Debt of Honor (PBS, November 10, 9:00 PM EST)

disabled_veteransUsually at this time of year, I dedicate a blog post to U.S. veterans of foreign conflicts as an homage to their dedication, patriotism, and sacrifice.  It’s a bit odd for me, not having served in the military myself.  I think it’s simply a matter of trying to pay back what little I can within the realization that the sacrifice they made was to the benefit of all of us.

This year though, I will diverge a bit to recognize a very special class of veteran, the disabled veteran.  Those who came home from conflicts with horrible wounds that left them significantly disabled for life.

Tonight (November 10) at 9:00 PM EST (2100 HRS EST) PBS will air the premiere of Debt of Honor, a documentary that looks into the history of America’s disabled vets.

Disabled veterans hold a unique place in the history of veterans in the United States, one that palpably illustrates the human cost of war, and speaks to the enormous sacrifices of military service. Debt of Honor examines the way in which the American government and society as a whole have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, beginning in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War through today’s continuing conflicts in the Middle East.

Many of us consider the issue of disabled veterans to be a recent phenomena, the result of political scandal over the management of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The problem came to the forefront of American politics largely due to the neglect of veterans recently disabled from present day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But instead of sitting here, trying to blame one President or another for the problems they rightfully have responsibility for, I’d like to take a different tack today.

dav-logoThe problems faced by veterans in all walks of like, from those suffering not at all to those able to function physically but unable to psychologically due to the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to those horribly disfigured and only permitted to function through the graces of modern medical science once they return from protecting us is no one’s fault but our own!

We own it, because so many of us simply do not care enough. If we care enough about it and make it a serious National issue, potential Presidents and all sorts of politicos would find import in the issue.  We allow politicians to skirt the issue because we skirt the issue.

I make no bones about the aspect that many politicians might only care because we MAKE them care about it.  Who really cares what selfish motivation we might instill in our politicians, if it gets the job done?  Self-interest – particularly in politicians – can be an extremely lucrative motivator.  So let’s put it to use!

Take the challenge … The next time you have a chance to speak to your Congressional Representative or a local politician with a potentially promising future in National Politics, don’t ask them first about Jobs, the Economy, Immigration, Gay Marriage, or their views on the Rights of gun owners, minority members of society, or the 1%.  Ask them FIRST about what they would do to improve the lives of disabled veterans in their own districts, or how they would address disabled veteran care during their next term in Washington, D.C., or what they might do to fix the problems at the Veterans Administration.

disabled veteranIf you can’t wait that long (and certainly there is no time to wait), write them a letter and demand an answer from them that matters.  Do not take “no” or a lot of fluff as an answer.  Press the issue and press it hard.

With 11 months until the Presidential election, much hay could also be made by constantly asking our POTUS candidates what they will do in their first days in office to address the problems faced by disable veterans across the country!

The only way we can make this problem go away is by making it The Constant Problem of every politician we elect, especially those we send to Washington, D.C.!

Horsham Vote 2015

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black backgroundGreat day for an election! Clear blue sky, warm temps, a curious absence of Horsham Democrat “leaders”, perhaps they were developing their “clean water” initiatives …

Rumored to be a single page, half-sized pamphlet listing bullet points from the Horsham Sewer & Water Authority’s website. #satire

In any case this post’s intention is update the latest data on voting in Horsham Voting District 1-3.

As of 5:00 PM we stood at 200 voters, with roughly only 60 more voters needed to hit a turnout rate of 30%.

Use this data atbyournown risk!

Playing Politics with Horsham’s Water

imagesTip O’Neill, the long ago Democrat Speaker of the House from Massachusetts was fond of saying, “All politics are local.”  When it comes to voting in local elections, History is an effective barometer of Future Success.

In Horsham Township, Success is not a theory or a couple of good terms in office. It’s a history built over DECADES of Growth, Efficiency, and the kind of Vision that built a community lauded as one of the Best Places to Live (Horsham #34, CNN/Money Magazine 2013).

Republicans Gregory Nesbitt and Mark McCouch have been cornerstones of an effort focused on Growth, managed properly and carefully, that has resulted in Township taxes that have not been raised in over a decade; Efficiency that has ensured your streets and neighborhoods are kept safe; operating smoothly; and cleared of snow in the winter; and Vision that sparked the intuitive action to establish the Horsham Local Redevelopment Authority (HLRA), preserving for Horsham residents control over the key decisions surrounding the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) closure of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove airbase.

As promising as History has been and the Future will be for Horsham, that Success proves a bit of an obstacle for those looking for competing political gratification.  To be serious political players though you should – at least – have ideas and plans of your own that are practical and work in the Best Interests of the Horsham community.

As it appears however, Democrat challengers William Gallagher and Veronica Hill-Milbourne are falling a bit short on original Ideas and Plans.  They really have nothing else with which to challenge a very successful History of Republican Success.  So instead they went straight to Community Scare Tactics!

Scare tactics intended to get you worked up over problems already competently addressed.  Scare tactics that threaten to mar the reputation Horsham has worked hard for decades to cultivate.  Scare tactics that could ruin property values and affect the financial health of every family in Horsham Township.

news148608122014110441Horsham Water has been a concern of everyone in the Township for years.  Since abandoning the JRB-NAS Willow Grove base in 2011, the Navy in conjunction with the HLRA have been working hand-in-hand to resolve issues of soil contamination at several sites on the base.  All this is Public Knowledge, provided in open forums to Horsham residents at a number of presentations and HLRA meetings as the Township slogged determinedly through the BRAC portion of the redevelopment plan.

At every step of the way, through the decision to create the HLRA; developing a community approach to the decision-making process; deciding whether an airport might be the best choice (It still wasn’t!); to the submittal of a top-notch redevelopment plan, the Community has been involved.  When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first discovered the problem of PFAS/PSOA contamination, the residents of Horsham were notified promptly and the wells in question immediately taken off-line.

The Township and the U.S. Navy have held at least two public forums opened to Horsham and other regional residents to discuss the findings, the health risks, the origins of the contamination, testing plans, mitigation efforts, and remedies.  Horsham procured excess water capacity from surrounding communities to offset the loss of affected wells.

Personally, that doesn’t sound like Township Leadership unconcerned about the community or the health of its residents.  And let’s not forget that the responsibility for contaminant mitigation and the COSTS involved in such efforts are the responsibility of the U.S. Navy!

Yet somehow this is where township Democrats and something called the Horsham Safe Water Coalition (HSWC), a group supposedly concerned only about the health of Horsham residents, wants to use as a political crowbar.  Funny though, that despite the alleged “non-political nature” of the HSWC, the only people shown on its website are the two Democrats trying to land seats on Horsham’s Township Council.

logo-2012You have to wonder, where Mr. Gallagher and Ms. Hill-Milbourne have been spending all their time while many of us were learning the intricacies of Horsham’s water?  Were they even present during the HLRA presentations, redevelopment co-ops, and approval meetings?

Did they visit the Horsham Township Community Centers where the U.S. Navy presented their Environmental Impact Study (EIS)?  Did they rush over to the community center when the Navy and EPA provided all information on contaminants and answered questions from all visitors?  What plans have they posted aside from claims not supported by FACT and accusations that reek of a self-serving political objective?

Now from experience, I can say not many people attended those Navy/EPA presentations.  I attended all but one, and I learned everything I needed to know about the water problems caused by PFOS/PSOA, the steps being taken to determine the full scope of the problem, and how the Navy expected to mitigate the contamination.

By now you have seen the campaign literature from the HSWC.  And the HWSC is without question the political cover for two Democrat political assassins.  This is the ONLY strategy, the only “contribution” the Democrats can offer.  They want in, and are unafraid to do ANYTHING to win!

epaScare tactics … Blurring the truth … Accusing Horsham Township’s leaders of “doing nothing”!  Even though the evidence shows direct participation, quick action, and complete openness to Horsham residents about a serious issue when it comes to the current quality of Horsham’s water.

So ask yourself the following, given all that we know about how Horsham Township Council has conducted its oversight of the NAS-JRB redevelopment process, the U.S. Navy’s commitment to openness and swift reaction to serious issues, and the efforts taken by both entities to keep Horsham residents informed …

  • Did the Democrats start caring about Horsham’s water recently?  Did they bother to learn the issues for themselves?
  • Did they not appreciate that the U.S. Navy bears the responsibility to correct the well water issue?
  • Were the Democrats really unaware of the quick, decisive action taken when the well water problem first came to light?

Are the Democrats so desperate that they would resort to misleading scare tactics in a lie to win a couple of Township Council seats?

Do they think that tactic is worth the potential damage publicity might inflict on Horsham property values?

Well, certainly the Democrats sound extremely desperate.  And Desperate is as Desperate does!

But is that the kind of Leadership you really want in Horsham?!?  I know I don’t!

Vote Mark McCouch and Gregory Nesbitt
 for Horsham Township Council!

Election Day:  Tuesday, November 3

In Memory of a Dog named Zoe

IMG_1007After losing our pet Bichon Frise last week, I intended to share my own recollections on a family member with whom all three of our sons grew up.  But instead I’d like to share the feelings expressed by the family poet laureate, Alex Shortall.

Since this has already been a tough week, particularly for Carol, I will reserve my thought and memories for a future post.

Alex’s heartfelt expressions are framed by literary excerpts he thought were appropriate to our loss.

Many years ago, when the first cement sidewalks were being laid in our neighborhood, we children took the paw of our dog Mickey and impressed it into a kind of immortality even as he modestly floundered and objected. Some time ago after the lapse of many decades, I stood and looked at the walk, now crumbling at the edges from the feet of many passers.

No one knows where Mickey the friendly lies; no one knows how many times the dust that clothed that beautiful and loving spirit has moved with the thistledown across the yards where Mickey used to play. Here is his only legacy to the future – that dabbled paw mark whose secret is remembered briefly in the heart of an aging professor.

The mark of Mickey’s paw is dearer to me than many more impressive monuments – perhaps because, in a sense, we both wanted to be something other than what we were. Mickey, I know, wanted very much to be a genuine human being. If permitted, he would sit up to the table and put his paws together before his plate, like the rest of the children. If anyone mocked him at such a time by pretending to have paws and resting his chin on the table as Mickey had to do, Mickey would growl and lift his lip. He knew very well he was being mocked for not being human.

The reminder that he was only a poor dog with paws annoyed Mickey. He knew basically a lot more than he ever had the opportunity to express. Though people refused to take Mickey’s ambition seriously, the frustration never affected his temperament. Being of a philosophic cast of mind, he knew that children were less severe in their classifications. And if Mickey found the social restrictions too onerous to enable him quite to achieve recognition inside the house, outside he came very close to being a small boy. In fact, he was taken into a secret order we had founded whose club house was an old piano box in the backyard. We children never let the fact that Mickey walked on four legs blind us to his other virtues.”

– Loren Eisley, “The Night Country”, Chapter 6: Paw Marks and Buried Towns

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Today at 3 p.m. I felt one of my oldest childhood friends shudder and die in my arms.  At the veterinarian’s office, they have a special room where families go to spend their last few moments with a beloved pet, and when you’re ready, you flick a switch which summons the doctor who brings The Injections, first one white to relax the muscles, and then one pink to stop the heart. I couldn’t stop thinking, how many families have cried here together over an animal which is probably too distressed and sick to be aware of their presence? I’m not sure if Zoe knew whose company she was in at that moment, being blind and deaf and panicked, and had she seen me, would she have recognized me?

At the end of it, her head rested softly on my lap, staring straight ahead but seeing past everything, and I wanted nothing more than to close her eyes for her and let her sleep, but dogs don’t have eyelids the way we humans do, and the stubborn things stayed open. My dog’s ears were floppier than mine, her nose wetter, her body crippled and twisted by what was likely a stroke, and the hair on her face was a bit cleaner and sparser than mine. In the next day or so she’ll be ashes, returned to us, and then returned to the earth. I have a few photos of her on my phone and in my room, and her toys still lay around the house, my own childhood toys mangled and gnawed from her days as a vicious pup, but no dust or pavement will ever hold her mark. Her paw print is more an internal impression, which is me remembering how it felt to have her next to me.

Her mark is unique. It is the feeling of her chin on my thigh, her fur between my fingers, the shift as she rolled aside to let me scratch her belly, and watching her eyes slowly close in a peaceful slumber, knowing that in a few hours she’d be awake again, ready to walk or eat or watch my mom prepare dinner in the kitchen. I know now that she will never wake again, and that’s okay. She put in her fifteen years as a loyal and steadfast friend, the first animal I ever loved as all animals should be loved. She taught me a lot about what it means to be human, but also that being human isn’t so much special or better than being anything else. I wouldn’t trade my life for that of a dog, but neither would I choose it.

I love you Zoe. Rest in peace. I’ll meet you in the ether when the light flickers out.

Please send my mom good vibes in any way you can. She loved that dog more than anything, and fought hard to keep the candle burning. She will miss their walks dearly.

Best wishes,
A bad boy who lost a good pup
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

– Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”, Section 6

The Hole in our Home

The hole in our home
Is not huge by any measure.
’Tis simply one of
Life’s little treasures.

The hole in our home
So recent in the making,
Was a loss we expected,
Quite common is its aching.

The hole in our home
Was Love with no conditions.
Affection given freely
No matter our dispositions.

This hole in our home
Our sweet memories will jog.
For the hole in our home
Is in the shape of a dog.

You will always be with us, Zoe!
Rest in Peace

You could never trust her to properly decorate the Christmas tree. But she was a good and loyal dog!

You could never trust her to properly decorate the Christmas tree. But she was a good and loyal dog!

Why and “How officials handle top-secret data matters”!

240_F_68272941_RxnsIm3EgCbifoDHEe0ZUrTW1d95iDO0Here’s an interesting read on the Hillary Clinton‘s e-mail controversy, why it’s an important issue, and how it could end up with criminal charges. Only the “Whom will be charged” is the question.

John R. Schindler is a former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer.

As the author notes, Clinton partisans are betting on the Public’s ignorance in these matter and argue that the Government routinely “over-classifies” intelligence. This might be true of the difference between “classified and unclassified”, but the issue of Top-Secret information is an entirely different matter.

Most interesting points:

  • After reviewing just 40 e-mails from Clinton’s trove of hidden e-mails, two should have been designated “top-secret/special intelligence” containing information from intercepted FOREIGN communications, including SOURCES and METHODS used to obtain the info.
    • Revealing sources and methods puts assets at risk and provides adversaries with feedback on the weaknesses in their intelligence networks.
    • The sampling suggests hundreds or thousands of such occurrences.
    • U.S. intelligence agencies are angry about such security breaches
  • Worse … Since top-secret info travels on entirely separate systems throughout the Federal Government, it is impossible that Clinton herself or a staffer “blithely or unknowingly” cut-and-pasted such top-secret information into an unclassified e-mail.
    • It is likely that Clinton or her staff were systematically taking information from classified systems; stripping them of the proper classification markings; and sending the information out on unclassified systems!
    • The above not only violates numerous federal regulations, it’s a FELONY criminal act!
    • The only question then is WHO directed the cultivation of such intel in this matter. Could it have been Clinton herself?!?
  • Whether Clinton was the sender or the receiver matters not. She should have recognized the violation and reported it immediately.
  • Everybody with a top-secret/special-intelligence classification – including the Secretary of State obviously – receives training on recognizing and handling valuable information.
  • For MONTHS, Clinton’s personal server was wholly unencrypted! Given the value of any information flowing from any SecState, almost certainly the Russians and Chinese – at the very least – were reading her correspondence during that time.
    • Current SecState John Kerry acknowledged recently that simply assumes foreign intelligence services are reading all his unclassified e-mails.
  • It’s difficult to dismiss that Clinton – after the scandals from the Bill administration – purposefully acted to eliminate an e-mail trail, so she decided to skirt federal records laws

So if you don’t already question Hillary Clinton’s suitability for the most powerful position in the country, you should consider how less safer we might be with her there!