IS RECUSAL IN ORDER? by Gordon C. Stewart – A Relevant Reblog

I had been thinking the same thing, but he says it so much better than I could.


 

Views from the Edge

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has greater reason to recuse himself from participation in the Senate impeachment trial than Jeff Sessions had for recusing himself from the DOJ investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

An online dictionary defines ‘recuse’ as “the withdrawal of a judge, prosecutor, or juror from a case on the grounds that they are unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.”

Until the day Mr. Sessions made his announcement, the terms ‘recuse’ and ‘recusal’ were unfamiliar to most Americans who work outside the court system. Though Mr. Sessions’ decision angered the president, it was the right thing to do. Senate Majority Leader McConnell should do the same.

U.S. Senate floor

If public perception is nine-tenths of reality, a Senate trial that is not a trial will deepen and spread the cynicism that threatens the survival of…

View original post 365 more words

TO IMPEACH OR NOT? IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION? NOT ANYMORE – By TOM CURLEY

IMPEACHMENT (FINALLY) NOW!

As I write this, I’m watching the Speaker of the House of Representatives formally open an impeachment inquiry into the Twitler-in-Chief.

What did it take? Well, a whistle-blower went through legal channels and brought a complaint about the President that was so bad is caused the Trump-appointed Inspector General to totally freak out. He realizes this was really serious and credible that he did what he is required by law to do. He sent it to the (Acting) Head of the Director of National Intelligence,  who’s responsibility BY LAW was to give it to the head of the House Intelligence committee within 7 days.  And of course, that’s exactly what he did.

Just kidding.

He refused because he went to the Attorney General, who by law has NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. And guess what? The Attorney General created a bullshit ruling by the Office of Legal Counsel that said he didn’t have to do it and the whistleblower can be outed.

Then they showed the complaint to the White House. Which is also REALLY AGAINST THE LAW!! And he won’t release the actual decision made by the OLC.  The only reason we know any of this is that the Inspector General was so freaked out that he went to Congress on his own to tell them that something was going on that was seriously fucked up.

The complaint involves a phone call where Herr Trump threatened to withhold money Congress had already given to Ukraine unless they dug up dirt on Joe Biden.

What’s another way to put it?

COLLUDING WITH A FOREIGN POWER! 

To make things worse, he sent out crazy uncle Rudy Giuliani to both deny and then admit that he did exactly that. Then Trump admitted he did it himself!  He did this literally the day after Bob Mueller testified in front of Congress and everybody decided he got away with colluding with Russia and obstructing justice.

The Inspector-General told the Congress about this on Constitution Day. Irony is on overdrive. I was working at ABC Radio News during the Watergate hearings.

Here’s the thing. Everybody was against impeachment until they suddenly they were all for it. Maybe we’re seeing the same thing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. Here’s the original post the last time I did.  Sound familiar?

  Original Post

Ever since the Mueller report came out, sort of, the topic on most people’s mind (or at least all the pundits on cable news) is whether or not to start impeachment hearings against the Twittler-in-chief.

In the last few weeks, with the addition of Attorney General William (I’m Trump’s Roy Cohn) Barr it has become clear that this administration has thrown any and all respect for the constitution out the window.

Then they went outside, peed on it, shit on it, let it dry out and peed and shit on it again. They are refusing all subpoenas issued by Congress. They are not allowing anyone to testify in front of any Congressional Committee. Even though many of those people don’t even work for the government anymore. The AG has lied to Congress and then refused to show up for a House Committee hearing because he didn’t want to be questioned by an actual lawyer!

The administration has said to Congress “FUCK YOU!” We don’t care if we’re breaking the law. What are you going to do about it?

Here’s the thing. No administration has ever done this before. Yet another “political norm” bites the dust.

What has become abundantly clear in the last two years is that our government has lasted for over 200 years because the people in it had some sense of civility. Some sense of decency. Some sense of shame. We never realized how much of government relied on everybody “doing the right thing.” We all just did it. It wasn’t written “black letter law.”

Then along came Cheesy McCheese Head.

A man with no civility. No sense of decency. No sense of shame. No regard for “Political Norms.” And as far as anyone can tell, no conscience.

If it isn’t written down as being illegal, fuck you, he’ll do it. And his and the whole Republican Party’s attitude is “even if it is written down, even if it is against the law, fuck you, we don’t care. What are you going to do about it?”

Here’s the most depressing thing. It turns out that Congress may not have much they can do about it. They can issue a subpoena, which in our previous reality was a really big deal. But this administration has just said “Fuck you, we don’t care. What are you going to do about it?”

Turns out they can hold a person who ignores a subpoena with a Contempt of Congress citation. Oh, that’s bad, right? What happens then? Congress sends the contempt citation to the Department of Justice, who then brings the cited individual up on criminal charges.

What if the person under the contempt citation is the HEAD OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT? What does he do?

Nothing. He ignores it. Fuck you. What are you going to do about it?

Congress requests the President’s tax returns be made available under an ironclad law written in the 1920s after the Tea Pot Dome scandals. They were intended to make sure no President or administration can hide corruption.

It was written to leave no wiggle room for a President or member of his cabinet to weasel out of providing those returns. So what does the Secretary of the Treasury, a person who has no right to interfere, do?

You guessed it. He says “Fuck you, I’m not going to allow that to happen. What are you going to do about it?

Theoretically, Congress can take all these issues to court, where they are on solid ground and will probably win. They always have in the past. What the current Supreme Court would do is questionable.

All the lower courts are going to say is, “Are you fucking kidding me? This is illegal as hell. Honor the subpoenas and turn over his friggin’ tax returns.”

Okay, they probably wouldn’t say friggin’. I’m just making a point. I like to speak in the vernacular. Okay, that’s not true either. I just wanted to use vernacular in that sentence.

The problem is, all of that would take a lot of time and we need speed. There is a good chance even if Congress wins, the administration will still say, “Fuck you. We’re not going to do it. What are you going to do about it?”

What can Congress do at this point? They have a thing called “Inherent Contempt” which allows them to actually jail someone they hold in contempt and fine them.

But their “jail” is merely a room in Congress’s basement. The Sargent-at-Arms of the House of Representatives doesn’t have a large force of well-armed troops.

That option is iffy.

You want me to do what? Are you kidding me? All I’ve got is this old sword! WTF!

So the only thing left that Congress can do is Impeach the mother-fucker. Not my quote, but a quote from a member of the House, the Speaker of the House, and many top Democrats are resisting this.

Their reason? They know the Senate will never convict, so why bother?

Because they have to do something. They simply cannot allow all of this to happen and do absolutely nothing, even if the end result isn’t an actual conviction.

Their reasoning is badly flawed but I understand why they think this way. When the Republicans impeached Clinton the majority of the country didn’t want them to do it. They did it anyway. On their own. On a party-line vote.

The result? The House Republicans impeached. The Senate didn’t convict. They knew the Senate wouldn’t convict when they impeached him. They did it anyway.

When it was all over? Clinton’s approval ratings were in the ’70s.

So what? The Republicans won the next election. Granted the won because the Supreme Court-appointed Bush as President, but regardless, they won.

Why were Clinton’s approval ratings so high? Because the MAJORITY of Americans thought getting impeached because you lied about getting a BJ from a consenting adult was bad, but NOT AN IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE!

The group MoveOn.org was created because most Americans wanted to “Move On” from this silly impeachment bullshit. Back then, I was working for CBS News Up To The Minute news.

Every night, we would air a three-minute piece about how the latest polls showed most Americans didn’t give a crap about Clinton’s affairs. No one wanted more stories about Monica Lewinsky.

The very next piece was inevitably about Monica Lewinsky.

After months of this, one night I asked the line producer if he actually watched the news block he just produced. He replied, “What do you mean?”

I replied, “You just aired the umpteenth poll showing how nobody cares about Monica Lewinsky and the Clinton scandal and your next piece is about Monica Lewinsky.”

His reply? “What’s your point?”

To this day, after 40 years of working in Network News, I still don’t exactly know what a news producer does. Now that I’m retired, I’m not sure I care.

The difference between then and now is simple. Back then, the majority of the country thought to impeach Clinton was silly. He got a blow job.

This president is under 14 CRIMINAL investigations — not counting the Mueller report — which documents at least 10 instances of provable obstruction of justice.

Now he is obstructing Congress daily — in plain sight! The overwhelming victory for the Democrats in 2018 was due to the majority of Americans wanting this President to be reined in.

To be impeached. Speedily. Then sent forth to a place of imprisonment, clapped in irons at least until his political string runs out forever and we know he can’t come back.

It looks bleak. The checks and balances of this country and our Constitution contained some serious hidden flaws. Mainly, the Founding Fathers assumedand we all know what assumed means — that the members of Congress would do their jobs.

Which is checking and balancing and keeping the country on an even keel.

The Republicans are not doing that. The current administration isn’t following the Constitution. Essentially, they are spitting on it with the result that our system is falling apart.

The reason we are not impeaching is that the House of Representatives know they can’t get a conviction in the Senate. This is totally stupid.

Only two and a half Presidents have been impeached. Nixon only counts as a half because he was never impeached. Congress was going to impeach him, but he quit before they could do it. In the other two cases, Clinton and Lincoln’s Vice President Andrew Johnson were impeached, but neither was convicted, although Johnson came close.

He won by only one vote. And that guy had to be brought into the Senate on a stretcher. He was near death. Nobody’s ever been convicted by the Senate. So that’s not an excuse to not impeach.

Here’s my argument. No, sorry, it’s not my argument. It’s from a far more reputable source than me. Who?

Otter.

Who’s Otter? I’m talking about Otter, the character from the movie Animal House played by Tim Matheson.

Specifically, the scene where Dean Wormer has closed down Delta House and the whole fraternity was getting thrown out of their frat house. Otter comes into their living room after just having the crap beaten out of him by the bad guy Frat house Omega Theta Pi.

And here Otter gives the speech that drives the rest of the movie. And this speech should drive all of us now.

“Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”

And there you have it. It appears to be a futile gesture and thus stupid. But this situation absolutely requires a stupid gesture to be done on somebody’s part. We’re the only ones who can do it.

It will most likely fail, but we have to try. Hell, it can be the Democrats campaign slogan. “We Tried to Impeach the Mother Fucker. What Do You Want From Us?”

The only problem is WTTITMFWDYWFU doesn’t fit on a hat.

We’re going to need a bigger hat.

WE KNEW WHO WE’D BE – Marilyn Armstrong

It has been pointed out to me that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.

How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.

We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love for great-grandma. We don’t know what words he used, or his tone of voice. We don’t know if they had a moment of passion because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do.  We base our fiction on that assumption.

We could be entirely wrong. It’s guesswork based on some facts.

The United States Slave Trade

On the other hand, we know precisely — anyone could know this because it’s easy information to find. The people who drew up our Constitution understood how deeply wrong slavery was. They knew failing to remove this horror would cause a war. A big war.

Many expressed gratitude they would not live to see it.


They knew right from wrong.

They spent agonizing hours, weeks, months and years writing about it. Discussing it. Keeping notes about what they said and what others said. They didn’t for a minute think building a nation on slavery was “okay.” Abigail Adams, for one, didn’t want to live in the White House — not merely because it wasn’t finished, but because slaves built it. Yet without the compromise of making slaves three-fifths of a person – a person who would never vote or have anything to say about his or her own life – there would not have been a Constitution or a country.

I used to think it was the right decision, but I’ve changed my mind. We should have fought to do the right thing.


When you start doing what you know is evil, righteousness
does not follow.

Getting the country to be a country was, ultimately, what mattered. Under this devil’s decision lay the future in which we are now living.


We didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t a bad election or even a few. It was not a couple of unfortunate choices. The path on which we are walking was being laid out for us before our nation existed. The issues we now face have always been there. Waiting. 

The northerner’s objections to slavery didn’t mean there were no slaves in New England or New York. Southern plantations bought slaves, but New England sea captains brought them here.

The first port of call for southern slave owners were the slave markets of New York and New England. Until the Constitution when northern slavery was formally abolished, there were plenty of slaves up north, too.

About those Native Americans from whom we grabbed this land and who we slaughtered to keep it? We knew it was wrong.

Maybe not every unread slob understood it, but anyone with a trace of education got it. We still know it, even if we have tried our best to tuck the information as far from “common knowledge” as we can. We don’t want to think about what we did to get this place — and what we are still doing.

Did our ancestors understand this? Yes.

But they wanted this country. They wanted it beyond any moral compunctions. If that meant slaughtering entire tribes — see Andrew Jackson for more on that — so be it. Why should “those savages” get this rich and beautiful country?

They didn’t deserve it. It should be ours. To make this officially righteous, we made up a bunch of crap about white being better than not white, but we didn’t get that from anyone’s religion. We quite simply made it up because we needed to believe it.

So, as has happened throughout history, we did what we wanted. We took everything, killed anyone who got in our way.

We have pretty much continued to do that ever since. Was it the first or last time an invading group of foreigners stole a nation from its native inhabitants? Obviously not.


I do not buy any concept which says “we didn’t understand what we were doing.” We knew. Our ancestors might not have talked the way we do, but they were better at acknowledging good and evil. 

Again: How do we know this? Let me reiterate.

They wrote about it. At great length. In documents, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books. We don’t have to guess: they told us.

What a great job we’ve done with the place!

The reason the Trump White House can do what it is doing is that there’s so much hatred in this country. All he needed to do was play to the haters and leave the windows open.

We don’t know what our so-called “leaders” believe, but we know who and what they hate. I don’t care how many other countries are pursuing the same ugly scene. That doesn’t justify it happening here. If the whole world needs to clean up its act? So be it.


The majority is not necessarily right.

For my entire life, I believed my country was improving and becoming more of what it said it wanted to be. We were struggling but trying to become a moral light in the world.

I’m not seeing that today.

Are there many individuals still fighting the good fight? Yes. But as a nation, that isn’t what I see. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbing I find this. How is your conscience doing these days? Having a bit of a rough patch?

TO IMPEACH OR NOT? IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION? – By TOM CURLEY

RDP-Sunday– ROAD

Ever since the Mueller report came out, sort of, the topic on most people’s mind (or at least all the pundits on cable news) is whether or not to start impeachment hearings against the Twittler-in-chief.

In the last few weeks, with the addition of Attorney General William (I’m Trump’s Roy Cohn) Barr it has become clear that this administration has thrown any and all respect for the constitution out the window.

Then they went outside, peed on it, shit on it, let it dry out and peed and shit on it again. They are refusing all subpoenas issued by Congress. They are not allowing anyone to testify in front of any Congressional Committee. Even though many of those people don’t even work for the government anymore. The AG has lied to Congress and then refused to show up for a House Committee hearing because he didn’t want to be questioned by an actual lawyer!

The administration has said to Congress “FUCK YOU!” We don’t care if we’re breaking the law. What are you going to do about it?

Here’s the thing. No administration has ever done this before. Yet another “political norm” bites the dust.

What has become abundantly clear in the last two years is that our government has lasted for over 200 years because the people in it had some sense of civility. Some sense of decency. Some sense of shame. We never realized how much of government relied on everybody “doing the right thing.” We all just did it. It wasn’t written “black letter law.”

Then along came Cheesy McCheese Head.

A man with no civility. No sense of decency. No sense of shame. No regard for “Political Norms.” And as far as anyone can tell, no conscience.

If it isn’t written down as being illegal, fuck you, he’ll do it. And his and the whole Republican Party’s attitude is “even if it is written down, even if it is against the law, fuck you, we don’t care. What are you going to do about it?”

Here’s the most depressing thing. It turns out that Congress may not have much they can do about it. They can issue a subpoena, which in our previous reality was a really big deal. But this administration has just said “Fuck you, we don’t care. What are you going to do about it?”

Turns out they can hold a person who ignores a subpoena with a Contempt of Congress citation. Oh, that’s bad, right? What happens then? Congress sends the contempt citation to the Department of Justice, who then brings the cited individual up on criminal charges.

What if the person under the contempt citation is the HEAD OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT? What does he do?

Nothing. He ignores it. Fuck you. What are you going to do about it?

Congress requests the President’s tax returns be made available under an ironclad law written in the 1920s after the Tea Pot Dome scandals. They were intended to make sure no President or administration can hide corruption.

It was written to leave no wiggle room for a President or member of his cabinet to weasel out of providing those returns. So what does the Secretary of the Treasury, a person who has no right to interfere, do?

You guessed it. He says “Fuck you, I’m not going to allow that to happen. What are you going to do about it?

Theoretically, Congress can take all these issues to court, where they are on solid ground and will probably win. They always have in the past. What the current Supreme Court would do is questionable.

All the lower courts are going to say is, “Are you fucking kidding me? This is illegal as hell. Honor the subpoenas and turn over his friggin’ tax returns.”

Okay, they probably wouldn’t say friggin’. I’m just making a point. I like to speak in the vernacular. Okay, that’s not true either. I just wanted to use vernacular in that sentence.

The problem is, all of that would take a lot of time and we need speed. There is a good chance even if Congress wins, the administration will still say, “Fuck you. We’re not going to do it. What are you going to do about it?”

What can Congress do at this point? They have a thing called “Inherent Contempt” which allows them to actually jail someone they hold in contempt and fine them.

But their “jail” is merely a room in Congress’s basement. The Sargent-at-Arms of the House of Representatives doesn’t have a large force of well-armed troops.

That option is iffy.

You want me to do what? Are you kidding me? All I’ve got is this old sword! WTF!

So the only thing left that Congress can do is Impeach the mother-fucker. Not my quote, but a quote from a member of the House, the Speaker of the House, and many top Democrats are resisting this.

Their reason? They know the Senate will never convict, so why bother?

Because they have to do something. They simply cannot allow all of this to happen and do absolutely nothing, even if the end result isn’t an actual conviction.

Their reasoning is badly flawed but I understand why they think this way. When the Republicans impeached Clinton the majority of the country didn’t want them to do it. They did it anyway. On their own. On a party-line vote.

The result? The House Republicans impeached. The Senate didn’t convict. They knew the Senate wouldn’t convict when they impeached him. They did it anyway.

When it was all over? Clinton’s approval ratings were in the ’70s.

So what? The Republicans won the next election. Granted the won because the Supreme Court appointed Bush as President, but nonetheless, they ultimately won.

Why were Clinton’s approval ratings so high? Because the MAJORITY of Americans thought getting impeached because you lied about getting a BJ from a consenting adult was bad, but NOT AN IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE!

The group MoveOn.org was created because most Americans wanted to “Move On” from this silly impeachment bullshit. Back then, I was working for CBS News Up To The Minute news.

Every night, we would air a three-minute piece about how the latest polls showed most Americans didn’t give a crap about Clinton’s affairs. No one wanted more stories about Monica Lewinsky.

The very next piece was inevitably about Monica Lewinsky.

After months of this, one night I asked the line producer if he actually watched the news block he just produced. He replied, “What do you mean?”

I replied, “You just aired the umpteenth poll showing how nobody cares about Monica Lewinsky and the Clinton scandal and your next piece is about Monica Lewinsky.”

His reply? “What’s your point?”

To this day, after 40 years of working in Network News, I still don’t exactly know what a news producer does. Now that I’m retired, I’m not sure I care.

The difference between then and now is simple. Back then, the majority of the country thought to impeach Clinton was silly. He got a blow job.

This president is under 14 CRIMINAL investigations — not counting the Mueller report — which documents at least 10 instances of provable obstruction of justice.

Now he is obstructing Congress daily — in plain sight! The overwhelming victory for the Democrats in 2018 was due to the majority of Americans wanting this President to be reined in.

To be impeached. Speedily. Then sent forth to a place of imprisonment, clapped in irons at least until his political string runs out forever and we know he can’t come back.

It looks bleak. The checks and balances of this country and our Constitution contained some serious hidden flaws. Mainly, the Founding Fathers assumedand we all know what assumed means — that the members of Congress would do their jobs.

Which is checking and balancing and keeping the country on an even keel.

The Republicans are not doing that. The current administration isn’t following the Constitution. Essentially, they are spitting on it with the result that our system is falling apart.

The reason we are not impeaching is that the House of Representatives know they can’t get a conviction in the Senate. This is totally stupid.

Only two and a half Presidents have been impeached. Nixon only counts as a half because he was never impeached. Congress was going to impeach him, but he quit before they could do it. In the other two cases, Clinton and Lincoln’s Vice President Andrew Johnson were impeached, but neither was convicted, although Johnson came close.

He won by only one vote. And that guy had to be brought into the Senate on a stretcher. He was near death. Nobody’s ever been convicted by the Senate. So that’s not an excuse to not impeach.

Here’s my argument. No, sorry, it’s not my argument. It’s from a far more reputable source than me. Who?

Otter.

Who’s Otter? I’m talking about Otter, the character from the movie Animal House played by Tim Matheson.

Specifically, the scene where Dean Wormer has closed down Delta House and the whole fraternity was getting thrown out of their frat house. Otter comes into their living room after just having the crap beaten out of him by the bad guy Frat house Omega Theta Pi.

And here Otter gives the speech that drives the rest of the movie. And this speech should drive all of us now.

“Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”

And there you have it. It appears to be a futile gesture and thus stupid. But this situation absolutely requires a stupid gesture to be done on somebody’s part. We’re the only ones who can do it.

It will most likely fail, but we have to try. Hell, it can be the Democrats campaign slogan. “We Tried to Impeach the Mother Fucker. What Do You Want From Us?”

The only problem is WTTITMFWDYWFU doesn’t fit on a hat.

We’re going to need a bigger hat.

FOWC with Fandango — Speed

TERM LIMITS: A REALLY TERRIBLE IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong

I keep reading the same crap. Why is this so hard to understand?

So you believe term-limits will solve our political problems. Why would you think that? Are “old timers” in Congress the big problem — as opposed to the bloated egos and narrow minds of the Tea Party, Trumpocrats, and racists? All of whom were recently elected and have no understanding of how the government works? And worse, who care nothing for the American people?

Look how much they’ve fixed everything. Yeah, that’s going well.

Exactly what problem do you think you solve by making terms shorter? Will it attract a better quality of candidates for office? Will it convince people to vote for better candidates?

Doesn’t the past presidential election prove that people will vote for a bad candidate even when all logic and reason should tell them he has no interest in serving their interests?

So you believe we will get better government if no one in congress gets to hang around awhile? Why would inexperience produce a better government?  Aren’t we already suffering from a monumental amount of inexperience and incompetence?

Would you choose an inexperienced surgeon? A barber who has never cut hair or gone to barber school? In what other area do we prefer untrained, raw recruits to veterans?

Oh, right. The presidency. How’s that working for you?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?

Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits.

Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded the Constitution) proved to them the best people are not interested in temporary government jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Many of the people originally elected under the Articles of Confederation walked away from their positions or never took them up in the first place.

There was no future in it.

When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. How many times do we need to relearn the same lesson?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history

Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs or support their families.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution aims to get professionals into government.


Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government.
It becomes a rough temp job without a future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid

Maybe they are paid more than you and me but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, not so much.

What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of Congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file congressional members was $174,000 per year. A third-year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send their kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of Congress have other income streams.

Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. They would be less susceptible to bribery.

On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how greed would become the foundation of our national government and that’s another issue. Or how many kinds of corruption would be easily available.

Bribery is the least of our problems.

Skill and experience count

Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of Congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.


We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of the old guard, folks who understood how to work with the opposition. Knew how to make the process work. It’s the recently elected morons who are stopping progress.

Sadly, our experienced old-timers got old, retired, or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.


Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy et al.

Anyone you name connected to the passage of major legislation was a multi-term, Representative or Senator.

Term limits eliminate all chance of having great legislators

Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around Congress. If any of them figure out where the toilets are and actually get good at their jobs (I know, hard to imagine at the moment), they’ll be gone.

Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.

If you don’t elect them, they won’t be in Congress

We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. You only have to watch the news once or twice to see how our wonderful, government is doing.

If that doesn’t argue against the treasured (but stupid) belief that what Washington DC needs are outsiders, I don’t know what will convince you. Assuming we survive 45s reign, we will desperately need intelligent, knowledgeable people to set America back on course.


We don’t need term limits.
We need better candidates, better representatives.


We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with each other and other nations to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on Congress.

The president doesn’t run the country

He’s not our “CEO.” Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people who make the laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault

The members of Congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about.

It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one will want.

It’s close to that already. Mention going into politics to an ambitious young person. Watch him or her recoil in horror.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics, and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.

You want term limits? Vote the morons out of office

We didn’t vote ALL the morons out of office, but we did pretty well and considering there are still a few senatorial elections being recounted, we may do even better. Moreover, we had the highest voter turnout ever. That’s amazing, wonderful, and gives me hope.

Vote for people who believe the good of the country is more important than their personal agenda. Vote for intelligent people who understand about compromise, who have a grip on law, justice, and the constitution.

That will produce real change that might last!

ABOUT THE GOOD OLD FIRST AMENDMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

1st amendment cartoonThe first amendment says you can say, write, or publish whatever you want without fear of being arrested, shot, imprisoned, or otherwise legally penalized. On television, the internet, as film or in print. From your mouth or on your blog, even if what you are saying is incredibly stupid, baseless, and factually incorrect. Even if it offends everyone who reads or hears it. As an American, being a loudmouthed jerk is constitutionally protected.

However. The first amendment does not say you are required to utter, write, film, broadcast, or publish whatever idiocy crosses your mind. Just because you can, does not mean you should. The Constitution protects your right to be a moron. It does not mandate you actually behave like one.

Those are your rights. My rights include the right to ignore you.

A right is no substitute for intelligence. It’s healthy to think. It’s good to read a book, check your sources, find out what’s really the right thing. Your opinion is not as good as everyone else’s, not if it’s based on hatred, ugliness, nonsense, and fake facts.

It’s perfectly okay to believe in the truth, to support provable facts, and live in the same reality as the rest of the world. Believing whatever you “feel” is “right” is crap.

Give reality a chance. Try reading a book, something your president hasn’t ever done.

Try thinking.

Our nation will be grateful to you. I personally will be grateful.

BUT I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU

1st amendment cartoonThe first amendment says you can say, write, or publish whatever you want without fear of being arrested, shot, imprisoned, or otherwise legally penalized. On television, the internet, as film, or in print. From your mouth or on your blog, even if what you are saying is incredibly stupid, baseless, and factually incorrect.

Even if it offends everyone who reads or hears it. As an American, being a loudmouthed jerk is constitutionally protected.

However. The first amendment does not say anyone is required to utter, write, film, broadcast, or publish whatever idiocy crosses his/her/their mind. Just because you can does not mean you should.  The Constitution protects your right to be a moron. It does not force you to behave like one.

Those are your rights. My rights include the right to ignore you.

right is not a substitute for using your brains. You are also permitted to think.

A TOUGH GO FOR AMERICAN CONSCIENCES

It was pointed out to me that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.

How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.

We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love to great-grandmother. We don’t know the words they used, or their tone of voice. We don’t know if their moment of passion happened at all. We don’t know because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do — and we base all our fiction on that assumption. But of course, we could be entirely wrong. It’s just guesswork.

United States Slave Trade

On the other hand, we know precisely — anyone could know this because it’s easy material to find — that the people who drew up our Constitution precisely understood how deeply wrong slavery was. They knew — fully and completely — that failing to remove this horror would cause a war. A big war.

Many expressed gratitude they would not live to see it.


They knew right from wrong.


They spent agonizing hours, weeks, months and years writing about it. Discussing it. Keeping notes about what they said and what others said. They didn’t for a minute think building a nation on slavery was “okay.” Abigail Adams, for one, didn’t want to live in the White House — not merely because it wasn’t finished, but because slaves built it. Yet without the compromise of making slaves three-fifths of a person — a person who would never vote or have anything to say about his own life — there would not have been a Constitution or a country. Getting the country to be a country was, ultimately, what mattered. Under this devil’s decision lay the future in which we are now living.


We didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t one bad election or a few unfortunate choices. The path on which we are walking was being laid out for us before there was a United State. The issues we now face have always been there. 


For all the northern objections to slavery, it wasn’t as if there weren’t any slaves in New England or New York. Southern plantations bought slaves, but New England sea captains brought them here. The first port of call for southern slave owners were the slave markets of New York and New England. Until the Constitution when northern slavery was formally abolished, there were plenty of slaves up north, too.

About those Native Americans from whom we grabbed this land and who we slaughtered so we could keep it? Of course we knew it was wrong. Maybe not every unread slob understood it, but anyone with a modicum of education got it. We still know it, even if we have tried our best to tuck the information as far from “common knowledge” as we can. We don’t want to think about what we did to get this place — and what we are still doing.

Did our ancestors understand this?

Yes.

But you see — they wanted this country. They wanted it and they wanted it beyond any moral compunctions. If that meant slaughtering entire tribes — see Andrew Jackson for more on that — so be it. Why should “those savages” get this rich and beautiful country? They didn’t deserve it. It should be ours. To make this righteous, we made up a bunch of crap about white being better than not white, but we didn’t get that from anyone’s religion. We quite simply made it up because we needed to believe it.

So, as has happened throughout history, we did what we wanted. We took everything, killed anyone who got in our way and have more less continued to do that ever since. Was it the first or last time an invading group of foreigners stole a nation from its native inhabitants? Obviously not.


I do not buy any concept which says “we didn’t understand what we were doing.” We knew just fine. Our ancestors — your ancestors — might not have talked the way we do, but they were much better at acknowledging good and evil. 


Again: How do we know this? Let me reiterate.

They wrote about it. At great length. In documents, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books. We don’t have to guess: they told us. Whether or not great granddad Josiah proposed in flowery English to great grandma Elizabeth may be a guess, but that Josiah thought our behavior toward slaves and Natives was wrong — we do know that.

What a great job we’ve done with the place!

The reason the Trump White House can do what it is doing is because there is so much hatred in this country. All he needed to do was play to the haters and leave the windows open. We don’t know what our so-called “leaders” believe, but we know who and what they hate. I don’t care in how many other countries this same ugly scene is happening. That doesn’t justify it happening here. If the whole world needs to clean up its act? So be it.


The majority is not necessarily right.


For my entire life, I believed this country — my country — was getting better. Was becoming more of what it said it wanted to be. That we were struggling, but trying to become a moral light in the world. I’m not seeing that anymore. Not on a national level. Are there many individuals who are still fighting the good fight? Sure. But nationally, as a nation, that isn’t what I see. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbing I find this.

How is your conscience doing these days? Having a bit of a rough patch?

IN THE CLUTCH: A ROUGH GO FOR AN AMERICAN CONSCIENCE

It was pointed out to me this morning that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.

How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.

We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love to great-grandmother. We don’t know the words they used, or their tone of voice. We don’t know if their moment of passion happened at all. We don’t know because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do — and we base all our fiction on that assumption. But of course, we could be entirely wrong. It’s just guesswork.

United States Slave Trade

On the other hand, we know precisely — anyone could know — that the people who drew up our Constitution understood how deeply wrong slavery was. They knew — fully and completely — failing to remove this horror would cause a war. A big war. Many expressed gratitude they would not live to see it.


They knew right from wrong.


They spent agonizing hours, weeks, months and years writing about it. Discussing it. Keeping notes about what they said and what others said. They didn’t for a minute think building a nation on slavery was “okay.” Abigail Adams, for one, didn’t want to live in the White House — not merely because it wasn’t finished, but because slaves built it. Yet without the compromise of making slaves three-fifths of a person — a person who would never vote or have anything to say about his own life — there would not have been a Constitution or a country. Getting the country to be a country was, ultimately, what mattered. Under this devil’s decision lay the future in which we are now living.


We didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t one bad election or a few unfortunate choices. The path on which we are walking was being laid out for us before there was a United State. The issues we now face have always been there. 


For all the northern objections to slavery, it wasn’t as if there weren’t any slaves in New England or New York. Southern plantations bought slaves, but New England sea captains brought them here. The first port of call for southern slave owners were the slave markets of New York and New England. Until the Constitution when northern slavery was formally abolished, there were plenty of slaves up north, too.

About those Native Americans from whom we grabbed this land and who we slaughtered so we could keep it? Of course we knew it was wrong. Maybe not every unread slob understood it, but anyone with a modicum of education got it. We still know it, even if we have tried our best to tuck the information as far from “common knowledge” as we can. We don’t want to think about what we did to get this place — and what we are still doing.

Did our ancestors understand this?

Yes.

But you see — they wanted this country. They wanted it and they wanted it beyond any moral compunctions. If that mean slaughtering entire tribes — see Andrew Jackson for more on that — so be it. Why should “those savages” get this rich and beautiful country? They didn’t deserve it. It should be ours. To make this righteous, we made up a bunch of crap about white being better than not white, but we didn’t get that from anyone’s religion. We quite simply made it up because we needed to believe it.

So, as has happened throughout history, we did what we wanted. We took everything, killed anyone who got in our way and have more less continued to do that ever since. Was it the first or last time an invading group of foreigners stole a nation from its native inhabitants? Obviously not.


I do not buy any concept which says “we didn’t understand what we were doing.” We knew just fine. Our ancestors — your ancestors — might not have talked the way we do, but they were much better at acknowledging good and evil. 


Again: How do we know this? Let me reiterate.

They wrote about it. At great length. In documents, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books. We don’t have to guess: they told us. Whether or not great granddad Josiah proposed in flowery English to great grandma Elizabeth may be a guess, but that Josiah thought our behavior toward slaves and Natives was wrong — we do know that.

What a great job we’ve done with the place!

The reason the Trump White House can do what it is doing is because there is so much hatred in this country. All he needed to do was play to the haters and leave the windows open. We don’t know what our so-called “leaders” believe, but we know who and what they hate. I don’t care in how many other countries this same ugly scene is happening. That doesn’t justify it happening here. If the whole world needs to clean up its act? So be it.


The majority is not necessarily right.


For my entire life, I believed this country — my country — was getting better. Was becoming more of what it said it wanted to be. That we were struggling, but trying to become a moral light in the world. I’m not seeing that anymore. Not on a national level. Are there many individuals who are still fighting the good fight? Sure. But nationally, as a nation, that isn’t what I see. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbing I find this.

How is your conscience doing these days? Having a bit of a rough patch?

A QUICK CLARIFICATION ABOUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT

1st amendment cartoonThe first amendment says you can say, write, or publish whatever you want without fear of being arrested, shot, imprisoned, or otherwise legally penalized. On television, the internet, as film or in print. From your mouth or on your blog, even if what you are saying is incredibly stupid, baseless, and factually incorrect. Even if it offends everyone who reads or hears it. As an American, being a loudmouthed jerk is constitutionally protected.

However. The first amendment does not say you are required to utter, write, film, broadcast, or publish whatever idiocy crosses your mind. Just because you can does not mean you should. The Constitution protects your right to be a moron. It does not mandate you actually behave like one.

Those are your rights. My rights include the right to ignore you.

A right is not a substitute for using your brains. It’s good to think. It’s good to read a book, check your sources, find out what’s the right thing. Your opinion, no matter what you think, is not as good as everyone else’s, not when it’s based on hatred, ugliness, nonsense, and fake facts.

It’s fine to believe in facts, reality, and truth. Believing whatever you “feel” is “right” is total crap. Give reality a chance. Try reading a book, something your president hasn’t managed to do. Try thinking.

Our nation will be grateful to you. I personally will be grateful.

TRANSLATE | THE DAILY POST

WHY TERM LIMITS ARE A TERRIBLE IDEA

I keep reading the same crap. Why is this so hard to understand?

So you believe term-limits will solve our political problems. Why would you think that? Are “old timers” in congress the big problem — as opposed to the bloated egos and narrow minds of those you voted for? How about those inexperienced, right-wing religious nutters? The Tea Party crowd? They were recently elected , have no understanding of how government works, and care nothing for the American people. Look how much they’ve fixed everything. Yeah, that went well.

72-vote-election-2016-sign

Exactly what problem do you think you solve by making terms shorter? Will that attract a better quality of candidates for office? Will it convince people to vote for better candidates? Doesn’t this past presidential election prove that people will vote for a bad candidate even when all logic and reason should tell them he or she will not to serve their interests?

So you believe we will get better government if no one in congress gets to stay for a long time. Why would inexperience result in better government? Would you choose an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school? A barber who has never cut any hair? In what field do we prefer raw recruits to proven veterans?

Oh, right, the presidency. How’s that working for you?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?


Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded the Constitution) showed them good people are not interested in temp jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Those elected to office walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place. There was no future in it.

When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history


Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs, much less support families.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution aims to get professionals into government.

Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It becomes a hard temp job with no future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid


Maybe they are paid more than you and me, but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of congress have other income streams.

Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how many kinds of corruption would be available. Bribery is the least of our problems.

Skill and experience count


Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of old guard, the folks who understand how to work with the opposition to make the process work. It’s the newly elected morons who are stopping progress. Sadly, our experienced old-timers got old and retired. Or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it take to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and peer respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or another of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi (many) term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate all chance of having great legislators


Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.

If you don’t elect them, they won’t be in congress


We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. You only have to watch the news once or twice to see how our wonderful, inexperienced government is doing. If that doesn’t argue against the treasured (but stupid) belief that what Washington DC needs are outsiders, I don’t know what will convince you. Assuming we survive 45s reign, we will desperately need intelligent, knowledgeable people to set America back on course.

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates, better representatives. We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with each other and other nations to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.

The President isn’t supposed to run the country


Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault


The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one will want.

It’s close to that already. Mention going into politics to an ambitious young person. Watch him or her recoil in horror.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.

We have mid-term elections in 2018. You want term limits? Vote the morons out of office.


Vote for people who believe the good of the country is more important than their personal agenda. Vote for intelligent people who understand about compromise, who have an understanding of law, justice, and believe in the constitution. That will produce change in a hurry.

CAMPAIGNING VERSUS GOVERNING by ELLIN CURLEY

Like many other Americans, I have been in shock and very, very depressed since the election of Donald Trump as President. I have been thinking about how this unthinkable thing could have happened. I have a small theory that maybe explains a tiny piece of the cluster fuck that is our government for the next four years. It’s not entirely new or original, but I feel it deserves consideration and attention.

campaign-poster-2016In our system, the qualities it takes to win a presidential election are different from the qualities it takes to govern as President. I could argue that what you need for one job is virtually antithetical to what you need for the other. For example, to be a successful candidate you have to be good at making stirring speeches in front of large audiences. To inspire those large crowds and excite the media, you need an outgoing personality, an out-sized ego, plus a charismatic speaking style. You must be larger than life.

But, to govern and be an effective executive, none of these traits or skills — while occasionally handy — are critical or even necessary. Instead, you need to be good at dealing with individuals and small groups. You need to convince, cajole and compromise to get things done. Keeping your ego in check is a prerequisite for working well with others. Flamboyance is a minus, not a plus.

dwight-david-eisenhower-quote-i-do-not-believe-that-any-politicalAs a candidate, you have to strip complex, nuanced ideas and situations down to a few catchy slogans or sentences. You need to be prolific in distilling ‘sound bytes’ from complicated issues. Those ‘sound bytes’ are what will represent you to the general public via the media. The big picture is what matters. Details and subtleties be damned.

As President, you have to master a myriad of detail on every issue. You need to weigh the pros and cons of competing interests and groups, then come up with viable policies. Next, you have to ‘sell’ these policies to friends and foes, up close and personal. Complexity and contradictions are your meat and potatoes.

The person best suited to win the presidency in America may be the least suited to governing well. Trump was an effective candidate but there’s no indication he can govern. At all. Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate but I believe would have been a great President. Is there a resolution for this dichotomy?

I’d argue that the English parliamentary system can teach us something. The English have the Royal Family as their “national celebrities” and tabloid fodder. Their Members of Parliament are supposed to be boring, nerdy, policy wonks. No one expects their MPs or even the Prime Minister to be a dazzling public speaker or TV personality. (Justin Trudeau of Canada is a rare exception – he has it all!)

I’m not advocating a monarchy for America. But maybe we could have the President and Vice Presidential candidates run as a real team. The Vice Presidential candidate could be the crowd pleasing media star for the election cycles. The President could just be the back office guy who crunches the numbers and gets things done when its time to govern.

I’m not sure whether or not this system would work in practice, but it sure as Hell couldn’t be worse than what we have now!

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD

Colin Kaepernick has been all over the news. He’s the 49ers quarterback who refused to stand for the national anthem as a protest against racism in the United States.

colin-kaepernick

There definitely is far too much racism in the United States. Too many police incidents. I’m totally on board with Mr. Kaepernick’s right to express his opinion on the matter in any legal, non-violent way.

Our Constitution’s first amendment paints the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press with a broad brush. What it fails to point out (though it is implicit) is that everyone shares this freedom — on all sides of an issue.

So if other people hate how you express your opinion, they have the right to burn your jersey, refuse to go to games in which you are playing … and for that matter, dismiss you from your job.

72-first-amendment-text

Freedom cuts all ways. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Mr. Kaepernick is absolutely free to express his point of view. So can everyone else.

Do I agree with one side or the other? I agree with both sides.

More to the point, Mr. Kaepernick should have thought longer and harder about how he would take his stand. Offending many people is not always a good way to make your point, no matter how valid your point may be. He should have considered the potential impact on his fans — and ultimately, on his career. Especially in view of the fact that he’s not playing well.

In sports, you can get away with murder if you’re playing well. If you’re not …

If your team is less than thrilled with your on-field performance, getting involved in a major controversy might tip them in the direction of not renewing your contract. That’s the painful reality. I’m sure he never thought expressing his legal, constitutionally guaranteed opinion would raise such a negative ruckus — or end up with him facing unemployment.

You could classify this incident as a cautionary tale.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Legal isn’t the same as well thought out. Was he justified in protesting racism in America? Sure. But maybe this wasn’t the best way to go about it.

BRAVE? REALLY?

So my cousin Roberta, who, as is common with cousins, is my oldest and best friend, although we haven’t actually seen one another in years because the older we get, the longer that drive from Silver Spring, MD to Uxbridge, MA looms … commented that I had always been braver than she is. The context was a picture I posted of Garry and I riding the Cyclone at Coney Island. They have (or had, anyhow) a camera rigged at that first terrifying drop and it’s hard to resist buying a picture of oneself and friend or mate screaming in abject terror as you go down that nearly vertical drop on an 80-year old wooden roller coaster. It wasn’t like I had volunteered for a dangerous mission to rescue people from danger. I paid my money and delighted in the finest adrenaline rush money can buy.

On the Cyclone with Garry - July 2007

Some people think I’m brave because I’ve survived some pretty awful stuff. As it happens, I would have been just as happy to skip the terror and stress and lead a pleasantly uneventful life. For excitement, there’s always the Cyclone at Coney Island (since now it has been declared an official National Historical Site and unlikely to be torn down anytime soon).

I’ve managed to slouch into senior citizenship more or less intact. I don’t deserve a medal for this.  In an emergency, instinct takes over. I usually don’t remember what was going through my head at the time or what I actually did. Really. I don’t remember much of anything. My brain switches to survival mode and runs on automatic. I save my own life and sometimes I help other folks at the same time, but I am just staying alive.

My definition of bravery or valor requires a conscious, willing decision to take a significant risk in the service of others. Taking risks for the fun of it, to make a killing in the stock market, or because your only other option is death or disaster isn’t courageous.

When it’s fun, I call it entertainment. I love roller coasters. I probably would have liked sky diving had my bad back not precluded it. That’s nothing but a personal passion for something that offers an illusion of danger without real peril.

Taking a risk for profit? Shrewd, yes. Possibly enviable too … but brave?

Saving your own life? Finding a way by hook or crook to keep a roof over your head and food on your table?That’s survival. All living creatures try to survive. Those that don’t … don’t.

I’ve never done anything that I define as courageous. I’ve done stuff that was exciting, entertaining, and fascinating, and some of these adventures were disastrous for me, financially and emotionally. I’ve been occasionally selfless in helping others if I had the wherewithal. But I never put myself in harm’s way. I’ve taken emotional risks and been seriously inconvenienced. I’ve lost money helping others when I could barely help myself, but I don’t think this entitles me to a medal. Doing the right thing is part of being a decent human being. It’s a no-brainer.

I’ve done a lot of reckless things too, but that’s closer to stupidity than valor!

Another thing puzzles me.

“Proud to be an American” is something of a Mantra these days. I don’t get it. Why would one be proud of parentage or country of birth? It’s not as if you chose where you were born, picked your parents or ethnicity. Those were accidents. You made no choice. You just got lucky.

Loving and even admiring ones parents is normal. You’re supposed to love and honor your parents (see the Ten Commandments, Article 4). I’m glad I’m a U.S. citizen and not living in Sarajevo or Somalia … but gratitude and pride are very different. In the past, but not much recently, I’ve been proud of things this country has done and what it stands for and I think our Constitution is a brilliant — albeit hypocritical  — document. Proud to BE American? Grateful for sure. Proud seems a bit much.

Noble sentiments and a fondness for adrenaline rushes don’t count. Unless you have made a choice, a conscious decision to take a risk for the sake of another, it’s not brave. It may be fun, shrewd, smart, instinctive, reckless — or seriously dumb — but it isn’t brave.

Anyway, that’s what I think.

Happy Mother’s Day!