I fought the law, and guess what happened?

A cautionary tale for anyone thinking they can make a difference

A friend of of mine who follows my dealings with Jenkintown Borough recently related his own experience that spoke to the futility of civic engagement. My friend, an attorney and a one-time senior official in state government, possesses considerable political acumen. Earlier in his adult life, he and his wife also decided to get very much involved in their bucolic community just north of Boston. After months of frustration, they decided instead to just move.

Luckily for my friend, his current financial status insulates him from municipal shenanigans. My family? Not so much. Decisions made by Jenkintown Borough and Jenkintown School District affect us profoundly. We therefore have incentive to get involved and to make our positions known, but after our experiences of the past couple of years, rubber mallets to our heads would produce much the same result and take far less time.

Not here, not now, not ever

While our story began with a campaign to discuss the rationality of Jenkintown’s sidewalk ordinance, it evolved into a tale with a familiar theme; that familiarity breeds contempt. We approached the Borough not only asking for help, but we also presented an alternative plan that we thought was a well-reasoned and researched.

The Borough not only expressed no interest in discussing the matter, they took action to actually make matters worse for us. Meanwhile a council member publicly disparaged us on social media as crackpots, calling our ideas “quixotic”. We were not asking for the Borough to build a protective dome or to mow our lawn. We were asking it to reconsider an ordinance that hurt people financially and produced a substandard results. We characterized it as paying for steak and getting McNuggets.

Since this began, here’s a short list of what we experienced:

  • Neighbors falsely accusing us of trying to evade our responsibilities
  • A Borough Councilor flatly proclaiming, “This is the way we’ve always done it. This is the way everyone else does it. I see no reason to change this now.”
  • That same borough councilor trolling my Facebook page and posting a comment on our website saying, among other things, “I pity your family.”
  • A Borough Manager that conveyed false information to a judge about a decision to rescind the lien process used to pay for work the resident couldn’t afford
  • The threat of fines from the county amounting to $185 per day if we didn’t complete the work
  • Neighbors accusing us of misrepresenting ourselves in a GoFundMe campaign we launched in order to pay for the work
  • The Mayor of Jenkintown blocking me from seeing any of his Facebook posts, Trump-style, including those that conveyed official information on public forums

A right to know (what we want you to know)

And finally, in an attempt to investigate possible improprieties of that trolling councilor, I filed a Right-To-Know request for emails sent to and from his borough email address. The Borough invoked their right to a 30-day extension, which I believed meant they needed time to assemble the evidence, redacted for reasons related to privacy.

Instead, I received a letter from the Borough with an estimate for computer forensic services for the amount of $3,800 to retrieve these emails. As an IT professional myself, I knew that such services would only be required if the Borough had not just deleted those emails, but wiped them clean from the server. This made little sense, for a couple of reasons.

First, the Borough apparently employs the use of Microsoft’s Outlook cloud services to administer their email, which means that the emails never really go away. Second, I had already spoken with another Council member about this and he offered to let me see his email account anytime.

No connections, no consideration, no service

The Borough’s letter suggested that I should write the the office of our borough solicitor, Sean Kilkenny, with any questions or concerns, and of course I had questions. The Borough’s letter indicated that the estimate I received was the lowest of three they solicited, so I asked for the other two since they expected me to pay them. Also, I wondered why I should even need a forensics firm for this, as it would imply that they deleted their emails. I wrote three letters over the course of a month, and I received no reply.

Further research showed me that document archival guidelines set forth by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission determines that administrative correspondence, which includes emails, only need to be retained for “as long as administratively useful.” In other words, if Jenkintown lies to me and says that the emails didn’t exist, they have legal cover.

This is obstruction plain and simple. This means that if you have good reason to believe that your elected official is up to no good, a private citizen has no recourse and no right to see any official correspondence that might prove that fact. However, you can bet that if the FBI comes calling, those emails will magically reappear.

Our tiny little town would have you think that its size, demographics, and location would make it an almost idyllic community. Good school, easy access to transit, and a rich mix of housing types should make it the poster-town for small-town living. The dream of such a lifestyle does exist here, but it means avoiding any interaction with its government or attempting to have it address something that is not already on its agenda.

Welcome to small-town politics at its smallest.

Still flummoxed by the election?

Hillary and Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and the current Democratic Party leadership designed and built the massive system of imprisonment, essentially ended welfare, expanded our wars and pushed through NAFTA. They destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor and working-class families and are responsible for the mounds of corpses in the Middle East. Yet these liberal elites speak as if they are champions of racial and economic justice. They appear in choreographed pseudo-events to demonstrate a faux compassion. Now they have been exposed as fakes.

A lengthy but poignant read.

You can ignore, dismiss, and deride those you disagree with for only so long before they rise up and give you your comeuppance. I was always hoping for such an event, but not with Littlefinger.

Source: Chris Hedges: Donald Trump’s Greatest Allies Are the Liberal Elites – Chris Hedges – Truthdig

Eminent domain ready for its close-up

Haven’t seen this movie, but I hope it covers the fact that after all that, Pfizer never built on the property. In fact, it would later announce it was moving its headquarters out of New London altogether.

It does note that the liberal justices sided with Pfizer. So much for your property rights.

When the Supreme Court finally reached its 5-4 decision in 2005, it was the more liberal justices who sided with the corporation, while the conservatives dissented. However, as director Coutney Moorehead Balaker stated in the Q&A after the pic’s premiere, Donald Trump has extolled the ruling. Most states have reached the opposite conclusion, so the issues remain unsettled.

Source: ‘Little Pink House’ Review | Hollywood Reporter

Overplaying the Left hand

Too many libertarians hate the left more than they love liberty. One response I’ve heard to my pushing back on their take on Trump is that “well Obama/Clinton was/would have been worse!” No, actually he wasn’t and I don’t think she would have been. Yes, they might have expanded the regulatory state, but there would be no revival of torture, no wall, no registry, no trade war, no attempt to muzzle the media, etc.. Trump is a tin-pot dictator wannabe (and startingtobe), without an ounce of knowledge or respect for constitutional limits on government, who threatens the foundational institutions of the liberal order. Obama was not. Clinton is not. I confess to some schadenfreude myself as the left squirms in the aftermath of a defeat they didn’t see coming. But every time Trump opens his mouth, the fundamental threat to liberty he and his supporters embody overwhelms that.

Plain and simple, the Left overplays its hand, which should surprise no one in this volatile political climate. Right or wrong, however, they will only make Littlefinger’s supporters dig in even deeper, with no net progress on any front. Displays of destruction, pussy hats, and Elizabeth Warren’s caterwauling play very badly to people who only want a decent job and a sense that their government listens to them.

Source: Liberalism in the Balance – Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Our nation out to pasture

So much for fun on Facebook. People are losing their minds over what is really the end result of decades of abuses of power combined with the dumbing down of the populace — yes, the entire populace. While we instinctively know there is something wrong, we have separated into our own tribes, falling victim to the echo chamber. These chambers of paranoia tell us that Washington is against you and for the other guy. In fact, Washington is for itself and against anyone who stands in its way.

This is the danger of centralized power, and I’m seeing it in a very micro sense right here in my little Borough. Self-serving, “well-meaning” citizens acting on behalf of the “community”, who have no issue whatsoever taking my money and spending on what they think works best, all without giving me the benefit of an actual voice.

Most of the rest of the sheep around here are more or less content, because they think that “well, this is how it has to work,” “or more stupidly, “this is the price of a civilized society”. Meanwhile, that price goes up and the civility goes down. These sheep in my town see themselves part of the same tribe — “progressive” liberal types who chose to live here because its filled with other “progressive” liberal types, run by “progressive” liberal types. No matter that these volunteers have no friggin’ idea about what they’re doing and who are happy to listen to Council President and have her lead them by the nose. It’s all just more happy horseshit. Sorry, I ain’t buyin’ it.

You will see something similar in Conservative communities, especially those dominated by their religious leaders. People who will not think for themselves and who will not leave others alone. No thank you.

What is happening here in Jenkintown is what has happened to the country — finally. The lessons of Watergate are long lost to time it seems, but the one thing that the Morally Correct (MC) remember is that Nixon was a REPUBLICAN! (Cue the scary music)! Never mind that Nixon founded the EPA and wrote the first draft for Obamacare and signed legislation that subsidized my mother’s mortgage (while balancing the budget, I might add).

Everyone’s circling the wagons to protect themselves against everyone else, while ignoring the real enemy, which is the power that eggs them on and keeps the country divided. Littlefinger and his operatives clearly understand this, and adhere religiously to chaos theory. It’s all about ratings!

This fast-and-furious succession of crazy announcements is keeping everyone running from barricade to barricade. Meanwhile, the real damage is spreading, coursing through our veins. There will be no healing in this country. If people don’t get their heads out of their asses and take a hard look at history, we’re going to see discord for decades to come, and the rest of the world is just going to pass us by.

Friends tell me to walk out of the room when my kid has a tantrum. The world is going to do that to us.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Chelsea Manning

Manning is a hero(ine)

I know some of my friends who are military and ex-military who are apoplectic about this, but as an individual who never trusts power of the state, I applaud this commutation.

Manning revealed “secrets” that exposed unlawful conduct of the United States government, carried out during a time the country was engaged in an illegal war perpetrated by men who, if coming from a smaller country, would have been prosecuted for war crimes. It revealed that our government was harming its own citizens and those of innocents abroad.

Maybe he did violate his oath, and maybe it did lead to the deaths of some of our own allies and agents on the ground, but the founding fathers violated their allegiance to the Crown for similar reasons, and for that they would have been hung, or worse. Keeping an oath to protect a government that has disregarded the principles outlined in our own Constitution, or to carry out atrocities in the name of that government is a much greater cowardice than exposing them. Manning revealed to the American public information it needed to know and that it was entitled to know.

Manning exposing these “secrets” also serves as a great benefit to anyone who considers volunteering for the military. Now that they will know their government does not always represent our best interests, they may rightfully reconsider their decision to die for it. As my daughter rapidly approaches that age of decision, I see this as an opportunity to make it with all information necessary.

I do not condone Manning’s decision to funnel this information through Assange, as I don’t believe Assange cares much about the United States or its interests. However, I do think that Manning’s intentions were consistent with American democratic values. In my mind, he was defending the Constitution, which incidentally is exactly what he had sworn to do.

And as far as going through channels and reporting what he saw to his superiors, it’s already pretty well documented how useless our whistleblower laws are. The stories of these brave inidividuals being fired, demoted, blackballed, or worse, despite this law are all-too-common.

Manning served seven years, but was sentenced to a term of far longer than was considered normal for that crime. Obama, for once, did the right thing.

Exercise bikes for toddlers are a terrible idea

I’d like to find everyone in that meeting that approved this “toy”, fire them with great humiliation, and make it so they never work in this business again.

First, the idea that a kid is going to stay in one place and exercise while watching a screen is ludicrous at the outset, but to even suggest that this presents an alternative to actual, out-in-the-world activity bespeaks of tragic intellectual diminishment.

Adults these days use these things because they no longer lead active lifestyles by default. They drive everywhere, sit at desks all day, and then subject themselves to these torture devices to compensate. This toy is a further sign that we’ve kind of given up — in more ways than one. Wall-E, here we come.

Now our 4-year-olds can look just like mommy on her elliptical machine at the gym, trying to distract herself with CNN while she sweats out another five minutes of interval training. What could be wrong with that?Everything.

Source: Exercise bikes for toddlers are a terrible idea | New York Post

Government science lays another egg. Cholesterol now OK.

Studies are now showing that government studies are bad for your health, your job, and the economy as a whole.

Cholesterol has been a fixture in dietary warnings in the United States at least since 1961, when it appeared in guidelines developed by the American Heart Association. Later adopted by the federal government, such warnings helped shift eating habits — per capita egg consumption dropped about 30 percent — and harmed egg farmers.

Source: The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol – The Washington Post

Anthony Bourdain on the Great Comeuppance

Like Mr. Bourdain, I too have spent quite a lot of time in “God’s Country,” and I too found a lot of good people struggling to get by, and who have had enough of their values and opinions (right or wrong) shat upon. This is what happens when you stop listening.

I’ve spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn’t change anyone’s opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we’ve done.

Source: Anthony Bourdain on Sichuan Peppers, Sex, Eating Dogs, and Political Correctness – Reason.com

Elizabeth Warren, nanny-stater, bites hand that feeds

This woman is a repugnant hypocrite.

There’s one rather glaring problem with Ms. Warren’s attack: Mr. Tilson happens to be one of the few financial executives who publicly fought Mr. Trump’s election and supported Hillary Clinton. A lifelong Democrat who was involved in helping to start Teach for America, Mr. Tilson also happened to be one of the rare Wall Street executives who had donated to Ms. Warren and actively sought new regulations for the industry. Recently, he gave Mrs. Clinton $1,000 so he could see Ms. Warren speak at a campaign fund-raiser. (He’s also far, far from a billionaire.)

Source: Elizabeth Warren Condemns the Wrong Man – The New York Times