Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Congress can cut spending

Line item expense reduction
Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton both asked for line item veto power in State of the Union addresses but the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional because it circumvents a power vested in Congress. I suggest the concept should be used by Congress to decrease federal spending. Here’s how it might work:
Wire the House Chamber with “voting” buttons that will record each congress person’s vote. When a button is pushed by the congress person their vote is recorded and available to anyone to see so that a voter or a newspaper can easily find out how any individual has voted. The total is displayed in the Chamber at the time of the vote.
Both Houses of Congress meet together as for the State of the Union. They are informed beforehand on what will be voted on that day giving lobbyists and voters time to fill their ears with biased information or, less cynically, to inform themselves more fully on the issue. There will be no discussion or debate during the meeting. A question will be projected on a screen for all including the television cameras to see and then the vote will be taken. The results of the vote, totals, will be projected for all to see. Television pundits can comment to their audience.
An Example: Congress and the media are told the farm bill will be up for spending cut review in a week. On the fateful day Representative and Senators take their seats and log into the network that they are present. The issue flashes on the screen:
Crop Insurance
Over the past decade taxpayers have paid $59.5 billion
Your vote”
A.     no change
B.     eliminate for wealthiest farmers
C.     reduce premium subsidy
D.     eliminate federal subsidy of crop insurance

If the vote for A or D is 60% or more that vote carries. If B receives 41% or more another vote screen is displayed:
            Define “wealthiest farmers.
A.     grossing over $5 million annually
B.     grossing over $2.5 million annually
C.     grossing over $1 million annually
D.     grossing over $500,000 annually
If C receives 41% or more:
            Reduce premium from current 62% to:
A.     50 %
B.     40%
C.     25%
D.     10%
The congressional delegation from Rhode Island might vote to eliminate the subsidy while the delegation from Nebraska will most likely vote for no change. This system is far from perfect since lobbyists might well tell the Rhode Island folks that they will make a significant contribution to their campaigns if they vote no change. Perhaps we should allow them to vote for a secret vote. If the substantive vote was one their constituents, we the people, didn’t like, someone running against them would have them on record as voting for a secret vote.
This is a rough proposal with room for refinement but the basic idea is the best shot we have at making serious budget cuts. Both Republicans and Democrats have refused to get specific about budget cuts because any specific cuts will stir up a hive of reaction and no elected person wants to stick their hand in the hive.
I do think that corporate welfare could be cut without loosing votes--gross contributions from the corporations that now unduly influence our congresspeople but not votes. I would sure like to know if my congressional delegation voted to keep subsidizing Exxon just to name one of the very profitable companies our tax dollars subsidize.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Genetically Modified Salmon

FDA poised to approve genetically engineered salmon despite unknown risks to human health. Inevitable accidental release of transgenic fish into the wild could devastate native fish populations and ecosystems!

I used the following link to submit my comments to the FDA

One must wonder what the point of the FDA is if it allows something so potentially dangerous to our health as genetically modified food without extensive testing. Your past record is bad enough. It should be clear that a) many people don’t want to eat genetically modified food that you haven’t tested (The industry should be urging you to test the safety of these foods. That they aren’t should be a red flag for you.) b) The industry fights every effort to label GM food; another indication they know there are problems. c) Most importantly GM crops have already escaped into the wild. You must know that genetically modified salmon will. If you allow it, ultimately, salmon will be contaminated world-wide.

Please, please, please don’t do this.

For more information:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Strap on your weapons

       I chided my friend for getting a concealed weapons permit “as a deterrent”, he said, and I suggested a better deterrent would be if he strapped it on his hip. Right here in Portland, Maine someone apparently thought my idea was a good one and wandered around the city carrying a loaded AR-15. The police received 65 calls but, since he was doing nothing illegal, they could not even get his name. Imagine the Wild West with assault weapons—Wyatt Earp, Jessie James, Tombstone, OK Coral. Imagine the good old days with today’s weapons. Surely one of the three cowboys Wyatt shot in 30 second at the OK Coral would have gotten him first.
          The NRA got all upset because a newspaper printed the addresses of all those with gun permits in its reading area. Hey, NRA, we keep hearing that owning a gun was a good idea for protection and that it would be less likely nutcases would open fire in a school if there were armed people there. If you believe that you ought to believe that letting people know you were armed and dangerous would be a pretty good deterrent. Wouldn’t criminals take a list like that and decide those were the houses to avoid?
        Instead the reaction has been that publishing the list has made it dangerous for the gun owners. What?! The neighbors without guns are going to attack with baseball bats? Or will those with guns start attacking others with guns, you know, like a feud.
        Assault weapons should not only be banned, they should be confiscated. That would do little to reduce the nearly 30 deaths by guns that occur daily in our great country but it would slow down the insane.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eric Weiner, an author I highly recommend

Eric Weiner has given me great pleasure in two books, The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God. There is nothing better than learning good stuff from a thoughtful person with a good sense of humor.
Toward the end of his quest it dawns on him: “God is to religion as food is to a menu. Both the menu and the religion suggest a variety of options, and while the waiter can make recommendations, ultimately the choice is ours. To say you know God because you are religious is like saying you have dined well because you read the menu.”
I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying Mr. Weiner’s books.