Uncommon sense

By Glenn Mollette

When I was a child, I remember my grandfather suffering chest pains. He kept putting nitroglycerin tablets under his tongue to help with the pain. My mother and I, along with my grandma and a couple of others, sat with Grandpa in the family dining-room area.
After his heart pain subsided, he sighed: “I’ll probably never live to see another Christmas.”
Looking back, I remember that he did have one more Christmas.
After Grandpa and Mamaw died, Christmases were never quiet the same. During those special times together, we thought they would never pass. It seemed that life and Christmas were frozen in time.
To a child, Christmas had always been this way and I could never imagine the occasion being any different.
We can never comprehend tomorrow. We hope and wish for tomorrow but we don’t fully understand all the changes it will bring. We hope for good jobs, paid-off mortgages, graduation from school, retirement security and on and on. However, as one Christmas after another rolls by, so do the years and so does life’s scenery and the people around us.
Some people this year will spend their first Christmas in a nursing home. Some will spend their first without a parent or a spouse. Some will try to get through the season without them. Others will try to make it through without employment or with a recent terminal-health diagnosis.
My wife and I were talking one evening recently about how better it would be if her father and my parents and others we loved were still alive. Christmas without them is different.
I don’t know what you are going through today. Our nation is dealing with a lot. We have terrorism, financial struggles and people experiencing lots of stress.
Many American families are hoping to just survive the season and make it to January 1. Let’s hope that you and I will have at least one more Christmas. If we do, let’s savor each moment. Whatever and whoever you have in your life, please take the time to embrace them and love them. Next year could be very different.
Take the time to enjoy Christmas personally. I realize it is about giving. We want to see our loved ones smile. However, in the days ahead, recharge your own batteries a little. Read some Christmas stories. Watch some Christmas movies.
Reflect on the message of peace and love delivered to the world in the baby Jesus through a peasant couple in Bethlehem. Visit some people in a nursing home or the local jail, or who are aged and lonely. Also connect with some people through visits or just by picking up the telephone and saying “Merry Christmas”. It will do them and you a lot of good.
May you have many more Christmases, but certainly at least one more, and may it be one of your best ever.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

Washington watch with Lee Hamilton

WHEN PAUL Ryan became speaker of the US house of representatives a few weeks ago, he made it clear that he has no intention of spending too much time in Washington. His wife and children are in Wisconsin, he pointed out, and he plans to commute, as he’s done since his election to congress.
“I just work here,” he told CNN. “I don’t live here.”
I have great sympathy for Ryan’s urge to strike a balance between family and work. It is very, very tough for every member, let alone the speaker, to live and work far from home and to weigh constantly whether to be in Washington or back in the district.
I remember that, when I served in congress, I felt I was in the wrong place wherever I happened to be. If I was at home in Indiana, I missed important meetings on Capitol Hill. When I was in Washington, the calendar in Indiana was filled with events I should have been attending.
Yet, while we should sympathize with the compromises that members of congress have to make between their duties in Washington and their responsibilities back home, there’s no question where they must be to discharge their public responsibilities. If we want a well-functioning congress, they need to be in Washington more often.
When I was first elected to congress in 1964, its members didn’t have to split time between their colleagues on Capitol Hill and their families back in the district, because most moved their families to Washington.
But, over the years, the politics of the country have grown strongly anti-Washington. Members of congress do not want to be associated with the city. They want to show they haven’t been seduced by the lifestyle of the nation’s capital or adopted an “inside-the-beltway” mindset.
They take pride in rejecting the elitism of Washington. Today’s politics make it hard to argue that members of congress should be spending more time on Capitol Hill.
Yet, as Washington Post writer Dana Milbank noted recently in an insightful column on the topic, “It’s no mere coincidence that, in the time this trend has taken hold, much of what had previously existed in Washington disappeared: civility, budget discipline, big bipartisan legislation and just general competence.
“In place of this have come bickering, showdowns, shutdowns and the endless targeting of each other for defeat in the next election.”
Expanding the Capitol Hill workweek, in other words, isn’t just a symbolic gesture. It’s one of the keys to reversing congressional dysfunction.
For starters, you have to get to know your colleagues in order to do business with them. The amenities are crucial in politics, even more than in most spheres of working life. In any legislature, whether it’s on Capitol Hill, in a state capital or in city hall, the very nature of the job is going to involve disagreement. Yet everyone is there to solve problems together; they have no choice but to work together.
It’s hard to attack a person you know well but, even more important, getting to know one another – and one another’s families – is an essential lubricant for resolving the issues you confront together.
Second, drafting legislation is highly demanding because its core involves building consensus. This takes time. It can’t be forced. Members need the time and room to consider the options, look for common ground and think through alternatives. Politicians, in other words, need sufficient time to be good politicians and good legislators. The array of tough issues that faces congress can’t be dealt with by part-time legislators.
Which, unfortunately, is what they are right now. Members of congress work hard but they do not work hard at legislating. They work hard at constituent relations and raising money and campaigning. Legislating, whether we like it or not, takes a five-day week, not the three our lawmakers put in at the moment.
What I’m arguing for here will not be popular with members of congress and it certainly won’t receive a warm reception from their families. But they are elected to do the job of legislating. For the good of the institution they serve and the work product they owe the nation, the members of congress
do need to spend more time in Washington.
Lee Hamilton is director of The Center On Congress At Indiana University and was a member of the US house of representatives for 34 years.

Uncommon sense with Glenn Mollette

ALL IS CALM and all is bright? Few Americans are singing Silent Night this week in America.
First, let me say I do agree with president Barack Obama in that we must not send thousands of soldiers to Syria. This would end up costing us thousands of lives and another trillion dollars that we do not have.
However, if Obama wants to shut down Islamic State, there’s a list of actions he must take.
The organization’s communications and media must be shut down. Americans are guaranteed freedom of speech but not IS. We must do everything we can to take out its ability to communicate.
This includes cell phones and internet access. Can we not figure this out? Any social-media corporation that has ties to America or any segment of the free world must help with this. Islamic State promotes, taunts and recruits via online propaganda. We have to stop that.
All means of making money must be blocked. Islamic State has millions and millions of dollars at its disposal. We must bomb the oil refineries it controls and put them out of commission.
We must shut down Islamic State’s travel means, take out its major bridges, destroy its highways and airports and take out all its sources of food supply.
We must work strategically with Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. However, the Middle East countries must get on board with manpower and cash to support the effort.
By the way, where is worthless Saudi Arabia? The Saudis do not even want the Syrian refugees in their country. They would rather send them to Germany or America!
We further need to take control of the visas that are being issued to anybody and everybody. People from all over the world can acquire a visa to America for almost any excuse. This must be tightened up drastically.
Obama must recognize that guns are still not the problem. The couple suspected of the San Bernardino mass shooting had a bomb factory in their garage. They could eventually have killed dozens or hundreds with bombs!
Does anybody remember April 19, 1995? Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured more than 600 in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb! The radical Muslims of September 11, 2001, took over airplanes that became catastrophic missiles killing almost 3,000 people.
Do you remember the Jonestown massacre? In 1978, 900 people were led to their deaths by radical religious leader Jim Jones. He led some and forced many to drink Kool-Aid poisoned by cyanide.
Jones’ henchmen guards did have guns. However, most of the 900 died from cyanide poisoning.
Radical religion was at the forefront of the massacre. Groups such as Jones’ People’s Temple and Radical Muslim Mosques are a danger to our society and must be monitored.
Speaking of religion, our president needs to call America together in prayer. We need a special day of prayer for our nation. People are jittery. People are buying guns and ammunition as fast as they can be made.
The 30th day of April 1863 was set aside by Abraham Lincoln as a day of fasting and prayer for the nation. Nothing could have been more frightening than the Civil War. Bloody killing was taking place all over this country. Americans were killing Americans.
We stress, jitter and worry about this country and the world situation. More and more, our world needs a strong and wise America to step up and provide strong and wise leadership. Surely, we need the wisdom, help and power from Almighty God to lead and calm our nation.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

The views and opinions expressed by our contributors are their own and do not necessarily agree with those of The Post newspaper.

Hamilton, Lee              Lee Hamilton

Washington watch with Lee Hamilton

YOU CAN understand why president Barack Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle sought to cast their end-of-October budget deal in the best possible light. They avoided a potentially catastrophic national debt default. They reduced the possibility of a government shutdown. And they raised the debt ceiling until March 2017, taking that bargaining chip off the table until the next president is in the White House.
For a last-minute, secret backroom deal, that’s not too shabby. It was bipartisan and took modest steps in the direction of political stability and fiscal responsibility. And it was vastly preferable to the alternative, which would probably have produced a government shutdown, the possibility of a default on the national debt, and certain fiscal chaos.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, for all their hard work, our political leaders indulged in two bad habits that they really need to kick, because they wreak havoc with effective and efficient government and cost taxpayers a pile of money.
First, while they gave themselves some breathing room before the next time the debt ceiling has to be raised, they will nonetheless have to raise the debt ceiling eventually. They should have abolished it, or at least suspended it.
The debt limit was instituted during World War I, when congress handed over to the treasury the ability to sell bonds to fund government needs without obtaining permission every time. In essence, the debt ceiling was a way to keep tabs on the treasury while still allowing the government to pay its bills for spending that had already been approved.
It has outlived that reasonable goal. These days, the debt ceiling is a political pawn, used repeatedly as leverage by opposition parties to make demands of the president. It has driven the persistent national game of “chicken” that has so tarnished congress’ image in recent decades.
Most political leaders recognize that defaulting on the national debt – which failing to raise the debt ceiling would cause – is an inconceivable outcome for a responsible nation. By destroying our creditworthiness, it would devastate consumers, taxpayers, businesses, retirees who have invested in government bonds, the financial markets and our ability to conduct normal relations with trading partners and foreign governments.
Moreover, the legislative maneuvering surrounding each debt-ceiling bill consumes huge amounts of legislative time that is better spent on other matters.
The need to raise the debt ceiling, in other words, no longer reins in spending. Instead, it manufactures crises and exacerbates tensions within congress.
The second bad habit is equally pernicious; the budget deal did little to shift congress from its reliance on a maneuver known as a continuing resolution. The CR, as it’s known, was designed to keep government operating for a few days or weeks while congressional negotiators worked out the budget.
In recent decades, though, it has become the way in which we fund the government. It’s hard to find a member of congress who defends this process but most of them end up voting for it.
Continuing resolutions bypass the appropriations bills written by specialized committees and provide a favored few interests a bonanza. They also keep the federal government – and hence state and local agencies that rely on federal commitments – in “handcuffs”, as a recent article in Politico put it.
“Under the continuing resolution,” the website noted after the most recent CR passed at the end of September, “multi-year projects … faced new delays. Hiring departments closed. Budget officials began to tally losses as their typically powerful purchasing power dwindled. For pretty
much the rest of this year, and perhaps 2016, too, the US government will effectively be in a state of suspended animation.”
The CR puts the government on automatic pilot, avoids hundreds of difficult funding and policy decisions and has become a substitute for working hard to pass a budget by the regular process. It lacks transparency, sidesteps good budgeting, puts all the power in the hands of a few congressional leaders and invites congress to act in a crisis mode.
Do you want the US congress to work better? If so, ask your favorite member to think big and not lock into a failing system. A good start would be to kick these two bad habits.
Lee Hamilton is director of The Center On Congress At Indiana University and was a member of the US house of representatives for 34 years.

Basketball star Lamar Odom’s drug overdose and weekend frolic in a Las Vegas house of prostitution made national headlines. News reports indicate that he is better and that his divorce to Khloe Kardashian has been called off. They
are going to give it a second chance.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that there is some sort of weird new reality show in the mix for both persons that will rake in several million dollars.
Huh? How is that even possible? Well, in the crazy mixed-up world of Hollywood and reality television, it seems there are no scruples when it comes to sanity.

Odom and Pitino- cropped      Lamar Odom                  Rick Pitino

Is there really a chance that Odom will live happily ever after? If an average person went through Odom’s near-death scenario with a national media frenzy attached to it, he would probably have rather just died than face all the public scrutiny. It’s a different world, though, in Hollywood. The Kardashians have no shame and will cash in on anything, even if it means releasing a sex tape in order to jumpstart a career.
In reality, Odom can once again fly high.
I don’t see this happening for Rick Pitino, head coach of the University Of Louisville Cardinals basketball team, after accusations that Andre McGee, a graduate assistant basketball coach for Louisville who has moved on to another team, arranged prostitutes for incoming team recruits.
Crazy stuff has been written about McGee by a prostitute, whose name I will not mention, in a book whose title I will not mention. She alleges that she did stripper parties arranged by McGee for incoming freshman player recruits and that he paid her and her daughters to engage in sexual acts with some of the players.
I’ve seen Pitino on television and he does not look good. He and most of the people associated with the Cardinals team swear they know nothing of the allegations. He has demanded that McGee come forward, come clean and set the record straight. McGee is the only one who knows the real story, he says.
Sports commentators and radio DJs have been calling for Pitino’s resignation. But I don’t see how a coach can know everything that is going on with all his staff and players. I certainly do not believe that Pitino had anything to do with the arrangement of such shenanigans, nor that he knew anything about them. The prostitute has stated that she never saw him at any of the events.
Things are different in Louisville than they are in Las Vegas or Hollywood. If Coach Pitino is beheaded because of McGee’s horrendously bad judgment, then this will probably be the end of his hall-of-fame basketball career. And, while Odom allegedly blew $75,000 in a hotel brothel, he will probably come back with several million.
McGee allegedly spent $10,000 on the Louisville prostitutes. If proved, it could put U of L on probation, cost Pitino his multi-million-dollar basketball contract and sour the entire season, or even several seasons, for the Cardinals basketball team.
I hope that Odom truly recovers and that maybe his life will start a positive upward direction. I can only hope that Louisville’s nightmare will eventually end and that Pitino and the basketball program can regain normalcy. However, when looking at these two different basketball personalities, it’s uncertain today which of their reputations is being put to death.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.