Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some heavy thoughts for the new year

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope you got everything you were hoping for. Santa took care of pretty much everything on my list — aside from world peace … but I remain hopeful for 2013.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions for the new year. Sure there are things that I want to improve about myself, but I try to take things one day at a time rather than putting all my hope into the new year and then realizing in December that I still have a lot to accomplish that I said I was going to do in January.

This year was a good one, though, in terms of resolutions I didn’t even make. For one thing, I lost a significant amount of weight. At one point, I was in the 220-pound range and quite unhealthy. For years, I’ve hovered right around 200. And now I’m just under 180, which has been my goal for at least half a decade.

Dropping the weight was good for my sense of self worth — and not that I feel better because I am my target weight, but more so because I feel better because I was finally able to do it. Although to be honest, weighing 180 also just FEELS better. I have more energy. My back hurts less. And the guy looking back at me in the mirror smiles a lot more readily.

Losing weight has resulted in some funny conversations, though. Very few people tell you when you’re gaining weight. No one wants to offend you. But they’re quick to say something when you’re losing it. Of course in my twisted mind what they’re really saying is, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to tell you that you’re fat, but I kept forgetting.”

I was at a local watering hole last week putting weight back on — 16 ounces at a time — when I was introduced to a woman who refused to believe I am who I say I am. Comparing my photo that runs with this column to who I appeared to be in the flesh, she said something to the effect of I must have lost 80 pounds.

That made me feel good … and bad all at the same time.

This past week has not been good for trying to lose weight, I’ll tell you that. I feel like I’ve done nothing but eat. Pizza. Cookies. Crab. Cookies. Ham. Cookies. There’s a lot of cookies this time of year.

Fortunately the cookie well will run dry just as soon as I finish the plates on my kitchen island. I’m inclined to eat them all right now - just so I won’t be tempted later. Sometimes my logic is riddled with holes. Which is why it’s good that Christmas only comes once a year.

Scott Leffler is skinnier in real-life. And he’s practically weightless on Twitter. Find out for yourself @scottleffler.

Brewing 122612

It's the day after Christmas and all through the house — Scott's jacked up on coffee and rambling on about politics.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Lefflers

Everyone deserves to have a merry Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And for kids around the world, the entire calendar revolves around today — Christmas.

This morning, kids woke up early to get a peak under the tree and despite their best efforts just couldn’t wait long enough to wake their parents so they could open all the wonderful presents that Santa brought.

Or at least that’s how I imagine it. My ex-wife and I always had to wake our kids up. They always chose today to sleep in for some reason we never understood. And frankly the excitement was more than we could handle.

Some years Santa was extra generous. Some years Santa just couldn’t seem to fit as much under the tree. Oddly Santa’s generosity was tied to how well the Leffler family itself was doing financially. I think it’s a subsection in the Santa Clause that says he’s not allowed to show up mom and dad.

But every year we had Christmas.

Sadly part of that Santa Clause means that some trees go nearly empty year after year.

Also noteworthy, some kids understand fully well — without ever being told — that Santa has his limitations. Those kids make the most peculiar requests of the Jolly Old Elf. We know this because sometimes the US Postal Service reads their letters … so they can help Santa out.

This year, even more than in years passed, the postal service has noticed that the things kids ask for are simple. Jobs for parents without work. Shoes, coats and blankets. Simple things that most of us take for granted.

For those of us who are doing well, it’s hard to really imagine those that aren’t. Sure we donate to the local soup kitchen or drop some coins off in the red kettles outside the big box stores or grocery markets, but the scope of need nationwide — as well as in our own communities — is just staggering.

It’s a good thing we’ve got organizations that help. It’s a good thing that there are men and women at the postal service going through letters to Santa to find families in need and giving them merry Christmases, too.

I have everything I need this year. All I asked Santa for was to have my family be together on Christmas to enjoy each other’s company and watch the sparkle in each others eyes.

Over the years Christmas has changed. When I was a young boy, it was about toys and games. Then I grew up a little and it was about time with family. And back to toys and games when my girls were younger. And now that they’re a little older, it’s back to time with family again.

Take a minute today to inventory what you have. And revel in all that it is. Some people aren’t nearly as lucky as you. And that’s up to you to decide how you define lucky. Maybe it means more toys and games. Maybe it means more time with family. But today everyone deserves to be happy.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Scott Leffler is a very lucky boy. And he gets a little sentimental this time of year. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Brewing 122112

More on Sandy Hook. More Plan B. Bill Clinton's famous (so is George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and Tip O'Neil) ... and a woman with some odd holiday spirit. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brewing 122012

Google+ Hangouts grew a little bit on Thursday with the addition of +B. Jason Ouellette who joined along with +Al Gritzmacher . Topics included Sarah Palin's complaining about President Obama being Time's person of the year, the fiscal cliff and inauguration.

I'm hoping to add more and more people to the G+ Hangout mix because it will add more opinions, more interaction and generally make the show more lively.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brewing 121912

Are $1 bills worth the paper they're printed on? Also - Obama flinched and the GOP may push him over the fiscal cliff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brewing 121812

Tuesday's episode starred Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, Chris Christie and John Boehner. Plus we discuss gun control and the fiscal cliff.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Brewing 121712

My take on our reaction to the tragedy in Connecticut.

Maybe we should reflect before we talk

The tragedy in Connecticut was nothing less than that — a tragedy. When I heard the news Friday, I did the same as everyone else with a Facebook page; I immediately posted my thoughts on the topic.

“There is a special place in Hell for those who harm animals and children.”

That’s all I had to say on the matter. And still that’s about all I have to comment on the horrific shooting deaths of 26 people, gunned down for no reason that makes sense to anyone of sound mind.

What would transpire over the next several hours and days, however, was just as ugly in my opinion. The reaction by what would seem to be half of America was just as hateful and just as hurtful as those gunshots.

My simple message on Facebook quickly devolved into a political commentary about gun control. As did other people’s messages. Many jumped into the gun control message off the bat, completely ignoring the lives lost in Connecticut.

Mind you, my message was neither pro-gun or anti-gun. It was anti death. And it was anti-horrible people. And it was pro-love. That’s something I thought we could all agree on. But I was apparently wrong.

We have no time to agree on anything in America. We can’t even take a weekend to mourn the loss of innocents. We must take the first available opportunity to break out our talking points, bang our chests and shout to the world that we are right — about whatever it is we believe.

Just as the posts came stating that there’s no reason for us to have handguns, so came the posts saying that if only teachers could carry guns, the loss would have been minimized. Just as the statistics were rolled out showing that there are practically no gun deaths in other countries, the stories rolled out about armed civilians stopping mass casualties in suburban shopping malls because they had the sense about them to “pack heat.”

The television pundits salivated, finally having a topic to discuss that would divide us so evenly as the election had. Our division, after all, fuels their ratings.

And lost in it all were the 20 children and six adults who wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas this year. Lost in it all were the families who would have to plan funerals rather than attend holiday parties. Lost in it all was the fact that while America was arguing over whether the problem was guns or bullets or mental health, the friends and families of those who were killed couldn’t care less what caused the deaths of their loved ones. They just wanted someone to hold on to. And make them believe that all was not lost — even if everything they cared for was.
There is a time and a place for the debate over gun control. It isn’t now. And it isn’t in Connecticut. Let us first mourn our dead.

Scott Leffler is a father and a son. That’s all that matters this week. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Brewing 121412

Brewing as a Google+ Hangout day three ... Topics include Stephen Colbert, White House petitions and marijuana. Plus we look at Twitter's list of 2012 trending topics.

The show(s) from Dec. 13 are available on YouTube, but they're kind of a disaster. So only watch them if you're looking to totally kill time and maybe mock me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Brewing 121212

Wednesday's show was the first beta test/experiment using Google+'s Hangout feature. It allows others to join into the show live ... and saves the video directly to YouTube. It also has some bells and whistles not previously available. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out all those bells and whistles yet, so I didn't start broadcasting/recording the show on time (missed about 15 minutes) ... and there was some dead air when I tried to play a YouTube video. I know what the problem was with the failure to broadcast from the beginning, but I'm not sure why the YouTube video didn't play as it should have ... so I'll work on that for later.

Assuming I stay with this format, you'll be able to watch the video live on YouTube (link to my channel is at the bottom right of the blog - or in the links section above) ... or participate live via Google+ (link at the right).

Monday, December 10, 2012

We have never been a nation of majority rule

There seems to be this notion that we’re a democracy. It gets taught to schoolkids and passed from parents to children. It is discussed in coffee houses, bars and even churches.

It is a lie. We are not a democracy. We never have been. And I pray to God we never will be.

But if a handful of congressmen get their way, we’ll be inching in that direction. Four Democrats from the House of Representatives — with the help of a nonpartisan outfit named Common Cause — have filed suit in US District Court to end the Senate practice known as the filibuster, saying it usurps the “principle of majority rule.”

A filibuster is a tool used by the minority party in the Senate to refuse to allow a bill to be voted on — stating that it still needs debated — unless 60 members of the Senate vote to end discussions (cloture) and vote on the bill at hand. In essence, the minority party (with 40 or more members) can prevent any measure from being voted on as long as they keep debating said issue.

I get what the congressmen are trying to do and it’s admirable in a sense. They feel that the wheels of government have ground to a halt because of a tendency to abuse the filibuster and they want to grease those wheels with some democracy.

To advance their point, there were 16 filibusters from 1840 to 1900. That’s one every four years. There was about one per year in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. And then the numbers started rising. In 2009 and 2010 there were 130.

It’s worth noting that prior to 1917, there was no process to stop a filibuster. And until 1975, a cloture vote required two-thirds of senators, seven more than today.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the process of the filibuster is being used more than “intended.” What was once a part of the system of checks and balances has become a burdensome process preventing any real progress from occurring.

Except that assumption would also assume that “progress” is a good thing and that the “principle of majority rule” is a true tenet upon which this nation was founded. But as I’ve already said, it wasn’t.

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner,” according to the author James Bovard.

And that’s precisely why the filibuster needs to remain in effect. The sheep need protection from the wolves.

Of course, in years past, the Senate was a much more thoughtful and responsible body where moderates from both parties outnumbered the radicals and everyone worked together to compose bills they knew would pass. In fact, the Senate was designed to be just that. That’s why there’s only 100 of them. And that’s why (originally) they were appointed by their respective states, chosen not for party affiliation but for their ability to work together and come up with reasonable solutions to the nation’s ills.

In this manner, the Senate also was designed to temper the more whimsical tones of the House. But the 17th Amendment screwed that all up and gave the people to power to directly elect senators.

The reason filibusters have increased exponentially over the past few decades is because the bills put forth in the Senate have become less and less reasonable and more and more partisan. It could actually be offered, then, that the filibuster’s design is working exactly as intended, preventing a tyranny of the majority.

Which is exactly why we don’t live under “majority rule,” but rather a complex design created by our founders to protect us from ourselves. Because in the end, we’re both wolves and sheep.

Scott Leffler is a self-proclaimed Constitutional scholar. He’s also a ginger. But we don’t talk about that. Follow his Tweets @scottleffler.

The Reverse Golden Rule is better

The Reverse Golden Rule, of course, is treat others the way they treat you. AKA, payback's a bitch.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Brewing 120412

Rather than airing live, today's show went direct to YouTube. Unfortunately, the last two shows (Monday and Friday) didn't save, so anyone who didn't watch live didn't get to see it. Considering the show has more "aftermarket" viewers than live viewers, I felt the need to switch thing up.

I know there's a way to broadcast live on YouTube (or maybe as a Google+ Hangout?) ... and I'll look in to that in the next few days to see if we can get back to live shows.

Topic today, BTW, was "the battle for the GOP." It is the same topic as my column from this week, which is once again featured on Thanks to Marc Odien for adding me back to the lineup.

GOP will have to pick a side and go with it

It doesn’t seem to matter what you do in life, you’ll always second guess yourself. Maybe you should have stuck with something longer. Or quit something earlier. Maybe you should have taken that job at that place. Or gone to graduate school.

Looking back on life, it’s usually easy to see how you got where you are. It has been a straight line, after all. Even if it didn’t seem it at the time. But when you reached those forks in the road, you had to pick a direction. And you wonder if you picked correctly.

The Republican Party now finds itself at just such a fork.

The “conservative” or “tea party” wing of the party believes that they lost the presidential election because their candidate, Mitt Romney, wasn’t conservative enough. This, they feel, caused “the base” to be reluctant to turn out to vote, which, in turn hurt other Republican candidates and causes.

The more moderate (or liberal, if you will) side of the Republican Party believes that it’s actually those uber-conservative ideals which hurt them in this election cycle. Many have said that they feel they have been painted with a very wide brush that makes them look as though they're uncompromising and hard to get along with.

So you have two sides of a political coin, if you will. And it’s currently in the air waiting to come down heads or tails.

My personal belief is that the tea party wing of the party overplayed their hand and got hurt because of it. When you give ultimatums as they have made a habit of doing, you have only two options: everything goes your way or nothing does. They had gotten used to getting what they wanted and have no idea how to handle the current situation where they may very well get nothing.

That would be all well and good if they learned that lesson. But they seem to feel — as evident from Grover Norquist’s appearance on “Meet the Press” this past weekend — that the problem wasn’t their unwillingness to budge. The problem was that they weren’t strong enough.

Norquist predicted that there will be a huge resurgence of the tea party in 2014 if the president takes us over “the fiscal cliff.” He’s calling for the GOP to stand firm and refuse to cave to the White House’s demands for tax increases as part of a budget compromise.

I’m not sure if Norquist is bluffing or if he really believes that, but I think the GOP has painted itself into a corner and missed the memo that the nation as a whole took a left turn at the last election.

Of course, only time will tell. And when we look back on it, it will all make sense. Hindsight is 20-20, of course.

Scott Leffler can not see the future. This column is intended as entertainment only. All rights reserved. And other legal mumbo jumbo. Call your doctor if you feel more columns are right for you. And be sure to follow Scott on Twitter @scottleffler — as long as your doctor says it’s OK.