How local police became military units

August 21st, 2014 by Ken

For some time now I’ve become concerned about the militarization of our police forces.   The recent activities in Ferguson, MO are just the most recent example.

How did a police force, built and designed to protect the public, become an organization of military-trained members equipped with assault weapons and the latest in military hardware?

We can start in the 1990′s and the war on drugs.   Local police forces often found themselves out-gunned by drug running gangs, not only along our borders but in our inner cities.   The federal government began providing local police with military style weapons.

In 1997, two bank robbers in North Hollywood, CA out gunned local police as they shot and seriously wounded 11 police officers and seven civilians.

These events brought forth the idea that police departments around the country needed to be better armed and better trained to respond to such situations.   It also brought about the creation of Special Weapons Assault Teams – - better known as SWAT teams, for the purpose of taking on well-armed bad guys.   Federal money was available for training and equipping such teams.

Soon, every policing agency in the country had SWAT teams including here in Thurston County.   They are called out every time there’s a report of a gun, when a police officer is threatened, or when a group of college students get carried away with a night on the town.

This was the beginning of the militarization of our local police departments.

Then came 9-11 and the war of terror ramped up every police agency in the country.  Military equipment and vehicles were available for any law enforcement agency which wanted them.  This equipment included tanks, helicopters and armored vehicles, as well as automatic weapons and night vision equipment.

Even the uniforms that police wear echo intimidation and are indicative of a military style of thinking.

Instead of being part of a community police department, police are now members of a military -style organization in looks and bearing.

We can probably never go back to the time when our local police lived in our community, walked the streets, ate in our local restaurants and seemed to be one of us.

But, we can expect our police departments to be cognizant of the fact that they are here to protect us – - not intimidate us.

Looking and acting like a military unit is intimidating to local citizens.   I doubt the bad guys care very much.

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Downtown not conducive for new hotel

August 19th, 2014 by Ken

Developers of a hotel on Port of Olympia property last year, were concerned about the appearance of downtown Olympia and decided not to build.

That’s the opinion of George Barner, Port of Olympia Commissioner.   He made the statement on Coffee With Ken Tuesday airing on KGY Radio 95.3 FM

Barner said that hoteliers were interested in constructing a hotel on port property on State street, but backed off when they determined that downtown Olympia did not seem conducive towards possible customers.

His full interview can be heard on the KGY website.

 

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North Thurston schools “failing”

August 16th, 2014 by Ken

Like just about every school district in the state of Washington, Lacey schools are on the No Child Left Behind failing list.

Parents in the Lacey area will receive a letter this Friday letting them know if their individual school is on the list of failing schools, and what options they have under the federal act.    Along with the notification will come a letter from school superintendent Rahj Manhas explaining that the federal act has long ago out-lived its usefulness and that congress is looking at doing away with it.

Most states receive Title One money which is used to help low income schools.   Those which do are required to bring all of the students in those Title One schools up to 100 percent passage in math and reading.

Almost no schools can reach the 100 percent mark, and states have been asking for exemptions from the act.  States had to ask for and receive exemptions on a regular basis.   Until recently, Washington had received an exemption, along with 42 other states.

But, during the last session of the Washington State Legislature, the Washington Education Association used its muscle with the Democrats to kill a bill asking for an exemption.   The union was opposed to using student test scores for evaluation of teachers and principals, although most  states in the country has adopted that rule.   Such an adoption was necessary if the state was to get an exemption from the No Child Left Behind Act.

Now, most of the schools in Washington are failing and will be punished.

The North Thurston district received about $2.4 million in Title One money each year to help six designated schools.  These schools are designated low income from the number of free and reduced lunches served each year.

In the North Thurston district those six schools are:  Chambers Prairie, Mt. View, Meadows, Lacey, Lydia Hawk and Pleasant Glade.

Four of those schools have been designated as “failing”.  The district will let parents know on Friday which ones they are.   Parents with children in those four schools will be given an option to get additional tutoring or help in moving their child to another school.  To fund those options, the district must set aside 20 percent of its Title One money to do that.  In the Lacey district that’s about $625,000.

In addition, the district has to set aside another 10 percent of its Title One money for additional staff training.

The district could also be required to either change personnel at those failing schools or bring in an outside agency to run the schools.   The act does allow other forms of restructuring.

This upheaval isn’t just confined to Lacey schools.  Other local school districts will also be impacted.

All of this mess is because the Washington Education Association used its muscles with Democrats to kill a bill asking for exemption from the act just as 42 other states have already done so.

 

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You can learn a lot by traveling

August 14th, 2014 by Ken

They say you should write what you know, and I know I just spent nearly three weeks visiting some of the nation’s cities on the East Coast.

I’ve come away with several observations.   Three weeks, six hotel rooms, three air flights and five major cities are a significant challenge to keep clear in your mind.

You really should be younger to do that much traveling, but when you’re younger, you don’t have the time or the money.

The East Coast is really different from Lacey.

Ever major city has a Martin Luther King Jr. boulevard, street or road.  And, they often lead into centers of the city’s black population.

Transit systems in Washington DC, Philadelphia or Boston will get you everywhere you want to be, providing you have hours to spend getting there.  Incidentally, the transit tickets in Boston are called “Charlies”.  If you have to ask why, you won’t really understand.

August is the wrong time of the year to see the major tourists sites.  That’s when all the tourists go.   Long lines at the nation’s icons are the norm and don’t forget, school children are out on summer vacation.   Historic sites are where their parents take them.

There’s almost nothing free.   Even the major historic sites owned and operated by the federal or state government have entrance fees (except in Washington DC.)   Private sites are even more expensive.

Driving is also expensive.  It’s not that gas is more costly there – - it isn’t.  It’s just that every ten miles is a toll booth – - even on Federal Interstate highways.

The Presidential John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is a disappointment.   There isn’t much there.  He only served as president for two and a half years, not enough time to build up a legacy.

Boston is a city that needs time to explore.  You can’t even begin to see the important sites in three days.

Portland, Maine is a city of 65,000 and  feels like a small town.   The Maine Coast isn’t that unique.  Visit Vancouver Island and get the same feel.   It looks just like Maine with pine trees instead of Douglas Fir.

I have no desire to go back.  I’ve learned all I want to.

 

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Gun control up to the voters – - maybe

July 24th, 2014 by Ken

On your election ballot in November will be two initiatives dealing with gun control.

I-594 would require background checks on all fire arm sales and transfers – with some exceptions.

I-591 would prohibit background checks unless they were part of a national standard.

These two measures are expected to attract national attention and bring in more than $4 million dollars in campaign contributions both for and against the initiatives.

Come October, your television set will be filled with commercials on both sides of the issue – - so much so that you’ll be glad when election day comes and you can get your TV set back.

Right now – - surveys show that about 60 percent of all Washington residents want stronger control over firearms and firearm sales.

But – - about 45 percent favor national standards.

However – - survey of voters show that one-third of them will vote for both initiatives.

And, that’s what happens when voters make public policy through the initiative process.  Voters get confused.  When they do, they vote for both initiatives or vote against both initiatives.

The Washington legislature had the opportunity to weigh in on this issue when it was in session, but backed off because gun control is a hot button issue.   No matter which side they came down on, they’d lose voters.   So they took no action.

The recent survey shows they were right.   With the exception of Seattle, voters were willing to turn out their elected legislators if they touched the issue of gun control.

In November it will be up to the voters to decide.   If both measures pass, the issue will be sent to the Washington State Supreme Court which would have the final say on gun control.   Since the court has a liberal majority, there’s no doubt which side they would come down on.

I don’t like to have the legislature make decisions when the people can do so.

But, in this case, the issue was so hot that they told the voters – - you decide – - it’s too hot for us.

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County may appeal judgement

July 24th, 2014 by Ken

Thurston County Commissioners are seriously considering an appeal of a $12 million dollar judgement against them from a losing court battle with the Port of Tacoma.

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said it was “highly likely” the county would appeal.   He said that his office was talking with the commissioners and with the insurance carrier’s attorney and would make a decision shortly.

Tunheim made those remarks on “Coffee With Ken” which will air Tuesday on KGY Radio 95.3 FM.

While Tunheim was not in office in 2010, when the county made the decision to delay Maytown Sand and Gravel’s mining permit, there are unconfirmed reports that previous prosecuting attorney Ed Holm had warned the commissioners that they might be in violation of the law.

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Time to change county commissioners

July 22nd, 2014 by Ken

Thurston County Commissioners seemed to have put politics over the law when they delayed a legitimate business from operating – - even though it had a legal permit to do so.

The cost for this bad judgement – - $12 million dollars in fines from the court.

About four years ago, Thurston County Commissioners delayed granting an operating permit to Maytown Sand and Gravel to mine gravel from a site in Maytown, owned by the Port of Tacoma,  even though a 2005 permit allowed them to do so.

Over and over and over again county staff required the company to do additional study, after study, after study, all for the purpose of delaying the operation.  The result, was the company had to turn the property back over to the Port of Tacoma.

This a a perfect example of how NIMBY’s, can cause significant damage to legitimate businesses.

There was opposition from some landowners in the area.  They brought pressure on the county commissioners, who bowed to that pressure by delaying the project.

It happens time and time again.   Delay after delay after delay until the business owner runs out of money or gives up in disgust.

This time, the county came up against the big boys – - the Port of Tacoma, which owned the property, had the valid permit and sued Thurston County in court.

The jury ruled for the Port of Tacoma and awarded it $8 million in damages.   It also awarded Maytown Sand and Gravel $4 million in damages.

The fine will be paid by Thurston County’s insurance company, but that doesn’t absolve the county commissioners from flaunting the law for a political purpose.

I think its time for us to reconsider who’s in charge of Thurston County government.

We’ve still got a brand new jail sitting empty.

 

 

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Thuston County loses $12 million dollar lawsuit

July 18th, 2014 by Ken

A jury Wednesday awarded the Port of Tacoma $8 million in damages suffered because of actions by Thurston County to delay a gravel permit on property owned by the port in Maytown.

The Lewis County jury also ordered Thurston County to pay $4 million in damages to Maytown Sand and Gravel, the company that bought the gravel mining site from the port in 2010 and was forced to return it to the port in 2013 because of the county’s actions to delay granting a permit for operations as required under a 2005 agreement.

Property owners in the area had put significant pressure on the county not to allow gravel mining at the site despite an operating agreement in place.

The result – - Thurston County now has to pay $12 million dollars.

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Cities have same problems statewide

July 17th, 2014 by Ken

A recent survey of state chambers of commerce show that the major issues affecting business in cities – large and small – - can be boiled down to a handful.

The first issue affecting business was transportation.  No matter the size of the city or business  – - transportation needs were at the top of the list.  How to provide for roadways, maintenance of existing roads, construction of new roads and all issues affecting transportation was the greatest concern of business.

Nearly 80 percent of all products arrive in cities and towns by way of trucks.   Trucks use the freeway system to get goods to market and local the chambers surveyed thought government wasn’t doing enough to relieve congestion.

Whether its Boeing which has complained about the crowded freeways, or the local storefront business – - concerned that his customers can’t get to his store because of congestion – - transportation was the biggest issue facing business in this state.

The second issue of concern was homelessness and panhandlers on the street.   Whether it’s Olympia, Spokane, Centralia or Seattle, the issue of street people and panhandlers were second on the list of business concerns.

And the third issue facing business was onerous government rules and regulations.  Be it a plastic bag ban, an increase in the minimum wage or new fire protection regulations, business wanted something done.  And, they wanted a stop to new government regulations.

Anyone who has owned and operated a business can relate to these issues as stated by local chambers of commerce.

The question then becomes – - what can be done about it?

Panhandlers were creating a problem in Centralia.  The city council passed a law forbidding panhandling within 100 feet of an intersection or freeway off ramp in the city.   The police issued warnings to all panhandlers – - not tickets.

Panhandling has almost disappeared from Centralia.

Local government can take the lead.  They just have to have the will to do so.

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The Future of Olympia’s Isthmus

July 14th, 2014 by Ken

By Jefferson Shorelander

It occurred to me at a recent meeting of a group of property owners, “concerned citizens,” bureaucrats and politicians that it could serve as great source material for a TV situation comedy. The script would be populated with characters like … the fuss-budget mayor who governs a city with severe budget shortfalls and proposes a new $20,000,000+ library at a time when new technologies are rapidly replacing old, heavy carbon footprint forms of communication such as newspapers, magazines and books … the attorney who, in a career-long pursuit to get elected to high office (like a judgeship or the city council) belongs to every committee the febrile imaginations of city bureaucrats and community activists can come up with, and whose grand idea for the revitalization of a city suffering from an advanced case of urban rot is a merry-go-round spinning next to the mayor’s library (who secretly fancies it’ll be named after him) … the bulky, plain-talking general contractor arguing for more buildings and less park, labeling the pie-in-the-sky ideas that keep cropping up around him as having “stink” on them, or cynically telling articulate bureaucrats that he wouldn’t even consider “jumping in that boat” … the busy-body ex-mayor turned community watch-dog hustling from table to table to keep tabs on everything and everybody just in case he needs to do something about it, which, of course, he will … the well-connected activists who just might keep quiet if they’re included … the smooth-talking city planner who manipulates the process by determining the who, what and why of meetings and committees … and the politicians who have virtually no business experience but feel their superior intelligence makes their presence indispensable.

Who did this brain trust leave out? The financiers who can speak to the funding possibilities, or improbabilities, of the various ideas … the entrepreneurs, like successful restaurateurs or retailers or barkeeps … the real estate developers … property owners with sites within three hundred feet of the isthmus … and, of course, the homeless who’d love to see a bigger and better library to hang-out in.

What will come of all these meetings and all of the money spent on them? I suspect they’ll end up in the city’s archives, right next to similar tomes from each and every decade that preceded this one. It’s tragic because I love Olympia and want good things to happen to downtown. If I sound cynical, it’s simply because after about thirty years of serving on and observing committees such as this, I think the fellow had it right who said, “To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.”

I don’t mean to impugn the motives or intentions of those serving on the committee. I believe they feel they’re doing the right thing for downtown. However, it’s hard to ignore the reality that such groups make politicians, bureaucrats and consultants look like they’re doing something, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary.

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Food inflation hits back yard barbeque

July 8th, 2014 by Ken

Like many people, this past weekend I took advantage of the good weather and invited family and friends to a backyard barbeque.

While they provided many of the side dishes, I provided the meat and other items to be roasted over hot coals and served with generous helpings of barbeque sauce.

It cost me a lot more money than I had anticipated.   The cost of the hamburger and brats was more expensive than  last year.   The salmon, that my wife loves, cost more than the steaks I cooked for special people – - and the steaks were expensive.

Even the drinks were expensive now that the state has taxed the hell out of liquor.

Topping it off was the coffee I served to people before they left.   It too was more expensive than last year.

This has been a bad year for food inflation.

There are a number of reasons that the cost of steak and hamburger is high.  Droughts in Texas and Oklahoma a couple of years ago forced many ranchers to sell all of their stock.  They are just now getting around to replenishing their herds but there are less cattle around and that means higher beef costs.

A virus has been killing off baby pigs by the millions in the south and my cost for sausage and brats has skyrocketed.

My wive loves salmon – the wild kind – those with bright, red, firm meat.   Due to global demand and declining stocks the cost of salmon exceeds that of steak.

As for liquor, the state levies such a high tax on alcohol that the cost of the margaritas I served could fund a small country.

And then, even the coffee was expensive.  Not only is there an increasing demand for coffee around the world, but a drought in Brazil has caused a large increase in the cost of coffee beans.

Overall, inflation in the United States is running below two percent, but the cost of food has increased far beyond that two percent rate.

We have to face facts.  We live in a global economy and weather in Chili or increased demand in China sends ripples through our local supermarket.

Then, to top it off, I had to pay five cents a paper bag just to pack my food out of the store.  Where’s the justice in that?

Thank goodness I enjoyed the people at my party.   They were worth the cost.

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Quote of the day

July 7th, 2014 by Ken

“We don’t have time for rules – - we’re trying to get something done.” – Thomas Edison

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Evergreen has retention problems

July 1st, 2014 by Ken

Social, cultural and physical isolation is causing student retention problems at The Evergreen State College.   That’s the assessment of Evergreen trustee Dave Nicandri.

Nicandri said that Evergreen’s location coupled with a lack of social activities is causing the college to have a drop-out rate among first and second year students double that of other state colleges.    He made those remarks on Coffee With Ken, my radio show on KGY FM airing every Tuesday morning.

While most college drop out rates are around 10 percent,  Evergreen’s is around 20 percent.

Nicandri said there’s a lack of things for students to do on the college campus, and its physical isolation causes even more problems.   “There’s no place for a student to buy an aspirin or visit a laundromat or buy other needed items without leaving the campus,” he said.

While touting the great academic component of the college, Nicandri said its time to re-look at the campus and perhaps allow some commercial activities.   This has to be coupled with renovating the existing dorms and constructing additional housing facilities.

“Perhaps its time to talk about requiring students to live on campus,” he said.

Nicandri pointed out that Evergreen was originally founded as a live-in college, but currently more than 80 percent of the students commute to the campus.

He also thought that the college should have more sports programs to build a better sense of college community.

The college trustee said there is talk among his colleagues about changing the culture of campus life, but so far it’s just talk.

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Joan Baez has long history

June 27th, 2014 by Ken

Joan Baez, the queen of American folk singers is coming to Olympia at the Washington Center on July 22 for one performance.  Don’t try getting tickets – - they were sold out in two days.

I was one of the lucky ones – - I think.   I was able to get the last four seats together – - but I’m not so certain it was a good buy.   I saw Joan Thursday night in concert in Troutdale, Oregon and it wasn’t the Joan I’ve coveted for half a century.

I first saw Joan Baez in concert in Seattle on April 24, 1964.  Bob Dylan was her warm-up act.   The young woman with the large voice and gentle means left the crowd cheering and stomping.  For most, Dylan was an after-thought – - if thought of at all.

I saw her live again at the Washington Center on October 17, 1989, the date of the Oakland earthquake.   She was concerned that her son was in that area and during the concert and let the crowd know he was alright when she found out.  I truly enjoyed that concert with the experience of several decades under my belt.   I was hoping the Washington Center would bring her back soon.

It took another quarter of a century before she was scheduled back in Olympia.   In the meantime, friends of mine purchased tickets for her Oregon concert last night.

Joan’s  opening act was the Indigo Girls.  About half of the nearly 3000 in attendance were there for them.  They played for an hour and a half before Joan came on.   She performed 14 songs in an hour.   Her voice – - while still powerful and majestic – - didn’t have the range.  Now in her 70′s, she tried but had to back off of the high notes.

Her choice of songs was odd.   She sang four religious songs, two songs in Spanish and a number of new ones.   She did manage to keep the audience engaged when she sang a couple of the old ones and ended her set with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

While I enjoyed the concert, I yearned for the young Joan who sang folk songs and made us proud to be “Folkies.”

I hope her solo performance at the Washington Center in July will contain more of her old stuff and less of her new stuff.  But, no matter what, I’ll be there.

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Plastic bags just first step for environmental fanatics

June 18th, 2014 by Ken

In less than two weeks, every plastic grocery shopping bag will disappear from every grocery store and supermarket in Thurston County.

And, unless you bring your own bag, you’ll have to pay five cents for every paper bag you use.

Thanks to a handful of environmental fanatics, on July 1, Thurston County will become the only county in the state – - and maybe the country – - to ban plastic shopping bags.

The City of Seattle banned plastic bags, but not King County.   Here, in Thurston County – - with the exception of Yelm and Tenino – -  we will soon be free of that evil product.

You are encouraged to bring your own reusable bags, but if you don’t you will be charged five cents for every paper bag.

It’s not a choice, the law, as written, requires grocery and supermarkets to charge the fee.   Most stores would prefer not to do so, but the law is adapted – - word for word – - from the Seattle ordinance – - and requires markets to charge the fee.   The purpose is to further encourage you to use reusable bags.

The next move by these environmental fanatics is to require mandatory composting.   They’re even received a state grant to do so.

Don’t think it can’t happen.   It’s already happening in Seattle and that’s the environmental throne our local fanatics worship at.

So, in a couple of weeks, be prepared to pay more for your groceries and keep a close eye on your kitchen.  These fanatics are now lurking by the garbage can watching what you throw away.

UPDATE – County staff say the current state grant has nothing to do with mandatory composting and is just designed to educate us on how much food we waste.

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Lacey gets earfull over signs

June 16th, 2014 by Ken

A public meeting on proposed changes to Lacey’s Sign Ordinance brought out nearly a dozen Lacey business owners Monday evenng.   And were they ever vocal.

With the most restrictive sign ordinance in the state – - and maybe the entire country – - business owners have been stymied time and again over sign restrictions in Lacey.   And, they voiced their frustrations over those restrictions.

Thanks to efforts by several Lacey councilmembers, the city is re-looking at its sign ordinance to make it more business friendly.   Monday’s meeting was the second in a series.   Recommendations for changes will be made to the Lacey Planning Commission which will then forward its recommendations to the Lacey City Council for final approval.

Any changes should be in place by September.

The large turnout of business owners was directed by the Lacey Chamber of Commerce which sent out notices of the meeting to all members.

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Thought of the day

June 13th, 2014 by Ken

Any legislator that can be bought for the price of a meal – - isn’t worth buying.

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Where are the fathers on Father’s Day?

June 12th, 2014 by Ken

Father’s Day is this weekend,  and unlike Mother’s Day, it doesn’t get much attention.

The merchandisers will try to sell you ties, power tools and barbeque grills, but it doesn’t compare in any sense of the word with Mother’s Day.

There’s something special about a mother, particularly when she’s holding a new baby.   As a child grows up, he or she becomes attached to the mother, but that is not always the case with the father.

There’s an estimated 70 million fathers in the United States, but something like 55 percent of all children born in this country are not born to married couples.   A large proportion of those births are to mothers who have no father of their baby in sight.

And, while a large number of those missing fathers are born to women of color, white fathers also abandon their children at an enormous rate as well.   That has been going on now for more than 30 years, bringing up the idea advanced by many feminists that a father is not needed for the raising of a child.

As a father, step-father and grandfather, I feel loved and appreciated by my children and grandchildren all year long.   I don’t need additional appreciation on Father’s Day – - although I do enjoy it.

But, I feel sorry for those children with no fathers and I feel sorry for all of those fathers who have conceived a child and then walked away.

There has to be a special kind of guilt for such men.

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First woman stories should end in 2016

June 11th, 2014 by Ken

When California Chrome failed to win the Belmont Stakes this past weekend and become the first Triple Crown winner in more than three decades, the national news media looked around for another story.

And they found it, in the trumpet blowers who call the horses to the track.   It was the first woman to blow the trumpet at Belmont.

The first woman to blow a trumpet at Belmont.  What a stupid story.   When is the media going to stop writing stories about the first woman.

The feminist movement started more than 40 years ago and since then we’ve had hundreds – - no thousands of stories about the first woman.   The first woman to climb Mt. Everest, the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, the first woman to go into space, the first woman to lead a major television news cast, the first woman to graduate from West Point – - the list is endless and now worthless.

It’s become the first woman to win a hot dog eating contest, the first woman win a big truck rally, the first woman to blow a trumpet at Belmont.

Women head multinational corporations, women lead major universities, women make up a majority of all college students, women win gold medals in Olympic team competitions – - women are in leadership positions everywhere.

Well – - almost everywhere.   They haven’t been president of the United States, but that will all end in 2016.

Maybe then, we’ll stop having first woman stories.    It can’t come too soon for me.

 

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Government doesn’t work

May 30th, 2014 by Ken

Government doesn’t work.   That’s the feeling of the American public according to Kimberley Strassel, a columnist for “The Wall Street Journal.”

She made those remarks last night at the Washington Research Council’s annual meeting.  The guest speaker said that American’s have lost faith in their government’s ability to solve problems.  “They feel that nothing government does will alleviate the problem, but make it worse,” she said.

Strassel said that the Affordable Care Act,  the IRS scandal, the VA debacle and the alternative energy efforts are examples of government programs that reinforce those negative feelings.

Because of the public’s lack of faith in government, the Republican party may pick up many of the 14 Democratic Senate seats up for election this year.

But, she warned the Republicans against over-reaching. The backlash against government doesn’t mean that the American public wants smaller government.   “Someone has to make the case for smaller government, and there’s no Ronald Reagan on the horizon,” she said.

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