by Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell Jr.

I have served as a United States Senator from the great state of Kentucky since 1985.  I am the current Senate Minority Leader and hope to see my party in the majority someday.  I have devoted myself to public service in this fashion since the actress Ashley Judd was in junior high school.  When it came to my attention that Judd was going to challenge me for my senate seat, you bet I was angry.

Every six years, I have to audition for my job.  How would you feel if that were the case with your job?  Unless you’re a member of the House of Representatives, up for rehire every 2 years, my situation probably strikes you as pretty bad.

Now, the difference between you and me is probably this — I really like my job while you are likely ambivalent about yours.  I make excellent money and now control assets worth between $9 million and $44 million and that was back in 2011, when I last disclosed.  The markets have gone up since then, for which I take partial credit.  I am rich, I am powerful and I am happy.  I want to remain a Senator!

So, when somebody bugged my Kentucky campaign headquarters, they heard me say this about the lesser of the Judds:

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”

Then, the recordings were given to a writer named David Corn at something called Mother Jones.  I don’t know.  I don’t read that.  I don’t think anybody does.  But I want to know, seriously, are you surprised?  This woman wants to steal my job, and yes, I will crush her to keep it.

Judd has lived a charmed life.  She is good looking.  As a child, she was on Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing the enviable role of love interest to Wesley Crusher.  She has had her life handed to her and I’ll be damned if I am going to let her take from me.

How does somebody who has had such an easy, charmed life wind up hospitalized for 42 days?  That is two days longer than Jesus Christ spent in the desert, being tormented by Satan himself.  When she was not in mental hospitals, Judd has starred in movies with needlessly titillating titles like Kiss The Girls, based on a novel by liberal porn author James Patterson.

Now, chances are that the good people of Kentucky would never replace a high profile incumbent like me with the likes of Judd, a washed up actress who had to go back to school to get a degree in “public administration.”  But, I am not about to take chances like that.

I am Mitch McConnell and if you come for my job, I will crush you.  I spent $21 million to get re-elected in 2007 and I started raising money immediately for 2014.  My re-election committee even started with $7 million in the bank.  That’s right, I can beat you with my leftovers.  If I can’t raise enough, I can order Reince Preibus (maybe you remember him from Star Trek, Ashley — he’s a Romulan) to feed me more.

Let this be a warning to any of you.  Do. Not. Come. For. My. Job.  I can beat you with one word sentences.

This has been a guest column for Amazing Opinions. -Ed.

by Michael Maiello

After the Dark Night Returns massacre in Colorado, followed by the elementary school shooting spree in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association remained adamant that background checks of gun buyers at gun shows and other private firearms sales, would do no good in stopping spree shooters, who generally do no have violent criminal records before acting out.

“We have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson,” said the organization in a recent statement.

To that end, the NRA has recently teamed with the American Psychiatric Association to develop a series of personality tests that measure an individual’s capacity for empathy, self control, anger management and control of depression, anxiety and paranoia, to be taken annually by all Americans aged 15 or older.

Test results will be evaluated by a public-private partnership between the Department of Health & Human Services and the AMA.  Americans identified as “high risk,” according to the tests would be banned from owning firearms and required to seek psychological counseling.  For those who cannot afford such mental health care, the government will provide social workers.  In more serious cases, people might be institutionalized, but not without a consensus of mental health professionals.  Also, there will be an appeals process at every step of the evaluation.

“This is a rational solution for a freedom loving people,” said NRA President David Keene.  “We all agree that psychologically damaged or criminally insane people should not have access to firearms but that healthy Americans like you and me should not have our Constitutional rights abridged by an out of control government bureaucracy.”

Finally, the NRA has a point that we can all get behind.  No assault weapons ban, however far reaching, will prevent spree killings because there are too many assault weapons already available and because spree shooters can easily choose other weapons.  Banning all guns is a nonstarter without a Constitutional amendment and, again, what about the existing supply?  Criminal background checks, as the NRA has noted, will not stop those who have not yet committed their first crime.

The only logical answer is that future potential criminals must be identified, evaluated and, if necessary, treated.  We now have achieved the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue a crime free utopia of the kind described by Anthony Burgess in his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, which had been immortalized into a delightful futuristic comedy a decade later by the great film director Woody Allen.

In the not too distant future, it could be possible, as imagined by that delightful optimist Phillip K. Dick, that the government will be able to use situational data and discreet monitoring, as well as genetically enhanced psychics, to predict future criminal behavior with a greater degree of accuracy.  Dick described this in his short story, Minority Report, also later made into a film by Woody Allen, who had grown decidedly darker and more serious in his outlook by 2002.

With its bold proposal today, the NRA joins the great utopian dreamers (Burgess, Dick, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, David Foster Wallace, and Maureen Dowd) who see a better future for America, where the rights of those who intend no harm are preserved without compromising public safety and welfare.

 

by Michael Maiello

This week, President Obama will boldly propose to lower the retirement age to 63 and to increase Social Security benefit payments by 10% across the board while also indexing future payments to a measure of inflation that includes health care costs, which tend to rise faster than other parts of the economy.  Though denounced by critics as an irresponsible socialist, Obama’s proposals make sense and are the best way forward for the United States.

The fact is that private savings vehicles will not be able to generate enough wealth to see most Americans through a multi-decade retirement, particularly in the absence of a private pension system.  The 401(k) plan, named for the section of the tax code that allows workers to invest for retirement with pretax dollars, has failed.  Under the pressures of globalization, American workers simply don’t make enough money to save enough for retirement and the equity and bond markets have failed to deliver reliable returns.

The 401(k) and related accounts like the 403(b) or the traditional IRA, were never intended as a total retirement solution.  These accounts were meant to supplement private pension plans and Social Security.  They were intended to give the average worker a chance to invest in the company that employed them, or in the broader markets, on a tax advantaged basis.  They were simply one piece of a much farther reaching retirement safety net, one that no longer exists in a non-unionized private economy.

When the economy cannot provide for its people, the government must step in.  That’s what Obama is doing.  Far from being irresponsible, Obama has proposed to make Social Security solvent forever by applying Social Security taxes to incomes above the current cap of $113,000 for wages and by taxing unearned investment income.  In 2012, fewer than 6% of Americans even made enough money to worry about the Social Security tax cap.

Still, these wealthier Americans will also get larger benefits later on.  Though the amount of benefit a retiree receives per dollar paid in does drop at higher income levels, they will still be able to collect larger retirement benefits than they otherwise would have.  So, while some will whine about a tax increase, it’s important to keep in mind that this is hardly an expropriation of wealth.

Lowering the age at which Americans can retire with full benefits might also make room for younger workers in the labor market and by freeing people from potentially dangerous jobs, it might improve the overall health of the retired population.

Further, it will mark the fist time in a long time that the government will manage to expand benefits and services to its citizens.  This could, in a way, lighten the national mood which has been sullied by a seemingly dysfunctional government and fierce global competition.  While the effects of psychology and confidence on the economy is often overstated to the point that it slips into magical thinking, a better national mood certainly can’t hurt.

Politically, this should also aid Obama’s party in the 2014 elections.  If John Boehner and the House Republicans refuse to raise a completely modest tax on the country’s highest earners to insure retirement security for the rest of the country, his party will have to answer for that at the polls.

Should he find himself succumbing to the urge to blink, Obama should remind himself that even Tea Party Republicans like Social Security, so long as they’re getting the checks.

by Michael Maiello

North Korea’s attempted nuclear strike on American soil landed in the North Pacific, failing to detonate in the drink after falling short of Kodiak Island, Alaska.  The island is home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the world, a relic of the Cold War era when Alaska was more in danger to its immediate western neighbor, the Soviet Union.  Yes, it could have been worse, but North Korea’s attempted attack on the U.S. was so pathetic that it’s possible that North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, didn’t even know the Coast Guard was in the line of fire.

Had the missile hit its target, we are told, it might have vaporized the 150 square mile blast might have vaporized the base and rendered 800 square miles of the island almost permanently uninhabitable.  Of course, danger from fallout would have been immediate in mainland Alaska and northwest Canada (which are sparsely but significantly populated).  No doubt, Jong-un has committed a war crime.

But the U.S. should not re-engage in the Korean War over this dud rocket attack.  It could have been worse, but it wasn’t.  If the U.S. is provoked, the consequences could be dire.  First, China, though it condemned its ally and has not vetoed sterner sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, has made it clear that it will not tolerate a hot war in its territory.  China does not have to fight the U.S. tank to tank, a war it would surely lose.

The trade relationship between China and the U.S. is vital to both countries.  Any disruption of it could spark a worldwide recession.  Were economic growth in China to slow for loss of the U.S. as an export market, its central economic planners would have to dip into the countries vast reserves in order to stoke local demand for goods, services and construction.  Trillions of those reserves are in U.S. Treasury Bonds which, if sold, would drive up borrowing costs for the U.S. government, just as it is entering what would be a multi-year war and occupation halfway around the world.

President Obama must face facts — the U.S. gave up its right to act in that region of the world decades ago, when the first U.S. manufacturing jobs were outsourced to mainland China in debt financed transactions.  If China will not tolerate U.S. military action in the region, then such action is just too large an economic gamble.

A more ready solution would be to let South Korea take care of its northern rival, using our ally and trading partner as a proxy.  Unfortunately, South Korea seems unwilling to act, or to bear the risks.  South Korean President Park Geun-hye has even reportedly counseled Obama that the attempted strike against Alaska was good news.  Had Jong-un really wanted a war, he would have launched an invasion of the South or targeted a U.S. base within the region, one that his rocket would have had a better chance of hitting.  Geun-hye dismisses the Alaska attack as little more than a face saving tantrum.  Under threat from his own bellicose generals, at whose pleasure he rules, Jong-un simply had to do something.

What he chose to do was to demonstrate the range of his weapon, but at a distance where his technology simply cannot be accurate.  It was a dangerous game, yes, but a game nonetheless.  The American people seem to realize this, and have so far not supported an extensive military response from the U.S.  Certainly, the population has no appetite or patience for the kind of mobilization that the country experienced during the original Korean War that started in 1950 and sparked the nationwide conscription of able bodied young American men.  If the appetite for war isn’t there, we shouldn’t do it.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has scoffed that if the missile had come so close to Los Angeles, New York or Washington D.C. that people might feel differently.  But, again, it didn’t.  We should deal with the facts as they are and stand pat.  We can contain North Korea and save our military resources for only the most existential threats.

Not only is that common sense, but the U.S. can’t afford to do much else.

by Michael Maiello

Since the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, the United States has been a “dry” country, though you wouldn’t notice if you visited any of its major cities, including its capital.  It is well known that the very politicians who, year after year, fail to repeal Volstead (or even address it) consume alcohol in private even as they speak against it in public.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has tremendous political clout and has been, for decades, hammering the great middle of the country with anti-alcohol propaganda and hysterical warnings about behavioral and health risks.  As the government has effectively cracked down on home stills and brewers, the wealthier classes think nothing of taking a “booze cruise” outside of the three mile limit, to party it up in international waters.  The scheme seems to be that the upper classes, and the political classes should be allowed their freedoms but that the population at large can’t be trusted.

Continued alcohol prohibition has largely benefited organized crime in Canada and Mexico, where they exist outside of the sophisticated law enforcement powers of the U.S. Federal government.  Meanwhile, Americans have sacrificed many civil rights and liberties with urban police being allowed to stop and search people on almost any pretense, looking for contraband alcohol.

The Federal government is now, also at odds with many states.  Thirty states allow doctors to prescribe alcohol containing “tonics,” for a variety of maladies.  The Federal Government views this as an illegal act and has cracked down on medical dispensaries in California that is suspects are selling folk medicine for recreation use.  Still, we know from years of experience, research and family lore that alcohol has many medicinal properties and can be used for the treatment of stress, to dull the unpleasant affects of other medications and to cure digestive ailments.

Voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, have approved amendments to their states constitutions legalizing beer and wine consumption for pleasure.  These states should be allowed to experiment and, if all goes well, its conceivable that voters could approve the use and sale of harder spirits.

The economic arguments in favor of fill alcohol legalization are well known, almost to the point of tedium.  Consumption could be taxed, which would more than cover the costs of any negative social effects.  California, currently experiencing higher than usual unemployment, and parts of the Pacific Northwest could support extensive wineries.  Europeans might scoff at this notion but there could come a time when a meritage of California grapes rivals any blend from Bordeaux in terms of quality.  If Chile and Australia can make good wine, certainly the U.S. can.  Parts of the south and midwest could return to their Scot-Irish roots and begin the production and sale of whiskeys.

The U.S. has fallen behind in manufacturing, even in high technology.  Many former white collar jobs are now being outsourced.  More than ever, Americans need a drink.  It’s good for the soul and good for the wallet.

By Michael Maiello

The United States Supreme Court is hearing two pivotal cases and could, at its whim, change the definition of marriage and custom that has guided human society since ancient times.  From experience, we know this — for the most part, aside from sex, men prefer the company of men and women prefer the company of women.  We have never had a society where the norm was for men and women to cohabitate, particularly with children.

What has worked so far for humanity is this — a man and a man live together to raise a young man.  A woman and another woman live together to raise a young woman.  This has not only been successful from an evolutionary standpoint, but it has promoted civic harmony and social cohesion.

Throughout history, there have been dissidents to humanity’s conventions.  There have been men and women who have chosen to live together and even to raise children.  These heterodox men and women have served in the military, they have served in Congress and they have participated in the economy, sometimes in secret, sometimes out in the open.

There is no reason for anyone to hate these people.  All people should, of course, love and respect one another.  But that love and respect does not translate into condoning specific behaviors or choices.  We might love the thief but hate the thieving, because thieving is bad for society.  By the same vein, we might love those who engage in heterodox marriage, but hate the act of heterodox marriage, because the idea of a man and woman, living together for life, is bad for society.

Heterodox Marriage proponents will tell you that, “It’s none of your business.”  But we all live together.  Who wants to share a society full of children left confused by having both a male and female role model when the child is clearly either one or the other?

Even when children aren’t involved, heterodox marriages creates costly problems for society.  For example, most incidents of domestic violence between heterodox marriage couples occur during the Super Bowl, when the emotional state of the male is obviously and understandably heightened and inhibitions are lowered by alcohol consumption.

For their part, even the best intentioned men are unlikely to ever develop any sort of meaningful interest in typical women’s activities such as knitting, the novels of J.K. Rowling and wearing Lululemon products in non-yoga settings.

Men and women share extensive company for one reason, intended by nature, for which most of our bodies derive great pleasure.  Whether it’s fair or not, the idea of a heterodox couple, where a man and woman share extensive time together both inside and outside of the household, even to the point of sharing the burdens of mundane and pecuniary tasks, leaves the impression of persistent libido driven tendencies.

I realize, in this politically correct age that the above might strike some observers as too blunt but even if the reality of such a relationship based on constant sex is unlikely that the sheer amount of time these men and women choose to spend in each other’s company implies the possibility to outsiders.  Two men shopping at Whole Foods might discuss their Fantasy Football results while picking through the peppers, mushrooms and arugula.  The fantasies of a man and woman shopping together will naturally turn less towards professional sports than it will towards lewd conduct behind the bulk grain bins near the freight elevator.

There is no doubt that these heterodox couples have a legitimate claim to a personal right.  But is society ready for the transformation towards unbridled sexuality that the outright sanction of opposite sex partnerships could cause?  I think that some people are and, over time, the country as a whole might come around to that point of view.  But, it’s too early.  Let’s leave it to the states and future generations, not the Supreme Court.

by Michael Maiello

It’s 2013, and the United States has failed, embarrassingly, to send one of its citizens to set foot on Earth’s closest celestial object.  In the troubled times of 1968, President John F. Kennedy launched a “Moon Race” against the Soviet Union.  The world’s two super powers spent the next three decades spending hundreds of billions of dollars on missed moon shots.  When the Soviet Union collapsed (bankrupted, some say, by the space race) the U.S. raced with Japan, and now races with China.

Enough.

If we can kill terrorists without risk by using flying death robots called drones, we can certainly send a rocket to the Moon, which is a massive target and only 1.28 light seconds away from the Earth’s surface.  The physical challenges are surmountable, even given the deficiencies of America’s public education system and the basic scientific illiteracy of its population.  It has been 45 years since JFK made his promise to America.  That we have failed has harmed the national psyche and, I would say, prolonged the effects of the Financial Crisis and the resultant Great Recession.

Were we to finally put a man (or woman) on the moon, Americans could join together and say, “If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can deal with the budget deficit.”  Also, in this era of high unemployment and scarce good-paying job prospects, it’s hard to imagine that recent college graduates from around the country would be lining up for jobs as Moon Explorers and support personnel.  Certainly, being able to do a job that would result in you being the first human being to ever step on the strange ground of Earth’s nearest natural satellite beats managing a Starbucks in Sterling, Virginia.  Are we a nation of Magellans or just the bunch of Frappuccino shakers that our global competitors think we are?

Speaking of our global competitors, now might be a good time to reform our nation’s disastrous immigration laws so that we can attract and retains the world’s best minds in pursuit of this noble, nation-building endeavor (Endeavor, by the way, is the name of the prototype of the most promising spacecraft yet developed by the National Air and Space Administration — this “moon craft” is promising and development of it is being absurdly held up by recent partisan bickering over the deficit).

As our politicians dither, this is what’s happening — the best minds from around the world come here to study physics, engineering and other sciences on student visas and then, when they graduate, they are forced to return to their home countries like China and India, where they put their educations to work in the service of our Moon Race competitors.  Your tax dollars may send Bangalore to the moon.  What would Ralph Kramden have to say about that?

Hydraulic Fracturing, also known as “Fracking,” has given the U.S. an abundant supply of natural gas, potentially freeing us from oil dependency on the Middle East and definitely reducing manufacturing costs here at home.  This gas could literally propel the U.S. into the heavens.

This adventure to the Moon might well have more than just psychic rewards for the country.  On our sister planet (I know, it’s not a planet, but allow me a moment of poetry) we could find diamonds, coal, oil, gold and more gas.  With the right planning it’s possible that the brave Americans that we send to the Moon could one day even be brought back to tell us their experiences in person, instead of via G-chat.  To that, I say, excelsior!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 720 other followers