Tag Archives: congress

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me!

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul.  In 1967, her big hit was a song titled, ‘Respect.’  It was a fantastic song, as were most of her songs.  My favorite Aretha song was, ‘You Better Think.’  Even though it was released in 1968, it really hit popularity when she sang it in the 1980 movie, ‘Blues Brothers.’  The movie and the song are some of my all-time favorites.

Even though ‘You Better Think’ would be an excellent subject for this blog, today it happens to be about RESPECT.  Not just the song, but the character trait.  Do you have respect for anything in today’s world?

When I was young, I was always told to respect my elders.  If an elderly person entered a room, I was taught to get off my duff and offer my chair.  Recently, Grandma P and I were visiting some of our grandkids.  I was making a move toward the chair with the best view of the TV, when my grandson, Spike, decided it would be hilarious to run around me and plop his butt into this chair before Grandpa T could nestle his posterior comfortably in the aforementioned chair.  Coercion and threats did not work to move Spike.  Finally, it became physical.  Spike and I would arm wrestle for the chair!  I cheated and won!  I had to cheat as Spike is one pretty tough nut for a 6 year old.  Anyway, we decided to compromise.  We both sat in the big comfy chair and watched TV together.  I made sure (as the elder!) that I got the biggest portion and most comfortable spot.  He just wanted to jerk the chain of his Grandpa and spend time with me, and I respect him for that.  Now whether he respects me is a whole different ball game.  Time will tell as we have plenty of time to mold his little body into something respectful.

Do you respect authority?  I would like to limit this portion specifically to teachers and law enforcement.  Do you know how many officers have died in the line of duty so far this year?  The answer is 99 officers.  In 2015, the number of officers killed in the line of duty was 130.  Of the 99 officers that have died this year, 44 of them were killed by gunfire.  Does that show respect for law enforcement?  Growing up in a small town as I did, I knew all the local policemen, most of the deputy sheriffs, and practically all of the local highway patrolmen.  They were all great people with wives and kids just like everyone else, just attempting to do their jobs in the best possible manner.  They were all respected as law enforcement and they were all respected for being contributors to our community.

As I was growing up, we were to respect our teachers…..or else!  Three of my six elementary school teachers had husbands that worked with my dad, Big Daddy G.  Big Daddy G did not have to attend any parent-teacher conferences, because the drums of misbehavior beat often and loudly in our small town.  Between Big Daddy G knowing all the policemen, and working with the husbands of my teachers….I could not get away with diddly squat!!  If I went to a drive-in movie 12 miles from our hometown (there were two in opposite directions) on a Friday night, by Saturday noon he knew where I had been, who I was with and what movie was playing.  I digress.  I could not be a teacher today and I admire those that are.  Some of the school districts across the nation are not only turning out substandard students unwilling to learn, but the teachers are at risk of bodily injury.  Every day, an average of four teachers are accosted in the Baltimore school system.  From all indications, this is not uncommon.  If I would have ever been brain dead enough to attack a teacher, I would have had to call the police to protect myself from what Big Daddy G was going to do.  The teachers were right, no questions asked.  The student was wrong.

How about that media!  You know who they are.  Their job is to ‘report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.’  As I am writing this, the latest Gallup poll indicates that only 32% of the population either has a ‘great deal or fair amount of trust’ of the media.  That’s less than 1/3 of the population!  It is also the lowest rating ever given to media in terms of trust since Gallup began polling this question in 1972! The level of trust has dropped 8% from last year.  I am using trust and respect somewhat interchangeably as the New York Times and the Washington Post have slumped to levels only achieved by the National Enquirer and The Star publications.

I witnessed a perfect example of misrepresentation recently.  Donald Trump was making a speech in Ocala, Florida.  Early in the speech, the TV networks were flashing one of those banners at the bottom of the screen while the speech was still going on, saying that Donald Trump said, “If you are not registered, get the hell out of here.”   What he really said was, “If you are not registered, get the hell out of  here and register!”  If you did not see the beginning of the speech, you would have been resigned to reading the banner that was flashed numerous times during his speech telling perspective speech listeners to get out if they were not registered.  How can you respect a media that omits pertinent information, adds fictitious information or generally massages a story to express their political beliefs for personal gain?  You can’t, as the Gallup numbers indicate.  The media is suppose to be the ‘society truth filter,’ and sadly they are anything but that.

For all twelve years of elementary and secondary school, we all began the day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Whenever we heard the national anthem, we sang it with gusto and reverence.  In our town, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were large and very much respected organizations.  We had three generations of my family that all belonged to the American Legion.  My grandfather and uncle were members of the VFW.  Grandpa had fought in WWI.  Never, ever, would we have ever thought of disrespecting these veterans by disrespecting the flag under which they all fought and served.  When I see these people that do not stand for the national anthem and pay homage for the privileged life they lead in this country, because of the sacrifices of others….it makes me sick….and angry.  I have often thought that this country should institute a policy of mandatory military service for males, just like the countries of Israel (includes women), Switzerland, most of the Scandinavian countries…22 countries in all.  Why?  An opportunity to gain maturity, responsibility and direction in making future life decisions.  A dose of discipline does not hurt anyone.  But more importantly, it is difficult to disrespect your flag and your country if you saluted the flag every day, and fought for your country.  In other words, unlike a certain spoiled NFL quarterback, a veteran has ‘more skin in the game.’  While the NFL QB is sitting on his ass and collecting millions, there are military people fighting and sacrificing to keep his freedoms secure for 2% of what he makes in a year.  But, why has the media dubbed him a hero?  What kind of demented media would ever impart one word of praise on anyone that is a selfish, self-serving dickwad.  And now…college teams and high school teams are following this idiot’s example because they feel they are victims of an oppressive society, too.

Do you like the direction our government is going?  According to the 2015 Pew Research report, only 19% of the respondents feel the government is doing a good job, ‘just about always (3%) or ‘most of the time (16%).  This is a far cry from say, 50 years ago when in 1965, about 65% of the people thought the government was doing a good job.  Do you know the last administration that achieved over a 50% approval rating?  That would be between 2000 and 2003 during the George W. Bush years.  My, how things have changed.  This country faces some real problems and some real enemies, and we are focused on political correctness and what bathrooms everyone can use – depending if you feel like a man or woman on any particular day.  How can you respect a government that appears to be lost for direction and unable to establish priorities.  How can you respect a government full of people more focused on getting reelected than of doing what is right for America?  This includes accepting money from special interest groups whose interests are nowhere near to what would be best for the country.  I have said it in previous blogs,  Grandpa T’s Rule #2, “A politician in power is most concerned about getting reelected, rather than in doing what is right for the country.”

So there you have it, readers.  Why are so many organizations losing respect?  The media and the government are less trusted and respected than a crooked used car salesman.  Our teachers and law enforcement personnel are attempting to function in areas that approach combat zones.  We have millionaire athletes disrespecting our flag and national anthem because they feel America is an oppressive country.  These are our children’s role models.

After all is said and done, I do know this; respect is earned, not granted.  If you have lost respect, then you are failing in your job, such as the government and the media.  I am determined to earn my respect, even if it means arm wrestling Spike one more time for the comfy TV chair.

Waist versus Waste

Have you jumped on a scale lately?

Here we are, in that ‘tweener’ period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is the time of year when, confronted with vast servings of cookies, nuts and candies, we just seem to lose control of our ‘well-intended’ diet plans.

In the spirit of this caring and sharing time of year, friends and neighbors love to share homemade gifts – usually more  cookies, nuts and candies.  Grandma P partakes in this tradition.  It has created a vicious cycle of personal ‘weight turbulence.’  This is especially true when Grandma P bakes about 200 extra dozen cookies, with the direct order for me to try each type to assure they are friend and neighbor-worthy.  As she values my opinion, I am obligated to sample each type.  I usually taste each flavor  five or six times to make sure she got that cookie ‘just right.’  She helps me during this process by leaving said cookies exposed on the kitchen counter for easy access.  This is the same concept as the check-out lines in Walmart that are stocked with items for your ‘impulse’ purchase.  I impulsively eat more cookies.

Friends, family and neighbors also want to socialize during this time of the year.  (My opinion is this is done so they get their ticket punched, and do not have to do it again for the New Year!)  These gatherings usually entail adult beverages, cookies, nuts, candies and other assorted desserts to ensure that cardiac care centers remain in business!

Taking all of these items into consideration and combining them with my recent exposure to a twenty-eight day ‘all you can eat’ bacon buffet, you begin to understand my weight gain dilemma and  challenges.

But, just when the world appears its darkest and gloomiest, it is human nature to look at those less fortunate and say, “I guess I don’t have it so bad.”

And therein lies the light at the end of the tunnel!  Just when I thought that my pending weight gain was unstoppable and incorrigible, that magical, inevitable  “I guess I don’t have it so bad” epiphany. (What Oprah Winfrey calls “an ah-ha moment.”)  Even though I may put on a few pounds, this organization has virtually increased its ‘weight’ almost five times during my lifetime!

What is it, you ask?  The size of the President’s Cabinet, and the Cabinet level staff! 

An explanation is necessary.  I researched the material for this post on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.  The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was the prelude to the largest single event to affect the United States and the world in the last 100 years, World War II.  (If you disagree, just imagine the ramifications to the world and the U.S. if we would have lost!)

I was curious as to how many members there were in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1940 cabinet.  This would have been the cabinet that was responsible for America’s large contribution to winning that war.  Have a guess?  The number of members of the 1940 FDR cabinet was eleven.  This 1940 cabinet was comprised of:  Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Attorney General, Postmaster General, Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor.

FDR was a smart guy.  He foresaw the events in Europe unfolding in the late 30s, and  he surmised that America, regardless of her isolationist sentiment, would eventually get involved.  He selected his cabinet members wisely.  He valued experience.  Two of his cabinet members served all thirteen years of his term as President.

His most interesting choice and his most remarkable choice was Henry L. Stimson as Secretary of War.  Firstly, Stimson was a Republican.  No harm in that, as the current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel is also a Republican serving a Democrat POTUS.  Stimson was appointed Secretary of War in July of 1940 at the age of 73!  Why Stimson?  ( A question for my trivia team!)  He was selected because he was the Secretary of War during World War I in the Taft administration!  During WWII, Stimson directed the expansion of the military, managing the conscription and training of 13 million soldiers and airmen.  He also was responsible for the purchase and transportation to battlefields of 30% of the nation’s industrial output.

What a patriot!  At the time in his life when most retired, Henry Stimson stepped up to the plate to help his country.  He did this at an age that was greater than the average life expectancy of a male at that time.  He lived to the age of 83.

Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, and Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor, served the entire time of the FDR presidency.  Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. both served eleven years.  One FDR cabinet member had four years experience.  The remainder of the cabinet had five or more years.

In retrospect, FDR and his Cabinet could be called the ‘gang of twelve.’  Fortunately for us and the world, they were educated, experienced and dedicated.  They must have been remarkable to shoulder so much responsibility,  as we won the war.

Do you know how many members there currently are in the 2012 Obama Cabinet?  There are twenty-two members.  That is double what FDR had in his Cabinet just 73 years ago.  Just like my weight, it gets bigger; and just like the commercials on TV….but wait, there’s more!  There are an additional twenty-nine Czars, many of them with Cabinet-level standing.  This adds up to fifty-one Cabinet members and Czars.   That is over five times the number of people FDR had to win World War II!  Now who has put on the weight?

Most of these current Cabinet members have been appointed recently.  Most were appointed following the 2012 election, but there are some that have been appointed after 2012, as their predecessors resigned.  John Kerry replacing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State would be an example.  Suffice it to say that the eleven members of the FDR administration would far and away exceed the existing twenty-two Cabinet members in experience. It appears that Cabinet membership has become a revolving door to ‘get one’s ticket punched’ on the way to a better position.  The dedication is not as apparent.

There is no doubt that the largest problem for our country is the continuing inability to present a budget, much less make an attempt to balance a budget.  We have not had a budget since this POTUS took office.    Our government is still operating on ‘appropriation bills.’  The next one expires on January 15.  We have another possible government shutdown looming in less than six weeks.  Happy New Year!

The existence of all these Cabinet members and Czars is creating a financial hardship on this country.  How so?  Have the Departments of Education and Energy run their course?  Do we need them?  Do we need twenty-nine Czars?  With the existence of all these Cabinets and Czars, we have people competing for monies to justify their existence and expand their particular agencies.  We are funding people we don’t need and programs we don’t need.  They are doing this with our money!  (We could eliminate a boatload of IRS agents by repealing Obamacare!)

Here is a partial list of the Czars that are currently in this administration:  Energy and Environment Czar, Faith-based Czar, Domestic Violence Czar, Aids Czar, Climate Czar, Central Region Czar, Auto Recovery Czar (Yup, I’m serious.  I could not make this up!), California Water Czar, Car Czar, Government Performance Czar (How would you like to present that report to the POTUS?), Great Lakes Czar, Green Jobs Czar, Guantanamo Closure Czar, Information Czar, Pay Czar, Regulatory Czar, WMD Policy Czar, Tarp Czar, and last but surely not least – Sudan Czar.

I am not exactly sure of the responsibilities of each Czar, but Common Sense tells me we can put the Federal Government on a diet and eliminate a bunch of them.  There appears to be overlap between Czar responsibilities and Cabinet responsibilities.  Do we need both?

FDR and his cabinet were masterful in their ability to shape our country and the world.  They did it with a cabinet of eleven and a President.  There were no Czars.  They were the ‘gang of twelve.’

The fact is, our government is too large and has ballooned in size.  We, as a nation have become much too dependent on the government, at the expense of individual responsibility.  This  ‘plus size’ government is the result.  The people of the United States need to decrease their reliance on the government, and the government needs to be put on a ‘diet.’

As a role model for our government, I, Grandpa T am going to get on a treadmill to reverse the misfortunes of weight gain.  (Right after I am done with my milk and cookies.)

The Popularity of Term Limits versus the Popularity of Ice Cream

If a “man on the street” poll was taken between the popularity of ice cream versus the popularity of term limits, you may be surprised by the results.  Let’s assume that 90% of the public enjoys and approves of ice cream.  (Yes, there are people that do not like ice cream, and I am not going to waste one second of my time painting lawn ornaments to take a poll.)  Did you realize that in our recent history, over 75% of the voting public was in favor of term limits for our elected officials?  Who knew?  But more of that later.

We all realize that without term limits we are inviting many people to obtain unlimited power with other people’s money; specifically, our money.  Also, with people “homesteading” in Congress, new and original ideas are more difficult to obtain, as they are now more firmly entrenched in their “party line.”  They get elected, they build their walls, spend way too much time and money on getting reelected, and regurgitate crappy watered-down legislation for us, the ignorant public.

So, have term limits only been a problem for our young representative democracy?

Our form of government is indeed a baby when in ancient Athens, the 500 members of the elected council were all rotated annually.  The Spartans did the same.  Of course, you can imagine that being an elected official was time consuming, and took you away from your daily chores of making a living.  You still had to tend your flocks, pick your olives, and get ready for the next invasion by those pesky Persians.

The ancient Roman Republic had a system of elected magistrates; tribunes of the plebs (think Richard Burton as Marc Antony), aediles, quaestors, praetors, and consuls, who served a single term of one year, with reelection to the same magistracy forbidden for ten years!

But our country had its proponents of term limit supporters during our infancy.  In October, 1789, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of thirteen to examine forms of government for our impending union of the states.  The proposal from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, urged term limits, or as they called it, “limitation of tenure.”  He proposed this, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress.”  This was included in the Articles of Confederation.  The fifth Article in the Articles of Confederation stated that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate (to the continental congress) for more than three years in any term of six years.

So far, so good.  But what happened?

In contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the federal constitution convention in Philadelphia omitted mandatory term limits from the second national frame of government (i.e). the U.S. Constitution of 1787 to the present.  Nonetheless, largely because of grassroots support for the principle of rotation, rapid turnover in Congress prevailed.  At the time, the public did not want a form of government that was akin to England, that being a monarchy.  George Washington set a precedent for two terms for the presidency, until FDR came along.

But our forefathers were pretty darn smart.  Many of them fought for term limits to be added to the Constitution; foremost among them being Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and George Mason.  They believed that without term limits, our country was susceptible to becoming a “most highly and dangerous oligarch”.  So even though term limits were not specifically added to our Constitution, it was not a problem in the remainder of the 18th and the 19th centuries.   That was because the fear of mistrust upon political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light.  James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, described the common view that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed.”  Holy crap, batman!  Not only did he write the Last of the Mohicans, but the guy must have had a 20-20 crystal ball!

“Homesteading” in Congress  was made possible by reelection rates that approached 100% by the end of the 20th century. This brought about a “term limits movement.”  The elections of 1990-1994 saw the adoption of term limits for state legislatures in almost every state where citizens had the power of the initiative.  In addition, 23 states limited service for their delegates to Congress.  These 23 states were bold and brash enough to correct a problem that even the ancient Athenians anticipated.

So, to change directions for a moment, let us review the current U.S. term limits. The POTUS (President of the United States) has a total of two 4-year terms.  The Senate, House of Representatives, and Vice President have no term limits.  Did you catch that?  The VP has no term limits; so we could still have Al Gore as Vice President!  How did we let that get away?  But now, here is the clincher.  The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected for life, and consequently have no term limits.  This is indeed one of the failings of our forefathers.  But let’s face it; they all lived in a time when life expectancy was about puberty times two.  I am sure they did not foresee Supreme Court Justices fossilizing while sitting on the bench.

Now let us return to the 23  magnificent states that were bold, brash and heroic enough to vote to limit the terms of members of the national government.  “So why Grandpa T”, you ask, “do we not have term limits on our senators and representatives?”  “It was passed by 23 states.”  A very good question, and here is the answer…..wait for it…..wait for it….here it comes; because those term limits were declared invalid by the only group of people without term limits: our United States Supreme Court!  Yes, the people who can serve until an air bubble or lump of cholesterol does them in ruled in May, 1995, in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.  Now does that pass the common sense test?  Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense has just hit negative numbers.

How does it feel to know that just about half the states passed legislation restricting their representation to Congress, only to have the Supreme Court do a WWF smack-down on the voters wishes.  Those Supreme Court Justices in 1995 must not have googled or wikipediaed to find out our forefathers were very much aware of the dangers of not having term limits.  As an aside, today there are 15 states that do have term limits for state-elected officials, of which I reside in one of them.  Now get this, six of the states (remember the original 23?) have since had legislatures that have nullified term limits in their respective states.  Thirty- six states do have term limits for their governors.

In 1994, a part of the Republican platform was to pass legislation setting term limits in Congress.  After winning a majority, a Republican congressman brought an amendment to the House floor putting a limit of 12 years on Senators and Representatives.  The bill got a majority, but not the 2/3 needed, as 290 votes were needed, and 227 were cast in favor.  Defeated in Congress and overridden by the Supreme Court, the federal term limit uprising was brought to a halt.

There have been discussions about limiting the terms of the Supreme Court Justices.  A very good one is to limit them to 18 years, even though they have served just over 26 years, on average, in modern times.  The thinking is that one Justice would be replaced every two years and that every president would be able to nominate two.  This makes too much common sense, and it puts Grandpa T’s tachometer of common sense into red line numbers, so it will never be implemented. Besides, the general public does not care about term limits for the Supreme Court, much less how many Justices there are or who they are.

Some day, there may be another effort to legislate term limits; but it would have to be a very dynamic grass roots effort.  After all,  once you have cockroaches in your house, its damn tough to get rid of them.

I want to thank google and wikipedia for providing me information in less than 5 minutes, that would have taken me 6 hours twenty years ago.

Whew.  All this thinking and writing has given me a headache.  I think I will have a bowl of ice cream.