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January 1, 2014

Happy New Years… maybe…

It’s New Years Eve and, as is the case some years, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year, my life, the state of the world I live in and my impact upon it. I don’t always do this… some years I’m very “New Years Snobbish” and convince myself that this type of reflection should be a daily occurrence and not something reserved for the end/beginning of the year. Those years I consider New Years Resolutions (or even “deep” personal introspection) to be anything from passionate pretense to pandering-preachy-(self)promotion (or at least an excuse for shameless alliteration ;) ). This is not one of those years (next year – or even tomorrow – I will undoubtedly hate myself for writing this).

I’ll start by sharing my basic frame of mind going into the day (and I’ll do it in classic egocentric form, by quoting myself)

I don’t currently recall when or why I said that (other than it was earlier this year) but I do recall how true it rang when I first said it, and I also recognize how much it resonates with me in these last few hours of 2013.

This should not be confused as some fire and brimstone sermon about how we are hurdling toward Armageddon (even if, perhaps, we are). In fact, as difficult as this may be to digest based on that quote, I am somewhat optimistic right now. I’m hopeful because of this other little narcissistic jewel I’m going to drop on you (once again, me quoting me):

See, I told you, I’m little Mary sunshine!

Seriously though, here’s the thing. While I struggle, on a day to day basis, to find much moral, intellectual, or even self-sustaining value in our society, I do continue to be reminded and confronted by acts of charity, compassion, and kindness; and in these things, in our humanity, I see hope for our species. It makes me think that, perhaps sometime soon, before it is truly too late we will begin to act – as a society – as though we are a community; a mesh network of interconnected (and interdependent) people, rather than an ever growing collection of individuals related by proximity… and little else.

To me, this would be the big turning point in the history of mankind (and the one thing that might enable us to overcome the threat of extinction). The ability to see ourselves as being a part of the same team, hoping to achieve the same goals, rather than adversaries competing for the same commodities.

So that’s my goal, or, if you prefer, resolution: To seek out, focus upon, glorify, and empower humanity; to find or build synergies with both my best friends and “worst enemies” for the sake of a common goal we may or may not as yet even fully recognize; and to do my part in fulfilling the potential and promise at the foundation of each and every New Years wish/dream/resolution ever made… to live happily ever after…

December 28, 2009

Caveat Emptor???

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 9:39 pm

I received an email today, along with a solicitation of my opinion about it.  I guess it’s going around (it’s the first I have seen of it)… it is about reforming Congress.  Here is the email… with my thoughts to follow:

Congressional Reform Act of 2009

1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

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.

2. No Tenure / No Pension:
A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

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.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security:
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, Congress participates with the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, server your term(s), then go home and back to work.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans..

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.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

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.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

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.

7. Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people..

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.

8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/10.

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.

I understand and, to some degree agree with, the frustration that leads to this type of “reform.”  This is a clever way to parody the system and call for meaningful change :)

Having said that, in my opinion, there is not much meaningful positive change in the suggestion.  In fact, as I understand it, it would be damaging to the system.

I’ll start with the repeated premise that serving is not intended to be a career.  I would submit that the founding fathers absolutely intended for it, in many cases, to be a calling.  I am quite certain they were aware, upon shaping the constitution, of the value of experienced elder statesmen in national government.

Six years is just about enough time to have a pretty good idea what you are doing on the hill; and then, you’d be gone.  I don’t think I would be comfortable with decisions on major issues being made by a legislature who’s most senior members had been there half a decade and/or were lame-duck legislators.

Term limits, even for the president, were not implemented by the founding fathers (keep in mind that presidential term limits never existed until the great depression and the American people rallied around the guy who pulled us out of it) because they knew that the system of checks and balances, and the freedom of the electorate to choose their representation was the best tool for creating both an accountable government and the experienced elder statesmen that any nation needs to exist in the world of global politics.

In fact, the **ONLY** term limits initially established for a major branch of the federal government were those of the supreme court justices… making the supreme court a lifetime appointment.

So you see, from my perspective, the fundamental premise of this email is wrong… which seriously cuts the legs out of its suggestions.

Having said all of *THAT*…

I think if frank, objective (i.e. not clouded by frustration based on current satisfaction with the people doing the job right now) conversations could take place, interesting legislation could be written on points 3, 7, and possibly 8 (although I doubt it on #8… it seems to my uneducated – legally – mind that we would be treading on constitutionally forbidden Ex Post Facto Laws here; not to mention that essentially, through their agents, their elected representatives, the American people did make those contracts… I’m pretty sure that’s how Representative Democracy works :) ).

Most of the other issues (health care, retirement, etc.) are necessary (in their current form) because without them the transitory nature of the job would preclude quality people from giving up large chunks of their life, usually in the prime of their earning years, in order to serve in a legislative capacity.

When it comes to legislating the laws of the country, setting our national budget, and deciding whether we should or should not go to war (etc.), I think the last thing I would want is a bunch of people that the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies to.

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