Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Maybe Mel Brooks........

Like many others, dare I say most Americans, I've spent the last few weeks watching the discussion debate arguing posturing sound-biting stupidity regarding extending the debt ceiling.  Many times I've tried to identify some sort of analogy that might better explain the situation.

Several have come to mind, but they all seem to be either too lame or too convoluted.  None actually seem to include everything that's happening.  However, earlier today, as I was working on a piece of art in my shop, I think I might have stumbled across a comparison that people might understand.  What we've been witnessing is actually a Mel Brooks movie.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An open letter to Speaker of the House John Bohner

To the honorable John Bohner:

I am writing to express my displeasure with the lack of progress on dealing with the debt limit.

I live in Oregon, and I recognize that you do not represent me.  However, despite your claim this evening that you are the Speaker of the whole House, as one of the American people I can also state that you don’t represent us.

I have listened carefully to the discussion, debate, and diatribe about this issue that has filled the air in recent weeks.  During that time I have heard only one thing from you and your Republican colleagues: We will not consider raising taxes!  While that’s a fine objective, it is completely out of touch with reality.

The single largest element contributing to the increase in the nation’s debt is the Bush era tax cuts.  Your defense has continually been the mantra that they must remain, especially those that benefit the wealthy, because they are the Job Creators.  That is a lie.  The cuts have been in place for ten years!  Where are the jobs? 

The only jobs created have been those in other countries as companies took advantage of tax benefits to ship American jobs overseas.  After ten years of extra benefits supposedly, according to you, for the Job Creators, we have the highest unemployment in years.  For the record, I’m one of those unemployed, and I welcome you to join me in November of 2012.

You spoke tonight of “the President wanting a blank check.”  Perhaps I should provide a quick review of the Constitution.

Every bill to be paid by the Federal Government was incurred because Congress passed legislation authorizing that expenditure.  The President cannot spend a dime that you haven't authorized, regardless of the original amounts included in his budget proposals.

Since you have served in Congress for many years, you, not the President, are responsible for those debts.  When President Clinton left office, he left a budget surplus that was making some progress towards reducing the accumulated debt.  In eight years of the Bush presidency, we had eight years of budget deficits!  This is hardly the time for you to complain.  If Congress overspent, and also passed tax cuts, you have no one to blame but yourself and your colleagues.  During several of those years, both houses of Congress and the Presidency were controlled by the Republicans.  This mess is your doing, and it's about time you stopped trying to shift the blame elsewhere.

Two thousand years ago, the Roman orator Cicero invoked the Latin phrase cui bono, literally, “to whose benefit?” or "as a benefit to whom?  When I hear the Republicans continually speaking of taxes, I ask myself that question. 

Sadly, I always come to the same conclusion, namely that the beneficiaries of this dogma are the rich and wealthy, who not only do not create jobs, but do fund the re-election campaigns of those who espouse the position.  Therefore, I guess it is time to remind you, and all the others, of a single fact:  You were elected to represent all of us, not just the rich.  It is time that you remembered that charge.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What exactly is Leadership?

There are most likely a million different descriptions or phrases that people use to describe leaders.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  Stuff like that.  We all seek out leaders that we deem worth following, and relentlessly complain when they fail us.

In some cases, leaders fail us because we put them in positions that they can't possibly fulfill.  We present them with problems that have no solution, and then complain when they choose the best option because it's not a perfect solution.  We somehow expect they'll find some unexpected way out of the conundrum that had everyone else baffled.

However, many times we simply expect them to lead.  For example, we know that the best military leaders can't ensure that no soldier is wounded or killed, even if we lament every battle casualty.  We accept that reality, and simply ask that they understand our pain.  Despite our anguish, we continue to follow them.  It's clear that the crucible of battle can identify and define Leaders.

However, amongst us are people who believe they are leaders, and they actively seek to fill those roles.  With very few exceptions, politicians hold their office because they sought it.  Despite the fact that we are openly skeptical of campaign promises, they stood in front of us and said they wanted the job, promising to do the job.  We may share philosophical perspectives, or simply believe they're better than the other candidates.  We may not even like them, but they seem to be the least worst.

In dealing with Congress, when we are realistic, we know that they are only one of many, and they have a limited ability to make changes: one vote amongst 435, or one vote amongst 100.  However, we still expect them to try.

There are only two things we cannot accept.

First, we expect and understand that governance requires compromise.  It's no different than any other relationship.  You cannot demand your way or the highway with your spouse, your best friend, or anyone else you interact with.  It doesn't work.  So, despite those campaign promises, or whatever pledged you signed for Grover Norquist, we understand that you'll have to move a bit to find something workable.  Leaders understand that, no less than the rest of us.

Second, we cannot abide a quitter.  You asked to be elected as a leader, and now you owe us leadership.  Leadership means you keep trying and working until you find a way.  Leaders are NOT quitters.

So, today we watched as John Boehner quit.  He walked out, saying, in essence, that he wasn't willing to lead.  He was unwilling to compromise, and decided he was also unwilling to lead.  Remember, this is a man who not only ran for election to the House, but also ran to become the Majority Leader of the house.  When the test of a leader came, he bailed.  Today, we watched a failure of Leadership.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Please! Stop me before I spend again!"

There's an old saying, and I have no idea where it started, that says something like "Stop me before I kill again."  Evidently it's the plea of a serial killer who is begging to be apprehended because he simply can't stop himself from repeating his heinous crimes.  I'm not a psychologist, so I can't really say whether this could be a real condition, even if the phrase is apocryphal.  However, when a member of the Senate says something similar, I think I can weigh in.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smoke, Mirrors, and Faust

In the classic tale, told both by Christopher Marlow and later by Goethe, Faust sells his soul to the devil, thinking he's made a great deal only to find out later what he's lost and how he's compromised himself.  Today we're seeing that same storyline played out again and again, but this time by real people not fictional characters, they're finding themselves just as trapped.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Language Evolves

We all know that language evolves.  New words are added every year, and old words have new meanings attached to them by common usage.  Some words go out of favor, replaced by others for one reason or another.  In less than 250 years, British English and American English have become much different, even though they obviously share a common source.

However, despite this normal evolution, some words have been made obsolete simply because we chose to ignore their meaning.  Here are a few sad-but-true examples.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have the New Communists Arrived?

Times have changed.  The most current rule, usually applied to blogs and comment threads found upon the internet, is that comparing a current situation/leader/party or whatever to Hitler and the Third Reich is less than appropriate, even if it's completely apt and accurate.

In older days, say sometime in the 1950's or so, the rule, at least as applied within the US government, was never accuse somebody of being a Communist.  They were, at least at that time, the ultimate bad guys, worse (apparently) then Hitler and his minions.  I'm not sure that was true, but I definitely agree that Stalin gave Adolf a run for his money.

Both of those regimes are now long gone, and probably a lot of people under the age of 40 or so have no memory or knowledge of any of that.  Sad, but true.  However, the Communist boggie man has returned, or at least his tactics have, and that's truly sad.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Was the Declaration of Independence premature?

In school we are taught that the colonists along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent issued the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, stating that they, for good reasons, no longer wished to be consider themselves ruled by the English crown.  It is a stirring document, filled with wonderful phrases that clearly enunciate rights that every "man" should have.

The words were visionary at the time, establishing ideas that were literally unknown in the existing governmental systems.  They became "fighting words" and ultimately led to the revolution that resulted in the creation of the United States of America.  However, they did not establish the independence of the country for all time.