Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Learning to Think Clearly
I had to do some catch up in my education because Aurora schools were teaching a bit faster than Percy schools but that was OK, I managed quite well. But what I notice now as I look back at the two school systems are some similar qualities that each possessed that seem to be non-existent in today's schools. They each taught me how to think clearly! I don't remember ever having a teacher try to push his or her views upon me until I was in college. They always encouraged me to think things out for myself and to form my own conclusions and not to simply accept what someone tells me as the truth without looking into it myself first. Try to get that out of today's public school education. They are much more concerned with teaching students how to think like the educators think than to teach us how to think for ourselves.
Just look at the Zero Tolerance policy in effect at many public schools today. Bring something as innocent as a butter knife in your car in the parking lot and risk being expelled from school forever. Zero Tolerance takes all the "thinking" out of a decision. One can simply state that it is our policy to expel the student rather than attempt to put any rational thought into the situation and judge it upon its' own merits. In other word, the policy enforcers don't have to think at all, they just have to mimic the policy. This is NOT how I was taught to solve problems and handle situations.
Now to give the policy makers/enforcers a little bit of slack, I will admit that much of this behavior stems from our litigious society. The enforcers would like to avoid lawsuits at all cost and there are enough stupid people out there willing to file idiotic lawsuits at the drop of a hat. But we cannot allow avoidance of a situation to dictate a solution.(We really need a "loser pays" system but then, I have already discussed that in a previous blog) We must think clearly and make a decision based upon the facts at hand and any extenuating circumsatances that may be involved. We cannot respond blindly with a standard reaction to every event. We owe it to everyone involved to use our God-given brains as they were intended and to think clearly.
I believe I think very clearly and I owe some of that to my teachers in both southern and northern Illinois. I was encouraged to think for myself, to think out of the box before anyone knew what that meant. My little mind was never filled with propaganda nudging me to think about certain issues in a certain way. I had to make up my own mind about virtually everything. It was a daunting task and one that I still haven't finished.
There are many, many things that I don't have a definitive opinion about. I take them all one at a time and try to decide based upon my core beliefs which way I feel. I don't have a problem saying "I don't know. I can see both sides." In fact, often times, I can see more than two sides, and that makes it harder to come down on an issue. So I won't. Doesn't matter to me. I don't have to have an opinion on everything. But the things where I do have an opinion, I have thought long and hard about and have not come lightly to that opinion. I know how to think clearly.
Do people these days really think about current issues? Does the common person really have the ability and means to think about issues anymore. From my point of view, it seems that more people are simply stating the "party line" opinions about a topic instead of speaking their own mind. Thinking clearly is a hard task. It requires effort and it requires time and it requires researching the facts. Most people cannot commit themselves to anything like this. Most people are looking to escape their everyday lives rather than immerse themselves in it. More people want to discuss the latest American Idol or Survivor or what the hell Tom Cruise, the Scientologist yet, is doing with cute little Katie Holmes than want to spend time thinking about the benefits and downfalls of restructuring Social Security. I must admit, sometimes I think about cute little Katie Holmes, too, but I think about her clearly.
So Florida instituted the FCAT tests a few years ago as a way to grade the public schools, a way to identify which schools are succeeding and which are not. Kind of sounds like a good idea on the surface. But what happens is actually fairly predictable, if you can think clearly, that is. Schools don't want to receive an "F" grade. They want to achieve that A or B or C grade to show that they are one of the good schools. How to achieve that result? Teach students relevant subject matter and encourage them to think for themselves, to love to learn, to thirst for knowledge and to seek out answers on their own? No way! Teach them the test. Don't hazard your school getting a below average grade, make sure they know the answers to the questions they will be tested upon before they take the test. Kind of selfish thinking, if you ask me.
Have you ever explained something to someone who just didn't understand what you were saying? You can tell them in various ways and cite examples and show them something and they just can't seem to grasp the concept of what you're telling them. Then finally it's like a light bulb goes on over their head. "I get it now", they exclaim. "I understand what you've been saying and it makes sense." What a nice feeling that is for both of you. You have just taught someone how to fish.
That is what our school system is supposed to be doing, teaching people how to fish. Mostly what they do is let some people learn on their own how to fish and just give everybody else a fish to eat later. And this pleases the majority. Since calculators are so common place, forget about learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. A machine can do that for you. Don't bother to learn that. Here's your fish, go eat it and keep quiet. Don't need to think for yourself, someone else has already made that decision and you shouldn't be second-guessing those in authority. After all, they surely know better than you do anyway.
Well, I've rambled on and on and perhaps I've strayed somewhat from the subject but you know what? I don't care. It's my blog and I'm still thinking clearly so I'll just let my ramble stand on its' own. Challenge yourself to think clearly. Hell, challenge yourself to think. Your thoughts will clear up on their own if you simply let them.
Clearly I think I am therefore,
Friday, June 24, 2005
Supremes Get it Wrong Again
How in hell do these justices think that public use can be stretched to include increased tax revenue? If generating more tax revenue is the only requirement for defining public use, then absolutely anyone's property can be taken whenever the local government decides it wants to do so. This is the end of private property as we know it.
The four justices who dissented, Renquist, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas are looking pretty good in my eyes right now. At least they recognize that this ruling virtually destroys personal property rights in this country. It goes directly against our Constitution and gives local governments unlimited power over any property in their jurisdiction. You no longer have control of your own property, you are simply allowed to "think" you have control until the government decides it has a better use for your property. Not when YOU decide but when THEY decide.
I am not arguing against the proper use of Eminent Domain. I understand the reason for and the necessity of the taking of someone's property for the use of the general public as generally accepted. Public good had always meant parks, roads, bridges, schools, police, fire, etc., the things in a local community that everybody needs. It has never meant to be higher tax revenues.
The poorer neighborhoods will be the most likely targets for destruction and reconstruction simply becasue they pay lower property taxes than wealthier neighborhoods. This in itself is unfair. Sure, life isn't fair, but our government is supposed to be. Chuckle. At least it should try. It just seems to me that our "individual" rights have been assaulted again and when it happens at the Supreme Court level, it is very disturbing indeed. They are supposed to be the defenders of liberty, not the assailers.
I think the only cause for hope in this case is that the court encouraged states to write their own laws defining what is considered public use. Every single state needs to get busy and craft those definitions and stop the idiocy of local governments stealing property so they can have more tax money to spend. Do you think the states will do that? I think Florida has already done something like this. I'm hopeful that every state will consider this very quickly before there is a general backlash by the public.
Then again, most people in this country won't give a damn. Many won't even know this decision has been handed down and those who are aware of it probably won't even realize what this decision means. And even if they do realize the deeper meaning and potential consequences of this ridiculous decision, they may well ignore it because they feel it will most likely never affect them.
And this may be an even bigger problem to our individual freedoms than the poor decision itself. The fact that most people are so apathetic about what our government does, unless it directly affects them at the time, causes me great consternation. And it makes me glad that I'm over half a century old already. Why, you ask? Because I will probably be dead before this country falls apart from the dead weight and bad decisions and socialism that is overtaking us.
I do feel bad for my daughter and grandkids, they can't outrun it. They will have to live with it and they will not like it. But the only way we can stem the tide of socialistic laws and attitudes in this "capitalistic" society is by confronting them head on and stopping the madness. Everything is done by individuals. All property is owned by individuals. All decisions are made by individuals. And the individual is under assault. This latest Supreme Court decision proves it.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
If you can get an attorney to represent you, and with commissions as high as 50% of the spoils there will always be someone willing, many people think, "why not try?". No matter how stupid the lawsuit or how erroneous the charge, the person or company being sued has to mount a defense or else settle out of court. To settle out of court is often the preferred solution for the filer because they are really just interested in quick, or slow, easy money. Often times that is the preferred solution for the defender in order to keep their name out of the negative spotlight and it is often much cheaper for them to simply settle rather than expend the money and resources to mount a successful defense.
And if the defense is actually successful, what do they get out of that? Nothing other than keeping their good name or reputation intact. And what does the loser get out of the situation? Well, nothing monetarily maybe, but also no consequences from the fact that they libeled or slandered someone for a chance to win some easy money, like a lottery. They can just try again. I say the loser should pay for their erroneous accusation.
Yes, it's a just sytem that punishes the offender. If that offender happens to be someone making false charges for a quick buck, that offender should be punished. Now, I'm not talking about jail time, necessarily, although some circumstance may aptly warrant that very punishment. For most false litigation cases, making the loser of the lawsuit pay ALL of the court costs of the other party would seem to be a fitting punishment.
I'm not talking about limiting anyone's ability to file a lawsuit at all. All I ask is that the loser of ANY lawsuit be required to pay all the costs of that litigation. This would force people to consider their charges very seriously before ever filing such a suit. If I have to pay the court costs of someone who I charged did me wrong, I will make sure I am in the right BEFORE I file such a suit.
It benefits society not a whit to allow frivolous law suits to go forward. There are far more important matters for our courts to be deciding. It would be a simple, straightforward plan to implement. File any law suit you desire but know that whichever party is the eventual loser of the case will be the party that pays all of the costs. If you cannot pay the cost of losing, do not file in the first place. Or if you decide to file and lose and cannot pay the loser's costs, plan on spending some quality time with Bubba the Back-Door man. I feel quite confident that frivolous law suits will disappear virtually overnight.
Monday, June 20, 2005
I Remember 1963 When My Life Changed
Until the shoe factory closed down. My dad tried to make a living doing something he loved to do, work with chemicals. He moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, and got involved with an old friend trying to make some money inventing products using chemicals. It didn't work our so well. My mother had to go to work at a nursing home to help pay the bills. I hated that!
By the summer of 1962 it was obvious my dad wasn't going to get rich, or even close, by working with chemicals, so he took a job in a steel-fabrication plant in Aurora, Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago. Wow, the big city! He got a little bit ahead and found an apartment and mom and I moved 300 miles north during Christmas vacation. It was a brand new awakening to life all around me.
I had a very rough time adjusting to this new life. Going to my new school, Lincoln Elementary, in the middle of the sixth grade, made me realize how far behind the school in Percy was compared to the big city. I had been used to getting straight E's, which equated to A's, in Percy, and I had a tough time eking out B's and C's in Lincoln. I was so far behind in arithmetic, and I didn't ask for help, that it took me the rest of the school year to figure out how to do math with fractions on my own.
I was a little boy in stature, and I had absolutely no self confidence. I cried when we left Percy and I felt like crying nearly every day as I went to grade school and longed for my old familiar friends from Percy. So much so that I spent that summer vacation back in Percy. I stayed with my sister Lila, who had four sons, the oldest of which was 4 years younger than me. We played a lot of wiffleball that summer.
I cried again when I had to leave Percy at the end of summer and go back home to Aurora. I was very nervous because in the fall I had to start a Junior High School and there were hundreds and hundreds of new students there. Classes in different rooms and different parts of the building, even different floors. So hard to get around and so much to learn. I felt so lost at Ben Frankiln Junior High and missed my small town life.
I think I had been holding on to hope that Aurora was just a temporary thing. That my dad would get back on his feet and somehow we would be able to move back to Percy again where I was happy. Of course that was never going to happen. Aurora was our new home.
While I was gone that summer, my parents bought a small, and I mean small, house not very far away from the apartment we had been renting. Good thing, cause I had friends living close by and I didn't want to start all over again. Since Junior High was a new experience for all the seventh graders, it became a lot easier than I thought. I had to learn to eat my lunch a lot faster, though. Time went quickly at Franklin but I managed to adjust.
I was riding a bus to school on my own now. Sometimes I would ride my bike but it was quite a pedal so the bus became my preferred means of transportaion. I felt like a big boy in a big city. I was making friend with new kids, and some of them were black. That was a new experience for me, also. No black people in Percy. I found a best friend in Greg Crenshaw, a portly and happy black kid with a great outlook on life. After high school, Greg came out of the closet and revealed his homosexuality. A fact that didn't surprise me at the time, he was always a bit faggy, but in the seventh grade, I didn't even know what homosexuality meant. Hell, I didn't know anything about sex yet.
I learned all I needed to know in time but it was comforting to me to know that other kids my age didn't know things either. We were many ignorant kids trying to find our way into adulthood. Life was changing all around me and I was growing up. I wasn't ready to grow up but it was happening just the same.
A year earlier I was happily living in small town comfort, in a world where everything made sense to me. It was a world I had known all my life, the only life I knew. Now it was 1963 and everything was different. Life was hard and it was faster and I was not ready for it. I missed the comfort of small town life. The warmth of the small town life. City life was cold, especially in northern Illinois. Below zero temperatures in the winter were very common. And I was essentially an only child by now. The only one left at home and I found out what it was like to be truly lonely.
What surprises me about that experience is that I actually liked being alone. Perhaps I would not have discovered that fact if we had stayed in Percy. Perhaps it took the indifference and coldness of a big city to instill some confidence in myself. Being exposed to new experiences will do that but given a choice, I probably would have opted for the familiar. I loved Percy.
Nowadays I am older and wiser and realize that 1963 was the year that changed my life for the good. One can always look back upon a time of life with fondness and longing. Percy has a happy place in my memories. But I know that Percy would have held me back. My true potential would have been lost there. I love the small town but I also needed the big city.
Monday, June 13, 2005
The Boys of Summer are Soaring
I learned that the closest major league team, the St. Louis Cardinals, had a star player on the team whose name was, gasp, Stan Musial! Wow! A grown up with a name of Stanley. Stan the Man they called him. Cool! I had the same name as this great baseball player! That was the end of my hatred for my name. And it was the beginning of my love affair with the game of baseball.
I would listen to the Cardinals games on the radio during the long, hot summer evenings in southern Illinois in the late 50s and early 60s. Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Joe Garagiola were the Cardinal's announcers and they made the games come alive for my wild, youthful imagination. I loved those nights!
I still love baseball. And I still love the Cardinals. The game has changed a lot since I was a kid but it is essentially the same game. The players are really what has changed the most. And that is only inevitable. I have a lifetime goal to visit and see a game at each of the major league parks. So far I have been to 14 different stadiums to see at least one game. I have 16 more to visit.
Since I have lived in Gainesville, I moved here in 1985, I have reluctantly become a fan of College sports. It started with the football team and Emmitt Smith. It was hard to ignore that kind of talent showcasing himself in the local news. I became a Gator fan because of Emmitt Smith.
Then it was the basketball team. I jumped on that bandwagon as I cheered the lackluster team onward to an actual trip to the Final Four in 1994 with Lon Kruger. The National Championship game against Michigan State in 2000 was almost a fantasy come true. Almost. It's so hard to get that far.
During my 20 years in Gainesville, I have also paid attention to the Gator baseball team but mostly on the periphery. It's those damned aluminum bats! I don't like them. I wish the college game would ban those things and go back to wood bats, like they are supposed to be. The ping off of an aluminum bat just doesn't sound right. Give me the old crack of a wooden bat anyday.
But this year I am revelling in the succes of the Florida baseball program. They have probably the most talented bunch of guys they have ever had together at one time and they are playing like it. They won the SEC regular season title and although they lost two straight in the SEC tournament to get knocked out of a championship there, they have come back in the NCAA tournament and showed what they are made of.
Three convincing wins in the Regionals over Stetson, North Carolina and Notre Dame gave them the chance to host a Super Regional for the first time and who do the get matched with but Florida State. Yey! Do they crumble against the prowess of the ever awesome FSU bats? No! They beat them soundly in game one, 8-1 and start off the first inning of game two with 4 runs. A decisive victory again and they have won 5 straight in the tourney and earned a trip to Omaha for the College Wortd Series.
They have been there before, four times to be exact and the last time was in 1998. But they have never been very impressive once there. The awe of Rosenblatt Stadium perhaps has dimmed their chances. This time seems different. This time they may go all the way. The characters in this play, the Gator players, do not want to let this storybook ride end. And their fans don't either.
Whether the Gators go on to the championship remains to be seen. I hope they will and I feel they have the best chance they have had to do so. They are poised enough and level-headed enough to know that the excitement of getting there is not the final stage in their journey. They are playing for the gold and they have a great chance to make it happen.
I will be rooting for them heartily. The game I have loved all my life has expanded for me to take in the excitement of college. Attending a college game is almost as good as attending a major league game. And it is a lot cheaper, too.
I love baseball! Go Gators. And thanks so very much to the coach who helped get them this far, Pat McMahon.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
In Defense of Prostitution
So you think it is a moral issue? I agree. And there is no reason why it should be illegal. Morals should not be legislated. A woman can sell her body as a model. She can put on various clothes and have pictures taken and walk down a runway and show off her body in those clothes and be paid for it. She can sell her time as an escort and provide companionship for a man for money. She can even have sex with this man and it is still legal. But once she accepts money in return for any sexual activities, then it becomes against the law. This makes absolutely no sense to me.
Who is being harmed in this transaction? The man wants sex. The woman wants to give him sex in exchange for payment. The two agree and involve no one else in their tryst. Who is getting hurt? Whose rights are being violated? Who is being deprived of life or liberty or property? No one. Why then is this illegal? It isn't illegal if there is no money involved. Why does that simple fact change the equation?
A man and a woman can even have sex on camera and each of them is paid for their time and actions. This time the payment comes from a third party who is doing the filming in return for selling the film to others who want to watch such activities. Alll of the parties are agreeable to what is happening and this is legal. Maybe not in all of the states but it is legal in many. How does this differ from sex between two consenting adults? Should all prostitutes install a camera in their boudoirs and film each sexual episode? Would that make it legal? Har dee har.
A prohibition on prostitution is stupid. Our military knows this and has responded accordingly. When I was in the Navy and took a WestPac trip to Japan and the Phillippines we were all educated before we pulled into port about STDs and the local prostitution houses. In the Phillippines, all prostitutes were required to undergo physical checkups every 2 weeks to ensure they were free from disease. Each one carried a card, which a sailor was instructed to ask the woman to show him, that proved she was current in her checkups. No card, no sex. Repeat violators, no cards, from the same house caused that place to be declared off-limits. Any sailor frequenting a joint that was off-limits would be going before the Captain and would spend some time in the brig or at least be fined and have his shore leave taken away.
This sytem worked wonderfully. No one on my ship of 700-800 people caught an STD and everyone had a good time. And the local economy was much better off because of it. Not to mention safer. The Navy knew that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. So why try to stop something that WILL happen anyway? Why not simply regulate it and ensure some safety measures instead? What a novel idea! An idea that can work in the US.
There are some counties in the state of Nevada where prostitution is still legal. They do follow pretty much the same rules as the military set up overseas to ensure customer and call-girl safety. These places are well run and profitable. And no one is harmed in the operation.
You may believe it is against God's laws to have sex with a prostitute. That's fine. God's laws are not the United States Government's laws. There is a big difference. Government's job is not to be a moral watchdog over its' citizens. Everyone must decide for himself what morals he will follow. Let us make those decisions. Keep government out of the bedrooms and let prostitutes be prostitutes.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Growing your own Marijuana affects Interstate Commerce How?
Justice Thomas, dissenting.
Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything--and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
We would do well to recall how James Madison, the father of the Constitution, described our system of joint sovereignty to the people of New York: "The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite... . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State." The Federalist No. 45, pp. 292-293 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961).It never ceases to amaze me how downright narrow-minded people can be about an issue. Marijuana grows freely and on its' own in many parts of the world. There is no "processing" for the plant to go through to make it potent. There is no refining necessary and it takes no skill to grow it, although a green thumb may help. When a person smokes it, it doesn't send them into a psychedelic wonderland nor does it send one into a screaming fit of hysteria intent on killing everyone in sight. Quite the opposite. It induces a mellow feeling, it stimulates appetite and suppresses nausea and makes you tired. It may even make you laugh a little more.
So we have the state of California, a sovereign entity on its own, with a law allowing the use of marijuana by a citizen when prescribed by a physician to alleviate pain and nausea and otherwise allow someone to experience a little better quality of life while suffering with whatever disease has debilitated them in the first place. And we have a housewife who has complied with the state laws, received her prescription for medical marijuana to ease her suffering and is quietly growing a few plants in her own back yard out of the way and for her personal use under California state law.
Oh my, this is not good, says the Drug Enforcement Agency. We must send in some agents to confiscate these evil plants and arrest this hideous woman who is blatantly disobeying the federal law against the use or possession of the wicked, wacky weed. But wait, there is nothing illegal going on here, says the woman. I have permission, I can legally grow this stuff.
Hmmmm. Seems like we have a little problem here. What to do? What to do? OK, well, it seems like she is telling the truth and she has the correct paperwork and everything is in order as far as the state of California is concerned. Should be the end of it, don't you think? No way, say the feds. We won't leave here without uprooting all the marijuana plants and taking them with us. We'll let the courts decide this.
OK, so the arguments are heard and through the Appeals Court the decision is that the California woman was justified in growing pot in her back yard and the DEA agents acted wrongly. One last stop at the Supreme Court and all gears go in reverse. No way, say the Supremes. The Federal law is valid and enforceable because of the Interstate Commerce provision. A century before Congress declared that they could write laws affecting states rights under the guise of regulating Interstate Commerce.
On the surface this makes sense. It should be the feds who resolve differences between the states and anything going "interstate" fits that category of regulation. But wait a minute! This woman was growing pot in her own back yard for her own personal use. She lives in California and it is legal for her to do this there. She is crossing NO state lines and is affecting NO Interstate Commerce anywhere on the planet. How is this interference justified? It isn't.
Yet, Justice Stevens, writing the majority opinion, says this is perfectly OK because the personal use of a product MAY have SOME affect on the ILLEGAL Interstate Commerce of marijuana. Stretch it out there Justice Stevens. How far can you make the umbrella of Federal Government reach?
As Justice Thomas said, if Congress can regulate this than they can regulate anything and the Federal Government is no longer limited in power. Let us all praise our all-seeing, all-knowing Federal Government and their wisdom in protecting us from ourselves. God knows we are just entirely too dumb and stupid to know what is right for us. The states don't know what is right for us either, why they think we should be allowed to smoke pot. How outrageous! I am so very thankful that we have such wise people sitting on the Supreme Court upholding how far Congress can control our lives. Let's give them complete control over all aspects of each of our pitiful lives.
Make me sick! Thank god for Justices O'Connor and Thomas, at least, for expressing the cogent, rational views that seem to be so lacking in government today. Can we clone those two? Wait, I have an idea. Let's plant some marijuana in Justice Stevens back yard. Or mail him a joint or two. No, won't work. He doesn't live in California.
But wait, I forgot. It doesn't matter where you live anymore or what the local laws are either. The feds are holding the trump card. The feds are holding all of the trump cards. To hell with the states!
Monday, June 06, 2005
Social Security Sucks!
A pyramid scheme is a great money-making idea for the early adopters of the scheme. You pay money into a system and that money is used to pay earlier members of the system. In Social Security's case, the early adopter of the program received a whole lot more in return for their meager payments. In those times, the payees into the system greatly outnumbered the beneficiaries of the system and that made it easy to make ends meet. Any pyramid scheme is going to generate lots of money for the early members and as time goes by, and membership quotas level off or even drop, the money coming in is not enough to pay off the current beneficiaries. And the later adoptees will actually lose their money. Often times, a whole lot of money. This is why pyramid schemes are illegal. Unless you are the Federal Government of the United States of America.
The Social Security System was adopted in the 1930s as a supposed "safety net" for older Americans who perhaps were hit hard by the recession and didn't have the means to secure their own retirement. It was never intended to fully fund anyone's retirement. It was originally meant as a supplement to one's own retirement plans. The initial plan was actually more like an insurance policy than a pyramid scheme.
If that the excess money that poured into the coffers in the early decades were invested in some kind of vehicle that would actually grow the money, then SS would never have gotten into the mess it is in today. If that program were treated the same way as every other insurance or investment plan in existence, there would never be a Social Security crisis. But this program is run by Congress and they can't help but spend every dollar that comes to Washington, whether the money is targeted for any particular program or not. Savings or investment are unknown words to DC legislators.
Not to be forgotten are the additional burdens placed on Social Security since its' inception such as disability payments and payments to dependents. Not even related to retirement at all but these payments take a huge chunk of money out of a system for totally different purposes. The 1960s saw huge changes with Social Security including the additions of other than retirement related payments. There was such a large excess of cash that the politicians felt it just had to be spent on something and why not get a few votes out of deal while we're at it? In fact, let's just spend all of the excess money and replace it with IOUs. The feds always pay their debt so we can tell the American people that their benefits are guaranteed and they are not to worry. This is, after all, the "Great Society".
I don't care if you perceive a "crisis" with Social Security or not. If you don't see one there, you will never be convinced that this is a hideous and counter-productive program that deserves to be scrapped immediately. And I have some land for sale in Lake Okeechobee and a bridge to sell to you in Brooklyn.
I hear and read people spouting about Social Security being the most successful and important program in the history of this country. Go out and buy an investment with any firm in the country and see if you can find a plan as "good" as Social Security. Betcha can't find one. That's because private investment companies know that the product SS sells is not only illegal but a very poor investment strategy that is destined to fail.
Listen, money makes money. It is a powerful way to develop retirement funds. Invest and re-invest the dividends and let the earnings accumulate and you can fund a very good retirement with a smaller amount of money. If you keep taking money out of your retirement fund, it will never develop into anything usable other than a place to borrow from. The balance will never increase if you don't let it grow. There is tremendous power in compound interest. Why can't people see this?
So I hate Social Security. I wish it would die a fast death. Let me take care of my own retirement just as I believe I should be doing. (And I am, by the way.) It is not a government function to prepare a retirement for me or for anyone else. Get out of the business! And let me keep my money and invest, or spend, it as I choose. As I choose, not as Congress chooses. Congress can fund their own retirement and leave me the hell alone!
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The United "States" of America
France recently rejected the ridiculously complex constitution because, among other reasons probably, they are afraid they will lose their sovereignty or their national identity if this document becomes European Law. They have a valid concern. The Dutch yesterday rejected it for similar reasons by an even greater margin than the French. I say good for them. And it pains me a little to congratulate the French for anything.
In this country we had a similar occurence happen in 1913 but with different results; the ratification and adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. Don't know what this amendment was for? This is the one that changed the way United States Senators are chosen. Previously, as described in Article 1, Section 3 "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote." Originally the Senate was the body of Congress that represented individual states' interests while the House of Representatives was the body that represented individual interests from the local level. Pair the two and you have a functioning, workable Congress that will balance the needs of the states with the needs of the citizens.
Changing the selection of Senators to a vote by the people took away the representation of the states' interests. This weakened the powers of the states and left them with little voice in federal matters. Senators no longer represented the will of the states but the will of the people. Most foreign countries have more representation with our federal government through ambassadors than do our own "sovereign" states. Our individual states in this country no longer have even that. This is not how the states were supposed to be treated in our original constitution. States were supposed to be the primary governing force, not the central government. We have stripped them of their power and given it all to the feds.
Each state, being sovereign, maintains its' rights to enact laws that are different than other states. This is still so, but the power of the federal government can force states to change or create laws that conform to the feds wishes by withholding money from any state that doesn't comply. Remember the National 55 mph speed limits enacted in the 1970s? Every state had to comply with the federal order or it would lose federal highway funding. The feds held the state money for ransom. This is NOT how it is supposed to work. They can do the same thing with education or any funds that flow through Washington. The states lost their sovereignty and the feds don't care. The people don't care!
The other amendment, number 16, ratified also in 1913 coupled with this one provided the federal government with even more power. "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." Notice how the phrase explicity omits the states from receiving any of the revenue. Another assault on states' rights and this one gave the feds a revenue source to work with. A bonanza! A huge pie that didn't have to be cut in any particluar manner.
Our Founding Fathers took great care in fashioning our Constitution and wording things in such ways as to reduce ambuguity. Their initial plan was not to create a supreme, all-powerful central government. Their plan was to connect the powers of the sovereign states together in a joint partnership to form a more perfect union and to protect the rights of every individual and every state.
The current European Constitution writers took far less care in crafting their document in such a manner. Instead they sought to address all sorts of trivial issues instead of painting with broad, general strokes. They sought to form a stronger union of countries to compete in world markets and decided that centralization was best, that the powers of the individual countries are less important than the powers of the EU. And this fact is scaring the European voters. I'm so glad it does. It should. I wish more Americans would be afraid of our federal government in the same way.
Just look at the name of our country. It is not "America". It is the "United States of America". Always has been. But since 1913 it just doesn't mean quite the same thing. And the States portion means less and less as each year goes by. Washington DC has become America and the hell with the states.
And I don't like it one bit!
An observation by OH.