Spector Never a Reliable Republican

jack_archibald_120The decision of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector said more about the Senator than it did about the Republican Party.  Of course, the GOP is in tough shape as the minority party in Congress particularly, well outnumbered in the Senate.  But the hoopla surrounding Spector’s decision should not be about the direction of the GOP, but the self-preservation tactic of the Senator.

Senator Spector was never a reliable Republican vote.  Long before he cast a decisive vote on the stimulus plan, Spector continually held the Republicans hostage over judicial nominees. The Senator generally calculated what is politically advantageous for himself prior to deciding what is best for his constituents.

His switch to the Democrat party is more of the same.  Instead of taking his record and putting before the Republicans voters of Pennsylvania, Spector read the polls and switched parties.  This is the second time in his political career that he has switched party affiliation, so it’s not as if the Senator holds some deep rooted beliefs.  His political advisors showed him polls that he was running well behind former Representative Pat Toomey in a Republican primary, so he grabbed the Democrat lifeline.

But even that doesn’t guarantee him a free pass.  The Senator may very well face a challenge in a Democrat primary.  At a news conference yesterday, Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Democrat Bob Casey, refused to endorse Spector.  That hardly seems a warm welcome to someone that has just given a filibuster proof majority to your party.

As the seventy nine year old Senator enters the twilight of his political career, his lasting legacy will be that he switched parties. His health has been failing over the past few years, and the Senator could have preserved his legacy by passing on another term.  Instead, he will be known for choosing political expediency and as a politician that was merely protecting his own interests.

Spotting Sea Stars at Sandy Hook

It was the last weekend of April, and oh what a weekend! For those of us who can’t wait for summer, this was the weekend to party. It was a little taste of summertime in April across the Jersey Shore. High temperatures climbed well above average and were in the mid to upper 80s; even 90 degrees in some locations. Average high temperatures should be around 65 degrees. Once more extreme weather conditions are challenging long standing historic records.

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(Finding a Sea Star recently at Sandy Hook)

On a hot and hazy spring afternoon, I decided to enjoy the great outdoors directly along the shore at Sandy Hook to try to cool off. What would you expect from an old beach bum!

My aim was to see if recent spring storms might have washed up anything interesting onto the beach. One of the great things about walking along the Jersey Shore is you never know what the sea might have dragged up. Owing to twice daily tidal action, every day is different.

Only a few hundred yards along on my walk along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and there it was. I spotted this spring’s first great find to add to my array of local beach collectibles.

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Mixed in with the sand and general ocean debris of different shells, seaweeds, and trash, were dozens of lifeless Forbes sea stars. I was excited.

As Chuck and Debbie Robinson declared in their book entitled, The Art of Shelling, “In spring, the Forbes’ Common Sea Star makes its appearance.” Sure enough, there they were in front of me by the dozen. Although sea stars can sometimes be seen alive suctioned to rock jetties and groins along the Jersey Shore, most people find them as I did, washed up resting in peace.

Anyone who has spent a prolonged time beachcombing as I have knows that many anonymous things can bring about the natural death of a sea creature. Stare long enough at the water and your mind will wander with a whole bunch of ideas.

I thought that perhaps the Sea Stars passed away due to the natural stratification of water in Sandy Hook Bay, with warmer water floating on top of colder water. Near the beginning of the month, water temperatures of Sandy Hook Bay and nearby coastal waters were in the 40s. Now, water temperatures were around the low 50s.

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(During its life, a sea star might lose an arm. This is all right, as the animal has the ability to regenerate its lost limb. They grow new arms to replace the lost ones. Not bad for a simple organism with no brain! )

The dynamics of temperature change in the bay never fails to amaze me, even more so when you consider the resiliency of resident aquatic life to endure relatively hasty variations in temperature, salinity, currents, and a host of other physical factors. Of course, I had begun to think that not every sea creature survives these changes. Those that don’t stay alive usually get washed up on the beach.

In any event, dozens of sea stars were washed in from the bottom of the bay. They still appeared beautiful and I became immediately fascinated by these unusually looking sea creatures.

You may want to call them Star fish, but guess what, you would be wrong. These creatures are not fish. In fact they have a body unlike any critter seen on land. Nowadays we call them sea stars, and one of my favorites is the Forbes’ Sea Star. It is probably the most common sea star along the Jersey Shore.

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Have you ever seen a sea star eat! It is an amazing activity. They literally stretch out their stomach through their mouth and inside a bivalve. The Forbes Sea Star has hundreds of suckered tube feet on the underside of each one of its five arms for gripping prey. The sea star is a carnivore that feeds chiefly on bivalve mollusks. When preying on an oyster, scallop, or clam, the sea star grips the bivalve’s shell and applies strong pressure to force it to open. By creating even a tiny gap, the sea star can slide its stomach through its mouth and inside the shell where it liquefies, absorbs, and digests the soft tissue of the bivalve. Once done with its meal, the sea star will swallow back its stomach, then releases its grip on the empty clam shell and drifts with the tide in search of another mollusk meal.

The other day, however, the sea stars I found at Sandy Hook were the main meal. As expected, there were hundreds of gulls feasting on the latest offerings of what the ocean had to serve up during low tide. Gulls love to eat sea stars plucked from the beach during low tide. Lucky for me I was able to gather a few sea stars before they become some gull’s late afternoon lunch.

Later on, the tide was running in fast and there was an offshore breeze blowing in. I knew I should have been heading home, but I found myself inclined to stay awhile and enjoy the wilderness experience near the north beach at Sandy Hook. It was a rout by the gulls eating greedily the sea stars.  Yet, it was also a classic example of a marine food chain in action.

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Next time you are at the beach this spring, make sure to look down every now and then. You might get a “Wow!, look at this,” type of moment. One piece of advice, though, never disturb or take home a live sea creature. If you would like something for your shell collection, look for one that has been washed up along the Jersey Shore after dying naturally. Preferably soon after a spring storm and when the weather is warm. Beachcombing is a whole lot easier then.

Change We Can Believe In

woody_zimmerman_118_2007President Obama is being lionized for completing the first 100 days of his presidency. Gushing media acolytes call it the “best presidency ever,” amid near-orgasmic puff-pieces on Michelle Obama as the hottest new supermodel and supermom. (Has she been on the most magazine covers ever? Is she the tallest first lady? OMG…)

A few more sober observers have noted that Mr. Obama has not actually done anything substantial yet, except spend a great deal of money, and propose to spend even more. His plans would produce trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see – resulting in a doubling of the national debt during his presidency. Only his failure to be re-elected in 2012 would stanch the flow of red ink.

My estimate, however, is that Mr. Obama has accomplished something great – indeed, that he has made good on his promise of “change we can believe in” in an unexpected way. Although analysts seem to differ on whether he meant to do it, what Mr. Obama has notably accomplished is to usher in a new tradition of criminalizing policy differences with the previous administration.

By long tradition, each new presidential administration wipes the slate clean and lets bygones be bygones over policy differences with the outgoing government. This tradition has even held when a previous administration has done actual mischief or vandalism that has hampered the new administration’s work. Such was the case when Bill Clinton’s staff vandalized computers and other equipment to bedevil George W. Bush’s people. Some White House furnishings and belongings had also been pilfered, but Mr. Bush declined to take any legal action that might bring retribution upon Mr. Clinton’s staff.

Questionable pardons given by President Clinton – e.g., to the fugitive commodities-trader and convicted felon Marc Rich – were also ignored by Mr. Bush. Current Attorney General Eric Holder was the lawyer who facilitated Mr. Rich’s pardon. Mr. Holder now calls his involvement in the matter “a mistake” which he regrets.

Mr. Obama declaimed during his campaign about the Bush administration’s “war crimes” – particularly with respect to “torturing” enemy combatants not clearly covered by the Geneva Convention. But the president appeared to back away from any punitive legal action once he was elected. This reticence was not necessarily shared by the Democrats’ far left fringe, many of which had been slavering for blood since early years of the Bush presidency. They looked forward to Mr. Obama’s ascendancy as a time of “reckoning” for the outrage of Mr. Bush’s “theft” of the 2000 election, his arrogant war against the peace-loving Saddam Hussein, his fractured syntax, and his “swaggering” Texas style, in general. (Besides that, Mr. Bush was a moron, and he drove a pickup truck, for heaven’s sake.)

Mr. Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on April 19th, stated that the president wanted to move forward, and did not wish to go back to the matter of the “enhanced interrogation practices” used on terrorist captives. Mr. Emanuel said this is “…a time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.”

But this reasoned, even-handed statement did not sit well with the far left Democrat fringe, from which howls of outrage quickly arose. Subsequently, Mr. Obama corrected Mr. Emanuel’s statement when he stated a few days later that no one is above the law. He indicated that he would leave to the Attorney General the determination of whether laws were broken, and by whom, in the “torture” matters. Mr. Obama stated his preference for a “truth commission” to bring out all salient matters. He also ordered the publication of formerly Top Secret memos detailing the practices used and the persons subjected to them.

Political analysts quickly sensed the new vibrations on retro-prosecutions of Bush administration officials – notably, of lawyers who wrote opinions justifying the use of the enhanced methods employed to extract information from prisoners. A furious public debate has thus ensued over whether officials who acted in good faith to protect the country should later be held culpable for apparent violations of laws, now that public sensibilities have changed – or, more correctly, now that parties offended by those actions have a sympathetic ear at high government-levels.

Some politicians currently declaiming about the “war criminals” who authorized waterboarding and the “insect-scare” method of torture (no! not that!) have been fingered as complicit in approving the interrogation methods now being denounced as torture. One of these is current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was in a bipartisan group of senior members of Congress who received preliminary briefings on the methods proposed, as early as 2002. One congressman from that group says he recalls Mrs. Pelosi asking if “enough was being done” to get the information we needed to protect the country. If she had any doubts about waterboarding, she certainly didn’t let on at the time. Perhaps this was because she – like millions of Americans – was scared to death that terrorists would hit another city and kill thousands more people. Somehow, fine points of interrogation “etiquette” didn’t seem very important right then.

Senior intelligence experts, including several former heads of the CIA and NSA, have also decried the release of the top secret memos, saying much damage could result with respect to our allies as well as our enemies. Neither of these, they say, will be impressed with our “openness” in releasing important information that should remain hidden. Our enemies will know how to prepare for future interrogations, and our friends will regard us as less trustworthy. These are not good prices to pay for making a few squeamish leftists feel righteous.

The question remains, however, of whether officials of a past administration should be prosecuted for crimes that really are policy differences. I admit to being ambivalent on it. As a conservative, I prefer to keep things as they have been, unless there is a powerful reason to change.

On the other hand, I can see strong reasons for establishing a new standard on retro-prosecutions of policy differences – particularly if the backward reach is not limited to the most recent past administration. After all, how can there be a statute of limitations on war crimes?

I have no doubt that certain officials of the Clinton administration could be held culpable for “violations,” considering what we now know and what our current attitudes are toward certain past events. Declining to capture Osama Bin Laden, when he was offered to us, might be a chargeable offense – i.e., “endangering the country” – for instance. The sordid destruction of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas – which cost the lives of 80+ men, women and children – could also be properly investigated.

Various crimes related to the start of the Vietnam War might also attach to the Johnson administration. Some of those people are still around. They ought to be held accountable. (After all, we’re still chasing Nazis, 65 years after WWII.)

Years of legal work could lie ahead for enterprising lawyers, many of whom are out of work. Indeed, whole new public-interest legal societies might emerge to handle the numerous retro policy crimes that could come to light.

I would envision establishment of a new Cabinet-level post to handle prosecution of past administrations for newly discovered crimes. The great thing about this would be how it would divert a new administration’s attention – and, by extension, the public’s attention. A new president might not attempt action on complex problems for years, while it cleaned up residual criminality from previous administrations. (This could actually save us a lot of money and trouble in the long run, as new presidents often have ambitious and very expensive plans.) The Truth Commission could become a standing committee – like the National Security Council – of each president’s government.

Of course, this would actually institutionalize partisanship, not diminish it. The great political prizes would become the heads of officials of former administrations. Positive programs or foreign interventions to help the country would take a back seat. The people would constantly be at each others’ throats, and few lawyers would want to risk working for an administration. But perhaps this is the price one has to pay for righteous government.

On the up-side, the media would love it. I say it’s an idea whose time has come – a stroke of true genius. This does look like Change We Can Believe In. No wonder people love the guy.

Obama: More Government and Taxes – Screw the Taxpayers

gordon_bishopThe leaderless President, Barack Hussein Obama, has committed the United States to a budget-breaking, multi-trillion dollar debt that has been hailed as the biggest “spending spree” in America’s history.

In fact, Obama, a product of the most corrupt city in America (Chicago), is committed to spending more money than all of the previous 43 Presidents combined, beginning with our founding President, George Washington.

Get used to it, folks! The majority of voters (53 percent) elected this liberal, socialist, Marxist “Commie” with the full godless blessings of the anti-American liberal media, which includes the crazy Hollywood whackos and the goofy entertainment industry as a whole.

You 53 percent fools who voted for Obama deserve what you get!

Stop crying and complaining that America has plunged into a deep and long Recession, which could wind up being like another 1930s Great Depression under liberal President Franklin Roosevelt, the father of the big government socialist “NEW DEAL.”

I call it the “Raw Deal” because I was born in 1938 near the end of the Depression.

It took the monster mobster Adolph Hitler to get America out of its socialist Depression by launching World War II.

What a sick surprise! — a Fascist dictator pulling America out of a liberal-socialist Depression in the late 1930s.

What America needs is another Ronald Reagan, an honest conservative who knew how to lead and reach all the people — Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians.

How Obama ever got elected is one of the biggest questions of the 21st Century.

Yes, the disgraced media created this character as someone who would uplift America with his two magic words: HOPE and CHANGE.

Hope, as any logical individual knows, is an “empty box.” And “Change” for the sake of “Change” just doesn’t do it for me.

The Wall Street stock market is still in the pits, having lost trillions and trillions of dollars since Obama was elected last November.

I’m just a little ole wordsmith who lost some $100,000. I do have friends, however, who lost millions — and will never get those millions back.

Meanwhile, the corrupt liberal media keeps conducting phony polls showing Obama getting 54 or 56 percent approval ratings.

Bull!

On the economy, his ratings are 48 percent.

It’s the economy, stupid!

Right now, it’s all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS AND MORE JOBS. . . .

The economy — not George W. Bush — is what this election is all about. Obama and his Marxist Chicago gang bashed, trashed, and all but destroyed the President who served 8 years and kept America safe and secure since the historic 9/11/01 attack on America by radical Islamic terrorists.

Obama is doing everthing he can (all wrong, of course) by wiping out all vestiges of Ronald Reagan and George Bush’s legacies.

Reagan gave America the longest winning economy without firing a single shot during the “Cold War” with the communist Soviet Union.

Have any of you noticed that former First Lady Hillary Clinton no longer wants Americans mentioning the “Global War On Terror.”

What does the corrupt Hillary think it should be called? “The Fight Against Extremists?”

I really can’t stomach those politically-correct, Far Left liberal Democrats. They got America into this mess, and Reagan got us out of it, only for them to come back and support a Marxist President from Chicago who’s ruining our economic system.

Not to mention our liberal-socialist education system, whose employees always vote for Liberal Left candidates for public office.

I sometimes wonder why I’m still an “American,” in the true sense of that patriotic meaning?

The Left doesn’t recognize Patriots. They honor socialist countries and their leaders throughout the world.

That’s why Europe and other socialist nations adore Obama. He’s one of them.

Obama, in his recent tour of Europe, called America (or Americans) “arrogant!”

Well, if this leaderless leader believes America (or Americans) are really “arrogant,” why doesn’t he move to his more friendly socialist countries?

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

I pray every day (unlike Marxists) that America will survive this leftist onslaught about to be transformed into a Marxist society.

The liberal media always characterize Obama as a “transformational” figure, almost comparing him to Jesus Christ, who was the last great world  leader who was, without a doubt, a “transformational” figure, like him or not.

Christ was willing to be crucified to save the human race. No other human being has done it before or after Christ.

Would Obama sacrifice his life to save humanity?

Forgettaboutit!

Yet the corrupt media worships Obama as if he were some kind of “Messiah.”

Enough said.

(Gordon Bishop is a ‘Who’s Who in the World’ award-winning author, historian, syndicated columnist and New Jersey’s first “Journalist-of-the-Year” — 1986/New Jersey Press Association.)

Middletown High School North Gets It Right

anne_mikolaySometimes, despite a school’s best efforts, a student production emerges a study in disorganization, impatience, and inflated egos. Not so at Middletown High School North. The school’s talent show, held on April 23rd, is proof that High School North consistently gets it right.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Search Club Talent Show, and marveled at the scope of the talent presented. Who knew there could be so many gifted students in one high school? The MCs for the evening, Jessica Albano, Meaghan Donovan, and Barry Travis, handled themselves with grace and confidence, and set the tone for the evening. During the inevitable equipment failures, Jessica and Barry entertained the audience with light-hearted banter, and transformed potentially irritating delays into spontaneous comedy.

The dance routines and drum performances were especially impressive. “Sweet Dreams,” the dance trio of Fiona DiGennaro, Kim Martinez, and Caitlin Antigua, definitely kicked things up a notch with an upbeat, flawless hip-hop routine. Their smiling faces and enviable energy were priceless. Ditto for the colorful “Blast from the Past” dance troupe of Jeralyn Fix, Amanda Svenson, Shannon Norton, and Joanna Picardo, who utilized props and 80s music to charm the audience.

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Middletown High School North talent show performers gather on stage on Thursday evening, April 23rd.

The moment sophomore Dan Puma took the stage and picked up his drumsticks, his stated goal of proving there is more to him than a guitar was achieved. Dan’s guitar skills are well known; Thursday evening, he demonstrated equal skill on the drums. This kid was amazing, as was the drum circle of Brandon Wood, Josh Linder and Eric Ficcara.

Perhaps, however, the best talent at the show never made it into the spotlight: the Search Club students who successfully produced the evening. Kudos to Director/Stage Manager John Bennett, Producer/Sound Engineer Pat MacLane, Assistant Stage Managers Pooja Kumari and Angela DeCristafano, Lighting Manager Lauren Cisneros, Spotlight Technicians Matt Corrado, Evan Heath, John Magliulo and Mark Tenenbaum, and Refreshment Manager Sarah Manaut. Under the direction of faculty moderator Heino Habeck, this crew pulled off a feat even an adult would find daunting.

Whether it was the playful teasing between MC Barry Travis and the talent show judges, Matt Corrado’s skillful lighting of the rap duo act “Curb Crew,” or the many chants and cheers from the audience as fellow students and friends took the stage, one thing was quite clear in that theater on Thursday night: Middletown High School North is all about camaraderie, family, and friendship. High School North tirelessly supports the artistic endeavors of its students, and exhibits an admirable commitment to the arts, and the community.

Indeed, Middletown High School North consistently gets it right.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

danvance_120In seven years of writing this column, I have twice mentioned my own challenges regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and, both times, mentioned it only in passing.

A National Institutes of Health website defines PTSD as an “anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.”

People with PTSD often experience the following: 1) re-experiencing symptoms, such as flashbacks, bad dreams, and nightmares; 2) avoidance symptoms, such as emotional numbness and avoiding events reminding the person of the initial trauma, and; 3) hyperarousal symptoms, which can include being easily startled and having trouble sleeping.

My symptoms technically don’t meet the official Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition for disability because I’ve learned to cope and have worked very hard at overcoming the disorder. However, many people haven’t had as much success and their symptoms rise to the level of a disability.

For years, I thought people with PTSD were just inventing stories to gain sympathy or government benefits. Sadly, I’d distanced myself so much from my own personal experience (see avoidance symptoms above) that I hadn’t been able to take ownership and recognize what I had. I didn’t start seriously trying to tackle the disorder until two years ago, about forty years after the fact.

My trauma came from a head-on automobile accident at age seven in which I experienced a traumatic brain injury, a skull fracture, broken jaw, shattered nose and cheek bones, two lost teeth, and very nearly lost an eye. Two people died in the accident.

Today, regarding PTSD, I struggle most with hyperarousal and flashbacks, the latter including nightmares. The hyperarousal occurs when I see or hear something reminding me of any portion of the trauma experience. For instance, and this may sound strange, but I struggle keeping my composure when seeing or hearing people lightly tap their fingers on a desk or table. I also have experienced PTSD symptoms when playing a certain child’s video game: Flight of the Hamsters.

This year, about 7.7 million Americans will have PTSD. Many affected will recover fully, but others will develop chronic symptoms, including some people that will have symptoms meeting the ADA definition of disability.

You can get better. See your doctor.

Contact: danieljvance.com [Palmer Bus Service and Blue Valley Sod made this column possible.]

Where Are They?

george_hancockstefanFor those who follow the religious trends, a recent article in Newsweek brought some very unsettling news.  The number of Christians in the USA is decreasing and over this decade the change has been precipitous.  In 1999, 86.2 percent of Americans claimed to be Christians, while in 2009, only 76.0 percent made that claim.

A number of years ago, one of our active members came to tell me that he and his wife will not be here for Christmas.  Upon inquiring about his travels, he sheepishly told me that they are going to celebrate Christmas in Las Vegas. Now, I do know that there are churches in Las Vegas, but that was not his purpose for traveling to Las Vegas.  Some of his friends were contacted by a travel agency and they thought that these have been the best tickets that they have ever seen.  Since that time, I have seen the tourist industry attempting very hard to take believers away from God’s house even on the major holidays of the Christian faith.  I have seen major travel junkets over Christmas and Easter.

Many argue that the vitality of the church here in the United States is going to be produced by the various Hispanic groups.  In fact, I know that some churches have grown by starting missionary work among them. Some churches, especially the Catholic Churches, have at least one service in Spanish.  Some Protestant churches claim that the Hispanic communities are Catholic.  Yet, on closer inquiry, the researchers have found out that the percentage of the Hispanic population attending religious services has decreased.  Most of the Hispanic Catholics from various countries stop attending church when they come to America. In fact, one person was arguing very convincingly, that the newest religion among the Hispanic groups here is soccer.  Soccer is played with great intensity from the youngest age to competitive teams from various countries.  This article concluded that on the week-end there are more Hispanics playing and watching soccer games than there are in Catholic Churches.

One time I have asked a family if their children did not come to visit them for the holidays.  I was assured that they will be home for dinner: they will celebrate the traditional family meal, but the children and their children decided not to come to church.

Apostle Paul tells us that nothing is stronger than the resurrection truth.  If Christ had not risen from the dead than hedonism is the only way – let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die and that is what life offers.  However, over two thousand years ago, Christians have celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, the dead will rise again.  Those that have believed in Him shall receive eternal life – they shall enjoy the blissfulness of heaven, while those who have stayed away from Christ, who denied the greatest truth of God, will be judged to spend eternity away from God’s presence.  The choice is ours today.

Earth Day Celebrations in AH

jack_archibald_120Many people think that there is just one trail opening in Atlantic Highlands this weekend. As the excitement grows over the official opening of the east end of the Bayshore Trail in Atlantic Highlands this Saturday, there will be plenty of other Earth Day activities for local residents to partake in, including the dedication of a new trail in Lenape Woods.

The Earth Day celebration will be lasting the entire weekend. Before the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Bayshore Trail at noon on Saturday, there will be beach cleanup and sweeps in the Atlantic Highlands harbor. This popular activity reminds everyone that soon summer will be upon us and that our coastline is one of our most precious resources.

At noon, the Bayshore Trail will be dedicated. In addition to the many visiting dignitaries, members of the Environmental Commission will be conducting guided tours from the entrance of the new section down to Hilton Station. The trail has a colorful history and these tours will provide the story of the trail from its inception. As an added attraction, there will be shuttle buses bringing people from Highlands to our harbor that want to participate in the grand opening.

If walking the trail isn’t your thing, then join Councilman Lou Fligor and Joe Reynolds for a seining lesson at the harbor. If the water isn’t your thing, then browse the exhibits at the Gazebo which will include the Atlantic Highlands Sailing Education Program or plant seedlings courtesy of the Shade Tree Commission. Other events for the children include face painting and the Lorax project courtesy of our local elementary school and Henry Hudson.

Through all of this, there will be Bayshore Trail Mix supplied by The Flaky Tart, popcorn supplied from the Genevieve Hawley Foundation, and other delicious snacks donated by Sissys and Julia’s restaurant. To accompany these delightful dishes, noted folk singer, Mary McKrink, will be performing throughout the afternoon at the Gazebo.

As if Saturday’s events weren’t enough, a second trail is slated to be opened on Sunday at noon. The latest edition to Lenape Woods was created by Eagle Scout John Goode and his mates from Atlantic Highlands Troop 97. This section of trail connects Lenape Woods east to the entrance of the park at Gowen and East Highland Avenue. His project included the construction of a kiosk, installation of a fence as well as clearing trees and brush for the trail. Finally, Jim Krauss and members of the Environmental Commission are seeking volunteers to help clean Lenape Woods at 1pm on Sunday at East Highland Avenue. If you care about the environment, there is something to do for everyone in Atlantic Highlands this weekend, and show your support for all our volunteers by attending one of the many activities on this Earth Day weekend.

Safe in our Beds

woody_zimmerman_118_2007Try to summon up a mental picture of your school librarian. (Right – she was the fussy old dame with her hair in a bun and her eyeglasses on a chain, who went around saying “Sssshhhh!” to everyone.) Now imagine her as head of one of the most important national security arms in the country. Do you feel more secure?

That fantasy (or nightmare) has come true for the United States. Our Secretary of Homeland Security is now Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona. The Guv has acted decisively to make the homeland safe. With drugs and illegals flooding across our common border with Mexico, and with gun battles raging on both sides of that border, Mrs. Napolitano has issued a report identifying the potential threats her department considers most dangerous to the country. At the top of the list are: returning American veterans of the war on terror (oops, I mean our Overseas Contingency Operations); followers of single-issue causes (e.g., pro-life, anti-tax, anti-bailout, anti-illegal immigration, etc.); and assorted others whose views the Obama administration considers “subversive” and potentially dangerous. This probably includes attendees of the various “tea parties” held across the country on Tax Day (April 15). More than one commentator has said the timing of the Homeland Security report is suggestive, coming right before the protests.

American citizens exercising their Constitutional right to associate with people of their own choosing, to assemble peaceably, and to seek redress of grievances are now branded “enemies of the state” because their political views differ from those of the current administration. They are purveyors of “badthink” (as George Orwell termed it). Had George W. Bush’s government issued such a report, denunciations from Mainstream Media outlets, liberal politicians and others of the chattering cognoscenti would have boomed across the land. Today, the silence of those fearless watchdogs of our civil liberties is deafening, save for a few congressmen who had the temerity to ask what Mrs. Napolitano means by this outrage. Richard Nixon was infamous for his “enemies list,” but he never dreamed of anything on this scale. We live in amazing times.

Because her report attracted a lot of criticism, Madame la Commandante has been busy this week with interviews in which she has explained that the “wording” of the report was unfortunate and that she certainly did not mean to “offend” veterans.” Translation: a poor choice of words was the whole problem, not the inflammatory concept of targeting American citizens as terrorist threats on the level of Al Qaeda. Obamanistas think everything is just a matter of correct “wording” (a teleprompter issue) – never of content or meaning. To put this in perspective, imagine the uproar if people of Middle Eastern or West African origin had been profiled as potential terrorist threats.

In point of fact, the report was not meant for release to the general public. It was leaked by an unknown person (or persons) inside either Homeland Security or another agency (e.g., FBI, NSA, CIA, etc.) to which it was forwarded. Someone correctly recognized it as incendiary, and refused to let it fly below the radar. Homeland Security legal beagles had already raised red flags about calling veterans a potential security threat, but Mrs. Napolitano issued the report anyway. Later, she said releasing the report over her legal staff’s objections was a “process breakdown” that will be fixed. (In that case, of course, all is forgiven. Anyone can have a “process breakdown.”)

Unless she was specifically ordered to create another diversion for the Obama administration, this was not a good week for the Director of Homeland Security. In typical fashion, the Obama White House disavowed any knowledge of the report and attempted to skate free of it. Our “hands-on” president somehow was not “in the loop” on this dangerous and divisive report. (Naturally not, since he is a uniter, not a divider.)

Another action taken to keep us “safe” has been presidential downgrade of previously Top Secret intelligence memoranda and opinions about Bush administration interrogative practices that the left calls “torture.” Mr. Obama hammered this issue in his high-minded, feel-good run for the White House. Use of “torture” was un-American, he said, no matter how many lives might be saved by it. The White House paints the release of the Top Secret memos and legal opinions as the first move toward the sunshine and openness Mr. Obama promised. The people have a right to know what was done in their name.

Others take a different – or, possibly, a wider – view. One of these is former Vice president Dick Cheney, who has called for release of companion memos and reports which detail the results obtained from the use of extreme interrogation measures, including “waterboarding.” Mr. Cheney insists that a fair evaluation of the now-denounced interrogation procedures can be made only if the public sees what they produced. Which planned attacks did we learn of because these procedures were used on terror captives and suspects? Thus far, the Obama administration has declined to release the requested documents, however.

Closely related to these so-called “torture” techniques is the possible prosecution of Bush administration lawyers who advised their use. Mr. Obama originally said he wanted to look “forward,” not back. As recently as Sunday, April 19, senior White House advisor Rahm Emanuel said the president did not want to pursue prosecution of any Bush administration staff. But a mere two days later, Mr. Obama seemed to leave the door open for such prosecutions when he said no one should be “above the law.” Asked whether this could include President Bush, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave no clear answer except to say we should look to what President Obama has said. On that basis, I should say a long, contentious ordeal of financial ruin could lie ahead for people who acted in good faith. Columnist Charles Krauthammer doubts that the Obama administration can convict anyone, since policy differences are not crimes. But the “trials” will be used to keep Mr. Bush painted as a villain far into the Obama presidency.

This is an extremely dangerous direction to take – one which will do nothing to make the country safer and, indeed, might actually make it less safe. By criminalizing policy differences it will instill fear and caution into lawyers who should have the country’s protection uppermost in their minds in extreme moments. Who will go out on a limb to learn when an atomic bomb from Iran will be shipped into Baltimore Harbor, via container-ship, if they anticipate being hauled into court by a future administration because the country has forgotten the taste of its 9/12/01 fear?

Finally, we do have the good news that Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, the sole surviving Somali pirate of a band that recently kidnapped an American ship captain, has been brought to New York City for arraignment. He is being called a “teenager” in media reports, although his precise age is not known. Already we are being deluged with “background” reports on Muse’s pathetically poor home and his valiant attempts to reach a new life via piracy. Can there be any doubt that some appeals court will rule that he is actually a juvenile who can’t be tried in adult court?

This could be reminiscent of the DC sniper case in which Malvo, the younger member of the murder-team that killed ten innocent people in the fall of 2002, escaped execution because he was under 18. Thus, a cold-blooded killer – who laughed about how “surprised” his victims looked when they were mortally hit – will live in air-conditioned comfort on into middle age, when some judge who was in diapers when Malvo mercilessly slaughtered innocent mothers and fathers will let him go free.

Ronald Reagan liked to say the Constitution was not a “suicide pact.” I’m not as sure of that as I used to be. By the way, in case you’re thinking about trying to get involved in taking the country back, you might want to keep Mrs. Napolitano’s “terrorist” list in mind. You could be on it.

Shame on Burger King!

anne_mikolay_120While debating the focus of this week’s column, Burger King released a new commercial, and served me my topic on a silver platter.

The latest Burger King television advertisement features dancing girls in red shorts (quite like the “hot-pants” of the 70s) suggestively shaking their backsides to a rap song, “I like square butts.” When I first viewed the spot, I was confused, distracted by the rectangular boxes stuffed inside the back of the dancers’ pants. It didn’t become clear that Burger King was pushing another Sponge Bob Square Pants kiddie meal until I saw the yellow cartoon character appear on the screen. The commercial ends with Sir Mix-a-lot, a well known rapper, declaring “booty is booty.”

WHAT? BK’s ad execs must have had a long, liquid lunch before they drew that storyboard. What’s wrong with Burger King? Is Burger King deliberately attempting to force preschoolers into early adolescence? Why are they sending the message to children that women are synonymous with “booty?” Doesn’t Burger King realize that some parents, myself included, find their recent campaign offensive, and downright ridiculous?

First of all, the grinning king character with the huge plastic head needs to retire. That guy, who looks as though he has visited Doctor 90210 too many times, is just plain creepy. If a real person grinned at my kid that way, I’d grab my child and run in the opposite direction. The king’s ability to do a gymnastic split while balancing that enormous, plastic head upon his shoulders is the only impressive thing in BK’s latest commercial. The rest is trash.

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Since when does Burger King need to utilize sex to sell kiddie meals? And don’t tell me the commercial isn’t based on sex; the focus on “booty” is a give-away. While I’m thinking of it, a slap on the wrist to Nickelodeon and Sponge Bob, who is supposedly all about innocent fun. Sponge Bob ought to take a long walk off a short pier for participating in this tasteless ad. Thanks to BK’s misguided advertising campaign, it won’t be long before preschoolers are shaking their behinds, reciting a new mantra: “booty is booty.” Please don’t tell me the little ones don’t understand what they are saying. The very fact that most of them do understand is exactly why it isn’t cute. What’s next? Little girls’ Halloween costumes of tight, red shorts, with rectangular boxes glued to their behinds?

Perhaps Burger King should reassess their advertising strategies. Recently, in deference to the protests of the Mexican Ambassador to Spain, BK pulled their Texas Whopper ad, which featured a small Mexican man, and the offensive slogan “the Texas Whopper, the taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican.” The company issued a statement saying, “Burger King Corporation has made the decision to revise the Texas Whopper advertising creative out of respect for the Mexican culture and its people.” Out of respect for children, and especially women, BK should pull its “I like square butts” creative as well.

Note to Burger King: your Sponge Bob “booty” campaign missed its mark (unless, of course, you intended to stir attention-getting controversy). Children may find your latest strategy amusing, but your target audience that controls the purse strings finds it shameful.

Note to Sponge Bob Square Pants: BK made a mistake, dear. They put rectangles in the dancers’ shorts – not squares. If you’re going to be offensive, at least be accurate.