Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some thoughts on reforms - Version 2

What got me thinking about this was the postings at Capitol Hill Blue. The discussion was based around the phrase, "Follow the money." Which in regards to the GOP corruption scandal involving Jack Abramoff, members of Congress and the Religious Reich, uh, I mean Right, is the easiest path to follow.

Yet it brings to mind some ideas. It was noted on the aforementioned site that Congressmen make $165K a year. That's not bad. Four times the median salary in American, with lots of perqs. I say we change that. First, no more perqs than the average person in America gets. You start out with a week vacation, the median salary in America, health insurance for yourself, and if you need it for the family, you can pay the discount price. No gifts from lobbyists. I think though that there ought to be some freedom for allowing Congressfolk to speak publicly and get paid for it. You know, they get flown somewhere, dined, speak, and get a couple hundred bucks before flying home.

No more voting your own pay raise. If the median, not average, wage in America goes up, so does yours. A cost of living increase, and bonus if poverty is dropped, percentages relative. In other words, drop poverty 5%, get a 5% pay raise.

And then there would need to be a rule for at least House members, and some for the Senate, that a certain mnumber of days not present be allowed. But no call no show rules otherwise, and if you need to get fired, then so be it. You were hired to be a Senator or Representative, and you will do the work or you will be fired and the second highest vote getter, first from the same party, and if none, then the opposing party, gets your seat, until there can be an election so the people can speak.

All laws brought to the floor of either house get posted publicly on the internet a week before a vote can be taken on it. So all the Congress and interested public are looking at the same laws. All lobbyist activities are posted on the net as well.

All campaign financing is public. No corporations can donate. If corporations break the rules, they are closed, the managers tried and convicted, and the assets sold off and given to the displaced workers. Also, any assets obtained by managers at the expense of the company are confiscated and sold. Their family can be provided a stipend from their assets to protect the spouse and children. Politicians face the same. They are tried and convicted, and they lose any assets that corruption has gained them.

Basically, of the people, by the people, and for the people.

I've heard some talk from Capital Hill Blue about a couple ideas I'm not sure of. One is term limits. I'm all for keeping that relative to the President. However, the legislature is another matter. At this point the metaphor I use is that of carpentry. After all, it is not unlike either building or remodeling a house. And what would you rather have working on your house, someone who will never have more than 8 years experience, or someone with more? Remember that to attract those interested in public service we suggested lowering Congressional pay to median levels. Mr. Thompson of CH Blue suggested the median pay of the Representative's home district. That would certainly have a rallying effect to improve many local economies! My fear is it would leave the seat empty.

Another idea I am not yet comfortable with is eliminating the electoral college. I would love to reference my pocket Constitution(yes, I carry one), but I gave it to the British woman working at the bank, who said she neeeded to learn it to become a citizen. For the $1.50 I paid for it, it's a minor investment with potentially large gains. Regardless, Amendment 12 says, "
they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;."

The way I read that is that the Electoral College records the person voted for. It doesn't do it's own voting. They "name," or record, someone all ready voted for. That language is also aplied to all those who got Presidential votes, which further substantiates my point. For the language to stay consistent, the Electoral College is supposed to "vote" for the person the population has voted for. Ans as I recall, it has happened twice in our history that they didn't. Perhaps the last one was a huge corrupt gaffe, but two in 43 Presidents, 10 of which had two terms. That includes Nixon who served part of his second term, and our current President. That's a 4% error rate.

Now were it a device such as I use in the fire service that is designed to save my life, I would not accept 4%. However, America is a grand experiment that is on-going, as we have never achieved all that we can under our Constitution. So I think it is a bit hasty to throw out the electoral college based on a 4% error rate, if we want to call it that, and especially when it comes to human endeavors. Wouldn't it be nice if all our government ran at a 96% success rate?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Right to Boast - Part 1

"When it shall be said in any country in the world, 'My poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty, the streets free of beggars; the aged not in want, the taxes not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of happiness': then may that country boast of it's constitution and government."

Those are strong words. Those are the words of Tom Paine I believe, written during the Revolution. In fact, I believe they were in his tract called Common Sense, where he essentailly writes about the failings of what the British called their Constitution.

What I want to do is look at some of these quantifiers in real terms relative to the United States. There are several, including poverty, homelessness, education, crime, the elderly, and taxes.

First I want to point out two things first. One is the indicators that Paine used: the poor, and downtrodden. Notice that he doesn't mention a middle class working group, other than in the issue of oppressive taxes. He mentions the elderly, the poor, and the beggars. I think this is a significant statement. He does not say they don't exist, or that even under a good government they will not exist. What he does acknowledge is that they will be there.

Second, the condition of those people is reflective of a philosophy that the conservative Tories of the day, and the conservatives of today do not believe in. The liberal philosophy that has been consistent through the centuries is that of government being nurturative. A government that cares. Not that it eliminates the state of being poor. But look at the conditions of the poor: they are happy, not ignorant or in distress. The government is some regard has stepped up to provide for basic needs for these people. No needs to look no further than New Orleans to see how little care modern conservatism has for it's own citizens. Conservatives believe they are the disciplining over lord. Mankind is basically bad. Each individual needs to pull themselves up by their own bootstrap, no matter how difficult the government makes it. The liberal philosophy believes that we need to help each other, and that to a certain extent, the government, and the United Sates government in particular, should step in to meet some of those needs. It's a nurturative philosophy, that believes in the eseential goodness of man. The Preamble of the Declaration of Independaence and the Constitution make this fairly clear.

So on to the detail!

First, the poor. Ah, what a fertile field this is. Especially since the word has slight nuances to it these days. First, let's recognize the Census Bureau's report that acknowledges that poverty rose as a percentage as well as actual numbers of people. Most surprisingly, the increase came in the category of non-Hispanic whites. What I find really distubing is the threshold for poverty. A family of four has a threshold of slightly over $19,000. That means that between mom and dad, they make $9 an hour. There are plenty few jobs in America that are paying $9 an hour with benefits. So that means that for those living in poverty, they are getting health care and food subsidies. So lets look at what it costs to live the American dream.

The median house price, accordinding to the March 21, 2006 USA Today, was $213,000. That roughly requires a wage of $35 an hour to purchase. Not to mention a vehicle, insurances, food, savings, etc. The types of jobs developing in this country are not those that pay $35 an hour. They are the low wage retail kind, according to the Bureau of labor Statistics. The BLS also states that the median wage in America is $44,000. Even that won't buy a house unless two parties are working.

Add to this the reality that more and more people lose their health insurance every year, and poverty becomes a real issue. What we have come to call those that make between the poverty threshold and the level required to own a home in America is the working poor. That class of people that are one disaster away from ruin. One incident requiring care that their insurance doesn't cover, or that isn't covered because they aren't insured and they make too much money to meet the state standards for partially subsidized insurance. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the number of individual foreclosures is up, and those behind on their house payments. These are the working poor. The middle class that is disappearing. The American dream that is turning into a nightmare because poverty is growing, not diminishing.

"My jails are empty." This isn't the America we all live in is it? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the Department of Justice, as of year end 2004 there were "2,135,901 prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails...." That represents less than 1% of our population of 280,000,000+. Two million sounds like a large number. Less than 1% doesn't. And we all hear the horror stories of prison life. What the numbers reveal though is that this population is growing. Violent crimes is up, property and drug related down slightly. According to stopthedrugwar.com, the US has an estimated one fourth of the worlds prison population. Geohive.com has a list of populations country by country, and it lists the US at 295,000,000+, and the world population at 6,446,131,400. That makes the US population 4.57% of the world total, yet we have 25% of the world prisoners? What can this mean?

The first thought that jumps to mind is that our justice system is screwed up. How many of those incarcerated are there for dumb reasons? In other words, how many people are there for small items like petty theft and marijuana possesion? Or are we trying to say that the prison population is primarily serious criminals? And we all know the stories where the guy who kites a check gets 20 years while the murderer gets 8. And how many of those in jail are repeaters? Are we as a society rehabilitating, reintegrating these people back into the world? I suppose when the world they return to is the same slum, that there is a better chance that they will repeat. I think at that point I would have the same opinion: no one cares. And when these felons get out, they are in some states, unable to participate in the system. They can't vote. So legally we bar them from reintegrating to a large extent. But we can certainly take their taxes.

The upshot is, our jails are not empty. They are growing at about 3.4%, according to the Justice Department. So there is work to be done here.

Here ends Part I

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Holographic Conservatives

The Holographic Conservatives
"Meeting our goal has messianic dimensions. It will certainly mean some kind of new world order," he said. "I believe when that time comes, the power of peace will be greater than the power of war, the power of love will be greater than the power of hate, and fullness will be greater than poverty and hunger."

That sounds pretty good doesn't it? A bit utopian perhaps, but no less so than liberal utopia. The irony of it is that this was the comment of Faith Central Pastor Kenneth Ulmer, who leads an Inglewood congregation of 10,000. A Christian mega-church pastor. One of those mega-churches that rely on the taxpayers of their area to make them millionaires tax free.

Okay, the irony is more than that. The irony is that these comments flow from a group bent of evangelizing the world, yet it seems to me that today's current crop of evangelicals are anything but concerned about hunger, or the poor, or hatred.

According to the Census Bureau, poverty has gone up again not just in terms of a percentage of the population, but in the real numbers of people. Simply put, they are the working poor because according to the administration, the unemployment rate is historically low. And then lets look at the current budget and proposals.

So let's look at the cuts in the budget. I'm sure most of you have heard this by now. Medicare, which assists the elderly, was chopped by 36 billion or so. Medicaid, which assists the low-income and children primarily, was axed by 13 billion. These two programs assist mostly the poor. I am aware that groups like The Interfaith Alliance, and Sojourners, and affiliated churches, speak out against these types of budget cuts.These groups however, are the same groups that fundamentalists barely acknowledge as being Christian. They dress up like they are, but the whole fundamentalist argument is centered on whether or not you have a born again experience. Simple baptism isn't enough. Growing up in the church isn't enough. If some of you would like, I can play that role. I still own my four translation Bible, and I know the Scriptures, and could well state my case. So what happens then? The fundamentalists, who happen to be quite close to the Bush administration, say nothing about these types of budget cuts that expose the weak and vulnerable of our society while the rich get futher tax breaks(70 billion is on the table) and the military gets a huge 5% budget increase.

According to the Cesus Bureau, poverty went up last year. It was a rather significant rise apparently. Along with those numbers, since Bush took office, over 6 million people have lost their health care coverage. That's roughly the population of about 24 of our United States. So I would ask Mr. Ulmer, how does the budget actions of the current administration demostrate Christian values? If fullness is supposed to be better than poverty and hunger, why are you not fighting for that fullness now?

Jerry Falwell stated back in 2004, on CNN that "And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord." I have not heard that Jerry Falwell apologized for that comment. Mr. Falwell even wrote an article titled "God is Pro-war." In which he stated Exodus 15 hails(praise, applaud, glorify) God as a God of war: "… The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name." Essentially the article is about justifying supporting Bush invading Iraq, and that Christians can support war.

These are some of the contradictions that I have yet to get good answers on. How can God be the Prince of Peace and a God of war? How is conducting war in His name a sign of the Love He supposedly is? What I see is either a part-time vocation in love and peace, or very limited and conditional love.

The same goes for the comments about love trumping hate, but you can look up Liberty Council's web site and read the defense for not supporting hate crime bills yourself. It all boils down to this question: If these are Christianity's supposed goals, why aren't the fundamentalists willing to work towards these now, instead of supporting an administration that does the opposite, and supporting leaders of your own religion who make statements like the ones I have quoted?

And so my title. I see a lot of confessed light, a "pretty little picture", but no substance. That is not to say that many Christians of the conservative side of the aisle didn't help out in New Orleans. I'm sure they did. They also do things like Toys for Tots during the HOLIDAYS. (Hehehe!) So why do they allow these misrepresentations of their beliefs continue to hog the microphone and misrepresent them? I can only conclude that for the most part, they DO represent them. And after talking to many of them, and continuing the debate with my own family members, I realize that I am close to correct.

Which is why I no longer believe the holographic light.

It isn't real.

Is This The One?

Is this the one?
Supposedly World War 1 was the war to end all wars. Then World War 2 was. Essentially, we've been at war ever since. According to the folk at the University of Michigan, who publish a Peace and Conflict report, there are 18 countries in the world with armed conflict going on. They say that's a low number compared to past decades. And I can certainly be glad to hear that, but the tone of them is the conflict in Sudan, which is wreaking death in mind staggering numbers, and the other is the war in Iraq which seems to be accomplishing little other than guaranteeing future terrorism, and that on our soil.

But, none of those compares to THE ONE war of importance. The one you probably didn't know about, you guessed didn't you?

Thats's right, it's the newly morphed version of the war on Christmas. Mind you, according to the Liberty Counsel web site, the war on Christmas is still on!

But I have been invited to attend the "War on Christians and Values Voter Conference." How ironic.

Here is the introduction: "A war on Christians rages across the America. By attacking Christians, the left intends to destroy the remnants of Judeo-Christian morality."

Now if any of you actually read my posts, I sound fairly anti-Christian. I'm not afraid to say that I think their essentially philosophy of hierarchy, patriarchy, and dualism are dangereous to human beings. Not at all. I'll also throw out the welcome mat. This is America, where the expression of religion, I believe the founders intended an understanding of private expression, is not to be infringed upon. So worship whom you please. I in turn though, have that same right. Which is where the rub comes.

Apparently the evil liberals, and believe me, they are definitely presented that way in many fundamentalist churches, want to destroy Judeo-Christian morality. Hmm. Really.

Now I consider myself a progressive liberal. And for some odd reason I must have misplaced that memo that had our agenda on it. And I distictly remember it said that destroying the Religious Reich's morality(Ha!) was on the agenda just after morning break running up to lunch.

I think you get the picture. Now despite my caustic use of labels, used primarily to generate a response(from which I have gotten none, leading me to believe that Christianity around here is unresponsive, which in emergency medical situations means a very sick patient), I stand by my earlier statement of welcome.

But when I see things like this Conference, I realize that my very liberties are not being taken into consideration. For example, as my invite informs me, "Blasphemous 'Da Vinci Code' movie comes out in May."

Wowzers! How's that for a broadsides! A movie based on a fictional book. I read Da Vinci Code. I thought it was good. It might even be right. But does that change our Constitution? Apparently in the eyes of the Conference promoters it does.

Also, "A Navy chaplain is told he can't publicly pray in Jesus' name," and "Removal of Ten Commandments monuments." Now I partly understand where some of this is coming from, and I could get lengthy on this. But America is not the all-white Christian nation that exists in the fantasies of fundamentalists. It never was, according to the Barbary Treaty of 1797, nor intended to be according to the First Amendment of the Constitution, and never will be considering the "melting pot" of religions that America is becoming. According to a report by Cathy Lynn Grossman from 2001, "There may be more than 6 million Muslims in America today, researchers calculate, based on 2 million people who are formally affiliated with mosques, up from 500,000. They attribute the growth primarily to immigration."

But the most newsworthy finding is the determination of Muslims to make mosques "the platform for full participation in American life," says Ihsan Bagby, co-chairman of the research committee. "The Muslim community is maturing and coming into its own."

So we enter then that zone where we either eliminate prayers, or include all the divinities. Allah, Jesus, Great Spirit, Wakan Tonka, Jehovah, and the list goes on and on to represent all the difference in the indigenous tribes of North America alone, and I think you see how much work would get done after the prayers. As for the removal of the Ten Commandments, I have to ask why it is the Christians are so buggered by that. I would have thought they would be more interested in seeing the Beatitudes posted. But this amounts to the same argument, in that we recognize that the Judeo-Christian code, which is NOT the foundation for our law sysytem, is not the only code to form morality. And as I have pointed out in previous posts, it seems quite lacking and hypocritical these days. I think perhaps the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism would be more appropriate.

Finally, I was warned of this: A federal judge bans "One Nation Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance recited by school children.

Can you imagine? The nerve of actually reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in it's original form? Never mind the fact that most elementary school kids have no idea what a pledge means, or a Republic, or what the symbolism of our flag stands for. So what are we creating here? These kids want to play, and the Pledge is then not a reminder of how great our country is, nor an inspiration. It's mindless, boring, dull. They want to play with the toys and eat the glue.

But did you catch the omission? Not mentioning the fact that the phrase "Under God" was added to the Pledge many decades after the fact? So despite all their rhetoric about liberals painting the picture skewed to the left, here's a great example of the supposed truth bearers doing the same.

Some of the attendees of this Conference "such nationally acclaimed speakers as Senator Sam Brownback, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Tom DeLay, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, Phyllis Schlafly, Janet Parshall, Janet Folger, William Greene, Ron Luce and Rod Parsley."

And these are the discussions:

# Christian Persecution: Reports from the Frontlines

# The Gay Agenda: America Won't Be Happy

# The ACLU and Radical Secularism: Driving God From The Public Square

# Hollywood: Christians Through A Distorted Lens

# The Judiciary: Overruling God

# The Media: Megaphone for Anti-Faith Values

# Jews Confront The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006

# Taking Our Faith To The Ballot Box

Yup. This could be the one. The war to end all wars. The war that denies the truth that all mankind are created equal. That all mankind has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Seems like old territory, doesn't it?

We Are All Scouts

We Are All Scouts
Be Prepared!

That's the Boy Scout motto. I also remember what a Chicago area high school coach used to tell his usually successful team back when they ruled our football division: Prior Proper Planning prevents Piss Poor Performance. Seems they had it on a poster on the way out their locker room to the home field, and like Notre Dame players, all these Catholic boys would lay a hand on it on their way out for a game or practice.

Let's look at Tom Paine's version: "Every generation is and must be competent to all the purposes which it's occasions require."

He wrote these words in 1791, in an essay called The Rights of Man.

There is a reason why we need to consider these words. Our rights are being assailed as we sit here. I posted last week about the move by some corporations to create a "toll" system on the internet. That hasn't changed. "Bush recently directed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to use 'whatever means at your disposal' to wiretap, follow, harass and investigate journalists who have published stories about the administration's illegal use of warrantless wiretaps, use of faulty intelligence and anything else he deems 'detrimental to the war on terror.'"

Welcome to freedom of the press under the Bush administration. Never mind the legality of the administration's eavesdropping, go after those that report it. Intimidate the press, which is already muzzled by profit seeking monopolies anyway. Now you know why KBR, the Halliburton subsidary, was contracted to build new dtetention centers for "immigrants" and other "threats to national security."

And as you may recall, a detainee can be whisked away without anyone being told, without charges being made, to an unspecified location for an unspecified length of time, without legal representation, as this administration has already done to at least one American citizen, as well as many others.

As most of you know, there are horror stories that continue to come out of Ohio about voting irregularities. Florida had them as well in the 2000 election. We probably all remember that during the Iraqi election, the US government established satellite stations all over the US for Iraqi voters. Care to guess what voting benefit the displaced Katrina victims get? They will have mailed to them, if they ask for it, an information packet that explains how they can get an absentee ballot. Not the ballot itself, which is another snail-mail wait.

It is getting easier to believe the words that democracy is under attack.

Those are the rights you "have" in America if you disagree with this President. Has there ever been a generation more in need of being competent to it's purposes required?

Every generation. That means that we, and by that I mean us 50 somethings, are our own generation. My parents are gone, but many of your are not. That is another generation. And then there is our kids. The third generation perhaps, still living on this planet. All three need to do their duty. For our parents perhpas that responsibility is diminishing. But we still have, in my view, two things to do. One is be prepared ourselves, and then tell our kids to be prepared themselves. In this case we need to do what Ghandi admonished: be the change you want to see.

"Every generation is...." Despite the "must be" that follows, it is interesting to note that Paine said that every generation is competent. Is this a statement of blind faith? I don't think so. Paine wasn't given to such carelessness. I think it is a reflection of the simplicity of our system as well as what the Founders trusted in their fellow human beings. Our system boils down to "we the people." As Lincoln said, "...by the people, for the people, of the people...." In other words, WE are the government. WE does not mean professional politicians. There are basic requirements and understandings that are needed. Hence the need for a basic education. But back when the Constitution was written, advanced degreed politicians were not the norm. Havinf an understanding of the Constitution is paramount, and through that understanding, how our government is supposed to work. Besides that, we need to know what civil service is, and have a heart for it. The reason Mr. Paine wanted frequent elections was to return office holders to the neighborhood. That kept things real "of the people." It goes a long way to eliminate special interests.

So we have this competence. We also need to be making sure that we retain it. Our common reference for this is, "Use it or lose." Are we prepared to run this country? To defend it from within? Are we an informed electorate? Let's jump back a paragraph. Have we a readable copy of the Constitution handy that we read and know? The American Bar Association and Oak Hill Publishing have great pocket copies available. We should also be familiar with the Declaration of Independence. Note in the list of greivance about King George that there are commercial as well as political reasons that they "Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do." So beside poetry at the Friday night neighborhood gathering in the coffe hose, wouldn't the Constitution make wonderful topic?

We must be competent to all the purposes....Paine thought we were already competent to some extent. Yet our world is different. But the basics remain the same despite the reams of minutia that encumber our system. Paine isn't calling us to know all the minutia. He's calling us to purposes.

So what might those be? For starters, lets read what the founding documents say. In the Declaration of Independence we read,

" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So how easy is it for gays in our country to pursue happiness? How goes it for women now that South Dakota has passed a law designed to ultimately overthrow Roe. V. Wade? There is almost a dozen ststes with similar laws waiting in the wings. And consider that Missouri want's to make Christianity the official state religion. Apparently they haven't read the Constitution in Missouri. I say that because the ever popular Pat Robertson told George Stephanopolous on George's morning show that Hindu's and Muslims were unqualified to sit on judicial benches in America. Pat was cornered on his statements in his recent book, which he denied making. It doesn't matter if the Muslim or Hindu man was a citizen, had his degree, had passed the bar, and was a qualified individual intellectually and legally. because of his religion, he was not qualified. According to Robertson, only Christians should hold those positions.

So equality is one purpose, and in that framework, the legislation of the land should be framed as such it makes sure that everyone has equal treatment and opportunity. Currently, America is moving backward in that regard.

Our Constitution says,

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Here we have specific purposes. Justice is one. We all know the history of civil rights in this country, which is sadly still an issue. Domestic tranquility is another. This takes on braod applications. The domestic economy for one. National security for another. The above mentioned civil rights for another. Freedom of the press, religion, to gather, and the Bill of Rights that we have which enumerates many more purposes.

Let's not forget that we have the purpose of common defence. Not common domination, or imperialism, but of common defense. For example, I don't consider the 11 tunnels that have been dug under our borders since Bush took office a very functional common defence. I don't consider the locally built X-Craft of the Navy as being for the common defense. It is a craft designed to off-load an amphibious assualt team with minimal detection. So why would we need to land soldiers on our own soil? It's an offensive weapon, not defensive. And having at least 6 different carrier "strike" groups as they are called, each consisting of no leass than at least one carrier, four destroyers, and 2 cruisers hardly constitutes common defense. Now let's bring in the submarines that are armed with nuclear missles of the ICBM class. Hundreds of billions of dollars are required every year to maintain this military. It is well beyond providing for the common defense.

And then there is the purpose of securing liberty. Let's glance briefly at the subject of legislation, and in particular that of the Medicare bill that has now taken effect which provides seniors with their much needed medicines. This tparticular oiece of legislation is an example of abused liberty. The bill itself was left open well beyond the legally prescribed time limit so it's passage could be squeaked theough. It's true cost was deliberately hidden from Congress, as the lead actuary later testified. The result has been a travesty. Pharmaceuticals have no controls. Seniors are forced to make a choice they are locked into for a designated time period. They have been given a dizzying array of choices, from private insurance companies, and the result has been chaos to the point that several states have declared the need for emergency funding for the very medications this plan was designed to cover. And the controls? many predicted that the savings of this plan, touted as 10 to 25%, would be eaten up by the pharmas after they raised the prices. Which of course they did last month. And they could every hour on the hour if they so wish because the plan has no restrictions on price controls for medications. The government can't barter for prices, so the seniors eat the cost themselves. Now I ask you: How much liberty is that? Which body of our government was looking out for the liberty of it's citizens when they ramrodded this legislation through? Do you know how your representative voted for this legislation?

These are some of the purposes, and today we have occasions galore in which we need to fight for our rights. We have not achieved what America can be. We aren't even close in may regards. I would even say that we are no longer the finest economic opportunity available. That dream is fading fast in this country. It may be a sad thing that the very government we have, or more precisely, the very administration we have, is who we need to battle to attain those purposes to which we are called. But those purposes were such that men devoted their lives, their fortunes, and their honors to. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence lost everything: family and fortune. They did that so we could be where we are today. And in my opinion, we are letting that dream slip away.

We are competent, qualified, capable. That is what, by, of, and for the people means. We may need a little "exercising" to get in shape; so be it. We have many objectives towards which we can work, and those just to make sure that the very words that founded this country are true for everyone. It doesn't require that we be masters of every issue. Pick one or two. Learn them. Learn how they fit within the framework of this country's founding documents. Then be the best advocate for them you can be. That will go a long way toward being able to every occasion required by our times.