No man is an Island … unless an Island he is

zombie-hands

Now I know what a Zombie Apocalypse
might look like …

I stand alone.  It’s official.

At some point this week, my last hope that good parenting, a quality standard of living, and the example – so often set here – that a grounded political philosophy can hold up to any intellectual challenge was smothered in the simple act of renewing a Pennsylvania driver’s license.

My youngest son changed his voter registration to Democrat.  And he is the smart one!

Was the smart one …

How did he express his change of affiliation when asked?  “I changed my mind.”

He made it sound like he was changing his socks.

Maybe it’s a statement on my Leadership.  Maybe I didn’t politically proselytize enough when the boys were so impressionable the correct politic would have been permanently ingrained, like their Philly accents.  Maybe I made one too many mistakes as a parent.

Oh well …

So now I am surrounded.  But that’s OK.  I can take solace in the following.

    • Neither one of them votes to my knowledge; and unfortunately, getting an Absentee Ballot is about to get a lot harder for one Temple Owl!
    • Mr. Hoot is also going to love taking the Broad St Subway back to school in the company of so many of his Democrat buds!
    • The two lost offspring who still list our home as primary residence do not as yet have to buy their own healthcare on those sterling examples of Government efficacy and Democrat “know how”, those Obamacare exchanges.  (I just want to be in the room when they find out how much they will be paying!)

doctor-obamacare

    • Neither have they had to worry about supporting themselves entirely on their own, and by doing so discover just how hard it is to stay ahead of the curve all the while supporting so many who simply don’t bother trying.
    • Nor do they possess the baseline from which they can gauge all that marvelous Hope and Change to which they are obviously drawn.
    • I still hold very limited influence over my Better Half. Carol votes Republican – I think – but has little interest in changing party affiliation for some reason.

In the end, I will continue to stand as the Lion at the Gate.  Politely accepting the political materials dropped off at the house by my Democrat opposition during elections cycles and quietly sorting the mail.   Not sure why those materials never seem to arrive with their intended receivers.

I guess all’s fair in Love and Poltics!

Of course I told the house’s latest Democrat that he will always be welcomed back into the real Party of Progress … once he regains his senses!

But for now, I am the lone Grand Old Party stalwart beating back the political zombies seeking to weaken the ramparts, while keeping the inmates calm and reassuring them that they can have their political say the second Tuesday of every November!

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Welfare reform through Transitional Living Funds

U.S. REP Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

U.S. REP Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

OK, OK … I know a lot of people are having a really hard time digesting U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee‘s suggestion that the benefits many of the poor accumulate under “Welfare” should be re-branded to as “Transitional Living Funds“.

Now, putting aside the fact that few people – other than Liberals – would be tricked by simply renaming a Government give-away to some other seemingly innocuous term, I think Representative Lee is actually onto something!

The key to my intrigue is that very first word.

Of the three primary definitions of the word TRANSITION in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, let’s look at the most commonly used.  (The third deals with “musical modulation”.)

TRANSITION: 1. a : passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change;  b :  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another … 2. an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy … TRANSITION

I think she’s on to something!

Transitional Living Fund would suddenly become exactly what they were intended to be for most healthy individuals not strapped with insurmountable life problems … a means for surviving extremely difficult times in life, where one stares into the bleak abyss of abject poverty through no fault of their own.

Those individuals by definition could now be expected – under this new definition of welfare – to change, to seek ways to improve their lot in life, and maybe – EGADS! – be held to a minimal level of Personal Responsibility!

They might be asked to do what any reasonable person would be expected to do when faced with severe life challenges.  They would be given a LIMITED period of time – Let’s say a year. – to TRANSITION themselves towards a better way of life; a plan for their future and their families future success; a job.

After that Transitional Period they would be expected to pass onto a more stringent period of Personal Progress.  Maybe they could still receive some of all of their TLF benefits PROVIDED that they continue to follow a program intended to find them a suitable job and their TLF benefits would be offset by whatever wages they are able to earn.

Think about it … Personal Improvement, a way out of the morass of poverty and helplessness.  Heck, it even sounds like Progressiveness!  And what Liberal doesn’t embrace that term?!?

Nah … It’ll never happen!

But a big “Thank You!” to REP Sheila Jackson Lee for trying!

Montgomery County Republicans: Healing acts, and a recipe for Success

PA State Rep Mike Vereb

PA State Rep Mike Vereb

On a cold night in early December the Montgomery County (PA) Republican Committee took another big step towards dumping a decade of internal discord by the side of the road.  The rifts that seemed insurmountable only a few months ago, have been bridged and will finally begin to fade from memory.  The Party can push on to a brighter future.

And no peeking backwards is allowed …

As new Co-Chair of the MCRC Finance Committee, Bob Asher stated during October’s MCRC love fest, ” … we can’t have any more rearview mirrors on the bus.”  Asher, along with his Co-Chair compadre, Vahan Gureghian will form a solid backbone for future Republican success in Montgomery County.

The struggles that have faced the Montgomery County GOP in recent years have been expensive, costing opportunities for leadership of County Government; control of County Row Offices; and a growing disadvantage to Democrat registration numbers.  In addition, the infighting has cost the County GOP dearly in unity and focus.

Then suddenly the skies cleared; the feud was over!

In the days leading up to the annual MCRC dinner in October, that would feature an appearance by Governor Tom Corbett, the leaders of the Montgomery County Republican Committee put differences aside to form a much stronger alliance, and created a powerful mechanism for promoting Republican ideals that have made Montgomery County among the choicest counties in which to live.

Finance Co-Chairs Vahan Gureghian and Bob Asher with Governor Corbett

Finance Co-Chairs Vahan Gureghian and Bob Asher with Governor Corbett

Then out of the blue MCRC Chairman Robert Kerns submitted his sudden resignation leaving the County GOP leaderless at a crucial time, a crisis that threatened to undo all the progress the Party had recently made.

And into the breach stepped Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Vereb!

Vereb has served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2007, and has run successfully for re-election in 2008, ’10 and ’12.  Previous to his successful run for the PA State House, he worked in the West Conshohocken Police Department and served as President of the West Norriton (PA) Board of Commissioners.

Now, I haven’t been much of a regular attendee at the Montgomery County Republican Committee events despite my membership as a Horsham Republican committeeman.  High-powered politics is not my forté.  I prefer to observe, comment (Hence the blog!) and support in whatever way I can those whose values and policies I agree with.

Those who stumble from time-to-time on this tiny slice of the internet super-megatropolis may be familiar with some of my more pointed rants and ravings when it comes to issues like wayward Liberal logic or deception, poor leadership, and – more recently – the dangerous tendency by my political party when it comes to marginalizing its moderate wing of thought.

If it comes to this, so be it!

If it comes to this, so be it!

That last point is one that’s been weighing on my mind for quite some time.  For me, the issue illustrates just how willing the GOP is – on both regional and national levels – to take seriously the depth and breadth of viewpoints existing within those who labor for the ideals the Party represents.

It has been a discouraging to hear constantly that only Big C Conservatives speak truly to the important issues of the day.  That, if you do not share their vision, you are not pure somehow as a Republican.  That only those who hold tight to the hard Right vision are worthy of expressing their views.

Worse from my point-of-view, it’s really very, very bad politics, particularly in a region where so many Moderates live, work and raise families.  And when it comes to Electoral Math, it certainly does not improve the chances of success Nationally.

It was with this mindset I resisted the idea of attending Mr. Vereb’s unchallenged rise to the MCRC Chairmanship.  That was until he made a somewhat personal appeal that I attend such an important event. (OK … It was simply a personal Facebook plea, but nonetheless …)

So on a chilly night in early December I schlepped out to the Westover Country Club to see what would happen for myself.  I wanted to HEAR the message that would come from the prospective Chairman.

I was quite pleasantly surprised!

Chairman Vereb recognized that the Party had become complacent, living off past victories, and not consistently or effectively communicating its message.  It’s a message that should ring loudly for many, including our Democrat neighbors, who have chosen Montgomery County as the place to live for its good schools, safe communities and low taxes.

The message to be stressed is that these things do not occur by accident.  That such development was the result of excellent leadership, sound policies, and effective management.  That throughout the County these successes resulted from decades of Republican stewardship.

The strategy worked quite well for Horsham Republicans on Election Day 2013.

imagesThe message should be a tone-setter for all efforts to promote Republican leadership, the foundation for MCRC efforts to win elections in those areas where the Party’s leadership has a demonstrated record of Success.

At this point of Vereb’s speech, I still wasn’t really totally listening.  It was what Mike said next grabbed me and convinced me the County GOP is headed towards much, much better days!

” … the best interests of our party must always come before personal agendas. … we must be inclusive and welcoming not only of different ideas about how to effectively promote our party and its candidates, but as to what the practical policy goals of our party must be.”

Music to my ears … But the best what yet to come.

“No political party ever expanded its base by requiring unquestioned adherence to a single ideology or perspective. … We are residents of a diverse county in one of the most diverse states in our nation …”

A lesson with which those at the highest reaches of the Grand Old Party will someday have to come to grips.  To win elections – and with that the opportunity to lead, to shape, to find success – the Republican Party has to maximize its philosophical reach to those of moderate economic and social viewpoints.

“Demanding uniformity from our fellow Republicans will only invite electoral losses and policy disasters.  However, by accepting reasonable differences of opinion we will be better positioned to achieve our overall goal of electing Republicans who will make sure government operates efficiently, effectively and is responsive to the interests of hard-working taxpayers.”

Now, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure whether Vereb was speaking of outside political fortunes or the exorcism of past Committee sectarian conflict, but I chose to interpret his message on the broader political stage.

The simple fact is that Republicans can not be politically successful in the four suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia without embracing some moderate social and economic views.  So the MCRC must find a way to accommodate such thinking in concert with traditional Big C Conservative ideals.

A challenging task?  Certainly … But Mike Vereb’s take on diversity, inclusiveness, and Republicans of all stripe working together to extol the civil virtues of Republican leadership to voting taxpayers, who enjoy living in Montgomery County, sure sounds like a recipe for Success!

In Horsham, the dust settles

imagesIt’s been a crazy 8 weeks since Labor Day in Horsham, Pa!

Maybe when you look at the Election Day results, you might conclude it was much ado about nothing.  Maybe this episode revealed a few more insecurities in our Republican leadership than we care to admit.  Maybe it was a good shot of cold water on the face of complacency.  Maybe it simply proved the point that Success breeds Content among those who pay the bills.

This is not written as a Victory lap.  There was just a little too much anxiety for me despite the registration numbers.  Certainly, there are a number of lessons to be learned here.

The first ones are for the Democrats.  And no, I’m not inclined to share what I think they are.  Let’s just say I was disappointed in their approach.

As for my fellow Republicans, the message is clear.  You are doing a great job – so far – in keeping Horsham a vibrant, healthy, and desirable community.  But we better not fumble the ball!

It’s fairly obvious that the Democrats see Horsham as one of the next prizes in their regional growth.  No surprise there.

They are here to stay.  They will be back.

Take that to heart.

Republican leadership faces any number of challenges at any given time.  But none will be bigger than how they approach the future redevelopment of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove property.

Many of us may be too old by the time shovels start piercing the ground there.  However, Horsham’s future will be tied to those decisions like no others in the coming years.

Choose wisely, my friends.

That being said, I would like to thank all Horshamites who voted – be they Democrat or Republican – for taking the time to voice their opinions on past performance and who should lead the Township into the future.

The mantra of “All politics are local.” is one I firmly believe in.  So I am flummoxed by the fact that less than 40% of registered voters bother to vote in the most local of elections.  One would think the closer an election is to your home, your family, your way of life would be the elections most important to you.

But maybe that’s just me.

On a personal note, I took the step this year of sending a personal appeal to every Republican voter in Horsham’s Ward 1, District 3.  It was an attempt to underscore the importance of Tuesday’s vote and the decisions we would be making.

The turnout numbers as a percentage of registered voters in the 1-3 was disappointing, given the effort.  So I will have to consider other options.

But to those who listened, and to all those who voted in the 1-3 and throughout Horsham, thank you!

Judges for Montgomery County (PA)

UnknownTo be honest, I don’t pay a lot of attention to Elections for Judges.  In my humble opinion, this should always be viewed – first and foremost – as a competency issue, as opposed to a question of political philosophy.

Choices for Courts of Common Pleas are preserved The People of Pennsylvania to decide.  On Tuesday, November 5, Montgomery County voters will be choosing between four candidates for two openings in the Court of Common Pleas for Montgomery County (PA).

It’s an important decision for Voters, particularly in Pennsylvania where it’s purported to be easier to become a judge than it is a cosmetologist!

So where does one go to find out which Judges are considered to be most competent?  Answer – for me at least – is the Montgomery Bar Association, which every year offers its recommendations for the election of Judges.

There are four candidates for two open positions on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.  In Pennsylvania the Court of Common Pleas hears and decides major civil and criminal cases.

The Montgomery (PA) Bar Association’s Judiciary Committee gives only Maureen Coggins, Esq. its Highly Recommended rating.  She was the ONLY Montgomery County lawyer to receive this recommendation.

The remaining three candidates, Sharon L. Giamporcaro, Esq., Steven C. Tolliver, Sr., Esq., and Gail Weilheimer, Esq. are provided Recommended ratings.

Maureen Coggins, esq.

Maureen Coggins, esq.

Maureen Coggins is the only one of the four candidates I can remember having met or heard speak.  I caught her presentation for support from Montgomery County Republican Committee members in January 2011 in which she was unsuccessful that November.

I was much impressed by her passion, commitment, and no-nonsense plan for making the most of a judicial position if elected.  At the time, I felt that Montgomery County missed a great choice for The Bench.

Of the other three candidates, I was most impressed by the backgrounds and experiences of both Ms. Giamporcaro and Mr. Tolliver.

As a citizen however, you should rightfully be most concerned about the Quality of the Judges you elect; and for that, Maureen Coggins comes Highly Recommended!

Of the others, choose wisely.

.

A Scott Freda update for Horsham Township voters

Last week, I gave my not so surprising views on the upcoming election for Horsham Township Council.  But I missed a BIG piece of information on candidate Scott Freda, who served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton.

It appears that Freda’s name was prominently mentioned in an investigation into illegal campaign contributions related to the 2000 Presidential campaign of Al Gore.

The L.A. Times in an article published in June 2007 described the sordid connections between a California businessman, Ray Jinnah, and advisors to the Clinton Administration as they worked to get Gore elected.  The network allegedly ran to Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat fundraiser and close friend of the Clintons.

McAuliffe, in another interesting twist, is currently running to become Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia!

In part, the Times article notes …

“The Times obtained a copy of a stock certificate showing 10,000 shares in the name of Scott Freda, a fundraiser and McAuliffe associate. Freda said he recalled Jinnah promising stock to him, but never receiving it.”

It’s best to read the entire L.A. Times article in order to draw your own conclusions.  (See the June 2007 link above.)

Jinnah eventually fled to his native Pakistan to avoid prosecution, returning to face the music and plead guilty in 2006.

Freda was never prosecuted for his involvement; but he freely admitted that Jinnah promised him stock.  The “Big Aha!” for me is that the L.A. Times piece fails to mention whether Mr. Freda ever went to the authorities with the first-hand information he knew of Jinnah before being confronted with it years later.

My thoughts on this?

Where there’s Smoke, there’s Fire!

Voters of Horsham Beware!

An Easy choice for Horsham’s Future!

Horsham Library CNN/Money Magazine

Horsham Library
CNN/Money Magazine

There are two observations relating to politics in which I strongly believe.

  1. “All politics are local.”  - Tip O’Neill, Former Speaker of the House
  2. A candidate without ideas is the first one to go negative.

On November 5th the residents of Horsham, PA and the Hatboro-Horsham School District face a crucial election for several local offices.

Local elections have a greater direct effect on you, the Taxpayer; the community in which you live; and the schools your children attend.  In addition, the decisions we make on November 5th will impact the prospects for Horsham’s future in terms of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove airbase.  How that process plays out in the next decade will be reflected in the taxes we will pay and in the value of our homes and property.

No other election will affect your quality-of-life more directly than local government offices that control spending, property (schools) and township taxes, not to mention the potential for your township’s Economic Future.

When it comes to local elections, History is an effective barometer of Future Success.  In Horsham’s case, Success is not a theory or a couple of good terms in office.  It’s a history built over DECADES of Growth, Vision, and the kind of efficient management and intuitive policy that built a community lauded as one of the Best Places to Live (Horsham #34, CNN/Money Magazine 2013).

Unknown-2Growth, managed properly and carefully, allows for township taxes that have not been raised in over a decade.  Efficiency is what ensures your streets and neighborhoods are kept safe; operating smoothly; and cleared of snow in the winter.  Vision is taking the forward-looking action to establish a Horsham Local Redevelopment Authority (HLRA) that preserved for Horsham residents control over the key decisions surrounding the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) closure of the NAS-JRB Willow Grove airbase.

No single action did more to preserve the Quality-of-Life in Horsham than the establishment of the HLRA.  Few people appreciate the fact that any local or regional entity (Montgomery County, Bucks County, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, etc.) could have filed for official status as the LRA for the Horsham base.  If just one of them had been as quick to act as Horsham Township‘s Council, you can bet there would already be an airport operating at the airbase.

W. William Whiteside and Deborah Tustin were part of the team that took the initiative to preserve for Horsham residents the decisions that will shape Horsham’s future, as will be reflected in those 862 acres sitting so prominently on Rt. 611!  Newcomer Tom Johnson, a mainstay in Horsham commercial and industrial development, has the experience and the Horsham-grown philosophy to maintain this consistently successful approach to our future.

And what of their Democrat challengers?  What is it they have to offer?  Apparently not much more than misrepresentations of fact and plenty of negativity.

images-3They say they can make Horsham even better.  But how could they improve a community already ranked so prominently as one of The Best Places to Live?  Ask yourself the practical question … How much they can actually improve today’s Horsham?

Then recall all those negative mailings they sent to your home … over and over again … day after day in the last few weeks.

How much better do you think the Democrat challengers will make Horsham now?!?

The only new ideas I was able to identify from their mailings were confrontation and obfuscation.  For a group that speaks so much of making Township Government more “open”, they have a funny way of misrepresenting the truth and trying to fool Horsham voters.

Fact is, Horsham Township government is the most open governing process I have ever witnessed.  You can find on-line public notices of all township and school board meetings.  At the HLRA website you can find agendas, minutes, and even sign up for e-mail notifications of future meetings.

I remember - as part of the HLRA redevelopment plan process – hundreds of local and regional citizens learning about and watching the evaluation and decision-making process.

images-1I attended as many of these meeting as I could.  I sat with hundreds of people and participated directly in an open-to-the-public charrette process for brainstorming ideas and layouts for a theoretical, redeveloped NAS-JRB property.  I was there the night that hundreds of attendees gave a rousing ovation for the decision to reject a Bucks County Airport Authority proposal to operate an airport at the base.

In my opinion, the Horsham Democrats’ most egregious behavior is the deliberate and repeated misrepresentation of the purpose and meaning of the HLRA’s painstakingly created Redevelopment Plan.

The plan is intended to accomplish nothing more than to prove that Horsham Township has the means and capability for properly managing the redevelopment effort.  It forms the basis for the U.S. Navy to conduct its Environmental Impact Statement and for developing an anticipated cost structure for its eventual execution that can be evaluated for its economic feasibility.

Like all carefully laid plans, the specific details of the redevelopment plan are tenuous projections of what can be accommodated on the airbase property.  But the fact is, none of it means anything without developers and their financing to make the plan a reality.  In that regard, the HLRA could say it plans to build the Taj Mahal on the airbase site.  But without developers with the money and interest to make any specific plan a reality, it’s all pie-in-the-sky.

To speak about golf courses, bowling alleys, and hockey rinks is simply being deliberately dishonest for the sole purpose of political advantage.

But of course this is the BEST idea the Democrats could come up with in their efforts to get Horsham voters to look their way.  Attack and obfuscate …

You can tell a lot about the Democrats’ plans for Horsham by carefully dissecting the messages they keep sending you in those ugly mailers.  And if you caught their cable commercial, it tells you even more.

imagesThere is a plan here apparently.  It’s the Get Scott Freda Elected to Something plan!

Remember all those negative mailings you been receiving??  Just check the small print that lists the “Paid for by …” election requirement on all those negative mailers.

Scott Freda‘s “plan” for Horsham is laid out for you right there!!

His cable commercial?  If you see it, you will be hard-pressed to find his running mates in that commercial, except as props.  There is no mention of them by name, only Mr. Freda’s name is prominent.

Then ask yourself The Big Question.

Where is all this money for negative mailers and cable TV commercials coming from?

Did you know that the leadership of the Horsham Democrat Committee has a strong connection to Philadelphia political organizations?  That’s why every year at polling places throughout Horsham, you will find the Democrats’ Election Day ground game manned by representatives of these Philadelphia organizations!

Not Horsham residents … Outsiders with their own self-serving interests!

It’s an interesting combination, quite frankly.  Certainly these Philadelphia organizations would just LOVE to get a friendly foot in the door of the airbase redevelopment effort and all that development money.

But who wants Philadelphia politics in Horsham?

So ask yourself, are the goals of Philadelphia political bosses and their organizations consistent with Horsham Township’s best interests?

Hopefully, Horsham Township voters are smart enough to know the difference between ugly divisive Outsider Politics and effective locally controlled government!

Don’t forget to vote Republican for Horsham on November 5!

A Moderate trapped in RINO land

UnknownNo one wants to be unpopular, unwanted, or – worse - to feel used and abused.  Yet for a significant portion of the Republican Party, many are encouraged to express their political beliefs only on Election Day.  But when it comes to discussing the direction of the Party nationally and the Country in general, they better toe the most Conservative of party lines or prepare to be labeled.

For the past several years, it has become clear to self-described “moderate Republicans” that we are to sit quietly in the back; keep our thoughts to ourselves; and let the “real” Republicans make the grown-up decisions!

Yes, we are the RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).  And it’s getting more than a little tiring.

Used to be that various permutations of the Republican value set were welcomed in the development of the GOP platform.  We share the same values that fought slavery; checked the spread of post-WWII Communism; and punished the protagonists of radical Islamic terror.

We were welcomed in a strong coalition that valued – above everything – an efficacious American system of government.  Smaller bureaucracy, productive budgets and spending, and compassionate solutions to social problems were the mantras of Goldwater and Reagan that we all worked towards.

It was a coalition of minds, accepting of moderately divergent views toiling in unison on core values we all shared.

rino-republicansNow, you dare not step off the strict Conservative reservation or risk the dreaded RINO label!  This is an issue I have spoken of before in frustration at the lack of cooperation nationally and the loss of American governance.

In a recent article for the Providence Journal, Froma Harrop asked where have all the moderate Republicans gone?

Oh, we are here all right, hunkered down in our fox holes; reluctant to poke our heads above ground level.  We seem to make such inviting targets.

Many like me, who live in largely suburban-metropolitan areas where some of us have evolved politically over time from the Liberal leanings of youth towards more conservative views on matters of economics and national ideals, have taken solace in the age-old adage that “All politics are local.”  We work to keep our communities on sound fiscal footings, our schools and municipal infrastructures efficient and lean, our neighborhoods safe; and try to apply those same principles to County and State government.

But we dare not speak of our moderate approaches to social issues and the process of pragmatic governance, particularly on a National level.  Because if we do, we know immediately where we stand with the more assertive Voices of the GOP.

RINO!  You would think we were traitors to The Cause.

Certainly, if The Right wanted to portray us as CINOs (Conservative In Name Only), I wouldn’t complain.  CINO sounds more pleasant than RINO too!  But in the “good old days” you could indeed be less than Big C Conservative and still be considered a stand-up Republican.

Not so much any more.

Harrop makes a point which I believe go directly to the GOP Losses in the last two Presidential elections.  Both John McCain and Mitt Romney were weak (McCain) or weakened (Romney) candidates once they went head-to-head with Barack Obama.

Unknown

Shouldn’t be what a national Republican primary looks like

McCain was a horrible presidential candidate, although it’s difficult to believe he could have beaten the first African-American candidate regardless.  Instead, he was simply the last Crash Test Dummy to survive the 2008 GOP Primary Candidate Roast.  It wasn’t even that he was “conservative enough” to win the Party’s pageant.  He was simply smart enough to stay on the periphery and survive the carnage.

In Romney’s case, for an election he should have been well-positioned to win, he was faced with the choice of moving hard to the Right to win the nominating campaign.  Then he was faced with the prospect of a convention revolt to bring in a more Conservative nominee.

When he had finally nailed down the GOP’s endorsement, he was not only unrecognizable as the successful, bipartisan Governor of perhaps the most Liberal state in The Union, he had stumbled into several verbal traps that plagued his campaign throughout the National Election!

Defeat snatched from the jaws of Victory!

Used to be our moderate positions were viewed as the route to effective compromise, the bridge from one Far Side to the other Far Side.  The way efficient Governance was effected.

Not so much anymore …

Now we’re the ones stuck in No Man’s Land watching the rockets screaming over head between the Right and the Left.  That is when BOTH sides aren’t trying to outflank us and pick us off!

True story …

In the Spring of 2012 and the run-up to the Presidential Election, I was asked to participate in a TV show involving a round-table discussion of political issues, where two Democrats were to be paired off against two Republicans.  It was a small local cable access station in Abington, PA; and the gig lasted all of two shows before the Producer up and retired.  But I was flattered, and it was a trip just to be asked.

The experience was fun.  I held my own despite the nerves.  But it was clear that I was the more moderate of the two Rs participating that night.

After the first episode taped, my far more Conservative Republican counterpart and I went out to eat.  And our dinner conversation revolved around our various positions on a number of political and social issues.  When I wasn’t asked back for the second episode, but was mistakenly sent an e-mail with the agenda for episode 2.  I checked around and found out that my spot had been taken by a much more conservative Tea Party member.

The message – to me at least – was pretty clear.  Not Conservative enough …

Does he look scared?!?

If it comes to this, so be it!

Returning to Harrup’s question, my theory is that the RINOs – us RINOs – have tired so much of the frenetic fire fights, many of us have simply dropped out of the National Debate.  We draw fire from one side simply through association with a more conservative set of governing ideals with which we agree.  Then we get outflanked by those who believe us to be not “conservative enough” across the board.

No longer is it good enough to say we support a strong National Defense, the right to bear arms, and the need for sane, sustainable economic policies.  No, we must toe the entire line, including those positions on social issues which many of us believe weaken our beliefs in the sanctity of Individual Freedoms.

Every new iteration of the GOP seems to pull farther and farther away from us.  The Tea Party has a funny way of concerning itself with issues that never would have crossed the minds of the original Boston Tea Party contingent.

Libertarians appear to be the most attractive alternative until their dogma on international relations and geopolitical theory threatens a short-sighted return to a 1920s mindset, which turned into a World War disaster in the decades to follow.  And who wants that?!?

So what’s a RINO to do?

  1. Keep working the Local political scene to protect what you have and keep your streets and neighborhoods safe.
  2. Promote those core Republican values as they relate to Government, Economics, and the Rights of the Individual.  You may not agree with the recent strategy and tactics of national Republicans, however that’s no reason to abandon the economic values and limited government approach that makes the most sense locally.
  3. Don’t back down from the kind of conservatism you believe is best for the Country as a whole.  Moderate is not a dirty word!
  4. Cooperate at the County and State level with fellow Republicans and like-minded Democrats to promote Business growth and expansion, more jobs, lower taxes, and compassionate solutions to social problems.
  5. Be mindful that taking pride in the concept of Individual Liberty requires the Freedom for individuals to define their own way of life on their own terms, according to their own set of values.
  6. And above all, always wear your helmet and body armor; and keep your head down!

If you appreciate the core values of true Conservatism, remember that it’s easier to instigate change from the inside.  A true Conservative would not leave because they are disenchanted with Leadership.  They fight for what they believe in!

There's power in numbers

There’s power in numbers

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (Jon Meacham)

Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States

Thomas Jefferson
3rd President of the United States

Jon Meacham‘s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power is the fourth book of his I have read.

Meacham makes history easy to read for even the most casual fan of U.S. history.  His management of theme through the issues of the day and the personality of the subject helps the reader see a broader picture of a man like Thomas Jefferson.

His approach to describing in overview the important events and critical issues; developments and solutions that evolved; giving the reader the essential insights without bogging down in a load of minutia.  Meacham’s works are thoroughly footnoted, which helps the real history junkie decide where they might like to do more in-depth reading or research.

The American Revolution, and the birth of the country which followed is a favorite subject of mine.  Of particular interest is the collection of men that came together in challenging times to take a dangerous stand against England; risking life and property for Liberty; then steering a course towards constitutional government that resulted in a Republic now over two centuries old.

These men were the wealthiest, most educated, and most successful in the American colonies.  But …

These men were not perfect.  They had their flaws.  Yet they came together and created a politically complex national union out of disparate regions and competing interests in such a way that enabled growth; promoted its survival through the tests of time; and allowed it to emerge from the crucibles of several dramatic – even catastrophic – national and international crises as an even stronger nation.

George Washington appointed Jefferson  the first U.S. Secretary of State

George Washington appointed Jefferson
the first U.S. Secretary of State

Thomas Jefferson‘s contributions to the success of The Great American Experiment in the period between George Washington‘s inaugural as our first President and Jefferson own presidency (following John Adams) were – in my opinion – the most compelling .

Citizens with a casual appreciation for American history might believe that once the U.S. Constitution was ratified as the Law of the Land, the Forefathers simply finger-skimmed the honored document whenever a question of function or politics arose.  But The Constitution was but a “blueprint” with many operational and philosophical issues undefined or at the very least open to all manner of nuance and interpretation.

Thomas Jefferson was one of those flawed individuals that rose to play a prominent role in taking that constitutional blueprint and – if I can stretch an analogy – installing the wiring and plumbing that allowed the Government to relate as best as possible to the People it would govern.  It was a herculean task that required the input and at times the nastiest of opposition between Federalists and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans to negotiate a national vision from contending philosophies of governance.

Jefferson was a study in contradictions throughout his personal life and public service.

Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings

1.  He was a man who passionately subscribed to the concept of Individual Liberty.  He made several attempts early in his public career to advance the concept of slave emancipation in the Virginia colony.  He provided insights for the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen via the Marquis de Lafayette, which became the central theme of the French Revolution; and he fought hard against John Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts.

Yet he continued to own slaves; using one – Sally Hemings – as a concubine; and went so far as to maintain their offspring as slaves until they turned age 21 or until his death in 1826.

2.  As a member of Washington’s first American government, serving as its first Secretary of State, Jefferson fought aggressively with fellow Democratic-Republican James Madison to counter the Federalist’s efforts (Led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.) to create a strong national government with a singularly powerful Chief Executive.  Jefferson was fearful that such a strong centralized authority, with the prospects for close ties with Great Britain, would eventually whittle away at individual liberties.

James Madison Fellow Democratic-Republican

James Madison
Fellow Democratic-Republican

However, when he served as President himself, he found a way to expand the powers of the presidency in order to take full advantage of a French proposal to effectively double the size of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase.

3.  Jefferson was an accomplished author of A Summary View of the Rights of British America (a list of grievances against King George III), The Declaration of Independence, and as contributor to the French Constitution.

But he wrote only one published book in his life, Notes on the State of Virginia.  And he was not much of a public speaker for such a renown politician and communicator!

Meacham’s primary theme emphasizes that in his quest for power, that he wanted for the good he felt he could accomplish, Jefferson was a practical politician.  He had his ideologies, his strongly held positions.  But Jefferson believed in “limited government” only to the extent that it was practicable.  If he thought a more expansive government was the better option in the best interests of the country (e.g. Jefferson’s quick actions to accept and ratify the Louisiana Purchase), he held no qualms about pushing the National Government’s reach and authority.

In the end, both the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans enjoyed a mixed success influencing the path of The Grand Experiment.  As bad as contentions grew in the early years of the Republic, it was clear both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were advocating what they believed was best for The Country.

One can only hope the current crop in Washington, D.C. feels the same way for all the right reasons.  They certainly give you reason to question their over-arching objectives

A very cool John Adams

A very cool John Adams

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams formed the opposing poles of American political thought from 1790 to 1809, when Jefferson left the presidency.  They were close friends at one point, including Jefferson’s pleasant plutonic relationship with Abigail Adams; strong allies during the colonial confrontations with Britain; friends and co-commissioners to Europe (along with Ben Franklin) for the infant U.S.; and then nasty political opposites during those formative years of the constitutional republic.

They served as consecutive Presidents, then went to their separate corners of the country after leaving office.  They eventually renewed their friendship years later with frequent letters.  And on July 4, 1826 – coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the issuance of The Declaration of Independence - within hours of each other, first John Adams and then Thomas Jefferson shook lose their mortal coils and left the rest of the work on the grand experiment to later generations of Americans.

Other interesting aspects of Thomas Jefferson learned from Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power:

  • Jefferson received his early inspiration for public life and politics at the age of 22, when he heard Patrick Henry give his treasonous Stamp Act speech in opposition to British taxation.
  • Jefferson’s term as Governor of Virginia changed his view on the use of authority.  His oft criticized indecisiveness and timidity during the British invasion of the colony in 1780 were also valuable lessons in leadership and government.

    Patrick Henry gives his Stamp Act speech

    Patrick Henry gives his
    Stamp Act speech

  • Jefferson was derisively referred to as “the negro president” by opposing Federalists, who disliked the congressional advantage Virginia and the other southern states enjoyed due to the 3/5 clause on The Constitution.
  • It took 36 ballots in the House of Representatives to finally confirm Thomas Jefferson as the 3rd U.S. President.  (Electoral College ties, which go to the House of Representatives, were common early in the Republic.)
  • Jefferson may have been the earliest President subject to an assassination plot (December 1804), although no overt attempt was actually made.
  • He requested just three of his accomplishments be etched upon his gravestone:  The Declaration of Independence, the Statute of Virginia for Religious Liberty, and Founder of the University of Virginia.

    Memorial marker at Jefferson's Monticello gravesite

    Memorial marker at Jefferson’s
    Monticello gravesite

  • Sally Hemings accompanied Jefferson’s daughter when he summoned her to France during his ambassadorship there.  By French law, as soon as she stepped foot in France Hemings was a free person.  Jefferson convinced her to return with him to America (additional evidence of their relationship) by negotiating an agreement with her that ensured eventual freedom for their offspring.
  • Philly Connection:  Jefferson leased a house from Thomas Leiper, a merchant and politician, at 274 High Street in the east Germantown section of Philadelphia when he served in the then nation’s capital as Secretary of State under George Washington.
The real John Adams

The real John Adams

Interesting Jefferson quotes …

  • Jefferson’s oft quoted words on fertilizing the Tree of Liberty was written in a letter to John Adams in comment on British criticism of U.S. instability in the wake of Shay’s Rebellion in western Massachusetts, which erupted over early financial difficulties in the infant U.S.

” … what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

  • Jefferson’s famous position on the separation of Church and State came from a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Ceaderbrook, Connecticut as they planned to celebrate religious liberty.

“Believing as you do that religion is a matter between Man and his God, that he owes account to no one for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions. I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

  • Jefferson loved the use of guns for hunting and sport, and recognized their importance in defending Home and Homeland.

“I am a great friend to the manly and healthy exercise of the gun.”

  • Finally, Jefferson felt that  the U.S. Constitution was a worthy effort as imperfect as the brave men who declared independence in ’76.  But he was much dismayed by the lack of a bill of rights in the original version.  Still he saw hope for the good conscience of the American people.

“If they approve the proposed Convention in all its parts, I shall concur in it cheerfully, in the hopes that they will amend it whenever they find it work wrong.”

images-5

Thoughts for a Memorial Day

memorial-dayAnother Summer is upon us!  As always, the quasi-official start of Summer is marked by the three-day Memorial Day weekend and its rituals of beach days, barbecues, and neighborhood parties.

It is no doubt the most favorite time of the year for Americans from Georgia to Oregon, Minnesota to New Mexico.

As Americans however, it is also important that we take a bit of time during what looks to be a glorious weekend in the greater Philadelphia area to remember the meaning of Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the sacrifices made by thousands and thousands of citizen soldiers since the founding of the United States of America in 1776.

Common people – not unlike many of us - chose to leave families, to forego careers, and to risk the opportunities that a full and vibrant life offers in order to preserve those same possibilities for their fellow Americans.  It’s a Choice many of us, be it through luck or timing or fortuitous periods of peaceful coexistence, may never have had to face.

This post is dedicated to those who faced the danger, to the sacrifices they made, and to the loved ones they too often left behind.

There but for the Grace of God …

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One Congressional Medal of Honor posthumous recipient only recently returned home after 50 years lying in a North Korean grave.

Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr.

Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr.

Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. of Washington, Indiana

At the time of his death, Faith and his unit — 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment — were attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team as it advanced along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

During attacks by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces, Faith assumed command with his supervisor missing, and he continuously rallied his troops, personally leading an assault on an enemy position.

He was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and died a day later from those injuries. However his body was not recovered by U.S. forces at the time.

In 2004 a joint U.S.-North Korea team returned to the spot where Lt. Col. Faith was last seen and recovered his remains.  He was returned to his family and interred on U.S. soil just this past April.

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Throughout American military history, there have been 15 Congressional Medal Honor recipients who earned The Medal for actions taken on the date May 27th.  Eleven of those 15 Medals were awarded during the American Civil War, five of which were earned by crew members aboard the Union ironclad U.S.S. Cincinnati when the ship was shelled and sank during a maritime assault on Confederate gun emplacements in the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

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U.S.S. Drexler (DD-741)

U.S.S. Drexler (DD-741)

On May 27, 1945 - Okinawa, Japan - American forces attacking southward, continue to encounter heavy Japanese resistance. Japanese aircraft begin a two-day series of strikes against the Allied naval forces around the island. The destroyer U.S.S. Drexler is hit by two kamikaze planes and sinks so quickly 158 sailors are killed.

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One particular Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam era caught my attention for his selfless bravery.

CHARLES CLINTON FLEEK

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U .S. Army, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Binh Duong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 27 May 1967. Entered service at: Cincinnati, Ohio. Born: 28 August 1947, Petersburg, Ky.

UnknownCITATION:  For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Fleek distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader in Company C, during an ambush operation. Sgt. Fleek’s unit was deployed in ambush locations when a large enemy force approached the position. Suddenly, the leading enemy element, sensing the ambush, halted and started to withdraw. Reacting instantly, Sgt. Fleek opened fire and directed the effective fire of his men upon the numerically superior enemy force. During the fierce battle that followed, an enemy soldier threw a grenade into the squad position. Realizing that his men had not seen the grenade, Sgt. Fleek, although in a position to seek cover, shouted a warning to his comrades and threw himself onto the grenade, absorbing its blast. His gallant action undoubtedly saved the lives or prevented the injury of at least 8 of his fellow soldiers. Sgt. Fleek’s gallantry and willing self-sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

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The purpose of these posts during our most American of holidays is not to spoil the mood of a dawning Summer or to lay guilt at the feet of those of us who benefitted from selfless acts in far, far away locales.  It’s simply a reminder that as you enjoy your long weekend, take a moment or two to reflect on those – both living and deceased – who have made good times and fun weekends possible.

Lifting-an-Inflatable-Tank-620x412In closing I leave you with a happier story.  It’s about a group of soldiers in World War II, known as The Ghost Army, whose actions were purported to have saved many American lives in the lead-up to the invasion of Normandy, France and later in battles across western Europe

These soldiers were responsible for the creation of fake Army units designed to mislead German intelligence-gathering efforts and the tactical decisions that would result.  The unique way in which they were able to deceive enemy strategists was through the use of inflatable forms in the shape of tanks, vehicles, airplanes and artillery.

Although there is no definitive way to determine how many Allied soldiers might have been spared over Ghost Army efforts, one would conclude that the efforts German units undertook to destroy what amounts to an Army of Balloons, including artillery bombardment and air attacks, certainly had the desired effect on enemy decision-making!

And with that, I send wishes for a glorious Memorial Day weekend!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes …

UnknownChange is a word loaded with potential, dread, promise, and uncertainty.  Change is powerful.  Change is scary.  Change is hopeful.

As a single word, “Change” became half the anthem (Hope and Change) of President Obama’s 2008 Presidential race.  The word was a double-edged sword, cutting both to the positive and to the negative depending on which end of the sword you were standing.  Five years later, whether you perceive that any real Change has occurred depends not only on your perception of Change, but also what you thought needed – or did not need – changing.

You hear references to Change in every facet of life eventually.  Usually when you least want to deal with it.  In the workaday world, Change is often sold as a panacea for everything from sluggish performance to being severely underfunded.  In those situations, the attempts to sell Change with its accompanying catch-phrases can be annoying or downright foreboding.

The older you are, the more set in your ways, the more threatening Change can appear.

My perspective on Change is that it is inevitable no matter what your situation or station in life.  Never count on anything remaining the same forever; and you can bet, when you find something in your life that is comfortable, enjoyable, or efficiently familiar, it will Change.

imagesMy personal demon in Change is the dreaded “Change for the sake of Change“, an underlying mantra in Government and its lecherous bureaucracy.  I have experienced change in my Department of Defense job that was simply the result of one person’s hellbent desire to claim Change as part of their legacy, sad as that reality is.

These individuals resort to changing the work paradigm as they head out the door for leisure pastures, leaving those left behind to deal with the consequences.  Like the engineering feat required to change the course of a mighty river, they view their ability to make the Bureaucrats bend to their will – even in a small way - as a personal feat of professional strength.

Rarely is such Change viewed favorably.  The common reaction being, if it was such a great idea, why didn’t you pursue before you started heading out the door?

And so with that as a background, let’s look at a few examples in the recent news of good Change – bad Change, we Change – you Change.  Being a male, my particular interests well-known here, most of these examples involve sports and politics.

Except this one of course …

State Patty’s Day

UnknownAuthorities in State College, PA, home of Penn State University are offering three dozen downtown bars, restaurants and package stores $5000 subsidies to cut off sales of alcohol during the annual State Patty’s Day celebration.  The party weekend, created spontaneously by Penn State students when St. Patrick’s Day fell over Spring break, has become a community nuisance.  Excessive drinking, arrests and property damage became such a huge problem that community groups have been joined by the students themselves in seeking solutions to Change the paradigm.

Good Change … Good for the community, for Penn State, for law enforcement, and for the students themselves,  But with a price tag of an estimated $180,000., you certainly hope the benefits outweigh the payoffs to be made in the name of peace-of-mind.

Beware the Walmart Mom

Unknown-1Sometimes Change is the result of how one sees their station in life being affected by those in leadership positions.  Let us consider the political leanings of the Walmart Moms.

Some might consider the Walmart Mom moniker to be demeaning or perhaps a judgement of economic impotence.  But the Walmart Mom has become a political force in recent years.  The Walmart Mom has been studied extensively by both political parties as defined as a woman, who shops at Walmart at least once a month and comprises a significant 14-17% of the electorate.

In 2008 Walmart Moms voted for Barack Obama in 2008.  In 2010 they switched to support Republicans in the mid-term elections.  Then switched back again to support the President’s 2012 re-election.

A small group of Walmart Moms was the subject of a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article.  (See above link.)  The impression one gets is that the Walmart Mom views politics and the opposing parties from the perspective of how those parties’ politics and policies affect their lives.

Unknown-2The women, who were brought together during the President’s recent State of the Union address, recognized both parties as obstructionist whenever their opposition controls The Oval Office.  They prioritized the issues facing them as women and mothers, feeling less supportive of issues like immigration reform and climate change.  They support efforts to reduce gun violence.

The recent trend suggests the Walmart Moms could be persuaded to back a coherent Republican message in the 2014 midterms; yet they were baffled as to the current Republican message.

imagesFor Republicans, this potential for Change relies on their ability to prove to the Walmart Mom that they have their best interests at heart.  At this point, the prospects for persuading the Walmart Moms to switch away from the Democrats has to be scary for the GOP.

Self interest is often the catalyst for Change.  If your target audience sees you as no better than the current regime, you never stand a chance.

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Appropriate artsy intermission:

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Back to our program …

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Change can be the source of anxiety, both welcome and foreboding.  For examples we need not look any further than our beloved Philadelphia sports teams.

Charlie’s Last Year?

images-1As the Philadelphia Phillies gear up for the 2013 MLB season, many of its fans speculate on whether this season will be Charlie Manuel‘s swan song.  His current contract will expire at the end of the season; and at the age of 69, there is much to consider for both Manuel and the Phillies.

The Phillies have been grooming Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second basemen the Phillies stupidly traded before the 1982 season along with Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus (Don’t get me started!), for a shot at a managerial job.  The question is … Is Charlie ready to move on?

One would think Manuel might be ready to move up in the organization, but not likely to move on to another managing job.  And frankly, it would be an insult to push Manuel out the door, unless of course 2013 turns out to be a down year unrelated to the many injuries the team suffered last season.

images-2In the best of both worlds, Charlie goes out when he’s ready as is worthy of a World Series winning manager; and Ryne Sandberg is still waiting in the wings to take Manuel’s spot as the team’s on-field General.

Provided the upcoming season does not provoke a rash change in Uncle Charlie’s status, Phillies fans should feel good about Manuel moving on, whether it be into retirement or on to an executive opportunity here or elsewhere.

Of course Charlie could decide after the 2013 season that he’s not ready to move off the bench just yet.  In which case Change will just have to wait.

Can a Duck help the Eagles?

Unknown-4The team on the other side of Pattison Avenue is facing a situation of an entirely different hue.  After 14 seasons of Andy Reid‘s leadership, the Philadelphia Eagles are facing a challenge they have not experienced since the turn of the century.

New head coach Chip Kelly comes from the vaunted University of Oregon Ducks, a team that ran a very up-tempo offense that requires a lot of speed, read and react play by the Quarterback, and the ability to keep defenses off-balance by constantly pressing the offensive attack.

The Change has elicited a set of anxiety reactions in fans that covers just about every facet of play on the field and personnel management off it.

First and foremost is whether Kelly’s high-octane offense can work in the NFL.  Indications are that it already is in limited ways on a number of teams, including the New England Patriots and Superbowl contender, San Francisco 49′ers.  But the underlying cause for concern revolves around the question of player personnel and their suitability to run Kelly’s fast paced, attack offense.

Unknown-5The level of anxiety gets ratcheted up for some Eagles fans when they consider the prospects of promising, but unproven QB Nick Foles, and even more so when the Eagles decided to re-sign out-of-favor QB Michael Vick.

All you need to turn most Philadelphia Eagles fans into helpless bundles of anxiety riddled meatbags is to throw the above questions into a bowl; stir in huge gaps on the offensive line and the question of how Kelly and new Defensive Coordinator, Billy Davis will remake the team on the defensive side of the ball; and serve over a defensive secondary that at times couldn’t cover a casserole dish.

Finally, Change can be seen as threatening, while at the same time provide a wealth of opportunity.

That Lada … What a cherry ride!

bildeRecently, Christine Armario wrote an article, featured on the Associated Press, about the extreme manipulations Cubans must go through in order to keep the island’s very, very old fleet of long outdated Russian automobiles running.  The mainstays of the island’s remaining auto fleet are upwards of 30-year-old, ancient Russian Lada and Moskvich models, for which it’s almost impossible to buy parts.

While it’s hard to fathom a Cuban visitor to Miami having to walk into a certain auto parts store; walking out with a carburetor or a set of brake pads: and having to physically carry back to the home island.  It’s even harder to rationalize this country’s continued reluctance to exploit – if you will – a country and a people so ripe for the depth and breadth of opportunities America can provide.

The problem?  Well, it’s Cuba!

Fidel Castro extolling the virtues of a straight - but artificial - Christmas tree!

Long the bane of 1960 Domino Theory on the control of the spread of Communism … Site of President John F. Kennedy’s biggest foreign relations/national security blunder … Home of one of the most ruthless – and oldest – Red revolutionaries … And of course home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban expatriates currently living in the U.S. after leaving Cuba in the decades since the Fidel Castro-led revolution.

But it’s difficult to ignore a Cuba that is very backward in its economy, infrastructure, politics and human rights.

Imagine what a boon to American business to have a country just 90 miles off the coast of Florida as very needy destination for construction services, consumer goods, medical equipment, and technology.  Imagine the inroads – now that Fidel is near terminal age – Americans can make in exporting its way of life, political freedoms and social philosophies.

Imagine how grateful the Cuban people, and maybe even the post-Fidel or post-Raul Cuban government might be, especially now that the Russians are no longer as influential internationally as they were two decades ago.

There’s a wealth of opportunity there.  But it will require a sea change in public and political perceptions to make it happen.