Scott’s Rant

Political Risk? What the Heck is That?

I was watching what little news I could stand tonight, when the subject switched to a new immigration law that Congress was considering. The reporter was interviewing Senator John McCain about a new initiative that is sponsored by four Republican

thumbnail photo of the author

Scott Reed, author

Senators, and four Democratic Senators. How unusual.

The reporter asked Sen. McCain how he felt about the potential passage of this new immigration bill. McCain replied, “In today’s climate, there seems to be more political risk in opposing this bill than there is in passing it.”

I scratched my head, and thought about that for a second. Then I said out loud (even though there was no one in the room), ”what the hell is political risk?” I stepped in the next room to see if my wife could answer that question. “Honey, what is political risk? Does that have anything to do with our reps in Washington representing their constituents back home?”

“I don’t think so.”, she replied. “I think it has something to do with getting re-elected.” Oh, so getting re-elected is a higher priority than representing the views of the constituents back home?

I don’t want to appear to be naive  I pester these types of issues because they don’t make any sense to me. I admit that I don’t follow politics. But that’s no reason why politics doesn’t  make any sense to me anymore. Since when did getting re-elected become more important than seeing that the views and aspirations of your constituency are represented fairly in Congress by your elected representatives?

I mean citizen representation in government is pretty fundamental. Like brushing your teeth. It doesn’t get any more fundamental than that.

Again, I don’t want to appear to be naive  Is that why we can’t get Congress to do anything? Because all 635 of them are so worried about getting re-elected that they can’t make a decision on anything short of excusing themselves to use the bathroom? They don’t want to go on record as voting either yah or nay  because then we would know where they stand on the issues. And that knowledge may jeopardize the outcome the next time that they come up for re-election. So they don’t commit to anything. And that must be why nothing ever gets done in Washington D.C..

As non-political types, maybe we should ask ourselves, what is so important about getting re-elected? If you are good at representing your constituency fairly and openly, you’ll probably get re-elected, if you still feel that that is what you want to do. And if you are not good at representing your constituency, you probably should not be re-elected. Step aside and let someone else give it a try. Is that so bad?

Being a Congressman is not supposed to be a job. It’s called “public service” in our Constitution. So if you don’t make a good public servant and you have to get a job instead, what’s so bad about that? There are far more folks in this country with jobs than there are folks who are serving as public servants.

I had to ask my wife again. She’s a realist. I’m an idealist. “Honey, why are Congressman so desperate to get re-elected?” She responded, “Because we pay them too much, and their retirement is full pay for life, and they don’t have to go on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, and they get free medical and dental for life, cars, expense accounts, free travel, free everything, and they only work six months out of the year. Most of them become quite wealthy while they are representing the country as a public servant”.

Hmm. How the heck did that happen? Is that what George Washington and other signatories of the Constitution had in mind when they authored that document? Did they foresee that the parasites in Washington would rather jump into the Potomac River in winter than go away once their term expires? Did they realize that these parasites would eventually refuse to represent any interests other than their own because the job benefits are so irresistible, that no one in their right mind would want to leave that job?

I don’t think that’s what old George had in mind. I think that’s the bed that Congress made for itself while we were either not informed, not listening, or stood idly by and watched them do it. After all, Congress votes its own pay raises and benefits. Washington is one of the few places on Earth where you can find such a ridiculous situation. Imagine having that option at your place of employment. You could measure your own performance, and establish your own pay and benefits. Nice. Very nice.

So do the “little people” really expect anything to change in Washington (or anywhere else for that matter) until that situation is corrected? Who is going to correct it? Congress won’t correct it. They’re still laughing at us for letting them have such great benefits and pay in the first place. But the fact of the matter is that 99% of the time, we didn’t know what they were awarding themselves for benefits and pay. They intentionally didn’t talk much about that. They preferred to do that in secrecy. Although I do remember one year during the recession when Congress voted itself a pay raise after accomplishing virtually nothing that year. The media found that to be so appalling that it was reported on national news. But nothing was ever done about it.

I have heard many folks state the obvious problem as I have described it above. I hear these views mostly through unsolicited e-mails. I’ve even seen some creative solutions to this problem. The one that I like the best is that Congress shall not pass any laws that do not apply equally to themselves. That means they go on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid at retirement and forget the full pay for life deal.

My opinion is this. Nothing will change unless there is such a loud public outcry against this insanity, that it becomes a revolt of the citizenry. Nothing less will get Washington’s attention. But in saying that I realize how improbable it would be to organize 250 million people into one common voice of dissatisfaction.

Therefore, since a revolt of the “little people” is unlikely, we have to resign ourselves to accepting Washington’s misbehavior while, at the same time, watching our representatives get rich at our expense, and represent their interests instead of ours.

Perhaps if we refused to support this insanity by NOT voting for anyone in elections, Washington would get the message. Think about that for a minute. If everyone went to the polls and voted for no one, the elections, that are so important to these politicians, would have no outcome.  What would they do then? Probably a little more than they do now, which is nothing at all.

A Word About Trees

Photo of the author

Scott Reed, author

This is likely a controversial subject and I apologize for addressing it here. But a Blog is supposed to be a place where you can say what’s on your mind, and speak about what is important to you. So I’m going to take that liberty and I promise to get back to the subject at hand – living, playing, and recreating in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

I admit that I’m a “tree lover”. It’s almost an obsession with me. I think nothing of stopping along side the road when I see a tree being cut down for no good reason, and delivering a stern lecture. I’m a member of the Arbor Foundation in good standing.

Here’s the crux of the problem. This is not hard to understand so I don’t understand why we continue to ignore this issue.

  1. As humans, we require oxygen to breath and continue living.
  2. Where does oxygen come from? Trees take in carbon dioxide as food and expel oxygen as a byproduct. So the oxygen in our atmosphere comes from trees.
  3. Since trees take carbon dioxide out of our air, they are doubly valuable to us since carbon dioxide is what is adversely affecting our atmosphere and contributing to climatic changes like global warming.
  4. Humans treat trees as weeds.
  5. Every summer the West is on fire either via careless humans, criminal humans, or natural causes such as lightning. And, of course, the smoke from these fires goes up into our atmosphere as carbon dioxide, which can do us no good at all. Can’t do much about the smoke. The fires are another matter.
  6. Every year on the news you see a story about how all the third-world countries located on the equator are burning down the rain forest in order to create more living space and make an income from logging. South America, Indonesia, Africa to name a few.
  7. Many of you have noticed that our summers are becoming hotter and drier. Storms are becoming more severe. The news stories show the toll that these storms have taken on land and communities. Towns with uprooted trees that once harbored live trees and shrubs but now look like a moonscape.
  8. Logging is still in full swing. In my own area I’ve seen 40 acre blocks of forest disappear in a couple of days. Clear-cut. I don’t see the replanting that is supposed to take place. Just the piles of waste that are left behind once logging is finished. I was naive enough to think that replanting was a requirement of logging and that clear-cutting was illegal.

Not to get off the subject, but I saw the most appalling program the other day on the documentary channel on TV. It’s called Gold Rush. With the higher prices being paid for gold, it seems there is renewed interest in amateurs digging for gold wherever it can be found. Alaska, the Yukon territory, even Guyana in South America.

Here’s how it works. Anyone interested in mining gold leases a huge track of land from the government and that is called a claim. They bring in heavy equipment, knock all the trees down and push them out of the way as if they were weeds, and then dig up all the ground with backhoes, bulldozers, and end-loaders. They run all the soil through a sifter that sifts out the gold (most of it dust). If they don’t find anything, they scrape off some more topsoil or dig deeper holes. They do most of this adjacent to a river or stream since it is believed that finding gold is more likely near running water.

These amateur “gold miners” are just blue collar day workers who quit their jobs and decided to get rich quick by looking somewhere for gold. They prefer wilderness; some place where no one has been. So they lease a huge track of wilderness, destroy it so that it’s not much good for anything. They don’t even harvest the trees for lumber or pulp. They just knock them down with bulldozers to save time.

You can imagine what the landscape must look like when they are finished scalping all the trees from the land, and creating huge piles of mud and rock among endless pits. Worthless land when they are finished.  One outfit in the Alaska interior spent two five month seasons raping the wilderness for 92 ounces of gold dust, about $120,000 worth. And they thought they were doing great as gold miners. Once expenses were covered, each man got $8,000 in gold for ten months worth of work in a harsh and dangerous climate. I think you can make $8,000/yr. flipping burgers at Wendy’s. What am I missing here? I thought Alaska was protected wilderness. One of the last wildernesses that we know of. Who decided to let these clowns turn it into a landfill?

I won’t be watching Gold Rush anymore. The urge to find the bathroom and throw up was too strong the first time I saw it.

The Guyana segment was particularly noxious. There they use high pressure water hoses to blast through the soil and collect all the run-off in pits that lead to a sifter.  With all the mud and water, you can imagine what that acreage must look like. That used to be a rain forest. I won’t even mention the wildlife that used to live there.

So what’s going on? Are there any sane people among these I have mentioned? Remember. No trees, no oxygen, no life on this planet.

So what’s to be done? Where is Greenpeace when you need them?


A No Win Situation

Thumbnail photo of author

Scott Reed, author

An interesting news week. I think that’s the first time that I’ve seen the Pres. squirming in pseudo-retreat. Now I’m not political and I usually avoid the subject. So go easy on me. But stop extended unemployment benefits in the middle of this century’s worst recession!? Does that make any sense? What are the unemployed supposed to do next when jobs are practically non-existent? Find a sturdy cardboard box to live in?

Sure, I want to cut the deficit as much as anyone else. But some of the ideas coming out of D.C are scary. Is there something in the drinking water in Washington? Cut entitlement programs, raise taxes, tax gasoline, tobacco, and liquor, Come on. The same old approach. Has anyone ever given any thought to what the size of the government payroll must be? I saw a story on Yahoo! the other week that said “Uncle Sam is always hiring. 270,000 new jobs expected in 2011”. So if we can’t pay to help the unemployed, how the heck are we going to pay those 270,000 new government employees!? Geez. I hate stating the obvious. I know, it’s not that simple, you say. Then our public servants have to make it that simple or else they get all tied up in their shorts and don’t do anything creative.