Earth To Congress: Clean Up Your Act!

— This article by Jerry Cates, first published on 18 May 2010, was last revised on 1 June 2013. © Govinthenews Vol. 1:5(3).

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I’m a naturalist, not a political scientist. You may wonder, then, why I’ve devoted my writing skills (limited as they are)–and a huge chunk of my time (which, again, is a scarce commodity)–to publish articles on a website that focuses on politically-charged topics like this. It’s a reasonable question. One that I have had to ask myself over and over.

Here’s a partial answer:  Regardless of my profession, I’m first of all a citizen of this democratic republic. Yes, my citizenship is primary. Without the graces provided by this country’s form of government, my labors would be less satisfying. My work has a noble bent–at least that is my intent–and I prefer that it profit my land as well as my clients and myself. But when this land descends to supporting, even promoting, ignoble purposes, my taxes go for what seems more like evil than good, and that is unacceptable.

My parents came from humble beginnings, the lowest echelons of American society. Their parents and grandparents were fiercely independent folk who typified those who explored the wilderness, populated the mountains, and seasonally plowed the hardscrabble southland of America. My mother, who will be 90 this year, is intensely interested in her roots, and in the roots of my father’s family. With her help I’ve managed to get a grip on the kind of stock I spring from. It’s probably much like that which produced Darrell “Shifty” Powers. Instead of lawyers, doctors, high-ranking military officers, intellectual elites, and lawmakers, my family tree is laden with sharecroppers, preachers, enlisted soldiers, a few low-ranking commissioned officers, and–from certain obscure and admittedly unverified sources–at least one native American Indian. Like Darrell Powers, they lived and died without the trappings of fame or conspicuous honor, unsung and unappreciated by all but a few who knew and loved them.

Though my forebears were a motley crew, they share a common thread. They not only avoided personal subjugation like the plague, but they eschewed hypocrisy by refusing to lord it over others. They were independent thinkers and actors; and had no use for slavery of any kind. They demonstrated Ralph Waldo Emerson’s treatise on Self Reliance in their daily work, were fiercely proud of their country, and cherished liberty and freedom. In short, though claiming none of the credit, they were closely aligned with–and happily numbered among those–who did the heavy lifting during the Revolutionary War and every war that America fought since.

My Father, Howard Allen Cates (1914-1988)…

My father passed away in 1988 at the age of 75. He was a faithful public servant who humbly served his fellow man. He knew the difference between slavery and humble service to a worthy cause, though some, even members of my own family, have misunderstood both his motivations and the nature of his service to his country and his family. Following a military career that spanned 28 years, he returned to his roots, the town he grew up in — a tiny village in America’s rural heartland — where he served as its postmaster for the next 20 years.

He did all that with a congenital physical handicap that affected his legs and feet. A less motivated person might have given up and accepted his fate as a disabled citizen, but he refused to let physical disabilities hold him back. During WW-II, while serving as Air Inspector in the Army Air Corps, he constantly petitioned his commanding officers for reassignment to a combat theatre. They refused, concerned that his physical handicap would also be his death warrant. Instead, he was assigned to safe but isolated posts where few others would go.

Such soldierly sacrifices kept him away from his family much of my formative years. When he retired from the military and took up the duties of  postmaster, I was in my teens. Like all teens, I knew more than anybody else, and the strength of character my father displayed in his daily life was something I alternately resented or took for granted, but rarely appreciated. Today, from a matured perspective borne of years of painful experience, I see him in a different light. In fact, this blog — govinthenews.info — is dedicated to dad, what he stood for, and what he left his wife and children, even if some of us are so self-absorbed that we cannot comprehend it.

His example illustrates to me, among other things, the importance of humble, honest civil involvement. Involvement with a servant’s heart, not asking what government can give to those who serve it, but what those who serve can do to uphold our nation’s most sacred tenets, as described in the U.S. Constitution. And so, as I walk unworthily in his footsteps, I take my citizenship very seriously, and I take my responsibility for representing what my father did for me and my family to the rest of humanity. He was a great man in my eyes.

Not that I’ve been as active and informed a citizen as I ought to have been. In fact, there was a time, not long ago, when I thought citizenship merely revolved around paying taxes and exercising one’s obligations of suffrage.

Silly me.

Recent events, thank goodness, have clarified what should have been crystal clear before. The ordinary citizen, like you and me, must be directly involved in the minutiae of governance–either as gadfly and cheering spectator, by running for elected office, or by taking firm positions on the issues of the day and boldly stating them for all to see. Otherwise the most incredible, ridiculous kinds of stupidity–like the peculiar species of stupidity observed daily, almost hourly, in today’s Congress and today’s White House–take place, and it’s all our fault. Yours and mine.

This nation was created and carried upward by the vigorous, enthusiastic involvement of its citizenry. When we cede our personal services over, to the machinery of political parties, lobbyists for various interests, and a media whose allegiance is to its handlers and advertisers rather than the public it pretends to serve, our government sags downward, into the abyss of folly, corruption, and greed.

Today, though it grieves me to say it, all three–folly, corruption and greed–in our government have reached an all-time high. By comparison, reason, integrity, and sacrifice have fallen to an all-time low. It is time that trend reversed, but the only way that can occur is through the direct involvement of citizens motivated by the same spirit that invigorated the patriots who sacrificed property, life, and sacred honor to bring this nation to fruition.

In other words, it starts with you and me. There is no shortage of citizen-patriots today, just as in the last quarter of the 18th century, when America stood on the doorsteps of a new era of what was hoped would magnify liberty and freedom. In the interval betwixt then and now the flame of liberty and freedom has flickered and, at times, nearly extinguished, always because the citizenry sloughed off its responsibilities and left the tending of the flame to its so-called leaders. As a result, where great advancements in liberty should have been made, mere baby steps have taken place, and at our darkest moments, we slipped backward, into the pit from whence we came.

Congress and the White House Cannot Straighten Themselves Out–That’s Our Job…

If our so-called leaders don’t enter elected office willing, able, and intent on behaving honestly and forthrightly, they cannot be expected to turn around and fly right. Shucks, they don’t even know what “flying right” means, so how could they be expected to “do” it?

You and I have to do it for them or it won’t happen at all. And we’ll only do it by– first –making it abundantly clear that their behavior and their intentions are not acceptable and won’t be tolerated for a moment, then– second –by planning for the next election so that, when it arrives, we will be ready to boot all the dishonest, self-serving, partisan rascals out, replacing them with humble, honest servants of the people who are not beholding to political parties, but who are willing and able to conduct honest, forthright governance, and– third –by taking hold of every legal means available to us to censure, silence, and remove the remaining dishonest, self-serving, partisan rascals, who cannot be ousted from public office at the voting booth in 2010, at the earliest possible date.

We don’t have to wait for 2012, or 2014. We have the rights of petition, recall, and impeachment, and while those rights vary from state to state, every state has procedures for removing elected officials before their terms are up. Elected officials hate those procedures so much that they don’t bring them up. We not only need to bring them up, we need to take full advantage of them and start cleaning house.

We have a lot of work to do. No, not for our personal benefit, but–selflessly–for the benefit of all who come after us. I have two grown sons, and three very young grandchildren, and I do this for them. Just as my father, my grandparents, and their forebears did it for me, my brothers and sisters, and our children.

Knowing this, I cannot turn away from this work even to the point of neglecting my livelihood. Isn’t that what our founders did? Was it painful, and costly, to them? But consider the wondrous fruits of their sacrifices. What of those who will come after us in the next two centuries? Will our sacrifices produce comparable fruit?

And will it be costly and painful to me and to you to fertilize, tend the soil, and nurture that fruit?

Absolutely. You can count on it.

It is part of the price of being free. It is to the furtherance of that end that this article has come to life. You are most likely reading this because you feel as I do. We are part of a huge, silent, sober, and mostly peaceful body that knows where this country draws its greatest strength. Let us vow to use that strength wisely, prudently, and with great care. With it, we shall take our government back from the rank politicians, who have sold whatever pitiful souls they have–and with them their country–to the highest bidder. These answer to another call than the one that is music to our ears. In their deceit, they mistakenly think they are in charge and thus can behave as they please, with absolute impunity.

Let me hasten to say, at the outset, that not all our elected officials are corrupt.

Many are honest, faithful servants, and I salute them. But they form a decided minority. Worse, the temptations placed before them every hour they spend in the halls of government–whether in Washington D. C., or in the statehouses of their respective states–are so powerful as to destroy the strong, even such as they, along with the weak of which we despair.

The surest force for good–acting as bulwarks to fortify their resolve to turn away from such temptations–is a strong, determined citizenry comprised of men and women who encourage, strengthen, and–yes–chastise them when necessary along the way. We must not take the incorruptibility of ourselves or our elected officials for granted, but must insist on constant accountability from everyone, ourselves especially included. Out of our ranks–rather than from the popularly celebrated ranks of privilege and presumption–must come the next generation of elected officials. And when one of our officials falters, as we know must happen from time to time, we must not make excuses, but with all due haste and a fierce rebuke firmly, and resolutely withdraw that individual from office and send in a trusted replacement who has been sternly warned against misusing the authority that public office confers. We have momentous responsibilities within our grasp. We cannot pass them on to hirelings.

Where Are We? How Did We Get Here?

In the 2008 presidential election, as November 4 came nigh, I asked a good friend how he was thinking of casting his vote. I didn’t hesitate to do that. Friends can share views that wouldn’t be voiced to strangers. I was surprised at his answer, and begged his thoughts on his candidate’s views and record as a public servant, but was shocked to learn that my friend had no answers. He was smitten–yes, that is the appropriate word–by his candidate’s style, impressed by his youth, and hypnotized by the aura surrounding him. By the way, those three contrasts applied, either by their palpable presence or notable lack, to both of the final candidates, to the point that the trio became–to many, if not most–the most crucial “issues” of the last days of the campaign.

Honesty and integrity didn’t make the top ten.

Neither candidate would have been my choice. How can I fairly describe these men? I studied both as deeply as an ordinary citizen could, using news reports and biographies written by proponents and detractors. I discounted claims, on both sides, that could not be corroborated independently by factual accounts. By the time November 4 arrived, my supposed “educated” view of both men was so negative that discretion prevents me from putting that view in print.

But the truths about these men are not hidden.

They would be wise to realize that, and accept their fates at the hands of those who chronicle history for future readers.

Nothing will prevent those hands from–sooner or later–writing a thorough, factual analysis not only of their pasts, but of the mechanics they employed to secure their places on the political stage. And future readers will be less biased and more objective than we are. When they read those truths they will see them for what they are and ask the question we, as a nation, were unwilling to ask: What possessed us to even consider putting either of these scoundrels into public office in the first place?

The very fact that the dominant political parties of 2008 had the gall to represent these two men as the best possible candidates, out of all those available and willing to serve, is convincing proof that both parties are beyond redemption.

Still, I had to make a choice, one based on substance, not style or aura. For those like me who insisted on it, substantive elements in the lives of both candidates had been illuminated so well that their essential traits and characters were obvious for all who wished to see them. Many–perhaps most–voters, however, were not interested in the details, and who can blame them? The political machinery of the day, having been left to its own devices, spat out these candidates and fixed their names to the ballots.

We had nobody else to vote for. Oh, we could have written in another name. And wasted our vote entirely… yes, we could have done that.

It must be said that our political system failed us all, as it has done many times before, but this time the failure was of truly reprehensible proportions.

Still, I tallied substance, stood patiently in a long, long line at my voting precinct, and cast my vote with a figurative clothespin clamped firmly on my nose. Contrast that situation with that attending my friend’s visit to his voting booth: To hear him tell it, he voted with a spring in his step and a song in his heart.

So, while he voted for one, I voted for the other. The election could easily have gone either way, but when the votes were counted, we learned who America sided with–albeit by a slim margin–and our nation celebrated the election of the first African-American president in U. S. history.

That, I must tell you, was a milestone of monumental proportions. It mattered a lot to me, even if I did not cast my vote to bring it about.

My grandparents, on both sides of the family, were white, dirt-poor sharecroppers. There is no trace of slave ownership in my family’s history. Quite the contrary: we identified with the slave, the poor, and the downtrodden. We longed, in fact, to see such people elevated to positions of honor and respect. Obama’s color was enough to make him respectable in our eyes, without looking beyond.

But I and most of my family insisted on digging deeper. His color wasn’t enough. He would have to be honest and respectable in his actions, too. This was a man whose campaign on hope and change was widely believed capable of transforming our government into a paragon of fiscal, social, and intellectual responsibility. That government would, he claimed, be based not on deceits of the past, but on transparency and honesty. Who among my six brothers and sisters couldn’t get behind such a program? With great enthusiasm, even.

Regardless of whether I voted for our new president or didn’t, I could proudly support anyone who promised fiscal, social, and intellectual reform, wrapped in transparent honesty. So I was determined to give him a chance. But I am a tough critic, and I can sense–early on–when I’m being played for a fool.

The new administration would have to hold true to its promises. Would it? Time is a relentless judge. Time, and time alone, soon supplied genuine answers to that question.

And the Rest is History?

The material presented here is dedicated to my good friend and all who, like him, have so naive a view of government that, for them, substance pales in comparison to style.  Though our partisan style of government–and all the trappings that come with that gawd-awful mess–is mostly to blame, I must personally accept a certain unintentional complicity for this. Yes, unintentional. That’s no excuse, but it truly wasn’t premeditated. I was simply asleep at the wheel.

Today the veritable train wreck that snooze produced is all too obvious.

Let’s face it: Though our political system failed us, we failed it first. No truly democratic republic can assert that its political system failed its citizens without admitting, simultaneously, that its citizens, themselves, are to blame. We are supposed to be the backbone of our political system. It cannot fail us without our direct involvement and assent.

And lest we forget, failure to get involved is still a form of involvement; it’s as direct a form as if we’d stood at the very door of Congress and beckoned to every ne’er-do-well in the countryside, saying

“Come on in, for as far as I’m concerned you can do with this government what you will; you won’t have me looking over your shoulder.”

One of the responsibilities of citizenship is to be so versed in the craft that you can articulate, to anyone, the elements of participatory democracy. In the past, I’ve been a sluggard in that department. Oh, I’ve indirectly promoted substance over style in my life, but my outwardly passive nature, on all things political, must have given others the mistaken impression that being a good citizen is as uncomplicated as falling off a log.

The consequences of that failing, which is shared–from all indications–by 99% of my peers, run much deeper than we realize. They include, for example, the dangerous polarization that feeds our partisan system of electioneering. That system is responsible for the idiocy of the most recent presidential campaign and election.

My hope is that the words, as here published in this paper, will be compatible with, and supportive of, whatever movements are presently afoot to make up for those past failings. Like many, many others, I’ve seen the folly of my ways, and am much aggrieved.

A Sleeping Giant Stirs…

Like many others, I’ve mistakenly believed that my part in the overall scheme of American government is very small. The crucial part each of us plays appears as very similar to that of a single cell within the corpus of a huge, powerful beast. That illusion leads us to think that we are not individually important. The resulting sense of powerlessness lulls us, and by extension, the body we are a part of, into a trance–of political inaction–analogous to sleep.

Good men and women, being naturally afraid of making mistakes that affect others, shrink from leading their peers, making difficult decisions, and choosing which way to turn when the choices are not perfectly illumined. And because of that natural reluctance to take up the reins of government, the sleep we induce in the beast whose body we compose, would–if possible–be of an eternal sort.

It happens, however, that our very inaction enables the creation of upheavals that awaken some of us from time to time. And, if those upheavals are not attended to aright, more serious upheavals are spawned that finally wake most of us. Ultimately the entire body is aroused to face the mess our sleep has allowed to befall us.

This sleeping giant–whose slumber has now spanned many decades–is today beginning to stir. Have you noticed? Many, still numbed by their attention to commerce and the all-encompassing callings of their trades, have not, but the signs are there. When commerce slows, and the callings of the trades morph from shouts to whispers, the workers turn their attentions from the workbenches to the managers, and soon begin to ask why things are the way they are.

No, we aren’t quite there. The beast isn’t yet awake. But its fingers and toes are twitching. Its eyes sense the dawn through closed but fluttering lids. Its ears, once deaf, are becoming aware of subtle noises. And its brain–though a moment ago lost in dreams of simpler, less important things–grows more sentient by the moment. Those of us who sense its stirring watch as it yawns its first yawn and arches its back, preparing to sit up.

Soon it will arise. How shall it go from there to work its awesome power?

We would be wise to question if we are ready for that hour.

I look for evidence that we are and see none. Instead, my ears are assaulted by poorly assimilated gibberish, parlayed by witty, but uninformed entertainers, some of whom, though bought by one political party or another, masquerade as disinterested dispensers of unbiased truth.

The point is that the sobriety so sorely needed seems woefully absent. That does not bode well for the scene that shall greet our giant.

When the giant of American democracy awakens to sentient consciousness, it will be ravenous for substance, with little appetite for style, aura, or anything similarly ethereal. We must guard it against all forms of bias, especially from egotistical, interested ideologues that do not have the full welfare of the nation as a whole at heart. When our giant opens its eyes, it must see everything in the world about it with equanimity.

Yet, as we should all realize, it is easy–in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness–to mistake the ethereal for the substantive, and biases, forcefully delivered, for deliberated truth and justice. Only dire results proceed from these things.  Let that not be our giant’s fate.  We, the citizens who make up its body, need to attend to its awakening with great care, so that it will not be moved to action until full consciousness is reached.

Then, let us see to its nutritional needs, or its awakening may be short-lived–or worse, it may stumble in the unaccustomed light of day and fall, crashing to the ground, to suffer a grievous, even fatal, wound.

That will not do.

Though many of us greet its rising with eager anticipation, we know how important it is for it to rise on steady legs, in the blush of health, wide awake and thinking aright, ambulating upon well-shod feet, armed with nimble fingers holding and dispensing the medications and salves of democracy in measured amounts.

Our giant is charged with carrying out an awesome task. It must doctor all the pernicious diseases and maladies that have crept into our sacred halls of government, not just a few of them. As it does this, it must act as a paragon of truth, honesty, and lawfulness, behaving as a cautious, wise, and capable surgeon, not as a clumsy, wavering, destroying malcontent.

History bids us pause and worry. Sleeping giants have risen before, and some have done great harm.

The sleeping giant that was roused to action in France, in 1789, was of the latter sort; it led the French citizenry to mount a wave of unmitigated terror that resulted in the public execution of thousands, and to hastily put together one shaky, unstable government after another.

The French Republic paid a heavy price for rousing its giant unprepared, and is paying that price even today.  By way of stark contrast, the giant that awakened in the American Colonies, in 1776, led the citizenry to measured action, and to eventually craft an enduring, constitutional form of government that focused on bringing good to its citizens and to mankind in general. While one has crumbled and reformed itself repeatedly, without lasting success–the other has been stable, and viable, for centuries.

It is true that the giant that gave birth to America also gave birth to two others, both of them slumbering giants that rose up, in the 1860’s, to fight one another in a civil war that nearly brought our constitution crashing down. One of these was triumphant, the other vanquished.

And it is true that the victor of that conflict failed to complete its work, so that the boils and pestilences within our government of that day were allowed to fester for another 100 years. We’ve tried to excuse that failing, but no excuses will do. The giant that won that war, one must conclude, preferred sleep to active reform, and so it defecated upon the spoils of its victory and returned to its bed, leaving our government unable–without concerted, educated, citizen involvement–to flush the toilets, carry out the trash, and scrub the floors.

Inevitably, those toilets overflowed, the trash accumulated, and the filth on the floors of the halls of law and justice thickened to the point that vermin of all kinds found both habitation and sustenance there. Though quiet at first, hiding their presence from all but the carefully observant, they grew more bold until, today, they prance about as though they own the place.

Indeed, they think they do. Many of the most vile of them came in–not through the sewer, the gutter, or the back door, as vermin–but through the front door itself, as elected officials. And there they be this very day, daring us, the people, to do anything about it.

These miscreants are not good students of history, or they’d know what they are up against. We are now witnessing the arousal of the sleeping giant in America, again. As in the past, its behavior, and the results of its meanderings, will be up to us, for we are it. And it will be charged with monumental tasks, including not only ridding our halls of law and justice of every kind of vermin, but of repealing laws that are against the public good, and replacing them with laws that not only serve to keep the now-sleeping giant awake, but that help to focus that giant on the constant, carefully studied and crafted reforms that are needed to keep our government vibrant and effective.

The tiny, but dangerous pestilences that have accumulated within our government like innocuous bits of lint and miniscule pimples, pose enormous risks to our future. These have appeared, to our jaundiced, myopic eyes, as mere annoyances of little importance. They are, we have thought, more easily tolerated than eradicated. Yet, they carry malignant seeds that, if allowed to remain, threaten to grow into the most onerous forms of tyranny our planet has ever seen.

Such malignancies, in the aggregate, challenge our very existence as a democracy. They–not “it,” for more than one malignancy, on both sides of the political spectrum, are involved–must all be swept out, washed away, and cleansed from every government office in the land, from the oval office of the White House, to the governor’s offices of every state, to the lowliest places in our county court houses, and every place in between. But the cleansing must not be done precipitously, with death-dealing force and tumultuous upheavals.

It must, instead, be done deliberately, lawfully, with attention to detail, and with all members of the body working in thoughtful unison.

Let’s be clear on this. The struggle between Conservatism and Liberalism in this country has spawned intolerable excesses in both camps. Neither has followed the high road. Neither can claim to have clean hands.

To restore our government to one that is truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” will require a thorough washing of hands, feet, and other body parts on both sides. Anyone who imagines otherwise is seriously mistaken.

Here’s the rub: As in the 1860’s, we cannot, must not, prevent the giant from awakening, but we have a choice of how this sleeping giant shall arise.

—–It can rise up as a single, unified, thoughtful and benevolent corpus as it did in the 1770’s, and go forth to do great, wondrous, worthwhile and enduring works that will stand the test of centuries to come.

—–Or it can arise, not as one, but as two or more separate beasts, with death and destruction on its menu, as it did in the 1860’s. We must make sure the latter does not take place. No matter how that plays out, the consequences will be so ugly that–as happened in America after the civil war ended–the citizenry will be so sickened and war-weary that we will prefer sleep to continued reform, and the horrendous price we’ve paid to that point will never be satisfied by the delivery of worthwhile goods.

Let’s also be clear on another point. Our greatest enemy today is not some force existing outside our borders. It is not Al-Qaeda, some other Muslim extremist group, or worldwide atheism or economic depression.

The terrorists of 9/11 would have been powerless had America enforced her laws, given due respect to the 2nd Amendment throughout the land, and watched her borders with requisite care. The most dangerous enemy of today is here, all around us, so close we can touch it. In fact, Pogo was right. The enemy is us, specifically us doing nothing.

Unless we recognize that fact and come to grips with it, we cannot hope to do what is needed to fix our nation’s problems in an enduring way, one that will inure to the benefit of our families and their children to come. We’ve been the “me” generation long enough. It’s time to grow up, take on the full mantle of citizenship, and make the sacrifices good citizens have to make to insure they and their nation survives.

Opinions & Logic…

As a thinker, I–like you–have opinions. As a philosopher, I–again like you–try to base those opinions on sound logic. In this writing, my intent is to express a few terse and pithy thoughts, not about individual public servants, but about the establishment of lawmaking as a whole.

My object is to combat the wave of cynicism that is sweeping our nation, so that we, as a body, will do our jobs as citizens so the sleeping giant we represent will awake to do its work unhindered. I mention, in these thoughts, the rights that I believe our public servants have and don’t have, because it is time for this era of lawless lawmakers running roughshod over the citizenry to come to an end.

Once that is accomplished, the rights our so-called public servants have taken for themselves–rights that are not legitimately theirs–will be stripped from them, and they will be publicly disgraced, as they must be. That won’t happen, though, unless our citizens decide they have had enough, and that they are not going to put up with this present epidemic of chicanery any longer.

Though an active, registered voter since 1963, I’m not a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. So, I suppose, to some, that makes me an Independent. But, no. I’m not an Independent, either. That would still make me a partisan.

Partisanship is the scourge of our present political condition that George Washington warned us to avoid at all costs, and I refuse to have anything to do with it. Truth is, I’m just an opinionated old Texan who takes our first president’s warning seriously and avoids any kind of party affiliation. I recognize–as should we all–that party divisions pose the gravest threat to a unified body of Americans working together toward a common good.

In addition, I’ve been taken down the garden path too many times to trust any politician. So I’m wary. But not discouraged or bitter. Life is too short for either of those emotions. And no, the comments listed below aren’t addressed to specific public servants, particularly those engaging in criminal activities.

I won’t stoop to granting those small-minded egoists the attention they crave. And besides, the ones I’d speak to wouldn’t listen to a single voter like me–who isn’t about to fork over what little hard-earned cash I have to help finance their campaigns–anyway. Instead, my comments are for you, the little-gal-little-guy voter like me who goes to the polls, faithfully casts your votes, and doesn’t ask anything in return but honesty, statesmanship, and a modicum of hard work in the service of our country.

Truthfulness. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Maybe it is–the way our politicians play fast and loose with the truth–but we ask it anyway and I hope we never stop. If we do, it’s all over. We’re on the front line. We decide, in a very real sense, who will be in elected office in the future, and we choose who to vote for based on how we think they feel about certain critical issues. I have a few critical issues on my little ol’ plate, and I’ve listed them below.

Food For Thought…

Our votes matter, every one. But while suffrage can be prosecuted as such, it isn’t intended to resemble sleep-walking. When you designate a choice on a ballot, you should know why you chose that individual over the others vying for the same position.

As a voter, you have serious research to do. I hope you are wiling to carry that responsibility out, but if you do, you will be in a decided minority. Many who vote seem not to realize how precious that right and responsibility is. We can, and must, take steps to endow our votes with the power they deserve. No, not power of an artificial or exaggerated sort, but a requisite kind, far beyond the anemic, limp, pallid natures they assume so often today.

Though going to the polls on election day is a crucial act, our responsibilities as citizens don’t start or end at the voting booth. Those responsibilities start, before and during each election cycle, with informing ourselves on matters of state, communicating with our public servants to make our concerns known, and studying the records of candidates and incumbents, to learn how closely our concerns align with theirs.

It never ends, but it peaks during each election cycle, with our getting off our rumps and getting out the vote–not just our votes, but the votes of our friends, family, and neighbors. Yes, we need to help others get to the polls, but that won’t work if, on election day, those others are not registered to vote. We need to help others get registered to vote, too.

Yes, really. If you love this land… If you appreciate the freedoms and liberties you enjoy and want to insure those for posterity, you must join with me and others to make your neighborhood, your family, and your circle of friends and acquaintances 100% registered, 100% active at the polls, and 100% informed on the issues involved in today’s world.

That last one may be the toughest. We cannot change anyone’s mind, nor should we try. But we can move each other to question and noodle things out. That’s enough, isn’t it? It beats the way things are today, so yes, that’s enough.

Are you ready to do that? If you have not already done so, get ready to seize your responsibilities by the horns. But, first, did you vote in the last election? Are you even registered? Some may wonder why I’d ask that question, since “almost everybody is registered, right?”

Wrong.

I was talking to two close friends the other day, both of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens who paid a heavy price to come here. They told me how much they loved this country, the generosity of its citizens, and the liberties and freedoms they enjoy as U.S. citizens.

Then I asked them to describe the exquisite joy they’d felt while voting in the last election. But–instead of the big smiles I expected–their faces fell. They were not even registered. They work so hard–to make sure their family reaps the benefits of their chosen land–that they’d failed to do their part as citizens, doing the most basic grunt labor of all that undergirds participatory democracy.

Sure, they remember how much it cost them to get here–it nearly cost them their lives–but once here they had the impression that was enough, that liberty in the U.S. was something they could take for granted. I suppose that was a compliment, but it was wrongly placed. Even here in the midst of what they believed to be the very bastion of liberty, freedom still isn’t free.

Democracy that isn’t participatory isn’t democracy. It is actually a fraud that cedes the rights of the citizenry to the oligarchy du jour. You know what an oligarchy is: despotic power wielded by a privileged clique. Democracy, by definition, is a form of government in which the citizens play the primary, active roles, and the lawmakers, the elected public servants, serve them.

“Oh,” but some will say, “This isn’t a pure democracy, it’s a representative democracy; the citizens elect representatives to craft, pass, and enact legislation for them. Direct citizen involvement in the legislative process does not occur.”

Do you believe this? If so, you are partially right, and partially wrong.

We do have a representative democracy in America, and it is true that the citizens elect representatives to do their bidding, but it is a flat lie that the citizens don’t have direct involvement in the legislative process.

Yes, you can give your rights to direct involvement away, if you want to, or if you don’t have the guts, resolve, or onions to exercise them. You can do that. And probably 99% of us actually do. But that’s not the way it ought to work. And, for darn sure, that’s not the way you and I need it to work.

The crucial issue is attitude. If your attitude is that government is over your head, beyond your ability or right to be directly involved, you give up your rights to be directly involved, and our representative democracy leaps off the track and morphs into oligarchy or something worse.

If, on the other hand, you accept that unless you do get directly involved you are not being the citizen you should be, and then take your place alongside those who really make a representative democracy function the way it was intended to, by that very act you keep our government on track, and working as our founders intended, serving our citizens the way it should.

Exercising your right to vote is a part of that. But being an informed voter, and communicating with your legislators so that they know your concerns and are being held accountable to you, is just as important.

Bereft of widespread, broadly-based citizen involvement, democracy always devolves into oligarchy, tyranny, or worse. We’ve actually had something akin to an oligarchy at work in our government for some time, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

As long as it seems to be a benevolent sort of little ol’ oligarchy, we don’t mind, but any fool knows benevolence can turn to malevolence on a dime, flipping our entire world upside down. That is why, under the administration of George W. bush, people like me winced when the president kept adding to his power base, and when he choked on the idea of passing more power to the people at every chance.

Sure, he seemed to have good intentions, but isn’t that the stuff used to pave the road to hell?.

It isn’t worth the risk, even with a public official we trust, but that doesn’t seem to keep us from taking that risk, day after day after day, in a trend that has done nothing but accelerate.  Given that trend, it should be no surprise that, today, we are as close to actual, malevolent oligarchy as at any time in our nation’s history. It crept up on us, and caught us unawares, because we have been asleep.

But it is high time to bring this and every vestige of oligarchy–benevolent and malevolent without distinction–in our government to an end. We were born a democratic republic, and we must return, resolutely and defiantly, to those roots. We shall do so, too, methinks, if the people demand it. But first, we must accept the responsibilities that citizenship places on our shoulders.

That’s a tall order. Are we up to it?

I wonder… How many of those who truly appreciate what this land has done for them and their families, have somehow not taken on the responsibility of voting in our elections? Probably a lot more than we think.

One authority recently lamented that the U.S. Census Bureau found only 72 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote in 2004. As many as 55 million voters were eligible but not registered in the 2004 election! It’s not much different today, maybe even worse. We need to know why.

Please, don’t think negatively about these wonderful people. They are some of your best friends, and members of your own family. Ask yourself, instead, why they are not voting. Then ask yourself how we–you and me–can get off our rear ends to help fix the problem, because that, too, is part of the grunt labor of participatory democracy.

They need to understand that “Freedom isn’t free,” but it is up to you and me to tell them, to help them get registered, to discuss and participate in dialogues on the issues and the candidates, and, yes, even to help them get to the polls on election day.

Bones To Pick:

—- Decorum. You may wonder why this is the first item on my list. Yet, without decorum in our chambers of legislation, we can’t expect good law to be considered, much less made. Have you noticed the way many of our legislators treat each other? It is a disgrace. Each public servant was elected by voters like you and me, yet many of them seem to forget that by disrespecting each other they disrespect those voters.

That ought to make you mad. They don’t have that right.  Public servants who cannot be ladies and gentlemen while serving the people don’t deserve to be re-elected. Note my comments on Joe Wilson’s repudiation of the President…

There was a time when statesmanship trumped partisanship. From all indications, that time is long past, but that is the nature of partisanship. Once party comes to the fore, it incinerates everything decent within its reach.

Remember this: whomever chooses to shout and rant, in preference to reasoning and thoughtful consideration, has lost the game no matter how the present skirmish ends. Partisanship, following a party line for sake of partisan objectives at the expense of truth and justice, is a shameful enemy; individual action, on the side of what we know is right, good, real and lasting, is our friend.

We are right to castigate our so-called leaders when they behave as members of a mindless herd; if we have the sanity to avoid such behavior, they cannot lead us an inch. The herd becomes the logic and the motivational force of its mindless hoard; it attracts those seeking instant gratification, but herd mentalities are rather dull of intellect, and the stampede, though powerful, is nowhere selective in what it tramples. Thus, though gratification is instant, its breadth is so narrow as to evaporate with the slightest breath of reality.

Mob violence is of all kinds most to be feared, not only within the ranks of those who oppose us, but within our ranks as well.

It is always time to demand the return of statesmanship to our government. We must do so with vigor, and force, clarity and aplomb. Nothing can so stricken those out of control as a confrontation with another who, with calmness, surety of mind, and reasoned, well-considered words, rebukes them. A scathing denunciation, said quietly–but forcefully–in words expressing unadorned but powerful truths, accomplishes more than a thousand loud, hysterical rants that contain, too often, embellishments of reality, appended for temporary effect.

We have nothing to fear by taking the high road. We are, after all, the people our public servants serve. We are they who cast the votes that bring them to their offices when they gain our trust. We are also those who will yank them out of those offices when they violate our trust. The power is in our hands. We must make it our priority to vote the partisans out, and vote statesmen and stateswomen in. We–that’s you and me–can do it. In fact, we are the only ones who can.

Our leaders–so-called, and I say that advisedly, as though it saddens me to say it, few of our elected public servants act as servants of the people and thus are not leaders at all, but frauds who need to be booted out of office the first moment we get to do so–would be well advised to come to grips with the fact that the people of this nation are getting ready to take their country back.

Back from whom? From them. We may not be making a lot of noise about it, but that is the way a sleeping giant behaves, even as it shakes off sleep and begins to awaken to full state of consciousness. When the awakening comes, prepare for reincarnations of Nathan Hale, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and, yes, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson to rise up and take their places on the stage of current history.

And when that day comes, the clowns who think they have their hands on the reins of this government will learn how wrong they are. How I yearn for that day to come. I see it, I feel it, I even taste it. And it makes me glad.

—- Public Service. Speaking of public servants, I just watched a video of Baron Hill, Democrat-Indiana, pompously exclaiming to a crowded Town Hall Meeting that “This is my Town Hall Meeting, for you, and you’re not going to tell me how to run my Congressional Office.” Hill was replying to a journalism student who had asked why he would not allow her to videotape the meeting (she didn’t, but somebody else did).

Perhaps as a Hoosier basketball hall-of-fame inductee, and possibly because he has been in government since 1982 in one capacity or another, Mr. Hill is too good, too important, and too far above the crowd to have to serve anybody anymore.

I say, good for you, sir; now step down before the voters kick you out of your Congressional Office because, like it or not, telling you how to run that office is one of the most important rights the people have. You, Mr. Hill, are their servant, but you, and a large number of your colleagues in the House and Senate, have forgotten your place in government. [Note that Mr. Hill ran for reelection in 2010, but was soundly defeated in the November election by his Republican challenger, Todd Hill, who received 52.2% of the votes cast, vs. 42.2% for Mr. Hill].

Yes, we have such politicians in Texas, too. Like Sheila Jackson-Lee, Democrat-18th Congressional District (Houston), who likes to insult constituents by taking calls on her cell-phone during her Town-Hall Meetings while speakers on the floor are posing questions for her to ponder [Lee, who was challenged by conservative Republican John Faulk in the 2010 election, received over 70% of the vote, handily winning reelection to the seat she has held in Congress since 1995].

And Raymond (Gene) Green, Democrat-29th Congressional District (also, surprise, Houston), who–though voting against requiring identification cards at the voting booth–now requires attendees at his Town Hall Meetings to show their identification cards in order to enter [Green was challenged by conservative Republican Roy Morales, who among other accomplishments was instrumental in developing Houston’s emergency response center; Green received 64% of the vote to retain his seat in Congress].

And Lloyd Doggett, Democrat-25th Congressional District (Central Texas), who calls concerned senior citizens who attend his Town Hall Meetings and speak out against Obama’s healthcare reform bill “an angry mob” [Doggett was challenged by conservative Republican Donna Campbell, M.D., but won reelection with 53% of the vote, vs. Campbell’s 45%, which still speaks well for Campbell, given the typically liberal bent of the district Doggett serves].

Elected officials who cannot be servants of the people–All the people–don’t deserve to sit in the halls of Congress. Kick them all out, the first chance you get. But to do that, you have to be registered to vote, and then you have to get off your duff and vote on election day.

—-Sanctity of the Vote vs. Voter Fraud. It is all well and good to speak of how sacred the vote is, when we have abundant evidence all around us of fraudulent activities designed to reduce, neutralize, and even deny us the power that the right of suffrage supposedly grants us. Nothing takes the wind out of the sails of a strong electorate so effectively as the suggestion that the votes they cast are worth no more than chaff tossed before a driven wind.

And today, too often such suggestions not only surface, but are bolstered by hard evidence that our votes are either not counted, or are diluted by other votes–most likely contrary to ours–cast by nonexistent, long-dead, or illegitimate voters.

But do you notice, too, that none of our elected leaders has the courage, the moral fiber, the strength of voice and hand, to stand with us and proclaim the sanctity of the vote? There, I’ve said it, though it pains me greatly to do so. None of your elected public servants–not even a single one of them–will protect your right to elect them in a fair and square, one-live-and-legitimately-registered-voter-for-every-counted-vote election.

Most won’t even discuss the subject. For those who will, it is a minor topic, unworthy of serious, in-depth discourse. For them, perhaps, but–please tell me you agree on this–not for us.

For us, my fellow citizens, it should be at the top of every list. Yet, in Texas, for example–the supposedly undisputed bastion of freedom and liberty everywhere–our state legislators won’t even pass a law requiring voters to prove their identity when they show up to vote. What could be more reasonable than to expect a voter to prove they are who they say they are when they come into the voting precinct?

I can only think of one reason why anybody would balk at doing that. If you come in with somebody else’s voter registration, to cast their vote the way you want it cast, you’d probably want to conceal who you really are. Voting rights aren’t transferrable. Especially if the registered voter is already in the grave, never existed in the first place, or isn’t legally permitted to cast a ballot.

Maybe it is true, as some have claimed, that requiring identification will deny certain legitimate voters the right to vote. If that is true, let’s enact legislation to see to it that every legitimate voter does, indeed, get that right unhindered. But if the reason that person cannot vote is simply because they cannot travel to the DMV to obtain an identification card, are we to also believe that same person will be able, or willing, or interested enough to travel to the voting precinct to have their vote cast in their presence? How disingenuous! Do any of us honestly believe such propositions?

The fact is, voter fraud in America has been a serious part of our history for as long as we’ve been a democratic republic. Our election system is the laughing stock of the rest of the world, and if by chance you think that an exaggeration, you simply haven’t done your research.

No, it’s true: many of the other democracies around the world are almost as bad. Almost, but not quite. And some might even be worse. Might, but not necessarily. To tell the truth, the more I dig into this question, the more embarrassed, mystified–and disgusted–I become.

Embarrassed because I once believed, mistakenly, that we were the model for all democracies to follow, when in fact–because we fail to carry out the precious tenets of the constitution under which we receive our marching orders–we are not.  Mystified that somehow we have been raised up to believe that the vote cast by an American is sacred, when in fact it is not. And disgusted by the total lack of interest, by all–yes, ALL–our elected officials, in doing something about it.

Here are some facts we know to be true: The U.S. ranked 139th out of 163 democracies in terms of voter participation prior to the last election. In a 2001 list of the top 15 democracies, ranked by voter participation, the top democracy was Australia (94.5%), where voting is compulsory, and the 15th was Italy (89.8%), where voting is voluntary. Yet, in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, only 51% of eligible Americans voted. Candidates and political parties know that the ones who do vote are weighted heavily toward the zealous and self-interested, which leads campaign design toward a kind of nastiness that lacks substance.

A Rasmussen survey, in 2008, found that 17 percent of the American electorate believed that large numbers of legitimate voters were regularly kept from voting; 23 percent believed that large numbers of illegitimate votes are cast in most of our elections. A later survey conducted by the Congressional Cooperative Election Study group, found that 62 percent of voters believed vote fraud was common, while only 28 percent thought it was rare.

You as a voter, as a legitimate citizen of the United States, should be fighting mad about all of this. It ought to make your blood boil. Yet it doesn’t, from all indications. If we really were mad about it, if our blood was boiling, then you and I, in our seething anger, would have demanded changes, fixes, and protections long before now. I cannot overemphasize how important it is that we tackle these problems, quickly, but properly and resolutely. Are you with me on this?

It is only fair to add, as a footnote, that the more I dig into this question, the more obvious it becomes that combating voter fraud is not something an ordinary, or even a superior, public servant can do for us. Look at the election cycle, and you will begin to see why. A candidate or incumbent who attempts to take decisive steps to stop or even investigate election fraud in the midst of an election is asking to be chastised, severely, by opponents chanting accusations of voter intimidation and harassment.

And, though you may not realize it, our politicians are engaged, in one form or another, in “the next election” throughout their political careers, practically without a break. That’s why none of our politicians support measures that bring voter fraud to a stop, or that protect our voting process from being manipulated behind the scenes.

Is that the last word? Far from it!  It is, instead, a call to arms. You and I must take that torch and run with it. Nobody else will. But, then, isn’t that our job anyway? Whose vote are we trying to protect? A homesteader must guard his homestead. Nobody will–or even can–do it for him.

—-  Campaign Financing. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of the outrageous way our political parties, and our public servants in the House and Senate–not to mention our public servants in the White House–finance their campaigns for public office.

Our “public servants” are bought by and sold to the highest bidders. That isn’t you or me, by the way. It’s the lobbyists, the media moguls, and the influence peddlers with deep pockets who think they, instead of the citizenry, have the right to decide who will sit in the halls of Congress and the White House.

That isn’t the way democracies are supposed to work. Today we seem to think that the amount of money a candidate raises marks them as more or less popular with the voters. Nothing is further from the truth.  What it does is mark them as more popular with the influence peddlers, the exact opposite of what we should want.

You and I are voting in the people the influence peddlers push the hardest, because they are the ones with the slickest, most media-savvy campaign programs. Along the way, the substance of what the candidates really believe in, what they will or won’t do as servants of the people, gets lost in the hype.

I’m not alone. Campaign reform has been a hot issue for years. But it doesn’t accomplish anything of value. Look at the supposed campaign reform projects of the past 20 years, and you will see what I mean. Instead of reforming, they merely made things worse. What we need is serious, grassroots campaign reform that throws the lobbyists, media moguls, and influence peddlers out of the picture altogether. Seriously. Don’t expect our public servants to do this, though. That isn’t in their playbooks, but it should be in yours. Hey, I like the sound of that: THE VOTER’S PLAYBOOK. What’s in yours? Do you even have one?

Which brings up an important point. This material is not funded by anybody, and that is intentional. My out-of-pocket expenses have not gone up because I’ve posted it, so even I am not really “funding” it. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but that I contribute freely as a labor of devotion. It is my way of giving back to the nation that makes me and my family free. In this I seek to emulate, albeit in a very small way, those who helped to bring this nation into existence..

Isn’t it time we held our public servants in the House, the Senate, and the White House, and hopefuls to every level of elected office, to that same standard? I think it is. High Time, in fact. Elected office is not supposed to be a means of enriching one’s bank account. It is an act of sacrifice. Otherwise, it is a fraud.

—-  Obedience. Election to high office confers a high responsibility on those elected. Those come first, not the perks of office that so many of our public servants love so much. What part of that don’t they understand? Why are some scoffing at the laws they–or their peers before them–brought into existence, as though they apply to you and me, but not to them?

Why are some of our senior public servants also the most blatant law violators? And why are those leading the House and Senate letting them get away with it? Why, indeed, are we letting them get away with it? The leaders who don’t stand up for obedience to the law are just as bad as the law-breakers, and ought to be punished just as severely, if not worse. Throw them in jail. Yes, you heard me… Throw all the lawbreakers in jail.

Being law-makers doesn’t give our public servants membership in a privileged clique. That is the stuff oligarchies are made of. Our public servants were elected to office in a democracy, not an oligarchy, yet they act like members of a special class who can do anything they want, anytime they want, wherever they want.

This needs to stop! They should obey the law so well that they don’t even give the appearance of disobeying it. If they dislike a law, they should change it. Until then, doggone it, we should demand that they obey it, to the point that violators should be charged, tried, and treated exactly like an ordinary citizen when they are convicted. Actually, in my opinion, a public servant who gets caught being a law violator should receive harsher punishment than an ordinary citizen, simply because of the way they soil their high office and the name of democracy everywhere. And, by the way, that goes for violating the Constitution, too. Why did I even have to mention that?

Telling the truth and obeying the law go hand in hand. Yet, these days, many of our lawmakers not only lie, they do it without shame. Bold-faced lying in the halls of Congress is practically the norm. It must be a game with these people. Man, this really irritates me…

Forcing our public servants to behave like statesmen is part of my voter’s playbook, and I look forward to seeing the ones who  break the law get what they deserve. Did you know some of our highest public servants are married to lobbyists? What part of “Conflict of Interest” don’t they understand? I have some advice for these people: count up all the money you’ve made in that conflict of interest, and get ready to pay it back, ten times over. We’ve had enough of your kind. Your gravy train is about to get derailed. No slaps on the wrist. You knew better. You knew the risks. Prepare to pay for your crimes.

—-  Goose & Gander, Wolves & Hen-houses. Speaking of laws we like or don’t like, take a gander at the ones that give our legislators special advantages that ordinary citizens don’t have. This isn’t fourth-century Rome, folks, but from the wording of some of the laws on our books these days, you wouldn’t know it!

Make a list of the laws, passed by our legislators, that confer special privileges on them. What gall! How did they get by with doing that in the first place? We need to tell them we don’t like it, and then we need to tell them to rescind every one of those laws. We need them to know that when those laws are off the books, we will be their strongest advocates. Until then, we will be asking ourselves why we should trust them to to do anything right. Here’s my list:

–public servants shouldn’t have the right to set their own pay rates, they cannot possibly take on that responsibility, because the conflict of interest is too great. How stupid can we be? U.S. Citizen voters should have to do that, nobody else. Is getting this right part of your voter’s playbook? It should be.

–Our legislators shouldn’t legislate retirement programs, or health-care plans, for themselves, for the same reason. Is it any wonder they legislated for themselves the most wonderful retirement and health-car plans that tax money can buy? Plans, in facdt, that are not typical of those available to ordinary voters like you and me? Why are we surprised? U.S. Citizen voters should have do to that.  Carefully crafted, thoroughly analyzed and interpreted health-care plans, ones that meet the smell and scratch tests of the voting citizenry, are the only acceptable options.

–Public servants shouldn’t have the right to mandate sweeping health-care plans for the ordinary U.S. Citizen unless and until that legislation also mandates that all of our legislators have to use the same health-care plan themselves. Our legislators are servants of the people. Isn’t it time they started acting like it?

We need to stand up and tell our legislators, and our executives in the White House, that it is time for them to put away their privileged health-care plan in favor of Medicare. And if they have any idea of cooking up another kind of health-care plan for Americans that they are not going to be 100% participants of, they might as well forget it. We won’t put up with it. And if they try to do it, we’ll throw them out of office.  Ask your public servants how they feel about these issues. If they give you the wrong answers, or if their behavior afterward doesn’t match their flowery words, let’s boot them out of office the first chance we get. Furthermore, we need to be noisy in our opposition. Loud. This isn’t the time for sweetness and quiet.

–Public servants shouldn’t have special perks that ordinary citizens do not have. I could just leave it at that, but I won’t. The eight new aircraft that Congress recently budgeted for, to ferry our public servants around in style, are a good example of the kinds of excess that should be stopped cold. But it shouldn’t be necessary to stop such foolishness. Congress should not be proposing and propagating such things in the first place.

Speaking of that, my oldest son just sent me–on August 11, 2009–the following message from his iPhone: “Senator Cornyn and his wife are on my flight. And, as you know, I am on a commercial airliner, not on a private, chartered jet.” Now, the point isn’t that Senator Cornyn and his wife are humble enough to fly commercially–i.e., with the riff-raff–when traveling from Austin to various parts of the United States.  No, the point was simply that observing a U.S. senator and his wife doing so was newsworthy.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s we had a different idea of what was newsworthy. For example, back then, observing a U.S. senator taking excess advantage of position and privilege–that was newsworthy. Today things are reversed, and it’s our fault for letting it happen without raising a ruckus that would be heard throughout the land. How did it happen? Well, you might say we got boiled like a frog. Are you pleased Congress is treating you like an amphibian? Do you know the antidote? Jump, before you get thoroughly boiled. Jump up right now, and say “No more!”

—-  Transparency. Tyrants, egotistical sycophants, and other miscreants with criminal spirits–along with a few naive and inexperienced politicians who simply don’t realize they are playing with fire–pretend to conduct government in the open while hiding their work behind heavy curtains of deceit. Honestly, there are two groups here, but it’s impossible to tell them apart, and doggone it, when it comes down to it, there’s not much difference between them save one is intentionally criminal, doing stupid things, and the other is just plain stupid, and doing criminal things. Both are intrinsically criminal, when you get down to the nut, and both should be in jail–safely out from among the public–where their stupidity and criminality can’t hurt everybody.

It shouldn’t be surprising when these people–from one of these two groups or the other, and we really can’t tell which, because we cannot climb into their minds–run on a slate promising transparency in the government they work in. They love how the public gets excited at the very idea of so novel a thing, and they know how that promise helps them get elected. And, then, Voila! The do get elected, and one of their first acts is to throw transparency out the window. No, they don’t make a show of it. In fact, they–gasp!–hide it, all the while saying, in flowery words, that transparency remains their most importantfs motto, even the word that defines their political career. Do they think we aren’t watching them? Do they honestly think we aren’t holding them accountable? Do they have any respect for the American citizen, or even the English Language?

Well, actually, they don’t, and–what’s worse–we aren’t.

No, we are not watching and we aren’t holding them accountable. They’re getting away with lying to us–yes, that’s what is happening when they promise one thing, do another, and then claim they are keeping their promises–because we aren’t holding them accountable. But of all the promises a politician can make, promising to operate government in the sunshine, where all can see what is going on, is one of the most important.

Don’t believe it cannot be done. I’ve done it, several times, most recently as president of the board of a local volunteer fire department after it had been racked by scandal and official misconduct at the top. The department’s problems were caused by the same atmosphere of secrecy that today marks the behavior of our officials in Congress. I opened all our records to public scrutiny, invited the local media to come in and watch our every move, and instituted strict accountability standards as we sought to right our sinking ship.

That strategy turn the fire department around in record time, and restored public confidence in our ability to serve as we were supposed to. Transparency is always the best policy, without exception.  It worked for me, and it can work for anybody in any kind of governing body, anywhere. I repeat, there are no exceptions to this rule. Not only can it be done, it must be done. Transparency should be the very hallmark of the way our government operates, from the lowest to the highest levels.

So, when a politician makes such a promise and then reneges on it, the lie is all the more reprehensible. Now, some of us dismiss such things as customary, since politicians cannot be trusted anyway. Sorry, that dog won’t hunt with this Texan, and it shouldn’t float your boat, either.

Every time we let a public servant–see, that’s what they are, even if that’s not what they think they are–get away with lying to us, we make it easier for them to lie again. Harry S. Truman said the buck stopped there, we should be saying the lie stops here. Different context for the verb, but the pertinence is the same. The lies need to stop, and only we can make that happen.

Let the people rise up and declare, once and for all, that government in darkness, or even in the twilight, is unacceptable. Say it with me: SUNSHINE! SUNSHINE! SUNSHINE!

Rise up and shout to the rooftops that any politician who promises transparency–as though that were a gift to us from them, when in fact it is their mere duty, as statesmen and honest servants of the people to conduct their work on our behalf in the open for all to see–and who then does everything possible to cloak their work, to hide the real intent of the laws they propose–and the actions they take–from us, deserves a trouncing in the polls at best, and a thorough scrutiny from all sides with a view toward seeking criminal charges for malfeasance and official misconduct at worst.

If we, the people, allow our legislators–and the executives of our government who work from offices in the White House–treat us like fools, then fools we be. It is our job to rise above such foolishness. Be a wise voter. Spread your wings and fly!

—-  Read Before Voting. What’s this I hear about our legislators voting on legislation they haven’t even read? No matter which side of the aisle they are on, our legislators shouldn’t have the right to do that, yet they not only do so, they have the gall to claim that it makes sense. The legislation is so many pages long, they say, there isn’t enough time to read it through. Yet our legislators are–at this very moment–telling us that because they don’t have the time to read and interpret the legislation that they are being asked to vote on, they should be excused from the reading and the interpretation so they can go straight to the voting.

Have you heard anything more lame than that? That has to be among the dumbest assertions ever uttered in the very history of elocution. Only one answer need address it: Any legislation that has to be explained in so many pages and with such complicated language that it cannot be read–much less understood–in an hour’s time by an ordinary voter with average intelligence, should be thrown unceremoniously into the trash, without so much as a moment’s consideration, much less a vote.

Better yet, toss the legislator who wrote it out on his or her ear, too. Then instruct the imposter to return when, and only when, they have a scintilla of a notion about what a public servant is supposed to do. Emphasis on servant…

—-  Rush, rush, rush… Hurry, hurry, hurry. What’s the hurry? Especially when it comes to legislation that will affect us and our progeny for decades to come. Legislation, in fact, that might change, even demolish, the most important pillars of our way of government, not to mention our way of life. If there exist any truisms that can be applied to the way our legislators–our so-called public servants–have enacted law over the past century, it is this: most of it wasn’t needed, most of it wasn’t properly written, and most of it was rushed through and enacted way too fast.

In fact, there is only one reason for rushing legislation through the House or Senate, and that is to push it through before anyone can take the time to read it, and realize what mischief it promotes, and thereupon mount and conduct a campaign against it. The legislative process has, at its heart, the concept of deliberation. Deliberation means weighing and examining the reasons for and against a choice or measure. It means a coming together, a meeting of mature minds, to carefully consider, and then agree upon, a course of action.

It is time that due process became our watchword once more.

—-  Czars? Czars? We don’t need no Stinkin’ Czars! And neither does our president. Our president has the Congress and an extensive cabinet of Senate-approved individuals to provide advice on anything and everything, and that’s enough. More than enough, in fact. Whose stupid idea (with all due respect, it WAS, and IS a stupid idea) was it to bring czars into U.S. Government in the first place?

The blame happens to fall on FDR, the first grand master of opportunistic capitalization on economic and military crises, for he–acting first under the authority granted by the Great Depression (i.e, no genuine authority at all,) then later by the onset of WW-II, brought personal, Executive Branch advisors in–people who were explicitly not subjected to the vetting and approval of the Senate, and thus who were not subject to the scrutiny of the citizenry–to “assist” him.

FDR established ten separate czar roles (and several more that later became cabinet posts), and appointed fifteen persons to assume those roles. His czars headed offices of censorship, war information, war manpower, price administration, defense transportation, war production, ship production, economic stabilization, food production and distribution, petroleum production, and rubber.

In their czar positions, they stripped private industries of their responsibilities and rights, while providing special favors to individuals and companies that FDR approved of. This gave the president enormous power to use as he pleased, without the slightest bit of oversight from the Congress or the citizenry. America is fortunate that FDR was constrained, in that day, by a strong moral code imposed by our culture. Otherwise, we could easily have gone down the tubes while he was in office.

Today that code is a mere shadow of its former self.

The czar approach also gave the president cover, in case anything went wrong in a public way. Thus, FDR’s czars could go forth, do the most outrageous things, all in the name of the president, but without publicly dirtying the president’s hands in the process. When they did something that the public perceived as wrong and abusive, the blame fell on them, not the president whose orders they were carrying out. It made no sense then and it makes no sense now. Of course, it was also FDR who sought–unsuccessfully, thank you, but the measure could easily have gone the other way–to pack the Supreme Court with his own appointees so he could make fundamental changes to constitutional law without the approval of Congress.

FDR’s czars were not needed for anything other than to give him added power and authority, and make the Executive Branch by far the most powerful arm of the U.S. Government. That is far from what our founders intended. But FDR saw fit to circumvent their intentions, and successive presidents have eagerly copied his example.

In fact, every president since FDR has had at least one czar in his administration.

To be fair, three–Eisenhower, JFK, and Reagan–have had but one.

Truman had six.

Clinton, nine.

And George W. Bush–gasp!–had thirty-two, as a result of his opportunistic capitalization on the crisis produced by the events of September 11, 2001. Politicians do that. Give a rank politician a chance to boost the power they wield, and they seize it with gusto. George W. Bush was, by this measure alone, one of the rankest politicians around. But I digress…

The Obama administration takes the cake with 39, as of 8 November 2010, resulting from his opportunistic capitalization on the economic crisis inherited from a left-leaning, ineffective, and bumbling George W. Bush, and an overreaching, even further-left-leaning Democrat-controlled Congress whose actions of the past twenty years created the foundations on which the present economic crisis is perched. Not only has he the largest number of czars, but Obama’s czars wield considerably more power and authority than all of the czars of previous administrations–including that of George W. Bush–combined.

Though many constitutional scholars agree that the appointment of czars circumvents protections in the constitution that are supposed to guard against excessive accumulation of power in the executive branch, the practice has never been subjected to serious congressional challenges merely because–at least until recently–it has not been egregiously abused. Now, with the current administration, we find government overloaded with a whole slew of czars, ostensibly to advise our president on subjects from economy to practically anything the president has a question about.

However, dispensing of advice is not necessarily the primary role of a president-appointed czar. Because they have been given almost unlimited power to enforce the president’s wishes, they are in actuality his “enforcers”, acting much the way goons serve a mob-boss. Clearly, this behavior was never anticipated by the U.S. Constitution, and in this the appointment of czars constitutes an illegal abuse of power and an abuse of privilege. Both abuses potentially rise to a level of serious criminal conduct that is every bit as bad as, and easily even worse than, the behavior of Nixon’s Watergate Seven.

This president has stepped–no, leaped–over the line, and must be soundly rebuked. Worst of all, this president’s czar-appointees have included individuals with questionable backgrounds and multiple conflicts of interests that cast dark clouds over their abilities to perform as simple presidential advisors, much less as disinterested public servants (which they are not, inasmuch as they are not elected to office). Elected officials we can vote out of office. Czars we can do nothing about. That should trouble you, the voter, greatly.

Tell your legislators the czar approach must be outlawed, pure and simple. It is time for clear, transparent, unequivocal legislation against the practice, so that we never, ever, have to worry about this monster rearing its ugly head again.

—-  Illegal Immigration & Partisan Schizophrenia. The number of illegal immigrants in this country has dropped in the past year, but is today at least 11 or 12 million people and is expected to climb the moment the economy rebounds. Since the 1990’s the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. has outpaced the number of legal immigrants year after year. And undocumented workers are now spread throughout the nation, instead of being concentrated in border states, as in the past. My boyhood home town in the Missouri Ozarks, for example, is today an illegal immigrant ghetto, populated almost entirely by undocumented workers who flocked there–over the past twenty years–to work in the local poultry processing plant, the same plant where I worked prior to leaving home to attend college.

Democrats look at the illegal immigration problem and become schizophrenic. On one side, many if not most serious Democrat voters see illegal immigrants as  impoverished people desperate for an advocate, who would likely vote for a Democrat over a Republican if they had the right to vote. Because advocacy for the downtrodden has, since the 1960’s, marked the Democrat message, siding with the illegal immigrant is a natural mode of Democrat behavior.

Ironically, while Democrat legislators claim to work zealously to protect the American worker, they also work hard to capture the allegiance of illegal immigrants, and the sympathetic Hispanic community in general, within their districts. And they do this with full knowledge that every job they protect for illegal immigrants is taken away from legitimate American workers.

They know, too, that the illegal immigrant will be paid less for the same work, will not pay all–if any–of the legally mandated taxes on those wages, and that their employers will violate numerous work-related laws–laws crafted and championed by Democrats in favor of American workers for decades. All this is worth it, they reason, because the illegal immigrant will swell the Democrat voter rolls, and help keep Democrats in power. Thus, for the Democrat, illegal immigration is a kind of law violation that should be protected, even encouraged.

Republicans look at the illegal immigration problem and also become schizophrenic. On one hand, many if not most serious Republican voters see illegal immigrants as violators of our immigration laws who have no rights as citizens and should be incarcerated, then shipped back to their countries of origin. Yet a surprising number of these same voters will hire illegal immigrant tree-cutters, landscapers, home-repairmen, nannies, butlers, and housekeepers, and pay them in cash, simply because such workers charge a lot less than legitimate American workers for the same services.

Simultaneously, Republican managers and industrial moguls see illegal immigrants as willing, eager workers, in possession of a strong work ethic, who can be exploited in factories, agriculture, and other employments, and paid low wages and few if any benefits. Profit margins in such industries go up with the number of illegal immigrants employed, and because the bottom line is the bottom line, illegal immigration is probably viewed, by a majority of Republicans, as a positive good, at least within this narrow context. Thus, for many Republicans, illegal immigration is a kind of law violation that they protect and encourage.

For all their protestations to the contrary, insofar as the illegal immigration debate is concerned, the essential differences between Democrats and Republicans are nil. Yes, for different reasons, and to a certain extent those differences are important. But both groups secretly protect, and encourage, illegal immigration, even when they know that the practice has a pernicious effect on our economy, our national security, our sense of justice, and the rule of law. That is reprehensible, whether done by a Democrat or a Republican, and it should make you fighting mad.

If you are like me, you look at illegal immigration as a simple travesty of justice–both for the exploited illegal immigrant and for the displaced, legitimate American worker–that must be stopped, once and for all. In the past we have relied on our legislators to pass tougher laws and see to their enforcement, but we have been disappointed, again and again. Our legislators give lip service to the project, but fall down on its implementation. Why? Here’s my take:

It happens that, because of the schizophrenia within our government on this issue, our lawmakers are powerless. They are afraid of alienating —!— the Hispanic community, the leaders of industry whose companies are hiring illegal immigrants, and–believe it or not–they are also afraid of alienating the illegal immigrants themselves. Does that suggest that illegal immigrants are voting in our elections?

You bet it does, and yes, we need to clean up our voting registration system, too, to stop that from happening, but that’s another subject. The point here is that your legislators won’t take the bull by the horns on illegal immigration. Only you, the voter, can stop it. Elected public servants are dependent on campaign contributions from deep-pocket sources that believe illegal immigration is a kind of law violation that should be protected and encouraged.

You, the voter, can straighten your legislators out–but only to a certain extent–by voting them out and voting in people who promise to stop the practice, but don’t be surprised if the newly elected legislator takes a lot of time to put together some pretty anemic legislation that gets no support and dies on the vine. That takes the legislator off the hook, without solving anything. But getting off the hook is what elected officials are all about, because their first priority, in our system of government, is to get reelected.

Here’s the deal: so long as the voters equivocate on this question, their legislators will also equivocate on their congressional votes. Once the voters make it abundantly clear that they won’t stand for anyone protecting or encouraging illegal immigration, their legislators will stop doing so, but not before.

And let’s be clear on this: the Republicans are every bit as complicit in this as the Democrats, maybe even more so. As long as illegal immigrants can find work, in whatever industries our legislators protect from scrutiny, and as long as individual citizens hire illegals to do their grunt labor around the house, they will find a way to cross our borders illegally to go to those jobs. Once those jobs go away, the illegal immigrants go away and the problem resolves all on its own. It’s really that simple.

Tell your legislators that you won’t stand for industries allowing illegal immigrants to work in their shops and on their lines. Industries who violate our immigration laws should be penalized double the benefit they enjoy from using illegal immigrants, going back at least five years. And individual homeowners who hire illegal immigrants, knowingly or not, to do their chores around the house should be charged with serious crimes. If we have to go door-to-door with petitions to be forwarded to our legislators, forcing them to craft and pass such legislation, let’s do it.

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