Sunday, June 11, 2017

When Is a Narrow Victory a Victory?

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

I want to open this article by saying I’m very proud to be an American! I am not so comfortable with many of my fellow Americans who just don’t get it: there is one nation (under God); one flag; one national anthem; and one President. News flash: Trump won; Hillary lost; get over it.

I have to say that this post electoral period has been the most politically venomous time in my life that I have had the misfortune to experience. It has been hateful and destructive to the nation. I cannot believe the “seemingly” large number of people who would rather destroy our country than accept the results of the election. President Trump, his family, his supporters – basically anybody who is not a liberal – have been and continue to be treated terribly by the media. To the MSM there just doesn’t seem to be anything about this administration to report in a positive fashion – it’s as if they can do no good even though Mr. Trump has many, positive post inaugural accomplishments.

I get why the Democrats are in this crowd. I get why the main street media is in this crowd. But it is like they are living in a little bubble world of their own, oblivious to what’s going on outside. The media is becoming irrelevant; in fact, I believe that there is no media anymore. Fake news is everywhere, but it is being presented as news. The MSM are using gaslighting (“…a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets [i.e., the electorate] question their own memory, perception, and sanity. 

Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief”, They use muckraking to try to influence public opinion. Let me expand a little bit on this term: “In British English the term muckraker is more likely to mean a journalist (often on a tabloid newspaper) who specialises [sic] in scandal and malicious gossip about celebrities or well-known personalities and is generally used in a derogatory sense. The term is a reference to a character in John Bunyan's classic Pilgrim's Progress, ‘the Man with the Muck-rake’, who rejected salvation to focus on filth. It became popular after President Theodore Roosevelt referred to the character in a 1906 speech; Roosevelt acknowledged that ‘the men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck...’" The last sentence (my italics) of this quote pretty much says it all!

I believe several things are true about the American people. For one thing they are tired of this hysterical, biased reporting. I believe that most people still watch and listen to the news, but they tune out or change the channel when political news, campaign ads, etc. come on because voters do not trust nor like the media. It is because we realize that these people are not journalists; they are not news people: they are opinion writers and entertainers who are competing for ratings, not accuracy and journalistic integrity. When all of their articles say: "If…"; “According to unnamed sources …”; “Supposedly...”; “Allegedly…"; “Insiders tell us…”; “Our understanding...”: how are you to believe anything is true?  Overall, there is this fact: “Americans' confidence in the media has slowly eroded from a high of 55% in 1998 and 1999 [to 40% in 2015]. Since 2007, the majority of Americans have had little or no trust in the mass media.

I want to close with a couple of examples of biased reporting. Does anybody remember Montana’s special election – before the election and how important it was to the Democrats? Funny,  after the election, this is what they had to say: “Republican Greg Gianforte claimed a narrow victory [he won by roughly 7 points] in Montana’s closely watched special election for the state’s at-large congressional seat, defeating Democrat Rob Quist in a race that is likely to be mined for clues about how the voting electorate feels about the political turbulence of Donald Trump’s young presidency heading into next year’s midterm elections…. Though their candidate lost, Democrats still tried to claim a moral victory in the race… [even though there was a misdemeanor assault charge pending against Gianforte!]” 

“Republican Ron Estes defeated his Democratic rival in a high-profile special congressional election in Kansas Tuesday that had been seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump. But the narrower-than-expected outcome [Democrat James Thompson finished behind Estes by 7 points]  may worry Republicans across the country as they try to decipher how much Trump's low approval ratings might hurt his party's candidates.”

How about the upcoming special election in GA? “Ossoff [the Democratic House candidate] “…focused his campaign on a promise to ‘Make Trump Furious.’” How is that for a politician who is going to represent you? Trump’s tweet: “With eleven Republican candidates running in Georgia (on Tuesday) for Congress, a runoff will be a win [the result was a runoff]. Vote ‘R’ for lower taxes & safety!”  “

Bottom line: I hope the MSM and Democrats continue this strategy! They continue to poke the bear (i.e., the American people) to challenge our intellect: they think we are unable to understand the media bias and misdirection – and that makes us angry! They will continue to lose national elections because of this; in fact they have only won a handful of state and local elections since the inauguration. However, they have lost two congressional elections and they are about to lose a couple more (GA and SC). I hope that all Americans continue to realize how dishonest the media is being in trying to unduly and inappropriately influence our elections instead of providing information to help us select the best candidate to represent us.

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Beware the RINOgator

Also published on Newsmax.  #TRUMPING  #RINOGATOR

A very dangerous species is loose in Washington, DC.  If it’s not eradicated it will bring ruin to Trump’s Administration and the nation.

RINOgator is a subspecies of fake Republicans (as in Republican In Name Only) that lives in the swamp of our nation’s Capital.   The swamp is its natural habitat, filled with conflicts of interest, incestuous relationships, avoidance of accountability, hiding documents and information from the public; waste, fraud, and abuse. 

RINOgators’ role in life is to expand the swamp and to destroy anyone who tries to drain it. Any reduction in the swamp reduces their numbers and threatens the species.

RINOgators eat tax dollars and absorb energy from reform minded humans. They have insatiable appetites and are never full.  There is always one more meal to eat.

RINOgators are highly territorial.  They relentlessly defend their turf among Congressional Committees and special interests. It is far more important to maintain their turf than for anything to be accomplished.

RINOgators live in close-knit family units.  One generation promotes the next through education, internships, sinecures, and contracts.  There is constant intermingling and intermarriage with other RINOgator family units. 

RINOgators can also be highly incestuous. They will give awards, place media stories, hire, and promote family members at every opportunity.  Multi-generational RINOgator family units hold more territory and become impervious to elections.

RINOgators may migrate to corporate, academic, and media positions, to promote the swamp, but will always return to their native swamp.

RINOgators are pernicious.  They use their knowledge of the swamp to convince their prey that they are necessary.  Their prey willingly appoints them to office, listens to their advice, and invites them into their inner circles. Like cowbirds, RINOgators lay their eggs in the nests of reformers, setting the stage for their young to devour the souls of competing species.

RINOgators have a distinct call, which is heard on cable news, in policy forums, and reported in the mainstream media.  Its call is for maintaining the status quo, no matter what.  Lesser calls are for “further study”, new programs, new legislation, and more funding.  Squawks of alarm are heard whenever reformers call for accountability, transparency, “running government like a business”, “doing more with less”, privatization, and cutbacks.  Squawks are usually accompanied by assertions of “we are unique”, “it cannot be done”, and various lies about how the process “actually” works.

RINOgators have an array of formidable defenses.  Their most effective is delay. Their other defense mechanisms include the ability to erase memory, dismiss facts, and divert attention so reformers pursue only irrelevant or tactical issues.

RINOgators are chameleons.  They adopt the rhetoric of their enemies to better blend in until the right moment to strike. 

The Trump era has become a major threat to the RINOgators and their swamp.  The RINOgators did not see Trump as a threat until he had entered their territory. 

That is why the RINOgators have forged elaborate family groupings, nesting on Capitol Hill, to thwart Trump initiatives.  RINOgators chose not to attack the past foibles of Obama and Hillary.  They think it is better having Democrats on the offense against Trump instead of on the defense.

RINOgators have the innate ability to rebound after being stunned.  That is why, after being surprised by Trump winning the nomination, they insinuated themselves into Trump’s transition planning, transition team, and Administration.  Legions of RINOgators wrote Trump Transition briefing books and developed personnel “vetting” processes that slowed the staffing of Trump’s Administration to a crawl. They adjusted selection criteria to favor swamp preservationists and surrounded incoming Trump Executives with them, instead of swamp drainers.

RINOgator eradication efforts have been sporadic and only partially successful.  The main barrier to eradication is convincing people RINOgators exist. Their chameleon defenses allow them to avoid detection.  RINOgators and their allies have the unique talent of reflecting problems and disappointments back onto Trump.  This reflective surface is a key part of the RINOgator’s outer armor.

Thankfully, RINOgators have weaknesses.  They are susceptible to sunshine when light is shown on their true selves.  They are too smug, leading them to make wrong assumptions about the American people.

The RINOgator eradication program must begin with Americans unmasking the species and ripping away its reflective surfaces.  RINOgators are especially vulnerable during primaries. 

Trump and the nation must track down and wipe-out the RINOgator, before it is too late.  This is critical to draining the swamp.

[Scot Faulkner helps private corporations and governments save billions of dollars by flattening organizations; achieving dramatic and sustainable cost reductions while improving operational and service excellence. He served as the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.  He also served on the White House Staff, and in Executive Appointments, during the Reagan Administration.]

Monday, May 1, 2017


[Also published] 

President Trump signaled his commitment to the National Parks by donating his first quarter’s salary to their upkeep.

America’s nationhood is based upon ideals.  America’s National Parks are the physical touchstones that reaffirm who we are and why we are.

America remains America if our Parks remain integral to our lives.  It means making our Parks relevant and relatable to all Americans through the 21st Century and beyond.

National Parks have three primary customers.  Each requires diverse actions to meet their needs.  Visitors are one customer.  However, the environmental and historical resources a Park protects are also customers with their own unique needs. 

Making sure a Park’s plants and animals are healthy and thriving is grounded in science linked to creativity.  The 1995 reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park was a master stroke that is improving the Park’s environment on a daily basis.

Making sure the historical resources of a Park remain viable is a daunting challenge.  Natural parks even have historic structures, sites, and viewsheds.  Time, the elements, and visitors constantly assault this historic fabric and context.  A leaky roof today may become a collapsed one a year later. Unfortunately, Park maintenance has been neglected by Presidents and the Congress far too long.

Making sure visitors gain the intended insights, and leave with a sense of civic renewal, is complex.  Young people no longer bring to their Park experience the language, historical, geographical, or scientific knowledge of previous generations.

There exist highly successful best practices that will help President Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and the Park Service address these challenges.

Expanding Partnerships – every National Park should have its own Friends Group, corporate partners, and, where appropriate, Cooperating Association.

Lack of funding has devastated America’s National Parks for more than a generation.  There are less than 100 Friends groups among the 415 National Parks.  These groups are formed by local citizens and chartered by the Department of Interior.  Friends groups generate support within the communities surrounding each Park.  Partners can supplement Park resources with volunteers to staff special events.  They also serve as advocates to win preservation battles.

Cooperating Associations are another vital Park partner.  These groups run Park bookstores, build a membership base, raise funds, and co-develop and present interpretive programs. 

Corporate partners have provided vital funds for major maintenance projects. Target raised $5 million to help repair the Washington Monument in 2000, while Chrysler CEO, Lee Iacoccca, spearheaded raising $36 million for the restoration of the Statute of Liberty in the 1980s.

Embedding Parks in Schools – Young people must grow up with National Parks being an important part of their life.  Parks need to be a learning resource. This will help the next generation embrace the role Parks play in preserving America’s civic culture. 

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HFNHP) has been at the forefront of highly successful education initiatives.  In 1988, the Park partnered with the local county schools to create an award winning living history immersion.  Each year the Park provides educational material to local K-12 schools, including a full day Civil War simulation where students experience being raw recruits.

In 2009, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and HFNHP developed “Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student” video workshops.  8th grade students studied a major Park theme (i.e. John Brown’s 1859 raid) and then, working with media coaches, wrote, acted, directed, and produced short videos on some aspect of that theme.  The multiple avenues of learning, from history to film making, has become a national model for engaging young people.

Making Parks Virtual – iPhone and Android screens have become our window to the world.  Bringing the Park to the visitor, creating unique experiences, is one way of engaging more people, without expanding the number of Park staff.

Recently, HFNHP launched “Time Trek” which uses smart phones and virtual reality to immerse young people in history.  They peer through their smart phone cameras with images from historical story lines overlaying their surroundings.

Google Street View now has technology for mapping trails and off-road environments.  “Guide by Cell” and applications like “Wikitude” and “Detour” enable nonlinear tourism.  Imagine virtually hiking the Appalachian Trail from your own home or having real time access to experts in a park you are visiting.

President Trump’s and Secretary Zinke’s leadership and vision can make Parks Great Again.

[Scot Faulkner is President of Friends of Harpers Ferry National Park and a former Trustee of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground. He helps private corporations and governments save billions of dollars by flattening organizations; achieving dramatic and sustainable cost reductions while improving operational and service excellence. He served as the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.  He also served as Director of Personnel for Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Campaign and on Reagan’s Transition and White House Staff.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Clarence Edward “Ki” Faulkner
September 14, 1923 – April 3, 2017

How does one summarize such an impactful life?

My Dad, Ki Faulkner, saved lives in the middle of a war, saved lives by making airports safer, and saved entire species from extinction.

An Eagle Scout with Troop Number 1 in Brewer, Maine, Ki Faulkner devoted his live to the outdoors.  He loved to hunt and fish, and to simply walk in the woods teaching others about the wonders of nature.

He left after his Freshman Year at the University of Maine, Orono to volunteer for the Tenth Mountain Division.  He quickly rose to acting Platoon Sergeant of 3rd Platoon in the 86th Regiment.  The Tenth Mountain Division was specially trained for mountain warfare and led the Allies’ final push in Northern Italy during World War II.

Ki was known for his leadership skills and his acts of bravery.  He earned two Bronze Stars, for rallying his men in turning back a German counter-attack on Riva Ridge and for leading the capture of the German Headquarters in Torbole during the battle for Lake Garda. 

Yet, he was most proud of his Soldiers Medal.  On February 10, 1945, his Platoon was staying in a warehouse readying for a patrol.  A pin popped out of a grenade during distribution of ammunition.  As others froze, Ki rushed forward, grabbed the grenade, and threw it through a ceiling skylight to explode in the air.  He saved the lives of eighteen of his comrades.  The commendation reads:

By his quick thinking, instantaneous initiative, and selfless heroism endangering his own life to save the lives of the other eighteen men, Sergeant Faulkner has earned the highest commendation and praise for his gallantry and valor.

Ki returned home and earned a BS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Maine.  Just as he was starting his career, he was called to duty during the Korean War.  His former Commanding General in Italy, Mark Clark, wanted veterans to “season” new recruits bound for the Korean War.  My Dad designed and led highly challenging field exercises for the 101st Airborne on Okinawa.

Once back in America, Ki began a 36-year career as the first Wildlife Biologist hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  On October 4, 1960, he came to national prominence developing bird safety procedures in the wake of the deadly air crash at Boston’s Logan Airport.  His guidelines for removing bird habitats near run ways remain the global standard to this day.

While leading the Midwest Region in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ki developed and led teams who saved entire species from extinction.  His Wolf experts developed the world’s first radio collars, including inventing batteries, transmitters, and plane based tracking technology, to better understand Wolf behavior, ultimately saving the Eastern Timber Wolf from extinction.  His Eagle experts, collected eggs from healthy birds in Minnesota, then used hot water bottles to keep them warm as they flew to other parts of America to replace soft eggs laden with DDT, thus restoring Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states.  His bird experts perfected ways to drive away Cowbirds in order to save the Kirkland Warbler from extinction.

Ki’s most ambitious effort began with the chance discovery of a Black Footed Ferret in a Prairie Dog town.  Ferrets were thought to be extinct since the 1920s.  His teams charted the tiny population and began a captive breeding and release program that continues to this day in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution.  In 2015, a male Ferret born in captivity was named after him in honor of his role.  “Ki Ferret” is now happily making little Ferrets after being released into the wild in Colorado.

My Dad’s greatest desire was to have young people, for generations to come, discover their own love for nature and the outdoors.  He founded the first co-educational Explorer Post for Wildlife.  In his final years, he donated all his collections, photos, and papers to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Museum at the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  These include his hand tied fishing flies and hand carved decoys, all amazing works of art.

I was incredibly blessed to have Ki Faulkner as my father, and to be guided by him throughout my life, up to just a few days ago.  His legacy lives on through the descendants of those he saved in Italy, the animals who still thrive in the wild, and the generations of young people who will view his collections and be inspired to love the outdoors as much as he did.

Ki married Irene MacDonald Faulkner on June 22, 1946.  She passed on November 6, 2013.  They will both be memorialized and interred during a private family gathering in Maine later this year.

Those wishing to honor Ki Faulkner should make a donation to the Harpers Ferry Park Association; P.O. Box 197; Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.  Make checks payable to “Harpers Ferry Park Assn. Ki Faulkner”.

Scot Faulkner


Thursday, March 30, 2017


The blamestorming has begun over the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Congressional Republicans have only themselves to blame.  Since returning to majority in the House in January 2011, Republicans have formally voted 54 times to address all or part of Obamacare.  Six were votes on full appeal.

In 2015, H.R. 132 is typical of these efforts.  It simply stated: “such Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.”  Why didn’t Republicans vote on this last week?

Republicans did not vote on simply going back in time, because they thought government should play a significant role in healthcare.  It should not. Crippling regulations need to be changed and the private sector needs to be encouraged.  Last week’s legislation did not clear the way for these solutions.

The Republicans’ problem is squandering six years with legislation designed more for fundraising and campaigning than governing.  Instead, they could have viewed their repeal & replace efforts as prototyping or beta-testing a new product or APP.  They could have tested ideas and built Republican consensus.  Not doing this led to disaster.

What next?

In 2013, I outlined a patient-centric versus politician-centric approach.  Maybe now it will be followed.

Those wanting an expanded governmental role in healthcare and those opposing it are fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way.

The debate over national healthcare policy has lasted over a century – intensifying during the Clinton Administration. It has always been about coverage, liability, and finance, never about care protocols and patients.

If making health affordable is everyone’s stated goal then why not focus on the actual care, health, and wellness of Americans?

America remains the best place on Earth to have an acute illness or shock-trauma injury. Our nation’s emergency rooms and first responder protocols are unequaled. Princess Diana may have lived had her car accident happened in New York City instead of Paris. America’s diagnostic methods and equipment are unequaled. That is why patients from all over the globe seek answers to complex symptoms by visiting the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering and countless other world class facilities.

The other side of American healthcare is its failings in chronic care, expense, and a system that is controlled by the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance industry. This triad of entrenched interests has prevented the widespread use of substances and therapies deemed effective in most of the world.

Thankfully, an increasing number of healthcare professionals are embracing global best practices, virtual technology, and patient-centric methods. Some are even exploring homeopathic and nutritional treatments that are common place around the globe, but viewed as “nontraditional” in America. These innovations are improving the health of patients while driving down costs. This is the arena where policy-makers should check their partisanship at the door. Seeking ways to improve healthcare, not health financing, will ultimately make health affordable to us all.

I have personal experience with the convergence of these worlds. Since 2007, I have been the primary caregiver to several family members with serious chronic conditions. These conditions have been punctuated by emergency care and major surgeries. Making decisions and managing treatment across this spectrum has been a real education.

This education has helped me identify four major areas of opportunity for healthcare improvement. These four areas will improve our health and healthcare, while addressing the affordability of private and public health services.

First, not all ailments require doctors and prescription medications. Government and industry policies drive people away from cheaper and more effective natural remedies. Herbal remedies have been successfully used since the first humans. For example, Apple Cider Vinegar has completely solved acid reflex. Cayenne Pepper has improved heart function. However, natural substances are not covered as a medical expense either by insurance or tax deductions. Instead, acid reflex sufferers must pay for over-the-counter treatments (which are also not covered by insurance or tax deductions), or must obtain expensive prescriptions after paying to see a doctor or a specialist. Being a natural treatment, the vinegar regime also avoids side effects and drug interactions.  Why not go “back to the future” and find ways to support these more affordable and effective treatments?

Second, nurse practitioners form one of the new front lines of care The overwhelming majority of my family’s office visits are with a nurse practitioner interacting with the patient and the lab technicians. Occasionally, a doctor will review the information and discuss treatment options with the patient. Supporting the evolution to Nurse Practitioners through education, professional certification, protocol modifications, and pricing would bring down costs and expand health opportunities both for professionals and patients.

Third, community caregiving is another new frontline of achieving and sustaining wellness. In 2009-2011, I was part of the planning team for developing a community-based care system for the Atlanta area. We found a disturbing pattern - patients, especially Medicare/Medicaid patients, arrive in hospital emergency rooms when their chronic conditions, such as Diabetes, congestive heart failure, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), become acute. These patients are treated at the most expensive point of care (emergency room). Once they are released, many do not have the support (family, friends, neighbors) or the capacity (some form of dementia) to follow a treatment regime that would prevent the next emergency room visit. These revolving door patients drive-up costs and end-up in a cycle of deterioration.

Our solution was to develop a community-based healthcare network. Such networks are known as “Accountable Care Organizations” (ACOs)

They break-out of traditional hospital and doctor office environments to forge partnerships with the community – churches, social workers, local government, neighbor associations, and nonprofits. A needy patient with chronic conditions is assessed holistically. This includes risk factors (i.e. smoking, alcoholism, drugs) and environmental factors (family & home environment). A care plan is developed and assigned to a multi-faceted care team (comprising community resources) and a care manager. Doctors and nurses are part of the team. The majority of health actions take place among family and community - driven by Electronic Medical Records, aided by remote sensors and virtual care, and guided by the managed care team.

The result of this holistic approach is improved care, sustainable health, and reduced costs. It is the one way Medicare and Medicaid costs can be substantially reduced while enhancing quality of life. There are initiatives to promote this methodology within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but it is occurring too slow and is too isolated.

ACOs are making a difference, but no major politician has embraced the concept and neither party has promoted them as a way to reduce Entitlement costs.

Fourth, families have always been a pivotal component in healthcare. Whether it is a parent staying home to care for sick children, or adult children caring for ailing parents, family caregiving is vital, but also emotionally and financially draining.

Having been the care manager, Medical Power of Attorney, and patient advocate for both my parents and my wife, I know how much time is spent with ailing family members. Current IRS regulations provide for listing parents as dependents based only upon financial support.

However, there are no tax credits or deductions for those who have the Medical Power of Attorney and devote countless hours to direct care or acting as the patient’s advocate for managing their care. Politicians at both the state and federal levels should provide relief for this indispensable and growing volunteer service sector.  Supporting Family-based assistance will save billions in public assistance.

According to the National Alliance of Caregiving, 70 million Americans provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities. Forty percent of these caregivers provide care for 2-5 years, while approximately 29 percent provide care for 5-10 years. Unpaid caregiving by family and friends has an estimated national economic value (in 2004) of $306 billion annually—exceeding combined costs for nursing home care ($103.2 billion) and home health care ($36.1 billion). This value is increasing as the population ages.

These four areas of opportunity will not address every health issue or entirely diffuse the fiscal bombs strapped to medical entitlements, but they are a good nonpartisan start. It is time for politicians to focus on the wellbeing of patients, not themselves.

[Scot Faulkner was Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. House of Representatives. He served on the ACO team for the Southeast Atlanta Health Care System [SAHCS], as an advisor to Kinexum, a medical research consortium, and as an advisor on professional standards and ethics to the American College of Dentists. He has been the Medical Power of Attorney and primary caregiver for his spouse and parents since 2007. ]

Friday, March 24, 2017


By Scot Faulkner

There are many scary issues surrounding the long running battle over the future of the Hilltop House property.  The collapsing Hilltop House structure is a favorite spooky site on Youtube.  Neighbors worry about the 81 police incidents that have made the Hilltop House the center for drugs, vandalism, and worse.

The latest scare is “by right”.  Spokespeople for SWaN Investors, the Hilltop owners, have used their ominous voice to threaten that terrible things will happen if they do not get their way.  Their current boogeyman of choice is that SWaN will build a new hotel on a 1.25 acre commercial site “by right”.

“By right” sounds scary, but it is just the legal term for “grandfathered”, a right granted to any property owner.  “Grandfathered” does not sound as scary, which is why SWaN avoids it.  The better to spook Harpers Ferry’s elected officials and townspeople.

In 2015, a major fire destroyed three commercial buildings in the lower town of Harpers Ferry.  These buildings are slowly being rebuilt “by right”.  It is totally legal to build “like for like” when something needs replacing. 

Harpers Ferry is a National Historic District, administered by the Department of Interior and the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  In order to comply with these national organizations, the town has very strict and detailed ordinances governing what can be built or rebuilt.  Architectural style and building materials must be approved to preserve the integrity of the Historic District.  The three buildings destroyed by fire are being rebuilt within these guidelines, even though they are “grandfathered” in terms of commercial use and their overall dimensions.

The Hilltop House owners can proceed, right now, with a “by right” or “grandfathered” hotel on their one and a quarter commercially zoned acres.  SWaN tries to make this sound terrible.  They are proposing an alternative that will develop an area nearly seven times larger, turning private residential lots into commercial space, and taking over three public streets.

SWaN’s “overlay district” is the real boogeyman.  Their “overlay” creates an area devoid of all ordinances and restrictions, which govern the town’s Historic District. 

Once approved by the Harpers Ferry Town Council, this seven times larger “overlay district” will become the new “by right” area where SWaN can tear down historic structures, clear cut trees, blast, jack hammer, take over public land, alter streets, and bulldoze with impunity. 

SWaN’s “overlay district” will allow them to build whatever they want in any style, shape, and size they want.  SWaN and its Town Council allies are already pushing for expedited permit approvals, some of which would be issued administratively without public notice or comment.

It is very scary in Harpers Ferry.  People shouldn’t worry about the ghosts of old, but fear the demons being created.

[Scot Faulkner has been an active member of the Harpers Ferry community since 1987]

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Also published on Newsmax.    #TRUMPING

President Trump’s budgetary assault on the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is long overdue.  He is forcing a rethinking that will benefit America and the world.

The State Department is one of the most bloated of federal bureaucracies.  Front line consular officers, many just starting their careers at State, actually help Americans abroad. However, there are also countless “Hallway Ambassadors” who aimlessly roam from irrelevant meeting to obscure policy forum killing time and our tax dollars.

Legions of these taxpayer funded drones fill the State Department.  Some are reemployed retirees who travel to overseas missions conducting “inspections” to justify their additional salaries. 

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) is to the State Department what the Teacher Unions are to public education.  It exists to protect tenure and to prevent any accountability or reduction among the State Department drones.

The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) is a uniquely harmful part of State.  This Bureau’s main mission has been to create photo ops of treaty signings.  The arms control treaties have usually been unenforceable with sworn enemies of America.  The Bureau’s agreements with the Soviet Union undermined U.S. security.  The Bureau’s bureaucrats developed elaborate procedures for justifying the minimizing or overlooking of blatant treaty violations.  They are using this same play book for the Iranian Nuclear deal.

Headquarters waste and dysfunction are just the beginning of State Department ineffectiveness.  In the mid-1980’s, I viewed State Department field operations personally while serving as Director of the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi.

The most egregious problem was the un-American culture that permeates career Foreign Service Officers.  Except for toasting America at the July 4th Embassy party each year, being pro-American is viewed as unprofessional. Long serving Americans would advise me that rising above nationalism and acting “world wise” was the mark of a seasoned diplomat. 

Not only did these U.S. foreign bureaucrats avoid Americanism, they avoided the host country.  The Embassy team members spent their business and recreational time with diplomats from the other Embassies and with European expatriates living in Lilongwe, the capital city.  Their only sojourns outside the capital were to Salima, the lakeside resort, or to the Ambassador’s vacation home on the Zomba Plateau.

As Country Director, I eliminated the chauffeur-driven luxury car used by my predecessor and reallocated the chauffeur to other duties.  At the wheel of a Nissan Patrol, I spent the majority of my time in the field with my seventy-five volunteers.  This meant absorbing in depth knowledge of Malawi and its people.

State Department versus reality was proven many times over.  The most blatant was the 1985 fuel shortage.  Malawi was land-locked.  The Mozambique Civil War closed off its closest ports.  A problematic network of rail lines brought goods, including gasoline, to Malawi via South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.  My volunteers told me a Zimbabwean labor dispute was going to cause a five week disruption of fuel to Malawi.  I dutifully reported this to the Embassy Team.  They scoffed, assuring me that their British friend running Mobil-Malawi was telling them no disruption would occur.  I directed my staff to begin stockpiling gasoline.

The disruption occurred.  The Embassy team kept dismissing my reports and telling themselves the disruption would be short-lived.  By week four, the Embassy motor pool was without fuel.  Staff was delivering messages via bicycle.  By week five, the Ambassador asked to purchase fuel from the Peace Corps, which had remained fully operational.

The Embassy was blind-sided on an even more important issue.  Air Malawi announced it was going to purchase a new fleet of passenger jets along with a comprehensive parts and maintenance agreement.  At this point the State Department replaced the Embassy’s Commercial Attaché with a Hispanic who could barely speak English.  Instead of sending this person to Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, they posted him to the most Anglophile country in Africa.  He was miserable and totally ineffective.

Alternatively, the German Ambassador moved about Malawi’s 28 regions, equaling my zeal for the field.  When Boeing’s sales team arrived they were given a proper, but cool reception.  The Fokker team arrived to a hero’s welcome and the multi-million dollar deal was signed shortly thereafter.  American business lost a huge contract.

USAID has spent over $1 trillion on overseas projects since its founding in 1961.  Empty buildings and rusting tractors are silent testaments to its failures.  What funds were not diverted to corrupt government officials went for unsustainable efforts, driven more by academic theories than practicality.

State Department and USAID need a fundamental review and a day of reckoning. This is fertile territory for President Trump and Secretary Tillerson to implant business principles and common sense.