A Term Limit (and More) Amendment

Nothing like diving back into the deep end of blogging with a political post …

Over a decade ago I wrote a blog series entitled, “If I Were My Own Representative,” in which I laid out little tidbits about how I would comport myself if I were ever elected to the House of Representatives. (For folks familiar with my music, this actually predated “I Think I’ll Run for Congress”.) The first post of the series started this way:

For a long time I’ve thought — “known,” in the all-knowledge-is-only-probable sense — that I would do well as a Member of Congress: a Representative or even a Senator. I like to think things through, I try not to overreact, and I firmly believe in our government of, by, and for the people.

I also think that I am probably unelectable. I am not a fan of back-room dealings, have a tendency to speak my mind with some disregard for the consequences, and I really don’t like the idea of turning my life into an endless campaign.

Funny that I wrote some of that into the song a year or so later. Anyway, links to all five parts of the series are at the bottom, and this post could be considered an adjunct or perhaps even an additional installment.

So, term limits.

For as long as I can remember, I have advocated that Representatives, Senators, and the President all be limited to twelve years in office, because twelve is the lowest number that each term length divides into. I’ve only shared that opinion with a few of my friends, because who cares what I think? But if I were elected to office, my opinion on the subject might carry more weight. So, if I were my own Representative, as one of my first acts I would propose the following Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Amendment _

1. The limit of continuous service in any Federal elective office shall be twelve (12) years.

2. Upon departing a Federal elective office, no person shall enter the same Federal elective office until a period of time equal to their just-completed service shall have elapsed, nor shall they stand for or be elected or appointed to the same Federal elective office unless entering therein shall meet this restriction.

There you see the “and more” part promised in the title. I’ve never heard anyone else advocate something like that second clause, but I think it’s important because it would restrict an office-holder from simply sitting out a single term and then trying to be elected again. The longer they stay out of office–whether they go back into the private sector (which I think would be preferable) or go to another position in government–the weaker the strings that they might pull, or that might pull on them, may get.

Signs of Madison's Tea Party: "Term limits"
(Image: “Signs of Madison’s Tea Party: ‘Term limits’,” by cometstarmoon, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Note that, as written, this amendment would not prevent someone from serving a few terms in one office and then standing for election to a different office. I don’t think we need to narrow the corridor of service (or possible advancement) too much.

But, as with most of my musings, this is only a thought exercise. Unless, that is, someone wants to manage a campaign for me to become my own Representative [hint, hint]. It’s not as if I haven’t said that “I Think I’ll Run for Congress”!

As always, comments are welcome — and if you like the idea, feel free to share it with your friends … or even your Representative!

___

The Original IIWMOR Series:
If I Were My Own Representative, Part I
If I Were My Own Representative, Part II: Knowing What I’m Voting For
If I Were My Own Representative, Part III: Hearings and Caucuses
If I Were My Own Representative, Part IV: My Touchstone for Voting
If I Were My Own Representative, Part V: A Positive Message

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Unprepared for Regret, Part VIII: Independence is Overrated

Today we observe Independence Day — the day our Founders signed the Declaration they had voted approval of two days prior, claiming for themselves and for us “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This year, however, I think perhaps independence (and particularly personal independence) is overrated. Not unimportant, certainly, but not all-important. So I will observe the day — put out the flag, sing some patriotic songs, fire up the grill — but I doubt that I will celebrate it as eagerly, as deeply, as I once did.

(Before we go further, a reminder: This post is another in a series that has been a tribute to my late wife, Jill Rinehart, and a record of the grief I’ve struggled with since she died last October. The previous installment was on my birthday. All the entries so far are linked below.)

In the spirit of the day, here’s a picture of Jill and me on the 4th of July in 2017, touring the Chickamauga Battlefield after a pleasant visit (and lunch!) at my boss’s house:


(With Jill at the Chickamauga Battlefield, 4 July 2017.)

Can you guess why I might think independence is overrated?

Because, having lost my life partner with whom I had spent over 34 years of marriage, I haven’t found my resultant “independence” to be all that enriching. As Scripture says,

And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the human to be alone. I shall make him a sustainer beside him.” (Genesis 2:18, translated by Robert Alter)

Better than independence, for me, was interdependence. Mutual support, mutual respect, individual freedom within the structure of our relationship. We were each independent to a certain degree: Jill had her teaching and her art and her plants, and I had my work and my writing and my music. But we also worked together as a team. We planned, set goals, and accomplished things together. And I miss our togetherness, our partnership.

As a result, finding myself personally independent has been a struggle. I suppose in some respect it’s been frightening, but in a much deeper respect it’s just been lonely. I’ve said before that I don’t always like who I am without her, because she made me a better person — or, if she didn’t exactly make me better, at least she inspired me to work to be better.

Speaking of being better: Before I close, will you permit me a brief digression in these politically tumultuous times? (If not, you can just skip the next paragraph.)

Our society is pretty fractured at the moment. I’m disappointed that we haven’t been able to develop and sustain the kind of friendly, supportive social interdependence that a strong political union should manifest. Some people seem to believe that’s become impossible. They may be right; but I hope for better. So with that in mind, let me say: Black lives do matter. If you are black, don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. But, more to the point of personal independence and interdependence: Your life matters. You, reading these words right now. Your life matters. Not because you may be black or white or some shade in between; not because you’re of the Zulu tribe or the Celtic tribe or the Navajo tribe; not because you are from the North or the South or the East or the West; but simply because you are unique in the world, a rarity in the boundless expanse of creation, made (so I believe) with the image of God stamped upon your soul. Your life matters — to me, at this moment. I wish that message would catch on, and that more people would feel comfortable sharing it.

In the end, I think it’s important to maintain a degree of independence, but more important to cultivate interdependence with those we love and trust. It may be hard if there is little (or no) love or trust, and maybe those three things — love and interdependence and trust — are related and build on one another. That’s probably a topic for another day.

For today, though, in keeping with the series theme, I regret any and every time that I have squandered love or trust — because they are difficult to regain.

And I wish you love and trust, and a high degree of interdependence that helps you be better than you might be otherwise. Because, I say again, your life matters.

___

Previously in the series:
Unprepared for Regret
Unprepared for Regret, Part II: Valentine’s Day
Unprepared for Regret, Part III: Jill’s Last Day
Unprepared for Regret, Part IV: The Day Jill Died
Unprepared for Regret, Part V: Six Months Gone
Unprepared for Regret, Part VI: Our Anniversary
Unprepared for Regret, Part VII: Hollow Birthday to Me

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Home of the Scared

If I had a magic wand, I would make you less afraid. Not foolhardy, just less apprehensive of the world and the people around you.

I grew up learning that fear was a thing to be conquered, not a thing to which we should capitulate. FDR, for all his faults, famously said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Frank Herbert gave us the “Litany Against Fear” in his novel, Dune: “Fear is the mind-killer…. I will face my fear.” Yet, somehow, instead of learning courage in the face of fear, many people today seem to have become paralyzed by fear.

Some claim to be tolerant of others but demonstrate fear of opposing ideas when they shout down anyone who disagrees with them. Some claim to “speak truth to power,” but cower in “safe spaces.” And now, many not only hide away in fear of the SARS-CoV-2 virus but they demand that others sequester themselves as well. Fear has led some of us to become subjects of the state moreso than citizens of it: subject to the state, happy to trade our freedom for a little security … or the illusion of security.

Leaving off for the moment the unfortunate fact that some people regard the entire song as problematic, have we reached the point where these United States need to replace the last line of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

In some respects, we reached that point a long time ago.

fear
(Image: “fear,” by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

This diatribe against fear, for instance, has been percolating in my brain for over a decade as I observed us, as a society, growing more and more fearful.

A dozen years ago, I read a book review entitled “Mill is a dead white male with something to say” in which Tessa Mayes interviewed Richard Reeves, a biographer of philosopher John Stuart Mill. The review began,

‘Harm’ is a political buzzword of our age. The spectre of harm is used to justify smoking bans in public places (to protect people from the harm of smoke), ‘anti-stalking’ measures against people who get involved in shouting matches with their partner or a workmate (in the name of protecting individuals from ‘emotional harm’), censorship (offensive words are said to ‘harm’ our self-esteem) and opposition to consumerism (apparently it ‘harms’ the environment).

All sorts of activities, from boozing to gambling to sexual relationships, are now said to involve harm – either to the person carrying them out or to people caught up in these whirlwinds of harmful behaviour. And thus, it is argued, government intervention into these intimate areas of our lives is not only justifiable, it is necessary.

To that list, we may now add such things as trading in non-state-approved items, traveling to non-state-approved places, congregating with non-state-approved people, and so forth.

The review pointed out that Mill

had a view of men as capable and energetic, who, when given the chance, could progress to become serious and even ‘heroic’ individuals. Thus, he had a quite narrow view of harm: in his view, it would take quite a lot to harm individuals who were possessed of free will and very often grit, and therefore he argued that only clear cases of harm could justify restrictions.

Today, by contrast, individuals are viewed as weak and vulnerable. The term ‘the vulnerable’ is used to refer to whole swathes of society. We are considered to be easily damaged and fragile creatures who must be mollycoddled by political leaders, social workers and health practitioners in order to keep our self-esteem intact. So almost everything is seen as ‘harmful’ to us today.

And how much more so when faced with something like SARS-CoV-2 that is demonstrably harmful? Something that mathematics predicted would harm millions, most especially “the vulnerable”?

It was not deemed sufficient to erect barriers to protect the “easily damaged and fragile” among us — the elderly, the infirm — when it seemed that medical facilities would be overrun with patients. Instead, political leaders and especially the media turned to a suasion tool that has proven far too useful: fear. Not that the fears associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were especially new. Fear was already rampant in our risk-averse society, albeit at something of a maintenance level, in terms of how tentative many people have become in their day-to-day lives. But people with vested interests applied the scary virus as if it were gasoline to more general fears that have smoldered for years. Carefully constructed and almost constantly negative reporting about the virus magnified those fears into quiet terror.

And people who are frequently (if not constantly) afraid are not likely to object to limitations on their liberties.

The difference between Mill’s view of harm and the popular view of harm today is the difference between a view of mankind as generally good and capable of freedom, and a view of mankind as weak and degraded. So where Mill emphasised the necessity of liberty, today many officials and commentators talk about the ‘dangers of unadulterated liberty’.

For Mill, any half-decent conception of the state had to be considered in line with individual liberty and social progress. As he writes in On Liberty: ‘A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.’

But why are we so afraid?

I submit that many of us are afraid because we abandoned faith. By abandoning faith, we abandoned hope in an afterlife, and by abandoning hope in an afterlife, we have come to fear death itself as the ultimate evil. Not to have a healthy respect for death, not to disdain it and to seek to postpone it because life itself is grand and glorious, but to fear it above all things.**

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield noted that the Spartan King, Leonidas, said the highest virtue of a warrior was “contempt for death.” To count death as nothing, as unworthy of notice even though it is inevitable. Why is that important? Because if you don’t fear death, you won’t fear much of anything; in contrast, if you fear death too much, you will fear practically everything.

You may not admit it. But every fear stems from the fear of death. Believing in an afterlife is the surest way to overcome that fear, and such belief was the root of the fearlessness of mankind throughout history. But when more and more people began to disbelieve in an afterlife, once they came to fear death and to dread the very idea of it, they naturally began to shy away from anything too risky.

And those who deeply fear death do not understand those with contempt for it.

Not everyone can muster true contempt for death, can master that ultimate fear, but that ability in the face of predatory threats made relationships and status and roles much clearer in the past. We lack that kind of tangible threat these days. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, as dangerous as it is, does not pose such a threat — if for no other reason than that we cannot sense it directly.

When predators lurked outside, when their eyes shone in the dark beyond the firelight, when the dawn revealed the blood and mutilated corpses of the unwary, the weak and fearful naturally appreciated the strong and brave. We have been so long without a real existential threat that the weak have become less fearful, and the strong seem to have become less necessary. Some of the strong and good still protect the tribe, and we ought to be thankful for them. But we seem to have reached the point that the weak have grown comfortable enough that they feel justified in mocking the strong. That, I suppose, they may consider enlightenment.

Many years ago a popular brand of clothing featured the words “No fear.” That sentiment is lacking these days. Not only does almost everyone seem to be afraid, but many of us express our fears quite openly and surround ourselves (virtually) with those who share or at least bolster our fears. In some respects we appear to be a generation steeped in fear — and whereas our society used to wrestle with tangible fears like those of nuclear annihilation, we have given free rein to so many ephemeral fears that now a moderate danger like SARS-CoV-2 has brought some people to the point of near panic.***

Previous generations cultivated what the British called the “stiff upper lip,” but today we might well be a culture of quivering lips. Perhaps rather than the age of information, what we live in is the age of angst. Enemies need not bother terrorizing us anymore. We are already afraid. Not all of us, necessarily, but enough of us.

And, as I said at the start, if I had a magic wand to wave, I would use it to decrease our collective fear so we might once again lay claim to being the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

___
*It is probably prudent to note that some people have been laying claim to rights without any emphasis on assuming the responsibilities that go with those rights. But, that’s a topic for another post.
**I recognize some degree of irony in my talking so blithely about death and having contempt for it, while still subject to deep and sometimes soul-wrenching grief.
***In a future post, I hope to look at the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the lens of risk management, in hopes of showing that there is less need for panic than some people think.

___
P.S. While on the subject of the virus, don’t forget to order your Proximity Avoidance T-Shirt….

(Proximity Avoidance logo, designed by Christopher Rinehart.)

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Maybe We Need a Freedom Gauge

I had the idea, probably months ago now, and set it down in my long list of strange, passing thoughts, for something called the Freedom Gauge, or Freedom Meter. I think that might be helpful in making political decisions and informing political opinions.

Why? Because, at root, every government restricts citizens’ freedoms in some way(s) — after all, we accept certain limitations on complete, anarchic freedom as part of the social compact — and every law that is passed curtails some freedom(s). The question is, how much?

My first thought was that of being a watchdog over legislatures so that, in the process of new laws being proposed, debated, and enacted, the bills’ effects on personal freedom might be shown on the Freedom Gauge. Different legislative proposals could be compared in terms of their “Freedom Quotient” or something. The idea was to present in graphical form how much particular legislation would curtail freedoms. (And, in a flight of the wildest rose-colored-glasses fancy, I thought legislatures themselves might make use of the gauge to show how little impact their proposals would have on the average citizen.)

Hypocrisy Meter, Pegged
Yes, something like that … (Image: “Hypocrisy Meter, Pegged,” by Kaz Vorpal, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

My second thought was an international comparison of some sort: a monitor of the freedom(s) afforded — or denied — by different countries. Basic data might come from the CIA World Factbook or other trustworthy sources, and might include socioeconomic figures, crime statistics, human rights abuse reports, and whatnot. But I think the local version, the what-law-are-they-passing-today version, may be more useful.

If I had the wherewithal — the time, money, and know-how — I think I would register a website called “freedomgauge.com” or “freedom-meter.com” (both domains were available as of noon today) and build a site that would “measure” — somehow — and report infringements on freedoms: infringements in existence now, and ones that are being proposed. Alas, that seems like a monumental task. I suppose it would have to be crowd-sourced in some way, reliant on contributors the way online encyclopedias are. And that’s far beyond my level of expertise.

So, no, I don’t see myself making a “Freedom Gauge” happen, though I think it might be a good thing.

With that said: if you think the idea has merit, feel free to run with it and see what you can do!

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Blinded by the Dark

Considering a pseudo-random question that seems relevant to our current societal climate:

Why does being vehemently against something — hating it with a passionate rage — blind us to any merits of the thing?

careful now
Beware what lurks in the darkness of hatred and fear. (Image: “careful now,” by neeel, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Consider any number of candidate topics: abortion, guns, the President, nameacontroversialsubject. Why do so many of us end up so adamantly against whatever it is that we cannot bring ourselves to consider the least amount of good in it? Why does it seem that acknowledging even the tiniest merit is some kind of betrayal, rather than an admission that we don’t have all the answers and that most (if not all) issues are not clearly black and white?

Sometimes it seems as if we are afraid to recognize anything good in that thing we despise, because we might begin to question ourselves instead of the hated thing. But in general we’re careful not to question our own conclusions or premises, let alone how we got from one to another; and just as careful not to question our motives or our leaders — and so we build fortifications around our position and prepare not only to defend it, but to attack the other. We guard ourselves against an obvious risk: if we ever accept that the thing we hate has some good aspects, we may begin to recognize that its opposite, the thing we love, is not as pure and perfect as we thought.

As an artifact of my engineering training, I wonder: is there a scale, a curve, a function that describes the point at which opposition produces recalcitrance? And is there a way to draw one another back from the precipice it represents?

I may be the only person who wonders, or cares. But, then again, I’m quite comfortable in the “grey areas” of life — between the black and the white.

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Why I Want (to Start?) a New Political Party

I want a new political party.

To be clear: I want a new political party almost enough to stop playing my “Anti-Candidate” game — as fun as it’s been — and start playing the political game seriously. If I thought there were enough interest, I would pursue it.

I’ve never felt completely bound by party affiliation. I can’t remember ever voting a straight party ticket. I’ve been a Republican as long as I can remember, though, so it might have happened once or twice. But lately I’ve been displeased by my own party almost as much as by any other.

The parties today spend vast amounts of time, effort, and money trying to distance themselves from the others. “We’re not them” seems to be the rallying cry, even when their criticisms of the other side sound rather similar.

Consider, for instance, that both Democrats and Republicans like to claim that the other side is what I’d call the “party of taking.” Democrats warn that Republicans are the party of the rich, of banks and big business, who by the very fact of their wealth must be hoarders who take and take from the economy, enriching themselves and their friends at the expense of the poor and downtrodden. Republicans warn that Democrats stand ready to take what they can, from whoever they can, in order to redistribute it according to their socialistic visions.

Instead of saying what they are, they focus on what the other party is, or what they think it is, or what they want to make it seem to be.

I’m weary in my soul from all of that.

The parties rarely hold themselves up to scrutiny, rarely articulate clear visions, and rarely offer compelling arguments for their positions. What are they all about? What do they represent? With the number of issues in play, and the vast array of opinions on even the simplest subjects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the totality of their platforms; but, in the interest of time and attention, let’s keep the focus on economic matters.

Democrats appear to want to be the “party of providing,” or the “party of giving” — emphasizing the “have-nots” of society and determined to transform them directly into “haves.” They seem to downplay the source of the largesse they would distribute, except to say that much of it would come from the hated rich. Republicans like to present themselves as the “party of protecting” when it comes to securing the blessings of liberty, and are very much the “party of earning” — especially in the way they deemphasize society’s economic safety nets. And Libertarians — while in some respects I appreciate their positions on many issues, though I shudder at how far some of them tend away from Heinleinian “rational anarchy” all the way to full anarchy — appear to be the “party of keeping,” from the standpoint of everyone keeping what they have and doing with it what they please.

I want a new party: one that is not about “giving” or “earning” or “keeping” but is about “producing.”

North Carolina Potter
Where is the political party for the creative class, and the people who produce? (Image: “North Carolina Potter,” by Robert Nunnally, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I want a party for the makers, for the creators, for the ordinary as well as the remarkable people who design, who build, who produce and maintain everything that makes modern life possible, comfortable, and enjoyable. And I mean everything, from houses to housewares, from food to furniture, from semiconductors to symphonies. Not a party of “labor” by itself, but a party of industry — remembering that those who drive trucks are just as industrious as those who direct movies, and those who make repairs are just as industrious as those who make … well, anything.

I want a party that not only recognizes but celebrates the creative productivity — or, if you prefer, the productive creativity — that leads to inspiration, innovation, and invention. Productivity that is uncreative winds down into obsolescence, and creativity that is unproductive remains underappreciated if it is not lost forever, but creative productivity leads to great gains in every field of endeavor. I believe creative productivity is essential to establishing, growing, and sustaining any civilization, and those who are creative and productive have earned the right to be represented by a party (and a government) that values their contributions to society.

That’s the new party I want.

Is that too much to ask? Maybe. And I wonder whether anyone else might think it worthwhile.

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In Search of a New Political Slogan

President Trump has had so much success with “Make America Great Again” — which I never fully understood, since I was convinced that the USA was pretty great already, but which I have to admit is continually effective in how it drives some people beyond crazy — that I started thinking I might need a new slogan for my ongoing “Anti-Campaign.”

(For those unfamiliar with the Anti-Candidate’s Anti-Campaign, we offer two musical introductions: “I Think I’ll Run for Congress” and “The Anti-Candidate Song”.)

My first thought was to copy the “MAGA” formula exactly, and one early contender in that vein was “Make America Gray’s Again” — but that seemed too “arrogant and megalomaniacal” even for me 😃. (If you’re not sure about the “arrogant and megalomaniacal” references, you definitely need to listen to the musical introductions above.) Plus, it would need to be somewhat different so as not to confuse people too much.

Anyway, following the “Make America [Something]” structure, we could have things like:

  • MABA — Make America Barbaric Again (for fans of Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” and the rough-and-tumble days of the frontier), though in some respects we’ve crossed that bridge and burned it behind us; alternately, Make America Brave Again might be more appropriate
  • MACA — Make America Confederate Again (since some progressives seem ready to ditch the current Constitution, maybe we should revert to the Articles of Confederation — or did you think I meant a different confederacy?), though it would probably be better to Make America Constitutional Again
  • MADA — Make America Disciples Again (for those of a missionary or Dominionist bent)
  • MAHA — Make America Harmonious Again (for the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” crowd)
  • MAMA — Make America Magnificent Again (maybe too close, thematically, to MAGA … wouldn’t want any copyright infringement issues), but could also be Make America Megalomaniacal & Arrogant 😁
  • MANA — Make America Neutral Again (admit it: you thought it might say “nice” or “native” again, didn’t you?)
  • MAPA — Make America Proud Again (since, as we learned a few years ago, some people don’t have a lot of pride in the USA)
  • MARA — Make America Righteous Again (another one for the evangelicals, and particularly the fundamentalists)
  • MASA — Make America Serious Again (on second thought … naaah)
  • MATA — Make America Trustworthy Again (i.e., a country with integrity: the best friend and worst enemy another country could ever have)

None of those really fit the bill, though, do they? Maybe this is one reason why I wouldn’t be very well-suited to politics.

I’m sure if I were at all serious about running for office, I would bring some smart people into a room and come up with something. But at the moment, if I were serious, I might just turn things around and have my campaign be about GAMA: Giving America Meaning Again.

What do I mean by that? Reminding us that the USA was “brought forth on this continent” for freedom, and that the steps we’ve been taking toward statist control are anathema to freedom. Reminding us what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” mean — and what they don’t mean. Reminding us what government is supposed to do — and what it’s not supposed to do. If, that is, anyone would ever want to listen to another voice crying in the wilderness.

So, if you were an adviser to the Anti-Candidate, or on the Anti-Campaign team, what would you suggest as a good slogan?

___

Don’t forget: As noted here, I’ve been running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook, and the last drawings will be held this Monday, the 15th of April. Sign up at this link!

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Why Isn’t D.C. the Testbed for All Federal Laws?

Several years ago, I pitched an idea in an essay addressed to the Secretary of Education — called, appropriately enough, An Unsolicited Proposal for the Secretary of Education — that they might do well to open and operate a charter school in the District of Columbia, with the aim of making it the best school in the nation. After all, if the US Department of Education really is the nation’s repository of educational excellence, it should be able to run a school, should it not? And not just any school, but a model school that other schools would want to emulate.

We could take that a few steps further, though, if Congress insisted that all Federal laws be tested in the District of Columbia for a period of time — five years, maybe — before they go into effect nationwide. Depending on point of view, D.C. residents would either be the pioneers of new legislation or the guinea pigs for it, but the object would be to actually try out the lawmakers’ (and, let’s be honest, the lobbyists’) ideas on a small scale before they get rolled out to the rest of us. Pilot programs: make sure the laws do what they’re supposed to and don’t have unexpected adverse effects before we make everyone subject to them.


This map shows the original boundary of D.C., before Congress gave Virginia back (in 1846) the portion it had originally donated. (Image: “Map of the District of Columbia, 1835,” public domain from Wikimedia Commons.)

Alas, it’s just another harebrained Anti-Candidate idea. (But, hey: if enough people wanted to put me into elective office, I’d be willing to give it a try!)

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The Dark Energy of Insults

I find it interesting that the tendency to want others to like what we like, to think how we think, and possibly even to do what we do, all too often results in insulting those who like, think, and do different things than we do. It seems rather difficult to acknowledge our differences and admit that other people prefer something else; instead, all too often we attack.

I get that you prefer some things over others, and that you have sound reasons for doing so. I get that you would like for other people to prefer the thing(s) you do. I don’t get that you think it’s a good idea — that it’s to your benefit or anyone else’s — to insult people who prefer things other than those you prefer.

And I especially don’t get that you employ more insults regarding things of great import than you do for trivial things. I don’t encounter many people insulting me because I prefer tea to coffee, for instance; it might be amusing (I do get chided about it from time to time), but people generally don’t think to use insults or coercion in such cases. But the higher the stakes, the more frequent and more scathing the insults; e.g., in the realm of politics and policy decisions. It’s as if being insulted would somehow induce me to change my preferences where other, more reasoned arguments failed to do so.


(Image: “Disagreement Llama,” by Valdrec, on DeviantArt under Creative Commons.)

But that’s not the main purpose of those insults, is it? They’re not meant to convince the other side, but to signal which side we’re on, and to make us feel powerful in our righteous — or self-righteous — indignation. Their dark energy can be addictive, but it’s not all that productive.

Consider: Someone on the conservative side calls a progressive a “libtard.” Someone on the progressive side calls a conservative a Nazi (or a racist, or homophobic, or a misogynist, or whatever). And each one turns away, smug and content — not that they have convinced the other person to reconsider their erroneous views of the world, but that they have put the other person in their place.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. As we find in James 3:10, “Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. Brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

I wish I had an answer, an alternative, a workaround. But all I can do is work on myself, and try to hold myself to a higher standard.

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A Single Standard

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Presidential adviser Ivanka Trump’s e-mails.

My e-mails.*

If any of us violated the terms of our security clearances, nondisclosure agreements, or training, in the course of sending US Government information by e-mail, we should face the same penalty.

If any of us mishandled classified US Government information by sending it over an unclassified e-mail system, whether a government-owned system or a system in the private sector, and whether by intent or through negligence, we should face the same penalty.

If any of us deleted US Government information that was meant (or especially required) to be archived, we should face the same penalty.

We have enough double standards in the world.

Double Standard
(Image: “Double Standard,” by Andy Mangold, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Must we continue to excuse wrong behavior, or apply a different standard, based on who is involved?

Can there ever be a single standard?

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*In whatever official positions I held: Speechwriter to the Under Secretary of the Air Force, Technology Security Policy Program Manager, Detachment Commander, etc.

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