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Instead of judging a kind old Yankee farmer, can people lend a hand?

To The Daily Sun,

I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to spend some time at Bert Southwick's farm over the past month. Bert is a treasure. He is such a kind, caring, very humble man who is very quick-witted and has a terrific sense of humor. It has been a privilege to see how hard someone can work at his age — 90 years old — seeing him spending a day on his tractor harrowing his pumpkin fields, and harvesting and sorting and packaging over 14 dozen eggs each day. He was born on that family farm and he continues to work his farm today. He really is amazing.

It was a sad day last Friday when police officers and people with animal trailers came and pretty much "took over" Bert's farm. Four horses were removed, none of which belong to Bert. From what I understand, they had been abandoned by their owner more than three years ago. Bert was able to give the horses room and board, but he is a poor, elderly farmer and could not afford vet care and vet bills, especially for someone else's animals.

As I drove down the hill and watched the scene that was unfolding, I started to cry. There was a sea of blue lights flashing and police cruisers up and down Zion Hill. Bert's driveway was blocked off. I felt a sense of panic for what was happening to Bert. I was initially told "not today" when I told the officer I was a volunteer and I was coming there to help. Thankfully, after I told him that my sole purpose was to check on the well-being of Mr. Southwick during this incident, I was allowed to park my car and walk up to Bert's.

I saw some of his friends and supporters and volunteers there with him, and I was so thankful they were there. Bert was sitting in his chair looking quite discouraged. I pulled up an empty five-gallon bucket and turned it upside down and sat next to Bert. His friends Loretta, Paul, Kathy, Amber, Dan and Carl were there by his side. Harold, who has lived there with Bert and has been a faithful friend and caretaker and farmhand for many many years, was very upset, and I was glad were were there for him as well.

We are all surprised when the woman who had allegedly abandoned her horses showed up. She caused a fuss and the police kept her in check. We sat there and watched the animals being trailered out, including Bert's two huge pigs. The animal rescue workers I'm sure were well meaning volunteers, but based on my limited knowledge of horses, they were not well trained in handling stallions. The stallions put up quite a fuss and the workers had their hands full. They also put two stallions side by side in a small horse trailer, which is extremely dangerous for those animals. Anyway, after it was all said and done, we sat there with Bert. Kathy had packed a cooler and brought lunch meat and thankfully fed us all lunch. We continued to stay there with Bert and Harold for most of the day, decompressing from what had taken place.

It has been very upsetting to read and hear what that the rescue farm has been saying about Bert. And it is extremely uncalled for. I was asked to be interviewed by Channel 9 news. My sole purpose was to stand up for Bert. He has been vilified by the Live and Let Live Rescue Farm, and their supporters on-line. I am thankful that such an organization exists, and I am glad that the abandoned horses are now getting great care. But some of the things people are saying about Mr. Southwick are just disgusting. Please stop.

Bert did provide room and board for them, and they were not even his animals. But he showed kindness like he has done for everyone in this community for decades. If it wasn't for his efforts in caring for those horses, you may not have even had horses alive to rescue. It is also upsetting to hear that the rescue workers are saying that they were "heckled" by us. That is not true. We sat there peacefully to keep things low key for Bert. A senior citizen visited the farm this past Saturday, and she recalled times when she was a poor single mother of three children, and Bert gave her eggs and fresh vegetables for her family. How many other stories are there like this one?

Instead of judging a kind old Yankee farmer, can people give him a helping hand? It's time for all of us to give back to Bert, for all he has given to us all over the years. There are fund-raising efforts in place. Visit Bert's Angels on Facebook. There will also be volunteer work days on the farm. Join Bert's Angels and we will keep you posted.

One last final thought, I am wondering where are Bert's pigs? Bert had a 600 pound boar and a 400 pound sow. The market value for pigs is $1 per pound. That is $1,000 of farm income that was taken away from Bert. He had a buyer (who was present) to buy the pigs, but they were confiscated. Bert needs to be compensated by whoever ended up with his pigs. That is not right and that is stealing from Bert.

Carolee Longley




Last Updated on Monday, 09 June 2014 08:58

Hits: 316

State government is the catalyst to raise our standard of living

To The Daily Sun,

What kind of state representative says "No" to accepting $2 billion in Medicaid from the federal government to expand New Hampshire's health industry, or fails to raise education standards so our children can compete in the global economy? How about failing to raise our state's minimum wage, the lowest in New England, or letting our roads get so bad that some are impassable?

I am alarmed that reactionary policies, Tea Party rhetoric and corporate money are dismantling our freedoms and degrading our quality of life. Conservatives in Washington have also cut food stamps to families, failed to raise the federal minimum wage and rejected "women's equal pay" legislation. These have had a terrible effect on mothers who are trying to survive and keep their families together. That burden has put more pressure on our state to aid those families.

As a publishing entrepreneur, who founded and ran a successful educational software corporation for over 25 years, I know that state initiatives to bring jobs and investment into our region are crucial in rebuilding our local economy. We have to act and provide a vibrant infrastructure to support business expansion that brings more income to New Hampshire's working families.

In the words of Bobby Kennedy, "The future belongs to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to their ideals. After all, the future is not a gift, it's an achievement."

I contend, if New Hampshire is to enjoy a prosperous future, we must recognize that state government is the catalyst that raises our standard of living and helps our people and businesses succeed.

Nick Vazzana


Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 08:49

Hits: 237

I remind because I don't want voters to lose track of things

To The Daily Sun,

First out of the gate here on Tuesday is Ms. Loesche with her almost accurate spin on Benghazi. I say almost accurate because since the event it has been testified to by the IC that they knew within 24 hours that it was a terrorist attack and told the administration so. Still, the cock and bull story of a demonstration that got out of hand because of some obscure video was promoted for more then two weeks. In Obama's speech the next day, he never once, never once, equated Benghazi with a terrorist attack only mentioning terrorism in general terms in his summation.

Now as to the Romney debate where the moderator from MSNBC jumped in, she at the end of the discussion acknowledged this fact, though the damage to Romney had been done.

Now on to Mrs. Clinton. Months later now, at the hearings which you give us an accurate account of, Mrs. Clinton was being peppered with questions she did not want to answer. (My opinion.)

In frustration, she blurted out, emotionally, her infamous " What does it matter" statement. She also said, and I quote your transcript, "But what was going on and what they were doing is still unknown...", (Was she kidding?) It's coming up on nearly two years and another statement by Mrs. Clinton was it was more important to find and bring to justice those responsible. So what has happened to finding and bringing to justice those responsible?

Keeping in mind this attack took place about six weeks before the election, it is my opinion that the events of the Obama administration after the attack were a cold, calculated political plan to keep voters from focusing on the president's failed foreign policy. It was a very effective plan, too. It worked well with the help of the left-leaning media. (Again, that's my opinion.)

As to my motive as to keeping this, and other, lies, screw-ups, and blunders by Obama, Clinton, and so many others of this administration is in the hope that voters do not lose track of these events and will not make the mistake of voting for another incompetent, left-wing president and the assorted rubber stamp enablers that will drag down our nation and economy any further than these people already have.

Steve Earle


Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 08:46

Hits: 119

Gilford citizens should be allowed input into this policy change

To The Daily Sun,

The defense of parents to direct their children's education and of free speech isn't over in Gilford.

The Gilford School Board met Monday and announced a new (and illegal) parental "opt in" policy for English, social studies, and humanities classes next year.

This is in response to a situation that erupted early last month when a parent, Mr. William Baer, spoke out against a controversial book, "Nineteen Minutes", that was assigned to his 9th grade daughter's Honors English class. This book contains a school shooting and a graphic sex scene. The high school principal admitted that the school failed to provide advance notification that this book would be required reading, which had been provided to parents in previous years. Mr. Baer attempted to speak with school officials before bringing it to the Gilford School Board, but was told there wasn't sufficient time to arrange a meeting. Consequently patience on both sides was already frayed by the time the School Board met.

On May 5, Mr. Baer addressed the School Board and was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.

The original incident was widely reported across the state and even hit the national news. School Choice for New Hampshire's initial post about this event is available. An unedited video of the May 5 meeting is also available, as well as a statement by Mr. Baer's daughter.

This situation seems far from over. Mr. Baer believes his First Amendment right to free speech was denied when the board had him removed and arrested at the May 5 meeting. The disorderly conduct charges still stand.

At the June 3 Gilford School Board meeting, local parents expressed their frustration about how the board handled the situation. Many parents stated that they believe board members were "arrogant." One board member countered by saying critics were "disrespectful." One board member, Mr. Kurt Webber, stated that "the right to free speech is not absolute," referencing that the public may not interrupt a court hearing or a legislative session. He continued: "the School Board meeting is not an open forum to have an argument," and that it was an appropriate action by the board to have Mr. Baer arrested when he failed to obey their rules.

The new parental consent policy announced at the latest Gilford School Board meeting is a mixed bag. Instead of an "opt out" procedure that required parental notification of any controversial material in the classroom, next year the district will use an "opt in" consent requirement from parents. Additionally, the district will provide a list of all fiction reading materials that will be used in their English, social studies, and humanities classes prior to the start of those classes. Gilford parents will be able to decide which books their child will read before the classes begin. These are significant improvements in its policy.

If a parent objects to any of the material, parents will meet with the teacher and other school officials to find an alternative. However, the Gilford School Board gives the school final authority in determining a substitute. The new policy further states that parents may not appeal to the School Board if they disagree with the school's decision. These two provisions are in direct contradiction to state law.

The parental opt-out law — RSA 186:11, section IX-C — reads as follows: "IX-c. Require school districts to adopt a policy allowing an exception to specific course material based on a parent's or legal guardian's determination that the material is objectionable. Such policy shall include a provision requiring the parent or legal guardian to notify the school principal or designee in writing of the specific material to which they object and a provision requiring an alternative agreed upon by the school district and the parent, at the parent's expense, sufficient to enable the child to meet state requirements for education in the particular subject area. The name of the parent or legal guardian and any specific reasons disclosed to school officials for the objection to the material shall not be public information and shall be excluded from access under RSA 91-A."

It is clear that the RSA intends to require the school district representative and parent/guardian to reach a mutual agreement. It does not authorize any party to have overriding final authority.

Additionally, this Gilford School Board policy specifically denies parents the right to appeal to their elected officials. It is a grave concern that a district and School Board would approve any policy that tries to remove their accessibility or accountability to their citizens.

Also, it appears that this policy change was given little to no public vetting. The Gilford citizens should be given an opportunity to review and provide input on such a significant change.

Further, the Gilford board member's comment that "the right to free speech is not absolute" should be immediately and emphatically corrected.

Free speech does not have limits. It has consequences, but not constraints. Free speech is absolute. Restrictions on open, public debate are more akin to a kangaroo court than one appropriate to a representative government.

Public hearings that permit only brief discussion will not adequately address controversial or critical issues. Those are exactly the issues that may need additional time to resolve. Effectively, these speech limits stifle discussion, debate, and the views of the public.

When there are contentious issues, any organization representing the public must serve the public by not trivializing people, their views, or input. It seems the Gilford School Board has lost sight of their proper role as servants to their community.

Michelle Levell

School Choice for New Hampshire


Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 08:35

Hits: 411

Lot more people responsible for VA mess than just the president

To The Daily Sun,

Our fearless leaders in Congress are at it again. With mid-term elections approaching, they've stumbled upon yet another scandal to blame on Mr. Obama and divert public focus away from their own miserable performance.

VA Chief Eric Shinseki is the latest whipping boy. He resigned Friday in response to angry demands from the "Hill" — it was impossible for Mr. Obama to ignore that chest beating troop of 98 pound gorillas that inhabits the Capitol, seeking the director's head on the president's platter.

Members of his own party called on the president to relieve Shinseki over "systemic" failures of the VA health care system. The lack of proper care for veterans, called "criminal," prompted Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) to inquire whether the Justice Department should investigate.

It's probably a toss-up whether Congress will achieve more political yardage over Benghazi, or the VA, but one thing's for sure, in the coming months, the voters' attention will be drawn to the failures of a presidential hopeful, a retired four-star general, and the president, with whom the buck stops. After all, the president hired the members of his Cabinet — he's ultimately accountable for his own judgment in selecting them. This is especially true when it comes to the man he picked to run the massive bureaucracy that provides healthcare for our nation's veterans.

But wait a minute. Is the fact that the VA's a horrible mess really news to anyone? The "whistleblower" and VA inspector general didn't surface much that millions of veterans and their families haven't experienced for decades.

I spent 38 years in the service — I knew there'd come a day when I'd find out if I should've believed the horrific stories I'd heard about the VA. My recent hour-long physical exam in Pensacola — after waiting a year and a half for an appointment — was amazing, but not surprising.

This VA debacle can't have come as a news flash for our intrepid lawmakers in DC, can it? Sen. McCain didn't know about lengthy waits for appointments in his home state? If not, why not? If so, why didn't he do something about it? He's been in Washington longer than most, and a veteran to boot.

Our politicians in Washington — especially the ones who've been there for years — share the burden with Messrs. Shinseki and Obama for the mess at the VA. Directors and presidents have come and gone over the past decades. There have been seven bosses at the VA since its inception, and I'm relatively certain the department was as screwed up at the beginning as it is now. So, aren't all the prior directors and presidents to blame? Congress has been there the whole time — do they get a free pass?

Mr. Obama is being called to task for the misdeeds of his cabinet appointee. Maybe the president picked the wrong guy (although, if you can't count on a four-star general, former Army Chief and combat veteran with two purple hearts to get the job done, who can you pick?)

But what of our U.S. senators who unanimously confirmed General Shinseki as director? Don't they have a hand in this insult to America's veterans? Isn't their judgment suspect as well as Mr. Obama's?

What of the members of Congress who've been serving on the various committees involving the military and veterans? Aren't they responsible for "oversight" of how the VA is run? Of course they are, and they should have been howling for years about why our vets complain of substandard treatment at VA hospitals all over the country. Why is it that Congress seems shocked by all this — and the best they can do is call on the president to fire the guy their upper house brethren all agreed was the perfect candidate to lead the VA?

What about Florida's representative in the First District? His official biography crows about his role: "United States Representative Jeff Miller serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. The Committee on Veterans' Affairs is responsible for authorization and oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA is the second largest department in the federal government with over 300,000 employees and a budget of over $150 billion."

Maybe along with calling on General Shinseki to resign, Mr. Miller should have pulled out paper and pen as well.

This failure of congressional oversight can't be the result of their being overworked. No, Congress just has better things to do. Take the bill that's just been introduced with bi-partisan support by representatives Ruiz (D-Calif.), Barrow (D-Ga.), Gozar (R-Ariz.) and Jones (R-N.C.), titled the "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress" Act. The law seeks to prohibit members of the legislative branch (aka Congress and Senate) from flying first class. Mr. Gosar called the federal legislation an attempt to "eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in federal government." Mr. Ruiz said, "It's wrong that members of Congress can purchase luxury airfare with taxpayer money" when constituents are struggling to make ends meet.

Imagine that: the politicians are introducing a bill to keep themselves from ripping off the American taxpayer, announcing that what's good enough for the American GI is good enough for them. They're trying to protect us, from them. Congress is outraged at the abuses over at the VA, while at the same time, they're going to take up a bill to curb their own waste of government funds? Besides proposing a law to prohibit doing something that any good public servant would know is wrong, they're pandering for votes from America's military.

Maybe Congress should have passed a law requiring them to use the VA health care system, if they want a taste of life in the trenches. At least they'd have figured out before now, what everybody else knows about the VA. And, having suffered with the system, the question is whether they'd do anything besides sucking it up and grousing like the rest of us. I have no doubt, the answer to that one.

Whenever I hear politicians refer to American fighting men and women as "boots on the ground," I wonder if that's what they think of us — and why fixing the VA healthcare nightmare hasn't long been the focus of their constant attention. I hope when everyone who served the nation in uniform — their families, friends and anyone else who cares about veterans — turns out to vote in November, they remember this pathetic example of incumbent congressional "oversight" and cast their ballot accordingly.

Bruce Van Derven

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 08:29

Hits: 214

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