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Archive → May, 2013

Cascade Effect

When a snow avalanche plows over a mountainside, everything in its path falls, breaks, bends, severely, or gets swept under and away.

Avalanches do not happen all at once. First there’s a little spill of snow at the top. That bumps something larger down below, and so on. A cascade effect gathers momentum, and pretty soon the whole shebang is blasting full steam ahead.

Such is the state of the administration in Washington. Historic scandals at the IRS, Dept. of Justice, State Dept., and so on are building up steam. Partisans are ignoring them all, pooh-poohing them, hoping voters don’t pay attention. But eventually, that cascade will reach its full force.

Framing the Issue, Defining the Person

Although I spend most of my work time with muddy boots out in the field, I obviously have a passion for government policy and issues. My college and graduate school degrees are in government (and economics, and statistics, and history, and…and…), so “big issues” have always motivated me. And thus, I write about them.

As a sound policy advocate, I am always wrestling with framing an issue or defining the person behind an issue, say, in a public race for office.

One of the aspects of this process I am getting better at is understanding what motivates someone else who sees it differently than I.

And here is my conclusion: Power, power, and more power over decisions, resources, and people is what motivates the vast majority of people who take a stand on something. Especially in politics.

Take, for example, last week’s decision at the Boy Scouts of America. In my mind, the decision to allow gay people is not an issue. After all, how would I know someone is gay unless they tell me? I could not care less about who is gay, or straight, and in fact I enjoy the presence of a number of gay people because they are funny, smart, and entertaining. I have nothing against gays. But what I do have an issue with is talking about sex with my kid, and who does it, and why.

And so, the political advocates of being gay say they have a right to talk about their sexual preferences any time they want, and I respond that now I know how women feel when meatheads make stupid comments that can be construed as sexist or come-ons. There is just zero room for discussing sexuality or sexual preferences in public or with kids not your own. And so I frame this issue naively, thinking it is about what is best for kids (knowing that adults who also object to having sexuality pressed upon them can take refuge in myriad anti-sexual harassment laws).

Every kid should have a sex-free zone drawn around them. And yes, talking about your sexual preferences is S-E-X-U-A-L.

And thus are parents like me unfairly defined as bad, bigoted, evil, cruel, etc. The issue has been framed in a way that automatically makes us “bigoted” if we disagree, thereby removing our ability (power) to defend our ideas. But I prefer to frame it in a way that protects kids, my kids, from being sexualized. And thus, I will stand my ground and say “leave the kids alone.”

Gay people who want to hang out at my house and debate this, or have dinner, or play cards, are welcome any time we know you are arriving.

BSA Policy Should be Zero Tolerance for Sex

It hurt to send this to my son’s Boy Scouts troop leader today. Ben is a wonderful man and an important part of our son’s life:

“Hi Ben.

I don’t care who is gay.

And no one has a right to talk about sex with my son Isaac.

Sex has no place in the BSA.

The moment that a teenager or adult talks about sex with my son at a BSA event is the moment I file a lawsuit against BSA for sexual harassment and then withdraw from the troop.

The correct policy should have been a zero tolerance for sex, period. Talking about sexual behavior is innately sexual. It’s an innately private subject without any legitimate purpose around kids.

You are and have been a fantastic troop leader. I’m very sorry to send this to you. But I must protect my son. Isaac has a right to be free from sexualization by older kids and adults. The new BSA policy says that someone has a right to sexualize my son. That’s wrong, and the BSA is now looking like an unsafe place, the wrong place for my son.


Happy Memorial Day – and a big Thank You to our service members

Memorial Day is supposed to be about remembering those who served and died for our freedoms.

We all take our American freedoms for granted. I do it, you do it, it’s such a good lifestyle that it is impossible not to enjoy it casually. But we enjoy it because of the sacrifices of those who picked up a weapon to protect us.

Thank you to those who died, and those who continue to serve in harm’s way. We appreciate all you do.

Election Day is Nigh

Election Day is Nigh
By Josh First

Three political races are of consequence where I live: Mayor of Harrisburg, Dauphin County Judge (Court of Common Pleas), and Susquehanna Township school board.

Like all elections, this one is important, and unlike all elections, this one is also uniquely of little consequence. Here’s why:

The mayor of Harrisburg has been reduced to an almost figurehead role, because the state is running the city. Yes, the mayor’s desk is a bully pulpit, if you want it to be. But don’t count on many people listening, because the city is broke, broke, broke, and a long time will pass before its citizens feel like things are going right. Harrisburg’s school district is largely out of reach of the mayor’s office, and it requires open heart surgery to bring it back to life before it taxes everyone to death.

Bottom line: No matter who is mayor, it isn’t going to matter a lot right now.

Several candidates are vying for the Democrat nomination. Reportedly, Louis Butts has just been caught defacing Eric Papenfuse’s signs. Personally, I like Louis a lot. But, scratch that candidate, right?

Eric Papenfuse is possibly an intellectual, but he is smitten with terrorist Bill Ayers, and so probably a lightweight. Going against Papenfuse is an op-ed he wrote a couple years ago, lamenting that the poor black kids of Harrisburg might actually get a useful education (vocation) at SciTech, instead of the hard-far-Left issues indoctrination that street organizers prefer their soldiers to march to. Papenfuse is a wannabe plantation owner. Good luck with that one, Harrisburg!

Then there is candidate Dan Miller, a smart guy, a hard working guy, who has tried to hold the line on irresponsible spending. Dan has taken to showboating once in a while, which elected officials can do, but he has also demonstrated careful thinking, and an autocratic streak a mile wide to go with it. Some developers have been rubbed the wrong way by Dan’s style. The Harrisburg Stonewall Brigade have been rubbed the right way. Stallions may become the next de facto Mayor’s office. The owner of Stallions, Mickey Shefet, is one of Harrisburg’s best, hardest working, and most dedicated businessmen, and he deserves a break for having invested in the city for so many years. Go Dan!

Finally, Mayor Linda Thompson is an outspoken woman of faith, an attribute sorely lacking in these modern days. I have worked with Linda on the Tree issue, and she is much smarter than people know. She is also carelessly outspoken on many other issues, some of which matter to city taxpayers. Her “scumbag from Perry County” line shall be etched in Central Pennsylvania infamy for generations, and has already spawned a cellar bootleg T-shirt industry among the proud denizens of that beautiful county. Like those who wear the “Infidel” T-shirt in Arabic across their chests, many Perry Countians are proud to wear Linda Thompson’s most famous line, in camouflage, of course.

Waiting to take on the Democrat nominee is Independent Nevin Mindlin, a long-time professional with fantastic government credentials and a kindly, nerdy disposition that I find magnetic. Mindlin is my choice to run the cit-tay.

The second race is for judge. Democrat Anne Gingrich Cornick appears to many political observers to be a magical creation of Judge Scott Evans, a Republican whose behind-the-scenes power is legendary. Cornick cross-filed as a Republican, reportedly also at the urging of Evans, whose claim to President Judge once more has not necessarily been completely bolstered by the candidacy of two other Republicans, Bill Tully and Fran Chardo.

Both Tully and Chardo are stand-up guys (I have written about their race previously), and I would like to see Chardo gain a few years before he sits in judgment of anyone like me. Tully has the seniority, seasoning, broader experience, and disposition necessary for a good judge. Chardo has the political establishment contacts, so this otherwise-boring judge race may actually be pretty exciting. But the outcome is that the county will get a good judge, no matter which Republican wins.

Finally, Susquehanna Township’s school board is being rocked by racial politics that no one wants to talk about and which threaten to turn Harrisburg’s famously stable, integrated suburbs into a bitter political war zone.

Leading the charge is Coach Jesse Rawls. Rawls was one of the first black wrestling coaches in America, and for that he has my undying admiration. But his emphasis on stocking the school district with skin color and not necessarily with talent is psychotically destructive and, well, it’s racist. Coach, I admire you greatly, and you have also disappointed me terribly, because of all people a wrestling coach knows the value and importance of individual merit and accomplishment. Especially a black wrestling coach in Central Pennsylvania.

Skin color never won a wrestling match, but emphasis on excluding skin color has cost America plenty, so my choice in that election are Bruce Warshawsky and Robert Marcus. Both Bruce and Bob are emphasizing a color-free focus on academic excellence. What other criterion do taxpayers want in teaching? Excellence in all things should be the only thing anyone cares about, talks about, or votes about. Sadly, even if Bruce and Bob win, they will likely be outnumbered by other school board members who see life through skin-tinted lenses, thus limiting their influence on district hiring criteria.

And so, as they say in Chicago, dear friends, vote early and vote often!

IRS and US State Department Spying On Citizens

That Sad, Unimaginable Moment Has Arrived
By Josh First

Incredible as it may sound to some people, and I admit to being naive enough myself that I did not see this coming, proof is out that the Internal Revenue Service and the US State Department have been spying on US citizens and using their official capacities to crush Constitutionally protected political dissent.

American citizens who disagree with Obama administration policies have been targeted by the IRS with intrusive questions and audits designed to either collect information to be used against them, or to intimidate them into dropping their non-profit status and political activities. Simple citizens, non-profit groups, businessmen, have all been targeted by the IRS in a patently illegal effort to stifle dissent. Christian groups, Jewish groups, better-government groups, all targeted with crushing audits designed to open up the groups and expose their members and financial sources to potential faux criminal charges, or to intimidate them into submission and compliance with policies they are against.

The US State Department has now been caught recording phone calls by US reporters and whistleblowers, including retired military officers and civil servants long released from their confidentiality obligations. News reporters being targeted by the government? Sounds like efforts to silence news reporting, right?

This isn’t normal behavior for a US government. At least it is not supposed to be normal. It is not acceptable in America. All of this behavior and activity is illegal on its face, contravening most of the US Constitutional rights and all of the many court holdings designed to uphold those rights. Similar efforts in the 1950s were used to try and shut down the civil rights movement. President Richard Nixon was impeached for crimes much less intrusive and less far-reaching in the 1970s.

Deafening silence about these illegal activities by my friends on the left means only one thing: They are in politics to win by any means. As discouraging as that is, it is reality, and again, I admit to being naive enough to think that kind of behavior is not generally accepted outside of certain small, very narrowly focused political circles.

And so, the moment has come to do what must be done, what in America might be called “the nuclear option.” And that is impeachment of a sitting president, in this case Barack Hussein Obama.

The newly unveiled crimes of this administration are monstrous and demand an adequate response. Nothing short of impeachment will suffice. Democracy, freedom, liberty, and government of the people, by the people, and for the people require it if we are to survive as a unified nation.

Toyota: What the Hell Happened?

What the hell happened to Toyota?

Toyota was once the world’s flagship car and truck producer. Since my wife and I married over 20 years ago, except for one Subaru Forester, new Toyotas have been the only vehicles we have purchased. Overall we have been very happy with those purchases. Until now, when we joined a growing list of unhappy Toyota buyers.

A couple of years ago, Toyota experienced odd problems with cars taking off on their own, crashing, and killing the occupants. Some of those occupants can be heard crying, screaming, yelling to Toyota and 911 dispatchers as they unsuccessfully struggle to control their vehicle. Toyota sales plummeted. Significant inward analysis followed.

Enter the Toyota Tacoma, Toyota’s premier pickup truck. Tacomas have developed a loyal following, and an aftermarket add-on industry (bed extenders, cow pushers, roof racks, etc.) second to none. I myself owned a 2002 Tacoma for over eleven years and it performed flawlessly. It reinforced my brand loyalty.

But now, if you go on tacomaworld.com and other similar websites, you’ll see a growing chorus of buyer dissatisfaction. Tacomas apparently have been rushed to market without the kind of research and development necessary to work out the bugs. I myself can tell you my own very recent experience with the new Tacoma.

It has been a deeply disappointing experience. The brand new Tacoma I purchased is flawed, and despite four visits to Faulkner Toyota (the first within days of driving it off the lot) to have it fixed, the problem persists. The truck is not merchantable. It should not be in the channels of trade, and yet here I am, another unhappy Toyota Tacoma owner.

Attempts to get customer satisfaction have resulted in arguments, outright lies by Toyota dealer employees, vague promises to fix the truck over the next month. A month? It has already spent nearly as much time at the dealership as it has spent in my own possession, and another month is said to be needed to possibly resolve to the problem. May I say that I paid cash for the truck, and I perhaps unreasonably expect a brand new vehicle to perform flawlessly.

So here we go, watching Toyota self-destruct its last remaining stalwart vehicle. Very sad. Very sad, indeed. What happened at Toyota? No one seems to know.

For me, the Nissan Frontier is looking like my likely next pickup truck. On Consumer Reports it ranks much higher than the Tacoma with owner satisfaction. To Toyota, my lemon purchase is but one small statistic. To me, this experience is practically a change in lifestyle.

Pentagon Policy on Faith Turns American Armed Service Upside Down

Military chaplains are just as limited as rank and file service members by the new Pentagon policy on expressing a member’s faith to others.

Apparently, supposedly, it’s aimed at unwanted proselityzing. Mikey Weinstein is not someone I am familiar with, but he sounds like yet another fallen Jew on the warpath against anyone else having a religious belief. Mr. Weinstein and his organization is reportedly behind the new policy.

It’s one of those oddities of the left that assimilated Jews demand that no one else have religious views if they themselves do not have them. Inverting the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, they say that the mere practice of religion establishes religion, thus violating the Constitution. This is clever. And sad.

Service members are placed in harm’s way every day. Faith is often what inspires them to do it. Faith is often all they have when mortally injured. That service members and their chaplains will have their First Amendment rights muzzled is one more of many extreme policies emanating from the Obama Administration.