Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker


Posted by on Jun 30, 2018 | 0 comments




Why you haven’t heard from me lately

Easy answer: I’ve been busy entering election information into a database.

Real answer: People, even educated people, don’t seem to know how to put together a profile or resume anymore.

While I’m taking a break from data input, I’ll explain what I mean, just in case one of my readers,

a. is running for office somewhere, or

b. knows or supports someone running for office, or

c. is trying to find information about potential senators, representatives, governors, mayors, councilpersons or dog catchers.

Putting together a profile for a campaign is somewhat like writing a resume. The same basic information is needed, but not in so much detail. It’s okay to start out with a little description of why you’re interested in the job, and what makes you think you’re the right person for the job. However, five or six paragraphs about what your parents did, how you learned to shoe your first horse, and your opinion on Kool-aide stands compared to Kiosks will probably lose you the vote (or job).

Some of your background is important to who you are… maybe you were raised by a single father, or your parents were non-English speaking immigrants, or you had 14 brothers and sisters. Most of this can be used after you get the pertinent details of your history down.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

Military Service

Education and degree

Previous and current employment, including dates of employment, job description or position, and any civic services in particular that would prepare you for the position you now seek.

If you have experience as an elected official, a short list of your most important votes, projects completed, or committees you served on is good information.

Birthdate and age are helpful, but not required. (I do sort of hate to think I voted for a 30-something – see picture options – and got a 70-something, though.) Religion is also optional.

Picture options: Some people put in a good picture from shoulders up, and others like to be seen standing or maybe even a family shot. Those are pretty much the limits. Pictures should be from a decade reasonably near this one. Anything else is inappropriate for a basic profile.

What I’m telling you are the guidelines for submitting information to a profile site for a campaign – Ballotpedia, for example. If you’ve also set up your own campaign page, you can be more liberal with your information and images. Many candidates choose to use Face Book as a campaign site. If you do, make sure your page name is easy to find. “Why I decided to run for office” is not a good page name. “Bob Jones for Congress NY” is great. (I didn’t make that up… “Why I decided to run for office” was actually the name of a candidate’s Face Book page!) In the last few weeks I’ve lowered my expectations. If I search Face Book for Bob Jones, Robert Jones, Jones for Congress, Jones for NY and Jones for 2018, (with and without Bob or Robert) I give up.

I’ve literally spent hours searching for any single thing to put in as biographical information. I sometimes get lucky and find a one or two word job description in a news article about the candidates. I’ve put in as little as “US Veteran” or “Teacher”. If I can’t find some basic information, I put in a statement as follows – No education or employment on record.

About education information… what, exactly, does “studied at UCLA” mean? Did you use their library? Did you take a class? Wait… your campaign page refers to you as Dr. Jones. MD? DVM? PhD? DDS? Did you graduate across the board from UCLA, or did you get your doctorate at Harvard?

Jobs…It’s not necessary to list every job you’ve ever held, but I need something more detailed than “I’ve been everything from a trucker to CEO of two different companies.” I’m inclined, at that point to put in – Truck Driver.

Ideally, every candidate should have their own website. By putting one together, you show your organizational skills and make yourself more ‘available’ to you voters. There are as many formats to use as your imagination can handle. Just keep in mind that readers often have limited time, so make sure you give them the things they really need to know about you early on. Those that are really interested in you will keep reading to learn the details. One way to decide how to layout your web page is to look at some of your opponents. Look at the pages of some experienced politicians and see how they set their profile.

Other pieces of information you should include on your web page, or make available to go along with your profiles are: Face Book name, Twitter name, link to your webpage, link to other well-known social media such as Linked In, You Tube, and Instagram. A separate contact page is always a good idea. Include your email address and a phone number for your campaign office. Some people put in P.O. Box numbers, too.

I Hope you find these suggestions useful. There is still time to spruce up your profile before November 6th. – END


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Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 | 0 comments



(Junior/Senior year)

As adults, we don’t know how to fit political information into our schedules. If we haven’t gained political education before we graduate, we aren’t likely to for several more years. We glance at the news to catch the weather, or a sports score, but seldom do we sit down to watch the entire broadcast. Even worse, we spend less time listening to our political figures when they speak at a State of the State, or State of the Union Address, for instance. Even people who say they get their news online often read only the headline and a paragraph or two. Practically speaking, we elect our leaders and our representatives based on a picture, a few sentences we’ve randomly heard them speak, and a well-written biographical paragraph by a paid marketer. Some voters watch for the political ads and decide by what they see there, not realizing that these are nothing but mini-commercials by marketing strategists, selling you their product. Rarely do we think to look up an incumbent’s voting record or find out what their previous jobs were and what their business reputation was. The truth is, unless we take courses in college related to the political arena, most of us know very little about our government and how it operates. Once we leave high school, our lives become a whole new world of responsibilities with a job, and/or college classes. Many marry and begin families which brings in a whole new dimension of responsibility. We now have bills to pay, and of course we want a social life. We need a car, or a place to live… and on and on. High school prepares us for this new world with information that helps us make good choices, but does it prepare us to improve our lives and our worlds through the power of the vote?

Just about everyone knows who the president of the country is, even if they didn’t vote. However, it’s surprising how many don’t even know who the vice president is, let alone who their senators and congressional representatives are. Even locally, 20-somethings to 40-somethings often don’t know who is representing them in their state legislature, or who the governor is, or the mayor of their own city, let alone their council members. This is somewhat understandable, given that many families have both parents working, or are single-parent households. With children, there are doctor appointments, babysitters to schedule, laundry, meals, constant housecleaning, and general bill-paying. Then comes school registrations, parent-teacher meetings, sports, holiday shows, birthday parties and other parent-child activities… all while working a full-time job and trying to have some family time. Whew!

So the last year or two of high school (before all that starts) is the best time to teach some life skills that can lead to a better future for the student as he/she becomes an adult. First, we need to acknowledge that History is not the same as Civics, and a class in Government is completely different than either one.

HISTORY is mostly about the names of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Tribal Chiefs, Sheiks, Dictators and a few famous U. S. patriots and the dates of their birth, death, and times in power. It also focuses on wars and specific battles throughout the years.

CIVICS class is centered around the rights of citizens, mainly in the United States, and sometimes broken down to the state level. The Constitution is usually a part of this curriculum. Some voter information is usually included. It is an important course but it doesn’t teach much about how the government functions.

GOVERNMENT class is the study of how governments run, particularly in the United States. Besides learning about pacts and treaties and how they come to be, this course takes into account how the three branches of our federal government work (and the checks and balances this provides), and describes how policies and laws are made. Ideally, there is some overlap between government class and civics class, but one does not take the place of the other.

Today, civics classes are required as early as 7th grade. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single class I had when I was 12. Boys were discovering girls, and girls were discovering that boys were noticing them. Sports were being introduced on a competitive level. I remember that elective classes were added to the curriculum, and most of us chose something that seemed like fun; possibly shop or home economics (back in those days), or music, art, or typing.

The civics classes in school today are usually half-credit classes, paired with some kind of local government class. While this is better than nothing, the message is sent that the workings of government really aren’t very important to the average citizen. The amount of time allotted doesn’t allow for the setting up of a mock government and studying the variety of issues our three main branches face. How can we expect our next generation to be inspired to become involved if they don’t even know how it works? How can they know how to vote if they don’t even know that senators and representatives can write and submit bills, but both the house and the senate must approve them and the president must sign them before they become law? (Yes, the president has a veto power which allows him to keep a bill from becoming law, but the veto can be overwritten if it goes back to congress and passes both the senate and house of representatives by 2/3 majority in each.) Instead, we believe a president can actually change the law at will, without understanding that he can only do that with the help of congress. In fact, most presidential candidates don’t even know the full extent of their limitations until they begin receiving briefings. (Many people also confuse Executive Orders with Laws. Executive Orders can only pertain to laws that are currently in existence.)

And then of course, any new laws (or orders) have to be legal. That is, laws cannot be made that go against the Constitution. Our judicial system is set up to prevent that from happening. There are legal ways to circumvent that, such as adding a constitutional amendment – something that is very difficult and requires a great deal of work in order to reach an agreement which will win the necessary backing of the individual states. First a proposal must be developed and must pass both branches of congress by 2/3 majority of each branch. Then the bill must be sent to the states where their legislatures must agree, by simple majority, to the amendment. Three quarters of all states must approve of the amendment. The president cannot veto any step of this process. ***For more on amendments, see the end of this article.

Did you know all this? More importantly, did you know all this the first dozen or so times that you voted?

Shouldn’t our future voters and leaders know that federal judges are appointed for life – not only the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t our newest voters understand that there is a hierarchy to the court system?

Shouldn’t our schools teach that even the executive branch of the government must meet the standards of the Constitution, and that our congress and judicial systems may be called on to determine if any new law or regulation is constitutional? Wouldn’t all this stick in their minds more, the closer they got to voting age?

Isn’t it up to us to talk to our state legislators, boards of education, and our school districts to try to encourage more involvement for our students so they can go into the world armed with the best information they can get? Wouldn’t we have a better world if the youngest adults were as informed as we’ve become after raising our families and then finally finding the time to actually learn about the amazing way our forefathers set up our democracy?

While researching data, I found that most requirement information is only current through 2013, so some states may have modified their requirements in either direction during the last 4 years. At this website, I noticed some states had actually dropped government from their requirements. Reference for graduation requirements Info:

According to the referenced website, only 4 states and the District of Columbia show a full credit required for U.S. Government – Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, and Nevada.

Fifteen others show Government at a full credit, but mixed with other subjects such as history or civics.

Nine states show no Government requirement at all – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The other 22 states require only ½ credit, sometimes mixed in with other subjects such as local government or history, and of these, some offer the classes as early as 7th grade.

In early 2017, several states reviewed and have changed, or are considering changing requirements for graduation. You can look up your local Board of Education to find requirements and other graduation information. If you would like to see the next generation graduate as a better informed and more aware group of young adults, you can begin with your local school board. Let them know what you want!

**** A final consideration might be to require that all students pass a citizenship test prior to graduation. Why do we expect new U.S. citizens to know more about how our government works than the young people that have gone to school here their entire lives?

There are currently many petitions and proposals circulating for a 28th amendment. A few are:

  • Citizens United (campaign funding)
  • Time limits on congressional and senate votes for appointed positions such as the Supreme Court.
  • Social Security and healthcare as a right.
  • Term limits for members of the House and Senate.
  • More recently, limitations and requirements pertaining directly to the president, such as release of tax forms, medical records, and divestiture of business conflicts are being discussed.
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