Saturday, May 31, 2008

Judicial Stalking Charges Against Democratic Activist Dismissed

As a kid, I'd often hear my dad on the phone at home, talking to clients. Criminal defendants rarely call a lawyer at home. They already know they're guilty. But people undergoing a divorce or having disputes with neighbors will call day and night.

"You've got only two choices when you have a bad neighbor - move or shoot him."

That was my dad's standard answer. It's a pretty good one, too.

Jon Soden, of the Lehigh/Northampton Progressive Alliance, and Emil Giordano, a Northmapton County judge, are neighbors who just don't like each other. Yeah, I know Judge Goirdano has a big R on his T-shirts and Soden sleeps with an Obama doll. But politics has nothing to do with this. These are two basically good guys who just hate each other.

It happens to me all the time.

Soden was arrested for stalking Judge Giordano a few months ago. Before that occurred, Soden was visited and threatened by overreaching deputy sheriffs so often that I really have to wonder who was stalking whom.

The DA must be wondering too. Charges were dismissed today. No hearing. Poof!

My dad was right. Instead of flipping birds at each other, these guys should flip a coin. Loser moves. If they can't do that, they can fight a duel. Since they're both triatheletes, I'm giving no odds.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Try Transit Day


Try Transit Day is the last Friday of every month. With fuel prices now creeping over that magical $4 amount, many more of us will be doing just that.

Ralph: He's Ba-a-a-a-ack!

He's been on Saturday Night Live, too!

Ralph Nader: [serious again] What's this, a hot dog you're eating?

Garrett Morris: Mm hm.

Ralph Nader: A hot dog?

Garrett Morris: Mm hm.

Ralph Nader: Do you enjoy eating rat excrement and rodent hairs?

Meet a Northampton County Worker

Her name is Darcel. She's one of many single mothers who work at the Northampton County Government Center. You don't read her name in the paper. But like most of her peers, she's very bright. In fact, she's currently finishing up her M.B.A. She also has lots of good ideas about improving her workplace. Unfortunately, Darcel and her colleagues are the last persons the suits ever talk to when they really want to know what is going on.

They hire consultants.

I've known Darcel a few years. I've watched as she worked her way through school. I've seen her walk to work in all kinds of weather, making sacrifices for her daughter. I've see her at the Easton library nearly every time I've visit that place. I'm very proud of Darcel's work ethic and educational achievement. It's been a long struggle for her, but she finally sees light at the end of the tunnel. Her proudest accomplishment, of course, is her daughter, who's pictured with her on this post.

Darcel works in the Civil Division and recently wrote a business plan for her department. She gave me permission to post it and you can read it, in its entirety, here. It's an intelligent and practical business perspective, from the ground level, on how to improve a county row office. She also has refreshing views on the inner workings of the courthouse. Here are a few excerpts.

Why did courthouse workers unionize?

Northampton County Courthouse employees have voted in a union because the employees want pay increases. Pay had not increased in the last three years and the treatment of the employees was getting abusive at the workplace. The employees needed a neutral party to help with the employment issues, bring in opportunities to allow seniority to play a factor in promotions on the job, and training sessions for employees to improve behavior on the job. When the contract was negotiated, the employees received pay increases, more added time for vacation hours, and other demands. Some employment issues are being discussed in the contract, such as, a disciplinary board that oversees the complaints from employees (neutral parties are evaluating the situation and rendering a decision in the matter). Cutting across these issues is concern for individual health. Northampton County Courthouse changed insurance carriers because the county believed that employees would benefit with the new changes.

How has technology impacted life for a courthouse worker?

Technology is a big factor at the Northampton County Courthouse because the county uses a computer system for daily activities. The computer system keeps a daily record of all activities within the courthouse. At the Civil Division (also known as the Prothonotary’s Office and Clerk of Courts – Civil), the public can come into the office to access any file that is not sealed by the courts. Thus, all firms, and most particularly those in turbulent growth industries, must strive for an understanding both of the existing technological advances and the probable future advances that can affect their products and services.

The Civil Division employees use the computer systems to make daily entries of filings and have access to email, but the employees cannot send civil documents to the public as attachments because the Civil Division does not have that kind of software package system like some of the other counties. For example, some counties offer civil documents on the Internet where the public can purchase civil docket entries and other civil document via credit card or Pay-Pal service along with filing electronic documents from attorneys and pro se individuals (individuals acting on their own behalf). The Civil Division will have to think of ways to please the public and to compete with the other counties with an upgraded computer software system.

How can the Civil Division be more responsive to the public?

With a limited income, consumers are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to pay the mortgage. Mortgage companies will be filing more complaints in foreclosures. The filings will increase to about 60% at the Civil Division in the next 10 years. The situation would cause employees to become overworked; absenteeism would increase; conflicts will increase amongst the employees and the office would be understaffed. The Civil Division will need to hire more employees. The department would need 12 additional employees (six to help with the Sheriff’s Sales and six to input the increased paperwork) plus the county will have to increase employee wages.

If an increase of unemployment occurs in the next five to ten years, domestic violence and divorce filings would increase. Some consumers will become frustrated and angry causing more domestic violence cases to be filed with the PFA (Protection From Abuse) office. The PFA office will need to hire more employees because the office would be understaffed; an increase in absenteeism; overworked and would cause conflicts amongst the employees. The opportunity would be to hire seven employees in the next ten years.

People like Darcel are what make Northampton County, and most small governments, work. We spend millions for consultants and studies, but the answers are often right under our noses.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Morning Call Enables Anti-Semitic Rants

Last week, I told you about a meeting next week concerning the hate in Allentown, and by extension, the Lehigh Valley. Can Allentown really be a "No Place for Hate City"? That will be the topic on June 4 at The Palace Banquet and Conference Center, 623 Hanover Ave, Allentown 18109 (former Ice Palace Skating Rink). This breakfast meeting starts at the ungodly hour of 7 AM, and those interested are asked to register by calling Nicholas Butterfield at 610-437-7616 or e-mailing him at butterfield@allentowncity.org.

Most of us are disgusted by the racially-motivated assault against Allentown resident Kari Holmes, which has received scant attention from police or local media.

Scant attention is one thing. The knowing promotion of racism and bigotry is something else. And that's precisely what the suits who run The Morning Call have allowed.

All in the name of the Almighty Dollar. Morning Call columnist and blogger Bill White has candidly admitted, "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."

Gee, I never knew that profit is a justification for bigotry.

Just today, The Morning Call Readers' Forum is spiced with a little anti-Semitism from someone who is just thrilled that the Neuweiler building owner has been arrested and jailed for unpaid fines.
"Fug the A-town slumlords glad to C the mayor taking action here we don't need anymore Scumbags like Mendelson. Hope they get their jewish asses beat down in LCP. Just guessing this guy is a jue."
That comment has remained untouched for five hours at the time of this post, and has undoubtedly read by thousands. If this was a once and done thing, I's have no problem. But it is a disturbing pattern, and the paper has ignored repeated requests to do something to stop it.

In its history, the Morning Call is known for charging Max Hess more than other advertisers simply because he was Jewish. Given its previous overt discrimination against Jews, I guess this more subtle form of discrimination - providing a forum in which unnamed others can spread hate - should come as no surprise.

But as long as this paper, one of the largest in the country, enables bigotry, Allentown will remain a place for hate. Perhaps this community dialogue can ask advertisers to stop using The Morning Call until it stops the hate.

The Almighty Dollar seems to be one thing that might get the attention of the Morning Call gods, who ignore the concerns of their own editors and reporters.
Update: The Morning Call Reader Forum rant about Jewish asses getting beat up in Lehigh County prison has now been standing seven hours. Isn't that nice?

Mayor Pawlowski's Consulting Gig in Home Inspection

Much to the chagrin of Allentown curmudgeon Michael Molovinsky, Allentown city council late last year enacted a home sale inspection ordinance, at the urging of Mayor Pawlowski. As explained by Morning Call reporter Paul Muschick, all residential properties must be inspected before a sale to ensure they are up to code. This is in addition to whatever housing inspection may be required by the lender, and will cost homeowners an extra $200 a pop. Molovinsky calls this fee another nuisance tax. A random survey conducted by council member Michael Donovan indicates little public support. He's formed an ad hoc committee to re-evaluate the whole idea, although no one expects it to be repealed.

So who does the inspecting? Right now, that function is being performed by the city, but there is serious question whether it can handle residential inspections in addition to its existing program for rentals.

This is where Keystone Municipal Services enters this little play. According to The Morning Call, Keystone already serves thirty municipalities and is looking to move into the Lehigh Valley. It's even bid on work in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Home inspections are their bag, baby.

Guess who has a consulting gig with Keystone?

According to a Statement of Financial Interests filed on April 30, none other than Allentown Mayor Edwin E. Pawlowski. He must list all sources of income greater than $1,300.

Isn't that nice? Just think, after people get tired of waiting four years for a real estate inspection, this city will privatize its residential inspections, and consultant Ed will pick up a nice check. He'll wait 'till he leaves office so that everything is legit, but the writing is on the wall for anyone who can read.

I'm a Dirty, No Good, Liar

Yesterday, I told you about Jim Hickey, Northampton County's former Director of Administration, and his "five questions" interview with Express Times editor Joe Owens. I told you Hickey called the county's 2001 bond was a horrible mistake. "I should have listened to O'Hare and Angle. Those assholes really know what they're talking about. Especially O'Hare."

I lied.

Yesterday, Hickey threw me off the courthouse roof again, and promised to use me as part of the fill for the new courthouse parking deck unless I come clean. Actually, Hickey considers that 2001 bond as Glenn Reibman's greatest achievement. "I think we're seeing the economic benefits from that throughout the county and I think you're also seeing the vindication of Glenn Reibman's decision to pursue that bond."

Nothing would make me happier than being proved wrong about that bond. I just don't see those 30,000 jobs that Reibman promised, and I've been looking everywhere.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to Game the BNN Ratings:You Can Be #1, Too!

For two of the last three weeks, this blog has been rated as Pennsylania's most influential poliblog by BlogNetNews. That just drives some people nutz, which makes it worth it.

Pottstown plagiarist, editor, columnist, blogger, politician, Greek lover, intellectual and celebrity TONY PHYRILLAS (all caps, please) will have to put off his usual "I'm the greatest blogger in the universe" post for at least another week. Closer to home, a Team Casey member jealously snarls, "God knows you have enough enemies of your #1 rated Blognet HATE Blog. You should be proud. It is what America Loves. Bull Shit."

Gotta' love it!

Let me tell you a bit about BlogNetNews (BNN). It's basically a blog feed aggregator, arranged state by state, founded by Dave Mastio. "I've worked for newspapers including USA Today, The Detroit News, the no-longer-with-us Knight-Ridder and The Washington Examiner. I've also worked as a speechwriter for the Bush administration ... . I am starting a new media company called BlogNetNews.com focused on finding ways to make social media more useful to specific communities of readers."

I've been hooked to BNN since Mastio started. I like it, if only because it creates another outlet in which bloggers can be seen. It's another way to get a blog's content found and read. (He only posts excerpts. You have to click and will be redirected to the originating blog if you wish to read an entire post.)

In addition to being an aggregator, Mastio has added two interesting features. The first of these, which is relatively noncontroversial, is his BNN Bulletin. I've loaded this tool on my left sidebar. You can choose liberal, conservative, all or media blogs. I have opted for all - as much diversity as possible.

Mastio's second feature, the BNN ratings index, is a lot more controversial. Back in June, it was viewed as something fun, not taken very seriously. But now, some bloggers view founder Mastio as a "threat to the blogosphere." They've threatened class action lawsuits and are running around with pitchforks. One blogger actually turned off his RSS feed, an amazing act of stupidity, to keep BNN from syndicating his content. These folks apparently never heard of the "fair use" doctrine.

What really pisses them off is they are not rated as highly as they think they should be. Lefties immediately note that Mastio-Bush speechwriter connection, and Mastio himself has added fuel to the fire by starting RightyBlogs. He denies leaning left or right at BNN, and I believe him. "I’ve worked in journalism since 1995 and nobody has ever accused me of such a thing. Messing with the data would destroy BNN’s credibility and with it, the viability of BNN as a commercial enterprise. Since I quit my full time job with The Virginian-Pilot to devote myself full time to expanding BNN, that would be rather self-destructive."

Another blogger suggests it's "trivially simple for diligent or nefarious people to game the system to improve their ranking." Mastio responds, "Since BNN's influence ratings are something I take some pride in, I'd welcome your instruction in how easily they can be manipulated. If you'd be so kind as to use your ideas on how to manipulate it and make yourself number one for this week, I'd welcome the opportunity to learn from any flaws you discover. Just let me know how you do it and I'll make sure we adapt the programming to make it impossible."

That blogger quickly backed off.

Not me. I think it's possible to game the system. What's more, I think I've done it. I'll explain how you, too can be Number 1. When Dave sees this, he can correct me if I'm wrong.

First, you need hits. In most cases, that requires informative and entertaining content. But you can still get away with a lousy blog that contains nothing but "I Hate All Democrats" or "Ed Rendell Picks His Nose and Eats it" posts. How? Simple, silly. Try self-loading software, just like TONY PHYRILLAS (bow your head, please). Ten hits will easily become one hundred.

Second, visit BNN and rate your own blog. Conservative blogs like TONY PHYRILLAS (please genuflect) are always rated very near 10.0 for the week. I decided to give my own blog a few 10.0s here and there, and voilà - Number one, baby! Unfortunately, the bastards are on to me. Monday morning, when I went to rate one of my blogs, I was a pitiful 1.0, which is as low as I can go. The vast right wing conspiracy has put me in my place. In fairness, it's possible I did it to myself by accident. I screw up like that. You see, I'm a Democrat.

The third way to game those ratings is by simply clicking on your own posts at BNN's "most clicked posts" function. I never really noticed it until Friday, when I saw something very odd. Casey's new blog, to which no one links, had a goofy post with an uninteresting and long headline about a dashboard light or something. Yet there were six clicks on that blog! Yeah, right. I decided to look into this. Lo and behold, TONY PHYRILLAS (sacrifice a chicken, please) also had multiple clicks on six different posts that day. I decided to try it myself, and was able to click on my own post eleven times from BNN, creating the false impression that everyone was just dying to read about a Lehigh County tax rebate. I did it again on Tuesday.

Whoopee!

All three of these blogs made the top twenty. Some bloggers get there by simply clicking on their own posts in an attempt to obtain an unfair advantage. If others were clicking on those posts, there should be some correlation with another feature, "hot comments." After all, a blog generating lots of clicks should be generating lots of comments, too. But that never happens.

Going back over the past few weeks, I notice that some blogs ranked in the top twenty apparently use this "most clicked posts" feature regularly to increase ratings. You can click on the blog from BNN and easily create the false impression that your blog is widely read. Chief offenders are TONY PHYRILLAS (sacrifice a Democrat, please) and THE CENTRIST (where TONY PHYRILLAS just happens to be a contributor and cross-posts).

The fourth and final way to game ratings is by crossposting at several blogs, making sure that you create links for yourself. TONY PHYRILLAS commonly does this with THE CENTRIST.

So that's my take on how to game the ratings. As much as I love me, and I do, I am by no means the most influential poliblog in Pa. on this or any other week. I'm number one, but don't belong there. Capitol Ideas, Pennsylania Ave. and Pennsyltucky Politics are just three of the poliblogs I think of as superior poliblogs. But they don't game the system. Unlike TONY PHYRILLAS (buy a ticket to his next breakfast, please) and yours truly, they have ethics. I will say this. I'm the most influential poliblog in Nazareth, at least on Main Street.

As I've said before, most people think of me as #2, anyway.

Why Didn't Sam Bennett Dial 9-1-1?

Yesterday, I told you about all about congressional candidate Sam Bennett's elderly newspaper delivery man, who was mugged outside her home around 4:30 AM on October 27. By all accounts (Bennett, Mr. A and APD), Bennett was an eyewitness. By all accounts, she never dialled 9-1-1.

Why not?

At the time, she was applying for a special exception that would convert the Historic Benner Home into a 3 guestroom bed and breakfast. In addition to my November 20 report, QCD noted it the following day. Reporter Paul Muschick remarked that, although some of the "most important city decisions that affect neighborhoods are made by the Zoning Hearing Board," The Morning Call only "rarely covers these meetings."

I have been informed that several Bennett neighbors were concerned by parking problems that would inevitably follow a B&B. Zoning minutes are unavailable on Allentown's improved (?) web page, so I have no knowledge whether any of them formally opposed the special exception. QCD does tell us, without comment, that Bennett's wish was granted on December 3.

Was Bennett concerned that a mugging outside her home might make zoners hesitate? Did she think a robbery outside her B&B might be bad for business?

I have no answers to these questions. This is sheer speculation, but I can't help wondering. She did have one reason to stay off that phone - her B&B.
Thursday Evening Update: This post originally contained a google map showing the location of the assault and its proximity to Hotel Traylor. I've deleted it because it makes the blog too slow to load.

Jim Hickey Talks About Flaming Monkeys Again

"When Flaming Monkeys Fly Out My Ass!"

That's when former Northampton County Director of Administration will run for public office. He also claims Don Cunningham will be the next Guv' and Barack Obama will be the next prez. Finally, he admits the county's 2001 bond was a horrible mistake. "I should have listened to O'Hare and Angle. Those assholes really know what they're talking about. Especially O'Hare"

Doubt me? You can hear the original Miserable Bastard yourself, thanks to Express Times editor Joe Owens and his "Five Questions" segment at Lehigh Valley Live.

Highest Scoring Baseball Game, Ever, in the Whole Wide World

So the Phillies knocked the Rockies around, scoring twenty runs in one game. But what's the highest scoring baseball game ever in the history of baseball?

According to WikiAnswers, "The highest scoring game in MLB history was played August 25, 1922 when the Chicago Cubs defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 26-23." There was also a pro game on July 5, 1869, when the Brooklyn Atlantics beat the Philly Athletics, 51-48, in a game witnessed by 15,000 people at the Capitoline Grounds in New York. And for amatuers, Baseball Library reports that on June 8, 1868, the Niagaras beat the Colombias 209-10.

No mercy rule, I guess.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Justice Delayed & Denied to Allentown News Carrier

On Monday, I met congressional candidate Sam Bennett's 78 year-old newspaper delivery man. I'll call him Mr. A. He has asked me to keep his name and address off this post. He is afraid. He has reason to be afraid. From Bennett to Allentown police to the Morning Call itself, Mr. A has clearly been ignored. Old folks seem to mean very little to them.

Background

Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. A. When I visited him on Monday in west Allentown, the first thing I noticed was his yard. Every square inch was growing lettuce and other edibles. When I walked inside his modest home, vegetables of all kinds were growing all over the place. Mr. A is on a vegan diet. While I was at his home, a nice lady and her pretty young daughter dropped by with a few vegan meals. He promised to repay their kindness with plenty of veggies in a few weeks. I was thinking about cheeseburgers.

Mr. A speaks three different languages, is well-educated and was employed as a professional before his retirement. He began work as a newspaper delivery man so that he could control his high blood pressure. He had trouble staying on an exercise program, but the delivery job did the trick. In a month, his blood pressure was perfect.

Mugging on Bennett's Porch

On October 27th, at 4:30 AM, Mr. A had just picked up his newspapers and was starting his route. His very first home is the Historic Benner Home owned by congressional candidate Sam Bennett. As Mr. A ascended the steps, he was grabbed from behind and thrown onto the steps like a rag doll. A Hispanic-looking man, between 25 and 35, simply said "Money! I need money." He tussled with this fellow, who was wearing a long jacket between beige and orange in color along with some sort of black cloth on his head. During the encounter, Mr. A noticed that Sam Bennett had opened one of her windows and was watching the incident. By the time she came outside, the assailant was gone. He had taken about $20, a driver's license and a credit card.

Sam Bennett and Mr. A agreed about the description of his assailant. She commiserated with him, telling him she had been robbed herself. She promised to call police. Mr. A sat on her porch and waited thirty minutes. No police officer showed up, so he finished his route, went home and called police himself. He also called Bennett to ask why she never called the police, but all he got was her voice mail. Officer Heiserman came to Mr. A's home and took a statement (Complaint 07-90144). At this point, Mr. A learned that no one had called police before his own call.

Mr. A Disputes Sam Bennett's Stories

Sam Bennett actually has two explanations for this incident. At first, she was somewhat incredulous. "I broke up that mugging. What are you talking about? I've even called in stabbings. We are the first ones to call in disturbances. He [Mr. A] was getting mugged on my front steps, and I went outside in my pajamas and broke it up. I made sure he was OK. I told him to stop delivering the paper in the dark. He was traumatized. I stayed in communication with him throughout that whole thing. I was not the one who called the dispatcher. I get my paper later now. I told him not to deliver until it is lighter."

Later that day, she sent me an email to "add" to her original story, although it appears to be inconsistent with her original statement. "Living as we do next door to the Hotel Traylor, my husband and I over the years have found ourselves calling the police frequently about stabbings, gunshots, street fights and more. When I jumped out of bed and flung open the front door of our home early that morning, I incorrectly assumed it was yet another drunken interaction on our front steps. My response was to admonish the misbehavers and send them home. I did not know that our newspaper man had actually been mugged until the next day when he and I spoke on the phone. I’m glad I opened my door and hopefully prevented further harm from being committed in response to the noise I heard. But in hindsight I wish that I had known what was really happening, because in that event I would have called the police.”

I read each explanation to Mr. A. After hearing Version #1, Mr. A simply stated, "That is false." Once I read Version #2, Mr. A quietly responded, "This is a lie, too."

Morning Call Screws Up its Story, Too!

The day after the mugging, the Morning Call did run a story, asking anyone with information to call the police. But instead of reporting that Mr. A was robbed at the Historic Benner Home, the paper erroneously listed Mr. A's own address. After many calls, the paper finally ran a brief correction to indicate that the robbery had actually occurred at 25 South 15th Street. That was November 10.

Allentown Police Conduct Shoddy Investigation

In addition to losing $20, Mr. A also lost a credit card. Right after calling police, Mr. A also called his credit card company. He was told the card had already been used three times at two different locations - the Sunoco at 12th & Hamilton and the 7-11 at 7th & Linden. Mr. A visited both stores to see if there were any surveillance photos. Sunoco had surveillance videos, but refused to show them to Mr. A, claiming they could only show them to police.

But thank heaven for 7-11. The manager took pity on Mr. A, and gave him a computer copy of a photo of Mr. A's assailant, taken as A's credit card was used to purchase cartons of cigarettes. You can see a grainy copy of that photo at the top of this blog.

Mr. A immediately called police, but they told him they "didn't have time to look." They refused to go to either store. He was told he would have to wait for a detective.

A neighbor, who works for the Lehigh County District Attorney, told him her office has detectives, and two of them soon visited Mr. A. Although they lack jurisdiction to investigate, they at least made sure that an Allentown detective, Thomas Anderson, was assigned to the case.

Unfortunately, Detective Anderson has had no time to investigate this matter, either. "I told him those videos don't last forever, but Anderson claimed he doesn't have time." When Mr. A showed Detective Anderson the picture he obtained on his own, the investigator snapped, "You're not supposed to have that." Anderson did eventually send a written request for the videos. But it was too late. The videos are gone.

In the meantime, Mr. A actually saw his assailant in the Hotel Traylor lobby. He called for Detective Anderson, who was unavailable. He spoke to Anderson's boss, who told him they were "too busy" to do anything.

Mr. A finally called Congressman Charlie Dent. He tells me Dent called some Allentown official in his presence and in no uncertain terms told him to do his job.

Not long after that, Detective Anderson did stop by Mr. A's home with a picture. Mr. A was at the hospital undergoing tests. His high blood pressure has returned. "The magic is gone." Mr. A has since visited the police department repeatedly to try and see Anderson, but he's always too busy, working a different shift, in the middle of an interview, etc.

Mr. A believes Allentown police are making the city "a paradise for the criminals." Given what he's gone through, I can understand his reluctance to give his name or precise address. It's more likely he will be visited by his assailant than a cop.

Morning Call Has No Regard For Robbed Carrier

The Morning Call demonstrated its disdain for Mr. A from the onset. It failed to publish the address where the robbery occurred, instead listing the home address of its own carrier. I asked him how the paper reacted. "Nobody approached me to ask if I was OK. I doubt the higher ups know anything. Those in Circulation just don't care."

Mr. A also tells me the newspaper at one time paid all carriers equally and distributed papers through its trucks. Now different carriers get different pay and he must go to headquarters himself for the paper, and is actually charged rent to put the paper together. "They are losing $4 million a year and are trying to get the money from the carriers." While he gets screwed, Mr. A tells me customers like Sam Bennett get a special discounted rate for her newspaper.

Conclusion

Last week, I told you about the problems Kari Holmes has had getting Allentown police to do anything concerning a racially-motivated assault. Mr. A's experience is even worse. He's been snubbed by a congressional candidate, Allentown police and a newspaper. Despite having a picture of his assailant and seeing him in the Hotel Traylor lobby, he's been ignored. The paper for whom he works offers no condolences and can't even get its report right. And the congressional candidate who was an eyewitness to the robbery has given varying accounts.

Monday, May 26, 2008

BirdZerk Visits LV IronPigs


BirdZerk entertained the fans Saturday night when the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs hosted and defeated the Charlotte Knights.

I ran into BirdZerk on my way out of the stadium, and told him he was the funniest mascot I ever saw. He hugged me and whispered in my ear, "You're the funniest man I ever saw."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Molovinsky the Filmmaker

That bastard, Michael Molovinsky, has been playing with all of us. He portrays himself as some stuffy conservative curmudgeon, but he's really a closet hippie.

Want proof? Check out his touching tribute to Allentown artist Gregg Weaver, a film he made back around '72. If you're a boomer like me, the music and images will bring back memories of a wild time in our nation's history - one we're unlikely ever to see again. His film itself is art.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe


My son will be picking out one of these pups in the next few weeks. I'll eat the rest of them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Twenty Soldiers Get $10K in Tax Rebates From Lehigh County

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa last year vetoed tax rebates for military personnel deployed overseas in 2007 and 2008. The American Heroes Grant, as this measure is popularly called, posed legal problems and council's solicitor suggested making some changes. "We can do that after the fact," snapped council member Charles Dertinger.

An attempt to override Stoffa's veto failed. Wayne Grube, himself a vet and at that time council prez, said it best. "I want something more solid, more concrete. We have no idea how many deserving veterans would qualify. Nobody's ever talked about that. This is something that can't be done on short notice. I don't want a half-baked deal ... ."

Well, instead of a half-baked deal, we have none.

Lehigh County adopted a nearly identical American Heroes Grant last year. It offers a full property tax refund to any county homeowner deployed by the military for four months or more. To date, 20 active-duty residents have been granted rebates totaling $10,724.

“As we said when the tax rebate was proposed, it doesn’t matter if it only helps one family, it is simply the right thing to do,” explains Lehigh County exec Don Cunningham. “Many of those serving to support our military efforts are reservists who have had to put their lives on hold. I believe that the people of Lehigh County can make a shared sacrifice and cover the property taxes of these service personnel while they serve our country in a larger capacity.”

Lehigh County’s tax rate is 10.25 mills. The average Lehigh County property tax bill is $479.

The tax rebate covers all full time regular military personnel who own homes in the county as well as reservists deployed for active duty while serving in a guard or reserve unit. Service members can still apply for the rebate.

For complete details on the American Heroes Grant program, a downloadable application form, click here. You can also stop in at the Lehigh County Assessment Office, Room 517, the Government Center, 17 South Seventh Street, Allentown Pennsylvania, or call at 610-782-3038.

“What’s important is that we recognize the difficulties that our service members endure, overseas and on the home front,” says Cunningham. “This initiative has done what we intended, which is to remove one expense from these good people who are doing their jobs and answering their country’s call.”

Cunningham will provide additional information as part of his address at the Memorial Day Program at Cedar Hill Memorial Park, Allentown. The program begins at 11:45 a.m. For more information on the service, contact the Veterans Memorial Committee at 610-437-5534.

Northampton County Potter's Field Needs a Few Markers

Not far from the Gracedale complex, you can see Northampton County's very own potter's field. It's located at the top of a lonely hill along Levis Road, right next to a gigantic civil defense tower. It's a pretty, quiet place, but the county has been using it a final resting place for indigents and unknowns since 1937.

Two hundred people are buried there. Most of the graves are marked with a simple stone marker like the one you see in this picture. The five combat veterans buried here, including a WWII Army captain, get a flag.

It's nice.

But the most recent stone marker is dated 1998. Six persons have been interred since then, and their graves are decorated only by cheap plastic markers. Two of these appear to have been mangled by lawn mowers beyond recognition, and a name is completely worn off another.

Gracedale administrator Harold Russell, the person who gets the stone markers, tells me he simply hasn't had time and will try to devote more attention to this detail soon. I hope so. Civilized society, even pre-invasion Iraq, respects the dead. Every life, even a person with no family or money, is important. When we don't honor our dead, it's an indication we don't have much respect for the living, either.

Iron Pigs: The Stat That Matters to an Owner

Frank, a friend of mine, recently suggested that I add a link to the standings for our very own Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. You'll see one on my left sidebar. Despite recent signs of life, the Porkers are resting comfortably in their division basement. The have the league's worst batting average and second worst ERA. But when it comes to attendance, the Pigs are contenders. Drawing an average of 7,135 fans to home games, Lehigh Valley is second only to the Louisville Bats.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Can Allentown Become a "No Place For Hate" City?

Yesterday, I got into quite a bit of trouble over a picture that accompanied my post about racial assault victim Kari Holmes. Some of you feel, perhaps rightly, that there never is any justification for the use of the word "nigger," even when it is being done to show the logical absurdity of racism.

I can give you plenty of examples of racist and hate speech that don't use that inflammatory word at all. How about this?

"This problem ends if you get rid of the negros. Any black man 20 years of age or older not working without a degree gets shipped off to the military. Make them the first wave in any assault."

Or this?

"THIS TRASH AND THE SALSA COCKROACH TYPE ALIKE ARE RUINING THE LEHIGH VALLEY AND THE POCONOS!!!!!!!!!"

Is there some local KKK blog, you ask? Nah, it's just The Morning Call's reader forum, home of the Lehigh Valley's lowest common denominator among human beings. Racism is alive and well in the Lehigh Valley, and The Morning Call permits racist remarks (so long as no inflammatory words are used) because it generates interest and ad revenues. Isn't it nice that bigots have a place to meet and talk? Maybe some of them are dating and will produce some little bigots.

The Morning Call gods were supposed to discuss this matter with me in a conference call in January, but they're probably too busy selling ads.

Instead of discussing it with them, I'll bring up this topic at breakfast to be conducted this June by a consortium of groups - including The No Place for Hate Initiative - deeply concerned about what is happening in Allentown.

Why don't you come and offer your suggestions, too?

When/Cuando: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 2008
Breakfast 7 AM, Program 7:30 AM – 9 AM


What: Community Dialogue: Allentown a “NO PLACE FOR HATE” City

Where/Donde: The Palace Banquet and Conference Center, 623 Hanover Ave, Allentown 18109 (former Ice Palace Skating Rink)

Register: Please contact Nicholas Butterfield, Human Relations Officer, at 610-437-7616 or send an e-mail to butterfield@allentowncity.org. Please register by Monday, June 2, 2008. Para asistencia en Español llame a Erlinda Aguiar al 610-439-5976.

LV Food Banks Need Our Help

"In this country, there's no good reason for a mom and kids to be hungry."

Those are the words of Allentown Rescue Mission's gaunt exec director, Gary Millspaugh. I met him and Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning this morning at some ungodly hour for ... breakfast. At the time he said that, I was stuffing my face with a feta cheese omelet.

"Hey Gary, the owner here would like to see you about a donation."

As Millspaugh went in to the kitchen, Dean and I finished off his eggs. There's no good reason for us to be hungry either, and Gary is skinny, so he's used to not eating.

Gary is one of those very rare gems who really cares about other people. He has some wonderful ideas to help Allentown's homeless and very poor, and I'm going to tell you about that in the next few days. But there's a bigger issue he wants me to tell you about now.

Most of the low income kids going to school get free breakfasts and lunches. In fact, some of the young ladies depend on the school nurse for feminine hygiene products. Their mothers can't afford to give them more than one item, if that.

In about three weeks, school will be over. Low income moms will be going to their local food banks. But the cupboards are bare. The rising cost of food and fuel is hurting people everywhere. It especially hurts the poor, who have to decide whether to pay the electric bill or eat. Unfortunately, people right here in the Lehigh Valley are hungry.

The food banks need help. Gary asks that, when you do your grocery shopping, to pick up a few extra items and drop them off at the local food bank. Here are some of the Lehigh Valley food banks.

Allentown Rescue Mission, 355 W. Hamilton St, Allentown, PA (You can drop off food and supplies at the Mission any week day, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or call Bill Dickinson at 610-740-5500, ext. 14, for other times or arrangements.)

Salvation Army of Bethlehem, 521 Pembroke Rd, Bethlehem, PA 18018. Phone: 610-867-4681.

Northampton Area Food Bank, 1601 Canal Street, Northampton, PA. Phone: 610-262-8030.

Nazareth Area Food Bank, St. John’s Lutheran Church, 200 S. Broad Street, Nazareth, PA 18064. Contact Elizabeth Huth, director (610-759-0821) or Jim Byrnes, president of the board of directors (610-923-0821).

Bethany E.C. Church, 224 N 6th St, Allentown, PA 18102. Phone: 610-434-1477.

Lehigh County Conference of Churches, 8th and Walnut, Allentown, PA. Phone: 610-462-4984;

New Bethany Ministries, 333 W 4th St, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Phone: 610-691-5602 x27;

Second Harvest Food Bank, 2045 Harvest Way, Allentown, PA 18104. Phone: 610-434-0875;

These are the most needed food and non-perishable items:

Canned Foods
Fruits and Juices
Meat (spam, tuna, deviled ham, chicken, turkey)
Meat Meals (chili, beef stew, chicken and dumplings)
Canned Pasta meals
Pork and Beans
Soups
Tomatoes and Vegetables

Baby and Other Needs
Baby Food and Formula
Diapers
Breakfast Cereal
Boxed Meals
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Pasta and Sauces
Rice

If you know of any Lehigh Valley food banks that I've missed, please let me know in the comments. I'd like to create a permanent link to all local food banks.

Ladies of the Blogosphere

These ladies, many of them very young and new to blogging, can really write. All original. All interesting. I am humbled. I am awed. What wonderful and diverse voices we have! Here's a peek.

Valima:
"I'm a city rat for all intents and purposes.

"I've lived in NYC and have seen rats bigger than poodles. I've dealt with a family of mice that infiltrated my home through a hole in the wall no bigger than my pinky nail. They reminded me of the Flying Wallendas. They would swing on things like the super long telephone cord (it was cheaper than a cordless) that I had going from my kitchen to the living room. I have also had my share of water bugs, silverfish and other pains in the ass things that don't belong in my home."

Katie Bee:

"a year ago i didn't own anything but my car and a duffel bag of clothes. i sort of drove around and changed in the bathroom in the coffee shop and read books inside the bookstore and ate meals of free samples in grocery stores."

Mrs. Dottie:
"Wow. People are really in a hurry. While leaving Wegman's on Sat. after getting some take-out (not MY idea) some jerky guy nearly pushed me and my little boy out of the way so he could get in front of us and get to where he was going. He must be a VIP. We were not even walking slow. His kid was pushing his way ahead as well. My hubby said to the guy "Hey you jerky, are you in a hurry?" I was bracing myself for an altercation, but the guy never even turned around. I guess we were getting in the way of HIS weekend. Then the cars would not stop to let us cross in the crosswalk. Now I know why I don't shop at Wegman's. It's the pushy people, not just the over-priced prepared food which I think is not that great quality anyway. I do much better with the seniors on discount day at King's."

Pam Varknoy:

"In Allentown, violence is so common that the only interest it seems to generate is that of a statistic: like the odds on a horse race, everyone is betting whether the city will surpass last year's record setting murder rate of 21. It looks like we just may."

Brickgrrl:
"Time is an invention.

"That was a message on the t-shirt of a favorite photographer pal. You might think it's pop philosophy. I think it's screen-printed wisdom. Think about it for a moment. Scrambles the mind, eh?"


Serina:
"I swear the Christmas City must hand out Moravian stars, Volvos and tweed coats with elbow patches once you live there long enough to qualify as a Bethlehemian. Again, I don't say this to be nasty. I am envious! I occasionally want a little high-brow experience in center city Allentown. It's my right! I know that such things occur sometimes in the west end, but not in my neighborhood. I sense a tide of revolution growing among the regular folks here and I hope it gets stronger. The Queen City shall reclaim her throne one day as one of several gems of the valley. Let's just hope my observations don't provoke an invasion by the City of Bethlehem. I hear those Moravian stars hurt when hurled as a weapon!:)"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Don't Do School Boards

If nothing else, I've made lots of enemies in two years of blogging. It's a pretty long list and includes Northampton County Council members who exalt partisanship over good government, isolated county judges who think they're frickin' architects, party bosses who think the Lehigh Valley is Tammany Hall, Nazareth residents who hate skateboarders, Allentown mayor Ed "Pay to Play" Pawlowski, LANTA, the state's biggest political consultant (Severson Scissorhands), blue bloods in the Lehigh Valley Partnership, local elections officials and Senator Lisa Boscola.

To borrow a line from another post, "They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."

I have little to worry about. You see, I have super powers. I recently turned another blogger into a dolphin.

But I'd rather have acid poured down my throat than write about a school board. When people ask me why, I give all kinds of phony baloney reasons. I don't own a home, for one thing. I never went to a public school. I know very little about the goofy laws that apply to them, either.

True, ignorance has never stopped me from covering other topics. But I don't do school boards. Those educational bodies and circus clowns are the two things that scare the hell out of me.

On Tuesday, Express Times editor Joe Owens just wrote a suicide note. His blog completely trashes a ten percent tax hike for Nazareth schools.

"Public education in Pennsylvania is the closest thing to legalized theft in this fair commonwealth. Nepotism is institutional. Entitlement is the anthem. Watching out for self-interest is the mission statement.

"Apathy is the fuel."
Steamin' Joe sounds steamed. But he's right. All attempts to reduce that hike were brushed aside.

Who knows? Maybe the board can use that extra money to pay the legal fees for the assault charges against their newly-hired football coach. When he's done intimidating witnesses, perhaps coach will pay Joe a visit.

What's happening in Nazareth is unfortunately no different than what is happening everywhere. Professionals on boards like the one in Bethlehem regularly make fools of themselves. A $12 million pool in Easton is chump change. Joe's answer is that we need to pay attention. Rightyo, Joe.

But here's the problem. Citizens who pay attention to school boards are treated like wing nuts, even more so than gadflies like me.

Take Nina Malsch, for example. She's a citizen activist who is very involved in the Northampton Area School Board. Years ago, she challenged the campaign finances of school board candidates who used an IU20 school to prepare campaign posters. Because the violations found were only technical, she was ordered to pay most of the cost of an audit in a draconian decision designed to discourage citizens from taking an interest in government.

Undaunted, Malsch challenged bond proceedings when Northampton School District attempted to finance a $59 million school project. Like most citizen activists, she went down in flames again.

She persisted, and eventually, the school board members who wanted to tax and spend were ousted.

I have no opinion whether Malsch is actually right about anything. That's irrelevant to me. She's a citizen who takes her role seriously and has been willing to go toe to toe with people who think they are her betters.

Joe Owens would like Nina. He'd beg her to move to Nazareth. Bill White, however, trashed her yesterday and made this nonpolitican a member of his Hall of Fame. Bill obviously disagrees with most of her views, but she's never brought bolt-cutters to a school board meeting, or engaged in any of the histrionics I see from elected officials in Northampton County on a regular basis.

I usually agree with Bill, but can't help but feel that award was designed to let Nina know she had better learn her place. Government is far too important to let citizens have any meaningful say. Only newspaper columnists are entitled to opinions.

This condescending attitude is completely contrary to Bill's stances on most other issues. Why the inconsistency? Because it's a damn school board. They make us all a little nutz, and I'm already crazy enough.

I don't do school boards.

Severson Scissorhands Has a Date ... in Court

After a gazillion continuances and hundreds of mini-judges, big shot political consultant Severson Scissorhands - who makes switch blades as a hobby - finally has a court date on June 5 at 9AM before District Judge Ralph Litzenberger. Severson was charged in March for disrupting a funeral mass by flipping off and threatening Northampton County Council member Ron Angle.

Word has it that the state AG is taking this matter seriously, and has already denied Severson ARD, a special program for first offenders. And Litzenberger is one tough cookie. I once tried to fight a burnt out tail light before him, and he sentenced me to twenty years in the electric chair.

I have two words for Severson - rubber underwear.

No Arrests in Racial Assault Against Kari Holmes

On April 25, I told you about a racially motivated assault against Kari Holmes, daughter of Deliverance Evangelistic Church International's pastor, Dr. Karen Holmes. According to a subsequent news account, two women and one man shouted racial slurs at Kari in east side Allentown, chased after her throughout Allentown's streets, cut her off, pulled her from her car and then began beating her while continuing to shout racial slurs. Political consultant Bar Johnston, who has known the Holmes' family for twenty years, claims Kari had the presence of mind to get good description of the suspects, including a first name. She even remembered three letters of the car's license plate as well as its make, model and color.

Erroneous Police Report

Despite the unusual detail that Kari retained, the Holmes family has dealt with a police officer who refused to shake hands with Kari and prepared an erroneous report that was originally misplaced. This faulty report eventually resulted in a letter to Allentown's police chief.

Dear Sir,

You are receiving this request that the Allentown Police Department Offense/Incident Report for Complaint # 08-30857 be corrected/amended or appended as it does NOT record NOR does it reflect my statement made to officer Todd Haldaman the morning of Thursday, April 24th in the least.

I clearly reported to the officer that I was the victim of an assault by individuals who I had no contact with whatsoever prior to them attacking me.

However, the officer incorrectly recorded 'victim stated she was assaulted after having an incident with another motorist.'

I clearly reported to the officer that the attack was perpetrated by not only the motorist, but the motorist and two [2] passengers, with varying degrees of involvement and increasing degrees of racial and sexual slurs, threats, and physical violence.

I clearly reported to the officer that I had scrapes and scratches, severe pain and visible swelling, in my neck, left shoulder, left elbow, lower back, left knee, left hand palm area, right calf, right knee and right ankle.

However, the officer recorded only 'minor swelling' in the 'right ankle.'

I clearly reported to the officer that I had blood on me that was not my own. I asked if that could be used to help identify any of the individuals.

However, the officer replied, 'no, this is simple assault, that kind of thing is not needed in this type of case.' And no indication of this is found anywhere in the faulty report.

I clearly reported to the officer that a Caucasian female, in her mid-twenties with long blond hair was the first individual to physically attack me.

However, the officer incorrectly recorded that I 'claimed to have been assaulted by an individual with [long] brown hair.'

I clearly stated to the officer that I would NOT refuse medical attention, but rather that I would POSTPONE medical attention…

However, the officer incorrectly recorded that I 'REFUSED medical attention.'

A number of other items were stated succinctly and directly that the officer recorded as the complete opposite. This incorrect and opposite record of my statement is creating a severe problem as it has prohibited your detectives from proceeding affectively [sic] and with a clear understanding of the facts in this case.

I have every confidence that you will address this matter promptly, and expect to hear from you by Thursday, May 1st, 2008 before the close of business [4:00pm] that my statement has been recorded correctly and attached in an addendum to the incorrect report that has been filed.

Thank you,

Kari E. Holmes


So far as I know, no action has been taken to correct any of the mistakes made by the officer who took the report.

Inconclusive Meeting with Mayor Pawlowski

Once of the reasons why Mayor Pawlowski is Mayor Pawlowski and not Mr. Pawlowski is because of the support he received from the Holmes family. He met with them on May 5, and this is how that meeting went, according to Dr. Holmes.

Mayor Pawlowski, several Allentown Human Relation Commissioners, Police Chief and two of his assistants, and several PA Human Relation Commissioners and others met to discuss two incidents: Kari Holmes' allegation of hate crime and Christopher Cabellini's allegation that his car was vandalized because of his sexual orientation. Kari recounted the incident and the follow-up to date. She asked that the initial police report be corrected since the officer gave several points directly opposite to what she told him. I asked that there be a policy or procedure to flag or alert to an amendment when an officer's report is incorrect. The mayor is not at all keen on any change in policy. The mayor and police chief assured Kari that they are doing everything according to procedures already in place to look into the discrepancies. The sincerity was evident. Sincerity is not likely to insure Kari's attackers come to justice. As it is, well-wishers found one of the attackers within an hour of knowing what the police have known for a week. This is just one of many indicators that present policy and procedure is drastically ineffective.

No Arrest

According to Dr. Holmes, police know who the attackers are, but have made no arrest. It may very well be that police have a lot of detail, but the decision to wait is probably prompted by a need to secure some evidence or get input from a prosecuting attorney.

What You Can Do

If you witness a "bias-related incident," you can report it here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Allentown for the Unwashed Masses

Last year, the big thing for the beautiful people was periodic "Dancing in the Streets" celebrations along the 800 block of Hamilton to help out businesses like Allentown Brew Works and PennDOT.

Whoopee!

One of my favorite blogs, Mrs. Dottie's Lehigh Valley Somebody, has posted an announcement from Allentown activist Alfonso Todd about a multi-cultural celebration on July 12 along Hamilton Street between 6th and 7th Streets. It will highlight the positive aspects of the Allentown community and is being called UPWARD BOUND, ALLENTOWN!

FDR Warns Against "Gov't by Organized Money"

"Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."

Not many people get away with thumbing their noses at the rich and powerful. Roosevelt did.


Last night, PBS's fascinating series about FDR concluded. Roosevelt ran against monied interests, not Republicans. Instead of courting wealthy contributors, as most pols do on both sides of the aisle, Roosevelt tried to rein them in.

What was his radical agenda? In his own words, it was "a gallant, sincere effort to raise wages, to reduce hours, to abolish child labor and to eliminate unfair trade practices."

But contrary to popular opinion, a former member of his administration claims FDR was the "least ideological person that ever lived -- that's why I think he was such a great success."

He was no liberal. A former aide instead compares him to a quarterback. "He likened himself to a quarterback. You try a play. If that play doesn't work, you turn to another play."

Lies, Damn Lies and Allentown Crime Data

"Crime is down, with violent crime dropping by 18 percent last year, and all crime dropping by 9 percent."

A falling crime rate is invariably cited by those who claim there is light at the end of the Allentown tunnel. And The Morning Call dutifully reports the undeniable facts in its "Image Overhaul" piece, carefully adding that "the city had a record-tying 21 homicides last year and violent crime has doubled since the early 1990s."

So, is crime really down in Allentown? Sadly, the answer is no.

Using the same Pennsylvania State Police data relied on by Allentown cheerleaders, it appears that last year's Allentown crime rate was just 0.02% lower than its average over the past eight years.

This is evidence of a falling crime rate? It appears more like a manipulation of numbers. If you just compare 2006 with 2007, there was a five percent crime drop in Easton last year.

It's absurd to conclude that "crime is down" based on just two years of data. Want an example? According to PSP data, Nazareth's crime dropped a whopping 27% in 2007. But in 2007, Nazareth's police chief passed away after a lengthy illness and the department was rudderless.

Few would seriously argue that Nazareth or Easton took a big bite out of crime in 2007, and it's dangerously misleading to make that representation about Allentown.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Is Pawlowski Selling Allentown or Pawlowski?

This is the question blogger Michael Molovinsky asks in response to The Morning Call's "exclusive" report that trumpets Pawlowski's first two years in office and paves the way for his second coronation as King of Queen City.

Morning Call Refuses to Spin Along with POM

Early this month, Pam Varkony criticized an "independent third party" report justifying Sam Bennett's $110,000 salary as executive director at nonprofit Properties of Merit. This "independent" is one of the sources who was consulted before that salary was ever set. In a July op-ed, board prez Jim Molchany mentions that - twice.

When I interviewed Bennett, she told me the original allegations "were completely unfounded. The political reporter of The Morning Call writes an investigative piece based on lies, half-truths and innuendo." She stressed this consultant served no role in the compensation committee that set her salary.

At the time, I asked The Morning Call why it never reported Bennett's exoneration, even if it is questionable. The paper's original, front page story, did hurl some serious accusations. The paper declined comment.

But over the weekend, that political reporter is at it again, analyzing the report, noting that it appears to contradict itself when it concludes no IRS guidelines were violated. The only thing positive from this consultant is that POM acted in "good faith," but that's a subjective call.

Senator Ted Kennedy and my Grandson

My grandson, Dat, has something in common with Sen. Ted Kennedy. They both had seizures last weekend.

Four years had passed since Dat's last seizure. I thought he had outgrown them. His doctors must have thought so, too, because he's been off meds now for about two years. But his epilepsy returned with a vengeance early Friday morning. Amazingly, this attack occurred in his sleep, and was severe enough to wake his mother.

I had been with him Thursday night. I blew off a Northampton County Council meeting to take him to baseball practice. After that was over, he and several team mates waltzed over to Northwest Little League's well-manicured fields, ostensibly to watch two other teams play. Instead, they spent most of their time playing "red butt" with a tennis ball. They had a blast and no one seemed to mind.

When I left him that night, I had no idea his next trip would be in an ambulance.

He's been in ambulances and helicopters so many times he should have a discount card. Born with a perforated intestine that led to all sorts of nasty complications and very nearly killed him, he spent most of his first six months in a hospital. Two weeks after his release, he was rushed back with pneumonia.

After that, the seizures started.

An eight-year old stoic, Dat never dwells on these unlucky breaks. He just moves on. That's what he did this past weekend. On Saturday, he spent most of the day on a baseball diamond, hitting and fielding balls with reckless abandon. Just watching made me tired. After that was over, he insisted we take his five pound dog, Suki, to Jacobsburg Park, where they both romped and raced each other for over an hour in a steady drizzle.

I caught hell for that.

Saturday night, I noticed something odd. Suki usually sleeps at about twenty different spots when she's with me. Not this time. Everytime I looked in on Dat, she was curled up right next to him.

On Sunday, I was a little more responsible, and we stayed indoors while it rained. I taught Dat how to cheat at cards. We also talked politics (he loves Obama). But when the sun finally broke, he was outside again, this time working on pitches while Suki chased birds (she's smart, but still hasn't figured out they can fly).

The Epilepsy Foundation reports that 300,000 American children under the age of 14 have epilepsy. So Dat is by no means alone. I'm no stoic. I complain about everything, especially when it happens to me. Still, it tears me apart to see any child suffer, especially when it's without apparent cause.

Tonight, Dat will be playing in a baseball game. I don't think he learns anything from me. It's the other way around.

Gort and Ted Kennedy

"He is a legendary lawmaker, and I have the highest respect for him.”

Those are the words of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain. He offers this praise, not for some stalwart congressional conservative, but for Bay State Senator Ted Kennedy. Blessed and cursed by family wealth, few dispute he spent most of his senate career fighting for those who have much less than him.

News that Kennedy was stricken this weekend by a seizure, resulted in an interesting ditty from Gort, a popular Wilkes-barre blogger. He was among a group that ran into Kennedy in a Nantucket bar, hard as that must be to believe, about twenty years ago.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Julian Stolz: He's Baaaack

Julian Stolz, a DeSales student and school board member somewhere, is now flying solo at a blog he calls Lehigh Valley Throwdown. Stolz, whose email address starts with "Stolz4LehighCounty," is politically ambitious. But I have to admire publicly elected officials who participate in the raucous give and take of the blogosphere. He joins Allentown city council member Michael Donovan (Inclusion) and Lynn Township Supervisor Dave Najarian (Northern Lehigh Valley Logic). Both of those blogs have been a public service.

Why Didn't I Think of This?

EASTON A Bethlehem woman who made her then-7-year-old son pose as a Cub Scout to solicit money for a bogus camping trip said she wants to be reunited with her son.

The real estate industry is real slow these days. I know a few little brats who will go along with this money-making idea, but they want fifty per cent of the take for Ipods.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Northampton County Fires Two Popular Deputies

If you're a Bethlehem cop, you'll be required to qualify with your weapon at least once every year. That makes sense. But did you know that Northampton County deputy sheriffs must qualify twice every year? Because two older deputies failed to qualify at a shooting range from 25 yards, they were recently given their walking papers.

Are deputy sheriffs even cops? There are numerous decisions going both ways, and the extent of their authority is murky. Legislation has been proposed to make clear that deputies have the same clout as regular cops - HB 466 - but it has been languishing in the Judiciary Committee since February, 2007.

Northampton County has employed two older gentlemen, Sam Senneca and Joe Peake, as deputy sheriffs for many years. Both are extremely popular. Sam, who is about twenty feet tall, was always stationed in the bullpen with prisoners waiting to go to court. He never carried a gun. He never needed one.

But when Sam and Joe "failed" to qualify with their pistols, they were unceremoniously shown the door by some high-ranking deputy impressed with his own importance. Neither was even given an opportunity to say good-bye.

Firearms' qualifications should only be one of many factors to consider in evaluating the performance of a deputy sheriff. By any other measure, from intelligence to personality, both of these gentlemen excel. I seriously question whether someone - a hangover from the Deputy ("Bend Over") Kunkel days - is just trying to shove them aside to make room for one of his pals.

High-ranking county officials are trying to find employment for Sam and Joe in some other capacity. They should. The real value in Northampton County comes from its workforce, not its pretty new courthouse.

Charlie Dent Part of BiPartisan Majority Voting to Extend G.I. Benefits

One chilly morning a few months ago, I was walking the dog along a lonely trail at Jacobsburg State Park. A fleet-footed runner flew past me, but suddenly stopped after passing me. My dog had broken off the leash and wanted to meet this fellow. The runner stopped, enjoying his new canine pal. I caught up a few minutes later.

"Are you Ramblings?"


I couldn't believe this young man actually spends his time reading my blog. Maybe he was a hit man, but I had a fierce five pound dog with me, so I fessed up.

"God bless your daughter."

He had read about my daughter being sent to Iraq and told me he had been there himself. His brother was going for the third time, volunteering to take the place of a fellow soldier whose wife just had a baby. He told me this very quietly, like it was nothing.

Self-absorbed person that I am, I forgot to thank this quiet hero until he was gone. Fortunately, the U.S. Congress is showing some of the gratitude that I should have displayed.

Better yet, Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent (R Pa. 15) is one of them. He is among the 256 members of congress who voted yesterday to expand G.I. benefits for active-duty soldiers. He joins 32 House Republicans to restore educational assistance once extended to returning WWII vets.

This legislation has the support of left-leaning organizations like The American Legion.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is concerned this measure might hurt military retention because benefits accrue after only three years of service, but American Legion National Commander Marty Conatser counters this will actually lead to an increase in recruitment.

President Bush has also belly-ached that the $2 billion per year cost is too expensive, but Commander Conatser has an answer for that, too. "Visit Walter Reed. War is expensive indeed and the bulk of that cost is paid for by the men and women who wear the uniform. Benefits are just a small, small cost of war."

Of the eight Republican members of the Pennsylvania House delegation, Dent is joined by Philip English (R Pa 3), Timothy Murphy (R Pa 18) and Todd Platts (R Pa 19) in voting for the soldiers instead of their party.