December 31st, 2004 ~ Tonight is an oddly jarring new year's eve.  Vicki and I sit here watching Times Square fill with tens of thousands of celebrants on this balmy Friday night, even as many tens of thousands more in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Indonesia, and east Africa desperately search for missing loved ones in the aftermath of Tuesday's tsunami.  It is a sobering beginning to the year at hand.  Yet, here it is and as with all things, we must play the hand we're dealt.
      Wishing you and yours the greatest peace, joy, and health this New Year.  May this be a year of hope and new beginnings for all.

      December 15th, 2004 ~ We hear a lot of noise from the NeoCon camp these days, about amending our Constitution.  They want a flag burning amendment (even though federal regulations state that is exactly how one is to dispose of a worn or tattered flag).  They want a ban on gay marriage (even though government should never have been in the marriage business to begin with).  They want foreign-born citizens as President (which disturbs me in ways I'm still trying to articulate).
      They are sounding more and more like kids sitting on the department store Santa's lap with a "wish list" for Christmas.  So, in the spirit of the season, here are some Constitutional amendments I would like to see...
      Amendment 28:  No Constitutional article or amendment shall be enforceable which infringes upon an individual's unalienable rights to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. Such an amendment does not preclude the establishment of federal laws which run counter to those rights. It simply precludes their inclusion in the Constitution itself.
      Amendment 29:  All appropriations for federal programs shall henceforth include a sunset provision, not to exceed six years.  In addition, all federally mandated state programs shall include a sunset provision not to exceed four years AND require a 2/3rds majority in both houses of Congress for subsequent extensions of such mandates.
      Amendment 30:  The federal income tax shall be abolished and revenues replaced by a federal sales tax of 2.9%.  Furthermore, expenditures for personal clothing, food, medicine, housing, and non-commercial vehicle fuel shall be reimbursable on a quarterly basis and according to a progressive scale of income.  Also, regarding fuels and other commodities, existing federal excise taxes on such commodities shall be deducted BEFORE calculating the federal sales tax.  In other words, nobody will be required to report income to the government (except for those wishing to be reimbursed for essential personal expenditures).  Nobody will pay tax on taxes.  There will be no more corporate exemptions you and I are denied as living, breathing, citizens of the United States, and because it is an anonymous taxation system, everyone's right to privacy is protected.
      Amendment 31:  NO government or quasi-government agency may invoke eminent domain to take a person's property unless it can prove to a jury in a court of law that the owner acquired the property by illegal means, or that felonious activities are routinely conducted on that property.  Furthermore, NO government or quasi-government agency may declare a property "blighted" without a jury decision that the owner's maintenance of that property poses a significant threat to public health or safety.
      Amendment 32:  A new procedure shall provide for semiannual plebiscites, expressing the will of the American People on issues we - not the professional spin doctors - deem important.  While the outcome of such referenda would not bind the legislative or executive branches to any specific courses of action, no politician could claim ignorance of how we felt on a particular matter.  A simple signature campaign - similar to those used to qualify candidates for political office - would be used to place such referenda on a ballot.    Political office holders, national political parties, and registered lobbyists would, naturally, be banned from participation.
      Now it's your turn.  What amendments to our most excellent Constitution would YOU like to see?  Don't tell me.  It won't do you any good.  Tell your Senators and Representatives what you think.  They're the folks that get things done in Good ol' Delta Charlie.
      Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Blessed Solstice to all, and to ALL, a Good Night!