Gunshots in Mom’s Neighborhood, Again

How did you react to the title of this post?

Some of you had an immediate negative reaction.  Maybe you just don’t like guns.  But more likely, you formed an image in your head of where my mom lives.  If she lived in the city, like I do, gunshots would obviously be a very bad thing.

It is true that the last time we went to visit my mother, we heard the sound of gunshots in her neighborhood, again.

But my mom lives way out in the country.  She and my stepfather have 50 acres of land, with two farm ponds, 3 gardens, chickens (sometimes), some farmland, and some woods.  Their “backyard” borders state game lands, so in the fall there are hunters, and that includes family members.  On many Saturdays, some of the neighbors will be target shooting.  Perhaps my brother will be giving shooting lessons to my son.  And if a groundhog shows up near the garden, we have ways of discouraging it.

If you hear gunshots at their house, it is just a normal part of life, and it is not a sign that anyone is up to no good, or that anyone is in danger.

City life and country life are different, and thinking people have realized this ever since there have been cities.  It has always been the case that the people in the city make the laws, and the people in the country make the food.  Most of the time, the people who make the laws have been able to appreciate the difference between the lifestyles.

However, we currently have an increase in tensions between city and country, and gun laws are a symptom of that tension.  If you are from the country, you will think of guns in terms of their recreational and practical uses.  If you are from the city, you are more likely to associate guns with crime.  In at least two states (New York) and Colorado) the urban majority has passed gun laws that the rural areas are just plain ignoring.  Our urban-minded President’s latest executive orders, which may be harder to ignore, will still face court challenges for the remainder of his term, and they will be wildly unpopular in rural areas, where murder rates are low.

Ironically, despite his stated intentions, these orders will primarily affect law-abiding rural and middle class gun buyers while leaving urban criminals’ gun-buying habits untouched.

The Man I Haven’t Met (Or, Why Obama Should Lose)

I understand that the polls have been favoring Obama lately.  That might have something to do with his minions’ insistence that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes for 10 years, or that he caused a woman to die from cancer, or that he nominated for VP a man who pushes wheelchair-bound grandmothers of of cliffs.  Negative ads work, at least for a while, even if they are totally false.  Of course, once you have accused your opponents of murder, tax fraud, and causing cancer, you might run out of shockingly bad things to say by October.

But I think Obama will lose, possibly in a landslide, and here is why.

I know a fellow who is a small businessman, and who hates Ronald Reagan.  He also hates George W. Bush, and he voted for Obama in 2008, because he said we needed a huge change.  He will be voting for Romney this time around.  He hates Obama’s lawless approach to immigration, and he hates the ridiculous requirements that the Obama administration has put on his business.  He also doesn’t like incumbents.

I know another fellow who is as far left as I am to the right.  He also hates Bush and Reagan, and he was gung ho for Obama in 2008.  This year, he is just not enthusiastic about politics at all.

I know another fellow who was thoroughly pro Obama in 2008.  He will vote for Obama in 2012, but only because he has no where else to go.  He said once that if he were giving Obama a grade, it would be a C-.  Perhaps now that the campaign is in full swing, he is getting more enthusiastic, but then again, maybe not.

Anyhow, I have talked politics with a good number of people.  I have met McCain supporters who will vote for Romney, with varying levels of enthusiasm.  I have met Obama supporters who will vote for him again (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), and Obama 2008 supporters who will be backing Romney in 2012.

I have not met a single person who has said, “You know, I voted against Obama in 2008, but he has actually done a pretty good job, so I expect to vote for him in 2012.”  Not a single one.

This tells me that, whatever the polls say right now, they will say something different in November.

Given the number of people that I know, and how many people have changed their mind, or their level of enthusiasm,  I have to believe that Obama will get about 48% of the vote this time around, compared to 53% last time around.  Those numbers should lead to an Electoral College victory for Romney.

Congratulations, Jack Stull !!!!

The off year elections were generally not very exciting, and turnout in most places was low.  However, there was one bright spot for my family.

Jack Stull, my stepfather, decided to run for Waterford Township Supervisor.  (For my non-local readers, Waterford Township is a rural township south of Erie with a population of about 3000.)   It was too late to get on the Republican or Democratic ballot line, and I don’t think he is happy with either party right now, so he collected enough signatures to get on the Constitution Party line on the ballot.

Usually a third party candidate doesn’t have a chance, but Jack has lived in Waterford all his life, and he knows EVERYONE.  He made sure to get out and talk to everyone too.  The Republican and the Democrat did not work nearly that hard.  Apparently the Republican was complacent, and the Democrat, well, let’s just say that Democrats are rather outnumbered in that township.  The Erie Times-News runs a short article about all of the local races, and the Democratic candidate didn’t even bother to answer a few questions for the newspaper.

Jack also made several large signs out of plywood and 2 x 4’s.  No cheap plastic signs with the metal frames for him.  These signs were sturdy, and were painted in bright yellow and green, and were placed strategically.  Everyone, even the most apathetic voters, knew he was running.  He also sent out a few hundred letters, explaining his stance on a local issue.

There are only two polling places in Waterford Township.  On election day, he and a few local family members worked the polls, and made sure that everyone was invited to vote for him.

On Election Night, I called my mom and asked jokingly how things were going at campaign headquarters.  I figured that he might come in second, just because the Democrat was apparently not trying.  My mom said they were just about to go to the polling stations to see how the counting was going.

A few minutes later she called back.  “We won!! By 23 votes!”  I told her not to celebrate too hard.

Jack had received 264 votes.  His Republican opponent got 241 votes, and the Democrat got 128 votes.

After the election, Jack had put a “Thank You” over his signs, and he left them up for the rest of the week.  On Sunday, I was down to visit, and he was busy retrieving his signs.

“Raymond,” he said, “If you want to run for office some time, we’ll just paint these signs a new color.”

A Modest Proposal to Deal With the Debt Crisis

As of now, the US Government will reach the debt ceiling around August 2.  After that, we won’t be able to pay our bills, our bond ratings will go bad, and the world will end, so they say.  Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are not even close to agreeing on a solution to the problem.  Their disagreements only amount to a few trillion dollars.  With a left-leaning President, a strongly right-leaning House, and a Democratic controlled but fairly closely divided Senate, the possibilities for gridlock and fiscal Armageddon are great.  Reasoning and compromise are not likely to solve the problem, for, as one of the parties said, “It is like we are from two different planets.”

However, there is a time-honored method to resolving disputes like this, and break the gridlock.

SINGLE COMBAT.

Sometimes, after you have given peace a chance, you have to try another method that is more decisive and violent.  Remember David vs. Goliath?  Menelaus vs. Paris? (If Aphrodite had let Meleaus finish the job, the Trojan War would have ended much faster.)  Harry Potter vs. Voldemort?  Burr vs. Hamilton?  Romeo vs. Tybalt?  Romeo vs. Juliet? (OK, that wasn’t a case of single combat, but if they had married based on 14 year old infatuation, it would have led to combat by the time they were 35.  Dying young was the best thing that happened to their marriage.  But I digress.)

So anyhow, Obama and Boehner need to engage in single combat to determine who decides how to resolve the debt crisis, and the rest of the House and Senate need to accept the result.

Please note that I am NOT suggesting that anyone get killed here.  That would be mean.  Besides, If Obama died, we would have President Joe Biden, and Republicans would not like that.  And if Boehner died, we might have Speaker of the House Michelle Bachman, and Democrats REALLY wouldn’t like that.

So Obama and Boehner need to play golf.  For high stakes.  2/3 of the House and 2/3 of the Senate need to agree to the following terms:

For every hole that Obama wins, he gets a $100 billion increase in the debt ceiling.  If he wins all 18 holes, he might not have to beg for a higher debt ceiling until the voters retire him and he can join the PGA senior tour.  If he does less well, he has to come back for another round when he is out of money.  Since he has golfed more than Tiger Woods in the last year, he should feel confident about his game.

For every hole Boehner wins, he gets $100 billion of spending cuts.  Republicans get to pick the cuts, and Democrats will be sore losers if they complain that the cuts will starve the poor and place Grandma on an iceberg to die.

To spice up the action, we can have a few more rules.

If Obama wins a hole with an eagle, he gets $100 billion in additional revenues (that’s “Tax increases” in politi-speak.)   If Boehner wins a hole with an eagle, he gets $100 billion in tax cuts.

Finally,

If Bohner gets a hole in one, Obamacare gets de-funded and repealed.

If Obama gets a hole in one, the 22nd amendment will be repealed and he will be allowed to run for a third term.

I am not saying that this is best way to solve our government’s problems, but it will probably produce a better result than we will get by the normal political process.

The Stupid Law Barack Broke

It seems clear now that the Obama administration has broken a federal law.  Joe Sestak revealed this when he mentioned, in an interview in February, that he was offered a high-ranking federal position  if he dropped his primary challenge against Senator Arlen Specter.  After this moment of accidental honesty, he must have realized that this offer was illegal, because he then shut up for months, until everyone could get their story straight.  No one is sure what the job is (Secretary of the Navy has been suggested), but it obviously had to be something that would be good enough to tempt someone away from a Senate run. 

The White House response, that several politicians worked hard to craft and synchronize, is not terribly plausible, for reasons that are explained here, here, and here.  It does have the virtue of absolving the White House of blame, While making Joe Sestak’s claim appear very exaggerated, but the idea that Rahm Emanuel sent Bill Clinton to offer Joe Sestak a mere advisory position that he was not even eligible for doesn’t make sense.  Why would a 3 star admiral and member of Congress be tempted by such an offer?

So it is reasonable to believe that the Obama administration violated federal law (18 SC 600 is referred to in this article) when it made the offer to Joe Sestak.  However, this law is rather stupid it it really applies to such a situation.

Let’s suppose that President Obama did offer Joe Sestak the position of Secretary of the Navy, or some position of similar prestige, in return for him dropping his primary challenge to Senator Specter.  The President has the right to appoint the people of his choosing to his Cabinet, and a two term congressman who was a three star admiral is a plausible choice for that position.  The Democratic Party also has the right to field the best slate of candidates that it can muster, and to place its “team” in the positions that it thinks are best.  Candidate recruitment (and discouragement of costly primary battles) is part of this process.

So, imagine the following conversation that happened behind closed doors:

[Clinton]:  So, Joe, about that primary challenge you are launching…

[Sestak]:  Um, yes…

[Clinton]: Well, we worked really hard to get Benedict Arlen Specter to come over to the Democratic party, and we owe him a favor now.  We kind of said we would try to get him a worry-free primary.

[Sestak]:  But I think I can represent Pennsylvania better than that old geezer.  Besides, the voters in PA want a real Democrat, not that half-breed who might become a Republican again before he dies.  And even if he did win, he is like 80 years old.  The odds are 50-50 that he would die in office, and then the new Republican governor we might get in 2010 would apoint his successor.  I am your man.

[Clinton]:  Sure, but a deal is a deal.  Besides, a guy like you would make a great Secretary of the Navy, and you wouldn’t have to worry about those fickle voters.  I’m just sayin’…

This conversation might be sleazy, it wouldn’t reflect well on anyone, and it shouldn’t be mentioned publicly, but there shouldn’t be a federal law against it.  If voters discovered this conversation, we have ways of dealing with it.

I wish the Obama White House would just tell the truth, rather than carefully constructing a story that took too long to put together, and doesn’t make much sense.  I would even give them credit if they admitted that their actions may have violated a law, but that they were not aware of the error at the time, and their focus was on staffing the executive branch and recruiting the best possible Senate candidates.

But instead they are looking like incompetent liars, intent on covering their behinds while they throw Joe Sestak under the bus.

Martha Coakley: The Worst Candidate Ever

It is just possible that the U.S. Senate seat that has belonged to the Kennedys for the last million or so years will go to a Republican.  In normal times, this event would be about as unlikely as Barack Obama winning a race for Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  But Scott Brown, the Republican sacrificial lamb who should be getting 30% of the vote in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, is running a spirited campaign and is now leading in the polls.  If he loses, it may only be because the voters in the cemetery are not listening to him.

I hate to jinx Scott Brown, but I can’t help but writing a bit about his opponent Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, who may possibly be the Worst Candidate Ever.  Even if I were a die hard Democrat, I would have a hard time rooting for her.  Here are a few reasons why.

1)  It is OK for me to misspell Massachusetts, because I don’t live there.  But Martha Coakley ran an attack ad against her opponent, only to pull it down a bit later because the state’s name was spelled wrong.  As my kids would say, “Smoothe….”

2)  In another attack ad, she accused Scott Brown of not caring about rape victims.  The ad has pictures of many women who are supposed to represent the rape victims that Scott Brown would allegedly kick out of the emergency room.  Other than being a cheap shot, this ad has many problems, and may even have broken some laws.

If these women are real rape victims, their pictures should not be revealed without consent, which she almost certainly did not get.  You know, there are rules about privacy and all that. Running this ad would be rather insensitive to rape victims.

However, the picture looks like a modified ad from Classmates.com.  In that case Classmates.com may not be amused, and the girls pictured there might not like the implication that they are rape victims.

3)  Sometimes your mouth opens and something comes out that reveals how clueless you really are about the area that you want to represent.  If you want to represent an area, you should probably know something about it.  So, for example, if you lived around Pittsburgh, you would have to live in a cave to not know who Ben Rothlisberger is, and if you called him a Browns fan, that would indicate a certain cluelessness and unfitness to govern.

So when Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling, the Boston Red Sox pitcher who pitched in the World Series with a bloody sock,  a “Yankees fan,” that was a sign of stupidity almost as bad as going to the Vatican and asking why the Pope’s yarmulke is white.

4) At other times, your mouth opens and you show that you don’t know much about the rest of the world either.  Like when you say in a debate that there are no terrorists in Afghanistan, and then later when you have the chance, you don’t admit that you erred.

4)  Sometimes, your friends don’t help much either.  Like when you bring Patrick Kennedy in to speak on your behalf, and he GETS YOUR FIRST NAME WRONG, calling you Marcia instead of Martha. Or your aide knocks over a reporter who asks you a tough question, and you stand around looking clueless.  Or when Barack Obama comes to campaign for you, and his speech is full of ums, ahs, and disparaging remarks about your opponent’s truck.  Because we all know that owning a GM pickup truck is a bad thing.

5)  Church and state is always a touchy subject, and much more able candidates have gone wrong here.  But one good general rule to follow is that when it comes to matters of conscience, you should not say “you can have religious liberty, but you shouldn’t work in an emergency room.”  Especially when the religious groups that you might disqualify from emergency room jobs include Catholics, who are a large part of your constituency, and are likely to hear of your blunder the Sunday before the election.

Massachusetts is mostly Democratic, and Martha Coakley could still win, but the fact that she is in danger of losing shows amazing ineptitude.  If she snatches defeat from what was a nearly certain Democratic victory, she will have earned the title of WORST CANDIDATE EVER.

Democrats may even agree with me, for once.

[Update:  Wow, Scott Brown actually won this race.  Martha Coakley actually managed to lose, and it was 52-47, which is not even that close.]

What’s Happening in Honduras

Imagine it is the summer of 2016, and President Obama is acting strangely.  (If you can’t imagine President Obama acting strangely, insert “President Cheney”, or even “President Limbaugh” here, so that you get the appropriate sense of the willies.)  Suddenly he decided that the whole idea of term limits was not good.   He decided to hold a referendum to allow himself to serve additional terms in office, had the ballots printed by his buddy Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and ordered the Army to distribute the ballots (they refused).  His attorney general, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and many members of his own party told him that he could not amend the Constitution by that method, but he ignored them.  

After this, the Congress voted to impeach him, but he refused to go.  He tried to replace the top military leaders, but Congress re-instated them.  Finally, the Army stepped in, removed him from the White House, and sent him on a plane to Canada.  The Army then installed Joe Biden as President, and returned to their normal role.  President Biden took over, appointed a Vice President according to the rules of the Constitution, and assured the country that the next election would be held on schedule.  

That is roughly what has been happening in Honduras over the last few months. 

When you hear about what is happening in Honduras, it is described as a military coup, but that is not an accurate portrayal.  The Honduran military did not act alone in removing Manuel Zelaya.  They were acting under orders from the Honduran Supreme Court, who had ruled that Manuel Zelaya was acting unconstitutionally and should be arrested.  His removal from office was confirmed by the National Congress, which is dominated by members of his own party.

Also, the Honduran military is not running the country.  Leadership of the country was given to Roberto Micheletti, who was previously the President of the National Congress.  (This is roughly equivalent to our Speaker of the House.)  He is the person who was, according to the Honduran constitution, next in line if something happened to the President.  Their Vice President, Elvin Santos, had resigned to run for President. 

Many countries, including Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, and our own government, are calling for the restoration of Manuel Zelaya.  They are ignoring that the next election is already set for November 29, and Mr. Zelaya was constitutionally forbidden from running for office again.  If he had behaved himself, he would be retiring soon anyhow.  The people who are running for President now were already campaigning to replace him before he was overthrown. 

They are also ignoring the fact that the Honduran government was faced with a serious problem.  A democratically elected leader was trying to violate his country’s constitution and become a dictator.  (Hugo Chavez knows something about this.)  The Honduran government stood up to him and removed him from office in the best way they could, and mostly followed their constitution.  (The military’s only failure to follow their constitution was that they let Mr. Zelaya leave the country, rather than force him to be stand trial in Honduras.)

 We should not be interfering in Honduras’  internal affairs, and pressuring them to take back a potential dictator.   We should especially be suspicious that the potential dictator’s best friends in the region are Hugo Chavez and Raoul Castro.