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Archive → March, 2013

PA Turnpike’s Bi-Partisan Crookedness

Reports emanating from the criminal investigation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and prosecution of many of its top officials show a culture of corruption.

By both major political parties, that is.

Whichever political party was in power at the time (Governor’s office, PA legislature) got the lion’s share, 60%, of the Turnpike contracts steered to the private contracting companies of its choice. The “minority” party had to settle for 40%. That was the arrangement for decades between the party leaders.

Both parties treated public taxpayer money there as nothing more than a slush fund for party use. No Republican watchdogs here, folks.

This culture of corruption was mirrored in Harrisburg, where both Democrats and Republicans ate up hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money in a bi-partisan orgy of self interest. Now, it is difficult to get law enforcers from either party, whether it is Dauphin County DA Ed Marsico or PA AG Kathleen Kane, to investigate the Harrisburg mess. Each one has allegiances to their respective party, each of which has well-known members involved in the criminal corruption there.

All the more need, then, for greater activism on the fringes of the party system. Republicans who are not part of the Republican party system hold the greatest promise for reforming this sickness. Principle must triumph over profit.

Where is Admiral Gauoette?

SOS at CPAC: “Where’s Admiral Gaouette?” and the “Benghazi CBA”
New organization of former US Special Ops officers issues distress calls about urgent high-profile questions.

By Mark Langfan, at CPAC

“SOS” is a naval emergency distress call meaning “Save our Ship”, but at the CPAC, (Conservative Political Action Committee) convention, “SOS” stands for SpecialOperationsSpeaks.com, a new organization of former US Special Ops officers who are issuing distress calls about urgent high-profile questions, and critical unanswered mysteries about the 2012 Obama Benghazi debacle.

CAPT Larry Bailey, USN (Ret.), a former senior SEAL commander and co-founder of Special Operation Speaks, demands to know, “Where the heck is Admiral Gaouette?” ADM Gaouette was the commander of the USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group on station in the Persian Gulf area who was mysteriously summarily stripped of his command during the attack in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered.

Several days afterward, it was reported that ADM Gaouette was summarily relieved of his command during a major operational contingency event during the Benghazi attacks for the alleged claim of “inappropriate leadership judgment.” ADM Gaouette’s detention and total disappearance weeks before the November 2012 presidential election was a story that CAPT Bailey says “disappeared into a black hole of silence.”

CAPT Bailey, as a “Brother-in-the-Navy” of ADM Gaouette, has some urgent and vital questions:

Where is ADM Gaouette now, and where has he been for over 4 months?

Why hasn’t Congress called ADM Gaouette to testify about the 2012 Benghazi fiasco, when he clearly was a key operational senior commander in-theater?

If ADM Gaouette is under some type of detention, what does “inappropriate leadership judgment” mean, what is he specifically charged with, and does he have proper legal counsel?

CAPT Bailey urges anyone who heard or saw anything, or has even the smallest most innocuous piece of the puzzle, to tell them what that piece is. He says, “The more questions SOS asks, the bigger the black hole of silence becomes.”

Col. Richard F. (Dick) Brauer, Jr, USAF (Ret.), SOS Air Commando Coordinator co-Founder of SOS, has a slightly different, but still vital question: “Where was President Obama’s CBA (Cross Border Authority) for the Benghazi ‘rescue’ attempt when US Defense Secretary Panetta claimed Obama told him, ‘Do whatever you gotta do to save American life.’?”

Col. Brauer explains that an insertion of any US forces into Benghazi, Libya, or across any international border into a country where US forces were not deployed, would have required a special US Presidential CBA authorization to be issued. So, in effect, Obama’s telling Secretary Panetta to “Do whatever you gotta do” without simultaneously issuing a specific CBA enabling such action is like “telling a fire station to extinguish a 5-alarm blaze while the firemen were not legally allowed to even leave the fire house, go to the fire, or douse the burning building.”

So, Col. Brauer’s point is that President Obama may have known that verbally telling Secretary Panetta to “do whatever you gotta do” without his also issuing the legally necessary CBA was “passively ordering USSECDEF Panetta to ‘do nothing.’”

Col. Brauer says his group is considering filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all the documents and emails surrounding the ADM Gaouette and “missing” CBA questions.

Stay tuned; these soldier sailors have never left a man in the field, and they will never leave Admiral Gaouette in the field. They see the Admiral as a “man down,” and are doing everything they can to help a fellow sailor who may be in trouble.

From: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/166278#.UUZ56Vdo6sQ

The tonic of wilderness

Reading just about any wilderness outdoors report by hikers or wilderness advocates, you’ll have a tough time not meeting up with the well-worn phrase “the tonic of wilderness.”

All my life I’ve been a wilderness hound, and I don’t know what that phrase means. Whether day hiking, fishing, or camping with a rifle next to me many miles from the nearest road, my feelings about wilderness have zero association with the word tonic.

Euphoria, and drug-induced narcotic stupor are more accurate for my take-aways. That Cloud Nine feeling can stay with me for weeks after returning to human settlement. Getting older only makes it better, because so many layers are filtering the experience now. Water, stands of old conifers, some far off hill that sees one or two people a year, or a decade, these now are the templates upon which each new excursion is planned. Studying a topographic map now yields concrete images of what to expect in my mind, accurate or not.

Since last year I’ve taken to marching about with a heavy pack loaded with 50-65 pounds of steel as a means of getting back into some sort of decent condition. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to hike a local park for 30-60 minutes. Usually, it’s just my neighborhood that I’m tromping through in my rugged hunting boots. Concrete isn’t pretty to see, and my mind once again helps out. As the minutes tick by, a quiet euphoria overtakes the senses, and my eyes see trees, distant horizons, and unbroken scenery. My hand instinctively grips an imaginary rifle, and oblivious to cars whipping past, I wander unnamed marshes somewhere else.

If someone wants to call this the tonic of wilderness, OK. It makes no sense. But if that’s now the by-word, I’ll accept it. Just so long as I can get more, soon

Good News From Dauphin County: Redefinition of ‘Establishment Candidate’

Good News: Dauphin County, PA’s Redefinition of the ‘Establishment’ Candidate

By Josh First
March 15, 2013

Two consummate political insiders are quietly leading an interesting, even inspiring redefinition of ‘establishment politician’, and it’s happening in a quiet Dauphin County, PA judge’s race usually known more for voter disinterest and a lack of exposure to the candidates than as an all-out competition. That’s now all changing as a competitive scramble for limited primary votes gets the two candidates out into the cold, knocking on doors every day, asking for ballot petition signatures, and handing out their campaign literature.

Both Bill Tully and Fran Chardo have long and active ties to the local GOP political establishment, serving as county GOP committeemen and assistant district attorneys, among other official and unofficial roles.

Another political insider, Jim Zugay, until recently the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds, dropped out of the race over a month ago after failing to obtain the Dauphin County Republican Committee endorsement. Reportedly, Zugay had been promised the endorsement, and would not compete in an open primary without it.

Both Tully and Chardo asked for an open primary with no GOP endorsement, instead relying upon their existing individual relationships within the party. Tully is endorsed by popular Dauphin County Sheriff Jack Lotwick, and Chardo has the support of his boss Ed Marsico, Dauphin County’s popular District Attorney.

Chardo has spent his career in the DA’s office, now serving as head assistant district attorney. Tully also served as an assistant DA, and has also done a long stint as a private defense and civil litigation attorney.

Both men are clean cut, personable, articulate, respected community leaders and family men, with excellent professional and political qualifications. Either one can pick up a phone and talk with nearly any elected leader in the state. Both are quintessential political insiders with roots in and allegiances to ‘the system’.

Except for one thing: By running in this race, these candidates both bucked their own system. You know, the smoke-filled back room system, where party bosses horse trade and usually weed out strong prospective candidates either through pressure and threats, or enticements of government jobs and contracts, future support, or party endorsements that provide some and deprive other candidates of campaign seed funds. That party machine system has been steadily eroding in Dauphin County over the past few years.

Indeed, it seems to be breaking down in the state Republican Committee, as well, where appetites are stronger for greater opportunity through healthy primary competitions rendering the fittest candidate to carry the GOP torch. Last year was a fiasco for the Dauphin County GOP machine, where party bosses ran untested, apparently unqualified candidates against independent-minded incumbents and self-starters, and lost, at great cost to party finances and credibility.

Now, these two self-driven judicial candidates face off, each with his own array of marquee supporters, and no party endorsement, which strikes me and most other Americans as the way American political races are supposed to be run. Chardo has a good strong personal presence, while Tully is older, more experienced, and probably a little more independent of party bosses. Each one has prosecuted bad guys before a judge. Either one will give you a fair and professional hearing as a presiding judge.

The primary election will be held on May 21st, 2013, and your vote absolutely matters. In my book, both candidates are already winners for bravely breaking new political ground, and letting the voters decide, instead of the party bosses.

Stay in the conversation at www.joshfirst.com and on our Facebook page

It Takes a Democrat Strategist & a Conservative Republican to Say What the GOP Establishment Can’t & Won’t Say

CPAC is going on now and through the weekend. CPAC is the annual conservative gathering held around America that pressures the GOP establishment to make sounds of conservativism.

Political strategist Pat Caddell sat on a panel at CPAC yesterday and chided the Republican Party for not fighting to win. Caddell said that the Democrats fight to win, and win they do, and he laughed at how gentlemanly Republicans and conservatives like to be, even at the cost of winning. He listed many examples that I will not reproduce here.

Caddell is a Democrat.

Slip over to the US Capitol around the same time, where US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was being asked simple questions about her view of the US Constitution by US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). You can easily look up the exchange. Cruz asked Feinstein if her approach to gutting the Second Amendment would apply to the First and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution, where, by her kind of legislation the US citizens could be told which books they could read and which parts of their homes were open to warrantless searches.

Feinstein had a snit and “took offense” to the question, instead of answering it. Liberals always, always, always take offense to anything that they don’t agree with. Being offended is silly, and is no grounds for dismissing an issue. If someone is offended, so what…keep going.

Recall that until very recently, Cruz was the outsider Republican, excluded by the GOP establishment and undermined by them at every turn in his quest for elected office. Conservatives like Cruz are always on the outs with the GOP establishment, because they say things that aren’t considered polite by GOP moderates.

In a nutshell, Thursday, March 14, 2013, was a significant milestone in the internal reformation of the GOP. A Democrat laughed openly in the faces of the GOP for being such weenies that they willfully lose races, and a conservative Republican asked a simple question not asked by any establishment R’s, highlighting the gulf between traditional conservatives and moderate Republicans.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania has US Senator Pat Toomey, a real American with basic American values representing our views in Washington. How sad it was and remains today that the PA GOP tried to promote Steve Welch as the GOP alternative to Bob Casey, instead of staying out of the primary race and letting the candidates contend among themselves. We might today have Tom Smith as our second US Senator, instead of the leftwing Bob Casey.

20 years of the best

Viv and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.
Twenty years of the best kind of relationship possible. I get everything, and she works like a slave and gives everything.
Anyone who knows Viv knows she is a powerhouse. An accomplished attorney, a loving and doting mother, a cheerful wife, an incredible volunteer on many boards and charities…really, she deserves a Purple Heart or some other military medal for being married to me for so long, let alone the amazing work she does for communities and individuals.
Thank you, honey, for being with me and my better half.
I am looking forward to another sixty years together…

New pope helps unify the world

You do not have to be Catholic to respect or benefit from the office of the pope. The position is a badly needed voice of justice and peace in a world at constant war. How many other such roles are there in any faith? None. The Vatican maintains many odd if not absurd political policies, but no one holds a candle to the Church’s ability to feed and cloth the poor, spread peace, and dialogue. I’m not interested in picking on the faults that run in newspaper headlines. I’m focused on the good that I know will follow from the new pope.
Congratulations, Pope, and may your message of belief in God and peace among men be heard far and wide.

Increasing Smart Growth opportunities in Harrisburg, but for crazy high school taxes…

Harrisburg City is broke, but it presents many opportunities for in-fill development, where existing infrastructure is already long-since paid for. The challenge to attracting development is getting past the regressive school tax, which is based on property ownership. The more property you own, the higher the school taxes you pay. Harrisburg spends somewhere around $18,000 per student to get a sub-par education.
Setting aside the broken educational program here, more than anything an end to property taxes is needed. Once that punitive tax ends, then investors are enticed to take advantage of even weak markets, and make investments, taking risks and sacrifices.
Investment brings jobs, creates economic and financial “churn,” and is how America runs.
Right now, the churn in Harrisburg is below incrementally slow. It is almost nil, with a few exceptions led by brave pioneers committed to the city’s success.

Thank you!

Attending a lovely social event recently, several people came up and told me that they enjoy what I write and asked me to keep on writing. That means a lot, because I usually don’t hear back unless someone strongly disagrees.
Writing opinion pieces and independent reports, and emailing them out, is a bit risky in the world of politics, because it reveals often closely held values. These can alienate anyone for any reason. On the other hand, what I have been told is that readers find that independent perspective refreshing.
Dear readers, you inspire me. Thank you!

Really wanna win this political fight about guns?

In 2009 my congressional campaign opened with something similar to the thought below. Back then, as a new candidate I just blurted it out in a newspaper interview. Some three years and a lot of political work later, it seems truer now than before:

The sooner patriotic Americans realize we are engaged in a bar room brawl, the better. Stepping outside and puttin’ up yer dukes is gentlemanly, but you might never make it outside when the opposition is grabbing beer bottles and heavy beer mugs off the bar and whacking people over the head. Wanna win the fight? Grab a beer mug and start swingin’ back.