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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There You Go Again, Mr. President

You’re doing it again, Mr. President. You’re jumping into new projects without completing any that you’ve begun. Oops, I apologize. You did push through the health bill that will not only drive the deficit higher, but also dig deeper into the American pocketbook. Oh, yeah, the stimulus—that will-of-the-wisp dream that stimulated hundreds of CEOs to award themselves obscene bonuses. Good job there.

But look at where we are today. The economy is sputtering along like an old Model T. Of course, the old Model T usually got where it was going. I have my doubts about your economy.

And yes, despite your fervent insistence that it is all ‘George’s’ fault, after almost two years, it is your economy. With the firepower you have in Congress, you’ve had ample time to make things better—like you promised over and over.

You were voted in because many wanted change. In their eagerness to make their lives better, they grasped at straws, and you were the straw they grabbed. So desperate, they never thought to ask what kind of change you had in mind.

I voted for the first time back in the fifties. I always voted for that individual I thought best for the job. When I looked at your record and when I listened to your speeches, I didn’t like what I heard and saw. That’s my right. The majority disagreed with me.

You know something, Mr. President. The majority doesn’t disagree now.

In a way, I hate that for I don’t believe you’re a despot like many say. I don’t believe you want to rule the world.

I think you sincerely believe all you say. I think your advisors believe that they say.

The problem is, you and your advisors come from another planet, that of Academia where cute little theories tossed around in the upper atmosphere in the tea rooms of Harvard and Yale seem Utopian, but actually pale in comparison to the harsh realities of hardworking people struggling day in and day out to put food on the table, educate their children, save a little, and perhaps enjoy life on the weekends.
And now you plan on reforming education in America.

I suggest you listen to people who know education. I have news for you. Three-quarters of the superintendents, chancellors, and commissioners to whom you have spoken are as inept as some of the teachers you are blaming for failing the children.

Other than you’re both Chicago boys, I can’t figure out why you chose Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. If I handed out report cards to school district CEOs, Mr. Duncan would get a bright red F.

Why?

Greatschools, a nation wide non-profit organization that provides K-12 information about all private, public, and charter schools, ranked Chicago schools as a 4 out of 10 while rating Nederland and Port Neches, Texas as sevens and eights. A sobering comparison, huh?

If after eight years as CEO, Duncan couldn’t even get Chicago to a passing score, why listen to his ideas on how to better American education? Get real, Mr. President.

You talked about longer school days. You have no glimmer of what is going on there. You get an F also—also in red.

According to the Associated Press, Duncan’s rationale for longer school days was ‘Young people in other countries are going to school twenty-five, thirty percent longer than our students here.” He added to the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”

Sounds noble, you think?

That’s B.S., Mr. President. That’s just another of the many fabrications to make your administration appear as if it cares.

In fact, according to the AP, U.S. kids spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours yearly) than kids in Asian schools who outscore us in math and science.

True, Japan and Hong Kong, said the AP, have longer school years by up to twenty days, but only spend 1,005-1,013 instructional hours yearly—less than our schools.
I predict this reform of yours will not succeed.

Why? Because the last two years have been eye openers for many of us. We might not have Harvard degrees, but we ain’t dumb. And we learned a long time back what B.S. smells like.

We’re doing okay down here. We’ve got a lot of bright kids graduating and going on to college and into the work force.

Sure we have problems, but our communities are working on them. We don’t need outsiders with completely alien cultural beliefs running our schools for us.

By the way, while you were enjoying your vacations, over five hundred Southeast
Texas teachers were in summer school working on advanced degrees and honing their skills as teachers.

Just thought you and your people might like to know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time to Haul Back on the Reins

Say you’re making preparations to attend college or to send one or more of your children off to school. If you’re like most of us, you’ll have to make financial sacrifices to achieve your goals.

But, what if you had a fairy godmother in Washington who could get you all the scholarships you needed? Just pluck them out of a never-ending supply of money.

Dreaming?

Nope, that’s what happened when nine-term Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson awarded $31,000.00 in college scholarships to her grandchildren and a top aide's two children, using foundation funds set aside for black lawmakers' causes.

According to the Dallas Observer News, Ms. Johnson claimed she did not understand the anti-nepotism rules for the scholarships. Seems like she did not consider grandchildren as part of her immediate family. And this from a single woman pulling down two hundred thousand a year as a lawmaker.

Now Ms. Johnson is not by herself. Innumerable members of Congress have bent the rules for personal use of someone else’s money.

Two of the most recent instances of ethics violations have concerned Rep. Charlie Rangel D-NY and Rep. Maxine Waters D-California facing ethics charges.

During my research, I was stunned when I saw just how many of our lawmakers had been charged with ethic’s violations, a Pablum expression in the parlance of Washington insiders that covers just about everything under the felony statutes.

You know how it goes, a senator from the state of Xanadu takes a fifty thousand dollar bribe, and the accusation is not bribery, but ethics violations. Sounds better, you know?

Political correctness at its apex.

Would you believe that ninety percent of those accused of various violations of the law have served three or more terms.

The three representatives I mentioned earlier are all in the thirty-forty year brackets serving the people—no, let me rephrase that. I should have said “‘thirty-forty year brackets taking” from the people that long becomes a habit, just like entitlements become a habit.

In a recent survey, three quarters of all voters favored term limits. Only 16% opposed them. (I don’t have the details, but I can guess the demographics of that 16%-elected officials)

So why don’t we have them?

Let me tell a little story. According to watchdog U.S. Term Limits, opposition comes from legislative or judicial actions overturning the results of popular elections.

In fact just last year New York City leaders arbitrarily tossed out the results of two citywide elections that would have denied themselves additional terms in office.

Now this could never happen in the political process laid out by the Founding Fathers.

U.S. Term Limits noted that female historian Mercy Otis Warren, the Conscience of the American Revolution, protested exclusion of term limits from the constitution, pointing out the corrosive influence career politicians would have over the populace.

She wrote, “There is no provision for (rotation in office), nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done.” --1788

Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, all Founding Fathers and along with many others feared that without a restriction on tenure, career politicians would take over the country.

History has proven Mrs. Warren correct in her assessment of the situation.
Until we follow the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to correct this fallacy in our elective process, we’ll continue with the same as we have now.

Albert Einstein is supposed to have remarked, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results.”

A neighbor said it a little differently, but it means the same thing. “Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you got.”









rconwell@gt.rr.com
www.kentconwell.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

So Says the Constitution

There are two initiatives I feel are essential to all of us, issues that will have a definite effect on us and our children in the years to come.

Now, don’t laugh when I mention the first, term limits for all elected individuals. We can talk about that later.

The second, and the one I wish to address today, has to do with birth granted citizenship for offspring of individuals who are not American citizens.

The latter topic is naturally much more volatile than the first for it is what ties many of the illegal aliens to the U.S. You know how it goes, a young couple sneaks over the border in time for a child to be born, and Presto! Instead of Instant Oatmeal, you have Instant American.

Now, I’m not talking about the right or wrong of it. America is basically a fair-minded and compassionate country, willing to help others. It takes a cold-hearted person not to understand why so many aliens wish to be a part of this great nation.
And one of the slickest means is for an illegal to have his child born in the United States.

Now there is a great deal of talk about changing the XIV Amendment so such a finesse becomes a thing of the past.

The kicker is that when the amendment was first ratified in 1868, the idea behind the law was not as it is interpreted today. I don’t know when it changed precisely, but it is different. Somewhere along the way, some judge, whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, atheist, or Wiccan, was too full of himself and issued an interpretation of the amendment. That interpretation stuck so today we have a back door that is flooding country into bankruptcy.

The XIV Amendment begins “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

The first nine words mean exactly what they say, right?

The rest of the statement is also clearly laid out, “And subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Now the word ‘jurisdiction’ is the culprit. Noticably so for it is a multi-syllabic, and most politicians and judges can’t handle more than two syllables.

Do you really think that if a Cheyenne maiden had given birth to a child in one of the Philadelphia hospitals that the country would have given the little tadpole the mantle of citizenship? Not likely. That was a privilege not given to the American Indians until 1924. So can one of you Constitutional Scholars out there provide evidence that the intent of that portion of the XIV Amendment was to cover any child of any pair of non-citizens even it the infant is born on our soil?

I think not, so let’s talk a little further about “Subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

As you are well aware that those folks that Lincoln’s Dmancipation Proclamation liberated still did not enjoy the sames rights as those who freed them?

In 1866, the Civil Rights Act tried to rectify the 1863 proclamation by stating--now, read this carefully. “All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States. ... All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence etc. . .” It goes on to list all the rights of citizenship.

Now follow me here. “Not subject to any foreign power.” You and your spouse have a child. That child is yours. If you are a citizen of Mars, that child is a Martian, not an American. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of Times Square. If you and your spouse are Hispanic, Asian, Polish, Russian, you name it, that child is the same race. If you don’t have legal papers, he doesn’t have legal papers. He is still subject to the foreign power from which he came.

It is truly that simple.

Now we all know politicans seldom read what is put before them. It’s about time they do, and this is something with which they can begin.

That’s how all this mess began, with some full-of-himself judge interpreting a law he had probably never read.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Kind of Country Are We?

I cringe every time I witness another decision that diminishes our country’s allegiance to God. Unfortunately, evidence of such is everywhere.

A few weeks back, I mentioned that Richard Henry Lee, the Virginia statesman who called for the colonies’ independence in the Second Continental Congress, harbored the fear that the absence of legal limits to political tenure could create an oligarchic structure, a structure that allows a ‘rule by the few’.

His fears were echoed by Thomas Jefferson who worried that the Courts would overstep their authority by ‘Making Law’ instead of ‘Interpreting Law.’ Such endeavors create an oligarthic configuration in which select individuals in power determine what is best for all of us.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is taking place today. A few, who think they ‘know best’, are doing all they can to herd us like sheep into various pens.

That isn’t what our Founding Fathers had in mind. What they intended is that each of us would make his own decisions based, for better or worse, upon the relationship or nonrelationship we had with our Lord.

Man should take care of himself, not the other way around.

Recently I received an email from my old high school chat group that attributed several remarks to Andy Rooney, that admirable old curmudgeon.

I couldn’t determine if he were the author of the article since many articles have been falsely attributed to him. On the other hand, it seems to me this would be his type of wry admonition to those who harbor the notion they are better than everyone else.

You cannot deny that many court judges around the country are rendering decisions that cast God from our lives, despite the undeniable fact that 235 years ago, a handful of dedicated men established a republic based upon Christianity.

Now this Christianity is not a specific faith, but an adherence to God’s basic tenets of brotherhood and love.

Our country once believed that. Honest.

For example, did you know if you stand in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building and look up at the gable of the structure, you will see a row of world’s law makers. Each one faces the one in the middle who is looking out over the country. That middle lawmaker is Moses, and he is holding the Ten Commandants.

Then as you enter the Supreme Court, the two massive oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on the lower portion of each door. Inside, above where the judges sit is another display of the Ten Commandments.

Just about anywhere you go in Washington, you’ll find buildings and monuments covered with verses from the Bible.

James Madison, the fourth president, “The Father of our Constitution” said, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

And of the fifty-five founders of the Constitution, fifty-two were members of established orthodox churches in the colonies.

Patrick Henry, a Founding Father, exclaimed, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Something else you might not have known. Every session of Congress since 1777 has begun with a prayer by a paid preacher. Oh yes, and his salary has always been paid by the taxpayer.

John Jay, appointed the first Supreme Court Chief Justice in 1789, stated “Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”

We could go on and on here, but the shame of our present situation is that for over two hundred years, our country prospered as a Christian nation. Now in the last few decades, either our leaders’ spines have turned to jelly, or they’ve forgotten God, or they simply do not believe in God.

They think because they try to accommodate everyone’s wish, they are doing that which is right and moral.

I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘In God We Trust’ were taken off our coin and replaced with ‘Praise to Allah’ or ‘Viva Zapata’ or ‘Hot’cha Sweet Mama.’

That’s how ridiculous it has become.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Joy (and Torture) of Putting Words on Paper

Ask anyone who is a serious writer, and that individual will tell you that in many ways it is a very demanding and often lonely vocation or avocation.

I added avocation because one of the mantras writers’ groups try to impress on members is ‘don’t quit your day job.”

No question now that some writers’ rewards have been quite substantial, both fiction and non-fiction.

Many people want to write. That’s fine. A common remark among retirees is that “Yep. I’ll retire and write that book I’ve always thought about.” Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. More power to them.

That’s why for the last few years, I’ve taught fall and spring classes in Lamar’s Continuing Education. The writing program was put together by a writer friend of mine who lives over in Lake Charles. At first, I wasn’t too sure about conducting writing classes, but I decided to give it a shot.

Believe it or not, I have been known to make perhaps one or two smart decisions in my life. Marrying my wife was the smartest, and teaching the class wasn’t a bad one either.

You see, writing is sort of like boxing. When you’re in the ring, there is only one person to save your skin, you. Same with writing except the beatings you take from it don’t bruise your skin or black your eye, only your psyche. And believe me, psyches taken longer to heal than a black eye.

Training as a boxer is lonely and demanding. Writing is lonely and demanding. I doubt if there is a successful boxer or writer out there who won’t admit that more than once, he considered tossing the whole idea in the garbage.

But he didn’t. He hung there, clawing and scratching, fighting the odds, and finally won that first fight or published that first piece of writing.

It’d be nice if at that point, you could say, “Well, that’s it. I can sit back and enjoy what I’ve achieved.”

A boxer can’t; a writer can’t unless the book is a mega-hit like Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind,” or Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

It all honesty, when my first western, “Panhandle Gold”, was published by Avalon in 1991, I secretly expected I might be able to retire.

What a joke!

Dumb me finally figured out that while there was a market for the type of western
and mysteries I wrote, the demand was not sufficient for me “to quit my day job.”
My westerns are historical, like those I enjoyed years ago. The mysteries are light whodunits, retro of the forties and fifties.

These are some of these ideas I try to pass on to my writing classes. In doing so, for six weeks twice a year, I have the privilege to talk and discuss writing with other writers.

I’ve kept up with some of the writers with whom I’ve helped with their craft. They come from every walk of life. One gentleman is in construction, and he recently placed in the top ten percent of the screenplay competition at the Austin Screenwriters Conference. He interviewed with several Hollywood producers. I haven’t had the chance to contact him, but he could have a contract by now.(hope he doesn’t forget me)

One very talented woman gave me the good news a few days ago her book was going to the publisher, while another, one of her critique partners, has completed her novel.

It is satisfying to know that I contributed a tad to some person’s success.

While some from the classes continue writing, sadly, many give up. And I can understand why. They write to be published, but after a numerous rejections, frustration, then aggravation sets in. Finally, they just throw up their hands and say the heck with it.

You’ve got to be bull-headed about it, convinced of your own capabilities, and the likelihood of success down the road.

A friend of mine, now deceased, Bill Johnstone, wrote for seven years without being published. “I got mad,” he said. “And swore I wouldn’t quit.” He didn’t, having published well over three hundred westerns, horrors, and action adventures.
All it took was guts.

If you’re interested in the writing schedule for this year, take a look at my blogspot or email me at rconwell@gt.rr.com or go to www.kentconwell.blogspot.com. Look for my August 21 blog.

Or call Rhonda at 880-2233.

Oh, yeah, my first class begins September 14.