Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You Can...DO IT!

Why I Vote NO on Congressional Term Limits

As a citizen of the United States of America, I believe in the wisdom of our founders.  I find their approach to the formation of our nation, built first upon a reasoned declaration of independence, followed by a hard fought Constitution outlining the design and powers of a new form of interdependent government.  It is designed to function with a range of human experience and the input of the citizenry.   It's all really a simple, yet brilliant construction.  It even came with a mechanism to allow for its own amending as times change.

One of the most significant in history is the 22nd amendment that established the term limit of 2 terms for any individual in the role of President leading the Executive branch of the government.  Recall if you will that this was in part a reaction to the powers accrued by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the course of his 5 terms through the middle of the 20th century.  And yet the stability that his administration brought to a nation besieged by first an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions and then an escalated international conflict that rose to the level of a second world war was no doubt the very thing--his stabilizing presence--that was most crucial to our victory on both fronts.

I would even argue that today with life expectancies being what they have become, this amendment should be amended up to 3 terms.  But that might also be a little Obama nostalgia syndrome already kicking in....

Today, some people are now arguing for terms limits for members of Congress.  Some fifteen states have even enacted laws doing this very thing for members of their state legislatures. 

And I am here to tell you that I am NOT a fan of this sort of thing.  There is a term limit already built into the process.  It's called an election.    

The function of a government's legislative process is a complicated one.  It benefits from a range of players and those with institutional memory are crucial to the process.  In states with limits, most lawmakers cannot serve more than 8 years.  When the power no longer resides in the elected official, it goes to someone else.  It goes to people with experience and know how to get the job done and those people are the lobbyists and paid staffers.  Suddenly the chief of staff with the most experience becomes a very pricy commodity and she or he--an UNELECTED worker bee--has the REAL POWER.  Their agendas never come to light, never get scrutinized by the public and are not subject to the recall of the vote.  Term limits are a lousy idea.
And here's another reason, term limits are unnecessary.  Lets look at the Senate.  There are 100 Senators who serve for 6 years terms each.  The average tenure in the current senate is 22 years; however only 20% have served that long or longer.  45% are currently serving in the first term!  Nearly half of the Senate are freshmen--is it any wonder that they're so dysfunctional? 

The twelve longest serving Senators by seniority are:

1) Patrick Leahy of Vermont (Democrat) 42 years of wisdom
2) Orin Hatch of Utah (Republican) 40 years
3) Thad Cochran of Mississippi (Republican) 38 years
4) Charles Grassley of Iowa (Republican) 36 years
5) Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (Republican) 34 years
The class of 1986 with 30 years in each:
6) John McCain of Arizona (Republican)
7) Barbara Mikulski of Maryland (Democrat)
8) Harry Reid of Nevada (Democrat)
9) Richard Shelby of Alabama (Republican)
The class of 1992 with 24 years each
10) Barbara Boxer of California (Democrat)
11) Diane Feinstein of California (Democrat)
12) Patty Murray of Washington (Democrat)

Eight of these 12 are up for re-election this November and 3 of them have chosen to retire (thus ending their terms by another viable means).

When you look at who the most outrageously behaved and partisan members of the Senate are--not-with-standing the majority's current leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky listed above--you will discover just how inexperienced they are.  Granted, sometimes I like that, but sometimes it's downright embarrassing and stupid.

My list on this score would include:

Tom Cotton of Arkansas (Republican) with just 2 years of experience
Ted Cruz of Texas (Republican) with 4 years into his first term
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (Democrat) with just 4 years into her tenure
Marco Rubio of Florida (Republican) just completing his first 6 year term

And in the Senate, seniority represents power in terms of committee assignments.  These states have the least. 

With a combined total of 6 years of experience between BOTH Senators:
West Virginia

With 8 years of experience total:

And with just 10 years of combined experience:
North Dakota

The states with the deepest benches are

1) Vermont with 52 years total
2) Alabama with 50 years total
3) California with 48 years total
4) Mississippi with 47 years total
5) Utah with 46 years total
6 & 7) Maryland & Washington with 40 years total each
8 & 9) Iowa & Kentucky with 38 years total each
10 & 11) Arizona and Nevada with 34 years total each

And we can already guarantee that California, Maryland and Nevada will be knocked out of the upper tiers after this November's election, and by the will of the people Vermont, Utah, Washington, Iowa, Kentucky and Arizona are all up for that possibility, too.  I've even contributed some scratch to support such a change in Arizona and Iowa!  The

BBQ'd Pork and Veggie Rice

Tonight it was time for something a little lighter. I BBQ'd cuts of Country Cut Pork in my go to Hunt's Tangy Barbecue Sauce. Cooked up a cup of Kasmati rice and tossed it hot with quartered grape tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, diced purple onion and chopped fresh parsley. And I have lunch for tomorrow and Friday! Woo woo!

Dinner: Creamy Veggie Sourdough Soup Bowl with Salad

The simplest meals can be presented so you feel like a guest at your own table--and you know you deserve it! I bought a little sourdough loaf at Panera on the way home and then made a creamy vegetable soup and salad for dinner last night. 
For the soup I used a little chicken stock and tossed in some cubed potato, carrot, celery, dices sweet red pepper and some cut green beans. Cooked them until the taters were tender and added two cans of condensed cream of broccoli and mushroom soup with a little more stock to get the right consistency. Pure tummy satisfaction and night of pleasant dreams to boot!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Vulnerable Seats in the House of Representatives 2016: part 5 the New England States

Looking at the 5th region with vulnerable candidates takes us to New England and a region with fertile ground for Democratic takeovers.  It's also a pair of races full of deja vu. 

A) New Hampshire's 1st district is a ping pong contest as lively and as likely to go back the Democratic Candidate as Illinois' 10th District Seat.  Republican Frank Gunta wins this seat in mind-term and Republican wave years, and Democrat Carol Ann Porter takes it back in Presidential and Democratic wave years.  It's Porter's turn and with New Hampshire trending for the Democrats at all levels--it's going to be a year with a Congressional delegation that is 100% Democratic AND 100% female.  It will be the second congress in the history of this nation where New Hampshire was represented by all women, and the first where all the women are Democrats.

B) Maine's 2nd seat is a rematch election from the previous round with first term incumbent Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin will face off against Democrat Emily Ann Cain.  Poliquin is a moderate Republican who still votes in the majority of the time with conservative, obstructionist colleagues in the Republican Party.  Cain is the former highest-ranking member of the Maine state legislature who offers a more progressive agenda to Maine voters.  The 2nd seat's demographics place Poliquin out of sync in a seat where Democrats outnumber Republicans.  I give this one to Cain.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dinner: Sweet Italian Sausage Meatballs with Tomato-Mushroom Sauce on Linguini


Sweat Italian Sausage 12 oz
Tbsp diced Green Pepper
Tbsp diced Red Pepper
1/4 cup diced scallions
1/4 breadcrumbs

Mixed and browned in a little olive oil.


16 oz Baby Portobello Mushrooms washed, stemmed and cut in half
1 small jar Prego Spaghetti sauce
1 can diced Tomatoes with Zesty Peppers.

Cook the mushroom halves in a little water (1/4 cup) and a drizzle of olive oil
Add in the sauce and Tomatoes and continue to cook until heated through.

The bread is a local Rustic Rosemary loaf with melted mozzarella cheese to sop all the sauce that remains.

Romeo's Adventure @ Fernbank Hiking Trail, National Arboretum

 A place to read with my boy in the August heat.

National Arboretum in August: Meadows of Wildflowers

Vulnerable Seats in the House of Representatives 2016: part 4 the Great Lakes States

In the states that I will label the Great Lakes there are 6 seats scene as vulnerable or open to party hopping.  Three are in Michigan, and 1 each from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.  Altogether these four states send 49 Representative to Congress.  Of the 6 vulnerable seats half receive this status by virtue of the retirement of the Republican incumbent.  Let's look at them individually. 
A) Indiana's 9th.  This has got to be one of the saddest political turn arounds on this election cycle.  The former incumbent is Todd Young, who after 3 terms in the House as a Conservative darling saw his opportunity to advance to the Senate with the retirement of fellow Republican Dan Coates.  His path was clear...until the Democrats persuaded Indiana's favorite son, Evan Bayh to enter the race.  Bayh is polling 11% over Young and may be the ultimate grand slam winner of 2016 by being the man who gets credit for returning the Senate into Democratic hands--and Young will be free to pursue a lucrative lobbying career.   In the mean time, his former seat is wide open and being contested by Republican Trey Hollingsworth and Democrat Shelli Yoder.  Hollingsworth is a classic carpetbagger--which is his only negative.  He relocated from Tennessee to run in this race with the full financial blessing of the Republican Party writ large.  His actual name is Joseph Albert "Trey" Hollingsworth III!  If elected, he would also be the richest member of the House.  On this pedigree alone the Democratic Party believes that it's candidate, Shelli Yoder stands a chance to claim this seat for the Democrats.  Yoder is a former Miss Indiana and member of the University of Indiana faculty as a visiting lecturer.  She was at least born in Indiana.  Neither one of these candidates has stellar credentials, Yoder espouses traditional progressive stances and Hollingsworth is for tax cuts and pro-business economic views.  In the end, I give this one to Hollingsworth, but would love to be surprised!

B) Illinios' 10 rests on the north side of Chicago and is held by Republican Representative Robert Dold.  This district is a perennial party jumper and always attracts attention and lots of campaign bucks.  Dold first won the seat in 2010, then Democrat Brad Schneider won it in 2012.  In 2014, Dold re-won the seat, and now in 2016, he again faces Brad Schneider for the retention of the seat!  It's a freaking political teeter-tauter.  I predict that this year it will go back to Schneider in an election that will favor Democratic candidates across Illinois.

C) Wisconsin's 8th is an open seat.  Republican Representative Reid Ribble is retiring--how's that for alliteration?  Running from his own party to replace him is former Marine Captain Michael Gallagher.  Gallagher left the Marines in 2013 after seven years of active duty.  He has worked as a foreign policy advisor to Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.  He claims the mantle of conservative with a strong Christian faith and love of the Packers.  He believes in intervention, has called building a wall between the United States and Canada "a legitimate issue for us to look at."  He opposes a woman's right to choose in reproductive rights.  He is a "confirmed bachelor" and opposes equal rights for LGBTQ citizens.  On the Democratic side, Tom Nelson who currently holds the post of Outagamie County Executive is the progressive candidate.  He has maintained a balanced budget as county executive for 5 years, supports infrastructure up-grades and financial security for senior citizens.  Both men have studied at Princeton University.  Wisconsin is trending Democratic in this cycle, it's rebounding from the austerity brought to the state by its Governor Scott Walker, and I'm feeling like the wave will push Nelson to the House.

Three seats fall into competitive in Michigan.

D) Michigan's 7th is held by Tim Walberg, a 5 term incumbent in a district marginally rated as leaning Republican.  He won his first election by a margin of 4%, and then 2% in the following election.  After the 2010 census, his seat was redrawn to be much safer and he's won his last two contests with margins of 11% and 12%.  His Democratic opponent is Saline's former mayor and state Representative, Gretchen Driskell.  Driskell is younger and dynamic, and Walberg is rightfully an establishment candidate from an obstructionist party in congress.  In my district this would be a no-brainer, but in Michigan's 7th it may end up being close, but I just am not ready to say she can triumph over Walberg with his entrenched operation and war chest.  I give it to Walberg.

E) Michigan's 10th district is an open district for the first time in 14 years with the retirement of popular Republican Representative Candice Miller.  Her Republican heir apparent is Paul Mitchell who is come back for a second bite at this apple having run and lost a campaign for the 4th district seat in 2014.  He steers clear of the social third rail issues and focuses his campaign on a strong defense, a balanced budget and support for agriculture.  His opponent is Frank Accavitti Jr.  Accavitti ran for state Senate in 2010 and lost.  His message is long on generalities and short on specifics.  It really matters little; I honestly can't see this one leaving the Republican column.

F) I have a complex relationship with the 1st District of Michigan.  It is a district that has voted for 3 Democratic presidential candidates and 3 Republican candidates in the past 6 election cycles.  For the longest time, it was held by Democratic Congressperson, Bart Stupak (18 years).  Stupak put his seat on line with a vote for the Affordable Care Act, and paid for his integrity with an ousting by incumbent Republican Dan Benishek.  After three terms, Benishek is retiring and the seat is wide open.  In the last presidential election year, Benishek won by a margin of 0.5% of the vote.  This one is actually viable in my opinion.  The Republican candidate is Jack Bergman.  Bergman won the nomination in one of the closest and most vehemently fought party nomination primaries.  He is for less government regulation on business, opposes reproduction rights for women on staunchly religious grounds and believes in unfettered gun rights.  On the Democratic side, Lon Johnson will seek to win the seat for the Democrats.  Johnson supports environmental issues and economic growth.  In 2012, Johnson lost a bid for a state house seat to an incumbent Republican by a 5.6% margin.  You have a race that boils down to a young, sincere progressive versus an older, committed conservative in a Presidential election year that is favoring the Democrats.  My call?--too close to call.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Parks by visiting Fort McHenry for the first time.
 The visitor center is a modern structure with a small lecture hall, a mini theater space that is part of a larger room partitioned with a handful of exhibits and artifacts, and a gift shop.

There's a healthy little walk from there to the Fort complex with many placards to read along the way.

 There is an area that was formerly part of a much larger series of defensive berms that recreates a portion of those.  There were several costumed re-enactors there and at one point they loaded and fired a cannon.  WOW!  Loud!

 The interior space is completely restored with a series of 4 two-storied buildings use for barracks, officer's quarters, meeting rooms, an infirmary and a kitchen.  Where you enter, there is also a brigg with 3 cells.

 An outer ring of cannons surrounds the southern exposure of the fort.

 There is an area directly across from the main entrance that is called the Reverie and house additional munitions.

 Upon leaving I happened upon a lecture by one of three park rangers on the history of the flag that formed the basis of the poem that is our national anthem.  All things considered, this was the right National Park to visit on the 100th anniversary of our incredible National Park system.