All posts by Bill Hennessy

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Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz Just Gave the Perfect Response to Establishment Critics VIDEO

The 9 percent who belong to the oligarchical political class hate the rest of us—except when they’re eating from our tables like rabid Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs.

The establishment’s latest target: Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Fox’s Bret Baier asked Senator Cruz about critics like George Will and Charles Krauthammer who say Cruz doesn’t understand Washington’s rules: Congressional politics is a team sport

I am not trying to play the rules of Washington, because I think Washington is profoundly broken.

The taxi commissions have done everything they can to kill Uber and Lyft,

What we’re trying to do in the political world is very much the same thing [as Uber and Lyft], which is change the means of decision making,take it out of the smoke-filled rooms where decision making is done in Washington between career politicians and lobbyists, and instead empower the people. In my view, the only way we can turn this country around is if the American people rise up and hold every one of us accountable. So I’m not trying to play by the Washington rules.

The Establishment is upset that Ted Cruz had the audacity to question the Constitutionality of Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty order.

Missouri Court Reform

Do Police Officers Like Writing Tickets?

What do police officer think about traffic ticket quotas? Here’s one officer’s thoughts:

In my agency, those of us in patrol had to keep a “Daily.” This would be a formal document that showed the times, addresses where we went, written in code, of what we had done.

On the back were boxes for how many traffic citations, criminal citations, parking citations and felony and misdemeanor arrests we had made on that day.

I frequently commented that the form didn’t represent how many people we stopped from committing suicide. Or how many domestic disputes we settled or how many missing children we found. So that “daily” never really adequately represented what my day really involved and often, by the numbers, could look as though I did nothing at all.

Read Quote of India L. J. Mitchell’s answer to Do police officers have monthly ticket quotas? on Quora

My dad was a city police officers in the 1950s and 1960s.

We were talking about cities that use the police force as a taxing agency last week. I gathered that my dad’s captain thought he was a little lax in issuing citations.

“My captain’d say, ‘why aren’t you writing more tickets, Hennessy?'” Dad told me. “And I’d say, ‘I didn’t see anybody do anything wrong.'”

One time his sergeant rode with him. The sergeant wanted to show him how to spot a moving violation. “Follow anybody for 5 minutes, and they’ll commit a violation,” the sergeant told him.

The sergeant spotted a car with a burned-out headlight. “Get him,” he told my dad.

“He’s got his family in the car, Sergeant.”

“I don’t care, Hennessy. It’s a violation. Pull him over.”

So my dad did.

“I’m sorry to do this to you with your family in the car, but my sergeant’s with me,” my dad told the driver.

The driver said, “I understand, officer. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but did you know you have a headlight out too?”

My dad looked back at the cruiser. Sure enough, a headlight was out.

“Gimme that ticket back,” he told the driver.

When Dad got back in the cruiser, he told his sergeant, “we have a burned out headlight, too, so I tore up the ticket.”

The sergeant, embarrassed, said, “just take me back to station. And get this car fixed.”

Police have a duty to enforce the law. Dangerous stretches of road require additional policing and strict enforcement of codes. I would never argue otherwise.

But there real value of police officers is their service. Like the officer quoted at the top  of this post said. Cities that use their police and courts to raise revenue don’t count lives saved or disasters averted when rating officers.

My dad liked being a presence in the community. He preferred walking the beat on foot patrol to riding in a car. “You never know what’s going on in a car,” he told me. “And nobody knew who you were.”

Ordinances are intended to increase safety and minimize danger to citizens. They’re not revenue streams. At least they shouldn’t be. The fine associated with safety tickets is a deterrent to the violator, not a tax for the government.

But too many St. Louis County cities use police and courts as a hidden tax on residents, visitors, and transients. Then people lose faith in police, in courts, and in the “system.” As Arch City Defenders found:

Many residents feel that municipal courts exist to collect fine revenue, not to dispense justice. “Absolutely they don’t want nothing but your money,” one defendant said, but “you get people out here who don’t make a whole lot of money.”38 He then described the startlingly common experience of being arrested, jailed, and instructed to call everybody he could think of who might have money to pay his fine—with the promise of three or four days in jail if he could not cobble together the sum.

That’s called a shakedown. How do shakedowns promote safety or dispense justice?

They don’t. They just piss people off and destroy communities.

I’m not excusing or condoning the terrorism that went on in Ferguson  I’m saying some St. Louis County municipalities abuse their police and courts, making residents despise and distrust the law. And when the people distrust the law, the lawless have an open door to wreck havoc on the community.

And, to some degree, that’s what happened. That’s what Tom Schweich, Eric Schmitt, and others are trying to fix.

traffic-ticket

What No One Tells You About Ferguson

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
–“For What It’s Worth” by The Buffalo Springfield

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

Those words popped out of my mouth as I watched the Sunday evening news with my dad. It was August 10.

Full-scale rioting hadn’t erupted, but the battle lines were drawn: police on one side, people, mostly young people, on the other.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

St. Louis County has 91 municipalities. On the other side of the state, Jackson County, similar in area and population to St. Louis County, has 14.

Those 91 municipalities compete with their neighbors for business and residents. And revenue. To compete, these cities promise services and systems to current and potential residents.

Services and systems cost money.

For decades, especially the decades after World War II, cities like Ferguson relied on burgeoning populations and suburban migration to fund municipal services. To attract housing developers, shopping mall developers, and manufacturers, cities built skating rinks, water parks, and recreation centers from the late 1940s to late 1990s–the post-war.

Demographics

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I re-read the paragraph three or four times to make sure I got it right. Then, I put the book down to ponder its meaning.

Thomas Barnett, a Harvard and Pentagon Russian scholar, wrote a book in 2003 about the post-Cold War era. The book is fantastic, but one idea stood out:

World human population would reach its peak around 2050.

Why did that knock me on keester?

For all of human history, human population only grew. Sure, some catastrophes temporarily knocked the people count back a bit: the black plague, the Spanish Flu, WWII. But those were rare, mass disasters. What Barnett predicted is not a disaster, but a part of human evolution: Peak Humanity.

The consequences of falling population are huge, and only a few scholars even to think about what it might mean.  Some consequences:

  • Aging population
  • Rising healthcare costs as a percentage of total spending
  • Housing gluts
  • Falling aggregate demand for goods and services
  • Abandoned cities
  • Shortage of physical laborers
  • Reduced wealth
  • Government defaults
  • Empty pension accounts

To some degree, civilization is a Ponzi scheme. As long as the next generation is bigger than the last, everything’s cool.

We borrowed money in the 1950s and 1960s to build huge high schools. Then, the high school population peaked in 1982, the year I graduated. (Coincidentally, drug use and teen drinking also peaked that year.) Because of that, my alma mater, Bishop DuBourg High School, has a completely unused 4th floor and lots of repurposed classroom space on the other floors. Built in the 1950s to house 3,000 students, the building now hosts fewer than 600–about the size of my graduating class.

The Millennials will be the largest generation in American history. And the first wave of Millennials are in their 30s.

What’s become clear to me since reading Barnett’s book in 2004 is that Peak Humanity is unevenly distributed.

Japan reached its zenith in the 1980s–and its economy stagnated. Europe peaked in the 1990s–and its economy stagnated. The United States, ex-immigration, sits at its peak right now.

Why does it matter? As geopolitical strategist George Friedman points out in his book Then Next 100 Years:

Traditionally, declining population has meant declining power. For Europe, this will indeed be the case. But for other countries, like the United States, maintaining population levels, or finding technological ways to augment a declining population, will be essential if political power is be retained in the next hundred years.

While Friedman and Barnett concerned themselves with national and global issues of population decline, we can scale down the effects of shrinking populations to the municipal or even township level.

Detroit, for example, was the wealthiest city in the world for half of the twentieth century. Not New York or London, but Detroit. The automobile, geography, and prohibition contributed to Detroit’s economic power, but population growth was both a cause and an effect.

Where is Detroit today? Since the 1950s, Detroit has lost more than 60 percent of its population. At first, people moved to the suburbs. More recently, people have fled the region entirely. Detroit is bankrupt, and its political leaders are looking for ways to dismantle much of the city’s buildings and infrastructure.

St. Louis City has lost almost two-thirds of its population over the same period. Like Detroit, the exodus to the suburbs, like Ferguson, kept the region strong. But St. Louis County has been losing population since the late 1990s, and that trend is likely to continue. If St. Louis County re-absorbs St. Louis City in the future, that population decline will accelerate.

What’s more important than the macro-migration pattern is the micro-migration pattern. The middle class moves the farthest and the fastest. The wealthy follow. The poor stay. As the city declines, rich liberals push government to provide more and more services to the remaining poor. Businesses push government to provide more attractions and distractions to pull in revenue from visitors. But the tax base shrinks.

As the wealthy finally abandon the decaying cities, power shifts to community representatives of the poor–representatives whose only skill is pushing government for more poverty programs, services, and hand-outs. But they demand these services of governments facing shrinking tax bases.

What happens next? At this point, cities turn their police departments into tax collectors. Contemporary Sheriffs of Nottingham who take from the poor and give to the government. “To protect and serve,” comes to mean “to protect the government’s revenue and to serve warrants upon the indigent.”

Growing up in South St. Louis with a father who served on the St. Louis Police Department for a decade, we learned to respect police officers. The Officer Friendly program brought city police into schools to talk to kids about their jobs.

By the time we got our driver’s licenses, we were experts at navigating around St. Louis’s infamous speed traps. Marlborough, a tiny village just outside the city limits along Watson Road and home of the Coral Courts Motel, was the most notorious.

Marlborough rose along Route 66 and prospered during America’s westward migration. Post-war travellers to the Grand Canyon and magical California breathed economic life into towns Marlborough. By 1970, I-70, the nation’s first interstate highway, conspired with air travel to starve Marlborough of its primary source of revenue: transient vacationers.

Wanting to hold onto its power despite its transient population decline, Marlborough’s leaders ironically turned upon the very instrument of its growth: the car and driver. With fewer visitors to its hotels, restaurants, and shops, Marlborough set up multiple speed traps and confusing traffic ordinances to extract money from drivers, resident or not.

As young drivers, often hauling a cooler of Micholob Light in the trunk, we avoided Marlborough like the plague.

Since the early 80s, more speed traps have emerged in St. Louis County. Ballwin, Bel-Ridge, Breckenridge Hills, St. Ann, Bridgeton, Beverly Hills, Glendale, and many more.

The city police still have a reputation for using the traffic ticket for safety. But the city police are dying breed. If St. Louis County is increasingly a modern day Nottinghamshire where police officers use the power of their office to tax residents through tickets for petty  ordinance violations.

On top of the onerous ticketing policies, municipal courts serve as backup revenue generators. Florissant recently held traffic court in a school gymnasium because of so many defendants. The courts assess contempt fines for bizarre violations, like clothing, chewing gum, and even talking quietly to a neighbor. A fifty-dollar ticket can quickly turn in to a $800 fine with contempt and failure to appear charges.

One woman told me her grandmother was cited for leaving three trash cans at the curb after 3:00 pm on trash day. The fine was $150 per can, or $450. The woman couldn’t afford to pay and she doesn’t go out after dark, so she missed her court date. A warrant and a $600 fine for failure to appear.

Whatever that woman was taught to think of police officers as a little girl in 1950s, imagine her opinion of the profession today. Imagine her “respect” for the court system? For the rule of law?

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

“This isn’t about Michael Brown.”

And it never was. The riots of August were about big government. They were about governments that gorged themselves on growing populations, bribed residents with services and distractions that governments should never offer, and politicians who bought loyalty with high-paying, taxpayer-funded jobs. Now, those governments feed off the poor to maintain the government’s bloated lifestyle.

Michael Brown was only a spark. Tax-collection through police was the kindling. Abusive municipal courts were the gasoline.

Now, Ferguson plans to pay for clean-up efforts with . . . you guessed . . . increased fines.

I couldn’t believe the opening paragraph of this story from Bloomberg:

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

(h/t ZeroHedge)

The stupidity of government knows no bounds. It’s time we stop.

And now for my favorite song from the 60s

jury-box

Here’s What’s Happening on the Muni Courts Front

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

— The Declaration of Independence

Back in August, I asked for your help in pushing for municipal court reform.

Cities that abuse their police and courts destroy liberty:

Together, these offenses against liberty and decency rise to the level offenses against which we rebelled in the 18th century.

Auditor Schweich’s Municipal Courts Project

In November, State Auditor Tom Schweich announced the Municipal Courts Project. The Auditor will audit 10 municipalities suspected of violating state limits on fines from traffic tickets. Missouri law requires cities to forfeit to the state revenues from traffic tickets that exceed 30 percent of total revenue.

The law does not prevent cities from enforcing traffic laws for safety. The intends to limit financial incentives for cities to write lots of tickets. I had the honor to stand with Republicans–Auditor Schweich and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann–and Democrats–State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal and State Rep Scott Sifton–as Auditor Schweich announced the project.

Senator Schmitt Steps Up

Today, I had the pleasure to meet with State Senator Eric Schmitt to learn about his efforts to further crack down on the courts. Eric SchmittSenator Schmitt has pre-filed legislation for the next general assembly that would reduce the traffic revenue limit to 10 percent from 30 percent. Senator Schmitt and I discussed further legislation, such as:

  • additional penalties for city official who knowingly fail to forfeit excess funds
  • requiring that municipal courts be open to the public
  • prohibiting cities from barring families and children from municipal courts
  • prohibiting cities form locking out defendants before their case is called
  • forcing cities to include all fines, fees, and warrants to the ticket revenue
  • limiting cities’ power to jail people over non-criminal traffic violations (with exceptions for flagrant violations of the court system)

I also recommended as witnesses several people who contacted me about their experiences with municipal courts. And I learned that friend of liberty, State Rep. Paul Curtman, will handle the bill in the House.

Action

Please write your State Representative and State Senator to let them know you support Senator Schmitt’s municipal courts reform. He expects strong opposition from the Municipal League–sort of union for city managers and consultants. This being a bipartisan issue with a strong liberty theme, opponents risk marginalizing themselves.

And say “Thanks” to Tom Schweich ([email protected]) and Eric Schmitt([email protected]) for stepping up on behalf of people who need a voice in government.

 

 

1-The-King-Barack-Obama-And-His-Jester-78130

How to Shame House Republican Leadership On Immigration *ACTION*

[scroll to updates]

And, yes, “House Republican Leadership” is a code word for Ann Wagner.

Every victorious Republican ran on a promise to aggressively check Obama’s illegal executive actions.

They weren’t all lying. Only the “leaders” lied.

House leadership is trying to weasel out of its commitment to voters to block Obama’s illegal activities.

The House can easily attach a rider to the upcoming spending bill prohibiting any money from going toward Obama’s 10 illegal illegal alien memoranda. Such a rider is basically a reverse earmark. Instead of dictating who money must be spent, it dictates how money must not be spent.

The Hyde Amendment is a glorious examples of reverse earmarks in action. The Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions. It has worked for 40 years.

While most House Republican candidates campaigned on just such an action to thwart Obama’s illegal illegal alien orders, the House Leadership now wants to substitute real legislative leadership with candy-ass symbolism.

Call Ann Wagner’s office, (636) 779-5449 and tell her anything short of a rider to the next spending bill that prohibits funding of Obama’s immigration actions will be intolerable. (And use the word “intolerable,” because it conjures up The Intolerable Acts. And it sounds more grown-up than “unacceptable.”)

Her office will mumble some candy-ass nonsense about government shutdowns. You can reply, “No one’s talking about a shutdown. But the last time Republicans got blamed for shutting down the government, voters gave them their biggest House majority since Hoover.”

Her office might say, “Yeah, but why not wait til we have a majority in the Senate in January.”

Your reply, “If you don’t have the courage to act now, why would I believe you’ll grow the courage in a month? And more importantly, if you don’t block the spending now, the White House will use other funds to pre-load the immigration costs.”

You can also stop by Wagner’s St. Louis office:

Here’s the address and map.

301 Sovereign Court
Suite 201
Ballwin, MO 63011

hours: M-F 9-5:00pm

One word of caution, though. You might not want to mention Heritage Foundation. Ann Wagner believes Heritage is a dangerous, radical organization bent on overthrowing Superman and apple pie, or something.
&nbsp

**ACTION**

Tweetfest: #DefundObamasAmnesty this Wednesday 12/3 from 3-5 PM CST. Focus on your Rep: @RepAnnWagner. (Leutkemeyer still thinks Twitter the last name of a C&W singer).

CALL: (636) 779-5449

VISIT: 301 Sovereign Court, Suite 201, Ballwin, MO 63011 (hours: M-F 9 am to 5 pm)

Need more ammo? Here’s a whole mess of links thanks to Heritage Action for America:

Congress CAN Defund Amnesty Notwithstanding the Way USCIS Is Funded
Rescission Is the Wrong Way To Go
Congress Must Defund NOW & Must NOT Pass Long-Term Funding or an Omnibus
Some Additional Background
Abe_Vigoda_1975

Why the Evidence Never Mattered

The danger of jumping to conclusions isn’t that you might be wrong. It’s that your brain will be unable to recognize its error.

We’ve all heard of the psychological (or just logical) fallacy of confirmation bias. It’s worth looking at three aspects of confirmation bias from Science Daily:

  1. In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.
  2. Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.
  3. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or under weigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

In short, confirmation bias leads to error. And confirmation bias in large numbers leads to disaster.

When the CEO of a company jumps to a conclusion (“People want a sweeter, simpler Coke formula,”) their company (and stockholders and employees and customers) feel the pain, but the rest of the world goes on. Lucky for Coke, its leaders abandoned their bias quickly. It helps to have strong data analysts and angry stockholders pointing out your errors.

When large numbers of people jump to a conclusion, things can get much worse. In Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, most of the town jumped to the conclusion that a group of women were witches who helped the Devil possess a group of young girls in exchange for supernatural power. One doctor’s diagnosis of “bewitchment” sent the town (and the whole colony) into a frenzy. Eighteen women were hanged that summer. Dozens of others were accused and tried.

What began as convulsions and odd behavior in two young girls became a real-life horror story. Once a person came under suspicion of witchery, their every utterance and action seemed to confirm the accuser’s hypothesis.

It’s okay to form hypotheses. Without hypotheses, we cannot explore and challenge understandings of the world. Hypotheses are the first step in experimentation. Hypothesis formation makes us human.

But forming a hypothesis is just the start. First grade science teaches us to apply the scientific method: observe, form a hypothesis, design and experiment to disprove the hypothesis, record data, publish the results so others can replicate.

Too often, though, people fail to keep open the possibility that their first hunch was wrong. And very few people have the mental discipline to formally test their hypotheses.

On August 9, 2014, a new Salem Witch Hunt began. Only this time, it began in Ferguson, Missouri. This time, two different factions jumped to two mutually exclusive hypotheses.

On the one hand were people fed up with municipalities that have, for decades, treated citizens as suckers in twisted con game. These cities use police and courts to ticket and fine people into poverty and submission. This faction declared a police officer guilty of witchery. And murder.

On the other hand were people fed up with those who perpetually blame others. This faction declared a dead man a thug and criminal who got precisely what he deserved.

At the time these hypotheses were formed, no one except the police officer and one witness knew what actually happened in the Canfield Apartments that day. Yet, lacking any credible evidence or supporting facts, millions of people across America adopted one hypothesis or another. From that moment—about one hour after the incident—most of America searched for or interpreted information in a way that confirmed their own preconceptions. And the Ferguson Witch Hunt was on.

Those who jumped to the hypothesis that Michael Brown was murdered by a racist cop refused to consider any data that threatened their belief. They still do.

Those who jumped to the hypothesis that Officer Darren Wilson was nearly killed and valiantly fought off his savage attacker refused to consider any data that threatened their belief. They still do.

In the 90 days between the incident and the release of thousands of pages of physical evidence and autopsies and witness testimony, the two opposing hypotheses only galvanized in people’s minds.

On the one hand, some people believed facts that are physically impossible. One person I know believes that Darren Wilson never got out of his police SUV. Instead, the officer cruised around Canfield Apartments shooting at black people out the window of the vehicle. They believe this—and they will fight you if you challenge them—despite all evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, friends of mine swore (and some still maintain) that Darren Wilson’s orbital socket was fractured by numerous blows to the head. They based this belief on one false blog post that used a stock photo of a medical x-ray to reinforce the lie. These people believe the fractured eye socket story despite contradictory testimony from the officer himself.

The evidence and testimony released last week mostly discredits those who burned down Ferguson. The evidence largely supports those who believe the police officer acted out of self-defense.

But the evidence is completely irrelevant. Had every shred of physical evidence and every witness testimony corroborated by video and audio taken from seven different angles shown unequivocally that Michael Brown died of wounds from arrows fired from a crossbow by a 91-year-old Abe Vigoda in drag, the two camps would still go to their graves believing what they came to believe within minutes after the incident in August, Abe Vigoda’s tearful, video confession notwithstanding.

What’s worse, I see the same religious zealotry in business, in politics, and in sports. Very few people I know are willing to hold any of their hypotheses up to formal, honest scrutiny. Our society values only those who stand by their opinions. We piss on people who show their weakness by subjecting their own ideas to tests.

As a race of people, we spend our lives trying to PROVE. WE’RE. RIGHT! We are all conspiracy theorists, pointing to every speck of bird crap on the windshield as incontrovertible proof that Elvis and Jim Morrison were the first same-sex couple married in Washington State, “so don’t even tell me the King is dead!”

Over two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. This American agrees. And I have an untested, loosely-held hypothesis that one reason we’re on the wrong track is our refusal to consider the possibility that we might be wrong about just one of our untested, loosely-held hypotheses.

Until we, as a society, learn to defend our hypotheses by subjecting them to every challenge imaginable, our cities will continue to burn, our trust in people and institutions will continue to decline, and our country will continue down the wrong tracks.

And the wrong tracks must end in complete destruction.

But, as Dennis Miller says at the end of his glorious rants, that’s just my opinion—I could be wrong.

commies-arent-cool

How to Stop the Commies

It’s all a lie. 

It didn’t start that way. At first, the Mike Brown protesters were all about Mike Brown and people like him. But not anymore.

Even the New York Times admitted the protests in Mike Brown’s name are actually the Revolutionary Communist Party advancing Marxism. (The NYT pulled down the story on Sunday morning. I wouldn’t have linked it, anyway.)

I’m not a fan of stomping on someone else’s parade, even if I disagree with their cause. That’s why I’ve been quiet about the Mike Brown protests. Let them have their time.

But communists hijacked their time. I joined the US Navy’s submarine force for one purpose: destroy communism.

Now, communism is here in St. Louis County, and our wimpy politicians are afraid to act.

Here’s one solution you might like.

Let’s get 100 people to commit. Commit to doing your Christmas shopping ONLY at places targeted by the communists.

Commit to spending $100 at every mall, store, and shop where the phony “Mike Brown” protesters target.

Communists want to destroy free market capitalism. The best way to destroy their evil goals is to double down on what they hate: shopping.

They burned Ferguson and Dellwood. So shop Ferguson and Dellwood.

They disrupted West County mall and the Galleria. So shop there.

They shut down the Walmart in South County. So buy your groceries and hunting gear there. And your Christmas presents.

After you shop there, take a picture of your receipt and send it to [email protected]  I’ll get it it to the store manager, and I’ll add up the totals.

Screw the damn communists. This is America. We kicked their asses once, and we’ll do it again.

 

Export-Import-Bank

In the US House, Insider Money Buys Leadership Positions

The US House of Representatives is not a meritocracy. And that’s a shame.

House “leadership” doesn’t actually have anything to do with leadership. It has everything to do with money.

In a story about the fall from power of Nancy Pelosi, Michael Barone describes how the House leadership process evolved from seniority to raw cash.

For years, liberal Democrats had decried the seniority system, which automatically made conservative Southerners (and/or senile members) committee chairmen. There they could and did block liberal measures from coming to the floor.

After the big Democratic victory in the 1974 election, Democratic leaders conceded that the caucus could vote on chairmanships if a sufficient number of members signed petitions for such a vote.

That was the first move. Before 1974, leadership went, pretty much, by seniority. The way to rise to the top in the House was to hang around a long time.

Then, another change gave us the current system of producing “leaders.”

After their big victory in the 1994 election, House Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, instituted a similar procedure.

Chairmen would be determined by the Republican Steering Committee, on which party leaders had a major share of the votes, and there would be a six-year term limit (occasionally waived) on chairmen.

Another result: Members compete for elective chairmanships by raising money for colleagues, largely from Washington insiders.

That is, the reforms make the House more accountable to voters than the seniority system, but also more responsive to lobbyists.

If you’re wondering how Ann Wagner rose so quickly to House leadership, now you know. She used her insider status with the biggest donors to buy her place.

One way she did that: Export Import Bank and Boeing. Being in a safe seat, Mrs. Wagner was free to raise money for other Republican House candidates. At the same time, Boeing wanted to rescue its crony Ex-Im Banking system from a conservative attack.

After months of silence on the Export-Import Bank, Ann finally gave Ex-Im a strong endorsement and a commitment to defend the crony operation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The GOP could go a long way toward limiting the influence of lobbyists and crony capitalists by reverting back to the post-1974 Democrat rules. Just let the whole caucus vote on leadership.

IMG_0463.JPG

Some Protesters Couldn’t Care Less About Mike Brown

If you think the mall protests are about the police, Ferguson, Mike Brown, or Darren Wilson, you could be wrong.

For some, Mike Brown is a pawn. The protests are mere opportunities to exploit.

Travis Martin, a protester who was at the bowling alley and the Justice Center, said he didn’t think that activist leaders had done enough planning and promotion for an event at the Galleria.

“I think the main organizers weren’t so focused on anti-capitalism. They are more focused on justice for Mike Brown,” said Martin, 27, a student at the Washington University School of Law. (source: stltoday.com)

Got that? The protesters were too worried about justice. Travis Martin seems all about destroying free market capitalism.

I admit that I admire people who take to the streets to express and promote their point of view, even if I don’t agree with them. Demonstration, protest, and even civil disobedience are political tools. Used well for just causes, these tools build great communities.

When people honestly and openly use these tools, democracy works. It’s okay for people to disagree, but the partisans must be forthright. When protests drive an honest debate, the community or society can choose a course. Protests can initiate debates that matter. But only when the protests are transparent.

When people hide in the shadows of a larger protest, hoping to hijack emotions to destroy the greatest engine for equality, wealth, and advancement in human history, they do not advance democracy; they advance a lie.

Now that Travis Martin has exposed the hidden anti-market ends of the Mike Brown protests, the organizers must purge their ranks of the agitators. If the organizers permit the anti-market agitators to stay, then we are free to call the movement a fraud.

gratitudejournal

Gratitude Is Not a Privilege

Gratitude, like love, is bound only by our choices. The more we give, the more we keep.

I tried to ignore Ferguson today, but I glanced at Twitter hashtag #Ferguson a moment ago. The first tweet I read inspired this post. Someone wrote that “being able to be thankful after #Fergson is a privilege itself.”

I understand how someone could feel that their “gratitude privilege” had been revoked. We lost our daughter just before Christmas in 1994, about four weeks after I got out of the Navy. I cursed God, of course, and life and everything.

Within minutes of that tragedy, though, I was already thanking people. A high school classmate was the EMT supervisor who responded to the call. Bob Geigel drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until my dad arrived. I have never thanked him publicly. Until now.

My Aunt Jane was beyond wonderful that day. Aunt Mame, too. The priests of St. Gabriel. The people of St. Gabriel. Strangers. The Kutis family. Anonymous donors who paid for her funeral.

In my greatest hour of despair came the greatest surge of gratitude I ever felt, before or since.

Gratitude is a choice. It’s sometimes an obligation. But gratitude is never a privilege. Anyone can feel grateful anytime they wish.

Even Michael Brown’s mother and father have an infinite number of reasons to be grateful. They have received love from strangers. They have been flown to Europe and given a stage to present their grief and their hope. They have memories of their son.

Gratitude and grief are not opposite ends of single line. They coexist as perfectly as turkey and stuffing. For those who believe in redemptive suffering, such as Christ went through on the cross, grief can be the reason for gratitude, even when we suffer for the sake of others.

Yes, Michael Brown’s family has reason to grieve. And the privilege to grieve. They also have the capacity to thank, and I have no doubt they have thanked many people and felt remarkable gratitude in the last 90 days.

On this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful that, by God’s grace, I overcame the thought I had in December of 1994—that there is nothing left to be grateful for. I pray for the author of that sad tweet that he, too, overcomes the silly idea that gratitude is a privilege reserved for a few.

Happy Thanksgiving.

ferguson-seasons-greetings

8 Ideas to Save Christmas in Ferguson

Nixon buck-passed while Ferguson burned. With the city’s main business district laid to rubble, buycotts won’t have much effect. And Christmas is around the corner.

Who got hurt last night?

  1. People who own businesses
  2. People who work at businesses
  3. People who rely on businesses

Time is short. The people affected by last night’s riots need help rebuilding and jobs right now. While I don’t have complete plans, I can throw out eight ideas. Please make one of these come to life.

  1. 100 St. Louis companies hire 1 affected person for 1 year. Longer if they wish, but guarantee a job for 12 months starting December 1.
  2. 100 companies (St. Louis or elsewhere) adopt one damaged business each to rebuild. And it’s not just the businesses with physical damage. Most Ferguson and Dellwood business need out of business funding.
  3. 100 St. Louisans can sponsor Christmas this year for one affected family in Ferguson. Start with a list of employees who are out of work because of the violence last night.
  4. Companies and charities can establish a fund for rebuilding destroyed property. Let the private companies’ CFOs manage the money, not government or NGOs who have a way of making a billion dollars disappear.
  5. What if our well-endowed universities donated from their endowments to a redevelopment fund? Maybe give students credit for helping rebuild.
  6. I’ve been asking for this since August, but how about a state sales tax holiday for Ferguson, Dellwood, Florissant, Hazelwood, and other affected cities? If I were governor, I’d call a special session next week to pass that law in time for the holidays.
  7. Add an option to the 2014 Missouri Income Tax forms allowing business and individuals across the state to donate from their tax refunds to offset the cost of the state sales tax holiday.
  8. Hold Saturday morning resilience classes for business owners and their employees, followed by a two-hour workday to help in recovery.

These ideas need your help.

If you know someone who can make one or more of these ideas come to life, please email a link to this story. Ask them to get it started.

If you have better ideas, please include them in the comments. (Yes, people read the comments almost as much as they read my nonsense.)

Thanks. Let’s not let St. Louis go the way of Gary, Indiana. We cannot rely on government—government is the problem, not the solution. We have to rely on ourselves.