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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How Dems Screw Themselves

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am highly critical of Authoritarian Donald Trump. He plays to people's darkest fears and their ugly side. I am also deeply concerned that he will refuse to leave office if he loses the next Presidential election, or that that he will suspend the election because he claims it is rigged. But he is a President who was legitimately elected. In that capacity, he has had an opportunity to appoint two Supreme Court justices. Both are arch conservatives who will actively dismantle established individual liberties while pretending to be strict constructionists. Both are impeccably qualified.

If we wanted someone more liberal, we should have worked harder to elect a Democrat as President. Shame on us.

The most recent nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, went through his confirmation hearings unscathed. That's when Diane Feinstein got ugly. She released an accusation that Kavanaugh traumatized a fellow high school student at a party some 36 years ago. She received this accusation in July, but sat on it. She never sought an investigation then. Instead, she unleashing it at the midnight hour in an obvious bad-faith attempt to derail the nomination.

It is logically impossible to prove a negative. So matter what Kavanaugh says or does, Feinstein has permanently stained him. She has also stained the woman who leveled these accusations and obviously has her own issues. She has also permanently stained the #metoo movement and women who have very real complaints.

I Can Never Go to a Baseball Game Again

Though I love to write about basketball, the sport I love most is baseball. It's magic! There's the pop of a 93 mph pitch going into a catcher's mitt. The c-r-r-a-c-c-k-k of a wood bat when it hits a tightly wrapped baseball just right. The cool breeze of a September night. The joy on a child's face when he or she snags a foul ball. It's a game that gives a glimpse into the mystery of life itself, although the baseball gods only let you see so much.

On Sunday and again last night, as the Phillies' season comes to an end, I was fortunate to be able to attend two of their games. After last night, I may never be able to go again.

On Sunday, I had great seats with the "Diamond Club," a few rows behind home plate. Preferred parking, too. It was simply amazing. But last night was even better. We had preferred parking, and our seats were front row, right behind home plate. Not only that. We also had a sit down meal at the stadium in which a waitress came out with menus and we ordered. I had an avocado stuffed with chorizo.

Yes, our party was on television, and some of my Facebook friends asked if that was really me.

It was.

I told them I was there to be signed but want more money.

There is no way I will ever be able to top the seats I had last night. But as one of my friends there observed, they all look pretty good.   

The Bethlehem Gadfly Opens For Business

The Bethlehem Gadfly is a new blog just rolled out by Edward J. Gallagher, a Professor Emeritus from Lehigh University. He has certainly hit the ground running, with several entries divided between "serious issues" and "fun stuff." He uses several authors like Dana Grubb and Kim Carrell-Smith. He also invites readers to submit their own stories.

I am happy to see this new blog. Bethlehem has a host of issues, including a proposed parking meter increase, Airbnb controversy, golf course loan, and Banana Factory expansion. Edwards believes his blog is "several cuts above Facebook." He hopes it will "be a place to respectfully share our questions and answers, our dreams and nightmares. Leaders and led alike. Together. Outside the sometimes stilted formality of Town Hall on Church Street. Here every woman and man a Gadfly."

Gadflies are portrayed positively by Gallagher. He even quotes Plato about their many benefits.

Sometimes, I've been called a gadfly, but resent that pejorative. I'm a frickin' horsefly who's always landing on shit! I have no redeeming value, and my bite really, really hurts.

Ask a few pols.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Should Bethlehem Borrow $1.75 M For a Failing Golf Course?

This is a no-brainer. It is totally irresponsible. It's not really a $1.75 million loan, but it will be about $3 million by the time it is paid off. Bethlehem City Council is made up almost entirely of Council members who already rely on taxes to pay the salaries of their full-time jobs. As a result, they lack business perspective. This is mostly a bow to entrenched cronies in my age bracket, but we're dying off. The golf economy is declining because there are too many of them and the number of golfers has decreased.

Dr. Paige Van Wirt and Olga Negron are the only two Nos. "I feel a short term, structured lease with a well-vetted, proven operator is a much more financially responsible option than sinking more money into an operation that has run at a deficit for the last decade," said Dr. Van Wirt.

The City is also sinking $450,000 in grant money, some of which is from Northampton County, for the sport of rich people and those who pretend they are rich.

Dr. Van Wirt continues:

"Why is the city choosing to put even more money into the golf course? Is this reflective of the priorities of all the citizens of Bethlehem, when only 750 of Bethlehem’s 78,000 citizens even play golf on the municipal course? The feasibility study for the pedestrian bridge project costs $80,000. The merits of this project toward walkability and economic development for our city are clear. There are other priorities for this money as well, such as improving our dismal sidewalks, helping our business districts with grants for facade and streetscape improvements, giving away 2 hours free in the public parking garage to parkers to encourage more shoppers downtown- all much more effective economic development uses for this money than more equipment for the golf course. I’m sure there are many other good ideas out there and I would love to hear them."

Fore!

Two LV School Districts in Top 50 for Salaries

The Patriot News has complied a listing of the 50 highest-paying school districts in the state during the 2015-6 school year. This includes the entire staff, not just teachers. The Lehigh Valley has two school districts in the top 50.

#43 - PARKLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT (Lehigh County)

Average annual staff salary: $80,238
Total student enrollment: 9,170

34. CATASAUQUA AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (Lehigh and Northampton counties)

Average annual staff salary: $82,867
Total student enrollment: 1,487

1. LOWER MERION SCHOOL DISTRICT (Montgomery County)

Average annual staff salary: $97,480
Total student enrollment: 8,388

Updated: LV GDP Hits $40.1 Billion?

From LVEDC: The Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product has reached a record-high $40.1 billion, with much of the economic growth driven by the region’s thriving manufacturing sector, according to newly-released federal data.

The $40.1 billion regional GDP for 2017 is about a 5 percent increase over the previous year, and growth in manufacturing was responsible for about 36 percent of that year-over-year growth, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

“The Lehigh Valley is unique among major metropolitan areas in the United States in that manufacturing is driving such a large percentage of its growth,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “Manufacturing is clearly alive and well in the Lehigh Valley, and our regional GDP is the largest it’s ever been, far surpassing even the days of Bethlehem Steel.”

Manufacturing the fastest-growing sector

Manufacturing makes up $7.4 billion – or 18.4 percent – of the Lehigh Valley’s overall $40.1 billion GDP. That’s a much higher percentage than its share of the national economy. Manufacturing is 11.6 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the BEA.

Manufacturing was also the fastest-growing economic sector for 2017 in terms of economic output. Its $7.4 billion GDP was an increase of $700 million (10.4 percent) compared to 2016. No other sector had a larger year-over-year percentage increase.

That means manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley grew at a faster pace than transportation and warehousing, which saw the second-largest year-over-year jump. That sector, with a $2.1 billion GDP, grew at a rate of 8.8 percent compared to 2016.

“Contrary to the misnomer that big box warehousing and fulfillment centers are driving growth in the Lehigh Valley economy, manufacturing far surpasses it in economic output and growth,” Cunningham said. “That’s a testament to both the strength of manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley, and the balanced and diversified makeup of the overall economy.”

Manufacturing remains the Lehigh Valley’s second-largest sector. The largest is finance, insurance and real estate, which makes up $7.6 billion of the regional economy. Manufacturing fell only $200 million behind it in 2017, compared to a gap of $900 million the previous year.

Lehigh Valley ranks 64th in the U.S.

Gross domestic product is a measurement of a region’s economic output. The Lehigh Valley’s $40.1 billion figure accounts for private sector industry and does not include government spending. If that were included, the figure would rise to $43.8 billion.

The Lehigh Valley economy now ranks 64th out of the 382 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, which is one spot higher than last year. The BEA released the new data on Sept. 18, and 2017 is the most recent year for which measurable GDP data is available.

“The Lehigh Valley is the nation’s 69th largest major metropolitan area by population but the country’s 64th largest economy, so we continue to swing well above our weight class in economic output," Cunningham said.

The Lehigh Valley private sector GDP remains larger than that of Vermont ($27.4 billion) and Wyoming ($34 billion), as well as 112 other countries in the world. If the Lehigh Valley were a country, it would be the 88th largest economy in the world in terms of economic output.

Economic growth across many sectors

Nearly each of the economic sectors of the Lehigh Valley economy saw year-over-year GDP growth in 2017, with the exception of the information sector, which saw a slight drop from $2 billion to $1.9 billion. The sector-by-sector breakdown can be found below:

· Finance, Insurance and Real Estate ($7.6 billion, +4.26% year-over-year)

· Manufacturing ($7.4 billion, +10.4%)

· Education, Health Care and Social Assistance ($5.5 billion, +4.63%)

· Professional Services ($5.2 billion, +2.52%)

· Retail ($2.4 billion, +1.4%)

· Transportation and Warehousing ($2.1 billion, 8.8%)

· Information ($1.9 billion, -3.73%)

· Arts, Entertainment, Accommodation ($1.7 billion, +1.7 percent)

These GDP figures derive from the BEA and were analyzed and presented by George Lewis, LVEDC Director of Research and Analysis. GDP rankings of other countries come from the World Bank. The BEA adjusts its figures to account for new information and projections, so numbers that have been reported for previous years may have been changed or adjusted over time.

About LVEDC

The mission of LVEDC is to market the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley and to serve as a regional shared services and resource center to help businesses to come, grow, and start here. Our vision is of a Lehigh Valley with a diverse economic base in our cities and countries that enable businesses to come here, start here, and flourish here in order to create jobs and opportunities for all of our residents. Our priorities are marketing economic assets, coordinating a prepared workforce, focusing on city and urban development, serving as a shared services center, providing access to capital, and building our resources and engaging stakeholders.

Blogger's Analysis: I'm a little confused. According to this news release, the Lehigh Valley's GDP has jumped five percent over the previous year, and is now $40.1 billion. But when I add the sector-by-sector breakdown, I come up with only $33.8 billion GDP. So either someone's math is wrong, or one or more sectors are missing.

Also, despite the manufacturing boast, it only makes up 22% of the economy.

Retail has only risen 1.4%. That's hardly a sign that consumers have money in their pockets, or that Trump's temporary tax cuts has spurred spending.

The increase in transportation and warehousing is a bad sign for our failing infrastructure. The Lehigh Valley knows truck traffic is going to double, yet still has failed to take a regional approach to combat this problem.

Arts and entertainment is only up 1.7? Is this supposed to be a good thing, or a warning sign?

The drop in information is something you see every time you open up a newspaper. The problem is not fake news. the problem is no news at all, a very troubling sign in a democracy.

Updated 1:30 pm: LVEDC Responds!

We listed the eight largest sectors in our story, but there are a few other sectors that make up a smaller portion of the GDP (utilities, construction, wholesale trade) that we did not include.  However, if you’d like to see the specific breakdown, you can visit the BEA.govwebsite, go to the interactive data section, then search for GDP by metro, then pull up the 2017 numbers.

 

You can see in the screenshot below where the $40.1 billion (for private industry) comes from:

 

 

(You may also see some sectors are listed as “(D),” meaning “Did not report.” That means the BEA did not report specific amounts from them, either because of business confidentiality reasons, or because they deemed them too small to specifically report, or for some other reason. We have no control over that, obviously, but GDP from those sectors are still rolled into the $40.1 billion number.)

 

Manufacturing’s $7.4 billion GDP makes up 18% of the overall $40.1 billion GDP, which may not sound like much on the surface, but is actually quite high compared to most regions. For comparison purposes, manufacturing only makes up 11.6% of the overall U.S. economy.

 

Additionally, one of the unique factors of the Lehigh Valley economy is how unusually balanced and multifaceted it is. Many regions have one sector that makes up the vast majority of its economy, and then the other sectors are significantly smaller. By comparison, the Lehigh Valley’s top two sectors (finance and manufacturing) are very close to each other ($7.6B and $7.4B), as are its next two (education and professional services, at $5.5 billion and $5.2 billion, respectively). We view this as a strength for our economy, all our eggs are not in one basket; we are not overly dependent on one industry, and so if there is a decline in one sector, it will be partially offset by strength in the others.

Permanent Helipad Approved at St.Luke's Anderson

Bethlehem Tp Commissioners gave their blessing to a permanent helipad at the St. Luke's Hospital Anderson campus on Sep. 17.. By a 4-0 vote, they voted to approve both the helipad and anticipated flight take off and Landing patterns following a hearing attended by about 30 people. Voting Yes were Malissa Davis, John Gallagher, Michael Hudak and John Merhotten. Tom Nolan was absent.

St. Luke's Anderson currently maintains a temporary helipad at the southern terminus of St.Luke's Blvd, near the Lehigh River. When a critical care patient is transported, the hospital must notify 9-1-1, and fire vehicles and ambulances are dispatched to the site with lights and sirens. It also is located some distance away from the hospital tower, necessitating an ambulance transport from the chopper.

Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Company Chief Dave Stapinski said a permanent helipad, to be located next to a tower under construction is "so much safer." He noted that helicopters landing now often kick up cinders in the open parking lot. He also noted that some drivers just ignore the fire engines and ambulances there to establish a perimeter. He recounted one instance in which a car drove under a helicopter as it was landing.

Although members of the public had a few questions, only Chetwin Terrace resident Barry Roth was opposed. He initially complained about the flight path until it was demonstrated that he misunderstood it. Then it was the noise. "I hear the chopper leave from Gracedale all the time," he complained. Considering that his Chetwin Terrace residence is located nine miles from Gracedale, he must have remarkable hearing.

Attorney Steven Boell, representing St. Luke's, presented three witnesses in support of the permanent helipad. Ray Midlam, a hospital VP, explained the desire for a permanent helipad next to a tower under construction. This will enable the hospital to transport newborn infants in need of critical care as well as trauma patients. He said the chopper is currently used once a month, and he projected that to increase to about twice a month as a result of transporting newborn infants. He admitted there would be a need to cross the street from the tower to the helipad, but said that security would be on hand to prevent any mishaps.

Scott Pasterski, of Keystone Engineering, is the project manager. He described the permanent helipad as a 70' diameter concrete heated pad that would never need to be plowed. There would also be a 13' wide buffer, free of obstructions,surrounding the helipad. Fire suppression will be located on site, as well as a wind sock. He added that the helicopter will fuel off site.

Adam Maziuk, a former EMT in Bethlehem Township, was the clean-up hitter. He testified he spent 13 years flying with PennStar, and described the noise. He indicated that when a helicopter is 2500' in the sky, the nearest it gets to a residence, it is just ambient noise. He said the chopper gets noisy the closer you get to it, and described the sound in most instances like a bus.

Under Bethlehem Township's zoning law, a helipad requires 15 acres. The St. Luke's Anderson campus is 180 acres. The helipad itself is located 0.40 miles away from the nearest home. The proposal has already been approved by the Pa. Bureau of Aviation.

Fire Chief Stapinski summed up the sentiment of most of the room. "We're blessed to have a hospital in our back yard."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Courtroom No. 1 Closed For Mold Remediation

Historic Courtroom No. 1, located at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton, is a majestic ceremonial courtroom. Its massive size and cavernous ceiling adds an aura of dignity during naturalization ceremonies or when elected officials like Executive Lamont McClure take the oath of office. It's also a bit intimidating because all nine judges can and sometimes do take the bench simultaneously. The room is decorated with the scowling portraits of seemingly constipated jurists who have long since ascended into the judicial heavens.

In addition to its ceremonial use, Courtroom No. 1 has been an active, working courtroom. It's where "Calls of the List" are commonly held. That's where which lawyers signal their readiness for a trial or hearing. Judge Leonard Zito routinely arraigns hundreds of criminal defendants monthly. It's where monthly herds of Defendants seeking A.R.D, a special program for first offenders, are corralled. But for the time being, Courtroom No.1 is closed for business.

The doors have been locked because mold has been discovered near the ventilation system.

Executive Lamont McClure said testing reveals that mold levels are a bit higher than they should be, and has decided to remediate it before it gets worse  He said he's working to have the situation addressed as quickly as possible, consistent with the Administrative Code. In the meantime, other courtrooms are being used.

According to the National Institute of Health, mold usually poses no health risks to healthy humans. But some people experience nasal and sinus congestion, eye irritation, blurred vision, a sore throat, chronic cough or skin rash.

Monday, September 17, 2018

WFMZ-TV69 Business Matters Show on Fake News Tonight - Honest!

This was shortly before Browning lunged at poor Martin Till.
Till claims to be special forces, but Browning is from Ky. 
This time last Monday, I told you that WFMZ-TV69's Business Matters' would be kicking off its new season that very night at 7:30 pm. I told you it would be a show on Fake News, hosted by Tony Iannelli and starring me (and three other completely forgettable guys.) As it happens, my report to you was Fake News. The new season actually starts tonight. WFMZ, which prides itself on being family-oriented, wanted to wait until all the guests were released from the hospital.

One of them, Dean Browning, had his jaw wired shut. I can't remember whether it was I or Tony who did that. He may never speak again.

Before you get worked up over my violent actions, I want you to know every guest signed a release in advance. Besides, Dean had it coming. He was kicking Martin Till's bald head like a soccer ball and screaming, "G-0-A-L-L-L-L!."

It's the first time I've ever seen Martin Till's head used for anything.

Till was released from the hospital late last week. It took doctors that long to realize there really is nothing in there.

Some of the show's technical crew were hospitalized as well. During one of the breaks, Ron Angle crashed the studio and did a strip tease Most of them have now decided to take a vow of celibacy.

Police were called in to make arrests, but we're all white. I told them Tony Phillips was at Bucky Boyle Park, so they rushed over there.

Do you think I'm giving you fake news? You'll just have to tune in.

Ben Miller Publishes Second Book

Nazareth, PA – September 15, 2018– Nazareth author, Ben Miller, who’s 2009 bestseller The First Resort: Fun, Sun, Fire and War in Cape May (Exit Zero Publishing) sold its entire first print run in less than six months, has released a new book via Kickstarter, based on his struggles as a disabled veteran and how a weekend in the Poconos forever changed his perspective on life. The book, Dear Billie - Salvation in the Poconos is set at the Bischwind BandB in Bear Creek Township.

Miller, a 1993 graduate of Nazareth High School, veteran of Naval Intelligence, having served as part of America’s NATO contingent during the Bosnian War. He was assigned to an intelligence reconnaissance squadron with a security clearance three compartments above Top Secret, tasked with monitoring and recording the atrocities of the war, and at times, creating targeting intelligence used by NATO bombers.

In his new book, Miller shares intensely personal aspects of his life, like his struggles with mental illness, life-altering personal experiences from childhood to the present, and his steadfast faith in God. Dear Billie is written in the format of a letter to the innkeeper of the B and B, which serves as the present-day setting for a story filled with flashbacks and introspection.

Miller has chosen to self-publish his newest book after being to remove mentions of his religious faith by agents and publishers who felt that God was “not marketable.” Miller refused and is instead, taking his book directly to the public on the crowdfunding side, Kickstarter. The campaign page for Dear Billie can be reached with this link- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dearbillie/book-dear-billie-salvation-in-the-poconos

Miller is rated 100% disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs and has spent over two decades struggling with Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, GAD, PTSD, and Depression. Miller gained notoriety in the late 2000s as the creator of an international campaign called “Donate My Weight,” which raised food and monetary donations for food backs around the world and ultimately helped to feed millions of hungry men, women, and children across America.

“My story is one of perseverance and triumph, in the face of constant mental anguish and struggling. I went from putting the barrel of a pistol in my mouth at the lowest point in my life, to finding purpose again, becoming a loving husband and father to five great kids. There will always be aspects to our lives we can’t change. We must either accept them and move forward or allow ourselves to become mired in the pain and remain living in the past.”

Blogger's Note - This news release was supplied by the author. I know Ben, and though he and I differ on many subjects, I consider him a man of personal integrity and am only too happy (and a little jealous) that he is publishing his second book.

Weekly LV Police Blotter - Police Nab Starman

Below is a weekly LV police blotter. If I missed something, please provide a link. If you have a comment that contributes, please share. But I remind you that this thread is not the place for pious condemnations.Below is a weekly LV police blotter. If I missed something, please provide a link. If you have a comment that contributes, please share. But I remind you that this thread is not the place for pious condemnations.

Moore Tp Police  and  Colonial Regional Police credit Lehigh and Northampton County Auto Theft Task Force for helping identify star-tattooed man who was breaking into vehicles in both townships. He admitted the break ins to investigators and has the matching tattoo from the photo that was previously shared on Facebook. Starman is Matthew Schaffer, 33, of Allentown. He is currently in Lehigh County Prison after being stopped by the Lehigh/Northampton County Auto Theft Task Force for operating a stolen vehicle on September 13.

Bethlehem Police have arrested Angelo Melendez, 18, of 6th St, and a 15 year-old juvenile for the September 12 armed robbery of Ike’s Shell Station at 1310 Center Street. No one was injured in the robbery. The 15 year old juvenile male is being charged as an adult. Both suspects were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Antonia Grifo. Melendez’s bail was set at $60,000.00 and the 15 year old juvenile’s bail was set at $50,000.00. Both were committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of bail.

Any individual who has any type of information on these two suspects and the Ike’s Shell Station robbery or the Bethlehem Star Dry Cleaner Shop robbery on September 7, 2018 or who may have seen these suspects fleeing either robbery scene is asked to contact Det. Sgt. Tim Cooper at Bethlehem Police Detectives at 610-865-7187.

Lower Saucon Police investigate September 13 vehicle break-in and theft at Polk Valley Park. Victim reported someone shattered car's passenger side window of their vehicle and stole a purse from front passenger side seat. Suspect is white male, approximately 6', heavy set, middle aged wearing shorts and a grey t-shirt. He drives charcoal grey four door compact sedan at a high rate of speed leaving the park. Anyone with additional information is asked to call Lower Saucon Township Police ((610) 317-6110) or leave a tip. Police caution, "DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN PLAIN VIEW IN YOUR VEHICLE NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU BELIEVE IT WON'T HAPPEN TO YOU."

Upper Macungie Police warn residents of scam in which they are being solicited for donations to the Township. "Upper Macungie Township is not soliciting donations from residents. If you or a family member receives a phone call similar to this, please contact the UMTPD at 484-661-5911 and make a police report. Please advise the officer of the date and time of the call received, as well as the phone number (the number displayed by your caller ID)."

Whitehall police report a Lehigh County Regional DUI Task Force sobriety checkpoint on MacArthur Rd between Mickley Rd and Jordan Parkway from Sep 7, 11 pm until Sep 8, 3 am. In those four hours, citations were issued as follows: DUI Alcohol- 6; DUI Controlled Substance - 5; DUI Underage - 1; Possession of Controlled Substance - 4; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia - 4; Operating with suspended license - 2; Operating without a license - 2; Learners permit violation - 1; and Open Container in vehicle - 1.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

RCN Internet Outage on East Coast



Those of us in the Lehigh Valley have been spared some of the serious flooding that’s come with Hurricane Florence. But we have a problem that’s a little less dramatic. An Internet outage.  RCN customers in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest have had no Internet service for most of the day. I have no idea whether it is related in some way to the storm.

Unlike most people, the only service I have is Internet service. When I called about the disruption, I learned that I have been paying $110 per month for service for the past few months and never knew it. I thought I was paying about $60. 

I gave the guy hell and he came up with a new plan he said would only be $60. But he also declined to send me a confirmatory email. Then I went and checked my account and learned I am being charged $81. 

I know other ISPs are cheaper, like SECTV.

What is your experience with Internet coverage? How much do you pay? What is the customer service like? Is the coverage consistent?

I am very unhappy with the way RCN responded to my protests concerning price, although it’s partly my fault for automatic payments I never review.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Ruff Gets Rough Treatment From Mako Goons

Jason Ruff is running for State Representative against incumbent Zach Mako in the 183rd. Mako has to be one of the dumbest people I’ve ever seen. He’s an embarrassment to anyone who lives in Northampton. 

Mako was having a campaign event disguised as a Senior Expo, like all incumbents who seem to have these events at election time.

Ruff decided to go, and got roughed up. Here’s his account: 



Jennings Hosts Informative Pa-7 Congressional Forum

Marty Nothstein
Lehigh Valley Discourse is perhaps the worst talk show on local radio. Even the introductory music puts you to sleep. But last night, CACLV's Alan Jennings hosted perhaps one of the best pre-election forums I've ever heard. He did so by letting each candidate answer well prepared questions fully, with no interruptions. Each candidate was able to express himself and herself fully. The result is that this forum had three winners. Here's my summary:

Jennings, an unabashed liberal who lamented that he wished he could be running for Congress, kicked things off  with his own state of the nation:

"Employment is at record highs, and yet the wage growth normally associated with wage growth is sputtering at best. The stock market is hopping, creating wealth for those who can play, but too few can. Our world is a scary place, but diplomacy seems to be out of style. It's been 153 years since slavery was abolished, yet African Americans continue to be treated like second class citizens. Women are running for office in greater numbers than ever, yet they are still being groped on national television. The planet is a bake oven, yet we are retreating on the kinds of measures that can ease the pressure on our environment The world is in desperate need of unity, yet we are increasingly divided."

Tim Silfies
He allowed opening statements, which I'll skip, and then posed well-considered questions to the three candidates seeking to succeed Charlie Dent. They are Mary Nothstein (R), Tim Silfies(L) and Susan Wild (D).

What about Trump's approach to foreign affairs?

Silfies said there are "good things and bad things" about Trump's foreign policy. He objected to hardcore rhetoric towards N. Korea, but liked it when Trump actually sat down with Kim Jong Un. Silfies is a "noninterventionist."

Wild answered that the United States "needs to get back to being a diplomatic leader in this world." She charged Trump with "eviscerating" the diplomatic corps and the state department. She said Trump has failed to work with our allies. She accused him of "bending over for autocrats" at the expense of long-standing allies.

Nothstein lauded Trump for his willingness to sit down with foreign leaders. He declared we need to "take care of America first." He defended trump as the "ultimate outsider" who ignores the traditional approach. He admitted that everyone at this table "cringes at times," but said the intent is good.

Sue Wild
Jennings asks Nothstein to state his position on climate change - Nothstein acknowledged extremes in our weather patterns. He even posited that rolling back regulations designed to spur business "could" hurt our environment. "As a guy who has protected hundreds of acres of his own property, the environment is very important to me. Open space is very important to me. These are things that are near and dear to my heart." But at this point, he has not entirely bought into global warming.

Jennings asks Silfies how a government with Libertarians would still work. - Silfies replied Libertarianism is the "quintessential American philosophy." It focuses on individual liberties with a "common sense limited government." It empowers people at the local level while "helping people who need help."

Jennings asked Wild how she would dispel perception that Democrats are insiders who sell their principles. - She agreed voters are discouraged "because people perceive, probably correctly, that Washington is run by special interests and corporate interests." She will refuse to accept any corporate PAC money. She added, "We are way too polarized." She prides herself on her negotiating skill, developed during 35 years as a lawyer. "I've gotten pretty good at it," she boasted.

Is it time to increase the minimum wage? - Nothstein said a minimum wage should be dictated by the markets and state government. He calls minimum wage jobs "stepping stones" to better jobs. Silfies said that, as a reporter, he heard what impact this has on small business. "The people we want to help end up getting hurt," he observed. There would be unintended consequences. Wild argued the minimum wage should be a "living wage" instead of an "abysmal $7.25 per hour. She wants to phase in a higher minimum wage until it reaches $15 per hour. "The more money we put into the pockets of the average worker, the more those workers are able to consume the kinds of things that build our economy."

We spend more on health care than other countries, but are more unhealthy than most. Is here a better way to provide access to health care? - Silfies would like to see more free market solutions instead of responding to the problem from Washington. He noted Lasik eye surgery is paid for by individuals, and prices have gone down. "Health care is a right, not a privilege," said Wild. She argued that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate drug prices to make it more efficient. Nothstein agreed health care costs have risen dramatically, but that Washington needs to stay out of it..

Why do we have a race problem, and what can Congress do? - Wild said people are being judged by their worst examples. She suggested there must be criminal justice reforms. Se added, "What's happening at the federal level now, with this President and this administration, isn't doing anything at all to change prevailing attitudes about race relations."  Nothstein posited education in inner cities is key. he pointed out that 1,000 kids every year drop out of school before graduating. "We need to fix that problem," he reasoned. He added, "We've been misinforming our youth for years. You do not need a college education to earn a living wage or to have a career." He supports promoting careers in trades and apprenticeships. "I'm a white guy who grew up in Bethlehem," said Silfies."I just don't know." He declared the best thing he could do is "listen and have more conversations with people who are not like me."

Is Amazon good or bad for this country? -  Nothstein likes Amazon,and said e-commerce is now part of our economy. Siflies said it's great. He said he can uber to work from his Airbnb, and return home to find an Amazon package."It's wonder to watch, and it makes all of our lives better," he noted. Wild admitted e-commerce is here to stay,and is an Amazon Prime member. But she's going to end it because Amazon is not good to its customers ad does not pay well. She also laments the lack of human interaction.

How would you solve student debt? - Wild said college should be more affordable. Student debt should be restructured. She argued it's "outrageous" that interest rates on student loans are higher than on her mortgage and car loan. Nothstein slammed predatory for-profit colleges that have catchy marketing plans and load students up with debt, and the students end up unable to graduate. He also pointed out that the cost of education has skyrocketed. Silfies asked,"Why does everyone need to go to college?" . He's done stories about welders and machinists who start at $60,000.He also argued that college cost goes up because administrators know that the government is willing to give loans.

How will you be different than Charlie Dent and how will you emulate him? - Wild said she will forge her own path, and her focus is working families. But she thinks Dent was dignified, civilized and willing to listen. Nothstein said Dent "leaves big shoes to fill," and also did what's right for the district. Nothstein said his focus will be jobs and infrastructure. Silfies likes Dent's demeanor and acknowledged he was able to get support from both sides. He believes he is like Dent in that regard.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Catholic League to AGs: Don't Stop with Catholic Church

Below is the text of a letter sent yesterday by the Catholic League to every Attorney General in the country. 

September 12, 2018

Dear Attorney General

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the Catholic clergy, many states are considering a similar probe of offending priests. They should do so, with one caveat: they should also investigate the clergy of all other religions, private non-sectarian institutions, and public sector entities. Not to do so would be manifestly unjust and indefensible.

No attorney general or lawmaker would convene a grand jury on criminal behavior and then decide to focus exclusively on African American neighborhoods. They would have to include white-collar crimes, the kinds of acts that are mostly committed by affluent whites.

That is why it smacks of bigotry to single out the Catholic Church when investigating the sexual abuse of minors: We don't own this problem. Indeed, there is less of a problem today with this issue in the Catholic Church than in any societal institution, religious or secular.

For the last two years for which we have data, .005 percent of the Catholic clergy have had a credible accusation made against them. In the case of Pennsylvania, all the offending priests are either dead or have been thrown out of the priesthood. The same pattern exists elsewhere.

If you want to pursue molesters, you should begin by launching a grand jury probe of the public schools. This means they must be explicitly mentioned in any bill that would suspend the statute of limitations; otherwise they will be exempted under the antiquated doctrine of sovereign immunity. There are many good reasons why the public schools command scrutiny.

Consider two investigations of sexual abuse in the public schools. Published nine years apart, by two separate media outlets, they found that removing abusers from the teaching profession is very difficult.

In October 2007, the Associated Press (AP) published a series of articles, “Sexual Misconduct Plagues U.S. Schools,” that were based on its investigation. It found that between 2001-2005, 2,570 educators had their teaching credentials revoked because of sexual misconduct. It detailed 1,801 cases of abuse: more than 80 percent of the victims were students, and most of the offenders were public school teachers.

What happened to the molesters? “Most of the abuse never gets reported,” the AP said. Moreover, far too many of the offending educators were able to remain in the teaching profession. Often this was done by simply moving the “mobile molesters” to another school or district, a practice so widespread that it's called “passing the trash.”

In December 2016, USA Today published its own series on abuse in the public schools. It found that “passing the trash” was still the norm: abusive teachers were able to move to new teaching jobs, or to other employment working with youth.

USA Today found the same resistance to change as reported by AP: (a) “Administrators have pursued quiet settlements rather than public discipline” (b) “Unions have resisted reforms,” and (c) “Lawmakers have ignored a federal mandate to add safeguards at the state level.”

USA Today also found the same reasons why change proved elusive: (a) It cited “examples in every state” of secrecy agreements, many of which were “cemented in legally binding contracts” (b) most states refused to abide by a 2015 federal law requiring states to ban such secrecy agreements (only five states—Connecticut, Texas, Missouri, Oregon and Pennsylvania—had such bans in place), and (c) the federal government still “does not maintain a database of teachers who have sexually abused children.”

Regarding the last point, in 2009 Congress tried to rectify this by passing the Student Protection Act. It would have required the U.S. Department of Education to maintain a national database of educators terminated from a public or private school for sexual misconduct with a student. But, as USA Today found, it “died amid fierce opposition from national teachers organizations, which had concerns about due process for teachers accused of misconduct.”

In conclusion, if a grand jury investigation of Catholic dioceses is warranted, then fairness dictates that the public schools be subjected to one as well. Indeed, they should be your first priority.

Sincerely,

William A. Donohue, Ph.D.

President

A'town City Council Wants "Make the Road" to Hit the Road

Officer Lebron with meLVin,shortly before giving
him a dynamic push.  
Over the weekend, a Facebook video appeared to show Allentown's finest doing a number on Filmore Street resident John Perez. The force started with a shove by an officer. It's no ordinary shove. A friend in the biz tells me it's actually a martial arts move called the dynamic push. It worked. Perez, a slight man, went flying on his ass.

Was this force necessary? I have no idea. There is no audio so it's hard to say. Perez definitely got up and approached the officer who had knocked him down. The officer believed he was being charged although, by that time, another officer had his arms around Perez.

Police are reviewing whether the force used was appropriate. Unlike the Facebook video, their body cams will include video and audio.

Jose Lebron is the officer who shoved and ultimately charged Perez with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. I am unable to say whether Officer Lebron used more force than needed, or whether any force was needed at all. Whether wrong or right, it is hard to make the case that Perez is a victim of ethnic intimidation when the arresting officer appears to be a Latino himself.

I'm in no position to condemn or exonerate the officer. But Make the Road Pa is. It bills itself as an organization "in the fight for immigrant justice here in Pennsylvania." Last night, this group conducted a rally for Perez and then cascaded into a City Hall, where City Council was meeting on just about everything else.

I counted 17 people in the audience, but have no idea how many were there to address the alleged assault.

City Council did its best to make sure that Make the Road would hit the road.

Members were denied the opportunity to speak during a "special meeting" as well as a committee meeting that followed.

Council President Roger MacLean, who seemed irritable all night, did agree to give this group a grand total of 10 minutes to be heard. Two people spoke, and one of them is the person who shot the video.

To them, this is obvious police brutality. To me, it's unclear.

I do know this much. When MacLean refused to let them speak during the actual meeting, and then limited the group to ten minutes, he made clear that he's made up his mind, too. He's not there as police chief, and has an obligation to listen.

(Blogger's note: This story is based on a video of last night's multiple meetings. I stayed in my bunker.)

A Message From the Wild Campaign


I have previously told the Wild campaign to stop contacting me. But Lexi confused me with "Joan." Apparently, AG Josh Shapiro is joining the fun. He's not doing this to help Wild or other Democrats running in largely uncontested races. He's helping himself. He wants to be Governor or US Senator. He will milk all the mileage he can get from a grand jury  report that mostly rehashes ancient allegations against Catholic priests while charging no one.

I'm a Democrat. The party I belong to believes in helping the working man. Wild has spent her legal career screwing them. Josh Shapiro has never tried a case, and just sensationalized sexual abuse by priests as a pathway to higher office.