Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Food for Thought

I received this message earlier today. The premise of the message is that We the People should band together and strip congress of most of their perks. A lofty goal indeed…

---Begin original Message---
The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure. I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. Term Limits. Twelve (12) years only, one of the possible options below..
A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure/No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete

Please keep it going.
---End original Message---

I’ve got some comments on the original text of this email. (Gee, THERE’S a shocker!!) The premise of the text is that our elected officials are corrupt, greedy, and believe themselves exempt from the very laws that they create. This is a sentiment that a large majority of Americans, myself included, seem to have toward politicians. The problem is that the original author seems to overlook the fact that the very politicians who receive these obscene benefits would have to support the legislation that strips them of their privileges – something that goes against human nature.

The email begins by referring to constitutional amendments, and implying that with enough grass-roots support, we could do virtually anything. What the author fails to recognize, however, is that constitutional amendments are, by design, very difficult to enact. There are four methods for a constitutional amendment to pass, two of which have never been used, and the third has been used only once. These paths are as follows…
• Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
• Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
• Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
• Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)
My point is that for any constitutional amendment to become a reality, BOTH HOUSES will be required to pass the proposal by a 2/3 majority, and then 75% of the states have to ratify (approve) it. Considering that the politicians would be stripping themselves of the very privileges they have granted themselves, I think that it’s unrealistic to believe that 2/3 of congress will vote to pass a law turning them back into mere mortals. Furthermore, history has demonstrated that many of our federal officials have started out at the state level, so I have an equal amount of skepticism that the states would ratify such an amendment.

Let’s take a different approach and ask for simple legislation – a law that would enact the aforementioned recommendations. Do you believe that even a simple majority of our politicians would support these common sense recommendations? I certainly don’t! As I said before, this goes against human nature. To bring my point a little closer to home, ask yourself how you voted in the last one or two elections. Did you vote for a candidate who has a track record of restraint and fiscal discipline? Or did you vote for the candidate who promised to do the most to benefit YOU? It is very difficult to expect a politician to carry values that constituents don’t themselves possess. As an example, Americans are currently screaming that our government can’t continue spending money like drunken sailors, but we scream even louder when our tax bill increases, or when our Medicaid/Social Security entitlements decrease. We demand that legislators stop pork barrel spending, but re-elect our politicians when they bring home the bacon.

I still agree with the original author’s premise that our elected officials have too many perks, pay that’s too high, and benefits that are downright obscene. But until we can exercise a little bit of discipline of our own, I kind of wonder how much we can fault them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sick of It

I really don't know why I keep reading political articles... all they tend to do anymore is fill me with disgust. It's like I'm a junkie who knows that political information is bad for me, but I continue to take just one more bump. Next thing I know, I'm filled with anger and disgust, mixed with helplessness over the knowledge that I don't have enough influence to change things myself.

The article that set me off this morning was about the union flap in Wisconsin. For the record, I'm rather ambivalent about the actual issue. What continues to gall me is how the Governor is handling the situation. Most recently, the law (which significantly changes unions for public employees in Wisconsin) was passed and signed by the Governor's office. But apparently a court order prevented the Secretary of State from signing and publishing the new legislation. This court order, based on my understanding, essentially prevented the law from going into effect. However, the executive office in Wisconsin posted the law on some web site and is now claiming that the law is in effect.

Whether or not this is actually the case from a legal standpoint, I am disgusted with the action in and of itself. From where I stand, this is a case of the Governor saying to the judicial branch "Fuck you, I'll do what I want." The era of honoring the spirit of our system of government is long dead. We are firmly rooted in the technical aspect of our system. Can't get what you want? Oh well, do it anyway and then claim a technicality.

I really wish that my fellow constituents would stay disgusted at our system long enough to throw all of our politicians out on their collective asses. Yep, make EVERYONE start all over again... because I, for one, am sick of the way things are now.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Spring must be approaching, because I took my bike out for my first ride of the year. It was a bit cool and damp in the morning, but the afternoon ride home was nice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

My Church participates in Operation Christmas Child. My understanding of Operation Christmas Child is that we give a shoebox full of goodies (toys, school supplies, hygiene items and so forth) to children in poor areas of the world. Today I received a news letter from the Church saying, in part, that "one out of three children will probably accept Christ from receiving a shoe box." I'm kind of ambivalent about this.

I guess I'll start with my "against" argument... mainly because I want to end on a positive note. From MY perspective, being a Christian is about serving, and talking about Christ to those who are ready to hear what I have to say. Sometimes I have intellectual discussions with people, other times I have emotional/spiritual talks. Occasionally I bring up the topic of my spirituality, but usually I try to simply respond when others broach the subject. Always... always, my goal is not to try to convince anyone that my way is right. My approach is to listen to people, ask thought-provoking (or soul-searching) questions, and leave people with food for thought. In my experience, trying to brow-beat or debate someone into believing in God is counter-productive. I have had better success in sharing my story of faith and allowing others to find God in their own way and time.

This is what I have against Operation Christmas Child. Instead of simply giving to... serving.. our fellow man, as Jesus instructed us to do, this organization packs the shoe boxes full of literature, requires recipients to attend some sort of rally, and then does a follow up. I have nothing against this in and of itself, but I do have an issue with the psychological aspect of it. Basically, we're bringing stuff to children, and then saying "Look at how awesome we are. You should convert to Christianity, and then you could be awesome too." Furthermore, from a strictly psychological standpoint, we are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the weak. Those who are starving will say or do just about anything for a good meal. Isn't it realistic to expect that many of these "one out of three" are simply paying lip service to their benefactors? Not only is Operation Christmas Child cajoling the needy, they are manipulating statistics to perpetuate their cause. It seems to me that if people are giving for the sake of giving, then the statistic shouldn't matter; and if people are giving strictly for the sake of turning pagans to Christ, then a .001% success rate should be considered a success, because one cannot place a value on salvation of the damned.

On the other side of the coin, I should say for the record that ministry is not a bad thing. I believe that I am a better, happier person since I started going to Church and actually putting effort in to my relationship with God. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to tell others about God. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting friends, family and even total strangers to experience the peace, love and joy that people of faith can experience. With this in mind, I need to acknowledge that there's nothing inherently wrong with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and so forth sharing this joy as well. But I draw the line at Mormons. [KIDDING!!!] I think it's a good thing to talk to one another about spirituality, as long as those involved in the discussion understand and respect the boundaries. It's okay for an atheist to question my beliefs, as long as they don't discount and ridicule them. It's acceptable for me to challenge a Muslim's view on God, as long as I realize that they are coming from their own position of faith. It's cool for a Buddhist to chat with an atheist about Siddhartha Gautama, as long as the Buddhist understands that the atheist's faith that there is no God is as understandable as the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Oh crap. I think that I totally lost the point. Oh yeah, the point is this... it's okay to discuss faith. It's not okay to force your beliefs on another autonomous being.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How Discouraging!

Last year when the Mrs. and I did our taxes, we ended up owing about $1000 to the Federal Government. In an attempt to get ourselves closer to zero, we amended our W-4s so that we were claiming married with zero exemptions. Despite the fact that Uncle Sam withheld more from each paycheck, we ended up owing $2000 this year, and nothing's really changed. It's almost enough to make me join the Tea Party.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Proof that Black and White can Co-exist


You may remember my post from last month, where I said that I was going to do a test-run of cutting the cable cord. I am pleased to announce that it was a resounding success, and as of yesterday, I have officially canceled my cable TV service. From now on, it's all Netflix and Hulu for this family.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


In this case, "yap" is neither a euphemism for speaking nor for the mouth. No, for the sake of this post, "yap" is an acronym for Yet Another Project. This was kind of a side project, especially when compared to the scale and time I've taken to refinish my kitchen cabinets.

For a little background, the picture above is what things looked like before. I ripped out the carpet over the summer because my dog (the one who got her tail chopped off last month) decided to turn this area of the house into her personal urinal. The carpet reeked and was beyond saving, so I yanked it out, leaving bare cement in the basement for months and months. Eventually, enough was enough, so I decided to lay some vinyl flooring.

Here's the finished product. It took a couple of days to lay this 10'x12' section of flooring, with the lion's share of the task being prep work... scraping off any remains of the carpet padding, removing the carpet tacks, and filling in any divets with epoxy. The actual laying of the vinyl squares was pretty simple, and I am VERY happy with the finished product. One of these days I will repaint the walls and the brick surrounding the fireplace. That beige is so freaking boring.