More Than Just Musings

If the words and/or thoughts here strike a chord, feel free to own, expand and share them. Please try to keep them in context.

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Contact: Jim

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THE HOUSE OUR FOUNDING FATHERS BUILT

Two hundred forty years ago Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Monroe and others, built a magnificent house - a solid foundation, three master suites, laundry room in the bedroom wing, family room on the other side of the house, island in the kitchen, patio facing south, etc. But, time has taken its toll on the roof -- the vent roof jacks have cracks, the sheets metal in the valleys has lifted with the wind, moss has grown under the shakes, and the shingles have lost their granules and are torn. In short, the roof leaks in several places - gun violence, health care, wage/wealth disparity, mental health, immigration, elderly care, homelessness, poverty, and more.

Nails, wet patch, and caulking are all temporary solutions, as are raising the gun buying age, modifying the appearance of semi-automatic long guns, banning bump stocks, modestly expanding the data base, reducing magazine size to fifteen or even ten. All are half-of-loaf solutions. (Migratory bird hunters must have a plug in their shotguns that will allow only three shells. We think more of our migratory fowl than we do of our first graders, our teenagers, our college students, our movie goers, our Saturday night clubbers, our country music lovers, and our church goers.)

The roof needs to be replaced, hence The 28th Amendment to the Constitution. It will allow and encourage our elected representatives to make honest decisions that put our country first, their constituents second, and never their tribe above either

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MENTAL HEALTH

The two major issues in gun violence are reasonable gun laws and mental health. To take NRA out of the picture requires defunding its lobby - MAJOR CAMPAIGN REFORM. To resolve the mental health issue will take massive funding for research, medication, some sort of out-patient supervised care, and institutionalized care that is more than warehousing. Unfortunately, the latter, with the exception of the immediate family and a small segment of the medical and social services communities, has no lobby so it will take dedicated and conscientious legislators who put their country first, their constituents second, and their tribe never.

However, It is important to keep in mind that anything done by legislation in any state or in Washington, D.C. can be undone by legislation. The key is to create a legislative environment without tribalism and legal bribery, but with compassion, empathy, and rational debate. Hence, the Twenty Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

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TRIBALISM

It's the money. If intelligent, conscientious, and empathetic individuals, who respect democratic principles, believe in the separation of powers, and support our extensive and spirited freedoms, survive the primary wars, they then must stand up to the insults and assaults of the general election to win a seat in Congress. Upon their arrival at a state house or Capitol Hill, they are greeted by their Democrat or Republican tribes. After being assigned a time at a telephone bank to raise money and being placed in situations where their voices and ideas are filtered and limited by the tribal leaders, they are greeted by lobbyists who graciously isolate them socially, financially, and politically from their causes. Occasionally a veiled threat of primary challenge is slipped in. The newly elected members can now go about establishing their principles and representing their constituents. Fat chance, see Jeff Flake and Russ Feingold.

Remember, the lobbyists control the agenda and the funding priorities. In my lifetime only twice, during the Viet Nam War and March For Our Lives, have they lost control.

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Tribes and sub-tribes

Tribal leaders are not absolute. Within the tribes, subtribes take root with ten to fifteen percent of the caucus. Their power is in extorting the tribal leaders for their essential votes. With these votes the tribal leaders now do not have to negotiate and compromise with members of the other tribe to control the agenda and pass legislation. Two tribes occupy one territory, one controls the water and the other has all the cashew production. All members of both tribes have a genetic defect that requires water and cashews, and both tribes recognize the need to work out a fair solution. In the process a sub-tribe demands that the accordion become the national instrument but a sub-tribe from the other caucus opposes this demand and proposes the harmonica. Everything stops to iron out this issue and they settle on the piccolo. (A hundred years later a contestant on a quiz show is asked to name our nation instrument and responds "We have a national instrument?" When told it is the piccolo, says "Really, what's a piccolo?") Work on the cashew/water bill begins anew, but is again delayed to settle the issue of Uggs or Rockport Walkers as the national footwear. Months go by before barefoot becomes the "people's choice." (Like prohibition, the law is ignored.) Meanwhile, the beat goes on without resolution. All the other issues are put on the back burner, much to the joy of the lobbyists and their patrons who just might have had a hand in the accordion and Rockport Walkers. You think?

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STAGNATION AND NON-DELIBERATION

I have a different take on the answer to our problems of gun safety, immigration, healthcare, mental health, income inequality, poverty, along with a multitude of other issues. The solution is to create an atmosphere in Washington where our representatives owe their allegiance to our country first, the will of their constituents second, and never to their incumbency or their tribe. We can right our democracy by fighting individual battles while people suffer and, as we have seen, die while waiting for change, or we can address the one problem - a stagnant, self-concerned, weak, non-deliberative Congress made so by money, archaic rules, lack of transparency and more money.

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IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING

The slogan "If you see something, say something." coined by the domestic terrorist task force, has been modified by Madeleine Albright on "Morning Joe." She added "Do something."

Just what can you do? Research some of the problems and think about possible solutions,. Think about how many other problems can be solved with the same solution. Attend local discussion groups. Voice your concerns, evaluate the thoughts of others, suggest modifications and solutions, talk about the issues with family and friends and not-so-close friends. Email your representatives. Write letters to the editor, to the pundits, to reporters who write related stories, to people who make the news, to civics teachers, to student activists who hit the news, to organizations for and against your position (Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, NRA, etc.) to local civic organizations, etc. Attend rallies and marches, (They might just be fun. At the San Jose March For Our Lives, we were serenaded by a choral group. They were great.) make a sign, bring some handouts. JUST DO SOMETHING.

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PAY FOR PLAY

No one is saying that the lobbyists are putting money directly into the pockets of our representatives. The dinners, golf outings, use of vacation homes, and free flights get our representatives in trouble every now and then. But, the lobbyists' checks to the campaign immediately disappear into the pot that might buy a TV ad or fly cousin Enos in from Omaha "to help with the campaign." Is it even possible to follow the money and build a case for campaign finance fraud? Probably not, but we can follow the post public service careers of the politicians who receive those campaign contributions.

To understand the process, follow the career of Dennis Hastert, the former high school wrestling coach through the Illinois legislature, through the Republican speakership of the House of Representatives, to being a consultant with the prestigious law and lobbying firm, Dickstein Shapiro, to being a victim of extortion (one of his victims, some irony), to being exposed as the child molester who paid $1.7m in hush money -- $50,000 every six weeks -- between 2010 and 2014. Hastert spent 42 years in public service - teaching in 1965, to retiring Speaker in 2007. Three years before his retirement, 2004, he had a net worth of $496,503. Eight years after he retires, 2015, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives had an estimated net worth of between $3m and $17m.

With the exception of molestation and extortion, this is not an unfamiliar career path.

Take him at his word. In April 2018, to a group of 1,500 bankers, Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Protection Bureau and head of the Office of Management and Budget said, "If you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you."

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ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

Health care, mental health care, gun violence, wages/wealth disparity, the environment, education, racism, poverty, foreign policy, the electoral college, gerrymandering, lack of transparency, free and fair elections, individual freedoms, and a host of other important issues - are the problems but not the root of the problem.

What if we sent Representatives and Senators to Washington who were intelligent, sincere, compassionate, and knowledgeable and had strength of character? (I think in many cases we do.)

What if these representatives were not immediately compromised by their tribes, Democratic or Republican, by being assigned to a telephone bank to raise funds, by being placed on committees irrelevant to their mission, and by being beguiled by lobbyists with money, promises of future rewards, and more money.

What then would be on the legislative agenda in the House and Senate?

Would the legislative priorities change. Would issues of importance crowd out the forty-three votes to terminate Obamacare.

What legislation would be passed into law before the next round of elections?

What if we passed a 28th Amendment to the Constitution ( THEYCANTWECAN.COM , a rough draft) that would invite these types of candidates, demand transparency, eliminate gerrymandering, encourage voter participation, and take the money out of politics?

So, why fight the fight on a dozen, or two dozen, or five dozen worthy issues on a range from the environment to gun violence when we could focus on the root -- a non-deliberative Congress corrupted by corporate America and other self-serving interests - by passing the 28th Amendment.

Google THEYCANTWECAN.COM. Make suggestions. Forward it to the concerned and the not-so-concerned. If you see something, say something and D0 SOMETHING.

OUR SALVATION IS IN RESCUING CONGRESS FROM ITSELF.

The true balance of power really depends on a Congress being a deliberative body that responds to reason not campaign contributions, that respects "regular order" not tribal demands, and that places its country first, its constituents second, and its tribe never. There was a time when we could suffer a President's erratic behavior because Congress would right the ship, when an off-the-rails Congress could be slapped down with a veto. And, we always had a Supreme Court to pull us out of the fire.

What happened?

Greed, permitted and encouraged by tribalism, has destroyed Congress's deliberative process, removing one of the checks. The nuclear option when appointing judges for life could obliterate another. (Who besides five Supreme Court Justices thinks that corporations are citizens.) The Presidential veto is all that remains but a non-deliberative Congress racked with tribalism cannot or does not want to put a bill on the President's desk that solves a problem without creating problems. (The recent tax bill widened the wage/wealth gap, busted the budget, added to a trillion to the national debt, and drained the pot that would pay for much needed infrastructure that generates good-paying jobs.)

Large tax breaks for corporations increases dividends for stockholders and inspires stock buybacks that increases the value of the stock, thereby widening the wage/wealth gap. The wealthy will survive and may even thrive in the downturns to come. The middle class will be burdened for generations. May God help the minimum-wage poor, the sick, the mentally ill, and the elderly.

Where is the "balance" in the checks and balances designed by our Founding Fathers? It is in the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

 

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