Sunday, May 29, 2005

13: “…Altogether Fitting and Proper…”

The first official “American” war dead probably were those American colonists who served the British during the European Dynastic wars of King William, Queen Anne, King George, and finally the French and Indian War or Seven Years’ War, all collectively known on this side of the Atlantic as the French and Indian Wars.

Since shortly thereafter, Americans soldiers, sailors and later, airmen, have been dying while serving the United States in wars ranging in time from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terror.

No greater honor is accorded a citizen of this country than that shown to those who have laid down their lives in military service of the United States during wartime. Where possible, an honor guard, a flag draped coffin, a 21 gun salute, and the playing of the mournfully poignant bugle notes of Taps accompany a serviceman to his final rest, often in one of America’s most beautiful National Cemeteries.

Perhaps no one has ever paid a more eloquent tribute to these slain United State warriors than did President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, a mere four months after the great battle there, when he said, “We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
“…altogether fitting and proper” is indeed what Lincoln had in mind as the full tribute to those who “…gave the last full measure of devotion…”.

Abraham Lincoln assumed a burden too horrifying for most ordinary people -- an almost personal responsibility for each and every man who served this nation, and, arguably, this included those who fought for the Confederate States of America. He felt each wound, and agonized over the grim butcher’s bills presented over the telegraph after each skirmish, engagement, and battle. He mourned over each death. He and his First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, spent countless hours working in the Washington, D. C. hospitals with the wounded and dying, and it haunted him. He abhorred the necessity of it all.

In his mind, both sides were fighting to resolve a hideously divisive and destructive issue once and for all: slavery. That it was complicated by other issues like Constitutionally protected rights of the states, does not void the primacy of the issue of slavery. As president, Lincoln had very little power on entering office that would allow him to affect slavery. The Constitution prohibited any interference, and Congress had passed and re-passed legislation not only upholding slavery, but demanding the assistance of [outraged] northern citizens in returning runaway slaves to their owners.

Lincoln was faced with attempted secession and armed revolt by secessionist and pro-slavery mobs throughout the south, even before he was sworn into office. On assuming office, he acted to the limits of Constitutional authority to save the Union. He was even willing to backpedal on his anti-slavery public stance. Recognizing the enormity of the situation he inherited on his Inauguration Day, Lincoln tried diplomacy, within the guidelines of the Constitution. When that failed, and the secessionist forces opened fire on Fort Sumter a month later, Lincoln had no choice but to call for troops. The Constitution gave him powers to act in case of armed rebellion, and states unconstitutionally entering “…into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;…” and he reluctantly used them. It was not until a year later that he took the war measure of issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

All those hours at the hospitals, and the time spent at the Soldiers Home on the edge of Washington, surrounded by a regiment of Pennsylvania soldiers, gave Lincoln a sense of belonging to those men. By the time he helped dedicate the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Lincoln well understood what the men were fighting for, and that both sides were fighting to resolve the major issues – one way or another – on the battlefield, as a last resort.

In perhaps his two most eloquent speeches, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln speaks of the fighting men as Americans, but not as Union or Confederate. When he speaks of the soldiers, he does not identify them with one side or the other: “…The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here..”, “…they who fought here…”, “…these honored dead…”, are all passages from the Gettysburg Address. In his Second Inaugural Address he closes with the final paragraph, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” This goes even farther in not only refusing to identify the sides of the soldiers, but also points to the cause as being one that results in a vastly greater, and better nation after the war than the one that existed before it.

An estimated 600,000 casualties, many of whom were horribly mutilated survivors of the carnage that occurred between April of 1861 and April of 1865, so that “…from these honored dead we may take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This Memorial Day, 2005, please join President Abraham Lincoln, and indeed, all the Presidents of the United States of America, in honoring our fallen warriors. Visit a veteran’s cemetery and silently thank the spirits of those who lay there in eternity. And on your way home, stop in to your local Veterans’ Hospital, and spend time with the wounded, and the sick. Thank them for all they have given to all of us.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

12: “Redefining Ethics: A Legislative Moral Collapse!”

Ethic. A single word with important sociological and legal meaning. According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company, an ethic is:

  1. A rule or habit of conduct with regard to right and wrong or a body of such rules and habits: ethicality, moral (used in plural), morality. See right/wrong.
  2. The moral quality of a course of action. ethicality, ethicalness, morality, propriety, righteousness, rightfulness, rightness. See right/wrong.

Yes, indeed, “See right and wrong”! As it was partially enumerated in my GettysBLOG number 10: “A Crime Most Foul, in two Acts”, the double whammy shoved down the throats of Pennsylvania’s citizenry with the passage of two acts (71 and 72) is as insidious and damning a set of enabling acts ever passed by a state legislature. They rank right up there with the Black Codes passed in the south in response to Reconstruction and emancipation in the 1860s and 1870s. Act 71 enables gaming in Pennsylvania, and details who will control it, who will grant licenses, and how the money generated will be split off the top from all sources. An estimated $643 to $841 million dollars is earmarked specifically for statewide property tax relief. Act 72 administers this money generated by gambling in Pennsylvania, by allowing the local school boards across the state to “opt in or out” of Act 72 tax relief. In other words, the legislature passed on its moral lapse and forces the local taxing body (School District) to this choice:

  1. Give up taxing authority to your constituents, and accept this gambling money in lieu of higher property taxes (meaning roll back tax rates); or,
  2. Do not give up taxing authority, receive no funds from gambling in Pennsylvania, and be permitted to raise taxes.

So far, Act 72 is being overwhelmingly rejected across the state. In some instances, local school districts are making it quite clear they do not want gambling-tainted money used for educating their children.

This has the governor, and the legislators scrambling! Websites are going up explaining just how beneficial Act 72 is going to be, and meetings among legislators abound! “How could the locals do this to us!”

Further, Act 71 allows the governor, and each party leader in the legislature to appoint members to the governing authority board for gaming in Pennsylvania. Then it allows legislators to own a percentage of a gaming site! As a final insult, the legislators saw fit to authorize the exemption of gaming establishments from any and all local ordinances, meaning, they can, and will put a gaming establishment wherever they want, and local populations can and will be totally ignored, along with their local zoning ordinances.

Look at that definition again. Both definitions refer to “right and wrong”. Now, much like Hugo’s Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables”, when he pointed his finger at Jean Valjean, crying “J’accuse!”, so I point my finger at the Rendell Administration, and the Legislators of Pennsylvania and cry “I accuse!”

I include especially the legislators, every single one of them, in these two heinous acts of ethical nihilism, and moral relativity. Yes, there were those who voted No to one or both of these acts. And their constituents subsequently heard plenty from those who voted no, warning of the ethical lapses and moral ambiguities built into the enabling legislation. Oh, I’m sorry. Did you miss all that? You never heard your Representative or State Senator, or Governor talk about the lack of ethics in the legislation? Well, gosh, neither did I!

“I accuse” the legislators and Governor of gross moral and ethical lapses in judgment. The legislators wrote the acts, then passed them, and the governor signed them. They are, therefore, all guilty by more than association, by a conspiratorial effort to pass bad legislation (The Act 71 gaming enabler) by daubing it with money attractive to voters who pay property taxes, and probably false promises of increased funding for education, and then passing more bad legislation (The Act 72 property relief act using Act 71 money), and dumping the moral/ethical dilemma on the local school boards.

I am not a moral or ethical absolutist, and I do not pretend to know or have all the answers. I do not, for example, know what the solution is to tax relief for property owners. I am one, and on a fixed income, so I would, indeed, like to see some tax relief. That said, I know greed when I smell it. And these two Acts are heinous acts of greed on the part of our elected state leaders. And those who voted no, simply rolled over -- no fuss, let’s not disturb the status quo, lest the party bosses deliver their wrath on them. And make no mistake: this transcends party lines. Both parties are complicit!

Trust me, there is more to this ethical/moral morass involved in these two Acts. Out-of-state newspapers are commenting on them, and noting how lobbyists are vying for the right to be one of the distributors of gaming supplies in Pennsylvania. [sarcasm on] No conflict of interest there, is there? Of course not. [sarcasm off]

What a sorry state of affairs. What a sorry state. And the real sorrowful part is that very few people will do anything about it. Its just far to easy to walk into that booth in November and flick the party switch, then pull the lever that opens the curtain.

Well, it isn’t just your values being trampled here, it is your rights.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

11: “Tune Out XM Radio!”

If there is one thing I cannot abide, it is lousy customer service. If I am paying for something, and there is a problem, then let’s get it fixed, and settled right away. Let’s not play games. [Reference the games played by Adelphia in 2002 as mentioned in my GettysBLOG # 04.]

I happen to like to listen to music. I like most types, but I am partial to Classical, and I love movie sound tracks. I am a visual thinker and if the composer is worth anything, I will connect the score segments with the appropriate scenes from the film. It is very easy to do when the composer is Erich Korngold, and the films star Errol Flynn.

I spend far too much time at my computer, so I have copied the CDs I own to my hard drive and I play them through Windows Media Player. I can assemble a play list that goes for days. The advantage of playing the albums from the hard drive is the lack of any interference, no hiss, just music. And I can pause it whenever I wish. So why would I want online satellite radio?

I was investigating an upgrade for the car radio, and was checking out the equipment, and schedules for the two satellite services: Sirius, which signed Howard Stern to an enormous contract just as the FCC was fining him for indecency, and XM were the two choices, well, one choice after the Stern deal.

In the process I noticed a deal where you could try XM out for a few days and if you liked it, you could, for $7.99 per month, sit and listen all day. That was the deal. Its called “streaming content”, and it is the technology that allows audio, video and phone over the internet. Pretty neat, eh? So, I donned my scales, slid my fins over my appendages, and unmasked the gills on my neck and promptly signed up. I even happily gave them my debit card number so they could debit my account every month. But they had a channel that played nothing but movie sound tracks 24/7. They would interrupt the music occasionally and play some significant dialog from the film they were featuring at that time. It was great listening to Indiana Jones talking to his father (Sir Sean Connery!). You could smell the popcorn!

If I tired of the movies, there were three classical channels. And others, like a few talk radio channels, and a wide variety of ethnic music from around the world, to say nothing of the pop, C&W, blues, jazz, etc. from the Good Ol’ US of A.

The first bells went off one afternoon around the New Year when the music simply stopped. The controls on the window panel were gone, too. So I closed my browser, and then opened it up, went to the XM website, logged on and started listening again. Several more episodes of this prompted an email to the service. The response informed me that there was an automatic disconnect if there was no activity for two hours. Well, I understand this, sort of. It has to do with active connections and bandwidth, but this was not mentioned at sign-up. As I discovered, all I had to do was change a channel every 115 minutes, and then change it back. Maybe. Or something like that. This must be why they only charged $7.99 instead of the full amount like they do for radio. No, wait, the lesser price was because they only included about 2/3 of their available channels. Believe me, the hook was starting to hurt my mouth.

Then, somehow, instead of getting “XM Signal” their online content guide sent by email every week, I got two. Somehow, they got two email addresses for me. I suspect it was from a previous email. So I went and unsubscribed from one. I got the confirmation, too. And the next week, I got two again. Unsubscribe. Confirm. Next week, two again. Unsubscribe. Confirm. Next week, two again. You get the picture. Emails to technical support were positive, promising a fix, and then, two again. Week after week. They would unsubscribe me, and then the next time I would unsubscribe. Two again.

Subsequent emails from tech support suggested that I construct an email filter to block the emails. That’s right. It is their emails coming to me, and I need to stop them, because they can’t. Boggle! At that point, I’d had enough and in early April I cancelled my account. I sent the email on the monthly renewal date. They claim it was 7 days later. In other words, “Screw the customer, he isn’t going to do anything about $7.99. Its not worth it.”

Wrong.

It is worth it. And then some. Having shed my scales, fins and re-hidden my gills, I sharpened my fangs, and prepared to do battle. I sent several emails pointing out their error, even attaching the email I sent requesting my account cancellation. I kept receiving their terms of service in reply. I insisted they step the problem up to their supervisors. Today, they sent a response saying it was going to another level.

Too late. A week ago I filed a complaint for Internet fraud with the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center. I listed Mr. Hugh Panero, CEO of XM as the responsible party for the fraud. I am sure they get complaints like this regularly, perhaps even often, based on their cavalier attitude with me. And each complaint costs them. Corporate attorneys do not come cheap. Neither do CEOs, who, as respondents, will have to address the complaint.

When will these corporations learn they cannot continue to run over people. “We are the Borg! Resistance is futile” just does not make it in customer service. Neither does treating customers like dirt. I’ll get my $7.99. And maybe the FBI will get XM. In the end, XM will go on, and abuse others, and some of them will continue to fight them. They will not make any adjustments to their customer service personnel training. They will continue to defraud the public. Beware.

http://www.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

10: “A Crime Most Foul, in two Acts”

Today’s Gettysburg Times has a headline for a front page story that says, “DeWeese, Coy both Civil War Buffs”. What the article is about is the current Pennsylvania State Representative William H. DeWeese, leader of the House Democrats, and Jeffrey W. Coy, a member of the Commonwealth’s casino licensing authority, are both Civil War buffs, and that is supposed to make you feel more secure about a casino not coming to the Gettysburg area.

Instead, what it does is point the finger directly at one of the things that are wrong with the state’s Act 71, which authorizes the establishment and control of casino gaming in Pennsylvania. Not only are legislators and the governor the ones who appoint members to the casino licensing authority, they are also permitted to own a percentage of the casinos that are authorized.

Does no one else see a clear conflict of interest in this?

Further, the casino legislation allows the licensing authority to grant a casino license anywhere in the state, no matter what local zoning ordinances exist, and no matter what local populations say about the presence of a casino in their community.

The citizens of Pennsylvania have no legal say in the location and operation of casinos in Pennsylvania. There is, to put it simply, no legal recourse available other than to go to court to fight the imposition of a casino in any community. There is no appeal, no due process, available to the community. If the licensing board says the casino goes here, then it goes here.

If you think that being a Civil War buff will have any effect on the decision to locate a casino here in Gettysburg, think again. Greed trumps history every time. It matters not that the history of the Battle of Gettysburg far exceeds the boundaries of the National Park here. Bull dozers beat miniƩ balls, especially in Straban Township.

“But wait! There’s more!”

The good and wonderful folk who work in the House and Senate of the State Capitol building in Harrisburg have even more in store for you. Once they passed Act 71, they passed its companion legislation, Act 72. “What is this gem”, you might ask.

Act 72 gives local school boards the option to “opt in” by surrendering taxing authority to their constituents, and accept the largesse of the state in the form of a cut of the revenues generated by – guess what! -- the casinos created by Act 71! Those school districts that “opt in” to Act 72 are then required to reduce property taxes in their districts. Of course, it is optional. School boards can, like the Gettysburg Area School District, “opt out” of Act 72, thereby retaining their taxing authority (as they did, and they promptly raised taxes), but will not share in the casino generated revenues that are earmarked for raising the quality of our children’s education in Pennsylvania.

Aren’t our legislators grand to think of their constituents in this manner? Here we have two legislative acts, one generating revenue which can be forced on a community, and the other, optionally spending that revenue, all to benefit the children of the Commonwealth, and to reduce taxes on property owners, especially those on fixed incomes (AKA: Senior Citizens). It’s a no-brainer! A win-win situation! And, while they are at it they will give your school district the right to not accept the gambling money, and remain the bad guys who are constantly raising property taxes, even while forcing a casino where it clearly is not wanted.

Aren’t our legislators grand to shove a moral dilemma down the throats of the populace of this state? As much as I cringe when my taxes are raised, I tip my hat to the GASD School Board, who turned down the money because it was “gambling tainted”. It is not that I am anti-gambling…I have been to the track and to Vegas, and enjoyed losing my money as much as anyone can. It is, rather, that I admire someone taking a stand for moral values. While some of the people in the school district are like I am, in that they enjoy a wager on occasion, some of them are not. I would not think of forcing gambling on anyone who does not want it.

It is an arrogant insult to wave millions of dollars at a school board and local populations and ask them to trade those moral values for tax relief.

It was moral values that spoke in the last national election. Apparently our state legislators failed to heed that message. And not just from one party, but from both. They are arrogant of power, and blinded by greed.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

09: “Why the Park Needs to Close at Sundown”

It may be the most sacred ground in the United States. You can argue that perhaps Valley Forge, or Independence National Park in Philadelphia is equally sacred, or Lexington and Concord Battlefields, or perhaps Cowpens. But, at no other place in this great nation did more Americans shed their blood in conflict to help shape this country.

In my mind, the Civil War finished what the Constitution left undone: dealing with slavery. In order to fix the problems inherent with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 produced the document we now call, simply, “The Constitution”. Throughout the long, and very hot summer of that year, the delegates hammered away at the document, and often verbally at each other. By September it was almost ready. One final issue had to be resolved: what the states would do about slavery.

Obviously, slavery did not sit well with the Founders, and the very words of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, clearly are in conflict with slavery. But the Framers, the convention delegates, had no ability to solve the issue satisfactorily, so they put it off for a later generation to fix. “The rest,” as the immortal Bard said, “is history.” Briefly, the states never resolved the issue, instead allowing it to grow and fester until attempted secession and the outbreak of the Civil War.

It is within the context of that war that the Battle of Gettysburg was fought, over three steamy July days in 1863. The bloodiest battle in United States history, with over 50,000 casualties combined for both sides, has its importance as a turning point of sorts. It marked the first time the Army of the Potomac handled Robert E. Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia in so complete a fashion. While most of the individual actions within the battle were close-run contests, throughout the battle the Union forces asserted superiority over their Confederate counterparts,in leadership, Cavalry, Artillery, and in the Infantry. Lee never really ventured out of Virginia after Gettysburg outside of a few small raids. The Battle of Gettysburg, ending on July 3, 1863, along with the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi the next day, marked the point from which the chances of any Confederate success began a rapid decline. With the actions that President Abraham Lincoln had taken during the war, slavery would die at war’s end, and officially with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in December of 1865. Just to make sure, the amendment also removes slavery as a state right, and asserts it as a federal one.

Fast forward to 2005. After ten years of Congressional budget cuts, the National Park Service staff at Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park, and Eisenhower Presidential Site is cut to the bone. Each year at the Volunteer Appreciation Night banquet, Superintendent Dr. John Latschar opens his speech to the volunteers with some figures totally the volunteer hours from the previous year. Then he translates those figures into something important. He say those volunteer hours are the equivalent of 10, 15, or 20 full time employees. It grows each year. It is obviously a statistic that is important to him as Superintendent, as he is charged with administering the Park and all its lands, monuments, buildings, roads, infrastructure, and employees, with an ever shrinking budget. He is required to protect, and preserve the park and all within it, so the public may visit and make use of it as a memorial to the men who fought here. He is also required to protect all who visit, as well. There are no facilities for kids – no sliding boards, no sandboxes, no basketball courts or ball fields. It is not that kind of park. It is sacred ground. The blood of 50,000 Americans dictates it thus.

The simple fact of the matter is there is not enough protection staff to go around. With daytime operations, the park protection staff is required to be present on the battlefield in sufficient numbers to provide protection to the Park, and to the Visitors. Even with Park Watch volunteers providing extra eyes and ears, the protection staff is stretched very thin. Park Watch volunteers have no powers of arrest, are present solely to report incidents to the protection staff, and to assist visitors in a very limited capacity, such as providing directions when asked.

The second simple fact is that there is really no legitimate use of the Park after dark. The Park was never intended for nighttime use, and is not set up for such use. It would require lighting throughout the Battlefield, and that goes against the very grain of the effort to restore it to near its 1863 condition. The scouts, and re-enactors who are camped on the Battlefield during the warmer months do not have free access of the park beyond their campsites, except in the case of emergency.

Yes, the Battlefield is a place of serenity and quiet at night, and a place to honor the fallen. It is a place of beauty, at night, as well as in the daytime. Unfortunately, the nighttime hours see the invasion of the park by relic hunters, vandals, and drug users, as well as young partiers with drugs and alcohol. All of these are illegal activities. None would be tolerated during the day, and will not be tolerated after dark. Many of these activities are done under the cover of the legitimate Park visitors, and the ghost hunters who manage to dominate the late evening hours year round. Removing this “cover” would be one of the benefits to closing the Park after sundown. A huge benefit. Then Park protection personnel, and the volunteers can be certain that anyone in the park at those hours is there for nefarious purposes, and react accordingly.

Finally, the night belongs to the wildlife. Removing the visitors from the park after dark would significantly offer more relief to the fauna on the Battlefield. And, in some instance, that fauna can pose a threat to unwary visitors.

Closing the park after sunset is a common sense solution to a current set of problems beyond the control of the National Park Service.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 06, 2005

08: “An open letter to Senator Punt and Representative Maitland”

An open letter to Senator Punt and Representative Maitland:

As a campaign contributor to the Republican Party, and a registered Republican in Adams County, I take serious issue with a number of events that have recently occurred in our back yard, and in Harrisburg.

There is no doubt that the Republican Party, in Adams County, and indeed, statewide, has embraced development in all its forms. Now, finally, it has become apparent that this embrace has become detrimental to the constituents you serve.

Statewide, legislation has been created to boost dollars granted to the counties for Economic Development. What happens if the need is not there? What happens if the local population does not wish such development? Apparently, the legislature in Harrisburg, and the Governor, have forgotten what “will of the people” means, and mean to force development down our throats whether we need it, or not.

Locally, Adams County officials, and some townships have gone far beyond “runaway development”. Straban Township, one of the prime townships in the state for agricultural production, has adopted a new plan to reduce open and agricultural land by almost 11,000 acres. That results in a 78% loss of all open and agricultural lands in the township. Do not the farmers who own those properties have any say in the matter? Yet Straban sneaked this by the public last Sunday with an article in the Hanover Sun, and voted to approve the plan on the next night! All done behind the chaos of the casino.

The state legislation that allows casinos contains language that allows the commission to totally ignore local ordinances governing land use. Obviously, Straban Township Supervisors would not object to anything that reduces green and open space, but what of the outcry this week by other citizens of this county? What of the loss of civil rights of the citizens of Pennsylvania to control what goes on in their own neighborhoods?

Since you both (Senator Punt and Representative Maitland) apparently had some foreknowledge of the possibility of a casino in Adams County (why else poll the voters about it last year?), why were the results of those polls not heeded? Adams County overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a casino here.

Isn’t anyone who holds elected office from or in this area listening?

Why are our legislators allowing runaway development here? It is not necessary. It is destroying the Adams County way of life. Citizens of township after township are fighting housing developers who want to put 400 or more houses in several locations in their townships. Liberty, Hamiltonban, and Mt. Joy, are dealing with developers, and Straban is actively courting anyone who can lay concrete, or asphalt.

As legislative representatives of the people of Adams County, why are you not defending the rights of your constituents? Why are you not assisting your constituents in defeating this outrage?

When you turn a deaf ear to the people, the people will turn from you. It is time to stop the arrogance of power pervading Harrisburg and Adams County. It is time to return Adams County to the people and keep it out of the hands of developer-loving politicians.

I, for one, am totally ashamed of my Republican Party for what it has, and is allowing to occur in this, one of the most sacred areas in our nation. We have been blessed with two industries here that provide for almost all the citizens of Adams County. Between the tourism generated from the National Park Battlefield (the history of the Battle of Gettysburg does not stop at the boundaries of the National Park here!), and the fruit industry in the northern part of the county, Adams County traditionally has one of the lowest rates of unemployment. We do not need development to bring jobs to this county! It is wholly unnecessary, and without any foundation in reality to say otherwise.

Throughout all of this, our elected representatives have been silent. And just as Pontius Pilate silently washed his hands of Jesus, so too will your silence condemn you as complicit.

Adams County needs more than an end to your silence, it needs a very visible political activism, and wielding of power the likes of which local politicians have never before experienced. Stop “representing” and start leading! Don’t be afraid to crush toes, or make enemies, If you lead, your constituents will follow, as long as you listen to their “will”. Maybe, just maybe, then, some of them will vote for you in the next election.

[Note: This letter was faxed to both Senator Punt and Representative Maitland, and emailed to the editors of the Gettysburg Times and the Hanover Sun on Friday, May 6, 2005. This blogger doesn't expect to see anything about it in print.]

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

GettysBLOG

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

07: “Straban Township, From First to Worst in a flash!”

Straban Township sits on the northeast shoulder of the borough of Gettysburg, and extends out from there for many miles to the north, northeast, east and southeast. It is currently about 70% agricultural, being responsible for much of the cattle, corn, wheat, and soybeans raised in Adams County. The staple of Adams County farm production is, of course, its fruit production. According to the official Adams County website, Adams County is first in the state in production of Apples and Peaches.

Further, the website states the county ranks 4th in wheat, and 5th in soybeans. It is 13th in dairy milking production and 17th in production of broiler chickens. Much of this production (except the fruit) comes from Straban township.

So why are the supervisors, “The Strabaddies”, trying to pave it over? “Hyperbole!” you say? Lay thy hands upon a copy of the Hanover Sunday Sun for May 1, 2005, and turn to the “Local News” section on page A-3. There, in glorious black and white you can see the headline: “Straban Develops Land-Use Proposal”. They even put a little “At-A-Glance” box next to the article, in which it states:

  1. “Open Space: 10,879.2 acres would fall into this designation, which includes both open space and agriculture. The proposal is a 78.3 percent decrease in open space and agricultural land…
  2. Residential: Straban would earmark 6,946 acres for residential growth, an increase of 239.8 percent from their last land use plan.
  3. Mixed Use: 1,542 acres of land which could be for either residential or commercial development.
  4. Economic: 2,275 acres are given this broad definition for areas including utilities, industry, and commercial growth.”

Most of the 10,763 acres devoted to Residential, Mixed and Economic development are coming out of the reduction of nearly 8,000 acres of current Open and Agricultural land. To see this graphically, turn to page A-8 and look at the map in which the proposed land use is coded by color. It should make your blood run cold.

There is such a thing as out-of control, or runaway development, but this is absurdly beyond that. This is an all-out assault on the richly productive farms in Adams County, specifically in one largely agricultural township. If it were not so moronically sick, it would be laughable. And, it was not without its warning signs.

Straban Township farmers got a taste of how their supervisors felt about them several years ago, when Straban invited Reliant Energy, and the new Adams County Prison facility to be built side-by-side, next to some very rich farms. During the height of a severe drought, these bright boys ordered test wells dug, and water pumped out of the ground to be simply dumped onto the surface, and nearby wells started drying up in twos and threes. At a subsequent township supervisor’s meeting the County Solicitor (read: lawyer), speaking with the disclaimer that he was neither a hydrologist nor a geologist, stood in front of the room and stated the test wells were not dug in the same water table as the farms’ wells. Oddly enough, the farther you went from the test wells, the fewer the farm wells that went dry. Even more odd, once the test wells were finished, some of the farm’s wells recovered. But the farmer’s anger at the meeting received only lip service, some free pity, and a firm stand behind “What he said!”.

“The Strabaddies” have learned their lessons the hard way, however, having been dealt defeat on a WalMart Distribution Center near the Hunterstown exit of US 15, and defeat of a WalMart Superstore on the 42 acre lot where the new Casino is planned. Under cover of the gathering storm of protest over the planned Casino, "The Strabaddies" sneaked their new land use plan past the public on a Sunday, one day before they were to vote on it at a meeting, where it was, of course, approved.

Perhaps national politics has created a phenomenon on the local level, and perhaps voting has become more complicated than it once was. In Adams County, its doubtful that more than a few split a ticket. But to overcome the vacuous greed, and propensity for the destruction of the Adams County way of life displayed by "The Strabaddies", among others, they need to be voted out of office, or, even better, subjected to immediate recalls. All of them, including the County Commissioners are complicit in this ravaging by the local developers. Adams is a solidly red county that needs to turn, not blue, but green.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

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Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 02, 2005

06: “Casino Royale flush, Part 2 - That 42 Acre Tract Again!"

Continued from: 05: “Casino Royale flush!, Part 1 – The Insult"

The ever developer-friendly, anti-agriculture Straban Township Supervisors (known here as “The Strabaddies”) and their rubber stamp Zoning Board, have already overseen the paving of 40% of Straban’s once fully farm-covered township.

Once before, "The Strabaddies" have been involved in the same 42 acre plot on which Bob Monahan and David LeVan wish to build their Casino and Spa. A few years back, "The Strabaddies" and the great WalMart Corporation wanted to allow WalMart to construct a superstore (a WalMart with a grocery section) on the 42 acres. The problem then was an adjoining 14 acre parcel which once housed a Federal Communications Commission antenna farm. WalMart needed it to make a nice, neatly shaped plot of ground for its store, and Straban owned the plot. Easy enough, swap for it. Here is where "The Strabaddies" got into trouble.

The 14 acres was to be transferred to Straban under the Federal “Lands to Parks” program, where local municipal entities could obtain former, unneeded Federal land by meeting some criteria first. In order to take ownership of the 14 acre plot, Straban had to jump through a number of hoops for the Federal Government. First, they had to pay for and conduct a survey of the property. No problem. Then they had to develop a plan for either recreational or educational use for the property. Next, they had to budget for the development and continued use of the property. Finally, Straban Township had to promise to keep the property forever (in perpetuity). "The Strabaddies" apparently satisfied the Feds and the property was transferred to Straban Township. The township now had a 14 acre park, but it still had to develop it as a park and administer it as a park.

Instead, WalMart, and "The Strabaddies" went, hat in hand, to the National Park Service, who apparently administered the transfer, asking to lift the ban on transferring title to the property so that they could arrange a land swap deal with WalMart. In exchange, WalMart would construct a couple of ball fields in back of their store.

One question never answered was when WalMart first approached the township about building there and needing the plot, and when "The Strabaddies" filed for the “Lands to Parks” parcel.

When the question surfaced, WalMart could not get out of town fast enough, and the person who asked the question received visits from some retired law enforcement personnel…innocuous visits, but a message was sent. The Gettysburg newspaper was complicit in this as they were the recipients of the question, yet never published anything about it in their paper. Yet someone got a personally delivered message from, well, from someone involved.

Apparently they were foiled in their plans to not have to do anything with the property except turn it over to WalMart in exchange for “a couple of ball fields”.

It is two years later and little has been done on the 14 acre tract that is supposed to be a recreational or educational park. "The Strabaddies" tried unsuccessfully to get the Borough of Gettysburg’s Recreation Commission to administer the park, but that was shot down.

Now, we have LeVan and Monahan who want to build their Casino on the same plot that WalMart had designated as their location for their Superstore.

Think about that. A casino. Next to a recreation park. Gambling on one parcel, while children play ball next door. Alcohol is served copiously and in many cases complimentarily to persons who are engaged in gambling.

Is that an ideal scene you have in your mind? While most of the folks who are attracted to the casino will be good, decent folks, gambling does have its darker elements, and addicted gamblers are susceptible to all kinds of pressures. Addictive personalities are usually addicted to more than one thing, as well. Add liquor to the mix, and you have an incendiary combination.

Go to Las Vegas and tell me if you see kids around. They are tucked safely out of sight of the casinos, and with good reason.

Frankly, my skin crawls at the thought of importing people like that here to Gettysburg for the return on the money, and ultimately putting our children at great risk.

That is the second insult in this deal…the first was despicable, this one is simply negligent carelessness, thoughtlessness at best. Greed consumes "The Strabaddies", the Adams County commissioners and the developers of Adams County. They become blind to the dangers, promise the moon, and will deliver little but headaches, high taxes, increased traffic, and danger to Adams County. It will no longer be a safe place to live, if not for the gamblers and such attracted by the casino, then simply by the traffic which is bound to increase. How many day-visitors to the casino will be leaving after a good time losing their money while getting drunk on the complimentary booze – only to spill out onto Adams County highways in that condition!?

Think about these things, Adams County. You CAN stop this nonsense. It starts with simply making your voice heard. Pressure your Representatives. Start showing up at Township and County government meetings and telling them you oppose the casino, and the development. Then back that up in the next elections. Find out who opposes these issues and who supports them. But for God’s sake, don’t let them risk your children like this.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

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Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

05: “Casino Royale flush! Part 1 – The Insult”

I suppose it was only a matter of time before things would come to a head. Recent newsprint articles in the Gettysburg Times and the Hanover Evening and Sunday Sun discuss the proposed construction and operation of a “Casino and Spa Resort” adjacent to the currently under construction Convention Center Complex, at the US 15 and US 30 interchange.

The somewhat shortsighted perspective of some members of a Gettysburg preservation group actually point up the major problem with this new effort. The member said, in effect, that the casino would attract more visitors here for the history. Hello? They will decidedly not be coming here for the history. They will be coming here to gamble. They will be coming here to enjoy the spa part of this development. The problem with this kind of short-sightedness is that it does not face the reality of how this will go down. The Casino and Spa will be built, the masses will come, for a while, and then they will learn that Gettysburg essentially rolls up its sidewalks at night, and there will be nothing to do for entertainment. With the Battlefield closing at sundown, there will be nothing to do except eat or go to one of the nearly 20 movies screens in the area. Or go somewhere else. The member mentioned that all Atlantic City has is gambling and the beaches. Well, that is not quite correct. Nearly all of the casinos in Atlantic City have live entertainment shows, top stars, and so on, that headline their casinos nightly. Gettysburg’s casino and spa will not have that, unless they plan to include it as part of the casino package. Even then, it will likely be limited, and of much lesser quality than what you can see in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, or Branson City.

It is wrong for Gettysburg to build a casino here, for so many reasons, some of which conflict politically with the political powers that are pushing this effort. The Republicans control the politics in Adams County. In pushing for the casino, they will be faced with voters who have already expressed themselves with overwhelming decisiveness that their values do not include hosting a casino. But, if you enjoy dancing, re-read the newsprint articles from the past week and see what the County Commissioners and the Straban Township Supervisors (“The Strabaddies”) have to say. Shuffles, two-steps, and some downright waltzing going on there.

In polls conducted by the local legislative representatives, more than 2/3 of the people polled (eligible voters) said “NO” to gambling in Adams County. The difference between then and now is that the figure of $10 million is being waved in front of the faces of Adams County voters.

What a despicable insult. Values are values, and they are NOT for sale at any price, unless, of course, you happen to be a politician or a developer in Adams County.

It is wrong to advance the casino project because it is wholly and completely out of step with the character of Adams County. Between “The Strabaddies”, and the Adams County Commissioners, no parcel of green is safe from being dug up, blasted, moved around, eminent domained, macadamized, built upon, or otherwise obliterated. Even articles in the paper that point to increased flooding (not just the risk of flooding, but actual occurrences of severe flooding) due directly to increased development, will stop these folks from paving this agricultural ground over. Apparently, some of them see Adams County as some future megalopolis, home to millions of people, most of whom work elsewhere.

“The Strabaddies” recently released a map of future plans for their enormous township. A township that at one time was almost 100% agricultural, and now is less than 60% agricultural. Their map makes no effort to hide their nefarious plans to pave over that remaining 60%.

To be continued in:

06: “Casino Royale flush” Part 2 – That 42 Acre Tract Again!

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04: "Taken Away in Handcuffs"

First the good news. Adelphia is (hopefully) on its way out of the area, soon to be replaced by Comcast. Comcast owns systems west of Adams County and north of Adams County. Directly east there is at least one major system, Suscom, in York County, but across the river to the east in Lancaster County, Comcast rules. So it makes sense that Comcast will replace Adelphia in Adams County. We are still awaiting a response to a query made to Comcast’s Communications Department to confirm this information. One early news article of the Time Warner/Comcast buyout of Adelphia did indicate that the Adams County’s Adelphia system would convert to Comcast, but later news articles seemed to retreat from that statement.

Lest you think this is an entirely good thing, I should warn you that Comcast has raised its rates four or five times in the past few years. They tend to be a bit more expensive than Adelphia, but, hey, you get what you pay for. (Except from Adelphia). They have recently had Internet problems throughout their system that cost customers days of online access (Comcast is apparently adjusting its bills accordingly), and which Comcast blamed on a “memory leak”.

This blogger recognized problems with Adelphia in 2001 when they first took over the old G&S Communications backbone out of Frederick, Maryland. G&S had small-system problems from time to time (like no one on duty on weekends, and evenings, which is when most disruptions seem to at least become apparent, if not actually occur). But all-in-all, G&S tried, which is totally more than you could say about Adelphia. Adelphia set up online newsgroups for customers of both their Internet Cable Access and their Cable TV system to post issues, complaints, questions and comments, etc. Newsgroups are almost like bulletin boards, in that everyone can see them, and can respond to what someone else says, but not in the near-realtime mode that bulletin boards do. Newsgroups can take anywhere from two minutes to several hours to actually place your “post” for all to see. The Adelphia newsgroups were monitored by several Adelphia employees, ostensibly from their customer service department. A few decently tried to help because when Adelphia took over, they attempted to change the way things were done technically, and they ran into no end of trouble trying to accomplish it. I’ll be the first to admit, many of the customers were not very nice. Some were downright vulgar. Most were irate over some problem or another, usually doing with connectivity, download speed, or email problems, and there were serious, ongoing problems for many months. But some of the Adelphia techs who posted responses to the customers were absolutely brutal. “If you don’t like it, go back to dialup!” was one tech’s response to slow speeds and no connectivity complaints. Others were not as nice. Some were even more vulgar than the customers, if you can believe that. I’ve been around a while, and I was astonished at the language used to abuse Adelphia’s own customers by their own employees. The treatment was rude, abrasive, abusive, vulgar and absolutely shocking. At once, if you think about it, the thought should occur to you that “this company is in trouble”. It did to me, and as the months wore on and the abuse of the customers continued, the thought became a dead certainty, and I posted such thoughts (earning abuse directed at myself, of course).

Well, as things turned out, time and the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission proved me correct, and in July of 2002, the SEC indicted Adelphia founder John Rigas, and three of his sons, along with two senior executives (at least one of which was married to one of Rigas’ daughters) on fraud and corruption charges. Separately, Adelphia (the corporation itself) filed anti-trust lawsuits against Rigas, his sons, his wife, and in-laws, all of whom were allegedly involved in the total rape of the Adelphia Corporate accounts. The SEC got its convictions and sentencing is scheduled for later this summer. All in all a sad tale of greed and corruption from the family of a man who started Adelphia in the early 1950s with a single movie theater in Coudersport, PA, and built a Cable TV empire by the end of the 20th century.

It remains to be seen how Comcast will perform. No cable system is without its detractors, and no cable system is without its problems. Takeovers, such as what we in Adams County will be facing soon, are always difficult and full of problems. Thankfully, they are usually short-lived.

So, the bad news is that you should expect some problems, perhaps even some degradation of service on the part of Adelphia as employees with questionable futures continue to run the systems. Adelphia is already diminishing their quality on the television end of things, with locally inserted commercials so loud they are distorted, and on the Internet with an inability to handle email SPAM filters properly. Expect these problems to carry over in any takeover transition.

Still, we should all keep our collective fingers crossed that this does not become one of those “better the devil you know, than one you don’t” situations. For my part, I do not think that to be the case. But, as always, the jury is out for now.

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

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Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.