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Whatever your religious belief, our nation now basks in goodness

Christmas is America’s national holiday, and while there are many Christians reminding fellow citizens that there is a more spiritual and faith based core to the holiday, it is, in fact, a glorious time of year no matter what your religious beliefs may be.

Seven days ago, Hanuka began on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, as usual. Just after Hanuka ends this year, tomorrow night, Christmas will then begin on the 25th day of the Gregorian month of December, as usual.

The two holidays are naturally linked, as early Christians both tied their new religion to the parent faith with a holiday (“Holy Day”) on nearly identical dates, and then separated from it from Hanuka with a new holiday, “Christ’s Mass,” which has been turned into a conjunction, Christmas.

Much has been said about the Judeo-Christian roots of America, and our Christmas holiday is just one more example of that shared religious basis of our nation’s founding. It is a testament to the tolerant and open sensibility at the root of American identity, to shared values among many different people.

You don’t have to be Jewish to like Jewish-style rye bread, and you don’t have to be Christian to enjoy Christmas. Every American should enjoy Christmas, and wish one another a Merry Christmas. There is no declaration of faith in that, but rather it is a declaration of love for all things good and for a shared, common identity in a truly good nation.

Probably the only really good nation on the planet: We have the rule of law, more opportunity than anywhere else, the highest standard of living, etc. Christmas crowns that all at the end of the year, and it reminds us that the sum total of our year is simply good.

In that spirit of goodness, I wish all my fellow Americans and our many guests here Happy Hanuka, and Merry Christmas!

Complaining about Obama’s treason makes me aggravated, but what else can you do?

Obama rewards a violent dictator who oppresses his citizens with an iron grip and enriches himself personally at their expense. But he wants to sanction Israel for building homes. This guy is at war with everything that Western Civilization stands for. Sorry, Cuban people.

Thank you

Dear friend, thank you for your friendship, affection, and trust.

Dear clients, colleagues, and partners, thank you for your trust. Taking risks and making sacrifices with you in the spirit of entrepreneurial pursuit is tremendously satisfying.

Dear family, thank you for your love (which I try to return equally), hard work, support and for getting good grades in school.

Dear God, thank you for making me a natural-born American citizen, and for having me live in a time of great material abundance and comfort.

Dear fellow citizen….Enjoy Thanksgiving in the greatest nation on Planet Earth.

Tests of America’s endurance; we shall overcome

Barack Hussein Obama declared a law singlehandedly last night.

Not that it’s legal or constitutional for any president to impose so much change on American citizens by himself.

American checks and balances of power between the three branches of government require debate and approvals across the board to achieve law or the effects of law.

But we have just witnessed our first rogue, imperial president, whose disgust with everything about America means he has no time or respect for its laws, history, and Constitution.

Obama’s unilateral “amnesty” for millions of illegal aliens is a test of our nation’s endurance, just as we have experienced in the past. Say, the Civil War…….

We have overcome all of those tests and we shall overcome this test, too.

America’s dalliance with this false messiah Obama has resulted in an unprecedented assault on individual rights. Using the IRS and other federal agencies to aggressively “investigate” opponents of the Obama Administration has opened the flood gates among the citizens. Sure, a bunch of innocent citizens will go to jail to satisfy this one man’s hunger for power, but the citizenry increasingly takes notice.

Yes, Obama is making an effort to take over the internet, and thereby suppress citizen dissent in that space. He may very well try another unilateral “executive action” that assumes the bureaucracy will go along with him.

“Tyrants beware!” was a common motto among our founding citizenry. That tyrant, King George, also was arrogant and also believed that the iron fist of armed government coercion would put down the rebellion.

This tyrant, Obama, is well down that old path. What disturbs me is that so many Americans would rather see our democracy fail, or be sorely tested, than to be honest about Obama’s failure. What does that say about our neighbors and friends, upon whom we rely for so much and yet who would see the nation descend into chaos and rebellion.

Answers are tough to come by on this stuff. The questions alone are terrifying.

Despite digital technology advances, actual humans are necessary

Digital technology is amazing, no doubt about it.

Yes, it enables all kinds of speed in research and communications.

But the internet has also inspired a “digital wall” response to basic inquiries that used to be handled by people answering phones.  You cannot just pick up a phone and ask someone a question, any longer.  Instead, you must navigate a maze of circular questions and answers and phone tree options, long before you get to hit the star key or number one and talk to a person.

eBay is the prime example of the digital wall.  You cannot get real customer service at eBay.  eBay’s digital artificial intelligence is supposed to satisfactorily respond to all customer issues, but it doesn’t.  It is a failure.

One online commenter says “It is easier to talk with the Pope than to actually speak with a person at eBay,” a sad but true fact that I myself have learned the hard way.

Here in Pennsylvania, the Tom Ridge Revolution for responsive government is looong over.

Remember how back in the 1990s, Governor Tom Ridge opened up Pennsylvania state government with a crowbar and a box of dynamite, and got the scurrying inhabitants of the many faceless concrete government buildings in downtown Harrisburg to actually view taxpayers as “customers”?

Maybe you don’t recall that time, but it was refreshing.  Suddenly, state workers at most agencies were required to actually answer the calls of the taxpayers they serve, and to act professionally, and to help resolve problems.

PennDOT was at that time a notoriously labyrinthine experience, kind of like the Vatican, one might guess, in that if a taxpayer was fortunate enough to find an IN door, they might spend a day shambling down shuttered halls with closed doors with jargon printed on them, searching yet more for the answer to their government-inspired problem.

The workers there at that time could not have cared less for serving the public, and no one took any initiative to make them serve the public, until the Ridge Administration arrived.

Then, PennDOT was required to post phone numbers, email addresses, have customer service representatives on call, so that no citizen had to waste their time trying to make sense of the bureaucratic maze while to trying to meet some official mandate.

After all, if the government is going to require something, then the government absolutely must provide the means to achieve that.

Well, now PennDOT is back to its bad old ways.  The foolish young punks running the disastrous Corbett Administration into the ground at Mach 4 wouldn’t know a damned thing about customer service or taxpayers, for that matter.  PennDOT has been allowed to crawl back under a heavy cloak of secrecy and impenetrable darkness.  Go ahead, call PennDOT.  Try to reach a human being through their main portal:

“Call 1-800-932-4600 (from within PA) or 717-412-5300 (from out of state). You can also send an email through our Driver and Vehicle Services Customer Call Center, or write to the following address:

Riverfront Office Center (Driver and Vehicle Services)
1101 South Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104-2516
1-800-932-4600

Oh, you will hear a human voice,  which right off the bat asks you that if you want to continue in English, “Press One.”  Imagine my surprise when I just held the line, did not press one, and was shuttled off into yet another maze of foreign languages, as if just wanting to encounter my own government in our native language was something we should have to ask for.

Anyhow, the phone options in English are another maze of options and circular loops.  One answer gives the locations of  service centers, but saves providing you with the hours for each one until the very end, as if you might actually recall which service center was “one,” “two,” or “three.”

This is the very essence of Bad Government.

Government absolutely must be responsive, open, transparent, or it is illegitimate.  If it cannot serve its citizens and taxpayers, then government has failed.  Once government has failed, it cannot hold citizens to a higher standard.

Governor-elect Tom Wolf faces a Republican legislature, which is not likely to go along with his tax-and-spend approach to government.

Well, here is an opportunity that is guaranteed to make Wolf a hero among all citizens: Force government to open up again; get our taxpayer-funded bureaucrats to be responsive, or get out.  No more digital walls for the people who pay the bills.

And maybe Wolf can talk to the owners of eBay, and persuade them to provide real customer service, too.

People ask me why

For some people, politics and political activism are their bread and butter.  Politics pays their bills.  With the right clients, they can make millions of dollars out of politics as a business model.

For me, politics is about personal liberty, freedom, opportunity and many other inspiring principles behind the founding of America.  It is also about the little freedoms we have that emanate from the bigger ideas:  The freedom to drive or walk somewhere without having to prove that you belong there, the freedom to choose where to live, the ability to select from a wide assembly of fresh food, to name a few popular ones.

Call it an innate sense of justice and right and wrong, which family and friends have said I’ve had since I was a little kid, or call it a lack of patience, an inability to watch, participate in, listen to, or tolerate BS/fluff/empty slogans/lies/self-interest, whatever it is that motivates me, I am passionate about good government.

Good government has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager, when I first got involved in political campaigns.  Back then, I was horrified at the way abortion-on-demand was changing our culture, I was against gun control, and nuclear missiles scared me.  Later on, watching police beat non-violent pro-democracy marchers in South Africa motivated me to put my voice behind change there (note that now the monumentally corrupt and un-just African National Congress government there is hardly better than the overtly racist apartheid government it replaced).  Age, paying taxes, and work experience have a way of shaping political views for normal people, and I was no exception.

So here I am, living a life that has meaning for me, trying to shape Pennsylvania and American politics in ways I believe are healthy, necessary, and just.  The citizens and taxpayers who are supposed to be served well by their government (of the people, by the people, for the people) are not being well served today.  This is why I am involved in politics.  That is why I will not go away, at least not until things are fixed to my satisfaction.

When the government just takes your land

About four years ago, Pennsylvania state government created a new regulation setting aside 150-foot buffers on waterways classified as High Quality and Exceptional Value.

This means that 150 feet from the edge of the waterway up into the private property, it’s designated as off-limits to most types of disturbances.

The purpose was to protect these waterways from the effects of development.

The end result is an obviously uncompensated taking of private property by the government. When the government takes a tape measure and marks off your own private land and says you can’t do anything with this huge area, or a road is going through, you’re simply taken advantage of. You’re robbed. It’s Un-American.  It’s unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania is a great state. I love living here. It’s saddening to see such top-down, command and control, clunky, one-size-fits-all regulations in this day and age. We can do so much better than this approach.

To start, create incentives for landowners to go along. Give tax credits and write-offs for land taken by government.

Do we all want clean air, soil, and water? Sure. Breathing, eating, and drinking clean air, food, and water are necessary to surviving. But that’s not the question.

The question is HOW we pursue those goals.

Requiring American citizens to simply give up their investments, with no compensation, creates losers in a system that was originally designed to make everyone a winner.

Instead of pitting government against the citizens, we need policies and laws that help and serve citizens, that are fair to citizens. That is by definition good government.

This current 150-foot buffer regulation is by definition bad government.

The war against America, right under your nose

Obama has gone rogue.

He is on a lawless tear across American borders, shipping in, trucking in, and flying in people from other nations who have not gone through the most rudimentary health or criminal background checks.  This is a painfully obvious effort to change America demographically, and politically, without the acquiescence of the American citizenry.

While truckloads of people from other countries are brought in daily under federal guard without any scrutiny whatsoever, actual tax-paying American citizens are subject to NSA spying and IRS legal harassment, and a Department of Homeland Security that has become America’s standing domestic army ready to pounce on anything minor.

Posse Comitatus prohibits the use of military forces on domestic soil, for an obvious reason.  But never mind all that – if you have a Land Rover that might or might not comply with US EPA smog regulations, truckloads of armed DHS agents will descend upon your home to quarantine that vehicle.  Look it up.  It just happened.  Great use of taxpayer money!

Is this the role of government? Not before now, it wasn’t, and it probably should not be the role ever again.  America will end this little Soviet Union experiment one way or another.  It will be remembered as Obama’s War Against America.  The “re-making of America” he bragged about has been a catastrophe, a loss of personal liberty on a titanic scale.

Incidentally, who was not surprised that Obama took the side of Hamas, and demanded an immediate, unilateral ceasefire by Israel? Only Hamas would benefit from that, as it would leave Israel with no security and Hamas with the ability to bomb and murder Jews as much as they want.

And just the other day, Obama actually claimed that Muslims built America.

I know Obama is like the messiah to a lot of people, but aren’t you beginning to wonder who and what he really is? The guy loves Islam so much, and hates Christianity and Judaism so much, that he is engaged in a war against America, and apparently also Israel.  He gives crazy Islamic countries and actors like Iran and Hamas free passes over and over.  He says crazy things for finger-in-the-eye propaganda purposes.

Forget what Obama says, watch his actions. At some point Americans will wake up and see this fraudster for who he is: A power hungry tyrant at war with America.  At war with you, and your family.

Harrisburg politics as usual from someone we should not expect it from

“Politics as usual.”

That is a statement, a curse, a wry observation, an accusation, a vexation to the free citizen, and most surely, it is a threat to good government.

Wherever there is “politics as usual,” we find double standards, empty promises, hypocrisy, a lack of forethought, an absence of careful or diligent thought, and an act of putting political gain ahead of citizen gain. And please don’t kid yourself that only “their” political party does it.  Both main political parties engage in politics as usual, and even some of the fringe political parties are awash in it, because for their single issue cause to succeed they must overlook tons of contrary evidence to keep selling their purist issue.

This past week saw a classic example of politics as usual, and it disappointed me, because the person who engaged in it ought to know better.  I certainly believe that he is better than that, and that he has a capacity to act bigger than his silly politicized statement.

What happened was that Governor Tom Corbett line-item-vetoed some “legislative” funding (that is taxpayer dollars used by the legislature for their office coffee, cars, walking-around-money, and parking on Capitol Hill), and state senator Rob Teplitz claimed that it would damage Harrisburg’s recovery plan.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, because that money vetoed out of the budget belongs to taxpayers and has zero to do with Harrisburg’s recovery.  Only an overly creative imagination can find some vague link between the loss of cheap cash for legislators and the loss of economic advance for Harrisburg City.

Making it worse is that Senator Teplitz voted against the state budget to begin with.  If he votes against something, how can he then claim that someone else shouldn’t vote against it, too?

The simple reason that Teplitz said this is for cheap political gain, a lame attempt to damage Corbett among voters in Harrisburg City. This qualifies as politics as usual, and it is destructive of the political process because it cheapens the political process.  It dumbs it down.  Instead of talking about Big Important Issues, we end up talking about nonsense that has nothing to do with anything material or substantial, and voters walk away from it.

When voters walk away from the political process, America is damaged.  Maximum voter participation is needed for the nation to function properly.

Teplitz should know better than to do this.  He is a bright guy, and I think he is a good guy.  Although principled, he is overwhelmingly partisan, and that is why this kind of silly waste of time came naturally to him.  Like all other partisans, Democrat and Republican, Teplitz only really cares about the party enterprise.  He forgets about the citizens, their Constitutional rights, their personal money they remove from their pockets and place in the state coffers.

It is no secret I hope to be the Republican nominee in 2016 for the 15th PA senate district.  If he runs for re-election then, Teplitz will be my opponent.  I have no problem publicly singing his praises where he has earned them, and I can attest to several good things he has done for me and other people in the district.  If Teplitz has had one strength so far, that I have seen, one truly laudable characteristic, it has been his willingness to wade into bad government, force a meeting or two, confront recalcitrant bureaucrats, and represent well a constituent’s interests. That is a real skill, and we should all recognize it.

That is why Teplitz disappoints so badly with his spurious attack on Corbett.  I just know he can be bigger and better than this politics as usual.

 

The word “tactical” – overused, kind of

By Josh First

Have you seen the word “tactical” used lately?

The word appears everywhere, and is growing in prominence across the retail world.

Although “tactical” is a word that denotes, or really connotes military tactics, and was once reserved to the sole use of the United States Military combat units or the dangerously armed forces they faced, this word now imputes some special meaning, martial ability, and toughness to anything that wears it on the label.

There are tactical knives, vests, rifles, pistols, and the many accoutrements that go with these items.  There seem to be tactical diapers, tactical coffee mugs, and tactical pens.  OK, there are to my knowledge no tactical diapers or coffee mugs, but it is true that someone will or already is onto these items.  Actually, there are tactical pens meant for self defense, but whether or not they have actual value for military tactics is a questionable claim.

For another true example of the oddly named, there are tactical shirts.  No lie, there are “tactical shirts” dedicated to more easily accessing one’s concealed pistol.

Is it really so difficult to just wear a regular old LL Bean button down short sleeve Pima cotton Oxford?  Is a shirt with confusing numbers of magnum zipper pulls in sensitive places really, truly a better shirt than the LL Bean?  Does it really make you a tougher guy or gal?  Do our combat forces wear these shirts? No?

As if it isn’t odd enough to call a shirt or a vest “tactical,” we now have tactical airguns, I kid you not.  The Crosman TR77 looks like a Star Trek photon shooter that makes bad guys vaporize painlessly, but it is claimed by its maker to have some sort of tactical application.

As if!

Air guns pack all the wallop of a good slap to the head, albeit with more concentrated force.  Certainly some shoot pellets that can penetrate your flesh, and perhaps even your temple.  But if I were a law enforcement officer engaged in a really deadly standoff with a violent, dangerous bad guy, a freakin airgun is the last thing I’d want in my hands.  My tactic in that situation would be to run away, fast.

So obviously the word “tactical” is being, ummm, stretched in meaning a bit these days.

But for whatever reason, this word increasingly resonates with the American public, and it may be a result of the hyper-militarization of our local police forces.  Plenty has been written in recent months about how the legendary bumbling Officer Barney Fife became the sinister looking, crewcut-and-armor-wearing badass kicking down grandma’s door in East Succotash, America. SWAT teams in East Succotash, America, are not necessary, and it is a serious issue, because Americans have a natural aversion to government force applied to them.

No doubt about it, America’s local police are in an arms race with…hmmmm… either themselves, far-off international military forces, or possibly, probably, you.

That’s right, there is plenty of evidence indicating that the massive investment in military grade hardware and hard attitude at the local police level is translating into a natural citizen reaction, apparently in preparation for inevitable urban combat with the very people once sworn to protect us.  And so we have an increasing “if-they-have-it, we-need-it, too,” civilian reach for all things tactical.  Tactical now seems to mean “I am ready for combat,” an American attitude that is both refreshing and alarming.

Alarming indeed.  Why are we afraid of our own local police forces?  When did that happen? And, come to think of it, why did the local Harrisburg cop try to stare me down last year, on my own street, when I cheerfully said hello to him while walking on our sidewalk with my small son in hand?  Was he employing some anti-citizen ‘tactic’?  Sure felt that way to me, the law-abiding taxpayer underwriting that guy’s paycheck and tough guy attitude.

However, instead of meeting fire with fire, and buying a black bulletproof vest with webbing and the ubiquitous variation of a skull-and-crossbones trademark label, I think I will for now reach for my ‘tactical pen’ and write about my uncomfortable encounter, thereby defeating that officer’s ungainly attempt to bring implied force into what should have been a friendly exchange between equals.