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Posts Tagged → politics

The War on Women

I dunno…Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner, all three past or present elected officials still in office or running for office, and all three serial abusers/ users/ objectifiers/ harassers of women on the job and off….and all three are NOT Republicans.

We heard all about the supposed Republican war on women last year, and it didn’t make any sense to me, but here we have three public officials with lengthy records of using women, and…the silence is deafening.

Filner won’t resign from his mayor job, and both Spitzer and Weiner have no shame running again. If a Republican tried to get away with anything close to what any of these guys have done, he’d be lynched in the street.

Double standard, anyone?

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.

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!

Bruce Warshawsky for Susquehanna Twp school board

Bruce Warshawsky is a local attorney of note, having run for office and participated in many campaigns.

Bruce is a taxpayer, father of three children, married to Terri, and a long-time Susquehanna Township resident. He is a good guy and a hard worker.

Susquehanna Township is going through some oddball politics right now, with strong racial tones that I personally find frightening and sad. America is better than what we are seeing there at this time.

Bruce has always been above race issues, advocating for an inclusive set of principles instead, the most important of which is Academic Excellence above all else.

Academic excellence should be the goal of all parents and all taxpayers who foot the bill for government schools.

The best way to reach Bruce is 717 547-4089, or btwarshawsky@comcast.net. Recall that even small donations of ten or fifteen bucks go a long way. Bruce also needs volunteers to help distribute campaign literature to voters.

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!
-Josh

State Representative Calls Police Twice Over Inquisitive Citizen Opposing Gun Vote

By Josh First
March 7, 2013

Just over a week ago, newly minted New York State Representative Didi Barrett (NY-106th) twice called police in a thinly veiled attempt to have an inquisitive citizen intimidated by Red Hook police for exercising his Constitutional right to petition the government. Nope, this is not made up, folks; it is real and it is real-time. It illustrates that the gun control debate is not about guns. It is not even about crime. It is about controlling citizens; that is its purpose and the goal of its proponents. When the police show up at your door or pull you over because someone in an official position said something about you, anything could happen.

Beginning in early January and extending into late February, Chris Stehling, a plumber from Red Hook, NY, visited Barrett’s local office several times to explain his opposition to her position on New York’s anti-gun SAFE Act, and then her recent vote in support of that law. This new law is so restrictive that even most on-duty police officers are non-compliant and potential felons. The heavily rushed and highly defective law must now be “fixed,” and it is already going through a new amendment process, facts that in Stehling’s view indicated a flawed legislative process begging a few more changes.

Stehling tells me that he was respectful and professional when he first visited Barrett’s office, requesting a meeting with her. Asked by staff what the subject was that he wished to discuss, Stehling explained his opposition to his state representative’s vote for the flawed law. Barrett was unavailable, he was told, and “Don’t call us, we will call you” was their parting response.

Several days after he left, a town detective, Tom D’Amicantonio, knocked on Stehling’s door, saying that Barrett had called the police because her office “had concerns” about him.

“I asked Tom ‘What concerns?’, says Stehling, who is a steady, jovial, and articulate guy on the phone, and on a friendly first-name basis with the small-town local police.

After a forty-minute “amicable” conversation, and taking a statement from Stehling, who wanted to see his representative face-to-face, the detective departed, and left Stehling with a feeling of now being victimized twice by Representative Barrett: Once by her careless vote for the poorly written law, and now by her attempt to persecute and intimidate him for daring to ask her about it.

Stehling called a friend, and they returned to Barrett’s office the next morning, calmly seeking both to schedule a meeting and requesting an explanation about why the detective had been called. In addition, Stehling had a friend on the phone who could hear the conversation in the office. Apparently while they were talking to a staffer, someone else in the office was on the phone, calling the police again, because when Stehling returned to his car outside and began to drive away, the town’s police sergeant, Patrick Hildenbrand, pulled him over.

“The sergeant came over to my truck, and he asked me what was going on with Representative Barrett, and we explained our experiences visiting her office, including my First Amendment right to talk to my elected officials,” says Stehling.

After talking with Stehling and taking statements from both of his friends, Sergeant Hildenbrand reportedly later called Barrett’s office, explaining that Stehling was well within his Constitutional rights to petition his elected officials, to visit their offices, and request a meeting with his representative. Is that not the role of an elected official in a representative democracy, after all? The US Constitution’s First Amendment gives citizens the right to petition their government, and to speak freely.

Eventually Stehling was granted a meeting with NY Representative Barrett at her distant Albany office, which he conveniently visited after a pro-Constitutional rights rally at the NY state capitol that same day.

“She was dismissive about our concerns, even when we presented the fact that the new law criminalizes most on-duty police officers [because of their higher capacity guns] and it punishes law-abiding citizens but not criminals,” says Stehling.

Three weeks ago I debated Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA (http://video.witf.org/video/2335658815), a gun prohibitionist group, on a WITF live call-in TV show. Several times during the debate Shira earnestly exclaimed her avid support for Second Amendment rights, which she is working overtime to destroy. It is now a common tactic to proclaim support for something you obviously despise and undermine. And thus America spawns people like Representative Didi Barrett, the Cuomo-endorsed New York State “Assemblyperson” who believes in getting elected to office, but not in being accountable to the citizens whose consent places her there; in fact, she evidently believes in using the police to intimidate or jail her political opponents.

Gun rights advocates have long worried that their opponents were seeking domination and control of the citizenry, and not control of crime. Representative Didi Barrett’s actions just showed us that concern is valid and true. But Didi Barrett tilted her hand too soon, though, because this kind of heavy-handed response from government should be more common only after Americans have been disarmed, and not before. Those citizens on the fence about this issue can now make an even more informed choice about which way to vote. Vote for freedom, folks, not for the un-American abuse of power that motivates people like Didi Barrett.

Listen to Chris Stehling’s other interview, on Sheryl Thomas’s radio program, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sherylthomas/2013/02/28/ny-gun-owner-harassed-by-assemblywomans-office

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

In the midst of war, flowers

In the midst of this political battle over retaining plainly stated Constitutional rights, I’m planning a wildflower hunt this spring. The location is in Middle Paxton Township on private land I manage. Amid all this testy unhappiness, it gives me something to smile about. I admit that my wife, children, and work give me much to smile about, but native wildflowers are a special weakness of mine. Finding a patch of trillium, wood sorrel, or Jack-in-the-pulpit always gives me hope. For these beautiful, delicate, gentle creations to survive and grow, much must be right in their small world.

And if there’s a small patch of All Right here, and there, and over there, then how much more there must be elsewhere. In a time of strife, these tiny, pretty thoughts remind me to be happy and remain hopeful.

See you little guys in April!

Sandy Hook Tragedy Has Me on “Hold”

The Sandy Hook tragedy has me on hold right now.

Several friends have asked when I will write a piece about the massacre, and all I can say is that neither I nor the situation are right. Yes, some tasteless people immediately jumped on the anti-gun bandwagon, but what do you expect from Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Boxer? From Obama? Their agenda is anti-freedom, and they are ready to pounce at any moment, ready to exploit any crisis for political gain.

Guns are dangerous tools, and I can tell you about my own close calls with guns throughout my life, a life of hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. Guns require diligence and caution always, and the second you let down your guard with a gun is the moment your life will change for the worse. But that is not a reason to try and ban them.

A well-written article is coming out soon, just as soon as I can clear the pain and horror from my mind. I am a father of three kids, and that’s all I can think about: Those little kids, and their parents. No policy, no politics can share room in my head and heart with that, yet.

Merry Christmas, friends, Merry Christmas.

Politics As Usual: Loyalty, Disloyalty, Etc.

Politics is the proverbial “sausage making” process, a series of steps that in the aggregate results in something recognizeable and useful, but as individual steps, it looks pretty gross because along the way you get to see what goes into it. It ain’t pretty.

And so it has been for yours truly, lately, one of the political sausage makers. Happy to help, happy to get messy, take risks, make sacrifices, work hard to see some people move up…focused on the outcome. But also expecting help cleaning up after the party.

Nothing bugs me more than disloyalty. Perhaps that expectation is an inverse result of my own fierce loyalty. Even kids know the importance of loyalty, and there’s nothing quite so frustrating as watching someone benefit from your own team spirit, risk taking, sacrifice, and commitment to the success of the group, and then waltz off at the end of the party without helping out.

Call me naive, but I do expect more from the adults who run our government.

Thanks, guys. Guys…?

Are Liberals the new conservatives?

After years of disproven Liberal theories and beliefs about specific policies (the effectiveness of gun control) and assumptions (all wars are bad wars), I was wondering if Liberals showed any sign of change. Talking with Liberal friends, debating politics on FaceBook, the conclusion is that Liberals are the new conservatives, in the sense that conservatives were asserted to be unwilling to change, or accept necessary change, back in the 1970s. Conventional wisdom was that conservatives were stodgy, stuck in their ways. But measured by that yard stick, it’s Liberals today who are unwilling to accept that their ideas are disproven and that change is good. Stay tuned for more on this subject.
Josh