Topping the blog lists!

You made Thinking Out Loud one of the top ten conservative blogs on "Top Political Blog" site (on April 28, 2012) with an international audience. On February 18, 2013, we hit in the top 50 of ALL political blogs. (This changes all the time, so keep reading.) Thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thinking Out Loud - Straight Line Voting is killing America

“Tucked deep in North Carolina's election revision law that has stirred great passion is a provision that barely gets noticed.”

That's how an August article on the News Observer website begins. Gee, I wonder where this is leading? And as predictable, it rambles on how this is the Republican's way of keeping voters from having “a handy way to participate in many contests with a single mark for a party’s slate of candidates.”

Really? This is how you want your voters voting? In a handy way? I read that as a lazy way. And why this country is in such a shambles as it is. Instead of voting for the best person to represent them, they just lazily vote for the party that they think represents their values.

Yeah, right. The only values a political party cares about is one, how they can get elected / re-elected and two, how their “money” wants them to vote. Years ago, the Republican Party was the party of caring and the Democrats were the greedy corporate types. Somewhere along the lines, the Democrats convinced the people that they were the party of social change and caring and that the Republicans were the greedy SOB's. (And it became true. But then it changed again - but not in a good way.)

But, as always, the truth is somewhere else.

Today, the political party system is all about staying in power, catering to special interests and letting the less than scrupulous big money people frame the laws in their best interest.

The people are nowhere to be seen in the equation of modern government.

Gone is the government “of the people, for the people and by the people.” As much as we'd like to think otherwise.

So whats the answer?

Vote them all out!

Yeah, nice sentiment, but that doesn't really work, does it. Not only do they never get “all voted out”, the people who actually vote in numbers are the ones who are too lazy to look at all the candidates on the ballot.

So its just a popularity contests influenced by a media that is bought and paid for by the political parties they are supposed to be watchdogging.

Its a vicious circle. Truly it is.

But I have the answer. Not a perfect answer. But an answer thats better than allowing the 14 states out there that still have it. Do away with ALL straight party voting. Make the voters choose their candidates wisely and not through skewed news and campaign ads.

Okay, so the first part is easy. States need to do away with the straight ticket voting and their courts need to stop giving in to BS lawsuits trying to get it back.

Making people accountable for WHO they vote in is NOT racist. It is NOT a ploy by one party or another to gain an advantage. Its about making the voters do their homework before they get into the voting booth.

Wow, an informed electorate! What a concept.

But its the second part that is going to take work. There needs to be a law banning all negative ads. If you want people to vote for you tell them why they should vote for YOU. Don't tell them why NOT to vote for the other candidate. That's their decision. Anyone flooding the airwaves and the newspapers and billboards and mailings who stoop to negative campaigning should be ripped off the ballot.

And before you say that candidates would just sue their opponents claiming negative ads, there needs to be accountability. Have a strict set of guidelines on what is a negative campaign strategy and what would constitute a valid lawsuit. And in the second part of that, make the consequences of a spurious lawsuit be having the person bringing it ripped off the ballot.

Contrary to this article in the News Observer, and all the whining out there being done by both parties over this matter, straight ticket voting hurts America. It hurts all of us. And it is the lazy man's way to vote.

I know of people in the Democratic party that are really concerned citizens wanting to make a difference, wanting to serve their country and represent their constituents. I also know of republicans who are that way. And Green party and independents and people of every stripe and color.

They care. They work hard. But they cannot do their jobs if the people keep voting a straight party down the line without doing their due diligence before stepping into the voting booth.

If they vote straight Democrat than they are voting on the PARTY Agenda. Which means the republican on the ballot who is better than the Democrat doesn't get in. And America suffers. Same with the Democrat who deserves a chance but is wiped out by the straight Republican voter.

And then there are all those independent candidates out there who realize the party system is broke, but can't even get in the door to fix it because of the lazy voter.

Just take for example the guy in Texas who should never have been elected but was voted in because of the straight line voters. If the voters had done their homework on this guy they would have said “whoa, no way!”

In 1994, Steve Mansfield was elected to the state's highest criminal court . . . with no criminal court background, despite claims to the contrary, and a very dubious past. Part of that included being fined in Florida for practicing law without a license. Mansfiled himself said he didn't expect to win and said his campaign would have been “dead in the water” had anyone looked into his background.

This kind of thing will happen every time you vote straight line and do not KNOW who the heck you are voting for.

Stop being lazy! Stop being sheep and believing the lies the political parties feed you! You're not babies who need to be spoon-fed pablum, you're responsible adults who not only have a right vote but you have a duty to be informed. And for heaven's sake, stop being brainless masses for the irresponsible media to fill up with whats popular at the moment and spewing out the words of who's got the most power! I feel shame for my colleagues who don't have the backbone to stand up to the corporate bean counters who worry about ratings and access. They are shirking their duties as the fourth estate, the watchdogs they are supposed to be. (But that's a rant for another time.)

And don't just take my word for any of this. Look around. Research. (Lots of places to do this - but don't pick just one. Like PolitiFact and Snopes. And you can check voting records at GovTracks and Project VoteSmart.) Be responsible adults. Do whats right, not whats easiest or laziest or popular.

But hey, who am I right? This is just me, Thinking Out Loud! Have a great day!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Let us contemplate the Teacher for a moment

As a great many people, young and old, go back to school for an even greater number of reasons, let us contemplate the teacher.

Not many people know this but here is the origin of the Teacher.

Back when God created the earth and the sun and the sky and the plants and the animals and, of course Adam and Eve, He thought He'd done a pretty complete job. But then Adam and Eve messed up.

It was at this point that He realized He needed to add one more thing to creation to help these hapless two and those who would follow.

So on the one hundredth and eighty-first day (yeah, it really didn't take them long to blow it), God created the Teacher.

He formed them out of the very core of the earth, because He knew they would have to have the greatest of strengths to deal with apathy and disrespect and long hours and short periods of rest and all the responsibility that came with being a Teacher.

Next He gave them the heart of a star because He knew they would need the hottest of fires to fuel their inner passions in order for them to share all they knew with so many, even in times of great adversity, and stubbornness on the part the those being taught.

Then God added a summer breeze in order to calm them during the greatest of tempests they might encounter, to help them achieve peace as they struggle to impart knowledge to unwilling recipients.

After this, God reached out into the heavens and pulled in just a small piece of the universe so that Teachers would have the wisdom of ages yet to come.

Finally, the Creator touched the center of the Teacher's soul to impart the compassion He Himself had shown Adam and Eve when they messed up.

With all these ingredients, God created the Teacher to instill, impart and inspire.

Many people give themselves the mantle and title of “teacher”, but only a handful were called in this manner and given the true soul of a Teacher. These few not only impart knowledge but they also instill passion and inspire to greatness those they teach.

If you were able to read this and think about what was said, if you drew a conclusion for or against these words, if you laughed and smiled and nodded your head – or even rolled your eyes – at any point during this discourse, then you should thank a Teacher.

Normally I would end this with my usual rants and taglines, but in respect to all the Teachers I have known, and do know in my life, I merely bid you adieu – truly, a fond farewell.

May you all have a peaceful day.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nuke 'em all, let God sort them out . . . or something like that

There was a story online about a billboard ( The billboard, put out there by the US Marine Corps, reads, “Its God's job to judge the terrorists – Its our mission to arrange the meeting.”

This, as you might guess, made lots of people comment. Some were the supportive, Semper Fi-ish comments and others were of the typically uneducated sod kind.

One in particular caught my eye and I felt I needed to respond.

It was from a Brian Johnson of Denver, Colorado. He wrote:

Good old religious fervor!! There are so many things wrong with this billboard statement:
- First and foremost, is not one of the Christian Commandments, Thou shalt not kill? If in fact you truly follow the Christian religion, these kinds of statements go directly against what you preach. You can't have it both ways
- According to their beliefs, they are doing what is right (and it exactly mirrors what this billboard suggests; ridding to world of your religious "enemies"). So if Christians follow this billboard statement, then they are no better than the people they wish to kill under the guise of religion.

I find it odd that the most consistent and grotesque comment these days comes from the so called Religious Conservative/Tea Party group who believe in small gov't and limited spending, but then vocally state that our military should go in and wipe the place clean (meaning the Middle East). Really? And this is a way to reduce gov't spending?

While I do not agree for one moment with what the ISIS/ISIL group is doing, I also do not condone what Israel, Syria, Russia, etc. are doing right now either. And even in our own back yard there are numerous examples of actions perpetrated by the USA in the name of "Freedom" or "Democracy" that are reprehensible. This rock we call "Earth" is an imperfect place and the sooner that the world's religious zealots realize this, the better off we as Humans in general will be. Humans are just one species on this planet, but we are also the species that has committed the most egregious acts against each other and our living environment.

It's time for the US to get off their high-horse, step back from the world leader stage to better grasp what our true issues are here at home and deal with them, and get away from this Manifest Destiny idea. Far too many US citizens state their opinions with conviction, yet those same opinions have no substance or merit to back them. America needs to turn off the brain-washing, mind-altering, agenda-driven boob-tube called television "news" and get back to reading and interpreting various news sources with a critical, questioning approach.....don't believe everything you read just because it is written.”

I felt compelled to educate, as well as applaud in a few spots, this person (don't know if he was a young man, old man, veteran, peacenik, or even a woman). Therefore, my response, verbatim, was this:

Brian, I am of several thoughts concerning your comments. Shooting to the end of you comments, you are accurate about America needing to concentrate more on home (although your right wing / tea party focus is slightly delusional - all politicians, right and left, make use of people's passion for their true agenda of power). Instead of sending billions overseas, we do indeed need to start looking at feeding our hungry, sheltering our homeless and educating our young.

As to America stepping off their high horse and abandoning the leadership role in world affairs, I must disagree. By doing all the things we need to do for our own people first, America should once more be the shining hope, the example to others in world affairs. We once were. America was the example many people looked to for ways of shoring up their own country's problems.

Now to the heart of your comments, the beginning. You need to stop listening to whoever it is YOU are being a sheep about. The actual translation from the original Hebrew is not simplistically "thou shalt not kill" it is a more nuanced word that means kill egregiously - that is, to murder. And it is a "commandment" that pre-dates Christianity. But even then, I think the Hitites, Amalites and the citizens of Jericho might have been as confused as you that God would command do not kill and then send his people to do just that. But if you are going to espouse that people start doing due diligence to get their facts and information straight, you should as well.

Now as far as the terrorist just doing what he believes in, if they embrace Islam and say this is the ideal from which their actions flow, then they are being deluded by those who are teaching them. The Koran does not condone the actions these murderers are committing. The leadership of the terror organizations throughout the world teach uneducated / disillusioned / crazies a warped and twisted version of the ideals the Koran embodies. So to say that they are just doing what they believe in and should be left alone (not what you said, but what you imply), you argue from a viewpoint that is, itself, flawed by misinformation. Again, a little research on your part about Muhammad (and the fact his wife took over his teaching when he died and only half quotes are used when defending certain actions) and the actual text of the Koran might enlighten you on what it says.

If a serial killer was running around your neighborhood targeting blonde women, you would be all "lets go nail that right now!" Especially if you had a wife or daughter or sister who was blonde. If someone told you that he believed blonde women were from Satan because Eve was obviously a brunette (all the pictures show this), I am sure you would say not be saying, "well if he believes this then we should just let him be."

Long winded, I know, but I wanted to point out some areas in your thinking that may need to be revisited once you had more information.”

Now I don't believe Mr. Brian Johnson of Denver, Colorado will even read let alone heed anything I have just posted. But even if it gets one person to think for themselves I will have won a small victory toward educating a world in deductive reasoning that sorely needs it.

But don't take my word. Agree or disagree, I don't care, just so long as you think for yourself and stop being sheep. Because, hey, this is just me, Thinking Out Loud.

Have a great day.


post script – or to the layman, p.s.

All that being said, the real problem we have is not with the whiny liberals or the soft hearted do-gooders or even the fanatical terrorists themselves.

No, the real problem lies with a Muslim world that is just fine with all this terror. So long as they just sit idly by they can justify the spread (by elimination of everyone else) of Islam and feel smug that THEY had no hand in all these atrocious acts of cowardice and barbarism.

post post script - or is it post script script . . . anyway . . . 

The title of this piece comes from an old t-shirt I had back in the early 80's when I was in the Navy. Just thought I'd let you know. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Columbia Gas, PA DEP and the residents of Pike County clash at open hearing on compressor issue

Hello, everybody. I need to get three important items out there right off.

One. Its been a while since I posted to this blog. Not that I haven't had anything to say – that will be the day, eh – but I haven't had the time to devote to research on the topics I like to write about here in order to have properly formed opinions littered with facts and common sense. I hope to change that son.

Two. This should in no way be considered as a completely journalistic effort. True, it will have facts. But as my readers (hopefully) recall, this is called Thinking Out Loud for a reason. It is from my point of view and perspective. So the facts presented will mostly be commented and side commented upon.

Three. And this is MOST IMPORTANT to get out there at the outset so as not to be buried too deep.

ANYONE who has an interest in commenting on the Milford Compressor Station Upgrade (read “replacement”, as I will explain later), you need to send that NOW! And I do mean NOW! The comment period endsw on Tuesday September 2. Which is the day after Labor Day. Which means Monday is shot. And today is Wednesday. So you have to get it in the mail and overnighted, priority, next day . . . what ever will get your comments to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.

Here's the address:

Mark Wejksner, Air Quality Program Manager
2 Public Square
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701-1915

Okay. Got that out of the way.

So here's the deal with all of that. Columbia Gas (NiSource) wants to “upgrade” the compressor station in Milford. I use the parenthetical upgrade because it is essentially a whole new compressor station. They are tearing out the old and putting in the new.

Replacement. Simple enough to call it what it is.

Anyway, all this has a lot of people upset over it. There have been protests and letter writing campaigns and what not. You can't really blame them. This new compressor, if it uses gas powered units has the potential to spew quite a bit of toxins and produce a bunch of noise. All of which is not good for an area that is mostly nature and parks and wildlife, and derives its economic engine from this fact. Hell, Milford is home to the American Conservation movement.

So, you can't really blame people for not wanting this thing to be built where it will negatively impact the environment, the economy, health, well being . . . all of that. The area is home to numerous falls and beautiful clean rivers and streams . . . which took lots of people many years to make happen.

Now here comes this nasty corporate giant wanting to barge in and do what they want. The President said they could. In his errant quest to make it look like he is doing anything about energy independence.

But I digress, the President and his tyrannical view of his job is not at issue here. SO lets move on.

See, here is the thing. The equipment there is really old. Goes back to the 50's. And it really doesn't meet the environmental standards of today – even though the company has been replacing this part and that valve over the years to keep it up to snuff. So they really do need to replace it.

Do they need it that much bigger? Well, eventually, with all the gas being piped through their line and the Tennessee gas lines . . . probably. And any mention of the fact that this is coming the fracking of western Pennsylvania just muddies the issue. There are those that add this into the argument, but they are wrong to do so. So this will be my only mention of it. Boom! Done.

But Columbia Gas needs to make this a better compressor that it is.

The gas powered engines are NOT the way to go, however. And they know this. But their corporate bottom line dictates that they have to be responsive to the shareholders and do things as inexpensively as legally possible. Which means not using electric motors and gas recapture technology. Forget that this is the Best Management Practice. Forget that this would pay for itself in just a few years. Forget that it is the BEST for the environment, for the health, etc, etc of the residents, wildlife, water and fauna in the area.

These things are not their concern.

Don't get me wrong, the people in the company may have their own opinions and desires – hell, they mostly have families and children and care about the environment as much as the next person. But they have a corporate responsibility.

Now, along comes the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) and their responsibility to the people. Columbia Gas had to get an air quality permit from them for this compressor station in order to begin their work. Part of a multi-step process involving lots of different governmental agencies.

With the outcry and letter writing, mostly from the Milford Township Supervisors – the municipality where the compressor station resides – the PA DEP had a public hearing. This hearing was held at the Delaware valley High School last Monday (August 18). It was a chance for local residents to let the DEP know they should not grant Columbia Gas their permit unless they use electric motors. (Unbelievably, no one mentioned the recapture technology at this meeting.) It was a time for the people who live here and are opposed to having their environment, their health and their economy impacted by this new compressor to stand up and be counted. To have their say before the people whose job it is to listen.

Out of over 50,000 Pike County residents, 1800 from Milford Township alone, can you guess how many showed up? Oh come on, you've all been here before in this process where the people get to have their say. Go ahead. Guess.

I'll give you a hint. There were people here from all over the county. There were even some from neighboring states.

Got a guess? No?

Some people have the count as low as 141, others as high as near 200. And of those present, 40 people spoke. Even though at the end, the DEP media rep, Colleen Connolly asked if anyone else not on the list wanted to speak. Two of those 40 were of the last minute variety.

But that is it.

The people opposed to having the negative impacts this new compressor represented are all hoping that the quality of the content of the speakers will outweigh the quantity in the eyes of the DEP.

And there was definitely quality to those who argued against the compressor and called for electric motors.

There were those, like Linda Klee who has asthma and Ruby Willis who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, that spoke about the negative impact to health the gas powered engines represented. People who already suffer from one illness to another would be exposed to even higher levels of toxins. Within current DEP guidelines. But not future ones. And not the desired levels of residents, for whom any emissions will effect them.

There were those from local government and activists who cited various legal reasons that DEP should deny the application. Such as Kevin Stroyan of the Milford Township Planning Commission, Don Quick and Gary Clark, Supervisors with Milford Township and Anthony Magnotta, the Milford Township Solicitor. They called on the DEP to force Columbia Gas to use electric motors. They strongly requested Columbia Gas / NiSource come in for a conditional use hearing. They reminded the gas company of their own words at the beginning of the meeting saying they intended to adhere to all state, federal and LOCAL ordinances. They demanded the company be the “good neighbors” they insisted they were and have been in the past.

There were those who spoke to the issue of the economic destruction this compressor could wreck upon the area. People such as Nancy Shandley who said that “Milford's economic growth and survival depends on tourism.” She said further that people come up here to get away from the crowds and pollution and noise, and breath in the clean air. But what she and visitors don't want is to “breath in toxic air . . . drink contaminated water . . . or worry in fear of possible explosions.”

“I find it ironic,” Shandley concluded. “That the birthplace of the conservation and forestry movement is sitting precariously and in danger of the very thing it stands for – preserving the natural and pristine environment.”

Then there were those that reminded, both in word and action, who the gas company and the DEP are up against on this issue. Spoken with great alacrity and passion was Sean Strub, owner of a local hotel and someone I don't always see eye to eye with.

Strub reminded the people from Columbia Gas / Ni Source that the people here were the same people who have fought, and won, on environmental issues in the past.

“This is the community,” Strub said forcefully. “that a century ago provided the leadership to fight the timber trusts and railroad trust that led to anti-trust actions, that led to protection of our forest . . . this bis the community that half a century ago took on the Army Corp of Engineers – had one of the first mass acts of civil disobedience protest in the environmental issue stopping the Tocks Island Dam project . . . this is the community that did that!” He ended up saying that this is the community that twenty five years ago stopped real estate interests from building a shopping mall and degrading the Sawkill.

So, bottom line, the next step is up to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They will a) approve the permit as it stands, b) deny the permit as it stands, c) decide to have a full hearing on the matter or d) approve the permit conditional – with that condition being electric motors.

My thought is that DEP will want to just go ahead and approve the permit, because that would be the easiest thing for them to do. No harm, no foul, is how they will look at it. Hell, the residents couldn't even show up in any number that would represent a majority of the voting public. Its this apathy among people who live here that will be the downfall of this drive to protect the environment.

But there is also a chance that DEP will look at this as an embarrassing moment, because they will be called out onto the mat for approving something that will indeed harm the environment. Which means they would go through the process of holding a full hearing. This will only be the case if there is enough public outcry to embarrass them into this.

Less likely is that they will either deny the permit or allow it with the condition of using electric motors.

But you have to remember that no matter what their mission is, they are a government agency, an agency that sits under the leadership of a man who has one of the most atrocious environmental records of any Governor in recent memory. And they not only don't have a lot of sympathy for the public, they have even less for a public how is obviously apathetic.

And to tell the truth, aside from the people who protest these things on a regular basis, the majority of the community are lazy and apathetic and – unfortunately for the rest of – don't really care about anything but themselves. And in the end, they will be the ones who cry “why wasn't anything done about this” when their property values drop, the wildlife dies off, the trees turn gray and the ir children get sick.

It is a typical response for Americans these days. They either listen to an espouse the ideologies of the far left or right but do nothing of consequences, or they simply blame everyone else for their troubles.

Agree with me or not, it really doesn't matter to me. Go out and look at all the facts, make your own decisions on the facts or merits of the case. Don't listen to me. This is just me, thinking Out Loud.

Have a great day.