25 January 2013

I Can Fix Everything...


I am sure you could too, but I am willing to bet (figuratively of course) that your solution to the moribund institution called Congress would be a lot like mine.  Tell me…


1.       Public and limited campaigns – 
Getting elected now matters more than serving, in part because it costs so much.  Create a new Fairness Doctrine for TV (including cable!) that gives all candidates on the ballot the same amount of time on the air.  The limit the total amount of air time for them all to say 30% of advertising time.  Then limit the time they can advertise to the month before the primary and the month before the general election.  Want to spend more, fine.  Use the mail.  Buy space in newspapers.  They both could use the business.

2.       Longer terms
Two year cycles are too short.  The encourage the perpetual campaign, at the expense of actual governance.  Extend Representatives to four years, senators to eight, and the president to two five year terms.  

3.       Judicial Congressional redistricting
End gerrymandering by creating a panel of retired federal judges to draw new districts every ten years.  Have any challenges sent directly to the Supreme Court.
  
4.       No congressional perks or exemptions from laws affecting them personally 
Members of Congress and the President are not affected by most of the laws they pass.  They should be members of Social Security, have a health plan used by ordinary federal employees, join Medicare when qualified, and have a 403b form of retirement subject to ERISA like the rest of us. I don't get a guaranteed pension, nor do most citizens.  Neither should they. 

5.       Tax return and financial asset visibility (law)
Congress and the President must annually make their income tax and financial assets visible to the public. Let's see how average they are, and whether they remain so.

6.       Disqualified from any relationship to Congress after serving.
No fair changing sides.  No member of Congress or President may work for any firm that lobbies Congress or any federal department or office.  In my business, when you retire you leave town and shut up.  So should they.  

Maybe there are other things that should be done, but I think that's a good start.  And only one of them would require amending the Constitution.  What do you think?

22 January 2013

Winterreise...

It starts with the wind.  

When the wind shifts to the west or northwest, it drags moisture from the lake along with it.  Over land, the cold air cannot hold onto the moisture and so it drops as snow.

Lake effect snow. 

Buffalo and Cleveland get it.  But my Michigan claims four of the ten snowiest cities in the lower 48.  All four are on the shore of a Great Lake.  Inland as we are, we get only 72 inches a year.

It started this weekend, which is late for us.  The temps dove from 45 Saturday afternoon to 25 Sunday morning.  By nightfall the familiar 'unripe' flakes were falling.  Lake effect snow was water very recently.  Instead of being carefully made over time, like bread, it is slapped together in a hurry and looks it. 

I did not notice anything the next morning.

Normally, I walk to church.  But the cold was well below freezing and the winds well above 20.  So I drove.  First time this season when the roads were genuinely slippery, and I paid attention.  That's why I cannot say for sure if it happened before we left or while we were at church. 

Coming home, though, back down our street, I saw four parked cars in a row had been severely damaged.  One gouged, another over the curve with a dented bumper, a third crumpled in back with its nose crumpling trunk of the fourth car in front of it.

Leaving tracks

I could see what happened. Someone not in control - thanks to snow and alcohol perhaps, careened into the first, dove into the third (shoving it into the fourth) and then tried to back up, but got hung up on the curb.  Disturbing both in its violence and its clarity.

Leaving the garage I saw animal tracks in the back yard .  No doubt the rabbit that made them is frequently in my yard but only when its snows do I know because of the tracks.  Unlikely juxtaposition, I thought.

Rarely do our actions leave a trail. Most days our deeds barely leave a mark at all.  Cars travel down my street every day, rabbits across my lawn at night.  No one notices.  But they do, and without doubt they do not notice me or my looming yellow brick house either.

How curious, to live in a world so inhabited and not notice.  Until it snows.