Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 1

21 Feb

An article[1] written back in September of 2011 by Rick Newman lists 11 things wrong with Congress. Limiting as list of things wrong with Congress to only 11 took a machete the size of the Empire State building to chop down. Some points on his list I agree with and other sound like the same liberal talking points heard numerous times before. In this series, we’ll break down the 11 things Mr. Newman lists is wrong with Congress back in 2011. Has anything changed? If so has it been for the better or worse? Are any of the points valid or are they just rhetoric? It’s time to find out.

1. Too many rich people

Mr. Newman begins his list with attacking “the rich”. Yes those horrible, people who create businesses, jobs and salaries. Mr. Newman’s contention is they are so rich they are out of touch. While I would agree there are some in Congress who are out of touch with the “common man”, being rich is not a direct correlation. But why let that get in the way of some old fashioned class warfare, right? In the final sentence commenting on this point he states, “Congress may even have gotten richer, overall, thanks to the influx of new money—at a time when America as a whole is getting poorer.”

Getting poorer? What’s his point of reference? Mr. Newman doesn’t say. However, let’s look at some data from the US Census Bureau. According to historical data available [2] people of all races (their breakdown no mine) have seen the median income increase since 2008. Additionally, there was a decrease of the population earning less than $25,000 and an increase in those earning more than $25,000, from 2010 to 2011. Clearly America “as a whole” was not getting poorer at the time.

2. Automatic pay raises

Here’s a point where many people would agree with Mr. Newman. Congress should never, ever get an automatic pay increase. Most of America has to prove they deserve a pay increase from their boss (and their boss, and their boss, etc…) Not Congress though. Unfortunately instead of making a real case, again Mr. Newman trots out more class warfare rhetoric. He does make one very good, valid statement when he notes:

“Congress has voted to forego its annual raise. One bill introduced this year would cut members’ pay by 5 percent, while another would dock pay for every day the government fails to operate. But such token bills come up every now and then, and never garner meaningful support.”

How many times has the American public seen this from both sides. What appears to be one party getting a backbone and standing up for what’s right and good for the country, only to bow and kiss the feet of the opposing side when push comes to shove. And yet we the people continue to elect these same hypocrites back hoping for something different?

3. Gold-plated benefits and 4. Free parking

Mr. Newman lists these as two separate items but really free parking is just another benefit of the elected position so we’ll put them together. Indeed Congressmen get quite a few benefits for their jobs. As noted in the article, their retirement and health insurance is second to none. And we the tax payers get to foot the bill for those benefits. Mr. Newman does give this interesting statistic regarding Congressional benefits:

“A recent study by Our Generation and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, two nonprofit research groups, found that fringe benefits for members of Congress are worth about $82,000 per year—which raises total compensation to well over $250,000.”

Some other, minor benefits are free parking at their job (which lets face it many Americans have) and free mail service. Listing free US Postal service as a benefit might be stretching it though. A 2010 article by Fox News [3] lists some other benefits for members of Congress. While it’s perfectly fine for someone to advance to a position which gives perks and benefits for the job, Congress should never complain about not being able to cut expenses when there is plenty of room from their own, tax payer supplied, benefits to do so.

Tomorrow we will look at another set of Mr. Newman’s 11 things wrong with Congress.

References –

  1. 11 Things Wrong With Congress – US News
  2. Historical Income Tables: People – US Census Bureau (Microsoft Excel File)
  3. How Are the Benefits? For Members of Congress, Not Too Shabby – Fox News
  4. Rick Newman Bio
Advertisements

Friday Funny – Yankee Judging a Texas Chili Cook-off

15 Feb

Yankee Judging a Texas Chili Cook-off
Please note, Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Boston.

Frank: ‘Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing right there at the judge’s table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge #3.

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

CHILI # 1 – MIKE’S MANIAC MONSTER CHILI

Judge # 1 — A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 — Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 (Frank) — Holy crap, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.

CHILI # 2 – AUSTIN’S AFTERBURNER CHILI

Judge # 1 — Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 — Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 — Warning! Danger! Keep this out of the reach of children. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

CHILI # 3 – FRED’S FAMOUS BURN DOWN THE BARN CHILI

Judge # 1 — Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
Judge # 2 — A bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge # 3 — Call the EPA. I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced from all of the beer.

CHILI # 4 – BUBBA’S BLACK MAGIC

Judge # 1 — Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 — Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 — I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. bitch is starting to look HOT … just like this nuclear waste I’m eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

CHILI # 5 – LISA’S LEGAL LIP REMOVER

Judge # 1 — Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 — Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 — My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili may have given me permanent brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw them.

CHILI # 6 – VERA’S VERY VEGETARIAN VARIETY

Judge # 1 — Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge # 2 — The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
Judge # 3 — My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except for Sally. Can’t feel my lips OR my face anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone.

CHILI # 7 – SUSAN’S SCREAMING SENSATION CHILI

Judge # 1 — A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 — Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about judge number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 — You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing. It’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

CHILI # 8 – BIG TOM’S TOENAIL CURLING CHILI

Judge # 1 — The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 — This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot.. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor feller, wonder how he’d have reacted when we started tasting some really hot chili?
Judge # 3 – -No Report.

Bad Reasons for Laws: Find Out What’s in the Bill

24 Jan

Wrapping up our series is a reason given for just one bill. It is the most controversial bill in modern history and will be debated for years and years to come. It is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Back in 2010 the debate of “health care” reform as the hot political topic. Both the left and the right were battling it out to get public support for their version of reform.

At the time, the Democrats had the majority in both the House of Representatives, 255 to 179, and the Senate, 57 to 41 with 2 independents who caused with the Democrats. While not filibuster proof, all the Democrats needed was three Republicans to join their side to prevent one. The Senate passed their version of the reform bill on December 24, 2009. In March of 2010, shortly before the House was to vote on the Senate version of the bill, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House at the time, gave a  speech at the Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties[2]. During her speech she made the following statement:

Some argue this one statement was taken out of context. However, Pelosi is not the only one who scoffed at the idea of reading the bill before it was passed. Isn’t that right Mr. John Conyers?

It is easy, at this point, to draw the logical conclusion there were other members of Congress who did not read the bill before voting on it. Instead of being knowledgeable about the proposed legislation which affects all Americans, these people given authority willfully ignore doing their job and just vote as they are told by their party. This could not be any more wrong and insulting.

In the end, their choice cost many of them their elected offices in the 2010 elections as the Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. To say it was a lesson learned though would be a stretch at best. While it is unlikely a politician will use the same or similar phrase again, the arrogance and attitude behind the responses seen will likely not change any time soon.

 

References –

  1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Wikipedia
  2. Pelosi Remarks at the 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties

Half Baked: Chris Baker Leaving KSEV, Edd Hendee Coming Back

24 Jan

All I can say is it’s about time! Chris Baker is finally leaving Houston’s KSEV 700 AM radio station. I wrote a piece last year about how I was done listening to KSEV except for the morning show on occasion. Well it appears I was not the lone ranger in doing so.

I was tipped off to the idea Baker was leaving after I saw the piece about KSEV starting to get a lot of attention recently. Apparently people were searching for news about his departure. My initial thought was Baker did something to really upset the listeners of the station and people were, like me, just hoping he would leave.

My initial research didn’t turn up any news, until today. I came across a short, but definitely sweet, article noting the changes coming to the lineup of KSEV talkshow hosts. As my eyes ran over and my brain processed the words ” ” I couldn’t help but feel some satisfaction. Finally Baker and his arrogant, know it all, faux conservative attitude would be gone. It was like a belated Christmas present!

The line will turn out to have Edd Hendee in the mornings (great for the drive into work) and The Mack Show will move to the afternoons. Many people have missed Edd since he had to step down as a show host after the tragic death of his son. He did fill in work here and there and was, as far as I could tell, always welcomed back with open arms. I would imagine the news of his return again will be overwhelmingly positive. I hope it is not temporary though and he will remain on a more permanent basis.

As I have said before, I like Richard “Mack” Machowicz and his unique perspective on events. He brings a fresh set of eyes and a voice to the KSEV team. He did have an uphill battle against competing morning shows like Joe Pags (who is a great listen als0). While Mack has done a good job, there is always room to grow in a new field.

I would have enjoyed an Edd-Mack morning show immensely, a Dan-Mack afternoon show could very well work out better. Mack will get the chance to learn from a seasoned veteran in the talk radio industry. I have yet to see where learning from a mentor is a bad thing. I can see Mack growing quickly under Dan’s tutelage as.

So with some excitement and anticipation I give a and sincere thank you to Dan Patrick. While not everyone will like a host, I honestly believe the upcoming changes will improve the listener base at KSEV. I know it will win me back as a listener. Well played Mr. Patrick. Well played.

 

Source –
Baker leaving, Hendee returning at KSEV radio – Chron.com

Bad Reasons for Laws: If It Saves One Life

23 Jan

Life happens all around us and sometimes it isn’t very good. News of someone losing their life is almost daily occurrence for most people. We all process this in our own ways. Politicians and pundits however take death and spin it to advance their ideology. After all we the people don’t want people to die, or at the worst die in vain do we? No we don’t and if the law they propose saves just one life then it’s worth it. Is it really?

One of the more recent local examples of this reasoning was when “conservative” Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to force women to take a vaccination for the  Human papillomavirus (HPV)[1]. Back in 2007, Governor Perry decided to by-step the Texas legislature and issue an executive order making it mandatory for girls starting int the sixth grade to get the HPV vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Perry’s reasoning was based on “if it saves one life”. Durring the 2012 US Presidential Republican Primary debate, Perry said the following:

“Did we do it right? Should we have talked to the legislature?” he asked. “Probably so, but at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.”[3]

Fortunately the outcry of the public prompted the Texas legislature to create and pass a bill overridding his executive order. Perry did not veto the bill knowing his veto would be overturned by the legislature. While Perry might have had the best interest of the girls and women of Texas in mind, the execution of that interest was almost as poor as his reasoning.

If people used this type of reasoning to create legislation and laws in order to make the world a “safer” place then we would all live in some type of self contained “safe” bubble. People would survive but no one would thrive. Federal, state or other local legislation, laws or even dictatorial type executive orders should never, ever be created or enforced by either political party just to “save one life”. While the emotional outcry for one life lost in some tragic manner seems to demand an emotional response, wiser people know a knee-jerk creation of legislation, laws or executive orders doesn’t bring about real solutions. More often than not it creates more problems than it solves.

 

Resources

  1. Human papillomavirus – Wikipedia
  2. Texas Gov. Orders Anti-Cancer Vaccine – Washington Post
  3. Perry in first GOP debate: ‘I kind of feel like a piñata here at the party’ – KHOU

Bad Reasons for Laws: Have to do Something

22 Jan

For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Sir Isaac Newton was referring to physics when he created his three laws of motion [1]. However, the idea of his third law is seen in many different areas outside of the bounds of physics. Politicians have used this basic concept when they start saying, “we have to do something” to create new legislation in response to an event.

The action of the politicians clamoring to creating new legislation is in direct response to an action from an outside source. The greater the action, the louder the cry to do something. It is an emotional plea to a logical situation. The obvious and most recent example is hearing politicians reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook demanding more gun regulations.

There are other examples though of politicians using the “we have to do something” reasoning for creating and getting laws passed. At the same time America was learning about Sandy Hook it was also learning about the “fiscal cliff”[2]. This was the hyped up financial disaster looming over the country due to previous “have to do something” legislation. Ironic isn’t it? In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union, Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma said the following:

“You have to do something, and doing something requires the cooperation of the Senate, which the Democrats run, and the signature of the president,”

And there it is, “have to do something”. But just by doing something lawmakers, politicians and pundits all fail to remember another law most people know all to well by experience. The “law” of unintended consequences[4], or when talked about in a humorous manner Murphy’s law. No matter who well intended some new piece of legislation my seem, there are always caveats which are not addressed and cause problems later down the road. There are a vast number of laws which are examples of this. One such law was actually an amendment to the United States Constitution, it was the 18th Amendment[5] which created the prohibition of alcohol in the United States.

While the idea behind prohibition was well intended by those of the temperance movement [6], the unintended consequences of creating and passing the 18th Amendment proved detrimental to the nation. The article in Wikipedia notes:

“The police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with new cases; organized crime increased in power, and corruption extended among law enforcement officials.”

In fact the results of the amendment were so bad it was repealed by the 21st Amendment. It was the only time in US history a Constitutional amendment was repealed. While the thought of some people was “having to do something”, the result in that course of action usually result in having to do something again later to fix the emotionally charged legislation. There is a reason the framers made the process of passing laws a time consuming process instead of streamlined one. Calmer and more rational heads will hopefully prevail against the emotionally charged feelings of “having to do something”.

 

References:

  1. Newton’s Laws of Motion – Wikipedia
  2. United States fiscal cliff – Wikipedia
  3. Obama, Boehner try to talk their way down from fiscal cliff – CNN
  4. Unintended Consequences – Wikipedia
  5. Eighteenth Amendment – Wikipedia
  6. Temperance Movement – Wikipedia

Bad Reasons for Laws: Think of the Children

21 Jan

Starting off this series on bad reasons for laws is one most of  us have heard plenty of lately: think of the children! The idea of course is to strike at many people’s inherit desire to protect innocent children. Most people want no harm to come to their children or any others. Children possess the hopeful potential to make this world better than it is and we try to protect and nurture that hope. However, there is a fine line between showing a child as an example for a law and exploiting them for it.

With the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary politicians and pundits began their crusade for or against new laws by pulling on the emotions of Americans. Those against gun rights and those against gun control both have used children to pull people toward their side. However, the most egregious displays has to be when President Obama had children surround him when signing, not a law, but toothless executive orders for more government intrusion on gun ownership.

Children exploited by President Obama for more government gun restrictions.

Agree or not with more restrictive gun laws or rules, using children in this manner is down right deplorable. Later the White House released the videos of these same children reading letters to the President on the issue. I honestly don’t know which is worse.

On the other side the NRA used the President’s children in a video about the President’s hypocrisy for more gun rights restrictions by the federal government. While not quite as bad as President Obama’s use of children, the NRA could have make their point without using directly using the President’s children in their video.

Both sides think trotting out children is a useful strategy in swaying public opinion. Even on more local issues, like seat belt laws. Who would ever be against requiring children to be safe on today’s roads with all the horrible drivers? Apparently in Texas even those who say they are conservative like to use kids. Case in point, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick. While Dan has been conservative in the past before becoming a State Senator, his credentials have become tarnished more and more. In 2010 Dan backed a new law which added three years and over a foot and a half to the requirements for mandatory booster seats for children.

Senator Patrick told on air how lobbyists spoke with him about the “need” to increase the height and age requirements and he backed it “for the children”. This was disturbing to hear coming from someone who champions less government in our lives as their campaign platform.

So the next time anyone comes out and uses the reason, no the excuse for creating or voting for a new law is they were trying to “think of the children” do some research. Odds are it was very likely a bad piece of legislation if they have to resort to stooping that low.