Notes from around the Human Experience…
GAYLON FOR CONGRESS…VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN: Sometimes, probably in my role as a past candidate for both the United States Senate and House of Representatives, I‘ll get asked what we can do in the current political climate, which is that of a partisan, fractured and bickering government. My answer is always the same: PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention to what our government is, and is not, doing for us.
Dry, Technical Matter: Right now is a good time to pay attention because the United States Senate will soon begin debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which mainly details how the Pentagon will go about its work in the next fiscal year. Senator Rand Paul is offering an amendment to the act that would repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), a separate act passed by Congress in the days following 9/11. The AUMF allowed the president to act unilaterally in using military force against those he deemed responsible for the attacks.
Fly In The Ointment: Since then, however, the act has been used to justify the use of American force wherever we choose to use it. It has been used to authorize actions in 14 countries and on the high seas.
This is wrong. The Constitution is very clear on the matter, with Article I, Section 8 stating, in part:
The Congress shall have Power To…declare War…
This was not an accident. There was virtually little desire at the Constitutional Convention to empower the chief executive to unilaterally declare war. Congress, despite the fact America has been at war for most of our existence, and continually since 1989, has only declared war five times over the centuries, none of them since 1942, a fact which surprises some people.
We The People: This is where you and I come in. We must get involved. If you approve of the AUMF, great. We’re glad you’ve given it the thought required to form an informed opinion. We merely disagree on the matter and it is differences of opinion like this that makes horse racing so exciting.
OTOH: If you do not approve of the AUMF, get involved and let your representatives know. Now is the time for us to pay attention to what our leaders are doing – and not doing – for our country and to let them know how we feel. For too long we have given our leaders carte blanche to do what they want. The time has come for us to hold our leaders accountable.
Please Pass The Dry, Technical Matter: No nation has survived perpetual war and America is not going to be the exception. America has been at war continuously since 1989 and there is no prospect of peace, the only dividend war is providing is more war. By forcing Congress to resume its Constitutional duties of declaring war, America will be a more peaceful nation because if Congress actually has to put the thought that is required into declaring war, we don’t think they’d do it unless there is a direct threat to our way of life. American meddling in other countries will stop.
The Bottom Line: Having one person in charge of deciding when we go to war is neither in step with the letter or the spirit of the Constitution and it is not in the spirit of a nation conceived in liberty. We can do better, but we have to let our leaders know we want better.
USA! USA!: In the War of 1812, the British attack but fail to capture Baltimore, Maryland on this date in 1814. The attack began in the morning and would continue until the following morning. When the smoke cleared and a lawyer named Francis Scott Key saw the American flag still waving he was so moved by the sight he wrote a poem about it called The Defence of Fort M’Henry. Some music from an old English drinking song would later be added and the result, The Star Spangled Banner, would become the national anthem of the United States in 1931.
FunFact: Key was moved to write four verses to his poem, though only the first verse is customarily played.
The Cold War: A Simpler Time: Nikita Khrushchev is appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party on this date 1953. He would serve until thrown out in a bloodless coup by Leonid Brezhnev and associates in 1964. Kruschev did not handle his forced retirement well. He fell into depression and in 1965 had his pension reduced, though it was still comfortable by Soviet standards, and was obliged to move to a small home. He died in 1971.
Those Zany Soviets: Man reaches the moon for the first time when Luna 2, a Soviet spacecraft, crashes on the lunar surface on this date in 1959. About a half hour later the rocket carrying Luna 2 crashed on the moon.
Uh-Oh: Up to that time, the closest the United States had gotten to the moon was Pioneer 4, which had gotten within 34,000 miles of the moon the previous March.
Quotebook: Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself. – James Stephens, Irish poet (1882-1950)
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: Benito Mussolini was attempting to flee to Switzerland when he was arrested in 1945.
Today’s Stumper: When the Civil War broke out a fifth verse was added to The Star Spangled Banner. Who wrote this fifth verse? – Answer next time!