Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Recent Gaffe

Politico has reported today that Majority Leader Reid, in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, made the statement that Senator Kennedy’s death would be an aid to them. Below is a link to the Politico article.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0909/Reid_Teddys_death_going_to_help_us.html

Honduras – What it means to us?

Honduras

We all remember the big media blitz surrounding President Obama and his “friendly” encounter with the President of Venenzuela Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas. We also remember President Obama refusing to intervene or make a statement regarding the atrocities that occurred in Iran surrounding their recent elections. I mention these two scenarios because it clearly sets a foundation for the agenda that our President is trying to establish. In terms of Iran, he saw it necessary to not intervene or make a statement until very late in relation to the violence resulting from their elections. Mr. Chavez is a known Socialist. In February Mr. Chavez won a referendum to eliminate term limits for his office. This allows him to push his socialist agenda and transformation for a long time to come. Mr. Chavez has a close relationship with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya who was recently arrested by the militia and basically removed from power. What was the reason for this? Mr. Zelaya was doing the same thing as Mr. Chavez. He was trying to change the country’s consitution so that he can not be bound my term limits. Many in Honduras believe him to be trying to also push a socialist agenda within the country. His close relationship with Mr. Chavez would be an indication, just for starters. You may be asking where does the United States fit into this picture? How does this say anything about us as a nation? The answer is very obvious. President Obama has spoken out against President Zalaya being removed from power, and in fact has gone as far as to declare that as far as the United States is concerned, Mr. Zelaya is still President. It is my opinion that this speaks volumes about the mindset of our President and who he decides to have a relationship with. He refused to intervene when Iran was undergoing such terrible violence in the streets. However, he feels necessary to speak in support of a man that was trying to change the constitution to fit his own socialist agenda. You are who your friends are and I think President Obama’s relationships with men who are pushing a socialist agenda in their own country, speaks volumes as to what we can expect in our country if we allow this administration another term.

911 Dispatcher & Air Traffic Control – Professions of Honor, Professions of Criticism

This comparison of 2 different professions with so many negative similarities may ask more questions than it does reveal answers but they need to be asked. How is it that we are protected on a daily basis by the actions of 911 Dispatchers and Air Traffic Controllers(ATC) but we still want to criticize when a situation doesn’t turn out the way we would like it to have? Why is it that we only hear the flaws and errors in reference to these 2 professions in an imperfect world, but the countless times the folks that sit behind the headsets are not congratulated for the hard work and the service they provide? Do we do enough as citizens to lift up and support those that sit behind the headsets 365 days a year to keep us safe? Just think for a moment about a world without the skilled and brave that serve in these 2 capacities. It is very scary to even entertain that thought.

You may say that I am biased having sat behind the headset as a 911 Dispatcher for 5 great years of my life, but that is far from the truth. Because, you see, I do not believe that the dispatchers or the controllers are without flaw. It happens, everyone is capable of making mistakes. Does it happen that the mistakes made by employees in either capacity can be at the worst possible time, yes. However, the reason that is true isn’t coincidence. It is that these people face crisis every day of their lives. They face “close calls” each and every day. When a police officer is requiring backup in an emergency situation, who is it that coordinates and sends that assistance. It is the dispatcher. Now let me also tell you that there may be several other emergencies requiring assistance from that dispatcher at the same time. Citizens and the media are not always aware of that, but it needs to be understood. When a health and physical education teacher calls after their father suffers a heart attack and is not breathing and ironically cannot remember CPR, it is the 911 Dispatcher that is able to calmly talk the frantic into a situation to provide the best possible care until arrival of emergency responders. Sounds extreme, but I can tell you from first hand experience it happens. It is not until after the call, or after the shift that the dispatcher has to grapple with the emotions of another tough day from a world that demands so much. 911 Dispatchers and Communication Centers as a whole are constantly in the news. It is uncommon to go a month without hearing a story about something that went wrong in our emergency system that we demand so much from. However far less common are the stories about heroism and professionalism in the face of intense pressure and crisis. We do a great job as citizens of recognizing National Telecommunicator Week each year and we watch local news stories spotlighting the dispatcher career. Thank God that we have that week each year to honor the men and women behind the headset. However is that enough? Do we do enough to ensure that these men and women get the support that they deserve? I am of the opinion that we do not. There should be far more stories of honor and professionalism in the media. In many respects the profession is viewed as a thankless one. We owe it to those that serve and protect us.

In respect to Air Traffic Control we see much the same thing. We hear regular criticism in the media of problems and errors that are encountered because of an error by an overworked controller. Rarely do we hear the stories of the potentially fatal accidents that are avoided because of the skill and quick reaction time of the Air Traffic Controller. Controllers routinely are faced with an airspace that is filled with aircraft. Each going a different speed, a different altitude, and a different direction. The professionalism and skill of the Controllers enable them to handle these situations rather easily and without any problems. Some would say that they silently perform their tasks. However what isn’t silent is the media’s criticism of them when things do not go as planned. I recently read a Washington Post article that talked about the disaser of the Trooper 2 medevac with the Maryland State Police. This was a terrible tragedy. The events as they were detailed in the article is that the weather that fateful night was very bad. It made for tremendously difficult flying conditions. As the aircraft took off from the accident scene with the patient on board they realized that they were not going to be able to make it in to the hospital as planned. They then were forced to divert and attempt to land at their hangar at Andrews Air Force Base. Typically medevacs fly in VFR conditions. This means they are able to fly by sight and not require ATC assistance in navigation. They are alerted of potential targets, or other aircraft that may pose conflicts in their route, and instructed how to avoid them. This particular night upon arrival at the airport Trooper 2 requested assistance in landing. The lone controller in the tower that night had not been trained in how to properly instruct the aircraft in landing. Trooper 2 ended up disappearing from radar and crashing in a heavily wooded area. This scenario is certainly one that should be examined. During the course of the night there were several areas that, if we were able to turn back the clock, could have gone differently. There are many teaching opportunities to improve our ATC system, and improve the overall safety of our airways. It is my belief that we should learn from the overall scenario, and not focus on the individual errors without offering anything to improve the situation and avert future tragedies. What I am asking is for a more understanding society. One that lifts up instead of tearing down. There are far more positives and acts of heroism than errors and tragedy.

Where do we go from here? How do we, as a society, learn to be more understanding? We as readers and viewers of media outlets tend to place blame and expose areas of weakness in both 911 Dispatching and Air Traffic Control. It is my belief that the main reason for that is because so many people depend on the services provided by men and women in both of these professions. They truly are taken for granted. Unconsciously we get up each morning and go about our day hoping that we are able to safely navigate our day. In the unfortunate circumstance of an emergency situation arising, we just know we can call 911 and someone will be on the other side of the phone to handle our problem without flaw. In a majority of the scenarios that is exactly what happens. That doesn’t mean that the dispatcher is perfect and the system will never fail our situation. It happens. Does it make it any more understandable to the victim of the unfortunate circumstance? Could someone have done something to make our emergency crisis turn out in a more positive manner, possibly yes, but possibly not. That said, there are situations that happen that are tragic, but what they do is provide a learning experience for those involved to improve the overall performance of our system. 911 is better for it. We are better for it. We board an airplane without really thinking about the Air Traffic Controller. We just take it for granted that there will be someone there to guide the plane around potential hazards and most of the time they do. However there are the rare circumstance that the system fails our circumstance and it doesn’t happen. It is very tragic and normally has fatal consequences. The FAA can use these tragic circumstances to learn and teach Controllers to improve the system and result in our airways being safer. I believe that is exactly what happens. But we are unconsciously trained to point blame at a particular agency, or a particular controller because of an error that may have been out of their control in the first place. I am in no way looking for excuses to these unfortunate circumstances. However, I do believe that we do not get up on a particular day without risk and chance. Our lives are in the hands of people that we meet and depend on every day. I just ask that we be understanding and not add to the stress that the professionals in each of these 2 professions face. They are under intense scrutiny and pressure. By being critical and not adding anything positive to an already difficult situation is not constructive. In fact it hinders the effectiveness of our systems in which we place our lives. It is my hope that we are able to make a conscious effort to understand these 2 professions, and celebrate the heroism and success of those that have decided to serve us, and protect us in such an honorable way.

Letter to the Editor

Check out my letter to the editor printed in today’s Patriot News.

http://www.pennlive.com/letters/index.ssf/2009/08/legislators_would_do_well_to_r.html

Overdrawn Accounts Via Debit Cards??

Recently there have been many articles published in the media about banks allowing customers to overdraw their bank accounts when making debit card transactions. I do not see it that way. Having worked in a bank call center I am familiar with this problem.

What consumers do not realize is that, in many cases, it is not the debit card transaction that overdraws the account. What happens is the account holder does not keep a properly balanced checkbook. The consumer will have outstanding checks that have not cleared the account. The consumer then goes out and uses his or her debit card to make purchases that they really do not have the money available in their bank account to cover. Since the debit card transactions are posted to the account first the money in the account is allocated for those purchases. Then the outstanding check that was written previously is posted to the account and causes an overdraft. Had the account holder been keeping a balanced checkbook, they would have been aware that the funds were not available to allow for the debit card transactions. Contrary to what is commonly written, including the below linked article, banks are not purposefully allowing overdrafts because of debit card transactions. They are required to pay debit card transactions as they come in because they cannot be returned as checks can be. Therefore it is actually the checks that overdraw the account in instances where the outstanding check is presented against the account after the debit card transactions are posted even though the checks were written first. The bank does not know what checks are outstanding.

The solution to this problem is simple. In order to avoid overdraft fees and the problem of returned checks, regularly balance your checkbook. When a check is written, deduct it from the available balance so that you have an accurate available balance. Are there banks out there that do allow customers to overdraw their accounts on debit card transactions? Possibly, but I can speak for the bank where I worked and it was very common to have customers making debit card transactions that depleted the funds in their account and then an outstanding check would be posted against the account which caused an overdraft. There were, of course, insufficient funds fees associated with that and in addition to that the customer had the problem of having a check returned and may face repercussions from the presenter.

To view the related article cut and paste the following link into your browser:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/opinion/20thu1.html

The Circus of PA Politics

The shenanigans continue in the Pennsylvania budget battle. Today the Senate Republicans attempted to override the previous blue line vetos to SB850. This was done in the name of putting Pennsylvanians first. In reality what it did do was successfully waste a day that could have been used on something more constructive. The Senate Republicans had to know going into today that the chances of gaining a 2/3 majority, which is required, to override the vetos wasn’t likely. In fact they only managed to sway 1 Democratic vote. So once the override attempt failed, the Senate Republicans attempted to go back and introduce each item individually. Senator Orrie chastised Governor Rendell as someone that has voluntarily elected not to fund programs to assist victims of domestic violence and rape. When in actuality, what happened was that Governor Rendell decided to keep funding from SB850 so that those providing essential Governmental functions would be paid. This was clearly not an attempt to leave anyone out. It certainly did not signal that Governor Rendell was voting against these victims of such terrible abuses. Senator Corman made the argument that the lines where the Senate Republicans and Democrats agree on a funding amount should be overriden and adopted. I see one clear problem with this approach. The Senate Republicans are not willing to vote for any new revenue generators. Having said that, if you begin to adopt lines in the budget where there is currently an agreement to funding values, you are bound to disagree on when to vote on certain areas and those areas that are left for last are bound to not be properly funded. The money would run out prematurely. The Senate Republicans are playing political games at the expense of the citizens. Instead of spending 6+ hours debating frivilous things where the results are apparent, the time could have been used productively negotiating and working on solutions to this long overdue budget.

Another political area that has created a stir recently is in reference to the Republican candidates for Governor. Rep. Jim Gerlach the Republican candidate will likely be facing current Attorney General Tom Corbett in the Republican primary. Rep. Gerlach has been in the news calling for Attorney General Corbett to either step down as Attorney General and focus on the campaign, or announce his attentions to not run for Governor. AG Corbett recently held a fundraiser however he has not publically anounced his candidacy for Governor. Corbett is also facing some scrutiny for his handling of the “Bonusgate” scandal. When the initial round of indictments were about to be announced, AG Corbett implied that both Republicans and Democrats were going to be indicted. However, thus far only Democratic legislators and some staff have been indicted. Some say this is a politically motivated move. I tend to agree with that assertion. What confirmed my theory on that was when AG Corbett came out yesterday and stated that he never promised to pursue members of the Republican party. This is such a farce and certainly proves a conflict of interest does exist. Someone with political aspirations should not be in a position where they are able to exert political influence. This simply does not make sense and is ethically wrong.

Pennsylvania politics are certainly enduring turbulent times. This Commonwealth is on the verge of seeing major implications as a result of neglect and inability to conduct the duties the legislature were elected to do. President Obama ran on the platform of change during his Presidential campaign. Pennsylvania needs a candidate to run on much the same platform. True reform is necessary in these tough times. We are living in a state that is headed down the wrong path for a plethera of reasons. We need to elect lawmakers that are able to put real people in front of a political agenda. Thus far this has not been happening during this prolonged budget season. There are plenty of areas of neglect on both sides of the aisle in all 4 caucuses including the Governor’s administration. The time is now to get down to the people of Pennsylvania’s business. Partisan politics and political posturing has to stop. The people of Pennsylvania deserve much better!

Intense Town Halls

Recently we have witnessed extreme anger over the health care debate. This is anger that, I believe, even President Obama did not expect. Some have said that a failure of the Obama Administration to pass health care reform could spell failure for his overall administration. The backlash over the possibility of a public health care option has made even the non-political angry as we witnessed at Senator Arlen Specter’s townhall meeting in Lebanon, PA. Why so much anger over this proposal? Why is this debate driving so many Americans out in droves to attend the town hall meetings?

It is my belief that Americans are beginning to see the potential for Governmental control in every aspect of their life and they will not stand for it. We have witnessed the control of the financial institutions. We have witnessed the government takeover of the auto industry. And now Americans are seeing an attempt by this administration of taking over their health care. Does health care need reform? Of course it does. However taking control of it and eliminating a competitive market is not the answer. It is obvious that private companies will not be able to compete with a government run public option. Small businesses will not be able to offer a dependable insurance plan due to compete. The Government will be able to offer a cheaper insurance plan than the private industry is able to. As a result, we will see a migration from the private insurance plan into the public plan. Therefore, small businesses especially will be forced to give up coverage of their employees and turn them over into the hands of the Government for coverage.

Rasmussen polls have shown that the majority of Americans are happy with their existing coverage. Per Rasmussen, 57% disapprove of a single payer public health care option. These are the people that are coming out to the town hall meetings. This begs to question then why has the Obama Administration continued to try to force this public option down our throats? It just doesn’t make good sense. I agree that some of the anger being shown at the town hall gatherings are completely out of line. It is getting to the point that it is bordering on dangerous. We have the news footage of the video of the man standing outside of one of the meetings with a gun strapped to his side with a sign indicating that the time is right to water the tree of liberty. This is an allusion to a quote by Thomas Jefferson in which he was referring to the blood of patriots or tyrants refreshing the tree of liberty. This is a scary scenario that had begun to develop. I don’t believe that a public health care option is truly worth the risk it was beginning to cause. That is why I was glad to hear that President Obama came out and stated that a public option was not a mandatory requirement for health care reform to progress.

I believe that compromise is possible. I would love to see members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate work together in a bipartisan fashion to accomplish true reform. This would be to the benefit of all Americans. I understand that President Obama is beginning to catch some backlash from members of his own party because of his recent announcement. I truly feel though that taking the public option off the table is the safest thing to do at this time. Democratic Senators were facing intense pressure at the town hall meetings and reform can still be accomplished without using a public health care option to do it. The anger that was brewing wasn’t an asset for The United States and I hope that President Obama realized that and will stand beside his latest announcement.

Parenting – One Approach

425636_father_and_son

Parenting can be one of the most challenging endeavors that a person can undertake. There are so many pressures and statistics working against the lessons that are taught at home. I am a relatively new parent, and by no means have a monopoly on all of the good ideas when it comes to parenting. I do however, have a few key values that I try to instill in my son, Peyton. These are values that I feel will lead to Peyton growing into a respectful young man and someone that is always respectful of others. These values start with a strong faith in God. I hope that Peyton will grow up to love the Lord and strive to live a life pleasing to him. Another value that I feel to be of vital importance is a love for family. I believe that it is important for children to grow up with a close relationship with their parents and to not be afraid to communicate their feelings to their parents. Too many times I see families where there are certain topics that are not discussed between parents and children. This leads to the child being forced to make important decisions on their own without the necessary guidance from a parental figure. I want Peyton to respect authority and realize the importance of being polite and compassionate about things he believes strongly in. It is important to have an identity that is unique. I hope to encourage Peyton to develop his own identity under the guidance of the examples that Wendy and I have set for him at home. These are just a few of the values that I deem to be important. Having said that, it is necessary to have a structured method of instilling these values.

I like to use the analogy of a builder about to build a house. I view parents as being the ones to purchase the tools to place in the toolbox. The toolbox being the childs inner being. The house that is to be built is reflective of the decisions the child makes in his life. The final product, or home, to be presented to the new owners, or grandchildren, are the values that the child decides to live upon and instill in his children. It is up to the builder, or child, what kind of house he decides to build with the tools given. Too often I feel that parents believe they have somehow failed their children if their children don’t turn out the way they have hoped. To some extent that is true. If you neglect to purchase the necessary tools, or neglect to put them in the toolbox you cannot expect to have a finished product that is pleasing to you. However I feel that if the right tools are purchased and are placed in the toolbox it is up to the child to use those tools wisely to make a finished product that he or she will be proud of. Being the purchaser of the tools does not mean the builder will build a beautiful home. You can lead the child down the road to success, but at the end of the day it is up to the child to get there.

Parenting is a very challenging but rewarding experience. Watching your child grow and develop is one of the most enjoyable experiences that a person can have in life. The challenges are out there. However by realizing what type of house you wish for your builder to build is an excellent starting point. It allows you to make careful and thoughtful decisions when picking out the necessary tools and placing them in the toolbox. That way at the end of the day, you can say that you have done everything possible to ensure a beautiful finished product that the builder and future tenants will be proud of.

Drunk Driving – Who’s to Blame?

WV-Field-Sobriety-Test150

Recently the world heard about another terrible tragedy as a result of drunk driving. Diane Shuler of Long Island, NY loaded her 2 year old daughter and her 3 nieces into her vehicle after having consumed far too much alcohol and under the influence of controlled substances. After driving the wrong way and crashing her vehicle into another, 7 lives were lost as result of her negligence. All 5 in her vehicle and 2 in the vehicle she struck were killed. Her husband has refused to admit that she could have had a problem with alcohol. I would think that it would be common to be in a form of denial after such a tragedy. Noone wants to believe that someone they care about could be the cause for such a tragedy. The extremely left leaning website http://www.salon.com recently published an article trying to rationalize what happened. The truth is there isn’t a logical rationale for it. Drinking and driving is simply wrong. There is no way around that. Did Mrs. Shuler get in the vehicle with the intent to kill, of course not but it should be deduced that this kind of tragic ending could occur.

There has been a lot of debate as to whether Alcoholism is truly a disease that cannot be helped. Proponents of this belief tend to put a victim face to their alcoholism. They tend to act as if they are innocent people that have been stricken with the undesirable fate of alcoholism. Whether or not that is the case doesn’t excuse the behavior of getting behind the wheel after having consumed alcohol. To compound the problem, Mrs. Shuler was also under the influence of drugs per the toxicology report. The fact that drunk driving occurs in our world far too often doesn’t excuse it occuring as this article on salon.com seems to suggest.

We could debate at length the issue of drunk driving. It simply is wrong and those caught of engaging in such a behavior should be punished to the furthest extent of the law. Let’s stop making excuses for these perpetrators and start focusing more on how to avoid it occuring in the first place. Innocent lives are being lost while we try to logically explain why this happens. I apologize for sounding heartless in regards to this topic, but it is something that is just so senseless and should never happen. If you are going to go out and have a good time that is perfectly fine with me. All that I ask is for the sake of those innocent lives that may be on the roadway at the same time, please have the responsibility of ensuring that you have a ride home. Please do not try to kid yourself that you are able to drive and are not impaired. It is not worth the risk, and more importantly not worth risking the lives of the innocent that just happen to be sharing the road with you.

http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2009/08/12/diane_schuler/

Senator Corman Continues to Amaze

160px-Corman_flagAs state employees begin to receive the worst of news that they have lost their jobs, Senator Corman continues on his carefree attitude in regards to the matter. You may recall that when asked about the potential layoffs that Governor Rendell was saying were down the road of no new revenue, Senator Corman made the statement that the Commonwealth is not a staffing agency. When being interviewed today about the budget stalemate and the fact that state employees are being laid off as a result of the budget impasse, he again reiterated that the state should be doing the maximum amount of work possible with the fewest number of employees possible. He says that legislators are there to represent the citizens of their respective districts who pay the salaries of state workers. I agree the legislature are there to represent their constituents. I believe sometimes the elected officials tend to forget that they are elected. Those same people that are feeling the pain of a budget impasse, are the ones that elect the leaders and place them in office. Senator Corman is fighting in the “name of his contituents”. However, look at the cost of this fight. State employees have been held hostage for a couple of weeks as a result of the budget impasse. Other state services will begin to feel the impact of a budget impasse very shortly. Education is one key area that is currently operating without state funding that they have come to count on. Obviously the state employees that have suffered for the last couple of weeks because of being forced to work without pay, and are now being told just after receiving their paycheck that they are now being laid off. A quick cost/benefit analysis would reveal that the costs to so many as a result of the Senate Republicans refusal to compromise is just not worth it.

One would think that, of all people, Senator Corman would be hesitant to lay off state workers because so many live in his district. Senator Corman represents a portion of both Centre and Perry Counties. Because of their close proximity to Harrisburg, many state employees live in that area. However, he has stood his ground in regards to no broad based tax increases. He repeated that message in his interview today with PCN. He said that the Senate Republicans would not settle on a budget that doesn’t spend less than last year, and that institutes a broad based tax increase. The interview brought to light a very important concept. It is certainly going to take compromise to work this difficult budget out. When asked about the compromise the Senate Republicans would be making, Senator Corman did not clearly answer the question. His idea of compromise is that they are willing to allow Governor Rendell to have some, not all, of the areas of spending that he proposed in his budget. That is simply not compromise. He is still placing demands that he believes need to be met. He should be coming to the negotiating table with a clean slate and work from there. He can use ideas as markers, but to build a wall around those core ideas is the wrong approach. That is not compromise, you could term it a “compromise with preconditions”. I agree that this Governor has spent much more than he ever should have and he is largely to blame for the position the state finds themselves in. However, at some point it is my view that the 2 bodies are going to have to give and meet in the middle. I have said in previous posts that I believe the House Democrats along with Governor Rendell have done that in reference to the drastic cuts they have levied upon this budget. That is compromise folks. At this point, it would be very wise for the Senate Republicans to begin to realize that the only way out of this hole is to concede to the tax increase as a method of generating the revenue to balance this budget. Just the fact that so many state workers live in Senator Corman’s district, one would think that those losing their job as a result of this impasse, would vote for change in the upcoming election. Politically speaking, that doesn’t speak well for Senator Corman. Overall, it does cast a dark cloud on this whole process and specifically upon the players in this budget impasse.

Governor Rendell will soon be out of office. By looking back upon his tenure as Governor of Pennsylvania, it should be obvious that he has not been a fiscally responsible Governor. Just looking at the level of spending and the inability to get a state budget passed on time in any of the previous years of this administration speak volumes to the ineptness in regards to fiscal policy. Having said that, I am of the opinion that the Republican controlled Senate should take the measures necessary to get this budget passed with the least amount of casualties. Governor Rendell previously proposed increasing the personal income tax .50% for a temporary period of 3 years to balance the budget. This would not have resulted in the layoffs that we currently are seeing in the state workforce. Would this hurt workers in Pennsylvania? Certainly, however it would not have as large an impact as losing jobs and facing stringent cuts to public services in the Commonwealth. The platform of true reform can begin when the next Governor is elected to office. If history repeats itself, we will see a Republican Governor in office to succede Rendell anyway.