What Do You Think?

Charles B. Rangel
Corruption King Charlie Rangel: Poster boy for term limits?

A friend forwarded me a message regarding an act reforming congress containing 8 key provisions. I like most of them, but what do you think?

  1. Term Limits. 12 years only, one of the possible options below:
    1. Two Six-year Senate terms
    2. Six Two-year House terms
    3. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms
  2. No Tenure / No Pension:
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
  3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security:
    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.
  4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
  5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
  8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.
Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

Parts I don’t agree with? Term limits. I agree with Michael Medved that term limits sounds good, but needlessly hamper possibly good congress people who truly excel. A crucial aspect of the American ideal is that we err towards allowing the possibility of wrongs occurring if there is reasonable possibility a right will occur under the same structure. To put it another way: If a law punishing some minor wrong also prevented or excluded some good, that law would be unjust. And so, while term limits would indeed shorten the time of service in congress of many people who probably ought to be there even less time than term limits allow, they would also necessarily shorten the allotted time of those who would continue to be beneficial beyond the limited term.

Everything else I agree with. Congress should never, ever exist on a plane separate from the rest of America. Legally, financially, from beginning to end, they ought to live in the same systems they have created and placed upon the rest of us. This stems from the same root concern that paints convicted unethical congressman Rangel with a severe brush. He considered himself special and above the normal concerns of the average Joe’s subject to his whim, for his immoral self-enrichment and failure to report income and pay taxes, the only reasonable response is ejection from congress. This namby-pamby limp-wristed hand slap isn’t sufficient to convey the extreme levels of anger we feel at his sense of personal privilege. He considered himself above the law. Let Charles Rangel now feel the weight of the law upon his law-breaking head.

Enough of the soap box, though.

What do you think would be reasonable requirements that ought to be placed upon Congress to help prevent their becoming so disconnected as they have?

Simply prescriptions will not be sufficient. Please provide arguments and reasoning behind your suggestions.

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Clinton, Pelosi, Alexi, Obama & Republicans

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Former President Bill Clinton tried hard to get Democrats elected. He was indeed effective, just not so much in how he planned. And he’s no Godfather.

But Clinton’s biggest goof came months before the election. Former Democratic Presidents have made it standard fare to reinvent their presidencies. Jimmy Carter, for example, this year blamed the deceased Teddy Kennedy for blocking his big health-care bill 30 years ago.

Clinton’s reinvention was this: if the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1993-’94 would have passed Hillary’s healthcare bill, the party would not have lost the Senate and House in the Gingrich revolution.

The New York Times tries to tell San Fran Nan she’s not cut out for the job of Minority Leader. That’s gotta be a bitter pill. And they try sooo hard to not offend her *ness in the process. But it really boils down to them realizing they actually want to win, and will give up loads of agenda for the sake of that seductive power.

Meanwhile, President Obama was surprised by the unpopularity of the health care law he didn’t communicate the benefits of to us effectively enough:

Obama said the health care system itself is huge and complicated and that changing it eluded previous presidents because it was so difficult.”I made the decision to go ahead and do it, and it proved as costly politically as we expected — probably actually a little more costly than we expected, politically,” he said.

This encapsulates the reason Obama is no Clinton: Obama is first and foremost an ideologue. Clinton is first and foremost a flirt.

Obama believes in the moral superiority and absolute necessity of his vision of America and it’s government. He cannot change that even to maintain his grasp on power. He is no megalomaniac.

Clinton was able to adjust his ideological moorings post-1994 because his moorings were only to is being loved by everybody and being always before their eyes.

I do not believe an Obama second term is anywhere near a certainty. The 2010 sentiment will still be flowing strong and it will be up to Republicans to keep it strong and to attract more to their cause with a clear exposition of positive reform and real and worthwhile and very necessary change to show they can do more than be the party of No. It’s the Republican’s election to lose.

Alexi Giannoulias, who I had the privilege of confronting face-to-face before he lost his bid for President Obama’s former senate seat to Republican Mark Kirk, apparently gave quite the surprise at this concession speech. I cannot find video of this anywhere and am relying on reports of friends of mine who said that after congratulating Kirk in his win and hearing boos from the crowd at Kirk’s name, Giannoulias came down very strongly against such behavior stating that we ought to respect the office and its occupant.

Mark Kirk, the next day, invited Alexi to a local bar where they drank beers together and discussed politics.

Finally, some in the media think this election is the result of careful and shrewd planning by the Republican establishment. I’m more in the “Republicans only kind of suck” camp, and can report, from inside the belly of the Republican beast, that the establishment of the Republican party is as clueless and wary of the Tea Parties as the Democrat establishment is. It is only by convenience that the ideas of the Republican party more closely align with those of the Tea Party, and 50 years ago it would’ve probably been the other way around.

The PowerPoint slides presented to House Republicans in January 2009 seemed incongruously optimistic at a time when the very word hope belonged to the newly ascendant Democrats and their incoming president, Barack Obama. “If the goal of the majority is to govern, what is the purpose of the minority?” one slide asked.”The purpose of the minority,” came the answer, “is to become the majority.”

The presentation was the product of a strategy session held 11 days before Obama’s inauguration, when top Republican leaders in the House of Representatives began devising an early blueprint for what they would accomplish in Tuesday’s election: their comeback. (Columbus Dispatch)

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels blamed the Tea Party for the fact we didn’t take the Senate as well.

“We didn’t turn up the strongest candidates,” Daniels, who some think might contend for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, said in response to a question about the Senate tally.

That line probably just cost Daniels any chance of a 2012 nomination. He doesn’t get it.

To the extent Tea Party candidates can be blamed for their failures in the elections, they can be blamed for being unpolished. And I don’t consider that quite the problem others may. Yes it’s harder to win when you’re on a shoe-string and have no idea what you’re doing and no who does have an idea to coach you.

Which places the blame exactly where it ought to be: the Republican establishment. Failing to capitalize (literally) races such as the Reid-Angle contest in Nevada will win the Republican leadership no brownie points. The fact that, with as much laughing coming from the purported right as from the left at Sharon Angle, she came within inches of wiping that snide smile from Dingy Harry Reid’s face should be ringing alarm bells all over RNC headquarters.

If the NRCC wasn’t so busy trying to maintain the status quo with statist ideologues and their own ideas of the American dream, we’d probably have control of both houses of Congress going into next year.

The Murkowski/Miller race was another travesty. Obviously, Murkowski is popular, and if she won, she won. But she lost before she won. She lost, and then refused to give in as she ought to have. Give her points for tenacity, but make sure you’re giving her points for lust for power, greed for position, and the helpline number for Megalomaniacs Anonymous.

Further, the establishment of the Republican party has no more to offer most Americans than the Democrat party. More of the same. Blue bloods. Lifers. Idiots who can pass monstrosities and tell us we have to pass it to know what’s in it. People who haven’t earned a real dollar their entire lives.

Sure they’ve got experience. But seeing what experience has got us so far, I’m ready to place my bets on the newbie.

So move aside, NRCC, RNC, and all ye ol’ elephants. There are people here who have good ideas and real experience in the real world (that place that happens outside the beltway that you fly over every so often) who have beat you as surely as they beat all other comers.

It’s our turn.

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MSNBC In Denial

Keith Olbermann in a saner momentApparently MSNBC thinks it is still an unbaised, balanced news organization. This comes as a surprise to me, and based on the latest evidence, it probably comes as a surprise to some of its more prominent staff.

Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely without pay by MSNBC after Politico reported he’d donated to three candidates in the recent elections.

MSNBC appears to be surprised by this, and there is a policy against such private donations.

MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement Friday: “I became aware of Keith’s political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay.”

According to a 2007 summary on MSNBC.com, parent company NBC warns each staff member to avoid activities that “could jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

Fox News talking heads give money to candidates and are allowed to by policy so long as they use personal funds and not corporate funds.

This highlights a major issue I have with the main stream media.

Friends of mine had a banner in their school room that read to the affect Nothing is unbiased.” A good rule to live by, especially for me as I tend to err on the side of trust and amicability. A necessary, but not negative, level of shrewdness is a primary part of what we’d call wisdom. Being aware of and searching out the biases of those we are involved with personally and professionally will tend to enable better relations as there is less chance of being surprised or manipulated.

The main stream media still seems to think they can be unbiased in their reporting of the news when significant percentages of the rest of the world are aware of their 80-90% support of leftist or Democrat ideas.

The goal of a news organization ought not to be a lack of bias but a pursuit of trustworthiness. To be trustworthy that organization must first be self-aware enough to realize their own biases, then be honest about those biases.

If I know where an idea or report or thought is coming from, what perspective it is giving to the story it is reporting, I can form a more accurate picture of the actual event they wish to inform me about.

But even my being aware of their bias isn’t sufficient. They must be aware and honest about their bias so that their bias can inform their reporting rather than detract from it.

True accuracy in reporting comes from being trustworthy and honest more than from claiming to be unbiased.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, whose story on this I linked above, notes that bloggers have been critical of this. I’d say the blogger they’ve quoted was ignorant:

Many media blogs were critical of the MSNBC move, on a variety of grounds. Derek Thompson of the Atlantic wrote that news of Olbermann’s contributions “reaffirms the biases we all knew he had. But does it jeopardize his standing as impartial?”
Keith Olbermann is not impartial. He never had standing as impartial, except possibly in his own mind and those of his employers. His biases were evident every time he opened his mouth, which is part of why his time anchoring for football games was so short. Olbermann is a man particularly and completely engaged in the political side of American life.

And so Fox News’ policy allowing their staff, as private citizens, to support candidates of their choice, allows me to trust their reporting more than I’d trust MSNBC’s reporting for their own policy against such private action.

Perhaps the Inquirers ignorance comes from their own policies, which they are honest enough to post as part of the article:

Inquirer policies and procedures make clear that “staff members may not make contributions of money or time to candidates, parties or groups taking a partisan stance.” Staff members also are instructed to “avoid activity that could create the appearance of a conflict” with their professional duties.

Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., says that while the NBC policy is “pretty clear,” it is also likely to have been “formulated in an earlier time.”

“No one should expect journalists to be civic celibates,” Clark says, “but you can’t put a campaign sign on your lawn or bumper sticker on your car. If I’m supposedly nonpartisan, I shouldn’t wrap myself in public in the flags of partisanship.”

This suspension has put MSNBC in a bit of a bind:

In a bizarre turn of events yesterday, the network gave Olbermann’s slot to Chris Hayes, editor of the liberal Nation magazine — only to withdraw the decision after it was reported that Hayes also had doled out campaign contributions.

Hayes gave $2,000 to Democratic office seekers in Alabama and Illinois in 2008 and 2009.

Olbermann is MSNBC’s cash cow. His ratings are far and above the best on that channel, though they lag far behind his nightmare, Bill O’Reilly of the Fox News Channel. However, MSNBC’s ideas of their own impartiality are so ingrained, they have not considered simply amending the policies to be more in line with our modern reality.

They are focused on the external evidence of an internal fact: Olbermann couldn’t be impartial even if he gave no money at all. And his giving money serves no purpose except to bolster those he supports. His own words and actions speak volumes louder, and combined with his microphone, completely eclipse any need for the confirmation money would’ve provided.

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