Monday, December 31, 2007

Pa DOS Decertifies Electronic Voting Systems in Three Counties

Pennsylvania's Department of State last Friday decertified the voting machines being used in Northampton, Lackawanna and Wayne Counties. In a sternly worded three-page letter, Secretary of State Pedro Cortes informs vendor Advanced Voting Solutions (AVS) that it's out.

"Because AVS will be unable to proceed through federal certification in a timely fashion, enabling the machines to be ready for the Primary Election in April 2008, the Commonwealth must decertify the use of the AVS electronic voting system in Pennsylvania."

Among the problems - a possible bait and switch. At a February 13 meeting of the citizens' task force, voting rights activist Dr. Alan Brau repeated warnings first made at BlackBox voting. Instead of shipping the hardware that was actually certified, AVS is accused of substituting a cheaper internal hardware system, manufactured in China. AVS has denied this, but refuses to allow further testing, even for its updated software.

This decision gives three Pennsylvania counties about three months to find an implement a replacement in time for the federal presidential and congressional elections. Unlike last November's municipal elections, Northampton County will be unable to use Ol' Faithful, the county's 267 lever voting machines.

Northampton County has set aside $2 million from its recently adopted budget to purchase new voting machines. According to Lackawanna County officials, it makes little sense to spend $700,000 to lease voting machines and have nothing to show for it. On January 15, all three counties will examine different systems.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

ZZ Top to Join Morning Call Editorial Board in '08


Allentown: As part of a campaign to attract new readers, the Morning Call today announced that Houston-based blues rock band ZZ Top is joining its editorial board. Publisher Tim Kennedy proudly announced, "I ordered my opinion writers to grow beards or moustaches, but it just wasn't catching on. Besides, Micek keeps complaining about a hormone deficiency. This should do the trick."

The band has already submitted some zingers, according to Kennedy, with headlines that correspond to past hit singles, like "Local Cops - Arrested for Driving While Blind" and "Callahan - Sharp Dressed Man."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Edwards Reacts to Bhutto Tragedy Like a President

A few weeks ago, I gave you my take on Republican presidential pretenders. How about the Dems? In the wake of yesterday's senseless assassination of Benazir Bhutto, one name stands out among the Dems - John Edwards.

Hillary Clinton:

Rudy and Hillary played on the Bhutto tragedy to claim we need people like them to keep Americans safe from the world's dangerous thugs. "[D]eep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall."

Although Senator Clinton eventually got around to being "profoundly saddened and outraged," her initial reaction was strangely cold. She ignored a television producer who twice asked her, "Senator, were you moved by Bhutto’s death?”

Everything about her is just a little too calculated, a little too contrived. And why on earth is she claiming to be so experienced? Does she think osmosis establishes presidential creds? If so, Republicans should run Laura Bush. At least people like her.

Clinton's campaign tactics evoke scary memories of Richard Nixon, and that's no surprise. Although she will mobilize disgruntled Republicans like no other Dem, the sad truth is that she's practically one of them. Republican-lite.

Barack Obama:

He's playing up the Bhutto tragedy, too. Chief strategist David Axelrod is already trying this spin:

"Barack Obama had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq, and he warned at the time it would divert us from Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, and now we see the effect of that."
Wow! But can he predict what I'll be eating for breakfast? In case there is any doubt in your mind whether Clinton caused Bhutto's death, Axelrod takes things one step further.
"She was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit, was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today, so that’s a judgment she’ll have to defend."
Obama is halfway through his first term as a U.S. Senator, and that already gives him more experience than Abraham Lincoln had when he ran for president. He's ready for us.

But are we ready for him? If The Morning Call Reader Forum is any indication, I'm guessing no. Bigotry may in fact be experiencing a revival, even here in the northeast. Call me crazy, but Americans just won't elect a minority candidate whose middle name happens to be Hussein.

John Edwards:

Clinton speaks of her "experience" and Obama is whining, "I told you so." So how did Edwards respond to the news of Bhutto's murder?

"I spoke with the Pakistani Ambassador and then a few minutes ago I spoke with President Musharraf, urging him to continue on the path to democratization, to allow international investigators to come in to determine what happened, what the facts were so that there would be transparency and credibility about what actually occurred and also about the upcoming schedule of elections and that the important thing for America to do in this unstable environment is first of all focus on the tragedy that's occurred. Benazir Bhutto was a strong woman, a courageous woman, someone that I actually spoke at a conference with a few years and she talked about the path to democracy in Pakistan being baptized in blood so she understood the extraordinary risk that she was taking by going back and it's a terrible tragedy for the people of Pakistan, but it's important for America to be a calming influence and provide strength in this environment."
Like it or not, the only Democrat who comes close to sounding and more importantly, acting like a president in the face of this crisis, is John Edwards. He's our best hope. The only Democrats who have been elected president since the assassination of JFK - LBJ, Carter, Clinton and Gore - have all been from the south.

Edwards shuns money from corporate special interest PACs or lobbyists. He's the only Democrat with a progressive agenda who can actually be elected. He's campaigning against classic Democratic enemies - corporate power and greed.
"What makes America America is at stake: jobs, the middle class, health care, preserving the environment in the world for future generations.

"But all those things are at risk. And why are they at risk? Because of corporate power and corporate greed in Washington, D.C. And we have to take them on. You can't make a deal with them. You can't hope that they're going to go away. You have to actually be willing to fight. And I want every caucus-goer to know I've been fighting these people and winning my entire life. And if we do this together, rise up together, we can actually make absolutely certain, starting here in Iowa, that we make this country better than we left it."
He's always had a very good vision, but I'm now convinced that Edwards is a leader and he's finally earned my vote. Now he just needs a few more.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bethlehem Steel's Dark History: Will it be Remediated Just Like its Pollution?

Nearly everyone waxes nostalgiac these days about the now defunct Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Not me.

Save Our Steel seems much more like a white-washing effort than a true attempt at historical preservation. If we really want to remember, we'll need to look at some warts.



We criticize big business today for shipping manufacturing jobs overseas. Their excuse, as we all know, is the cheap and nonunion foreign labor. So what if a few girls lose their hands making your T-shirts. That's what they have two of them, damn it!

So how do you think the money bags operated before they got that bright idea?

That's where history tells a tale, at least if told honestly. Allentown blogger Mike Molovinsky hints at it. His own family history provides an answer. Big business simply brought cheap foreign labor here! Mike's Transylvanian grandparents (uh oh) were actaully imported to work at the Bethlehem Steel in the 20s. Night shift.

Company strategy then was to hire different ethnic groups who had trouble speaking to each other. That made it harder for workers to organize. In 1918, the Bethlehem Steel bragged "that we have 10,500 foreign-born employees in the various departments of the Bethlehem plant alone, there being fifty-eight different nationalities represented in all." Why, the Steel even hired blacks, who were already used to working like slaves. According to a typically racist company newssheet, they loved working to the music of the company band.

Once everyone caught on and started to speak the same lingo, they tried to organize. That ruined everything. Mounted state troopers swung their billy clubs, but were unable to stop the union. Too many heads to bash.

Now that the Steel is dead, people speak of it in hushed and reverential tones, as though it were some great benefactor. Its land is still polluted, although it glows in the dark, which saves money on street lights.

The SteelStax must be preserved!

Why?

"Respect for the past," they say.

Bullshit, I say. The Bethlehem Steel had no respect for the future.

I have no problem with ArtsQuest and ballet classes and the PBS39 broadcast center being planned there. Let them all hop around and sip lattes. It's a great re-use of a festering sore. But I have a feeling that the Bethlehem Steel and all its monstrosities will be deified in the process. I hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Philly Blogger Beats Dead Horse on Christmas

Dan McQuade's Philadelphia Will Do is described as "a blog about the funniest city on earth published by Philadelphia Weekly." Lately, he's been having a field day with Philly news anchor Alycia Lane. You see, she was arrested last weekend after she allegedly slugged one of NYC's finest. Blogger Dan McQuade is still scouring the Internet for free bikini pix to go with that story.

That's fine by me. The MSM needs very careful scrutiny, eh?

But then on Christmas Day, of all days, McQuade just had to beat on a dead horse - literally. He posted a video of race horse Barbaro with this nice sentiment: "May your Christmas Day be as joyous as the day you heard the news this stupid horse was finally dead and you'd never have to hear about him again."

If you ever wonder why Philly fans have such bad reps, just look at their writers.

Congressman Dent's Growing Influence: $22.5M Earmarked Funds For LV

He's a minority member of Congress. He's only halfway through his second term. But U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) will still bring $22.5 million in earmarked funds to the Lehigh Valley next year. It's all part of the 2008 Omnibus Budget package approved by Congress last week. Bush is expected to sign this time.


In addition to funding local worthwhile projects at Christmas, this budget package demonstrates Dent's growing influence. Dent co-chairs Congress' Tuesday Group, a coalition of forty centrist Republicans.

These appropriations are detailed at Dent's website, and include all the public safety initiatives I first told you about back in July. In addition, Dent has secured $1 million to help implement flood mitigation plans and $2 million to complete the American Parkway.

If you think this is all just a walk in the park, think again. Dent's proposal to restore some buildings at Moravian College, for example, was unsuccessfully challenged by Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake.
Update: Josh Drobnyk details the flood relief grants here, and Daryl Nerl chronicles the Bethlehem grants here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How Two American POWs Spent Their 1944 Christmas

They consume just eight entries on this blog. They include old letters from the writer, Kurt Vonnegut, and a diary my father briefly kept.

You can thank my brother Mike. He's completely unlike me. For one thing, he's responsible. If it were up to me, those old letters would probably be rotting at Chrin landfill. But he preserved everything. It's all in nice three ring binders. He even has labels and plastic paper protectors.

Those eight posts are more instructive than anything I've written in nearly one thousand entries on this blog. I thought I'd group them together for those of you who stumble across this blog over Christmas. You can read about some Americans who spent their 1944 Christmas crammed in boxcars with no food or water.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

A Christmas Present From Kurt Vonnegut

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Still No Word About Dresden Firebombing

Americans are Prima, not Schwein

O'Hare's WWII Diary: Half-Starved Soldier Worries About Brother in South Pacific

Battle of the Bulge: Language Error May Have Saved Lives

O'Hare's WWII Diary: A Final Glimpse at a Time When We Were "Prima"

O'Hare Describes WWII Firing Squad: "German Justice Taking Its Usual Course . . ."
Update: The Morning Call has published Vonnegut's 1945 letter in its Christmas Eve edition. "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is."

Friday, December 21, 2007

O'Hare Describes WWII Firing Squad: "German Justice Taking Its Usual Course . . ."

As time marches on, we are slowly forgetting what military historian Charles B. MacDonald has called "the greatest battle ever fought by the United States Army." The soldiers who fought in it are dying at the rate of 1,000 per day, and with them their history.

Unlike the talkative baby boomers in my generation - with our cell phones, the Internet and blogs - the soldiers of that Greatest Generation are strangely quiet and modest. They managed to save the world from a real Axis of Evil in spite of being caught late and off guard, and then went to work to make our own lives easy.

Although our memory is dimming, Blue Coyote tells us that in some portions of Europe, Americans are still considered "prima." The people of Bastogne still remember.

In his diary, my father never discussed what had actually happened during his captivity as a POW. Below you will find the only instance in which he speaks about the war. It's a letter he sent to the War Department in 1947, responding to an inquiry about one of his fellow POWs who never came home.

In reply to your letter of the 14th inst., I beg to express my regrets that you were required to make two inquiries concerning the above-noted matter. The receipt of your first letter was never called to my attention or you would most certainly have received a more prompt response.

Pfc. Michael Palaia and myself were sent with a detachment of American soldier-prisoners from Stalag IV-B to Dresden, Germany. After Dresden was bombed (about Feb. 14th, 1945), it became necessary for our captors to remove us to a new section of the City which, although not quite, was practically in the suburbs. It required climbing a rather steep hill to reach this place, from the summit of which it was possible to see practically the whole city. At the base of the hill was a moderate-sized street car barn and also a building in which German prisoners were hospitalized. I mention all of this as it may be necessary for you to fix the location of this place, and it is the only way I have of describing it, never having known the name of the section. Dresden is divided by the Elbe River and the section to which I have reference was on the eastern side thereof.

Our work after the bombing consisted wholly of cleaning cellars of their casualties and streets of their refuse. Our food ration per day was very low and survival made it necessary to pilfer food from cellars in which it was found from time to time. Unfortunately, Pfc. Palaia was discovered while doing this and at the time of the discovery one jar of string beans was found on his person. His number (prisoner number) was taken by the guard. The very next day when we had lined up ready to march to work, Pfc. Palaia was taken from our ranks by the German in charge - his official title being to the best of my recollection "Feldwabel." When we returned from work that night we learned that he was on trial for his life. Naturally, German justice taking its usual course, he was found guilty and four days after his apprehension he was killed by a firing squad. Four of our fellow-prisoners had witnessed this shooting, identified his body, dug his grave and buried him.

The shooting took place at some German military installation which, from the witnesses' reports was from five to seven miles from the location of our barracks. It must have been in a general westerly direction therefrom as I recall their stating that on their way they had crossed the river Elbe. I am not positive in my recollection of this, but I believe they also stated that they had constructed a cross for his grave to which they attached his dog tag.

The Month of his death was march, I am certain, and March the l6th, I believe. One of the witnesses was a Frank Terterici from Boston, Mass. I have a record somewhere of at least one of the other witnesses and his address. I will forward this information yo you as soon as I am able to locate same.

I hope the above account will be of some aid to you. Please have no hesitation in making further inquiry if you deem it feasible.

Asking your pardon for not having replied sooner, I am

Very truly yours,

B.V. O'Hare, Jr.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Ronald Reagan loved Margaret Thatcher. Bill Clinton had a weak spot for ..., well, that's another story. How about GW? He apparently has the hots for Vlad, but in a manly way, kinda' like a lumberjack. "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Frankly, Putin scares the shit out of me. I stole this picture from Philly Will Do, which probably stole it from the CIA or something. I'm pretty sure the dude behind Putin is our very own Severson Scissorhands.

Panto Makes His Wife an Easton Issue

When he was interviewed by Easton Undressed the day after his election, Mayor-to-be Panto insisted his wife's quest for appointment to city council would never be an issue. But that's precisely what's happening. As Hera plagued Zeus, so Pam has plagued Sal.

J. Spike Rogan withdrew his own application on Monday and urged council members to appoint Roger Ruggles over Pam Panto. A "visibly annoyed" Sal Panto insisted on trashing him, according to a Morning Call account. He would question Rogan, and then interrupt him before he could answer. Why are you "visibly annoyed," Sal? Because she's your wife, and that's the problem.

Obviously, Panto has a conflict. According to the city solicitor, he's unable to vote for her because her position carries a salary and he's her husband. If that's so, then he shouldn't be trying to make the case for her appointment, either. What he instead needs to do, according to the state Ethics Act, is "publicly announce and disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a written memorandum" to the clerk of city council, and abstain.

Shouldn't the voters decide whether they want to invest that much power in the hands of one family? Does he really want to start his administration of a financially troubled city with ethical questions? Does he really think he will carry as much clout with county and state officials if they start whispering about back room deals to appoint his wife? And they will, Sal. Don't kid yourself. If she wanted the job so badly, why the hell didn't she run?

Today's Express Times says it best. "Pamela Panto serving on the same city council is bad form if not bad government. In fact, it runs counter to the fresh start that voters chose in approving a new charter."

Battle of the Bulge Remembered at Easton Library

I stopped by Easton library yesterday, hoping to listen to WWII vets discuss their experience during the Battle of the Bulge. I expected a half empty room, but was astonished by the number of people who packed the place. I stood in a stairwell with about five or six folks and listened. The Express Times has a detailed account.

One of the fellows I heard is Ray Christman, an 84-year-old Nazareth resident. Like my dad, he was a POW. He described being loaded up in box cars and then being strafed by British aircraft on Christmas Eve. Yet that is the "best Christmas I ever had because I was alive." He spoke of sleeping next to a cow when being moved to a work camp. "A cow is just like a heater." His weight dropped to 70 lbs. in captivity. Fellow POWs, being fed doughnuts after being released, actually died. Their bodies could not handle the rich food.

Vets provided a handout with these details about the Battle of the Bulge.
Where: The heavily-forested Ardennes region of eastern Belgium and Northern Luxembourg.
When: December 16, 1944 - January 25,1945
Who: More than one million men:
• 600,000 Americans (more than the combined Union/Confederate forces at Gettysburg)
• 3 American Armies and 6 corps (equivalent to 31 Divisions)
• 500,000 Germans
• 3 German Armies and 10 corps (equivalent of 29 divisions)
• 55,000 British
• 3 British divisions plus contingents of Belgian. Canadian and French troopa
Casualties:
German -100,000
American - 81,000 including 19,000 killed
British - 1,400 including 200 killed
Equipment:
800 tanks lost on each side, 1,000 German aircraft.
The Malmedy Massacre was the worst atrocity committed against American Troops in Europe during the war.

Tomorrow, I'll publish a letter my dad wrote to the War Department in 1947 about one of his fellow POWs, who was shot by firing squad after being found with a can of string beans.

LVRamblings Has Its Very Own Web Address

She hates ice cream trucks and claims to have superpowers. She's fairly nonpolitical, but I love her blog. I'm referring, of course, to Kathy Frederick's Junk Drawer. But she's not all sugar and spice. She recently bought her own domain, and even explains how she did it.

According to Kathy, "Bloggers with their own domains enjoy a higher level of credibility than those who don’t. Having your own domain shows you’re putting time into your blog and want to distinguish yourself from the millions of other blogs that are created every day. A custom domain says 'I’m a serious blogger and I’m here to stay.' "

Since I can use all the credibility I can get, I decided to be a copy cat. I now I have my own domain name - LVRamblings.com.

I feel more credible already.

Whether you type in LVRamblings.com, http://www.lvramblings.com/, LVRamblings.org, http://www.lvramblings.org/, LVRamblings.info or http://www.lvramblings.info/, my blog pops up. Of course, it also will still continue to pop up under my blogspot address, too.

But I've still managed to muck things up. I'd like my new domain name to pop up as the web address instead of the blogspot. So far, every attempt has sent nearly 1,000 posts into cyberspace limbo. Being male, I refuse to ask Kathy or her pal, the Blog Bloke, for help.

I will continue to tinker over the holiday. If you attempt to log on and are sent to some gay porn site of guys in leather that look a lot like me, pay no attention.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Express Times: Political Consultant Severson Scissorhands Disrupts Funeral Service

On Monday, I told you about campaign maven Severson Scissorhands, who wanted to slice and dice Ron Angle during a funeral mass last Friday. All this happened, more or less. Severson really did stand up and flip the bird at Angle inside a Pen Argyl Catholic church. He really did chase after Angle, challenging him to a fight in the parking lot. Scissorhands really did start yelling and cursing in God's house, during a memorial service in which his own wife was one of the readers.

I made up the God parts. I never really did get to talk to Him. I tried. I doubt Severson is really covered with lice, boils and fleas, or that lightning bolts are singing his ass.

But he's still in trouble. For one thing, the Pen Argyl police department is investigating Scissorhands, and has assigned two cops to take statements. Worst of all, the Express Times has fixed its icy glare on Severson's surreal funeral antics.

In an excellent report from Doug Brill, everything I told you Monday is unfortunately confirmed by the widower of the woman being buried. The mass had gone on no more than ten minutes before Severson Scissorhands started blowing oil. Widower John Turtzo tells reporter Brill that Severson "didn't come (to the Mass) with the intention of paying any homage to the family. He ignored all of us. He didn't express any sorrow for our loss. He was only concerned with trying to get Angle."

Today's report also discusses Severson's violent threats against a former employee whose sole mistake was to work for this seriously disturbed person.

And get this. Thanks to Bossman Joe Long, Northampton County Dems still owe this guy $9,000.

Don't it make you proud?

Northampton County Council: 2007's Workers & Slackers

If you want to see who works and who doesn't on Northampton County Council, look no further than their committees. That's where the grunt work gets done. Although Council has eight standing committees, the most active by far are the personnel and finance committees, chaired by Ann McHale and Ron Angle.

Council's standing committees conducted twenty-seven meetings last year. Every member of council is encouraged to participate in every committee. So it's a pretty accurate gauge of the time and effort each councilperson devotes to government service. The committees that meet are also a good indication of what council members think are important.

Council's busy Finance (Angle) and Personnel (McHale) committees, usually combined, met ten times, twice as often as the others. Humans Sevices (Neiper) met five times, and the result is an important baby step towards a bi-county health department. Dertinger's Open Space Committee conducted four meetings, and that means more farmland preservation.

The Intergovernmental (Branco), Judicial (McClure) and Economic Development Committees met just twice. Branco squandered an opportunity to promote regionalism with local municipalities. McClure used his committee as a political tool to bash Controller Schimmel and scream about the importance of a child exploitation unit. Dowd failed to deal with the financially troubled Bachman Publik House, leaving the entire council to deal with it twice during full meetings.

One committee failed to meet at all. Rev. Mike Dowd's Operations and Administration committee might have been helpful in addressing some of the overruns associated with the courthouse expansion, or the windows at Gracedale.

The workers?

Council member John Cusick attended 20 committee meetings last year, making him the hardest working and most dedicated council member in 2007. Nipping at his heels, with 19 meetings to her credit, is VP Diane Neiper. Both Cusick and Neiper are finishing their second year on council, and their attendance record reflects dedication. They are far ahead of their colleagues.

Must be steroids.

Five other council members - Wayne Grube, Ron Angle, Ann McHale, Tony Branco & Charles Dertinger - all have solid committee attendance records this year, ranging between a low of 9 for Dertinger and a high of 12 for McHale.

The slackers?

Rev. J. Michael Dowd attended just six meetings in 2007, very disappointing from a former council president. At the bottom of the heap is Lamont McClure, who was so busy taping robo calls he only attended five committee meetings. His inattention to detail might explain why a candidate who spent no money very nearly beat him. In last year's survey, McClure was dead last, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is Lou "Pay to Play" Pektor Overextended?

On September 11, fifth anniversary of the day we were attacked at Twin Towers, the Guv' was in Bethlehem, joined by a wide array of local political hacks. They weren't reflecting on the loss of 2,749 lives at our WTC just five short years before. Instead, they were slapping each other on the back in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the Riverport, elegant one and two bedroom condos designed to attract artsy-fartsys and Jersey commuters. Pennsylvania invested $2.5 million to get this project off the ground. Northampton County kicked in another mil.

And the center of attention was Lou Pektor, whose Ashley Development Corp. also picked up $1.75 million in state money to redevelop Pomeroy's in downtown Easton.

Lou "Pay to Play" Pektor has been quite generous to Lehigh Valley politicians, especially incumbents. Since 2000, Team Pektor has invested $75,000 in politicians seeking state office.

Cha ching! He's given state senator Lisa Boscola alone at least $20,950.

But for those of you who may be Republicans, don't worry. He drops the bucks on your boys, too. He's spent $46,800 on mostly Republican candidates seeking federal office.

But that gravy train may be coming to an end. According to a Morning Call report, three of his condo projects in Easton are floundering.

Even more disturbing is what has happened to a 75 acres tract in Bushkill Township, which he just purchased earlier this year. Unable to make payments on a $2 million private mortgage, he surrendered that property last week.

Yet Another Cheney Impeachment Plea Thankfully Ignored by MSM

Last week, three Democratic Congressmen from the House Judiciary Committee submitted an oped to leading newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Miami Herald. It's provocatively called "A Case for Hearings." They want VP Dick Cheney impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors" that include deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war; outing a CIA covert agent for political retaliation; picking his nose and eating it; and illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

But MSM corporate giants refuse to publish their essay.

Why not? Here's one answer. "Because the corporate owned media is a wholly-owned subsidiary to the Republican Party, as it has been since the Reagan Revolution of 1980."

Really? Well, last time I checked, it was Democratic House Speaker Pelosi and Judiciary Chair John Conyers who have their feet on those impeachment brakes. Are they wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Republican party, too?

I know why the papers won't run this op-ed. It stinks. It's a poorly written and tired piece of trash that simply regurgitates the same mantras over and over. Listen, I know all about garbage writing. I get rejected by editors nearly every day. Some of those bastards even block my email. Why the hell do you think I blog?

Robin's Law to be Discussed Today

Robin Shaffer was shot and killed by her estranged husband two years ago in Quakertown. She never knew her husband had once before tried to kill his ex-wife.

Robin's sister, Heidi Markow, started the Beginning Over Foundation, a locally-formed grass roots group trying to cast a public spotlight on the tragedies caused by domestic violence. Robin's Law, introduced by State Rep. Karen Beyer, would track repeat domestic violence offenders with a statewide registry. According to a news release, all three Lehigh Valley state senators are sponsoring a companion bill in the senate.

“This legislation has the potential to save hundreds of lives in our region each year,” said BOF founder Markow. "I am so pleased that our local officials recognize the potential impact of this proposed legislation. I am overwhelmed by their support."

Today, at 2 PM, at the TC Salon Spa in Bethlehem, Markow will discuss means to raise funds for the victims and families of domestic abuse.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Severson Scissorhands Manages to Piss Off God!

Not too long ago, I told you about Severson Scissorhands. This political consultant has earned over $10.35 million from candidates seeking state office over the last seven years. He may be the biggest campaign guru in the state. Without doubt, he's the sleaziest. From his lunchroom, he wants to "kill" and "stab" his political enemies. Severson himself states, "We all maybe at times through the course of our life feel we'd like to kill." This dude even builds switchblades and has admitted brandishing them in his office.

Maybe you think I was a bit harsh. If so, this little story will change your mind. Now Severson is playing dirty politics with the Big Kahuna, the Almighty One, and He's really pissed.

Severson Scissorhands went totally ballistic Friday night. Amazingly, it was in a church, during a funeral mass at Pen Argyl's Saint Elizabeth's Church for Gemma Turtzo. God reputedly lives there. Severson's wife was actually one of the frickin' readers. But Severson still managed to explode just ten minutes into the service.

Norco councilman Ron Angle, who was mentored in his younger years by Gemma's husband, also attended this mass. So did many other slate belt notables, including former councilperson Mary Ensslin. She actually sat next to Angle in the back of the church.

Not long after mass started, Severson spotted Angle from across the aisle. He went totally bonkers in the House of God. He actually stood up, and started shouting "Fuck you! - I'm going to kick your ass in the parking lot." He even offered that famous second finger salute.

After this had gone on for at least ten minutes, an eighty year old fellow named Eddie Mugavero turned around and asked Severson to knock it off. Severson plastered him with a few "fuck yous" as well. "If you don't like it, leave, you little midget."

As mass was ending, Angle rushed out a side door and ran to his truck as Ensslin slowed Severson down. Scissorhands soon spun around and bolted to the front of the church, screaming at a few people in the process. There are unconfirmed reports he may have even pulled his switchblade on someone in the lobby, but he was clearly after Angle. I don't think he even stopped to steal the collection money. But by the time he made it to the parking lot, Ron was safely in his big-ass truck, waving goodbye. Severson continued to scream at him and everyone else in the parking lot.

Angle intends to report this today to Pen Argyl's police chief. But Severson has previously said his relationship with DA John Morganelli gives him some sort of immunity. "I'll never be prosecuted in Northampton County."

For Scissorhands, a criminal prosecution is the least of his worries.

Last I heard, Serverson's Pen Argyl mansion is overrun by cold-weather locusts and frogs, and he's covered with boils, lice and flies. All his switchblades have been transformed into tiny plastic paper clips. Every time he tries to leave his house, lightning bolts singe his ass.

I tried calling God for an interview, but Sunday is His busy day. All He would say is, "That idiot must think he's Me. You know, those weren't the Ten Suggestions."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Battle of the Bulge: Language Error May Have Saved Lives

December 16, 1944: The Battle of the Bulge begins.

December 19, 1944: My father and Kurt Vonnegut, two intelligence scouts in the 106th Infantry Division, are captured by advancing Germans. Looking through a phrase book, my father screams, "Nein Scheissen," thinking he's asking them not to shoot him.

He's actually saying, "Don't shit."

That little mistake may have saved their lives.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thanks to Bossman Long, Rosenthal Reappointed to Norco Elections Commission

As most of you know, I'm incredibly handsome. It's a curse, really. Women constantly call, email and knock at my door. I've ruined countless marriages without even trying. Cosmetic surgery to enlarge my nose has backfired - women just think I'm well endowed in other areas.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. I'm also a genius. I listen to classical music, attend foreign movies, wear glasses, drink espresso, read books and do all kinds of shit like that. Need I say more?

Earlier this week, in one of my more brilliant posts, I told you Northampton County Executive John Stoffa should withdraw Joan Rosenthal's reappointment to the elections commission. He was sailing into deep and turbulent waters.

Stoffa is not nearly so pretty or smart as I (note I said "I," not "me"). I decided to help. I emailed my post to his office, but that damn Mailer Daemon kept hurling it back at me. So I printed a copy and ran it up to his office. His secretary, who appears to be immune to my many charms, scheduled me for an appointment on February 31. Because I'm so damn smart, I knew February 31 would be too late. I took another copy of my essay and slapped it on Stoffa's windshield. The damn thing kept blowing off, so I decided to twist the wiper around it. And when it started raining, I smashed one of his smaller windows to keep it nice and dry.

A good government type, Stoffa would appreciate this.

Then, amazingly, I saw John in a hallway yesterday. Man, was he wet! He even had icicles all around his Rudolph red nose. The moment he saw me, he started running, presumably trying to impress me with his wellness program. I took the elevator and beat him to his office.

"John, did you have a chance to look over my Rosenthal post?"

Stoffa: "Where's the frickin' deputies? I'll give them whatever they want! They can take their damn cars home ... "

"John, I'm not here about that."

At that point, former Director of Administration Jim Hickey bolted out of Stoffa's office in a batman suit, and threw me off the courthouse roof. The snow and ice broke my fall. So unfortunately, Stoffa never did get my message.

And things weren't looking good for Rosenthal. She probably could have counted on Council Prez Wayne Grube, but he was uncharacteristically MIA. He never misses meetings, and I hope his health is OK.

Because Grube was absent, Dems only needed four votes to kill the nomination. And they have four votes. But when the dust had settled, Rosenthal was reappointed. Democrat Ann Mchale voted for her.

For that, Rosenthal can thank Dem Bossman Joe Long. He apparently took it upon himself to try and strongarm the imperious Ann McHale earlier this week. McHale is not the kind of person you push around - she's the kind of person who pushes you around. Bad move, Joe. You're obviously no genius.

Once council had reappointed Ms. Rosenthal, this elegant lady stood and thanked them. But the person she should really send a Christmas card to is Dem chair Joe Long. I'd be happy to deliver it myself.
Update: The Express Times has a brief, but accurate, account of Rosenthal's reappointment.

Stoffa's No-Tax Increase Budget Sails Easily Through Norco Council

I expected last night's budget to be the usual disaster. Maybe it was the snow and ice. Maybe the Christmas spirit has infected council. Whatever the reason, last night's no-tax increase budget passed easily, and in only ninety minutes! Angle was the sole dissenter.

There were rumbles about the size of the cash reserve (McClure) and Stoffa's upcoming bond proposal (Neiper), but no one seemed in the mood for a fight.

Team Dertinger has lost its lustre. Dertinger could almost always count on McClure, Neiper and Branco to join him. If he could persuade either Grube or McHale, he'd have his fifth vote. But now Branco has been replaced by Peg Ferraro, and even Diane Neiper is beginning to show signs of independence.

The Express Times has a detailed report here. Update: Do you like the word "obscene?" Catchy, isn't it? McClure began using that word to describe the county's cash reserve last week, and he used it again last night. This time, both papers picked up on it. McClure has no power to invade the budgetary cash reserve set by the executive, so last night he figured he'd accomplish that indirectly by approving the budget, but proposing a lower millage rate. The Morning Call covers McClure's attempt. The word to describe this folly? "Half-hearted."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Harrisburg Takes Aim at Negative Robocalls

According to The Express Times, the state senate yesterday approved legislation making clear, yet again, that robocalls must contain a "clear and conspicuous" announcement identifying their funding source. The senate apparently forgot to run this bill by DA John Morganelli. He has consistently winked at anonymous sleaze ads, most of which is done by his own political consultant, Severson Scissorhands.

Over at the state house, three Lehigh Valley legislators - Rich Grucela, Joe Brennan and Craig Dally - are co-sponsors of legislation that flatly bans political robocalls. "Automated political calls – A person may not use automatic dialing equipment to make a telephone solicitation call on behalf of a political candidate or a political party." Brennan and Dally have also signed onto a similar bill that deletes the political exemption from Do-not-call lists.

Americans are Prima, not Schwein

This is the third in a series of entries from my father's recently-discovered dairy. He kept it about a week after his release from a German POW camp. Just a few weeks before, German people cursed and threw rocks as my father and other prisoners carried dead bodies to huge funeral pyres in Dresden. Now they are "Prima!"

5/19/45

I was awakened this morning by that good old American "you gotta get up" bugle call. I must confess that it was the first time in my life that it ever sounded good. No doubt in four or five days I will be back in the old routine of cursing it. All eight of us met the chow line early in order to assure ourselves of 'seconds.' We were successful in the endeavor. In fact we were successful for all three meals by religiously following the same procedure. It makes one feel piggish but I know of nothing better to help that empty stomach feeling.

The highlight of the day consisted of the introduction and confirmation of a rumor that we are moving back to our own lines tomorrow. It seems that we will march out to some motor pool about three kilometers from here and there we will entruck. G.I. coffee and 'shokolade' here I come.

The Russkies had a band serenading us this afternoon. It consisted of 15 pieces and stressed the bass section. They were very good and we all enjoyed the Russian music. One American piece "Rose Marie" was played, and it brought down the house. Aside from listening to the band concert and eating, all I have done all day is sleep. I won't be worth anything when I get back to the states.

However, I am becoming anxious to get to law school. I hope I won't have to go back to college to finish earning my degree. Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learned in the past half year it is 'things will be as things will be.' I don't believe I'll ever be demonstratively impatient again.

James, Kruse and I have plans to play a little rummy this evening. We played last night and of course Jones won. That joker has more pure, unmitigated luck than anyone I have ever come across.

All the fellows here expect to be flown back to the states. I can't picture myself admiring the Atlantic ocean from the windows of a C-47 but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Should it so happen it will certainly be wonderful. The sooner I get to see the best set of parents in the world the happier I will be. I'll bet a Jerry luper there are a lot of changes in the old town. With luck I will soon see for myself.

There was a Tommy over to see us today. He came uninvited and when he left statements such as "come back soon" were conspicuously absent. All of us Americans are set up in much finer style here than the English. It seems that Joe [Stalin?] doesn't care too much for them. After the way they've bled us we can appreciate his sentiments. They've had no cigarettes issued since they've been here whereas all of us are smoking ourselves silly on Chesterfields, Luckies, and Camels. That's just one more condition that the end of the war has set back to normal.

Everything that we have been or rather had been reduced to by our stay in Germany has been rectified. I've had Germans beg me for food, clothing, and cigarettes. The mention of the magic word 'American' elicits "prima" instead of 'schwein.' The past week has effected quite a change in Germany and certainly as far as we are concerned it is a change for the better.

Consequences of Hate Speech: Jail For Some, Ad Revenue for MSM

A 20-year-old Wilson man who hurled racial epithets during a borough carnival, touching off a fight that ended with three people being stabbed, has been ordered to spend up to a year in prison.

In the meantime, this Morning Call Reader Forum snark about yet another Allentown shooting, has been untouched since December 3. "Save the taxpayers' money and kill all involved. Case closed!!"

As Morning Call columnist and blogger extraordinaire Bill White observes, "The tremendous traffic on our Web site is a selling point for advertisers and future subscribers. And the comments, warts and all, attract a lot of those clicks."

Hate speech gets some folks jail time. But for others, it brings in the bucks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stoffa Should Make a Clean Sweep of the Elections Commission

"It's what I anticipated. Frankly I wouldn't have submitted her name if I didn't think she would be qualified to serve."

That's how Northampton County Executive John Stoffa reacted upon hearing there is no conflict in Joan Rosenthal simultaneously serving on both the Northampton County Elections Commission and Hanover Township Zoning Hearing Board. The Express Times' Sarah Cassi told us that yesterday.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter does prohibit public office holders from sitting on the elections commission. But Council Solicitor Zito says there is no conflict between the two offices. And that's no surprise. He has previously interpreted the Charter's prohibition on holding dual offices as unconstitutional, and is undoubtedly right.

His opinion is a green light for Ms. Rosenthal, an exceptionally qualified and well-spoken elections commissioner. But so were at least four other elections commission members. Stoffa brushed them aside in what was supposed to be a clean sweep of the elections commission.

Now it's a clean sweep of everyone but Rosenthal. Why? Council member Charles Dertinger is clearly uncomfortable with her. At last week's council meeting, he claimed to have a "series of objections." Chief among these is his belief that she is unfair. This is probably based on her participation in last year's review of the elections office, characterized by Dertinger and others as a "witch hunt."

Dertinger, who attended only a portion of one of these sessions, is mistaken. Ms. Rosenthal was highly critical of some aspects of that office, but was equally complimentary in many other respects. Dertinger missed that, but there's no point in arguing that with him now. The best way to persuade both sides that you really, really, really want to be fair is by replacing every stinkin' commission member. Dertinger can probably persuade McClure and Neiper to go along with a "No" vote. And if this is perceived as a Democrat-Republican battle, Stoffa will lose. And for what?

Stoffa will be better off if he follows his initial instincts and cleans house. That will remove any lingering doubts, justified or not, from either side.

After all, Stoffa needs a willing council a hell of a lot more than he needs Ms. Rosenthal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Northampton County Council Finance Reports Online Here

Thanks to Northampton County's voter registration office, I have complete copies of the thirty- day post election campaign finance reports filed last week by eight of ten candidates for county council seats in November 6 election. Candidate Mark Schwartz, who spent under $250, is excused from filing any reports. Similarly, Tom Dietrich filed a report indicating he spent no money and took in no contributions during the thirty-day period.

I scanned these finance reports and uploaded them to an online library so we can all look at them for ourselves and follow the money. It is my hope that the county eventually begins to make these local finance records available online.

Here's a breakdown of what each candidate spent in the general election. McClure is the big spender.

At Large Race: (countywide)Tony Branco (D) ($15,424.13) v. Peg Ferraro (R) ($16,781.02)

Tony Branco 2d Friday preelection report
Tony Branco 30 day post election report
Peg Ferraro 2d Friday preelection report
Peg Ferraro 30 day post election report

District 1: (Bethlehem area) Ann McHale (D) ($498.77) v. Tom Dietrich (R) ($172.31)

Ann McHale 2d Friday preelection report
Ann McHale 30 day post election report
Tom Dietrich 2d Friday preelection report
Tom Dietrich 30 day post election report - no money spent

District 2: (Easton area) William Wallace (D) ($8,853.79) v. Mike Dowd (R) ($4,151.40)

William Wallace 2d Friday preelection report
William Wallace 30 day post election report
Mike Dowd 2d Friday preelection report
Mike Dowd 30 day post election report

District 3: (Nazareth area) Lamont McClure (D) ($35,767.75) v. Mark Schwartz (R) (no report)

Lamont McClure 2d Friday preelection report
Lamont McClure 30 day post election report


District 4: (Slate belt area) John Maher (D) ($16,877.43) v. Ron Angle (R) ($26,094.64).

John Maher 2d Friday preelection report
John Maher 30 day post election report
Ron Angle 2d Friday preelection report
Ron Angle 30 day post election report

Based on the official tally, what's the dollar/vote ratio? (1) McClure - $8.97 per vote; (2) Angle - $4.67 per vote; (3) Maher - $3.75 per vote; (4) Wallace - $2.17 per vote; (5) Branco - $1.02 per vote;(6) Ferraro - $0.91 per vote; (7) Dowd - $0.83 per vote; (8) McHale - $0.11 per vote (9) Dietrich -$0.08 per vote; and (10) Schwartz - $0 per vote.

O'Hare's WWII Diary: "We are Being Looked After Like Pet Children by the Russians"

Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here yesterday. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for an entire week.

Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.

He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.

But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.

5/17/45

Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.

I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.

Severson Plays Both Sides of the Fence in Easton Races



In the closing days of the Easton races, a negative mailer was directed at Easton city council candidate Jeff Warren by Easton Republicans. This mailer is so low it even includes a reference to me, who called Warren "Easton's Magnet for Special Interests."

That bulk mailing permit for that campaign piece, Permit No. 132, goes right back to Tom Severson, King of Sleazeball Politics. This Severson slam against Warren is odd for two reasons.

First, Severson is Senator Lisa Boscola's campaign consultant, and Jeff Warren works for her. Lisa Boscola paid that Severson $43,659.65 for her state senate race last year. I guess that was then.

Second, Severson was also Democrat Sal Panto's campaign consultant. Panto's latest report reveals that Severson's Political Strategies, Inc. was paid $11,088 on November 30 for mailers, postage and calls.

Can you say conflict of interest?

Reichley & Dally Support Restrictions on Excessive OT for Health Care Workers

Back in November, I told you that, of all Lehigh Valley members of the state house, only Republicans Craig Dally and Doug Reichley oppose legislation that prohibits excessive overtime in health care. I was wrong.

I mistakenly looked at a roll call vote on a procedural matter instead of looking at the final vote. Both Dally and Reichley supported the final bill. It had unanimous support from the Lehigh Valley House delegation, and I apologize to both Craig and Doug for getting my facts wrong.

I couldn't help it. They're Republicans.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Salvation Army is Looking for a Few Good Men (and Women)

The New Salvation Army Toy Castle for Those in Need will be open at Westgate Mall, starting on Monday, December 17 through December 21. Thanks to this toy castle, families receive food and clothing. Disadvantaged children find toys under their Christmas trees.

It will be open all week between 7 AM and 8:30 PM. If you'd like to volunteer a few hours at that time, just click on this link.

Salisbury's Southbury Park: 100 Acres of Environmentally Sensitive Land Down the Tube

Dan Poresky and the Sierra Club's Lehigh Valley chapter have some deep concerns about the proposed Southbury Park residential subdivision. For one thing, it's located on 100 acres of environmentally-sensitive South Mountain. And a Lehigh County judge has already overruled a Salisbury Township Commissioners' decision to grant a variance for this development, calling it an "abuse of discretion."

Tonight, at 7 PM, the state DEP will consider a developer request to divert construction activity stormwater right into Trout Creek and Black River. The purpose of tonight's meeting is to solicit public comment and concerns. This meeting will take place at Salisbury Twp. High School Auditorium, (off Emaus Ave near S. 4th St.)

Why should you care?

1) Because the highlands of South Mountain are a natural resource that Federal and State Agencies have named as worthy of conservation

2) Because you feel a responsibility toward the inheritance we leave future generations, not just today’s privileged interests

3) Because you’re concerned about the potential for more flooding in the area and the degradation of Trout Creek, one of the state’s few remaining high quality streams.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Branco's Finance Report Reveals He's a Big Fat Liar

How can I put this delicately?

To hell with it - Tony Branco is a big fat liar. He emphatically denied using campaign consultant Scissorhands Severson for his county council bid, both to Morning Call columnist Bill White and reporter Joe Nixon. "I didn't hire him to fire him."

But at the same time he was making these denials, he was busily writing out checks to Severson'sPolitical Strategies, Inc. Branco's most recent campaign finance report, filed yesterday, shows a $2,000 payment for "automated election day calls" on October 30, and a $3,500 check for mailings on October 25. In addition, he reports a $3,902.01 in-kind contribution from the Northampton County Democratic Committee on November 1 for mailing and robo calls. And as we all know, that outfit was using Severson, too.

Busted!

I'm collecting county council finance reports. They will all be posted by early next week.

Norco Council Inches Towards a Health Department

He claims he's just a citizen like you and me. But at last night's Northampton County Council meeting, he was a bit more than that. In a room packed with at least sixty health department cheerleaders, Forks Township resident Ken Nagy was the one of the few to question its wisdom.

After hearing from advocates like Easton Mayor Phil Mitman, the League of Women Voters and Lehigh Valley Partnership Secretary Bert Daday, Nagy noted he belongs to no society. "I'm just a taxpayer." And as members of the peanut gallery shook their heads in disbelief and engaged in some low-toned cat calls, he proceeded to list just some of the unanswered questions. "What will it cost? Will all municipalities be included? We've gone 275 years without it, why do we need it now?"

After the people had spoken, council member Ron Angle interrogated county executive John Stoffa with many of his own doubts. Chief among these is that, at least initially, there will be two tiers of service - one for Bethlehem and another for everyone else.

That's just fine with Charles Dertinger. He actually argued, in a lengthy speech, that this country was founded on the principle that there are different levels of freedom for different groups.

Huh? Let's put that pesky Declaration of Independence and Equal Rights clause aside for a moment. That's a justification for a health department? That might justify slavery or suppression of women, but not a health department. Dertinger must be mixing up the American system of government with his masonic lodge. Rarely have I heard someone say so little with so many words.

Angle and Nagy are both right. There are many unanswered questions. But last night, county council was just taking a baby step towards the formation of a health department. If their legitimate doubts aren't answered, council can simply pull the plug. As expected, the proposal to establish a health department passed seven to two. Only Angle and Lamont McClure voted against it. Grube had intended to vote NO, but was actually swayed by a Morning Call editorial. He gruffly warned, as only he can, "All you people want to talk in flowery terms but we got meat and potatoes." I'll get back to you when I figure out what the hell he meant. It sounds pretty tough.

Grube said something else, and this time I understood him. "I have one more vote and I'm going to make it count." There better be details before this baby is funded.

Another council member who spoke last night was the usually quiet and unassuming Mike Dowd. Unlike Dertinger, he spoke very briefly, but his argument defeats Angle and Nagy. "A vote to say NO tonight is not a vote to get more information. It's a vote to say NO forever."

Sarah Cassi's well-written account is here.
Update: Joe Nixon also has a detailed account of last night's meeting.

Norco Elections Commission: Garvin's Out, & Rosenthal's in Trouble, Too

Radio star Wally G caused quite a stir last year when it was learned that he's actually Norco Elections Commission chair Walter R. Garvin. In addition to hosting a partisan radio show advertised on Norco Dem's web page, he was also a party officer - an area chairman as well as a committeeman.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter forbids anyone who sits on an elections committee from holding public office or acting as an officer in a political party. In addition, Council Solicitor Zito warns that since an elections commission is a quasi judicial body, its members must avoid the appearance of impropriety. Although Garvin did resign his party position, he continued to engage in partisan political activity, hosting partisan radio shows and participating in anti-Dent rallies.

As a result, County Exec Stoffa refused to submit Garvin's name for reappointment next year. That's unwelcome news to council member Charles Dertinger, who groused about it at last night's county council meeting. "Mr. Garvin seems to have been removed for expressing his First Amendment rights." Not exactly. Garvin was removed because his partisan activity created an appearance of impropriety.

Stoffa proposes a clean sweep of the elections commission, with one exception. He wants to reappoint Republican Joan Rosenthal. Dertinger has a series of objections to her, including her outspoken criticism of the elections office. I guess she should be removed for expressing her First Amendment rights, too.

Of course, Dertinger is really just trying to get back at Stoffa for removing Garvin. But he's still right. As it turns out, Ms. Rosenthal is a member of Hanover Township's zoning hearing board. The Home Rule Charter excludes anyone who holds "public office" from sitting on the elections commission. Although a zoning hearing board member is appointed, as opposed to elected, she still holds a public office. Her appointment, therefore, seems inconsistent with the letter of the Home Rule Charter.

Council has tabled Rosenthal's appointment so that Solicitor Zito can research this matter. Whatever he decides, Rosenthal should withdraw her name from consideration. She's dedicated, interesting and very elegant. But after last year's controversy, neither the elections commission nor its members can afford to become mired in political squabbles.

I'm sure there's one Republican out there that Dertinger likes. How about Tommy Scissorhands?

A Christmas Ditty For Easton and Allentown


The Curmudgeon is a miserable bastard. But he won last year's Christmas parody contest with "O' Little Town of Bethlehem" - a hilarious, yet chilling, prophesy for post-casino Bethlehem.

He's at it again with a new Christmas ditty, sung to the tune of Siver Bells.

Silver guns, silver guns
It’s shooting time in the city
See them bleed, hear them scream
Soon they will be D.O.A.

City sidewalks, bloody sidewalks,
9-1-1 on speed dial,
In the air, there’s the sound of more gunshots
Children dying, people crying,
It’s all done in the new gangland style!


Doesn't this just make you want to go out and throw yourself in front of a truck? You can read the rest of this heart-warming Christmas carol over at LVPoliblog.

Mike Molovinsky Wary About LANTA Improvements

After months of ignoring Allentown's suffering Hamilton Street merchants, mass transit provider LANTA finally responded on November 16, with a circulator bus that runs from its new transportation station and along Hamilton Street. Earlier this week, it also announced plans for additional stops on 7th & 8th Streets, close to their intersection with Hamilton Street. I don't know whether this will reunite Hamilton Street merchants with their customer base, but it certainly can't hurt.

Lanta is now being criticized for pandering to the "scumbag lobby." Some don't like seeing "minority areas" or what they call Hooker Central. But it's OK to run a Silverline Express, every half hour, to Victoria's Secret at the LV Mall.

I'm part of that scumbag lobby. State Senator Pat Browne, whose office is located among these mostly minority merchants, has advocated for them, too. But the chief scumbag, by far, is Michael Molovinsky. He believes the only answer that works is the restoration of a transfer station. Here's what he has to say.

You may have read my recent post concerning Lanta on Molovinsky on Allentown. Unless Lanta includes new stops to Allentown's east side, the predicament merchants face will have little improvement. Today a Lanta representative told me this latest change is the extent of their concessions to the merchants. They will not consider restoring even one transfer stop back near Hamilton Street or restoring stops going to Hanover Ave.

This is ironic. Lanta's new Transfer Station was created to help finance a new parking deck for the parking authority. But that authority was created to facilitate shopping in Allentown.

Lanta, Allentown Parking Authority and the City of Allentown are more interested in their agenda to "Move Allentown Forward" and the success of the new parking deck, than they are in the success of this "set of merchants." Unless Lanta is willing to make the necessary concessions to insure that the merchants survive, the Allentown Transfer Station must close. I ask all people from all communities who are fed up to again join me at the
Lanta Board Meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 12 noon, 1060 Lehigh St. Allentown.

Mike must know that no one will support closing the Allentown Transfer Station. He'll lose a few scumbags if he insists on that approach. As for me, I'm delighted LANTA has responded at all. It's making a genuine effort to help downtown shop owners. Mike may be right about a transfer station, but it's a tad premature to condemn routing changes before they even occur.

I'll be talking to Hamilton Street merchants this weekend. They know.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Norco Dems File Another Bogus Finance Report: Severson Tied to Sleaze

In the weeks before November's election, anonymous and sleazy robo calls invaded homes across Northampton County. They came from two phone numbers - 484-548-6400 and 484-548-6413, the same ones used to do the push polling against candidate Ron Angle way back in July. The number 484-548-6413 shows up as MCS Industries on Caller ID, and is also the number Lamont McClure used for his robocalls. His campaign consultant? Tom Severson.

Mailings with content identical to these anonymous robocalls were posted with the Northampton County Democratic Committee's bulk mail permit. Lamont McClure, Tony Branco, John Maher and the local Democratic party were obviously using Severson's smear machine. Against Angle alone, there were twelve negative mailers (estimated cost - $36,000) and twenty-one anonymous robocalls (estimated cost - $31,500). I know of at least four negative mailers and ten anonymous robocalls directed at candidate Peg Ferraro.

John Maher, Tony Branco and Bossman Joe Long disingenuously deny having anything to do with the Severson smears. In a letter published by the Morning Call, Long even threatens the editorial board for noting his involvement in dirty politics. "This borders on libel and slander," he huffs. "[T]o my knowledge, the Northampton County Democratic Party has not made any so-called negative robocalls."

Well, Joe, better hold off on that libel suit. Local Dems have just filed their thirty day post election report. (An online version is here and a PDF copy is here.) Guess what? Severrson's sleaze campaign is documented, although only for about a third of the money actually spent.

Here's what happened. In the waning days before the election, local coffers were flooded with $12,678 from Charles Dertinger - $2,500; Lamont McClure - $8,000; John Maher - $750; and Tony Branc0 - $728. Amazingly, the party also accepted a $500 donation from Ronald "I love Wal-Mart" Perin, whose family is embroiled in litigation with the county.

Where did all this money go?

Why Severson, of course. Payments of $1,800 and $3,578 were made to Severson's Political Strategies, Inc, a California corporation that's not even registered in Pennsylvania. And the party is now in debt to this guy to the tune of $9,086.45.

What did Severson do? According to the Dems' own report, he looks like he did phone work, printing and "campaign services." Five separate mailings are reported, costing the party another $7,300.

Here's my problem. The amount of money spent against Angle alone ($67,500) is at least three times more than the $21,000 reflected by this bogus finance report.

Someone is flying under the radar.