. Well, except for Bob Dole, probably.

Since then the Republican Party has failed to do anything to mount a serious challenge. I don’t know why, and that’s a story for another piece.

This piece is about why the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution was a fundamentally bad idea.

Yep, that’s the one that made income tax legal. It was supposed to be a more equitable way of providing the Federal Government with funding than the excise taxes that had been in place. The western and southern states thought it was a good idea because the wealth was still concentrated in the northeast, and it was thought the income tax would be hit them the hardest.

Oh, wait – so even in 1913 it was a class-warfare issue? Or at least one where the the have-nots could outvote the haves? (If anyone has a counterargument, I would be happy to hear it.)

It had been tried before, during and immediately after the Civil War. But it was lifted in 1872 and the government went back to excise taxes.

Then three things happened. Great Britain, Japan, and the major European countries were building up increasingly large militaries. The rapid industrialization of the US created a larger imbalance in wealth. The growth of Socialist-leaning groups that championed the rights of the industrial worker, and the “Progressive” and populist movements caused more people to lean toward a more activist government. All of this set the stage for the passing of the amendment.

In the past hundred years a lot of things really haven’t changed. The same arguments have been made for a larger government ever since the passing of the Amendment: we need a strong military to protect us; we need a strong Federal government to protect the rights or the worker from the big bad corporations, and the government will take care of all sorts of things for us. (The redistribution of wealth, the way we think of it today, really became a big thing after the New Deal.)

It probably helped justify the income tax when the US entered the First World War in 1917. Prior to the beginning of the war the US had a very small army and navy. Semi-isolated as the US was by major oceans and no threats on her borders, it was not seen as a significant need. The military buildup that started slowly while the war raged in Europe could not have been possible without a steady source of revenue for the government.

Anyway, just over a decade later came the Great Depression, and the subsequent New Deal activist initiatives. Then there was the World War 2 mobilization, and the Cold War, and Great Society, and the Vietnam War, and then we were off to the races with things like the EPA, the Department of Education, and so on – an expansion of powers and interference that is reaching its crowning “achievement” in Obamacare.

Here’s why the income tax, no matter how well-intentioned, because a problem: voters received benefits from the Federal Government, and those benefits didn’t have to be apportioned equally. The temptation to redistribute government-acquired tax dollars to buy votes was a temptation Congresscritters have found impossible to resist for generations. It is thoroughly ingrained into the Washington culture – lobbyists have become an institution unto themselves. If there was anything the Framers did not anticipate, it was how much money would be available to members of the government.

Worse, those who should be holding back the growth of government – the Congress – is exactly the group of people who benefit most from greater increase in tax revenues. The checks and balances so carefully built into the Constitution do not work in this instance.

And that’s why the growth of government has been allowed to continue unchecked. How do we stop this? I don’t know how. We’re so far down the path, and sliding faster all the time, I don’t see a way out.

While so many have been complaining about the Congress doing nothing, hopelessly deadlocked, it is perhaps the best thing we can hope for. We have essentially four political parties in Congress right now, all with their own goals and interests. We have the incredibly far-left liberal Democrats, a group of more moderate Democrats who can sometimes be persuaded to vote with the Republicans, the establishment Republicans, who are center-right at best, and the conservative Republicans, some of whom have ties to the Tea Party. There is a belief many folks have that the Congress should just “do something,” despite all the evidence that often a lack of Congressional activism is the best policy.

Alliances in both the House and Senate should be fluid, instead of all members of a party being in lockstep all the time. A Democrat in Washington state could have a completely different view of the world from one from, say, Georgia. That’s what is most important about the Congress – its members were supposed to represent the interests of their constituencies.

But life inside the Beltway was not supposed to separate the representatives of the People from their constituents. In fact, the job of a senator or representative was supposed to be part-time. Back when Washington D.C. was founded it was a miserable location. As I recall it, the location was a source of great chuckles among Southerners – the Northern states were so interested in appeasing the South that they were willing to take low, swampy ground that was virtually uninhabitable in the summer. (I believe the Federal Government started on its long slide when air conditioning was invented, and Congress could remain in the city year-round.)

So give a group of people unlimited funds they can use to make their own lives better, and ensure they can maintain that lifestyle by essentially bribing the voters in their districts, and add the fact that these folks are by nature a bit narcissistic, and you have what we have today…a Congress with the lowest approval rating since such things were recorded, but which spends more money than any in history.

And of course, that also means there is a huge machine for collecting those taxes. It can be used for other purposes, too, like harassment. But that’s for another day.

Benghazi and gunrunning – a connection?

May 16, 2013

I must confess this possibility never crossed my mind: that Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi, where there is not a consulate (with associated security measures) but a mission, was there to conduct business related to arming those opposing the government in Syria. IN a recent interview, Senator Rand Paul raises that point. He believes that guns were being supplied by the US government to certain groups in Libya, to be shipped through Turkey and into Syria.

It makes a lot more sense, really, that there was a motivation like this for Ambassador Stevens to be in Benghazi, where he could not be adequately protected. It also makes sense that the Administration did not want anyone else there, either while the attack was going on, or in the aftermath, to possibly find clues to such plans. The FBI was charged with the investigation, but was not allowed close to the site for three weeks after the attack – plenty of time for the site to be scrubbed of all incriminating evidence.

Nowadays “political thriller” novels hold less interest to me than they once did. The actual bizarre actions of our government officials, sanctioned or not, are the stuff of such novels – except in those, someone uncovers the plot and it is brought out into the light of day.

I’m afraid we as Americans have had enough of big-G Government, and would just like to have them leave us alone, and it is very difficult to get worked up over the next stupid move made by someone in Washington. This Administration has gone so far beyond anything I ever imagined that it is impossible for me to believe any of this can be blamed on lack of communication, or sheer incompetence. I think the culture of the Administration is such that they really do believe they can do these things without concern for repercussions. Even Bill Clinton remained in office, and some people seem to look upon his years in office as some kind of Golden Age.

I’m afraid the folks who think they can do whatever they want without fear of the wrath of the American public are probably right. What can we do? We are in a representative republic, so we are separated from direct influence. The amount of time it takes to change the makeup of the legislature is too great, and the speed with which they can do damage too fast, for a “regime change” at the ballot box to be useful. Of course, it may also be that even should that be attempted, they have been in place long enough to have actually make it possible to influence national elections – I hate to use the term “rigged,” but there it is. Computer analysis tells them the very few counties in few states that tip the balance for one candidate or another. They only really have to concentrate on those areas. They don’t have to rig every precinct in every county in the US.

But I digress. Obviously the thin excuses made by Secretary Clinton have not led to calls for any action to be taken against her. No one else is supposedly at fault, and no one will be held responsible for the deaths of Americans in Libya. The Administration will weather another bumpy few weeks, but then something else will come along, and we will be waiting to hear about the next crisis.

I know this sounds pretty negative, but I don’t have a very optimistic view of my country right now. I never thought it would come to this in so many areas and so quickly. And I have absolutely no ideas on how to change it short of direct action by large groups of people – and I shudder to think what the aftermath of that would be like.

Update March 1, 2013

February 28, 2013

If anyone has been following this little blog, I’ve not had time to comment lately because of some family members’ illnesses. I will probably not be back until May 1 at the earliest.

I hope our Republic still stands, and we are all free at that time. As fast as the ball is rolling down that hill in Washington, I am unwilling to place any bets.

I must comment, though, that the way the Executive Branch has decided to blackmail the American people to get the sequester halted is a new low. As a retired public school music teacher, I lived through probably a dozen school board threats that music and sports would be eliminated if the current tax levy was not passed. The voters haven’t called their elected representatives on the carpet nearly enough for that kind of nonsense. And that was just school boards – you know, as Mark Twain said: “God made an idiot for practice. Then he made school boards.”

Now we are threatened with illegal immigrants running wild, terrible lines at the TSA checkpoints and delayed flights due to lack of air traffic controllers…all sorts of things.

How ’bout this, y’all? Just get rid of the EPA. Eliminate it. Top to bottom. Saved some money there. Done. No sequester, no new taxes, companies might make a profit again.

But they will poison our water!! Sorry, I don’t buy it. Government agencies are all paramilitary organizations now, answerable to no one – especially not to the American people. It’s about power, not the health of the populace. It always was.

I fear for our Republic, friends. Keep the faith, stay strong, and remember that there are still free Americans in this beautiful country of ours.

Why do we allow our children to go unprotected?

December 27, 2012

I’ve been listening to this tempest in a teapot bit about statements made by Rep. Louie Gohmert and NRA President Wayne LaPierre advocating having armed security in our schools. It just doesn’t make sense to argue this point, at least to me.

I taught for 26 years at a high school that had unarmed security personnel, and an armed “police liaison officer” – an officer from the local police department – in the building every day. The building is locked down during the day with only one open entrance. (The fact that it is completely open before 8 AM and after 3 PM is another point for another day.) It’s kept kind of quiet, but all the kids know about the security people in the building.

However, there are lots and lots of schools all over the US without any kind of dedicated security force. No matter why the gunman in the Sandy Hook school was there, whether he was mentally unstable, or what ever, the fact remains that the children in that school were unprotected.

There are security guards, some armed and some unarmed, in shopping malls, banks, office buildings, hospitals, parking structures, and all sorts of other facilities all over the US. Why do we think that putting a sign up that a local school is a “gun free zone” matters to anyone? It’s like those cities that declared themselves “nuclear free zones” during the Cold War. I’m sure the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces looked at those targeting maps and said, “We had better not target that city! It’s in a nuclear free zone!”

Obviously, having one armed (and trained) employee in an elementary school isn’t a complete deterrent, but it gives them a fighting chance. It also is a deterrent at least to some degree – if I was a crazed gunman I would probably go to a school known to have lighter security if I really wanted to do something horrible. (This of course disregards those deranged individuals looking to commit suicide by cop.)

But the folks mentioned above were mocked by the left when they said they though more armed security would be good for schools. I know one of their thin arguments is that when there is a gun available, someone could potentially get hurt. But I still say it gives our kids a fighting chance, and I would feel better knowing that my granddaughters attended a school with a security guard, or more than one. (I don’t know if their school has one or not.)

I don’t own a gun. However, I grew up next door to Camp Perry, where the National Rifle and Pistol Matches have been held for over a century. I learned how to shoot there one summer, and later in the Boy Scouts. Most of what we learned was safety, not marksmanship. I may not own a gun, but I have a good idea how to handle one safely even after all these years, and I have a healthy respect for what they can do – just as a do for a chain saw, or any other potentially dangerous tool. Many thousands of people who don’t own a gun aren’t afraid of them, or of those who own them. Yet talk about putting an armed person in a school to protect our kids and people go nuts. I don’t understand it.

The reason for the second amendment to the US Constitution is simple: at the time of the Revolution, the British Government wanted to keep regular folks in the American colonies from being able to rise up in revolution. The best way to do that was to take away their guns. If your security force has guns, and no one else does, it’s pretty simple who is going to be controlling whom. Back in the 18th century a gun was not just for protection – probably very few ever fired a gun in defense or in anger – but it was essential for protection against animals and was an important way to put food on the table. The Framers knew that a “well regulated”  – as in well-organized, not as heavily-restricted – militia was important to the defense of the cities and towns in the US. The US Army didn’t really exist, not as a security force, and local militias had been instrumental in tipping the US Revolution in the colonists’ favor. Private ownership of firearms and organization at the local level of those gun owners were thought to be important deterrents against outside aggression.

Remember, the Spanish, British and French still had colonies in North America, and the security of the new USA couldn’t be achieved with “border control” with the wide-open frontiers to the west, north, and south. Towns were responsible for their own protection. They needed the ability to protect themselves – no US Army to roll in with tanks and aircraft for protection. Read some history of the War of 1812. The defense of the US was very, very difficult in those days. Every able-bodied man was part of the defense force for his home and country.

This is why the ownership of guns in Switzerland is so important. That country, throughout its history, could be overrun by any of its larger neighbors. The only way the country could defend itself was (and is) at the local level. The topography of the country and a trained, armed populace make it a difficult place to take by any aggressor.

We have a lot of people here in the US who were carefully trained in gun safety and use by the US military. We call them veterans. Many are out of work. Putting some of them to work in our schools – people who know what a real threat is and how to deal with it – sounds like a good idea to me.

But it’s not about that. You see, if we can take guns away from the general population, the government is the only group with guns. (Okay, and the gangs.) Should the government decide to push things, we have no recourse. We are unprotected. More and more Federal agencies have paramilitary arms and many are not afraid to break into a business or a home because of some violation or another. Really, did the Fish and Wildlife Service need to break into Gibson Guitars to seize what they believed were “illegal woods” used in guitar manufacture? Where was the clear and present danger?

I would prefer to have our last line of defense against a Federal government gone wild not be the 12th Street Players or the Vice Lords. I would like to think the government wouldn’t go so far as to imprison those who disagree with them, but what ever happened to that guy in California who did the video that supposedly touched off the demonstrations in the Middle East that led to the killings in Benghazi?

“But our well-regulated militia is the National Guard. They can have guns, but people shouldn’t have them in their homes.” Not so, grasshopper. That wasn’t how militias were set up, and the members kept their firearms in their homes. And we still should be able to. That’s crux of the problem, and those who whine that we are putting our kids in danger if we allow an armed security guard in their schools are just useful idiots for those with much darker motives.

I’m gonna explain it again…

December 9, 2012

i-explained-itSo imagine that you are attending a play. The play is billed as being like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, where decisions you make in the book lead you to a certain outcome, and if you decided differently, the outcome would be different.

OK, so you see the first half of the play. You’re not sure who is the hero or the villain. You have suspicions, but it’s pretty murky. At the intermission the audience is given ballots to vote on the outcome of the play. You get two choices. Everybody votes, and thinks this is pretty cool. We just decided what the actors would do next!

So the play continues, and one person (not the one you picked) is revealed as the villain. Well, you didn’t like it, and the plot at that point seemed kind of thin, but OK…obviously the majority ruled, right?

Then you find out, later, two things:

First, the votes were collected and thrown away. No one even looked at them. The playwright intended only one ending, and that’s the one you saw.

Second, the playwright did write another ending, and the actors even rehearsed it. But in all the performances of the play it was never used. The same guy was always the villain, it was always somewhat unsatisfying, and the audience left feeling kind of cheated.

The actor who was played the villain was never told what everybody else in the cast and crew knew…he was always going to be the villain. He would never get to be the hero. Even if the audience voted overwhelmingly for somebody else to be the bad guy, it was going to be ignored.  The audience didn’t know, and the actor didn’t know. Everybody else involved with the play knew, and kind of laughed at the guy behind his back. Even the publicity people know it. They are pretty cynical about it, but they go along because they think it’s cool to be doing publicity for the play.

Yeah. That’s the US Congress. John Boehner doesn’t get that he is never going to be the hero. He just keeps playing the same part, and the same thing happens every time, and everybody else knows it except him – and of course, the American people.

Got it now?