Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nazareth Graffiti Artist Fingered

His tag is "Coach." If you live in or near Nazareth, you've seen his dastardly work.

He's the bastard who spray-painted nine cars outside Wal-Mart last week. He lit up the old Ranch House in Upper Nazareth Township. He's even spray-painted my jeep several times.

Nazareth Mayor Earl Keller is convinced the culprit must be a blogger. Police, of course, suspect skateboarders. Nazareth Borough Councilman Conrad Bowers has already appointed himself lead investigator. He plans to convert the skatepark into an internment camp for 'boarders while he gets interrogation tips from the CIA.

Keller, cops and Bowers are on the wrong track. I saw the real culprit last weekend from my window. He laughed hysterically as he spray-painted "Coach" all over my jeep ... again. I dashed outside with a golf club, but the old fart was too fast for me. He hopped on a skateboard, went about twenty feet to a nearby Caddy, and sped off in a shower of sparks. He even threw a firecracker at me as he roared off.

I called 911 and gave a detailed description, but was immediately committed. I think those little turds are in on it with the "coach." But they could only keep me 48 hours. I snapped a picture of this miscreant with my cellphone and have sent it to the FBI.

I can't wait to see the look on Northampton County Council Prez Grube's face when the feds ask him to pop his hood.

Tony Phyrillas: LV Ramblings a "Left Wing Attack Blog"

Tony Phyrillas, a Mount Penn Borough councilman seeking reelection, is also a "veteran newspaperman with 25 years experience" as a reporter, city editor and columnist at The Pottstown Mercury. The online edition of that paper recommends Tony's blog.

You'd think a "veteran newspaperman with 25 years experience" would avoid anything that would compromise his journalistic integrity. Yet on Saturday, Phyrillas thought nothing of posting a series of jokes lifted in their entirety from the Internet. He misrepresented them as his own work product.

No one should have to tell a journalist or blogger it's wrong to plagiarize. But just in case someone was napping in journalism school, the Society of Professional Journalists contains that little piece of advice in its code of ethics.

In fact, that code goes a bit further. Journalists should:

— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

Until I complained about Phyrillas the Plagiarist yesterday, this "veteran newsman" linked to a blog promoting his reelection. He quickly removed it after Chris Casey pointed it out in a comment to my post. Tony still maintains a link to another of his blogs, which promotes the Mount Penn GOP.

Instead of making a correction or clarification to his offending post, Tony just added a prefatory comment, admitting he picked the stuff up somewhere. According to Rebecca's Pocket, changing or deleting an entry destroys the integrity of the network. Phyrillas should have done a correction.

I don't know. Maybe it's not plagiarism in the People's Republic of Pottstown. Maybe reporters there can just wing it.

Now my criticism of Phyrillas has nothing to do with ideology. He could be a Tory for all I care. Yet his spin is that a "left wing attack blog" trying to knock him down a few pegs.

And he's right.

We had a secret meeting Sunday night, and I'm the grand wizard. We dress in red robes, and next week, we'll be launching a prank phone call campaign.

Rendell Caption Contest Winner

On Friday, I asked you to provide a caption that goes best with this picture. Winner gets lunch with Angle or a guest post at which I am barred from any critical commentary. There were, as expected, a lot of noodle jokes. But this is the winning entry.

"There is this much truth to everything I say."

This was submitted by Anon 10:35. The winner can contact me at BOHare5948@aol.com. I sure hope there's only one Anon 10:35.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Brookings Institution: That Surge Just Might Be Working!

Mike O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two heavy hitters at the Brookings Institution, have reached a startling conclusion: "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms."

Civilian fatality rates are down about a third. That's not the only reason these think tank scholars are optimistic. But that's one reason that matters to me.

Mainstream Columnist Tony Phyrillas Steals a Few Lines

Tony Phyrillas sure likes to blow his own horn. In his blogger profile, this city editor and columnist at The Pottstown Mercury claims to be a "leading conservative columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania." He brags his columns are featured on over two dozen political web pages. He's one of the leading Greek-American bloggers in the whole wide world. He even went to college!

His blog, incidentally, is imaginatively called Tony Phyrillas. He's here in Blogistan to give us the "common-sense viewpoints of a conservative journalist working in a liberal-dominated media."

Gee, thanks.

But some of his "common-sense viewpoints" aren't really his.

In a Saturday post, Phyrillas gives us a hilarous rendition of state mottos. They're really pretty funny. Maine's motto, for example, is "We're Really Cold, But We Have Cheap Lobster!"

I've waded through a few of Phyrillas' missives, and his humor meter is right up there with Lord Voldemort. So how did he all of a sudden get so funny? Simple. He just lifted those state mottos from the Internet. They're plastered all over the place, from here to here to here. That would be fine, but he fails to acknowledge anywhere that he borrowed these laugh lines from the net.

Plagiarism, according to Wikipedia, comes from the Latin word plagiare. It means "to kidnap," and is defined as "the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship or incorporating material from someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement." Thanks to the Internet, it's a lot easier these days.

There are some funny bloggers out there, including Bill White, Joe Owens, Jim Deegan, and Dear Maddy. Guess what? They write their own humor. If they steal a line, they at least have the decency to acknowledge it.

Call me wacky, but I've always been under the impression that plagiarism gets mainstream reporters fired.

What's the motto at The Pottstown Mercury? "All the news we can steal from the web"?
Update: Phyrillas alters his original post! After being tagged for misrepresenting something he lifted from the net as his own work, Phyrillas has done some damage control. Rather than simply apologize and do a clarification. Phyrillas has added a preface, today, to a post dated Saturday. "This is one of those lists that gets passed around via e-mail. Not sure where it got started, but it's very funny." He continues to mislead readers, after caught plagiarizing, by conning them into thinking his explanatory comment had been there all along.

Nazareth Mayor Doesn't Read Blogs, But Sure Can Criticize Them

Express Times reporter JD Malone, who covers the Nazareth beat, was nice enough to give Nazareth's two blogs a little plug yesterday.

NewsOverCoffee, the leading Nazareth blog, is hyper-local, contains information the mainstream simply has no space to cover, and is a must read for anyone really interested in that community.

I'm the other Nazareth blog. I'm not hyper-local, just hyper. I might write about Nazareth today and Buddy Christ tomorrow.

Malone's account, nice as it is, makes me wonder about Nazareth Mayor Earl Keller, who strangely denies reading blogs. "I never read them. I'm just not into that type of media. ... I hear some things that are on there. I hear lots of people talk about [the blogs]."

That's a crock.

The reality is he doen't want people to read them. Blogs mercilessly nailed both Keller and Nazareth borough council last summer over its back-room meetings to move its municipal center into a kids' park. He was so miffed he recently whined about us in his "state of the borough" address.

"[O]thers in our community choose to cowardly criticize and personally attack those who volunteer and those who serve on Council, hiding in the anonymity of Internet gossip sites rather than volunteer their own time to do some tangible good."

Isn't it amazing that someone who "never" reads blogs is able to criticize them in such intricate detail in his state of the borough address?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bush's Penny-wise, Pound-foolish Presidency Impacts Lehigh Valley

On Wednesday, I told you the prez has threatened to veto Charlie Dent's public safety initiatives in the Lehigh Valley. Thanks to Bill Cahir, I've learned Bush also intends to nix some other improvements Dent is hoping to deliver to Allentown and Bethlehem. These include the following:

$500,000 to Bethlehem for the construction of a garage and bus terminal along East Third Street in South Side Bethlehem

$250,000 for the SteelStax Performing Arts Center.

$500,000 for the upgrade of Allentown traffic signals.

$250,000 for the expansion of the Allentown Art Museum.

According to Cahir, Bush is trying to "reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility." He might have thought a little more about that before he invaded Iraq.

The Glenn Reibman Comeback

Earlier this month, the phone rang at a plantation in Upper Mount Bethel Township. The servants were busy, drawing a bubble bath for the master, so he himself answered.

"Hello."

"Sir, I have a question for you. If the election were held today, would you vote for Ron Angle?"

"Well, since I am Ron Angle, I probably would, and several times!!"

As Angle tried unsuccessfully to sell some fish oil to the caller, he glanced at his caller ID. The call came from MCS Frames, an Easton-based company. Angle has since learned, just from asking around, that at least twenty voters in his district received such a call.

MCS Frames, in case you don't know, is run by Richard Master, a regular Democratic contributor. During the 2004 presidential race, he opened his business up after hours for use as a daily John Kerry phone bank. I know because I participated. In fact, I even met Master one evening.

I don't know much about federal election laws, but I do know it is illegal for a corporation to make any contribution, including in-kind, designed to influence an election for county or state office. Polling for Angle's opponent probably falls in that category. Master and MCS probably have an explanation, and I can't wait to see it.

By the way, did I mention that Richard Master is closely allied to former county exec Glenn Reibman? Did I also mention that Reibman is beginning to spread some money around? In the last election cycle, he spent $4,150 on local candidates, including $1,000 for Lamont McClure's county council quest.

Reibman still has over $101,000 to burn, and I smell smoke.

If he can rid council of Angle, who always has so many damn questions, it will be much easier for Reibman to knock off Stoffa or anyone else in the next county exec election.

It's beginning to look like the King of Pay to Play is making a comeback.

Rendell Caption Contest

Micek started this crap earlier this month. He posted a provocative picture of the Guv, and asked you to come up with a caption.

This is a much better picture, and it's just begging for a caption.

Winner of the best caption, to be decided on Monday, gets (1) free lunch with Ron Angle, or (2) a guest blog in which I am barred from offering any critical commentary.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's Speech at Allentown's Sterling Hotel

LV Independent Press finally has a local news report! It has just published a verbatim transcript of the speech delivered by Cindy Sheehan last night at Allentown's Sterling Hotel. For those of you unable to attend in person, here's the next best thing.

One of the comments I frequently get is “Wow, I did not think you were so tall.” I guess the camera adds about ten pounds and takes off six inches. So, gosh, I want to thank you all for coming. This is an amazing turnout, and I want to thank the organizers for putting this together on such short notice, and you guys might be warm down there but it is freezing up here because of this jet engine that keeps going off.

First of all, I’d like to invite all the members of our caravan to stand up. (applause) They deserve a standing ovation. You guys can stand up there if you want or go back to your seats. Since you are my followers you have to obey my every command. I want to say a little bit about that. Most of us came to Camp Casey from July 6 to July 8, never knowing that they were going to be setting out on a three week adventure across the country. So we have been doing a lot of laundry, you know, there is some stinking going on, but we’re doing it. It’s amazing, but these people have dropped everything to do this.

It’s so important to us, accountability, humanity, peace are so important to us that we just dropped everything to do this and I literally came up with the idea, I think it was July 2 or 3rd when I came up with the idea. These people did not know about it, they came to Camp Casey unaware that they were going on a caravan with me and walk and drive across the country. I am so honored to have people of the caliber of these people, talented, gifted, committed – should be committed, but committed to peace.

Somebody called me crazy one time, in fact, it was a Congressperson, and I sent the response out, and people said, “of course, you’re crazy. You sat in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, in August.” But there’s good crazy and bad crazy. If you really think about it, to hop in a car and drive across the deep South with our messages written all over our cars, actually, the car I was riding in, the tire was slashed and we were on a freeway and had a blowout. To me, that’s attempted murder. So, it’s been precarious but it’s also been very miraculous.

Just like Camp Casey in 0-5, when you follow your heart and you follow your instincts, and you’re on the right path, only good things happen. So, only good things have been happening on this trip. Rick has dubbed it “the magical history tour”. We drove all through the South, farther and farther north, stopped in Washington, DC on Monday. Before we left, I had said, if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t put impeachment back on the table, I’m going to run against her. (applause) Impeachment was never hers to take off the table. You don’t come in and take part of the Constitution off the table. What do you take off next? George Bush has been systematically destroying the Constitution since he has come into power. The First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, all of the Amendments, the Supremacy Clause Article 6 - he has been violating our Constitution, trampling on it, and I believe that if they don’t impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney, they might as well shred the Constitution, because it will be invalid.

Congress has been busy for the last six years handing over all their power to George Bush. They handed him their power to wage war. George Bush has said that no one in my administration has to testify to anything under oath: if you want us to testify, we will go behind closed doors, and you can’t have a record of it. Dick Cheney has said he is not part of the executive branch and he doesn’t have to give his papers to the national archives. What else have these people done? They have authorized torture. That is un-American. That harms our soldiers in the field. And, no information you get from torture is valid. It’s inhumane. This policy of torture – torture harms the torturer as much as the tortured. And we are a nation of torturers. George Bush has made us a nation of torturers.

He stood up at a press conference and admitted to breaking federal law, spying on Americans without warrant. That is one of the reasons President Nixon was going to be impeached and this is why the FISA laws were written. And many activists were against the FISA laws, because we have a Fourth Amendment against illegal search and seizure. The FISA laws have only turned down four or five requests for wireless tapping. George Bush will not even go that route.

George Bush says he is the war President, and he started the war of terror against the world and now he says he can do whatever he wants. Well, he is going to invade Iran. Dick Cheney can’t wait. Dick Cheney wants to start launching those missiles into Iran. Most of our Democratic and all the Republicans except Ron Paul say a nuclear option is not off the table. That’s a war crime – using weapons of mass destruction, or threatening them is a war crime. We are the only nation that has used that abominable technology on other people. And now, for them to even mention it makes them monsters and war criminals.

There’s a long list of violations by George Bush. He lied to the Congress. He lied to the American people. He started this illegal and immoral occupation against the Geneva Conventions, against UN treaties, against our own Constitution, against every kind of international law, any kind of law on just war – it does not fit. I don’t think there is, really, any just war. If it’s such a just war, such a great war, why aren’t the Bush twins over there? This is Cindy Sheehan’s just war theory. A just war is one that you would send your own children to die in. This war does not fit this criterion.

George Bush left our brothers and sisters in the Gulf States of Mississippi and Louisianan hanging off their roofs. One of our stops was New Orleans. The ninth ward is being systematically taken away from the people, the people who own their homes. You know, the City will go in and mow the grass, and if the homeowners do not pay their bill the City will confiscate their property. That is so they can build luxury condominiums and casinos. Nature gave George Bush and his cronies the justification for a huge gentrification project.

George Bush has made signing statements - over 800 times, he has said I will sign this law, but I don’t have to obey it. He has consolidated all power to himself. It is a neo-con plot, and that is not a conspiracy theory. All you have to do is read The Project for a New American Century. It is a game plan for what is going on right now. It’s George Bush’s Mein Kampf. It’s what they are doing to our country. So, the list is endless. If Congress does not impeach him, they are just a rubberstamp, bobble-headed entity. They need to impeach in order to revalidate themselves, make themselves relevant again.

George Bush has even ignored Supreme Court rulings, especially Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld that said that detainees deserve their due process. George Bush has taken away Habeas Corpus. That does not just stop at terrorists it applies to anyone that George Bush deems a terrorist. They could be us. We can be detained if George Bush says to do it. We can have our property taken away, our assets taken away by an order signed a few days ago. If you undermine his policy in Iraq, you can have your assets taken away from you. Nobody is stopping this maniac.

The thing that brought me back – people say, “I thought you retired.” Well, I did, but I retired from going one way to regroup and go another way. (applause) So many things happened during my retirement, I thought, “Oh, my God, why did I retire?” I knew George Bush wouldn’t stop being a criminal. I knew Congress wouldn’t stop being complicit. It was driving me crazy. We were going to come back in August with our trip to the Middle East, which is still happening. But when George Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence, I believe that is treason. (applause) It was treason and another thing Nixon faced in an Article of Impeachment was that he punished enemies or people he thought were enemies.

George Bush and Dick Cheney conspired to punish Joseph Wilson by outing his wife as a CIA agent. That was an executive branch conspiracy. We finally, after so much hard work by Patrick Fitzgerald, reached a point where one of the criminals was going to have to pay for obstruction of justice. George Bush commuted his sentence and said he suffered enough. Scooter Libby has suffered enough. Scooter Libby wrote the Project for a New American Century. George Bush and Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby and Condoleeza Rice and the rest of the long list of neo-con criminals will never suffer one iota of what they have made me suffer. They will never come close to the suffering of the Middle East. These people need to be held accountable so that my grandchildren will not have to fight these illegal and immoral wars.

We had Vietnam, and we didn’t stop it then. No one was held accountable for that war that sent millions, literally millions of people into a lifelong house of pain, regret, longing. So, this is when we have to stop it now, people, and it has to be a people’s movement. We went to John Conyer’s office, one of my heroes, one of my mentors, a lifelong public servant that has done heroic things. And he said, “We can’t impeach, because we don’t have the votes. If we impeach and fail, Fox will make us look stupid.”

So I said, “If I had to worry about Fox news, I would not even get out of bed.” (applause) I just asked him when Congress was going to do the morally correct thing, not the politically stupid thing. I said, “If you are not going to help us, then the people have no recourse. We have no recourse against these criminals in the White House.” John Conyers said, “Yes, you do, you can vote out the enablers in 2008.”

As far as I know, there are only 15 people signed on to the resolution to impeach Dick Cheney, H. Res, 333. That means that 420 of them are enablers and we have to vote every single one of them out. I have good news for you. In Philadelphia, their Congressperson Robert Rady signed on, today, to H. Res 333, to make it fifteen.

So, it has to be a people’s movement. People ask, “Why are you running against a Democrat? That’s not right, you should run against a Republican.” Nancy Pelosi said when I challenged her, “We can’t work against impeachment because we are too busy working against the war.” (laughter) I had the same reaction, I said, “How are you working against it, with meaningless bills that George Bush is going to veto? Are you trying to end it with non-binding resolutions?” This man does not even follow the law, or the Constitution. What is a non-binding resolution going to do? Nothing. They refuse to support Barbara Lee’s amendment that would have had the troops home within six months. It would have closed the permanent bases, brought the independent contractors out. It would have given the Iraqi people back their country. They could have supported that, but they whipped the entire caucus into supporting a non-binding resolution. It shows you they can get something done when they put their minds to it, but what don’t they do something meaningful, and not something meaningless.

There was a court case. Some of you might not know this, so this is an educational moment. In 1999, Campbell vs Clinton – 26 Congressman sued George…excuse me, George Clinton; I was combining them…sued Bill Clinton to stop the war in Kosovo because the war was not declared by Congress. The Supreme Court said you cannot simultaneously appropriate money and be against the war. So, no matter what Nancy Pelosi says, if she keeps giving George Bush the money to wage the war, she’s for it. (applause) And then, the analogy– if I tell my children that it’s wrong to do drugs, that doing illegal drugs is wrong, that you shouldn’t take illegal drugs, and then my son come to me and asks for money to buy drugs, and I give it to him – that’s what Congress is doing and all of them are enablers. Not just the Republicans, the Republicans are bad, but the Democrats are almost as bad.

Let’s look at what’s going to happen in 2008. Say we do elect more Democrats, say we do elect a Democratic President, it’s way too late to hold George Bush and Dick Cheney accountable. If anybody thinks they’re going to give up their power that easily, they’re wrong. Why did George Bush put, in a presidential directive, that he could declare martial law at any time, if he did not intend to use it, and to make himself the only decider in the entire country? That’s not how our country works. We have checks and balances, and if Congress won’t be a check and balance, if the media won’t do their job as the Fourth Estate, then we the people have to be the checks and balances on this out of control government that we have.

So when people tell me, if you get into office in 2009, you can’t impeach George Bush, I tell them if the Democratic leadership won’t hold George Bush accountable, then we the people must hold them accountable. I believe the issue of war and peace is non-partisan. When you look at Congress, we have only one party; I like to call them the war party. They profit off war, their pockets are lined by the same people, and if you look at the history of the 20th Century, every war except one or two was started by Democrats. So we have to rein them in, we have to start a people’s revolution.

So, in closing, Kathy Murphy is just standing up, she is right there. Her brother was killed in Vietnam. I know we have many people here who know somebody who was killed in Vietnam, a relative, a close friend, a lot of the people on our caravan are Vietnam vets. We didn’t stop it there. People come up to me and say, “You know, Cindy, I protested the Vietnam War, and I never thought it would happen again.” I said, “Why? You went home, you put your signs in a shed, took off your peace symbols, and you didn’t shut down the military industrial complex.” It has only gotten stronger – this is the time to end it. Now. Thank you. (applause, cheers)

We are very pleased by the energy and the turnout and all the honks we received on our march here, and the wonderful energy that is here in Allentown. We know that your community has been especially hard hit by Bushco, and so we are here to encourage you and to get encouragement from you and we are really thrilled – it’s been really great here. We’re going to do Q and A. Addison’s going to pick the raised hands. We’re just going to hope that it’s just a question and not a statement that is longer than I gave. Nobody gets to talk longer than me.

He asked if I was officially prepared to announce that I am running for Congress. Apparently, I already did that on Monday. After we had a meeting with John Conyers, I cam out and talk to the press, and I said, “We have to hold these people accountable, it can start with me. I am going to run against Nancy Pelosi, so yes, I am going to be an official candidate.”

It’s really a shame that I have to move to San Francisco. (laughter) I was born and raised in California and have lived the last fifteen years an hour from San Francisco. I’m very energized, I have already gotten so much support. People are like these people, they are going to quit their jobs, move across the country, move to San Francisco. People are lining up to donate to my campaign. I don’t have a way to donate yet. I think it’s going to be very energetic and it’s going to spark the debate.

It’s about how the two parties are the same and it’s about accountability. The one thing that keeps us mired in these wars, mired in all the problems that we have, is the two party system. They don’t represent us. They don’t represent the people. They represent the corporations. They represent the special interests. Everywhere I go in the world, I have been so blessed in the last two years to visit so many countries that have a Parliamentary system with more than two parties, there are parties to represent the people. There’s Green parties, there’s union parties, there’s socialist parties, and people are attached to their party, because you can pick a party that represents you. Not here in America – neither one of those parties represents me.

So, I will be running as an Independent, because I think we need to start getting away from these labels that divide us. Black, White, Republican, Democrat, Christian, Jew, Muslim, all of these labels that divide us – we should all be humans. If John Conyers and Nancy Pelosi actually look at these people as humans…another thing John Conyers told me a few meetings ago when I met him - I’ve been meeting with him a long time on this issue, was that it was more important for him to elect a Democrat as President than to end the war. And I started crying in his office.

I told him there are a 150,000 mothers in this country that could give a shit – I said “shit” to John Conyers - there are 150 mothers who could give a shit who is President in 2008, all they care about is that they get their children home safe. If your son was serving over there, you might feel a little differently.

So, this is what we have to do. I don’t think they get it. They think our children are these pawns on this global chess board that they can just move around and kill and have them kill other people and it’s not real flesh and blood that’s being spilled. It’s not real lives that are being damaged. That goes for so many issues. There are so many issues that they look at and ask themselves, “How can supporting this or not supporting this affect me politically?” If they would think about how supporting this or not supporting this could elevate us as human beings, that’s when we will have effective leadership
.

Northampton County Council Ignores Troubling Warning Signs

"Common sense jumped out of the window at a Northampton County Council meeting this month."

You could expect me to say something like that. But those words instead come from The Morning Call editorial board, clearly confused by a council that just makes no sense. Bill White deduces there must be a Mad Hatter faction.

Well, there is now a new reason to compare Northampton County Council with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Last Thursday night, the Caterpillar (Ron Angle) took the hookah out of his mouth, and asked the Mad Hatters, "What size do you want to be?"

Angle threw out a few facts he's learned from the finance committee, which he chairs. There's a 33% increase in sheriff's sales over last year. The county adds an average of forty new jobs every year. People are having trouble paying county taxes, and the debt to the county in unpaid real estate taxes now stands at $14 million. He believes the stock market is due for a correction, and when that happens, the county will have to deposit into the pension fund. He proposed forming a committee to meet with the administration to look for ways to cut costs now before the county finds itself in a dire financial crisis. He believes we need a task force to prevent a fiscal crisis.

Amazingly, not a single member of council was willing to go along with this idea.

After a few moments of silence, the Queen of Hearts, Ann McHale, told Angle he could just deal with this through his finance committee. Angle, who was hoping for a task force involving the administration, promised to try.

Looks like he's the only one.

It is precisely this unwillingness to recognize and react to warning signs, that leads to things like big tax increases and painful layoffs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bush Threatens to Veto Dent's Public Safety Initiatives

Would you like to see 300 digital video camera systems for police in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton? These protect officers while providing oversight.

How about better radio gateways for Allentown cops, so they can at least talk to police in surrounding departments?

For those of us living near the unpredictable Delaware river, wouldn't it be nice if the Delaware River Basin Commission improved its flood warning system?

And for our greatest asset, our children, I'm sure we'd all like to see improvements in Northampton County's Child Advocacy Center, so it can respond quickly to child abuse reports.

These four public safety initiatives have been proposed by Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent. Now kids can't vote, and cops don't make up a big voting block. His proposals have received scant attention and won't get him many votes. But these are all good ideas, the right thing to do.

Total cost? $1.75 million, according to a report filed by The Express Times' Bill Cahir. That's a lot of money, but pales in comparison to the $446 billion this country has spent on the Iraq war effort.

Yet President Bush now threatens to veto a spending bill designed to protect our safety here. According to Cahir, this bill spends 5% more than Bush thinks is acceptable. Iraq war costs will exceed $1 trillion dollars, so Bush wants to reduce spending here where it is needed. Children’s health, education, reducing the deficit and public infrastructure repairs will just have to wait.

And so will public safety right here in the Lehigh Valley if Bush has his way.
Update: Keystone Politics has also posted this topic, and claims the White House Budget Office has tagged this modest spending plan as irresponsible. I see.

If You Think Sheehan's Nuts, Check Out This Former Green From England

Cindy Sheehan's circus will be in Allentown today. Many of us think she's nuts. But she can't hold a candle to David Icke, England's former Green Party spokesperson.

You probably didn't know this, but Icke has learned the world is secretly ruled by blood-sucking reptilian humanoids from the constellation Draco. These include George Bush, the royal family and Kris Kristofferson, with those beady little eyes. Best defense? A turquoise tracksuit for some reason.

You know, now that I think about it, I did see a bunch of geckos running around the courthouse right before the last council meeting.

Norco Local Gov't Web Pages: Good, Bad & Nonexistent

When I rated Lehigh County's local government web pages, back in June, I expected to have Northampton County's results the next day. But Northampton County, though slightly smaller than Lehigh, is much more fragmented, with thirty-eight different municipalities.

I've tried to keep things objective for once. Here's how it works. Any local government with a website gets a point. Additional points are awarded for meeting agendas, minutes, online newsletters, calendars and email contacts (to elected officials only). If the site has other items designed to inform its citizens or make government more transparent, more points are awarded.

At the end of the post, I've included the data showing how points are determined for each municipality. If I've got something wrong, please let me know. I'm not proud. That's why I blog.

After a few days, I'll combine the Lehigh and Northampton County results to determine the best municipal websites in the Lehigh Valley. I'll have a few recommendations on how things can improve. If you have any suggestions, please make them known.

Here's the Northampton County breakdown.

7 points: Bethlehem Township, Easton City, Hanover Township and Williams Township tie for the county's best municipal web pages. These folks get it. Their sites promote public use and access. Three of these local governments actually include email contacts for elected officials, something very rare. Most municipalities try to guard access to their elected officials, a mistake.

6 points: Forks Township, Northampton County, Palmer Township and Wilson Borough. Northampton County has made strides over the past year, and now provides access to property records and sheriff's sales. But its biggest service to taxpayers is that you can pay your tax bills on line. Only Allentown has a similar feature.

5 points: Bethlehem City, Lower Saucon Township, Nazareth Borough and Upper Mount Bethel Township. These are all good web pages, designed to make government more transparent. All of these local governments provide access to minutes or agendas. A nice feature in Upper Mount Bethel, and one I've seen nowhere else in the Lehigh Valley, is the ability to submit your own news story about the community.

4 points: Allen Township. All the basics are there.

3 points: Pen Argyl Borough and Plainfield Township. These local governments appear to be on the right track.

2 points: Bushkill Township, Lower Nazareth Township, West Easton Borough and Wind Gap Borough. These are web pages that really need to improve.

1 point: Bath Borough, Freemansburg Borough, Hellertown Borough, Lower Mount Bethel Township and Washington Township. At least they showed up.

0 points: Bangor Borough, Chapman Borough, East Allen Township, East Bangor Borough, Glendon Borough, Lehigh Township, Moore Township, North Catasauqua Borough, Northampton Borough, Portland Borough, Roseto Borough, Stockertown Borough, Tatamy Borough, Upper Nazareth Township and Walnutport Borough. These local governments are either ungodly small or have demonstrated problems with citizen access. If they can't provide this basic service to constituents, they should merge with municipalities that try.

Here's the data I compiled to arrive at these results. If my math is wrong, it's because my dog was messing with my calculator.

Northampton County: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes, but only most recent meeting.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? Yes.
You can pay tax bills online, view sheriff sale properties and check out recent deeds and mortgages. Over 150 different documents are available, including the Home Rule Charter, budget and administrative code.

Allen Township: Score - 4.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? Yes, for most recent meeting.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes, on home page.
Calendar? Yes.

Bangor Borough: No web page. Score - 0.

Bath Borough: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.

Bethlehem City: Score - 5.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Online calendar? Yes.
It has a few on line extras, described in an earlier post.

Bethlehem Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes (since 2000)!
Agendas? Yes. Only current meeting.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Bethlehem Township actually has two web pages - one for government and the other for recreation, and its home page contains a section for "fast breaking" news.

Bushkill Township: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.

Chapman Borough: No web page. Score - 0.

East Allen Township: No webpage. Score - 0.

East Bangor Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Easton City: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes. (for city council)
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
Easton's ordinances are available online.

Forks Township: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes, for 2 years.
Agendas? Yes, for 2 years.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.

Freemansburg Borough: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Over a year old.
Calendar? No.

Glendon Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Hanover Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes, all the way back to 2001!
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
This webpage contains a scrolling news ticker to inform residents, and also includes agendas and minutes for all of its boards.

Hellertown Borough: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.
The site is set up for a newsletter, but fails to provide one.

Lehigh Township: No webpage. Score - 0.

Lower Mt. Bethel Township: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.

Lower Nazareth Township: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? Not updates since 2005.

Lower Saucon Township: Score - 5.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.
This page has separate sections for its environmental advisory council and zoning hearing board.

Moore Township: No webpage. Score - 0.

Nazareth Borough: Score - 5.
Minutes? Limited.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes. For the winter.
Calendar? Yes.

North Catasauqua Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Northampton Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Palmer Township: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2003.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Only for one of five supervisors.
Online newsletter? Yes, The home page appears to be a detailed online newsletter.
Calendar? Yes.
The site contains links to its community center, athletic association, business association, fire department and to various codes and permits.

Pen Argyl Borough: Score - 3.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.
There is a link to Pen Argyl's borough code.

Plainfield Township: Score - 3.
Minutes? Only one meeting is listed, from March.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? On the home page, there are notices.
Calendar? A meeting schedule is listed on the left sidebar.

Portland Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Roseto Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Stockertown Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Tatamy Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Upper Mt. Bethel Township: Score - 5.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? No.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No, but the home page does list upcoming meetings.
A nice feature of this site, and one I see nowhere else, is the ability to submit news items in the township.

Upper Nazareth Township: No webpage. Score - 0.

Walnutport Borough: No webpage. Score - 0.

Washington Township: Score - 1.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? Only for the planning commission.
Email contacts? None for elected officials.
Online newsletter? No.
Calendar? No.

West Easton Borough: Score - 2.
Minutes? No.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? None for elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.

Williams Township: Score - 7.
Minutes? Yes.
Agendas? Yes.
Email contacts? Yes.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
This site contains numerous application forms, zoning forms and recent ordinances.

Wilson Borough: Score - 6.
Minutes? Yes, back to 2005.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? Only two of ten elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? Yes.
This site also contains an online complaint form.

Wind Gap Borough: Score - 2.
Minutes? Only 2006. None at all for 2007.
Agendas? No.
Email contacts? Only for two elected officials.
Online newsletter? Yes.
Calendar? No.

Update: I was agraid I'd screw up, and so I did. East Allen Township has one of the county's best web pages. It includes a newsletter, calendar, minutes, agenda and also includes a few forms. It's entitled to a 6.
Update #2: I also missed North Catasauqua Borough, which has no newsletter, calendar, minutes or agendas. Its score is 1.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Daily Kos Drumming Up Money for Bennett

Some well-meaning poster at Daily Kos has just suggested "we should shower funds on Bennett ... so she can sprout and be strong enough to prevail next year."

Dude, she's already sprouted! Dandelions and crabgrass are everywhere!

Promoting a Sam Bennett congressional campaign, financially or otherwise, will just guarantee a major Democratic disappointment in 2008. My major fear is not that she will be trounced, but that she will drag down some worthy state house candidates with her.

She neeeds to step down. Better that no one run than her.

Cindy Sheehan Marginalizes Peace Movement in Allentown on Wednesday

Allentown Armory Activists have the following announcement:

Cindy Sheehan will be arriving in Allentown Wednesday July 25Th. The Allentown Armory Activists and every other major peace group in the lehigh valley will be welcoming her at our regular protest location of 15Th and Allen st in Allentown. we will gather there at 4 pm. we will walk down 15Th to Hamilton turning left and continuing down Hamilton to the historic sterling hotel. There we will hold Cindy's "journey for humanity" walking tour of the U.S. as it stops in Allentown. Allentown was chosen for it's [sic] representation of the industrial decline in the U.S.

They first had her speaking from Muhlenberg, but never cleared it with anyone. Now Sheehan is scheduled to speak from the Sterling Hotel at 7 PM Wednesday.

In late May, Sheehan dropped out of the peace movement. She claimed to be exhausted and disillusioned. "I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost."

She's baaaack!

This time, she's pissed at the Democrats, too, especially Nancy Pelosi. That's right. Instead of George Bush, who's actually in charge of that goofy war, Sheehan has her sights set on the woman who's actually trying to stop it. Go figure.

Sheehan demands a Bush impeachment, and started a "walking tour" about two weeks ago for 1,452 miles between Crawford TX and the Capitol. She threatened to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless a bill of impeachment is filed against Bush by today!

Wait a tic! That's over 100 miles per day! Sheehan should forget about Congress and become an ultrarunner.

Here's what Cindy said as she sallied forth for D.C..

It is about time us [sic] “peasants” (in the eyes of the Fascist Ruling Elite) march on DC with our“pitchforks” of righteous anger and our “torches” of truth to demand the ouster of BushCo. I have a dream of the detention centers that George has built and filled being instead filled with Orange Clad neo-cons and neo-connettes. If Congress won’t dig BushCo’s political grave, it is the People’s job to do so. Thomas Jefferson said that we need a Revolution every 20 years, or so, to keep our Republic honest.

Cindy was charged with disorderly conduct today, and was led away in little plastic handcuffs, but at least got to announce her congressional intentions. Cindy Sheehan arrested? There's a shocker!

I'm sorry her son died. But her shrill threats and publicity stunts just marginalize everyone opposed to the war. She actually hurts the peace movement.

Sheehan, once a daily fixture on Air America, is now having trouble attracting an audience. At DailyKOS, her posting privileges have been terminated.

Now that her little revolutionary war is over, she can pop on up to the Lehigh Valley for scrapple 'n strudel. Who knows, party bosses might ask her to run for Congress here. They've finally found someone even more opportunistic than Spam Bennett.

With Cindy, it's not about the war. It's about Cindy.

Fifteen Northampton County Municipalities Have No Web Pages

There's really no excuse for this.

If a total nitwit like me can blog, all of the local municipalities around here should have their own web pages. That would demonstrate at least some minimal effort to keep us involved. A good Internet site provides both accountability and access. It makes government more transparent, and available 24 hours every day.

Incredibly, fifteen Northampton County municipalities have no web pages at all!

These are Bangor Borough, Chapman Borough, East Allen Township, East Bangor Borough, Glendon Borough, Lehigh Township, Moore Township, North Catasauqua Borough, Northampton Borough, Portland Borough, Roseto Borough, Stockertown Borough, Tatamy Borough, Upper Nazareth Township, and Walnutport Borough.

If these municipalities are unable to provide this basic service to its citizens, why are they here at all?

Bethlehem's Web Page Better Than Originally Thought

Back in June, I rated Lehigh County's local government web pages, including Bethlehem. I kept things objective for once.

Here's how the rating system works. Any local government with a website gets a point. Additional points are awarded for web pages with meeting agendas, minutes, online newsletters, calendars and email contacts (to elected officials only). If the site includes other items designed to inform its citizens or make government more transparent, more points are awarded.

Emmaus, with eight points, was the clear winner. Bethlehem had only four points. There were no email contacts to elected officials, no online newsletter, and its calendar failed to list any public meetings.

Reader RadCenter had the following critique:

Bethlehem recently redesigned its Web site. I used to find a lot more on there than I do now. It's turned into nothing more than an extension of the Chamber of Commerce PR site.

Example: There used to be a map on there that showed a breakdown of per capita income for the different neighborhoods in the city. This was part of a redevelopment project for the west side and northeast that is also no longer mentioned on the site. To attract further development in the wake of the BethWorks project, the leadership in Bethlehem is doing its best to portray the city as a mythical Lake Wobegon: "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

I forwarded those concerns to Bethlehem's IT department, and received this reply from Blake Kleintop.

First, the site has not been redesigned recently or in the past 4-5 years. The content of the site is updated every day of the work week. The City of Bethlehem's Web site is http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov. Possibly your reader was commenting on a different site?

The City's web site does not promote local businesses, new developments,or the Chamber of Commerce. Could you or your reader clarify what is meant by a "Chamber of Commerce PR site". Of course, we do have a section for the Department of Economic Development, and also users can find business tax forms and permits online.

To your reader's example, the Elm Street Plan is still available on the City's Web site(http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/dept/planning_Zoning_Permits/elmstreet/report.htm). While the Elm Street Plan for North & West Side Neighborhoods plan was actively being written, it was more prominently displayed on the site. This was 1) to promote awareness and interest in the plan and 2) to solicit comments on the plan.

Since the plan has been completed, it is no longer as prominent. It's obviously unrealistic to prominently display everything the City has ever done. The City has not removed information available on the site unless it was entirely of a timely nature. For example, Job opportunities. Finally, the City maintains a schedule of meetings available here:http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/city_council/agenda_minutes/schedule.htm

Based on the information Mr. Kleintop was kind enough to provide, I've changed Bethlehem's score to a 5.

Why does this matter?

Bethlehem is also located in Northampton County, and I've just finished rating those web pages. I hope to have that up in the next day or two.

Monday, July 23, 2007

President Bush Violates Flag Code, Too

LehighValleyHousewife is a frequent commenter here and on other local blogs. She held her own rather nicely when Boscola aide Bernie Kieklak slammed her with sexist remarks. She's easily one of the best writers in the Lehigh Valley.

Thursday, I told you about charges filed against a Washington Township man who "insulted" the American flag by flying it upside down. Both The Express Times and Morning Call, which take the First Amendment seriously, jumped on this incident with front page stories. A lot of folks at The Morning Call forum, a truly scary place, are ready to lynch both the flag protestor and DA John Morganelli, who dared drop the charges in accordance with Supreme Court precedent.

These folks should take a gander at the pictures LehighValleyHousewife found. The one I feature shows the Great Decider signing flags while campaigning in 2003. Another actually features the war prez atop an American flag.

Who's Among the Lehigh Valley's Conservative Legislators?

. . . BethDem has a pretty convincing answer. He also has a question.

We've Invaded the Wrong Frickin' Country!

When GW was finally legitimately elected president, second time around, some credited the win on Republican emphasis of family values. But I think Bush played a better card. He appealed to our fears.

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Dissident Noam Chomsky put it nicely at the time. "It is a frightened country and it is easy to conjure up an imminent threat."

Well, it now appears Bush was right all along. We should have been afraid. Al-Qaeda is more powerful now than when it attacked us in 2001. And this begs one very important question - why the hell has Bush been so focused on Iraq when all the evidence shows bin Laden and his minions are based in northwestern Pakistan?

Philly Inquirer columnist Dick Polman tells us that if we Democrats were not such wimps, we could play that fear card ourselves. He proposes running ads like this:

Grainy slow-motion footage of Osama bin Laden and activity at his training camps. Cue ominous music.

"Six years after Sept. 11, this man still roams free - thanks to George W. Bush and his Republican allies. They promised they would be tough. They promised to protect us here at home. But instead they took their eye off the ball, spending $2 billion a week in a futile war half a world away from our real enemy, imperiling our brave servicemen and women, and emboldening those who would come here to kill us. America can no longer afford the party of weakness. Vote Democratic, as if your life depended on it."

Pretty scary, huh?

Know what's even more scary? This is no spin. It's all too true.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Express Times Casts Public Spotlight on "Flag Flap"

Yesterday, I told you about charges filed against a Washington Township man who "insulted" the American flag by flying it upside down. Although Easton defense lawyer Gary Asteak had prepared a vigorous defense, District Attorney John Morganelli decided on his own to dismiss the charges.

This is consistent with Morganelli's broad interpretation of the First Amendment. In 2004, he dismissed trespassing charges against local peace activists who were distributing anti-war leaflets on a public sidewalk outside the Palmer post office. As John succinctly put it yesterday, "I protect the first amendment."

So does the Express Times.

In a front page story today, The Express Times casts a very public spotlight on the different attitudes that resulted in criminal charges against someone who, when all is said and done, was just trying to send a message.

Joe Yamrus elaborates. "I believe the generals oughta run the war, not the Democrats or the Republicans or anyone else in Congress. Their asses aren't over there dying."

The woman who complained about Yamrus' upside down flag is "extremely upset by it," and it turns out the arresting officer has a brother who just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq.

But that's why he was there, isn't it?
Saturday Update: The Morning Call has also cast a very public spotlight on this story, with a front page article today. Tania Meixsell, the self-described "Army brat" who initiated this investigation, tells me (in comments to Friday's post) that we are "very close minded people who just want to slander someone for sticking up for this country and the lives that have been lost so bravely fighting for it."

Nazareth's Bad Skateboarding Attitude

Yesterday's Express Times slams Nazareth Borough Councilman and Skatepark Inspector Conrad Bowers. He's the village idiot who nearly caused a riot on Monday at Nazareth park when he padlocked kids out of the skatepark ... twice. Amazingly, he has no regrets and actually thinks he has the unilateral authority to do these goofy things.

It must come from God because it sure as hell doesn't come from the Borough Code.

Here's what's really going on. Like many others in the Nazareth community, Bowers knows skateboarders are snotty, disrespectful punks. I've seen plenty of that attitude here and at Ross' blog over the past week. "The world needs ditchdiggers, too."

Frankly, it's disgusting. For the most part, these are our children.

Many Nazareth adults are delighted when our kids are out on a football field, bashing heads, or on some baseball diamond, where the pitcher's dad always happens to be the coach. Skateboarders just can't cut it. Here's what one local woman condescendingly tells me about boarders. "Many of them either weren't talented enough (not their fault) or didn't enjoy or want to work hard enough to play the stick and ball sports."

Really?

She elaborates. "[T]hese are kids who flamed out in other sports for whatever reason. It's not that they weren't encouraged and in many cases, coached, by their parents. They just weren't good enough to continue in those stick and ball sports."

I can see why most of us Nazareth residents are considered snobs. We really think we're something, as long as we're not skateboarders.

Most kids (70-75%) lose interest in organized sports by the time they are in middle school. Slackers? Maybe they're just tired of the goofy parents, coaches and pressures associated with most structured sports. Let's look at two organized sports a moment. In baseball, we have steroids galore. In football, role models like Michael Vick promote a gang mentality, even to the point of hanging and electrocuting dogs that refuse to fight aggressively enough to suit their National Felony League tastes.

And what do we do? We flock to watch them, swilling beer and burping. Hell, why don't we just slap some armor and a pitchfork on our kids and throw them in the arena?

Are 'ya ready for some football?

We just love it!

Kill! Kill!

It's enough to make me want to buy my grandson a skateboard. But he still thinks he's a football, baseball and basketball star. And when he grows up, he wants to be just like ... Michael Vick? Kobe Bryant?

Boys will be boys. And girls? On the sidelines, dude, with the skatebaorders.

I'd like to see a few more skateboarders, not less.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Norco Council Forks Over Tape, But With 18 Minute Gap!

All right, I'm kidding. There's no gap. But at least I have your attention.

Yesterday, I told you Northampton County Council was being coy about producing an audiotape of last week's meeting. After making this routine request, I was surprised to learn it had actually been placed on the agenda.

Council Prez Grube prefaced his "Discussion of the County Council Public Records Access Policy" with a prepared statement. Someone other than Grube obviously wrote the brief monologue. According to the prepared script, my simple request is what prompted this urgent need for discussion. He mentioned possible concerns council had about how far it wants to go, or whether it should seek legal advice, etc., etc., HINT, HINT. He claimed the point of this discussion was to arrive at a "consensus."

Obviously, someone on that council thinks we citizens have no business looking over their shoulders. This betrays a misunderstanding of both The Right to Know Law and council's own previously enacted public access policy. Someone was trying to thwart a simple records request, which makes us all lose confidence in our government. But who was it?

Surprisingly, not McHale.

Ann McHale: "Why is this even here?"

Diane Neiper: "Actually, I brought it up. Maybe we should look at this for future requests."

Ron Angle: "This really is a no-brainer. I'd like to think that by now he has that tape."

Diane Neiper: "You're absolutely incredible."

At this point, county clerk Frank Flisser chimed in to say he had already copied the tape and would hand it over after the meeting. And he did.

Although Neiper claimed she never intended to interfere with my request for that audiotape, the prefatory remarks she prepared demonstrate otherwise. What prevented her from getting her way was the absence of two of her usual allies, Charles Dertinger and Tony Branco. So she claimed instead that she just thought now might be a good time to review things.

Right. What a coinkidinky! And she really does believes in open and accountable government, and the tooth fairy, too!

And where the hell were Dertinger and Branco, who left Neiper and McClure high and dry last night? I'm told they skipped so they could attend Newt Gingrich's appearance at Stabler arena. They're big fans!

Flying Flag Upside Down Results in Criminal Charges in Washington Township

Washington Township police officer Scott E Miller filed criminal charges on June 11, 2007 against a Washington Township man for insulting the American flag. Easton lawyer Gary Asteak asks me the following question: "How the hell do you insult the American flag? What do you do, walk up to it and start cursing?"

The following are excerpts from Officer Miller's lengthy affidavit of probable cause:

On May 30, 2007, this officer spoke with complainant, ... who wanted to report an individual who was flying the American Flag upside down.

[The complainant] had been driving ... with her family, which included four children and husband Scott, who is currently serving active duty with the Army. [Complainant] went on further to state that she comes from a military family and this was a very disturbing and insulting revelation that her family had observed, ie The American Flag flying upside down.

This officer advised her that this officer would speak to [the Defendant] and request that he remove the flag and/or fly it properly. On May 30, 2007, at approximately 1100 hrs., this officer went to [Defendant's] residence of which nobody was at home. This officer obtained three digital photos of The American Flag flying upside down on the property ... for report/investigative purposes.

This officer then left a phone message for [Defendant] in regard to the upside down US Flag. Shortly thereafter, [Defendant] returned the phone call leaving a voice message for this officer. [Defendant] indicated on the message that his purpose for flying the flag upside down is due to this country (USA) being in distress due to President Bush, Nancy Pelosi and all the other democratic politicians. He further stated that he would not remove the flag or fly it properly.

This officer then contacted [Complainant], and advised her of what [Defendant] had said. She requested this officer to further investigate the matter and determine if any charges could be pursued against [Defendant]. She was informed that this officer would look into the matter further.

June 9, 2007---After researching the above information, this officer concluded that [Defendant] is in violation of The PA Crimes Code, ... Insults to National or Commonwealth Flag. This officer also researched the Flag Code ... . Specifically [the Flag Code] states: The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. It further notes that this pertains to active duty personnel.

Upon obtaining this information, [Complainant] was asked if she wanted to pursue the matter further as the complainant in criminal charges being filed against [Defendant]. [Complainant] indicated that she and her husband, Scott wanted to pursue the matter and they would complete a written statement to the facts of the case. This officer received this written statement on June 11, 2007.

June 11, 2007 @ 1600hrs.---This officer contacted [Defendant] and advised him of the written complaint ... . He was once again asked to either remove the flag or fly it properly, or he may be subject to criminal actions based upon this officers' investigation. [Defendant] stated he is flying the US Flag upside down because our country is in distress due to the politicians and that it is not personally against our troops in Iraq. He was informed that although the upside down flag is an accurate form of distress for active military personnel, him flying it upside down due to his anger over the current administration is not the proper form of the flag flying upside down, and that his actions are criminal in nature. [Defendant] then advised this officer to do what was necessary and if need be, he will take this matter to the US Supreme Court, because he will not take it down or fly it properly.

June 11, 2007 @ 1630hrs.---[Defendant] came to WTPD and requested a copy of the US Flag Code ... along with a copy of PA Crimes Code section 2103 ... .

June 12, 2007---This officer obtained four photos of the upside down US Flag that resides on the property of [Defendant], which borders the public roadway. While photographing the flag, [Defendant] came out and spoke to this officer. He was still refusing to remove the flag or fly it properly. Therefore, [Defendant] was advised that charges will be filed again him.

And so they were. On June 21, 2007, this Washington Township resident was charged with a second degree misdemeanor. He retained Gary Asteak, and was ready to slug it out in court. But the DA was not. He dumped the case. Good for him.

Instead of spending all his time reading the Crimes and Flag Code, he should take a gander at this thing called the First Amendment. It's not too long and doesn't contain any big words. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Now he can return to harassing skateboarders.

Will Norco Council Produce Audiotape Containing Their Childish Remarks?

Last Thursday, Northampton County Council took absurdity to new levels when it refused to follow its own lawyer's advice. Morning Call columnist Bill White, fresh from his recent holiday with Jolly Joe Timmer, likened the meeting to an Alice in Wonderland Mad Tea Party. And that's actually being kind to that sorry crew.

I want the audiotape of that meeting. I'm particularly interested in Ann McHale's hissy fit, including the "Nice guys finish last" grenade she threw at county exec John Stoffa. I'd really like to upload her little outburst for your listening pleasure. In fact, I should do that more often.

I asked for that audio tape last Friday. Yesterday, I put my request in writing, and even kicked in $20 to defray any costs.

Here's what county council's own public records access policy states:

"All requests for copies of audio tapes of a County Council meeting, not made in person, shall be submitted in writing by the person making the request. The following charges shall apply to each request for copies of audio tapes: $15.00 for each tape copied, plus, if mailed, postage and $2.00 service charge."

Under council's own damn policy, as well as The Right to Know Law, I'm entitled to a copy. Incidentally, The Right to Know Law specifically provides council "may not deny a requester access to a public record due to the intended use of the public record by the requester."

Seems like a slam dunk, right?

Wrong. Last night, when I glanced at the agenda for tonight's meeting of county council, I noticed the following item listed: "Discussion of the County Council Public Records Access Policy."

There is nothing to discuss.

Nothing, unless council has no interest in open and accountable government. It could decide to make a retroactive change. It could even try to bury my request in some goofy committee, as it did with its own lawyer's legal advice. I'd put nothing past that goofy bunch. If it moves in that direction, it does so at its own peril.

You see, I'm not one of those nice guys. I'm a miserable bastard.

LC Dem Committeman Asks Bennett to Withdraw Candidacy

Chris Casey, one of a diverse coterie of bloggers at LVPoliblog, is also a Lehigh County Democratic committeeman. Congressional hopeful Sam Bennett actually kicked in $50 to his unsuccessful state legislature campaign last year. She probably should have dug a little deeper.

In a post published yesterday afternoon, Casey calls on Bennett to withdraw from the race.

"The biggest drawback is that Sam's present position excites swing voters to vote against her, and in general against the Dem ticket. It is a lot to ask a statehouse candidate to raise enough money to overcome that kind of a mountain. ... . I will not sit quietly as someone takes the Democratic party bus I have taken a seat on and drives it off a cliff into an abyss."

Muhlenberg Mystery Robe Featured This Monday on "History Detectives"

Ever watch The History Detectives? I don't get to watch much TV, but that's one show I try to catch. This Monday, at 9 PM, PBS 39 will feature the Revolutionary War legend of Muhlenberg's robe.

The story goes that in January 1776, Lutheran minister Peter Muhlenberg turned his pulpit into a recruiting station for revolutionary fighters. During a fiery sermon, he tore his robe from his shoulders to reveal a uniform and at once rallied 300 able-bodied congregants to the patriotic cause.

A woman in Philadelphia wants to know: Is the robe that’s on display at the nearby Lutheran Theological Seminary the cloak that bore witness to this event? In Philadelphia and Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray delves into rare, period accounts from Muhlenberg’s family, friends and contemporaries to find the truth behind the story of the reverend’s famous robe.

Local trivia: Did you know that the statue which adorns the front lawn of Muhlenberg College in Allentown is known as “General Pete?”
The original fightin' parson.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

PBS 39 to Sponsor Free Internet Safety Workshop

In the wake of the recent arrest of a LU provost for seeking mom-and-child sex over the web, this PBS Internet Safety Workshop sounds like a pretty good idea.


(Lehigh Valley, PA) June 21, 2007 Rapidly advancing technology has it's pros and cons. It can allow us to work faster and smarter. But it can also pose great danger to our children.

In light of the ever increasing exposure of Internet predators, and the responsibility we have to keep our children safe, you are cordially invited to attend:

WHAT: Be More . . . Tech Savvy
WHEN: 6:00 - 8:30pm Tuesday July 24 or August 14.
WHERE: PBS 39, 123 Sesame St., Bethlehem
COST: No charge

Be More . . . Tech Savvy is a free workshop hosted by WLVT PBS 39 to help keep children safe. Scheduled in the studio of PBS 39, this workshop strives to help caregivers understand the Internet and the various risks that students are taking when exploring the World Wide Web. Topics such as chatrooms, texting or IM'ing, MySpace and other social networking sites, cyberbullying and basics like the need for antivirus and firewall software will be discussed.

Click here to register for one of these sessions, or call or email Stephanie Druckenmiller at (610) 867-4677 x127 or stephanied@wlvt.org.

Bennett Campaign Vainly Tries Some Damage Control

"Nice guys finish last!"

Those are words Northampton County Exec hopeful Ann McHale lobbed in the general direction of incumbent John Stoffa last week. He genuinely believes in open and inclusive government, but council members constantly misconstrue his honest civility as weakness. When they attempt to take advantage, as they certainly did last week, they end up looking like a petty and mean-spirited bunch.

They think we don't notice, but we do.

There's been a lot to notice recently. State senator Lisa Boscola tolerates a chief of staff who degraded three women on this blog and advocated dropping nukes on Iraq. Ed Rendell, in a game of chicken with the state legislature, was willing to put 25 thousand state workers on indefinite furlough, and no one in the land of midnight payraises has achieved any kind of meaningful property tax reform. People are disgusted with all levels of government. About the only thing lower than Bush's 29% approval ratings, is Congress, which tanks at 24%.

That's why Sam Bennett, touted as the Lehigh Valley's Democratic nominee for Congress since January, is so disappointing. She's part of the same old tired bunch of insiders who think we owe them something. She's demonstrated convincingly that she's a blatant opportunist. I'll spare you the details. They've been chronicled extensively by The Morning Call, and here in the Lehigh Valley's own Blogistan by AJ's Weblog, Aphrodite's Daughter, Addicted and Maddy. An excellent essay was recently posted, giving us a woman's point of view, at Pam Varkony's Perspectives. Of course, I've had a word or two to say myself.

Much of the criticism has come from fellow Democrats. It's friendly fire.

Bennett, if she had any sense of ethics, would listen. At the very least, she'd take a leave of absence from her nonprofit to keep it from getting mired in politics. But her campaign has instead reacted with damage control. It distributed "talking points" and even tried to use them as a comment on yesterday's post.

I'm flattered.

I recognized it the moment I saw it. You see, BethDem posted a copy on his own blog. And a few Democratic committeemen were kind enough to send me these "talking points." First, Vince Zoppi, secretary of the Allentown Dems, tells us Sam Bennett has made the "ultra sacrifice." Did she finally withdraw for the good of the party? Nah. She just agreed to a paycut because the heat is on over her excessive $110,000 salary at nonprofit Properties of Merit.

Then he gives us the official spin from TeamBlue Politics, Inc., a Washington-based political consulting firm that seems to specialize in losing close races. Here's what hotshot Walter Ludwig, a principal in that non local firm, tells the locals to say.

It is already clear that Charlie Dent is running scared this time, because he faces a formidable opponent who will be well-funded and articulate. His political people are trying hard already to get Sam Bennett out of the race, so he can get a free pass. These efforts will include using the press to plant embarassing [sic] and misleading stories, such as the one last week. (And whatever the reporter's motivations in writing the story, the quick involvement of Sen. Pat Browne shows there was a political component.)

It is important for us to remember, and to remind others, that this is politics-as-usual for Republicans in general and Charlie Dent in particular, a so-called "nice guy" who nevertheless doesn't vote "nice" and is surrounded by some pretty nasty political advisors. We only have to go back to the last election to recall that Dent and Shawn Millen spent over a million dollars bludgeoning Charles Dertinger.

We have to be prepared to defend against these tactics whenever and however they occur. All of you have significant "spheres of influence," both in and out of politics. We ask that you take every opportunity to remind them of the following:

Dent is scared; Karl Rove and he both know he is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House. He will do anything, say anything to win re-election.

He may be a "nice guy," but his people are nasty politcal
[sic] hacks.

He may be a "nice guy," but his votes on the war, on health care, on the environment and almost ever other issue are straight down the line with Bush.

The national Republican party has already promised Dent millions in extra help with his race; we need to make sure our side has the financial resources to fight back.


Incidentally, Bennett has already paid this outfit $6,895.00 for a lousy attempt to resuscitate her failing campaign. I could have written a better letter than that for free! It would even be spelled right.

Let me translate what this email really tells us.

It's hard to believe, but Sam Bennett's campaign is imploding and she doesn't even have a primary opponent! Let's blame the press for her ridiculous salary, and claim Republicans leaked it. Yeah, that's the ticket! We know that Dent is keeping his powder dry until after the primary and is actually praying that Santa gives him Sam as an opponent. But you're a bunch of gullible idiots and we're sophisticated spinmeisters. We know Dent is popular in the Lehigh Valley, so we'll just call him a 'fraidy cat. Then we'll tie him to Karl Rove and that bastard Millan. Everybody hates him. Hopefully, some of you morons will be stupid enough to kick in a few more bucks so we can continue drawing $3,000 per month from Bennett's campaign. Hey, life in DC ain't cheap. Not that you would understand. Hugs and kisses.

I decided to call the evil Shawn Millan, Dent's campaign manager, yesterday. He was upset because I interrupted him trying to fry some ants with a magnifying glass, but he agreed to speak to me. He immediately confessed that the nasty political hack who called him a nasty political hack is right. "But I wish he'd spell my name right. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm watching this hilarious video I picked up real cheap from Channel 69 ..."

Actually, nice guys are finishing first these days. People are relieved when they find someone who is actually a decent person. Charlie Dent is a "nice guy," and people from both parties really appreciate that. Politicos have a rough time comprehending that normal people are totally disgusted by our local, state and national politicians. By comparison with most of them, Dent is a breath of fresh air. That's the way it is here in the Lehigh Valley. Many of you will scream "heresy" at me for saying that. Dep down, you know it's the truth.

That's why this Democrat will vote for Dent.