We’ve had a great ride

November 21st, 2014 by Ken

I’ve got a birthday this weekend.  It’s not one of those Oh Oh birthdays but it is significant.

If you really want to know, lets just say that I’m not a Baby Boomer.

But it has caused me to think about my life and just how lucky I am to have been born when I was – - and lived through the times that I have.

I was born in the time of radio.   I listened to many of the early radio show.  Not the adult shows, but the kid shows like B Bar B Riders, Sergeant Preston and  Straight Arrow.

I remember when I saw my first television set.   We couldn’t afford one, but a neighbor on the block had one and we flocked to that house, to watch the flickering images of the Test Pattern and later wrestling matches and even Howdy Doody.   All the lights in the house had to be off so we could see the image on the screen.

My family and I came across the country before the freeway system.   What a journey.   We had to stop often to fill up the car with gas and water.  We stopped at many of the wayside places to see the giant snake, the Indian tepee or the largest frying pan in the world.

I also got a chance to ride on the train while it still hauled passengers instead of freight.   The white linen tablecloths in the dinning car, the black waiters, even the finger bowls, were all new to me.

But, I also had the opportunity to experience all of the new inventions which made our life easier – - the microwave oven, push button telephones and steel-belted radial tires.

It was the Baby Boomers who opened up society for everyone – - the free speech movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement – - all of them making this a better country in which to live.

The digital revolution hasn’t passed me by completely.  I’ve embraced that part of the revolution that makes my life easier and ignored that part which doesn’t seem to have any significance to me.

I’ve lived longer than I expected and I chalk that all up to Modern Medicine.  I’ve ignored all the latest health fads and concentrated on eating foods I like and depending on my prescription medicine to do the rest.

It’s been a great life and a great time to have lived through.   I enjoyed the best of the Greatest Generation and the accomplishments of the Baby Boomers.

It’s been a great life and a great time to have lived through – - and I look forward to experiencing all that’s still to come.

So, Happy Birthday to me and to all of those my age.    We’ve had a great ride.

 

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County officials support charter movement

November 18th, 2014 by Ken

Previous attempts to create a Home Rule Charter for Thurston County have failed for several reasons, but not having the support of the county elected officials were a significant reason.

Word has it that all of our county elected officials support drafting a new county charter.

When we talk of county elected officials, we’re talking about the county sheriff, the county auditor, the county assessor, the county treasurer, the county clerk, the county coroner and any other county elected official we have.

While none of come out in public in support of the effort, I have it on good authority that they are all in agreement.   They want the county commission expanded to five members and they want the creation of a county administrator.

They also all want to keep their county positions as elected officials.  They’re not certain if they should be made non-partisan.

One thing is certain.   A county charter movement cannot succeed if the county elected officials are opposed.  This time it appears they are on board.

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History being made in Lacey

November 13th, 2014 by Ken

Lacey will make local history in the near future – - over its sign ordinance.

For more than three decades, Lacey has had the most restrictive sign ordinance in the state and maybe even in the country.

Next week the city will hold a public hearing on making changes to this onerous sign ordinance.

As a new city in the 1970′s, Lacey didn’t have a lot of things – - including a sign ordinance of any kind.   As it began its growth spurt, signs of all kinds popped up every where, creating clutter and confusion.   People began to question the need for some kind of control.

A Lacey councilmember and later city mayor, had spent some time in California and had seen communities with restrictive sign ordinances in response to that state’s rapid growth.   He thought he could transfer California to Lacey.

The ordinance as adopted by a complacent city council called for signs to be as innocuous and unobtrusive as possible.  No pole signs, no banners, flags or balloons, no oscillating  or rotating signs and no temporary signs.  Digital signs hadn’t been conceived yet and weren’t addressed.  No temporary signs like sandwich boards were allowed.   All business signs had to be flush mounted on the side of the building and were limited in space to the size of the building.

In other words, the city didn’t want any signs that could be seen by anyone driving along the city street.

Over the years the business community tried to fight the restrictions, but with almost no one of the council with any business experience, it was difficult to make the case for a more appropriate ordinance.

A two decade long effort on the part of the city to remove pole signs failed, when more than a dozen businesses failed to comply.   The city settled the matter by grandfathering them in.

One local business which wanted a digital sign, threatened a lawsuit if the city didn’t allow it, because the ordinance didn’t address this new technology.   The city complied, then added digital signs to its list of forbidden signs.

Businesses continued to complain, and when four business people were elected to the city council in the last four years, the city agreed to take another look at the ordinance and recommended some changes.

Tuesday, November 18, the Lacey Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on changes to the sign ordinance.

If you’re really interested, the complete draft ordinance is available on the city’s website.

But, it might be worth attending the meeting just to see history being made.

It starts at 7 p.m.

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Laws have unintended consequences

November 12th, 2014 by Ken

I’ve got a 23 year old grandson.  He’s a good kid.   He works hard in a local restaurant about 40 hours a week.

He worked his way through college by preparing food,  cleaning up the place and just being a good employee.  He also received a small scholarship to help him make it through school.

He’s looking for a better paying job, but with the local economy the way it is today, he’s having a difficult time finding work in his field – - so he’s living with his folks and working at the restaurant.

At least he was – - until last week  – - when his boss told him that he would have to cut his hours – below 30 hours a week.   His boss said that because of the Affordable Care Act, any employee working more than 30 hours a week, would have to have health care provided for him.

His boss said that he couldn’t afford to do that and cut his hours to 29 a week.

My grandson is now trying to look for a second job to supplement his first job, while he tries to find work where his college diploma will be of assistance.

That’s just a perfect example of how government programs can have a profound impact on people — and in this case a negative impact.

For my grandson, there are two impacts.

First — a college degree does no good if there are no jobs available.  We can spend all the money we want on education – but if the jobs aren’t there — then all the education in the world isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.

Then — the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health care to all of their full time employees.  Full time being 30 hours a week, according to the Federal Government.

Most small businesses can’t do that so in order to meet the federal requirements  they cut back on the hours their employees can work.

The unintended consequences are often more significant than the intended results when government passes laws without reading them.

People can be hurt by bad laws.   My grandson is one of them.

 

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New election – same result

November 11th, 2014 by Ken

When the first votes were counted on election night, Initiative 1351 was failing by about 2 percentage points.

This measure, bought and paid for by the Washington Education Association, would cost taxpayers about $2,500,000,000 each year.  That’s $2.5 billion.

Voters across the state were saying no to this self-serving union measure.

But, everyone knew that all of the votes hadn’t been counted – particularly in King County.  Everyone knew that King County would keep counting ballots until it reached the results it wanted – - passage of the measure.    After all, we had experiences with vote counting in Seattle, which kept counting until Christine Gregorie had enough votes to defeat Dino Rossi for governor.

And, sure enough, King County’s votes are still being counted, but I-1351 has pulled ahead by half a percentage point.

Everyone knew on election night that King County would keep counting ballots until it achieved the goal it wanted.

No one trusts the election process in Washington state because of King County and its ability to keep finding new ballots to count.

Different election – - same results.

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Losers keep signs up

November 5th, 2014 by Ken

It’s time for all political signs to be removed from the public right-of-way.

I’ve discovered over the years that the winners often get their signs down in a few days.   The losers often forget that removing campaign signs is the last action of a political campaign.

(Editors note:   A full review of this year’s political campaign will be the main thrust of the printed edition of Ken’s Corner & The Real News.   It should be out shortly.)

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Low gas prices have a cost

November 4th, 2014 by Ken

I went to fill up my car recently and to my surprise I was paying $2.79 a gallon.    I can’t remember the last time I paid less than $3 a gallon for gas.

It was a bright spot in a rather dismal economic market.

Lower gas prices mean more money in the wallet and more disposable income.   It means a dinner out, a new pair of jeans,  a new toy for the kids, or a bill being paid that might have been put off.

Gasoline for our cars is one of the most expensive items in our monthly bills – - right up there with rent, utilities and food.   And that cost of driving the car has increased substantially in the last six years.   Wars in the Middle East, trouble with Russia and other international events impact the price we pay for gas.

But, for a few years now, we’ve had the promise that gasoline supplies in North America will soon bring lower gas prices at the pump.

We’ve been told that new extraction methods for oil sands in Canada and new drilling techniques  in North Dakota and Wyoming, will bring lower gas prices.

I didn’t believe it.  But – - now its true.

The reason for these lower gas prices is the fact that more oil is being produced around the world, and for us, particularly, here in North America.

New extraction techniques work.

One of these is called fracking where hot water and chemicals are pumped down into oil bearing shale, which then releases the oil that can then be pumped back to the surface.

I don’t know if fracking causes groundwater contamination.  From the way it works, it would seem that the chemicals used would eventually find ground water – - but I’m no scientist.

All of this oil has to get to market.   The best solution is through pipelines, but these are being held for environmental and political reasons.   The industry has turned to oil trains in the meantime.

There are environmental questions to all of this new oil.

All I know, is that we should be cautious until we can know the extent of the environmental impacts of these new drilling techniques and shipping.

However, I do love lower gas prices.

 

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Young pups and old dogs

October 22nd, 2014 by Ken

The young pups were in charge, but it was the old dogs which showed up.

That about sums up last night’s meeting of the “Better Thurston” committee, which wants to establish a new county charter.

Most of those involved in leadership of the group weren’t in office or in leadership positions when the last county charter effort fell by the wayside in 1990, capping a 30 year effort to bring a new form of county government to the people of Thurston County.  But the room was filled with those who have tried since 1979 to revamp county government – - and failed.

Perhaps such a movement needs the energy and youth of the young pups.  But, if last night’s meeting was an indication, it was the old dogs which still had the interest.

However, the recent flap over the failures of the county commissioners – - in the Maytown lawsuit – - the denial of a hearing for asphalt recycling – - and the conflict between the county sheriff and the commissioners over the opening of the new jail – - may be enough to garner support for a new county charter try.

So, while the young pups are in charge this time – - they need to listen to the old dogs.

Any effort to get a new form of county government, must benefit the people and not lead to an increase in government control.

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Partisanship envelops Lacey Council

October 17th, 2014 by Ken

Thursday evening, the Lacey City Council held a work session with the elected representatives of the 22nd District – - which encompasses the entire city.

At that meeting were Chris Reykdal and Sam Hunt representing the district in the state house of representatives and Karen Fraser, representing the district in the state senate.

The Lacey council wanted to talk with their legislators about several issues impacting the city and hear from their elected representatives about how to address those issues.   Among the issues they wanted to discuss was transportation funding,  increased revenue options and marijuana status.

After making opening statements about recognizing the needs of local government, Fraser told the group that nothing was going to be done in relationship to those issues, as long as the Republicans held the Senate.    More than once Fraser responded about the need of the Democrats to take back the Senate and pointed specifically at the 28th and 35th Legislative Districts.

Bear in mind, that the Lacey Council is non-partisan.   To bring partisan politics into the discussion caused some members of the council to consider walking out.

Reykdal, recognizing the problem, made several comments about needing to work together with the other party and pointed out that the Lacey council should also speak with legislators from other districts which have  parts of Thurston County in their district.

But, the damage had been done.

A non-partisan group of elected officials had been blind-sided by a partisan official’s comments.

Fraser is a former mayor of Lacey.   She should have known better than to make her remarks at a public meeting of the  non-partisan council.

If she felt as strongly as she did, her remarks were better made in private conversations instead of enveloping the Lacey Council into the partisanship of the state legislature.

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Another county charter effort is suspicious

October 16th, 2014 by Ken

A group of county residents, thinking that county government needs to be over-hauled, are looking at taking another county charter run.

Through that effort, they hope to create a new county government, with new offices and new responsibilities.

They’re hoping that the fourth time is a charm.

Three times in the past, a group of residents have taken it upon themselves to draft a new county charter and put it before the voters.   Three time the voters have turned it down.   In 1979 it failed with only a 45 percent yes vote.   In 1986 it failed with only 48 percent yes and in 1990 it failed by an even further margin of only 39 percent yes.

So, why do they think they can succeed this time?

They hope they’ve learned from their past failures.  They want to make it simpler and they want to do a better job of education.

In all cases, those new county charters expanded government control, giving county government additional powers and taking away a number of elected officials – making them appointed positions.

In all three cases, the county charter was drafted by Democrats and the liberal base which controls elections and politics in Thurston County.    Thank goodness they have to put the charter up to a vote of the people – who seem to have the only common sense around here.

Now – -that all said.   I believe we need to take a long hard look at our regional government system and bring those regional bodies – - such as LOTT , Intercity Transit – - Medic One – - Animal Control – - Regional Planning – - and a dozen other regional boards and commissions, under the control of an elected body.

I’m willing to look at any charter effort that does that.    I also think it’s time to increase the number of county commissioners – - making certain that the districts run from East to West.

I might be persuaded to look at the elimination of several county jobs as elective positions – - including perhaps clerk – - assessor – - coroner as a starter.

Other than that, I’m suspicious when this charter group is composed of most of the Democratic liberal leaders in our county who believe that more government is better.

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I think I just saw a pig fly

October 14th, 2014 by Ken

I saw something today I never thought I’d see.

I saw an editorial in “The Olympian” that asked us to vote against a school measure.

That’s right – “The Olympian ” urged voters to Vote NO on Initiative 1351 – the measure which would mandate smaller class sizes in our state school system.

You had to look closely to find the editorial.   Unlike the editorials for more gun control, “The Olympian’s” editorial took up just a few short paragraphs.   But one thing was clear from the editorial.

Even “The Olympian” the most liberal paper in the state, has become tired of the Washington Education Association’s continual cry for more money and more control over our local schools.

Initiative 1351 was bought and paid for by teacher unions which pumped millions of dollars for paying signature gatherers and on television commercials.

Our local newspaper apparently felt comfortable in coming out against the initiative because a few prominent Democrats already have.   But the mood is clear.

The Washington Education Association and its lackeys in the legislature have just about reached the end of taxpayer’s patience.

Even “The Olympian” has come out against them.

I think I just saw a pig fly.

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Don’t believe the Voter’s Guide

October 13th, 2014 by Ken

This week, the Thurston County Auditor will be putting your General Election ballot in the mail.  Also arriving long with your ballot will be your Official Election Pamphlet.

Just remember that nothing you read in your voter’s pamphlet is true.   Just because it comes from a government agency, doesn’t make it truthful.   Supporters and opponents of ballot measures will tell you anything and quote any statistic, even if they make them up themselves.

It’s all a lie – - and allowed by law.

Candidates write their own statements and can say anything they wish – - about themselves or their opponents.

Courts, all the way up to the United States Supreme Court have ruled that candidates can lie in official publications and can’t be edited by the government.   It’s part of the First Amendment and free speech.

Also arriving along with your ballot will be tons and tons of campaign material put out by supporters and opponents of the ballot measures, along with brochures bought and paid for by the candidates or their supporters.  Don’t believe them either.

If you can’t believe the official voters guide or the campaign materials, or any of the ads you see on your television, how do you know who to vote for?

Believe yourself.  Do your own research.  Talk to the candidates and supporters in person.  Get their measurement. Go to the various forums.   Listen to people who you know and trusts.

If you can’t do that – - then Don’t Vote.

You shouldn’t cast a vote out of ignorance.

Just because you receive your ballot in the mail this week doesn’t mean you have to mail it right back.  You still have time to do your own research.   Start now and learn more about the candidates and by election day on November 4, you’ll be an educated voter.

And, that’s the best kind of voter.

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Plastic bag survey on the way

October 1st, 2014 by Ken

Have you adapted yet?   Have you finally gotten into the habit of bringing your own bags into the grocery store when you shop?

The Thurston County Solid Waste department wants to know and is taking a survey to determine how well the plastic bag ban is working.   Included in that survey are questions asking customers how their shopping habits have changed.

The survey also asks supermarkets how much money they’ve taken in from the sale of paper bags and what they’ve done with the money.

The survey is necessary to meet the requirements of the grant which funded the plastic bag ban in the first place.

What isn’t being asked is how the customer feels about the ban.   Do they really like not having the plastic bag?  Do they really like having to clean their own bags when they get home, after the milk has spilled in the bottom and the hamburger has leaked into the fabric?

How often do they wash the bag?  Can they even wash the  bag?  Where do they keep the bags to remember to bring them to the store when they get to the parking lot?

As the main shopper in my family – I’ve adapted.   I bring my own bags almost every time I go to the store – - which is fairly often.   I keep them in the back seat and usually remember to take them into the store when I go in.  Occasionally I have to go back and get them out of the backseat.

When I get home and empty out the bags, I immediately take them back out to the car.

I’ve found that having several bags is necessary and the best way to assure that you have a bag when you need it.  If you drive more than one car, you need bags for both cars.

I’ve also found that smaller bags are better.   The clerks often fill large bags so full that they are fairly heavy.

So, while the survey will ask a number of questions it won’t ask the big ones – -   what do I line my garbage can with and what do I use to pick up my dogs waste.

Even if California has just banned all plastic bags, I still think the ban is silly.

But everyone can adapt to silly – - even me.

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Olympia’s Dust Jacket

September 30th, 2014 by Ken

Olympia has a good dust jacket.

That’s the word I received recently from a young man and his wife who moved here from The Netherlands, by way of Austin, New York City and Portland.

They were look for a place like the country they had left and as they drove through Olympia they liked its look.

It had a good dust jacket, they said.

The couple are now Olympia residents and have just had a baby.   They are nesting and settling in.

But, a recent series of articles in “The Olympian” show that the contents of the book don’t necessarily reflect the city’s book jacket.

Olympia is well situated in a magnificent section of Puget Sound.  Driving along I-5 you can’t help but be impressed by the state capitol building and the view over Capitol Lake.

Get off the freeway and drive through town and the city becomes even more attractive.  Bike lanes, green belts, beautiful homes in beautiful neighborhoods, a new city hall and an attractive and busy waterfront give the impression this is a great place to live and raise a family.

At least my friends from The Netherlands thought so.

But, like many cities in the country, Olympia’s book has a dark place; an area where visitors might not want to venture after dark.

Unfortunately, for Olympia, that dark underside of the city is its downtown core – - the 60 acres that run from Sylvester Park to the transit center and the blocks that surround city hall.

Although passable during the day, at night it becomes something else.   It’s not frightening, it’s not even very dangerous, it’s just – - uncomfortable.  It’s a place you just stay away from.

So, while Olympia may have a “Good Dust Jacket”, the contents of the book may be a disappointment.

Maybe one of these times, the librarians who run the city will find a way to re-print the book.

Keep the “Good Dust Jacket” though.

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Business law

September 26th, 2014 by Ken

Eddie’s first law of business.   Never make any appointment before 10 or after 3.   Before 10 they think you’re anxious.  After 3 they think you’re desperate.  (Eddie Alexander was the owner and editor of “The Olympia News.”

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Justice delayed is justice denied

September 22nd, 2014 by Ken

Justice delayed is justice denied.

That old adage from the legal community applies today in Thurston County and the Thurston County Commissioner’s efforts to stop a local business from expanding.

The maxim says that failure to proceed in a timely fashion is tantamount to providing no justice at all.

I quote that legal refrain in relationship to the efforts of Lakeside Industries to add recycling of asphalt to their asphalt plant in the Nisqually Valley.  In order to do so, they need to get a change in their operating permit.

The County Commissioners have failed to act on the request citing lack of staff and other priorities for the time of the county planning commission.

The request for a hearing has languished for more than a year while the county finds reasons not to even schedule a public hearing on the matter.

Lakeside has even offered to pay the county for additional staffing so they can have a hearing on the request, but the county refuses to move.

This is a similar situation to the recent court action when the Port of Tacoma sued the county for requiring unnecessary environmental studies for gravel mining in Maytown – - even though mining permits had already been issued.

The county lost in court and Thurston County taxpayers are on the dime for a multi-million dollar judgement against the county commissioners.

Mining and asphalt production may not be the types of businesses the county commissioners want for Thurston County – - but the businesses are legal and have the right to be heard.

Lakeside wants to expand its operation and wants a hearing, but the commissioners have delayed and delayed and delayed the request hoping that Lakeside will give up.  That’s similar to what they did in Maytown and it cost taxpayers $12 million dollars.

I don’t know if recycling asphalt is something I would want in Nisqually Valley and along the Nisqually River – - but, until we have a public hearing and all the facts are presented – - I don’t know for sure.

Our county commissioners seem determined to keep certain businesses out of the county, but using illegal methods is not the way this body should act.

We should really expect our commissioners to follow the law – - or vote them out.

We shouldn’t have to pay more legal judgements.

 

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First law of politics

September 22nd, 2014 by Ken

Balsley’s First Law of Politics – - Things will never be like they were.

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I was almost a criminal

September 17th, 2014 by Ken

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to buy a gun.   I’ve been getting older and feeling more vulnerable.

A friend of mine had a pistol that he no longer wanted and offered to sell it to me.  We met.   I paid him for the gun and he took the money.

About two weeks later I went to the Lacey Police Department and applied for a concealed weapons permit.  When asked where I got my gun, I said “from a friend.”   I filled out the paperwork and received my permit.

If I had done the same thing next year, I would have been a felon.   I-594, makes it illegal to sell a gun to anyone without first doing a background check.   Since most people don’t have access to the needed lists, they would have to take the firearm to a registered gun dealer.   He would do the background check and then transfer the gun ownership.   It would take about two weeks and cost around $100 for the effort.

Under I-594 you can’t even transfer a gun within your own family, unless it has been designated a “historical firearm.”

Initiative 594 is a feel good measure, that punishes citizens and does nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Instead, it makes criminals out of all of us who purchase a gun.

 

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Supreme Court is biased

September 16th, 2014 by Ken

Three years ago the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the Washington State Legislature was not fully funding education as required by the state constitution and ordered the legislature to come up with more money.

Last week the court held the legislature in contempt.

While this appears to be a ruling on education funding, it is really a conflict between the legislative and judicial branches of government.   The conflict is playing out all over the country, as state court after state court has ruled that its legislature is not fully funding education.

This is a battle brought about by the various state teacher’s unions who have been stymied by state legislatures and have taken their fight to the state courts.

Here, in our state, the Washington Education Association (WEA) is actively involved in court actions.   While the lawsuits themselves have been brought by parents, they were instigated by the WEA.

What makes our case interesting is the fact that two-thirds of the Washington State Supreme Court owe their election to the WEA.

Several of the judges have taken money from the WEA and have received the endorsement and support of its members.

I don’t want to think that our judges can be bought by the teacher’s union, but it gives one to pause when they continue to fight the legislature on behalf of the union agenda.

It’s apparent that the WEA finds it easier and cheaper to buy a few supreme court justices than it is to buy a complete legislature.

As long as our state supreme court appears to owe its allegiance to the WEA the more it appears that the court is not fair or unbiased.

 

 

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Star Spangled Banner – from the beginning

September 11th, 2014 by Ken

200 years ago our country was at war, and we had been for nearly two years.  During that time we had suffered defeat after defeat as we waged our second war for independence.

The British, who regarded Americans as a runaway school boy, was treating us as such.

In their fight against Napoleon they hadn’t forgotten that the French helped us in our first war of independence.

In order to punish – Americans – the British had whipped up indian uprisings while arming the tribes, in an effort to keep the former colonists from settling in the Mississippi valley.   In order to keep their navy stocked they stopped and kidnapped more than 5000 American sailors to serve in their fleet.

It was these acts and others that caused America to declare war on England in 1812.   We didn’t realize how ill-equipped we were to wage war against the greatest military power in the world.

We were treated as a backwater belligerent  by England, but once they defeated Napoleon they turned their full attention  to America.

Up and down the Atlantic seaboard the British Naval and armed forces launched raids against American cities.   Just two weeks prior they had burned Washington DC.

Now the British Navy and armed forces were anchored off the shores of Baltimore ready to attack and burn another American city.

Stopping them was Ft. McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore harbor.  In order to get to Baltimore the fleet had to destroy the fort.

After a day and night of constant bombardment the British realized they couldn’t proceed any further and withdrew.

Watching the bombardment from one of the British ships was an American -  Francis Scott Key.    In the morning light he watched to see if the fort had fallen.

Flying from the ramparts of the fort flew a large American flag with 15 stars and 13 stripes.

The Americans had held the fort and stopped the British.

Key was moved  to write a poem – set it to music – and titled it  “In Defense  of Ft. McHenry.   It was an immediate success.

In it he used the term – - Star Spangled Banner – - for the first time, a term we still use today.   In 1931 his song ‘ The Star Spangled Banner – became this country’s national anthem.

And it all happened 200 years ago on September 12.

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