Tropical Storm Danny Scrapes the Jersey Shore

joe_reynoldsIt was mostly cloudy, humid, and showery at sunrise last Saturday – not a promising start to one of the last few summer vacation weekends along the Jersey Shore. By the time I headed down to the shore by mid-day there was a stern southerly breeze blowing over the beach making the ocean waters of the western Atlantic turbid and tough. Waves in the surf zone were about 5 feet and up.

While the wave action was much less with tropical storm Danny, in contrast to Hurricane Bill last weekend,  rain showers and rip currents  were still making hazardous surf conditions that chased away many people from the beach. For coastal businesses, this was not good. Another tropical storm had put a damper on the pocket books of many local business owners who’ve already had a slow summer. Another tropical storm had spoiled another Jersey Shore weekend for scores of people.

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Still, it might have been good that people did not go swimming in the ocean. Despite an official downgrade from tropical storm status, tropical rainstorm Danny was creating particularly strong undertows that could have pulled swimmers to the bottom. Undertow is created as water that has crashed onshore rushes back out to sea.

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In North Carolina, tropical storm Danny was blamed for the death of a 12-year-old boy, who went missing while boogy-boarding in the ocean. Waves in the area were only about 4 to 6 feet tall, but that was enough to sweep a young boy out to sea while his board washed ashore without him.

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Fortunately, by the time tropical storm Danny traveled near the Jersey Shore the storm had calmed down considerably.  It was more of an annoyance than a deadly storm.

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There was some hit and miss drenching rainfall and minor beach erosion. Northward, however, Danny was more serious. Cape Cod and the maritime provinces of Canada got blasted with windswept flooding rain, wind gusts between 40 and 60 mph, and a few downed trees on roadways.

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Perhaps the most impressive sight from Danny to the northern Jersey Shore was the incoming storm surge near the tip of Sandy Hook, at the entrance of the NY-NJ Harbor. During high tide cycles the ocean current was pushing up strong waves like the wake from a large and very fast vessel.

Even if the anticipation of some “real” weather that had stirred the blood of many outdoor people never occurred, it was comforting to know that the Jersey Shore came away from a tropical storm during the height of hurricane season without any serious damage. Sure, many outdoor plans had to be cancelled, but the storm could have gotten stronger and closer. We were very lucky once again.

By Sunday, it was a beautiful and clear day in the wake of tropical storm Danny. Skies were bright blue by the afternoon and humidly levels were dropping fast on the back of an enjoyable northerly breeze, a welcome change after a spell of soggy weather. People responded by heading back to the beach, just as if nothing happened anyway.

Wheelchair-Using Eagle Scout

danvance_120Only a select few Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle and fewer yet become one while using a wheelchair. Josh Swoverland of Avon, Indiana, is an Eagle Scout who was born with a spinal cord abnormality, a club foot, and paralysis in both feet.

Eighteen-year-old Swoverland said in a telephone interview, “I used to use a walker until kindergarten but getting around with it was too slow. So I switched to using a wheelchair.”

Over time growing up, Swoverland became a successful wheelchair athlete. In high school, he began focusing the bulk of his attention on track and basketball, with the intent of eventually earning a full-ride college scholarship in one of those sports. He said, “I really enjoy the competition and wheelchair track and basketball are really competitive.”

He also has enjoyed competitive swimming and in that sport this July participated in St. Louis at the National Junior Disability Championships, a Paralympics-style meet.

As for his becoming an Eagle Scout, don’t think for a moment his leader removed or altered any of the more difficult requirements. When Swoverland began Scouts, his Scoutmaster instructed the adult leaders and troop to “not make anything easier or different for me,” he said. “They treated me like everyone else.”

He especially enjoyed camping and helping out the younger boys. Also, Scouting gave him the opportunity to cook, something his mother seldom allowed him to do when at home. In case something went awry, his father always came along on camping trips.

Swoverland attributed most of his success in life to his parents, who have treated him “just like any other kid,” he said. “Also, my parents always pushed me in sports to be the best I can be. When I was younger, there were days I didn’t want to (practice) and they pushed me anyway. Now when I don’t want to (practice), I can push myself to do it because they made me when I was younger.”

For next year in college, he is considering majoring in sports psychology and would like to compete in wheelchair track or basketball for Illinois or Arizona. Eventually, he would like to become a motivational speaker.

He said, “I really like kids and want to be a role model. I’ve always believed having a strong attitude towards everything can help you accomplish your goals and I want to help people do that.”

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

Incompetent Governor & Mayor Failed in New Orleans ‘Katrina Disaster’

gordon_bishopThe Far Left Radical Liberals and their corrupt media cohorts continue to spew lies after lies after lies on the reporting of events in America.

On August 29, the liberal Associated Press quoted President Obama on the “tragic response “to Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 that killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi, and leaving behind more than $40 billion in property damages.

Hurricane Rita followed almost a month later, with billions of dollars in additional damage and at least 11 more deaths.

The liberal media ignored the truth of what actually happened by not mentioning the real problem caused by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans African-American Mayor Ray Nagin.

Blanco and Nagin failed to respond to President George W. Bush’s warning 24 hours before the Hurricane hit New Orleans to start evacuating residents of this popular southern playground.

By ignoring Bush’s urgent warning, the mayor and governor failed to use some 1,000 school buses to get the residents out of New Orleans right away.

The Democrat Liberal Mayor obviously blew off Bush, as the Democrat Party had done during Bush’s two-terms, eight-years serving as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief.

The hatred of Bush blinded liberal public officials as to their sworn duties to protect their towns, counties and states when confronted by disasters.

The hate game continues, even though the Far Left radicals somehow got their guy in the White House last January — Barack Hussein Obama.

There are countless lawsuits against Obama, including fraudulent election scams (Obama’s ACORN organization being the Leader), as well as Obama’s failure to show his “birth certificate” to authorities, which the conservative party contends is not a legitimate “U.S. birth certificate.”

Obama’s latest smear against President Bush was during his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard with his family. Here’s Obama’s own words:

“None of us can forget how we felt when those winds battered the shore, the floodwaters began to rise and Americans were stranded on rooftops and stadiums,” Obama said during his weekly radio and Internet address.

“Whole neighborhoods of a great American city were left in ruins. Communities across the Gulf Coast were forever changed. And many Americans questioned whether government could fulfill its responsibility to respond in a crisis.”

Government in the case of Katrina happened to be two liberal elected public officials: The Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans.

Had these public officials immediately responded to President Bush’s 24-hour warning, this disaster most probably would never had happened.

I’m sick of Obama’s sleek rhetoric readings on his popular teleprompter press conferences, written mostly by his sleezy sidekick, David Axelrod.

Most aware Americans are also fed up with the Obama/Axelrod “leadership” controlling the White House mendacious propaganda.

Most recent polls have Obama’s ratings falling from the 60s and 70s percent approval, down to below 50 percent.

The majority of America’s legal citizens no longer believe what comes out of this guy’s partisan mouth. Obama grew up in Indonesia, a Muslim country. He attended both Muslim and Christian schools during his youth.

Obviously, I did not vote for this Chicago U.S. Senator. Chicago just happens to be the most corrupt, crooked city in America, according to criminal statistics.

Obama’s financial chairman during his campaign for President was Tony Resko, who was found guilty of “fraudulent activities “during his political operations for Obama.

Resko built two million-dollar mansions in Chicago — one for himself and one for his next door neighbor, Senator Barack Obama.

Those in the know call this “The Chicago Way.”

Unfortunately, “The Chicago Way” is not “The American Way.”

I believe most Americans are honest people who are law-abiding citizen.

God Bless America for that!

(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, founded in 1857.)

Death of a Kennedy

dennis_mikolay_09It is impossible to mention the Kennedy family without stirring at least a bit of controversy. Whether it is the conspiracy theories surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s death, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, or Robert Kennedy’s feuds with witch-hunting attorney, Roy Cohn, America’s history books are filled with the family’s tumultuous legacy.

Of course, one must realize that for a family that made its fortune in questionable (and often illegal) activities, the Kennedys have done rather well entering the mainstream.

That being acknowledged, it shouldn’t be surprising the Kennedy family brought some rather odd exploits with them: Joseph Kennedy (the father of John, Robert, and Ted), was a known Nazi sympathizer, who had his psychologically impaired daughter, Rosemary, lobotomized (without prior consent).

But today, the media’s focus is almost exclusively on the late Ted Kennedy. The political world has been quick to canonize the Senator a modern-day saint.

Kennedy’s political career was marked by some fantastic achievements, many of which helped to secure the civil rights of Americans who would otherwise face discrimination. He was one of few Democrats to support same-sex marriage, as opposed to civil unions, the homophobic alternative. He also fought the guarantee that those suffering from AIDS would receive adequate health-care. For these crusades, he earns my praise.

While the death of Ted Kennedy is certainly a sorrow, it also marks the end of a political era. Indeed, the original Kennedy dynasty has come to a close.

Of course, the Democratic Party (much like their Republican counterpart) isn’t going to let a death go by without the potential for cashing in. Kennedy was a champion of socialized medicine; of course, the Democrats are going to attempt to slap the deceased Senator’s name on the flailing bill. It will be a pathetic attempt to rouse support for an equally pathetic health-care plan, but to the uninformed American voter, seeing the name “Kennedy” will likely conjure images of infallible American leadership, and thus gain the support of the naive.

For once in my life, I actually find myself agreeing with political commentator Rush Limbaugh, a man whose often ill-informed rhetoric plagues radios across the country. I will, however, give credit where it is due, and acknowledge that Limbaugh is among the few to call the Democrats out for using Kennedy’s death to promote their own agenda.

During his August 26th radio broadcast, Limbaugh argued:

“And sadly, Senator Kennedy now becomes a pawn. His death becomes something they can use to facilitate a political aim.”

Couple that argument with his statement from earlier this year that the health-care bill wouldn’t be passed while Ted Kennedy was alive, and you have yourself a prime situation for every overzealous Obama supporter to argue that Limbaugh’s views stem from ignorance. While they often do, in this case, Rush is right.

The fact that Barack Obama is delivering the eulogy lends further credence to Limbaugh’s theory. Obama loves the camera, and he isn’t going to let such a high-profile event pass without plugging his health-care bill.

Let’s not forget that, despite what the Democratic Party wants you to believe, Kennedy himself was no saint. Indeed, whether or not he was at least partially responsible for the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne is often called into question. While this, obviously, wouldn’t impact his eligibility to be associated with health-care reform, it does call into question his status as a selfless American icon.

It is very likely the Democrats are going to milk Kennedy’s tragic demise for all it is worth. The respectful thing to do, however, would be for the Democrats to simply lay Kennedy to rest, and pay their respects. Perhaps they will surprise the world and do just that…but that’s unlikely.

Obama’s Key Strategy

woody_zimmerman_118_2007Almost daily I hear and read commentators who wonder what President Obama is doing with national security, as he releases prisoners from Guantanamo prison, treats dangerous foreign satrapies with kid gloves, and goes around the world apologizing for America’s “sins.” Now he is letting Attorney General Eric Holder proceed with prosecution of CIA operatives from the Bush administration for “crimes” related to torture of enemy combatants. The country is in an uproar over this, with former national security officials denouncing this controversial and – in their eyes – potentially damaging decision.

What is going on? Why is the Obama administration doing this? Is it really a matter of liberal “principle?” Or is there a deeper purpose?

It’s not easy to follow the pea under the Obama shells, but I perceive a pattern starting to emerge here. That pattern is “diversion.” The Obama game plan seems to call for using various aspects of national security to divert media and public attention away from a major domestic initiative that is running into trouble. Right now, that major initiative is health care reform.

The country has been in turmoil for weeks over congressional proposals for fundamental change in how health care is delivered and paid for. Raucous crowds of well-dressed people, many of them retirees, have showed up at town meetings to shout their concerns at congressmen and senators. At a town meeting in Lebanon, PA, Senator Arlen Specter was plainly shocked at the direct talk some of the goodly citizens gave him. This unprecedented upheaval from a normally quiet segment of the electorate so shocked both the Congress and the president that they assumed the demonstrations must have been staged and paid for by commercial interests – or so they said.

One congresswoman said the protestors were “too well dressed” – as though protestors couldn’t be legitimate unless they were wearing “ghetto garb” (presumably with butt-cracks showing). The president’s chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, called the town-meeting protests “Astroturf” – by way of debunking the idea that the protestors are a grass-roots response to the health-care proposals. Mr. Gibbs was essentially saying that they were “artificial grass-roots,” hired by interests that want to stop reform – i.e., Republicans and insurance companies.

Others Democrats have echoed this refrain, but some have gone even farther – calling the town-hall people “brown-shirts” or Nazis, in attempts to discredit the legitimacy of their questions and arguments. The media have mostly repeated these charges without serious attempts to find if anyone is actually being paid to demonstrate, or if any protestors belong to radical, Nazi-like groups. One suspects that very few fit those categories.

Indeed, investigations by Fox News and other conservative news organs show that Democrats have sent union members to oppose the protestors at town meetings. In general, these efforts have crashed, having produced violence that obviously didn’t come from grandmas and grandpas who came to meetings to protect their Medicare benefits or to protest the concept of “death panels.”

As all this has been happening, Mr. Obama’s numbers have steadily declined until his disapproval rating now exceeds his approval rating – a first for him. (The August 28 Rasmussen Report showed that 32% of voters strongly approve of Mr. Obama’s performance as president, while 40% strongly disapprove – a lowest-ever spread of -8%.)

Things looked to be spinning out of control, so I wondered what diversion the Chicago Gang would spring to take media/public attention off the train-wreck of health-care reform. This week we saw the answer when Mr. Holder announced that he would investigate and possibly prosecute Bush-era CIA operatives for using illegal “torture” methods to interrogate terrorist captives. This is Obama’s diversion du jour.

The Diversion Strategy is multi-faceted, however. For the past week, Mr. Obama and his family have been vacationing at posh digs in Martha’s Vineyard, where the weekly tab is $30,000, give or take a few bucks. This has excited the populist instincts of the media – including conservative organs – who went for the story like hounds after a truck full of liver. A week of tsk-tsking over the First Family’s extravagant living has only served to push the health-care reform bill onto the back pages – undoubtedly just as planned by the Axelrod-Emanuel axis.

In addition, the Obama brain trust readily exploits “events of opportunity,” as they occur, with the Mainstream Media’s ready complicity. On August 21, Scottish authorities gave Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi – the conspirator convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 – “compassionate early release” because he has terminal cancer. The unrepentant terrorist, who planted the bomb which mercilessly destroyed the lives of 270 innocent people – including over 100 Americans and 11 residents of Lockerbie – had served only 8 years of his life sentence for the crime. It does not appear that the Obama administration made any serious move to dissuade the Scottish government from the release. Obama spokesmen did say that Mr. Obama had asked Libyan officials not to “celebrate” the return of Mr. Al Megrahi.

Notwithstanding Mr.Obama’s profound influence among the violent peoples of the Middle East, Libya’s resurgent leader, Moammar Qaddafi, blew off the no-celebration request and staged a disgusting hero’s welcome at the airport for the Lockerbie Bomber. The Obama government’s expressions of “grave concern” – coupled with angry congressional demands for “investigations” of the release – served only to create additional diversions from domestic deliberations of great import to the country. The Lockerbie Bomber has displaced the rancorous town meetings in the news. Mr. Obama is taking our attention off health care, and the media are helping him do it.

As I write this, another “convenient death” has also helped push the health-care debate out of the news. In July, Michael Jackson died one day before the House vote on Cap and Trade legislation – Henry Waxman’s crack-brained plan that could cripple the country’s economy for no real purpose except additional taxes. The media ran madly after the Jackson-story while C&T sneaked over the line, almost unnoticed. Now Senator Edward Kennedy has died. Media will obsess over his passing for weeks, giving additional cover to Mr. Obama and the Congress as they make deals – well away from the public’s view – to move the health care bill along to passage.

This is Obamapolitik – using national security and other incidents to divert public attention away from troublesome items. Does it feel vaguely familiar? It could be called Clintonpolitik, because the Clinton administration used it to great advantage. Every time Mr. Clinton got in deep doo-doo over his adventures with the ladies or his impeachment, he seemed to find it necessary to bomb something. On one occasion the “military” target turned out to be a factory that produced milk for babies. As we were not at war, the military strikes pushed the president’s domestic troubles onto the back pages, as intended. Generally, the strategy was very effective, as fierce, anti-war liberals gave our loveable lug of a president a pass on his bombing diversions. (Boys will be boys.)

Mr. Obama has been a good student of the Diversion Strategy. He’s learning on the job. As free people – at least for the nonce – our job is to notice what he’s doing while the diversions are operating. Watch the other hand.


Picture This – 8/28/09

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Identify the location and win

Picture This! We’ll show you a photo taken in Monmouth County. You tell us where it is located. If you have not won in the last 3 months and you know the answer, send your response to: [email protected]

Please include with your name and the town where you live. Be the first person to respond with the correct answer and we will publish your name and town.

Previous winner:

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Thomas Hayden, of Atlantic Highlands, was the first person to respond with the correct answer.

A. Waloo Park on Main St. in Port Monmouth.

A Special Young Lady

danvance_120Eighteen years ago, Lorraine Rose of Bennettsville, South Carolina, gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Jasmine. “It was a normal pregnancy,” said 48-year-old Rose in a telephone interview. “But at birth, Jasmine wouldn’t come down the birth canal. They had to deliver her with forceps. The cord was wrapped around her neck and she wasn’t breathing.”

A United Cerebral Palsy website states 750,000 Americans have cerebral palsy, which is caused by brain damage occurring before, during or shortly after birth. It affects the brain’s ability to control muscle movement and usually doesn’t affect intelligence.

Eventually, an unfamiliar doctor talked with Rose. “He said Jasmine had cerebral palsy. I’d never heard the word before in my life. He didn’t give me any information. When leaving there, I thought my daughter had in incurable disease and was going to die within months.”

Living in rural South Carolina before the advent of the Internet brought access to information, she would go on another year thinking her daughter would die. Finally, after eighteen months, the same doctor that had so coldly told her Jasmine had cerebral palsy, told her to “go on with your own life” and “put Jasmine into an institution.”

She thought then, “Go on with my life? Jasmine is my life.”

Today, 18-year-old Jasmine has recently graduated from high school.

“She has limited speech,” said Rose. “I can understand her better than other people can. To get around the house, she uses an electric wheelchair.” Jasmine communicates using a computer by pushing keyboard keys with a pointer connected to a special hat.

Rose said “Jazz” has given her a very rich life. And the entire city of Bennettsville seems to have been blessed by Jasmine, too.

Said Rose, “She is bubbly all the time. I have never seen her go a day without smiling. Anybody meeting her automatically falls in love with her. If having the opportunity to meet her, you would love her, too. Her classmates took to her so well. There wasn’t anyone at school that didn’t know her.” Jasmine enjoyed English and literature classes, and writes poetry.

A while ago, a friend who is a police officer asked Jazz to the prom. The local police force provided a full escort for them through town. “It was so beautiful,” said Rose.

Contact danieljvance.com [Palmer Bus Service and All American Foods made this column possible.]

Hurricane Bill Forestalls Fun For Many Along Jersey Shore

joe_reynoldsSeriously, what is up with the weather this summer?  I think I’ve spent more time keeping my shoes, shorts, and shirts dry than I did on just about anything else all summer!

Just about every time I tried to make outdoor plans this summer it rained. I wish all the passing showers, gusty strong thunderstorms, flooding downpours, and oppressive humidity would go back down to Florida where they belong.

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Alas, the theme of a damp summer continued last weekend as weather systems related directly or indirectly to Hurricane Bill had an impact along the Jersey Shore. The powerful storm that swirled around the western Atlantic Ocean did not strike anywhere near New Jersey, but the rip currents it spawned certainly kept most beachgoers out of the water during one of the final weekends of the summer vacation season.

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(Red Flags up at Asbury Park)

It was not a good weekend to cool off from the heat and humidity at a Jersey Shore beach, or any beach in the northeast for that matter. Although warm, humid air was drawn in from the south and it felt like Florida, very tropical, Hurricane Bill managed to foil the lives of promising vacationers with continual showers, strong surf, and riptides that posed major hazards to boaters and swimmers. Hurricane Bill was churning up the Atlantic Ocean enough to close beaches to swimmers up and down the eastern seaboard.

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(People sitting and looking at the high breaking waves in Asbury Park)

On a typical summer day we usually see 2 to 3 foot waves. Yet, due to Hurricane Bill, waves of 8 to 12 feet were reported along the Jersey Shore, and 6 to 10 feet off the coast of nearby Long Island, about the highest waves seen in some time. Swells that high can be deadly.

Extra ocean water also piled up along the coast, as the counterclockwise circulation around Bill caused the storm to approach New Jersey and then move off to the northeast caused. As a result, flash flood watches and high surf advisories were issued by the National Weather Service throughout the weekend for the Jersey Shore and coastal New York.

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(High surf rolling in near the entrance to Sandy Hook)

Bill’s success at wreaking havoc for many folks along the seashore is especially noteworthy. It is a year that is particularly unreceptive to creating Atlantic hurricanes due primarily to the storm-disrupting effects of El Niño. Yet, after a quiet start to the season that runs from June through November, Bill is the first Atlantic hurricane this year, perhaps the only hurricane.

Yet, many folks along the Jersey Shore were saying – what hurricane? Hurricane Bill might have made an impressive journey through the southern Atlantic Ocean with 135 mile wind speeds, but by the time he traveled north the storm had calmed down considerably and was far enough away from the Jersey Shore to just bring muggy air and clouds to the summer shore ambiance. On Saturday afternoon weather forecasters had downgraded Bill to a Category 1 hurricane as it neared the Massachusetts coast and parts of Canada.

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(Looking out from Twin Lights Lighthouse. Hurricane Bill is somewhere out there churning in the Atlantic Ocean)

Still, I’m sure by the end of August many people are hankering for some very nice, sunny weather. Wouldn’t you know it, by Monday Bill was far away and a cold front had finally moved all the way through the region to bring cooler temperatures, sunshine and low humidity – just in time for the work week.

Pallone Under the Microscope

jack_archibald_120There is nothing so much fun as speculating upon the future in politics. So, it comes that one of New Jersey’s most durable politicians must now come under the microscope regarding his future.  Congressman Frank Pallone held a town meeting this past Tuesday, and that date could mark a turning point in his career.

No one expected the town hall meeting to be a love fest or a rally for President Barack Obama’s health care bill.  From all reports, the meeting was similar to other gatherings that have been held throughout the country.  That is, dominated by opponents of the proposed bill and somewhat civil in nature.  We must give Congressman Pallone credit, as he attempted to give everyone an audience at Red Bank Middle School, by holding three separate meetings in one evening.  Unlike Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, Pallone responded in a civil manner and did not insult his own constituents.

Unfortunately, the Congressman has made up his mind in regards to the health care debate.  He was quoted as saying that he believes a majority of his constituents want health care reform and would support this bill.  When a politician decides to ignore the will of the people, it is a warning sign that he or she is beginning to believe that their judgment is superior to that of the common folk.  This bill is not popular, and the Congressman would be better served by pulling back and reviewing the implications of such a massive overhaul.

Together with his support of the stimulus bill and recent vote for cap and trade, the Congressman is solidifying his liberal credentials.  To some, he is becoming a key member of the Pelosi/ Reid team and that team is not currently wowing the country with their policies. His blatant drift away from the center to the liberal wing could make him vulnerable to a moderate Republican in the 2010 election if he is still in office.

That became a major question with Tuesday’s announcement that Pallone is a chair of Governor Jon Corzine’s re-election campaign. Sure, it is probably a ceremonial job but don’t think that the Congressman isn’t looking to a Senate appointment from Corzine should Corzine retain his office and Senator Frank Lautenberg’s health further deteriorates. No doubt the Congressman would prefer to avoid running every two years, and a Senate appointment would fix that burden.  Ever the calculating politician, Congressman Pallone stood up to his constituents on Tuesday evening while carefully hedging for his future earlier that day.

Ignoring Genocide Part II: The Holodomor

dennis_mikolay_09While the Nazi’s Holocaust is by far the most widely recognized genocide, it was not the largest. Most Americans are not familiar with the atrocities of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and will recognize him only as one of the Allied leaders during World War II. He was a gentle looking fellow, but in reality, his jovial appearance masked his true identity. Stalin was a brutal leader responsible for the deaths of about twenty-three million lives (and that’s among the lower estimates).

Such mass death is an idea inconceivable to most Americans, but during his reign as leader of the Soviet Union, Stalin employed some of the most vile tactics to assure he retained power. Stalin was the successor of Vladamir Lenin, the founder of the U.S.S.R, and shortly after assuming power, Stalin began twisting the public perception of himself, employing the use of a widespread Cult of Personality, which placed him in a semi-divine, and thus invulnerable, status.

All Stalin’s political and social opponents were shipped to inhumane prisons known as Gulags, which could more accurately be described as “death camps.” Those sent to gulags rarely survived to tell of the atrocities that occurred within, and spent the last days of their lives enduring torture, starvation, and frigid temperatures.

But Stalin’s reign of terror didn’t end there.

Stalin was responsible for the Holodomor, a bizarre experiment responsible for a devastating loss of life. In what was essentially a forced famine implemented within the Ukraine, Stalin seized almost all the nation’s crops. Without any food available, citizens of Soviet Ukraine literally starved to death.

What is perhaps the most upsetting aspect of Stalin’s reign was that he was never held responsible for his actions. Later Soviet leaders, like Nikita Khrushchev, worked to denounce Stalin’s madness by disavowing his legacy and implementing a program of “De-Stalinization.” The damage had, however, already been done. No government program could ever return the twenty-three million lives Stalin destroyed.

Unfortunately, the atrocities committed under Stalin are rarely, if ever, taught in American schools, and are often presented inaccurately when they are. By ignoring a genocide like the Holodomor, the world leaves itself vulnerable to future atrocities, and does a great disservice to the legacy of those killed by the dictator.