I suppose it’s a good sign of a lively political debate happening in this country.  Multiple groups are currently working to call a constitutional convention, as set out in Article V of the Constitution.  However, they are trying to do this in the alternative, never-before-used way–rather than having two-thirds of the Congress approve a constitutional amendment and send it to the states (which is unlikely in our divided political climate), they want to convince two-thirds of the state legislatures to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.  Once 34 states approve such a resolution, this would trigger the convention and, theoretically, a 28th Amendment to the Constitution could be voted on.  But which 28th Amendment? 

On one side, we have the conservatives, represented by the Compact for America, an organization led by Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute.  Their 28th Amendment idea is that old conservative refrain–a Balanced Budget Amendment, severely restricting the Federal government’s ability to spend money.  How close are they to achieving that goal?  That depends on how you look at it.  When the Michigan legislature voted yes on a constitutional convention resolution last month, Michigan did in fact become the 34th state to do so.  Problem is, 12 of the states which had previously agreed to hop on the convention train have since rescinded those resolutions.  It is now left to the constitutional experts to bicker it out with each other about the legal dilemma–is a state allowed to change its mind after it has petitioned Congress for a convention?  I would think so, but not everyone agrees.

It should also be said that the Tea Party itself, as much as they love the idea of a balanced budget, is divided on this issue.  Many people–on all political sides–fear a runaway constitutional convention, at which all kinds of “interesting” rules and laws could be approved by a limited collection of states.

On the other side, there is a push for a 28th Amendment prompted by the awful Citizens United and McClutcheon Supreme Court rulings.  This 28th Amendment would overturn Citizens United, make clear that corporations are not people, and limit how much money an individual can give to candidates in an election.  This effort is being organized by, among other groups, Money Out Voters In.  There is a 28th Amendment roadshow travelling around the country right now, and they will be visiting the local Occupy chapter here in Portland in May.  As far as progress in the state legislatures–16 of the more predictably progressive states have passed the resolution for a convention focused on this specific amendment.  That’s fewer states than went for the balanced budget amendment, but then again, there’s been less waffling and rescinding of votes on this one. 

So which 28th Amendment do we prefer?  While it may sound weird, personally, I wouldn’t mind both of them getting passed.  Day after day, I become more convinced that we must limit the power of both government and large corporations, especially as the two have turned into such close BFFs.  However, realistically speaking?  Any version of the 28th Amendment is a long shot.  I doubt that either side will succeed in making a convention happen, and we are likely stuck with the partisan stalemate we have now in our government.

For your enjoyment, here is an inspiring video from a guy clearly angling to be a 2016 presidential candidate:

I like the American flag flapping patriotically in the breeze at the beginning of the ad–nice touch–but if Ted really wants to run for national office, he needs to stop stealing slogans from other campaigns.  The “Yes We Can” thing has been done before.  And in the rest of his CPAC speech, Ted also mentions “Hope and Change” as his motto, and finishes his performance with “morning in America”.  I get that borrowing the Obama stuff is meant to be sarcastic, but I can tell you from personal experience that sarcasm will only get you so far.  This man needs his own slogans.  And they shouldn’t be Dr. Seuss quotes, either.

Unfortunately, I’m not very helpful in this regard.  I’m terrible at trying to come up with ideas for Ted.  He certainly has policy positions he can write slogans about, but they don’t sound very catchy.  There’s Obamacare–”It’s Finally Working!  Let’s Repeal It!”  There’s his call to abolish the IRS–you could go with “Sick And Tired Of Roads!” or “Food Stamps Are For Losers”.  I’m pretty sure Ted is in favor of privatizing Medicare and Social Security, so perhaps an empowering chant of “Old People Can Make It!” might be nice, or even an #oldpeoplestrong, a la Boston Strong.  And since the GOP is trying to repackage old moral values and sell them to the millennials, maybe a suggestive ad with two beautiful people and the tagline “Conservatives–Making Sex Feel Dirty Again” would do the trick.

Finally, a slogan to help Ted market himself to his fellow Latinos–”Build The Wall And Kick Them Out!”

So you can see the problem.  I really do suck at this.  Luckily for Ted, he will have professionals doing this kind of work for him.  Let’s hope they come up with something that has at least a bit of an original ring to it.

When you go on a journey, you discover that the world is full of dangerous people.  My life has been no different.  I’ve come far and faced off against many villains.

For example, when I was a child, I was told that evil American capitalists wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  But then I moved to a different land and found out that it was, in fact, evil Russian Communists who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  That was confusing, but then things got even more complicated.

When I lived by the northern European seas, abortion and gay rights were considered good things, and anybody who opposed them was strange.  But when I lived in the American desert, I learned that abortion and homosexuality were sins, and anybody who supported them was immoral.  Now I live by the Pacific Ocean, and once again it’s those who are too religious and too traditional that are suspect.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all this.  Maybe it would be easier for me to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart if I had stayed in one place and didn’t move around so much.

What makes it even harder is that so many people wear magical disguises and are not what they seem.  For instance, those who aren’t Christian aren’t really American, even though they pretend to be.  Just like those who aren’t Catholic aren’t really Polish.  Ah, but hold on–it’s not enough to know that someone is wearing the Christian label.  If they are liberal, they aren’t really Christian.  You see how tricky this gets.

Now I feel as if I’m living in a cursed time, because everyone is starting to look like an enemy.  The conservatives aren’t true patriots and neither are the progressives.  I’m supposed to be on the watch for thieves who will steal my money through taxes and robbers who will steal my work by paying me too little for it.  There are hawks who want to attack everyone and doves who want us to get attacked.  Gun nuts want to shoot me, but then again I hear that those who favor gun restrictions want to see me defenseless and shot.

So how do I move forward on my way when I’m surrounded by dragons?  Could it be?  Is it possible that I’m the only one who’s right and everybody else is wrong?  After all, many wise men and women around me are making this claim–that they are the only ones who hold the key to true knowledge.

Believing that those who think differently from you are monsters to be fought is one way to journey through this world.  I find the travelling lighter and easier when I don’t carry all that heavy weaponry with me, though.  The dragons are imaginary anyway–they’re just imperfect human beings, a lot like me–and our battles are unnecessary.

I’m not sure if people have just been forgetting their basic debate etiquette lately, but I’ve been seeing violations of Godwin’s law happening left and right (although usually right).  Godwin’s law, of course, being the Internet discussion rule which mandates that the moment you compare someone to Hitler or the Nazis, you automatically lose the argument.  Unless your name is Stalin, any comparison to Hitler is going to sound way over the top.  One would think that we would know better by now than to exaggerate that much, but “OMG 1930s Germany” scare tactics never go away.

The most frequent victim of this kind of hyperbole over the past few years has been President Obama, because trying to provide health care access to millions of people is exactly like killing them.  I’m happy to report that the Tea Party’s rhetoric has changed…somewhat.   The latest political video sponsored by Foster Friess doesn’t claim Obama is like Hitler, it just claims that Hitler would have been unhappy with his insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  But wait!  If Hitler hates something, doesn’t this mean we should like it?  This is so confusing…

Another Godwin’s law violation was committed by South Carolina state Senator Mike Fair who, as part of the GOP’s ongoing outreach to female voters, decided to compare Planned Parenthood to Hitler.  The Senator was displeased with the results of a Planned Parenthood poll which show that over 60% of those surveyed support a legal right to late-term abortions, once they are informed that those abortions are rare and most of them happen for medical reasons.  I will come right out and say that I don’t support late-term abortions myself, unless they indeed happen for medical reasons.  However, that is still no excuse for the Godwin’s law infraction, which only hurts one’s cause in the eyes of rational people.  Since the poll results contradict sacred conventional wisdom about the American public, the Senator reacted by stating that he would no more trust any information coming from Planned Parenthood than he would trust good old Adolf himself, and that Hitler “by the way, had the same philosophy of Planned Parenthood and that is that some people deserve to live more than other people based on what the culture says.”  Hold on, you might say, a fetus, especially in the early stages of a pregnancy, is not the same thing as a full-grown person.  You might say that and then you might remember that to social conservatives, a fetus is more valuable than a person.  Fetuses need to be protected…people can just fend for themselves.

Speaking of guys who aren’t big fans of reproductive rights, Rick Santorum is receiving a Godwin’s law citation for comparing Iran to Nazi Germany.  Yes, there is a good point to be made about the anti-Semitism of the Iranian leadership.  But the hateful speeches have, as of yet, not been matched by large-scale violence, and they likely never will.  So the Hitler comparison remains invalid.  And, no matter how often our hawkish politicians keep suggesting it, going to war with Iran is a bad idea.

So…you know what?  Since it sounds like everybody else is breaking Godwin’s law, I might as well do it myself.  Hitler?  Bad artist.  George W. Bush?  Bad artist.  Just saying.  See how silly that is?  Still, I hope W. keeps on painting…might be safer for the world that way.

April Fools has come and gone, yet people continue to promote ideas so ludicrous I can only assume they’re pranks being played on us.  Perhaps this entire year should be dedicated to the Fool.  Here are some of the best jokes so far:

Paul Ryan:  “My plan to replace Medicare with a voucher was such a huge success, I’m totally going to bring it back.”

Chris Christie:  “I’m innocent!  My lawyer buddy says so.”

Sarah Palin:  “The Republican budget plan doesn’t cut enough benefits for the poor!”

Paul Ryan again:  “The pre-existing condition clause of the Affordable Care Act is wildly popular.  But I’m sure nobody will mind if we repeal it.”

Ann Coulter:  “If they really want to endear themselves to the voters, conservatives should keep making comments about rape.  For instance–immigration is just like rape.”  (Thanks to the Kavalkade Krew for drawing my attention to this one.)

Vladimir Putin:  “Ukrainians long to be freed by their beloved Russian brothers.”

Kim Jong Un:  “I haven’t done enough executions.  Let’s try one with a flame thrower.”

Miley Cyrus:  “America is in love with my sexiness!”

Ted Cruz:  “America is in love with my intellect!”

If this is any indication of what this year will be like, I will spend the rest of it in constant fits of laughter…or weeping.  I haven’t yet decided which.

Yes, a few weeks later CNN is still talking about the plane.  More panels of experts explaining to us that they have no idea what happened, more viewer e-mails speculating about what the official investigation may have missed (“Why isn’t anyone exploring the Jodi Arias angle?”).

Which makes me wonder, what happens if the plane is never found?  Will the coverage just go on indefinitely?  Years from now, will an elderly Anderson Cooper still be debating the merits of the “zombie plane” theory?  Will a senile Don Lemon continue playing with his plastic jumbo jets?  And in a few decades, that cockpit simulator should be even cooler.

But then I remind myself that at some point in the future, there will be another murder trial.  There is always another murder trial.  Anything to keep from reporting on serious news.

Watching Russia Today is like doing the Soviet time warp.  The pro-Russian propaganda takes me right back to my Eastern bloc childhood.  I feel like I should be wearing my blue school uniform and clutching my ration cards when I watch RT.  Even the vocabulary of the news anchors is the same–they still talk about Western imperialism.  When America invades Iraq, it’s an example of imperialism–and I agree with that!  But when Russia invades the Crimea, they’re “liberating” that region of the world.  Hmmmm.  Sounds like somebody’s recycling old Don Rumsfeld sayings.

Not all old memories are getting recycled.  I’m not hearing anything about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat–they’re not in fashion anymore.  When I was a Commieland kid, the bourgeoisie was maligned for being a tool of the capitalists.  Now it’s turned into the squeezed middle class, and RT is defending it.  You gotta keep up with the changes.

But some things stay the same.  In the 80s, when my parents and their friends protested against the Communist government, the official news channels labelled the protesters as a violent and criminal fringe element, and threw in allegations of heavy drug use and orgies.  According to RT, the protesters in Kiev were also part of a violent fascist fringe.  I’ve heard that song before.  On the other hand, the people marching against austerity in Western Europe are always “peaceful”.  It’s a thin line between a peaceful civil resistance movement and crazy neo-Nazis, I guess.

Another classic move in the Cold War time warp dance?  Promises of a wonderful economy.  Russia is going to bring vast economic improvements to the Crimea, RT says.  Once upon a time, we heard the same sales pitch in Poland.  That one ended with bread lines around the block.

Now, I’m by no means claiming that American news media don’t do their share of propagandizing as well.  In fact, Russia Today doesn’t just remind me of Communism–it also reminds me of Fox News.  Maybe Putin’s dream was to be able to run his own version of Fox.  If so, he succeeded.

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