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THE DAY OF THE "CITIZEN LEGISLATOR" IS OVER
01/30/2020 8:24 PM
My topic today is term limits. We as a nation risk a de facto oligarchy if we continue to allow people to stay in office for over 30 years. The longest serving senator was Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). He served from Jan 3, 1959-Jun 28, 2010, that's over 51 years. The longest serving congressman was Congressman John David Dingell (D-MI), who served for over 59 years. Congressman Dingell's biography says he was first elected to the 84th Congress by special election (1955) to fill the vacancy left by the death of his father. Terms of this length are careers in politics, not public service. The trend cited on page 6 of the "Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2019 (Updated January 3, 2019)", Figure 1, shows an increase in the average time of prior service in chambers for both the House and Senate. The complete report can be found at, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41545.pdf. The examples above could certainly be considered outliers most definitely, however I am more concerned about the trend cited in the study done by the Congressional Research Service. According to the report, the day of the "citizen legislator" is over. The legislators had full time non-political employment and served part-time over a short number of years. The challenges our country faces today are much more complex than before, one may assume greater longevity in office would be helpful, however, we risk encouraging corruption. We also risk locking out "citizens" from all walks of life who offer alternative solutions, innovative ideas, and diverse skill sets.
Today I am going to share a personal story with you. I had the rare opportunity to speak with the then Director of Budget Issues of the Government Accounting Office, Paul Posner in 1997. I was doing an assignment for a TV Broadcasting class. Paul spoke with me for over an hour about the state of the national checkbook. I asked him at one point if the press ever talked to him, he told me they show up, ask a few questions, then say they don't know how to explain the issue in 60 seconds and leave. Granted, it is not a subject to be handled in a 60 second soundbite. He asked me if I had children. I said yes. He asked me if I wanted them to be able to afford to leave home before they were 40 years old. He told me my children could be facing an 84% tax rate if we continued on the fiscal path we were on. I see news stories about how adult children are staying home or returning home in their 30's. I asked him about Social Security, he confirmed my suspicion it was a socialistic mechanism for taking money from young people and giving it to old people. Word on the hill was, it was another case of FDR pulling the wool over congress' eyes. We are leaving our children an enormous debt and a monetary system based on debt. There is no painless way out of this mess. We will need leadership that has the courage to tell us the truth about our resources and our fiscal situation. Sadly, Paul is no longer with us. I however am still trying to keep the light on.
IMMIGRATION... MORE COMPLICATED THAN YOU THINK
01/28/2020 8:24 PM
Immigration is a very important issue for the 50th Congressional District of California. Our proximity to the border makes it essential we understand how and why the situation is what it is at our border. The issue is complicated and more layered than the public dialogue would suggest. The United States is spending money through USAID to help the governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala address the causes of the northward migration. The USAID is reporting some positive progress towards addressing the violence in the three countries mentioned above. The DHS website offers some rather detailed data sets about border apprehensions and numbers of individuals granted legal status. The USCIS website offers a readable and succinct history of immigration policy in this country. We have endeavored to keep up with the ever-changing circumstances of peoples across the globe. We cannot do this alone. It is not reasonable to think we can relocate billions of people onto the land mass of the United States and think all the social problems suffered by humanity will be solved. I do have my concerns about trying to solve the issues with money alone. We need to be aware of the behaviors we are encouraging with the dollars we spend, and it is not unreasonable for the American taxpayer to expect tangible results within a time-frame. Why stop undesirable behaviors if you are getting paid to do them? I know it may sound cruel to some, but a little tough love is not out of line if our goal is to help people learn how to be better stewards of all aspects of their lives, including their human capital, natural resources, and effective and humane governance. Addressing the issue is a process requiring new immigration legislation and clear, understandable communication of the law, not just domestically, but internationally. The issue is not only humanitarian, but involves our legal system, our federal enforcement agencies, and our judicial system. We have an obligation to take care of ourselves as well. A friend once offered me some good advice. He told me to take care of myself, because if I didn’t, I would not have the resources to help those I cared about the most, when they needed it most. We cannot exhaust our own resources supporting corruption, violent behavior and poor stewardship of resources.
Sometimes, no matter how serious the endeavor, it is best to maintain a sense of humor about it. It keeps you grounded. I thought I would share some mailers I've received since starting my campaign. Apparently, running for office is a business. Note that "*Judicial Elections Are Easy To Win." The VictoryStore.com says I can achieve the same reach as a presidential candidate for far less money! I can talk to a sales representative to set up my digital yard signs, FOR PENNIES! I love the Small Campaign and the Large Campaign package prices, you get the biggest savings on the Full color option. The parties and the media go on, and on about how big corporate money is a threat to our democracy. These flyers suggest to me, we have made running for office a big corporate enterprise.
THERE ARE MORE OF US THAN YOU THINK
01/17/2020 8:02 PM
No Party Preference voters make up 26.39% of California's 50th Congressional District according to the California Secretary of State, Report of Registration as of October 1, 2019, Registration by US Congressional District. Make your voices heard and vote in the March 3, 2020 Primary. I am fully aware of the belief a vote for a non partisan candidate is a spoiler vote, however, that fear keeps us captive to a two party system. The No Party Preference demographic is growing and now is the time to break the bonds of partisanship and make our voices heard.
Health Care continues to be a major issue for households. My view is the Affordable Care Act needs to be repealed. First of all, we are not discussing how to deliver quality care, we are arguing over who is going to pay for it and who isn't. An insurance policy is a contract, in exchange for a premium paid, health care will be paid for under the conditions outlined in the policy. I've asked to review a policy multiple times through the years, before purchasing, and am told it is only available for my review after they take my check. It's as simple as this, I should be able to review a legal contract BEFORE I sign it and have access to ALL of the terms of the agreement. I think we need to hold the entire insurance industry accountable to the end consumer, you and I. I would favor legislation that gives us meaningful choices and a blend of public and private care. Stay healthy and stay strong!
Today I am sharing with you a paper I wrote in a Political Science class in 2004. I've viewed the Patriot Act as a threat to our civil liberties since its passage. 30 April 2004 The USA Patriot Act: Analysis and Historical Trends Congress passed the USA Patriot Act on October 26th, 2001. The complete title of the bill is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” The purpose of the act is, “to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” 1 The bill was passed and signed into law in three days. There are several questions this essay will try to answer. Does Congress have a history of reacting to the fear of a foreign threat? What legislation did it create? What institutions or agencies were created to respond to the fears and what were those fears? How does the Patriot Act change that legislation? Are we safer? The Patriot Act was drafted in response to the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen foreign-born terrorists hijacked four planes. Two of the planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, and one into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The threat of terrorism became very real. The horror of the events undoubtedly would evoke fear in even the most rational person. The Patriot Act is the legislative and executive branches’ effort to prevent such acts of terrorism in the future and to protect our “national security.” The Patriot Act is not the first time the US government drafted legislation to create more efficient governmental systems designed to enhance our “national security” in response to foreign threats. Several sections of the Patriot Act refer to the National Security Act of 1947. The United States faced the growing threat of the Soviet Union after World War II. The cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union necessary to defeat Germany under Adolph Hitler succumbed to the ideological tensions between the “communistic” Soviet Union and the “capitalistic” West. The Cold War had begun. This atmosphere of tension and fear prompted the drafting and passage of the National Security Act of July 26th, 1947. The National Security Act of 1947 and its subsequent revisions created several governmental agencies. The act provided for a Secretary of Defense, a National Military Establishment, the Central Intelligence Agency, a National Security Resources Board, and the National Security Council under the chairmanship of the President. These organizations are all a part of an elaborate system designed to create and manage a coherent national security policy. The USA Patriot Act of 2001 seeks to correct the failure of a collection of intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, boards and councils to prevent the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The Patriot Act is an attempt to codify and better coordinate the efforts of law enforcement and the intelligence community created under the National Security Act of 1947. The Patriot Act makes several revisions of the National Security Act of 1947 to achieve this goal. Two of which we will look at more closely. Section 902 of Title IX of the Patriot Act expands the provisions of the National Security Act. This section provides for the inclusion of international terrorism activities within the scope of foreign intelligence. This change allows for information acquired within the United States by law enforcement agencies regarding suspected terrorist activity to be characterized as foreign intelligence. This makes it possible for such information to be shared with the CIA. Section 905 of Title IX of the Patriot Act amends Title I of the National Security Act (50 U.S.C. 402 et seq.) to require law enforcement officials to disclose such foreign intelligence in a timely manner to the Director of the CIA. However, the amendment does allow for exceptions to this rule. The Patriot Act references or amends several other pieces of legislation besides the National Security Act of 1947. It also amends or refers to the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996”, the “International Money Laundering Abatement and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act of 2001”, the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978”, the “Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996”, the list goes on. These are just a few examples from the list of legislative acts affected by the Patriot Act. The number of pieces of legislation changed is too numerous to expand upon in the scope of this essay. The length of the list suggests the US Congress has a long history of responding to fear. Many of the changes are an effort to route out terrorists residing on US soil. Another example of changes made to other legislation is Section 416, Title IV of the Patriot Act. This section requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to implement and expand the Foreign Student Visa Monitoring Program established in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996. This section requires the date of entry and port of entry of foreign students to be included in the information gathered on foreign students. It also expands the definition of the types of educational institutions the Attorney General may require to monitor foreign student visas. Air flight schools, vocational schools and language schools now are subject to the Foreign Student Visa Monitoring Program. The Patriot Act is a sweeping piece of legislation. The repercussions will be felt in the financial industry, the communications industry and the educational community to name only a few. Several federal agencies will be affected, for example, the Department of the Treasury, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Education and the Department of State. The Patriot Act also impacts the judicial branch. The act changes several minimum sentences in reference to terrorist offenses and financial crimes. Section 375 of Title III is just one example. The penalty for possessing counterfeit foreign obligations or securities went from one year to 20 years. Essentially, the Patriot Act casts a wider net for the acquisition of intelligence and redefines the relationships between several governmental and non-governmental organizations. It expands the number of agencies involved in the process of intelligence acquisition and dissemination. The Department of the Treasury and the Attorney General’s office now have greater roles in the acquisition and dissemination of intelligence related to “national security.” The question remains, are we safer? This trend towards greater governmental involvement in our lives through the legislative process is disturbing. The number of governmental councils and agencies created in the name of “national security” suggest Orwellian consequences. The Patriot Act will create more resources for the government to acquire data on individuals it considers a threat. The government also has extended its power by signing six blank checks within the Patriot Act. One of the blank checks gave the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) any funds it deemed necessary to operate for fiscal years 2002 to 2005. Among the many responsibilities assigned to FinCen was to, “establish and maintain operating procedures with respect to the government-wide data access service and the financial crimes communications center.”2 Another example is the blank check written to provide for an integrated entry and exit data system for airports, seaports and land border points of entry. The creation of this system was mandated under section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The Patriot Act also gives greater discretion to several individuals within the governmental structure. For example, the President, the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury are granted greater authority in the course of their duties. Section 106 of Title I, for instance, grants the President greater authority over the “spoils of war” so to speak. The President is granted discretionary powers over US based assets seized from foreign countries or nationals he determined planned, supported or engaged in hostilities against the US. Frankly, this writer does not think we are any safer. The Patriot Act will only create more information, and more bureaucracy. I don’t think more information that is not analyzed by anyone makes us any safer. I think the creation of more bureaucratic agencies to collect information about individuals in an attempt to identify terrorists increases our chances of government abuse of power. The Patriot Act merely continues an ongoing pattern of greater government involvement in our lives. This greater involvement is in part prompted by fear of terrorists and drug-traffickers. I don’t think it is possible to collect meaningful data on whether all of these laws are protecting us from terrorists and drug-traffickers. It is my sincere hope a vigorous public debate over the Patriot Act will reveal to the American public this trend towards legislation predicated on fear. In closing, to quote Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would sacrifice a little freedom for a little security deserve neither." Bibliography Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) Act of 2001 "History of the National Security Council" Title 50, Chapter 15 United States Code CNN report - September 11: Chronology of terror Footnotes 1 USA Patriot Act, Page 1 2 USA Patriot Act, page 65
Today's topic is K-12 Education. I personally have not voted in favor of tax increases for education in decades. It seems to be a vicious cycle of under performance, followed by, "if we just had a little more money, we could improve the quality of education." The entire system needs an overhaul. Money is not the answer, our teaching methods need to be re-evaluated. We need to reassess how resources are distributed. My impression is that more resources go to administration and facilities than in teachers' paychecks, the people who spend the most time with our children than any others in the system. We need to invest more into the facility of the mind than the "facilities."