Saturday, September 30, 2006
The name "Yom Kippur" means "Day of Atonement," and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to "afflict the soul," to atone for the sins of the past year. This year, Yom Kippur is October 1.
I'm not Jewish. If I were, I'd need more than one day. "The Day of Atonement absolves from sins against God, but not from sins against a fellow man unless the pardon of the offended person be secured." Some Jews in Israel might need a bit more than a day, too.
Friday, September 29, 2006
What do Hellertown, Palmerton, Coaldale, Weissport, Lansford and Lehighton have in common? They've all filled council vacancies since January following public interviews and hearing. They follow the Sunshine Act.
Nazareth is filling its own vacancy on borough council. Interested applicants were publicly interviewed last night, and an appointment is expected Monday. Solicitor Al Pierce bragged last night that Nazareth is the only municipality in the state that does things this way.
Al Pierce is wrong. Nazareth is simply following the Sunshine Act. It's following the same procedure, more or less, that other area municipalities followed to fill a vacancy. And it's only doing so because the last time it appointed a council vacancy, the decision was made behind closed doors. Conrad Bowers was appointed without public discussion or interview.
Why would Nazareth's solicitor mislead us? Perhaps because Nazareth is currently a Sunshine Act defendant. It recently filed an Answer to my complaint, raising all sorts of goofy and misleading defenses. According to Al, the Sunshine Act complaint is barred by contributory and/or comparative negligence, consent, failure of consideration, fraud, justification, statute of frauds, laches and privilege.
What the hell is he smoking?
Some of these defenses might help in a car crash or a real estate deal gone sour, but they have nothing to do with the Sunshine Act. I've filed objections to Al's answer.
It's one thing to mislead the public. But it's very dangerous to mislead judges. They have no sense of humor.
O.K. A little shameless self-promotion here.
Mediashift is a PBS blog, hosted by Mark Glaser, that tracks how digital media technologies like webblogs are changing the way we get our news and information, while also providing a place for public participation and feedback. It features a weekly Top 5 of people, trends and technologies on its radar.
Well, get this. Wednesday's story about AT&T's failed attempt to blog in Lehigh Valley cyberspace as HandsOff43, made this week's Top 5.
Holy cannoli! I've been linked to PBS! I thought they were a little more sophisticated than that. They must have missed most of your comments, where I'm described in less charitable terms.
I'm quite honored.
But I'd rather be a Chippendale.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Greta Browne, Queen of the Lehigh Valley Greens, is running for Congress ... again. And she's scheduled a vegetarian dinner fundraiser at prices between $30 and $50 a pop. I sure hope she's not serving spinach!
There's one tiny problem. Her shindig is at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, where she is entrenched as an associated minister. Under the Internal Revenue Code, a church is absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to all campaigns including campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Is this the face of "new politics"? Church electioneering? I thought only conservatives did that.
This time she's means it. Really!
Her supposed focus is getting our troops out of Iraq and ending our reliance on foreign oil. Yet I didn't see her at an oil independence rally this summer in South Bethlehem, only blocks from her house. I did see Charles Dertinger, the Democratic nominee.
No matter. She has the support of our local King of the Greens, Joe DeRaymond. He's issued a royal proclamation to the Express Times, ordering us to vote for Browne. In his edict, DeRaymond disingenuously maintains Dertinger "has brought the manic Ron Angle into the campaign." That should be news to Dertinger, Dent and Angle.
King Joe, you may recall, is one of the bullies who barged into Congressman Dent's Bethlehem office without an appointment and refused to leave at quitting time. He was convicted of trespass, and LEPOCO just threw him a party.
When Queen Greta first favored us with her candidacy, King Joe was highly critical. "[Browne] at the last minute, on her own, decided to throw our support to Charles Driscoll, Democrat for Congress. Mr. Driscoll did not even publicly oppose the War in Iraq." And in a letter sent directly to Her Highness, King Joe scoffed at Browne's assertion that She supports alternative energy and was somehow "betrayed" by the press. "Bush supports alternative fuels and 'environmental protections'. You say you were betrayed by the press, yet it is not the press who made the decision to support Driscoll, it was you. Where is Driscoll today in the battle for the environment? On the war in Iraq? On the paving over of the Lehigh Valley?"
Now that Queen Greta is on the ballot, King Joe is whistling a different tune. He talks about "new politics," but offers the standard fare of hypocrisy you'll find on the menu of both major parties.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Hey, negative campaigning ain't cheap!
Easton Mayor Phil Mitman was guest for the second half, and told listeners another tax hike is "bound to happen." Looks like Easton residents will see both a city and county tax hike next year. With all those homes being swept away by floods, Easton probably has no choice.
Media Action Lehigh Valley, has scheduled its inaugural meeting this Thursday at 7:30 P.M. in the Silkwerks Building (930 N. 4th St.) in downtown Allentown. On Monday, I told you about this new group and its fight to maintain net neutrality, a free and open Internet. It is the rule that has governed access to the net since its inception.
Telecom giants like AT&T, in their neverending quest for the Almighty Dollar, don't like net neutrality. They want to be able to control which sites go fast and which don't. Bloggers like me, unable to pay future tolls, will be a thing of the past. Search engines like Google, which has been likened to the Library of Alexandria, will slow to a crawl in favor of competing search engines. YouTube will go down the tunes.
Monday's post provoked a lengthy response from HandsOff43, which essentially ranted about Google and claimed to be interested in "educating" poor shleps like us about the disadvantages of net neutrality.
I never heard from HandsOff43 before and decided to check out this blogger. Guess what? It's a frickin' front for AT&T! That's right, bippy. HandsOff43, aka Hands Off the Internet, is an astroturf group. It masquerades as a grassroots group but is actually a front for the Telecom industry. Primary funding source? AT&T. I guess buying Congress isn't enough. Paid shills must pollute the blogosphere as well. HandsOff43 has done so at with 512 posts at different sites.
Jeff Pooley, Professor of media and communication at Muhlenberg College and publisher of Old Fairgrounds and Lehigh Valley Media, correctly calls this disinformation from the propaganda artists at Hands Off a "sleazy attempt to ape the legitimacy of real citizen action." It also damages meaningful debate. Any comment opposing net neutrality will now be viewed with suspicion regardless of its actual merits. That's ultimately bad for all of us.
Hands Off retorted, in a Freudian slip, that it "has nothing to hide except the facts."
With that, I agree.
I wonder if I can pay my phone bill at their site.
This sordid little attempt to manipulate Lehigh Valley debate is showcased in Lehigh Valley Media, our new local media monitor. I'm sorry I put them to work so soon.
HandsOff, you're free to comment on my blog anytime you want, but I charge a toll to telecom giants. From now on, every time you visit my blog, I expect to see my phone bill reduced fifty cents. This should be no problem since that is what you want to do to sites throughout the net. If you can't honor my request, keep your hands off!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Many think rampant overdevelopment in the LV is the chief cause of all this flooding. But according to Angle and The Express Times, waters released from upriver reservoirs exacerbate the problem. He believes these artificial lakes should be kept at lower levels so that they don't overflow into rivers during times of significant rainfall. Three New York reservoirs, each over fifty years old, are always maintained at 105% capacity. PP&L also admitted releasing water from Lake Wallenpaupack at the wrong time of the year, which increased river levels.
Angle has repeatedly attempted to schedule hearings with the Army Corps of Engineers and Delaware River Basin Commission to see what can be done locally to mitigate or prevent future floods. But he's been completely ignored by both agencies, which frankly is insulting to LV residents.
So last Thursday, at Angle's request, Northampton County Council unanimously adopted a formal resolution that simply invites the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Delaware River Basin Commission to meet with Council and discuss recent flooding. Unfortunately, Council was spinning its wheels.
The very next day, we learned from the Express Times that the same officials who've been ignoring Northampton County Council, need $500,000 to "study" how manipulating reservoir levels will affect flooding. If they get any money, I suggest they buy some phones. It would have been nice if anyone in these government agencies had enough respect for LV residents to at least respond to a Northampton County official. But are they really interested in solving the problem?
I see nothing wrong with a study, but it should accompany immediate action. Reservoir levels need to be reduced or we will soon have a fourth and fifth 100 year flood. But do politicians have the political will to do anything? I'd like to see a study on that question. People with summer homes near manmade lakes will be quite upset if water levels drop. And they vote and contribute to campaigns. Their property values may go down with water levels, but at least their homes won't be floating away.
So what's it going to be? Are government officials really interested in solving the problem or are they sandbagging us? I know this much. They move a lot more slowly than floodwaters.
New Jersey attorney Jeff Russo thinks government officials are sandbagging us, too. Today's Express Times tells us he's filed a notice of intent to sue New York City on behalf of flood victims. In Russo's words, "nobody is taking the lead." And Russo does not think we can wait for the year or more that the flood mitigation study will take. "We can't wait that long."
Monday, September 25, 2006
It's election time, bippy. Pols are preying upon our fears about nasty illegal immigrants who are so evil they don't even take showers. They may even be responsible for avian flu!
But there's another set of immigrants Pennsylvanians don't like. It's those bastards from Joisey. Are they simple refugees fleeing high taxes and insurance? Or are they jerks who'll do anything for a buck, even if it involves daily four hour commutes?
Needless to say, they're not too popular in the Lehigh Valley. Whenever a moron does something rude or obnoxious, someone else will turn and knowingly say, "New Jersey." You'd be surprised at how many times I've been accused of being from Jersey.
But Joiseyites have their attitudes about us, too. I belong to a gym in Jersey, and often hear us discussed as trailer park trash. Most of us have just fallen out of the trees. Our driving habits are disparaged as much as we complain about theirs.
There's no denying that the Jersey exodus has led to more traffic, bigger schools and higher taxes. And it's become next to impossible to buy a home with a Pennsylvania income. But if you sit down and talk to a former New Jersey resident, you'll meet a person who's really no different from the rest of us. They love their children, and just want them to have a better home. Is that so bad?
Reality and perceptions are two different things.
By the way, illegal immigrants love their children, too.
Right now, the Internet is wide open, thanks to something called "net neutrality." Lehigh County Redneck and CNN get equal treatment. But telephone and cable industry giants like Verizon and AT&T want to be able to decide which web sites go fast and which don't. Sites like Google won't load at all if a competitor pays the right price. Small time bloggers like me? Kaput.
All Hail the Almighty Dollar!
Congressman Charlie Dent recently voted against net neutrality, which should make negative campaigns a lot easier to run. Senator Santorum, in a tough re-election bid, has not told us where he stands. He doesn't have to. He's already accepted $168,000 from the Telecom industry.
All Hail the Almighty Dollar!
So what the hell can we do? Well, November's not that far off. If you dislike pesky little blogs and hate independent ideas or innovative little upstarts, be sure to vote Republican.
You can also attend Media Action of the Lehigh Valley's inaugural meeting this Thursday at 7:30 P.M. in the Silkwerks Building in downtown Allentown (930 N. 4th St.). According to Jeff Pooley, one of its founders, "Media Action LV promotes youth and community media initiatives, independent journalism, and campaigns on behalf of local and national media reform." The group already has a blog, Lehigh Valley Media, a self-appointed media monitor in the Lehigh Valley.
Uh oh. Looks like I'll have to start telling the truth.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Everyone was in a bad mood. Before the meeting even started, Council Prez Grube accused me of sticking knives in his back. Huh? Then he threatened to let the air out of my tires and slice the rag top on my jeep, although he always does that. Branco looked like a zombie after his perpetual four hour commutes. He needed coffee badly. McClure was harried and unhappy. Angle, who is undergoing daily intravenous injections for his leg, gimped in with steam coming out of his ears. And Ann McHale was decked out in red, a sure sign she was taking no prisoners.
Of all people, Angle delivered the invocation, and oh what an invocation it was. His prayer focused on all the "bad people" out to get us, and called on God to protect Christians. Jews and everyone else can take care of themselves. He was getting ready to sacrifice a goat, but McHale snarled that those animal rights protestors might pop up again.
Last night was not a good night to approach Council with my rants about Wally G, the Elections Commission Chair. Wally sees no conflict with also being area chair for a local political party or in hosting a highly partisan radio show promoted by a local Dem website.
Now if I had any brains, I would have kept my mouth shut. Council was already in foul temper, and four of the five members at last night's meeting just happen to be Dems. But, as you can readily see from my prior posts, I'm an idiot. So I told Council that, regardless of the specifics in the Home Rule Charter, it's a matter of common sense that the elections commission should be above partisan politics and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I even submitted a resolution that does not demand, but simply requests, Wally G to step down.
After I had finished braying, Lamont McClure decided to forget about common sense and stick with the Charter. The Charter does not define "officer." Ah ha! How do I know a committeeman is an officer? Well, let me see. He runs for the office of committeeman. He does things Dems like me are unable to do. And in Wally G's case, he was elected by other committeemen to be an area chair. Any other conclusion turns logic on its head.
While McClure was demanding specifics on how an elections commissioner could rig an election, Vesuvius was percolating. I can't recall exactly when, but Council blew sometime around 7 PM last night. The cupola landed somewhere in Allentown, and molten lava has now damaged the judges' new marble floors. Angle and Council Prez Grube were screaming at each other about party bashing or something. Dertinger, who wasn't even present last night, was nevertheless accused of grandstanding. Grube's face was so red that all of Easton's johns stopped in, looking for a little action. At this point, Branco made a fatal error, and tattled that someone had called him a "professional prostitute." That was all the johns needed to hear. I think they dragged him down to Easton's circle as he screamed, "I quit the wrong Council." Order was finally restored when Ann McHale, the lady in red, gave everyone a time out.
I had pretty much given up hope on this wild bunch when, at the end of the meeting, Lenny Zito spoke up. He's Council's consigliere. He used to be a judge. He told Council, well, at least the five who showed, that an elections commission is a quasi judicial body. It often makes decisions that are essentially judicial. Members must avoid the appearance of impropriety, and conduct themselves with impartiality.
Holy canoli! Someone in authority actually agrees with me! I better check my research.
Zito also cautioned, however, that no action should be taken without insuring that Wally G's due process rights are protected. County Exec Stoffa, who apparently hasn't had a chance to discuss the situation with Wally G, mentioned doing just that last night. Until he does so, he's not ready to conclude there's an appearance of impropriety.
For Wally G, the writing is on the wall. It's time to step down. Delaying the inevitable will only make his party look bad and hurt the candidates he's trying to promote.
For more objective accounts of what transpired last night, the Express Times and Morning Call have excellent summaries. Their reporters escaped last night's eruption.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to Easton's circle to find Tony Branco.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Not too long ago, A Big Fat Slob ordered me to post five weird things about myself. Now you might think that's a snap, but it was no small task. The only good thing about it was I was able to tag some other bloggers, like Lehigh County Redneck. Wow! Talk about naked blogging! She in turn tagged distinguished Morning Call columnist Bill Rutherford White, who had to confess he once set his hair on fire. Think about that the next time you read one of his columns.
None of this would have been possible without A Big Fat Slob. So I have to thank him for that. But I also have to thank him for naming Lehigh Valley Ramblings his blog of the week. That was very nice. I wonder if I'll get a bucket of chicken wings or pork chops or something, too.
Here's our local round up.
1. WGPA 1100 AM's "At Issue" with host Ron Angle, Monday thru Thursday, 8 to 10 AM. Angle's bombastic "in your face" style alienates most of his fellow Councilmen, but it's pretty good radio shtick. Frankly, I think he likes his radio job better than anything else he does. Although Ron can get testy when he forgets to take his pills, he's usually quite charming, entertaining and has some terrific guests. He often is talking about an issue for several days before it hits the papers. And I love his taste in guest hosts. The call in number is 610-866-8074. Highly recommended.
2. WGPA 1100 AM's "Hot Topics" with host Don Russo, Fridays, 9 to 10 AM. Russo's style and point of view are a marked contrast to Angle. He showcases the Democratic party. He's much less confrontational than Ron, but also a lot less entertaining. He's a good alternative to Angle, and has produced some good guests. The call in number is 610-866-8074. Recommended.
3. WEST 1400 AM's "Voice of the People," an Express Times weekly Wednesday radio show, 5:30 PM. Different staffers host the show, but it's at its best the first Wednesday of the month. That's when editors Joe Owens and Jim Deegan, the "A" team, man the mikes for wide open discussion. This show has a playback feature on the ET website, and if you listen, you'll hear all about editor Deegan streaking down Northampton Street! Owens and Deegan missed their calling. They do a terrific job on talk radio, and it's unfortunate we only get to hear them once every month. Unlike Angle or Russo, they don't promote the agenda of either major party. The call in number is 610-258-7124. Highly recommended.
4. WGPA 1100 AM's "Lehigh Valley Means Business," hosted by Attorney Bruce Davis, Fridays, 8 AM, a weekly interview with local business leaders. Although Bruce is a distinguished corporate lawyer, his relaxed and informal style makes for a pleasant and informative program. This is not a call in show. Recommended.
5. WGPA 1100 AM's "Checks and Balances," hosted by Wally G, Wednesdays, 4 to 5 PM. I'd rather sit in a dentist's chair than endure another minute of scripted propaganda. Perhaps Wally will change his format. This is not a call in show. Not recommended.
6. WAEB 790 AM's morning show, hosted by Bobby Gunther Walsh, Monday through Friday, 9:15 - 10 AM. I used to listen, but stopped when Gunther told listeners several years ago he didn't want to hear from anyone who disagreed with him about Iraq. The show has far too many commercials to allow for meaningful conversation. Not recommended.
For more about the strange but fascinating world of talk radio, check out Talk Radio Fan.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Lehigh County Exec Cunningham has already declared he's holding the lid tight on a tax increase next year. It's amazing what you can do when you don't let the judges run your county.
Northampton County is not so lucky. After letting the judges run rampant for the past eight years, the county is literally bleeding money. County Exec Stoffa told a Council committee late today he'll have to propose a tax increase in the next budget. That's no surprise. The daily buffing expenses for the judges' marble floors are alone enough to require a hike.
I have no details. I suspect you'll get those tomorrow from The Express Times or Morning Call. This is just a heads up.
Don't you feel special?
The Express Times report of yesterday's Finance Committee include Stoffa's positive assertion that there will be a tax increase, followed by a statement that a hike is "probable," and a statement following the meeting that he just doesn't know.
This equivocation is a little disturbing.
Glepchoonites 1, Humans 0.
Hell, Glepchoonites might even learn a thing or two from watching our kids at play. Terrific arguments over what's fair are resolved after lengthy and loud negotiations. Chaotic rules and disorganized games are the norm, whether it's baseball, football, basketball, pickle in the middle, freeze tag or some other game I don't quite understand. Big kids tend to look out for the littler kids. Along the way, these young children learn sports fundamentals and get their first introduction to government. Their fundamental rule? Every Kid Shall Play.
When someone is hurt, they all stop to check it out, astonished by this early demonstration of their mortality. Their exploits, whether playing in a downpour, hitting a long ball, breaking a window or finding some really big and ugly bug (which just might be an alien from the Planet Glepchoon), are discussed for weeks and sometimes a lifetime.
Glepchoonites 1, Humans 1.
I'll tell you one of my memories. When I was about seven, three of us planned running away to the hills south of Hellertown to become mountain men for twenty years. After that, we were going to return with beards and coonskin caps and cool stuff like that. We almost did it, too! For three nights running, I can still remember stuffing a lot of cans into a bag (no can opener), and sneaking off in the dead of night to meet up with my buddy and then rolling over to Debby Madison's house. She was a beautiful blond with sky-blue eyes. But for three nights in a row, she stiffed us. We waited in vain. Maybe she didn't really want to be a mountain man. Women are strange that way, even when they're seven year old girls.
These memories become much less pleasant once the grown ups get involved. We adults ruin everything. Once kids become six or seven, we encourage them to get involved in "organized" sports so we can "teach" them. And we teach them so well that by the time they're thirteen, seventy percent have had enough and quit. What used to be fun is replaced by screaming parents, mean-spirited coaches, rules, favoritism, more yelling, more rules and the forced sale of candy bars and slim jims. In extreme cases, they get to see their parents slug it out. The golden rule, Every Kid Shall Play, is forgotten. It's replaced by a shorter rule. Win. I think the only reason kids put up with it is because it's one of the few opportunities they get to spend some time with their parents. They rest of the time, they're shuffled here and there as both parents work this job and that so they can buy larger McMansions and bigger SUVs.
Hail the Almighty Dollar!
And while little boys hurl themselves at each other like in an effort to please their parents, seven year old girls along the sidelines receive careful instruction on how to say things like "Shake, shake your booty," complete with little jiggles here and there. These girls look cute. I can't deny that. But what the hell are we doing? We sanctimoniously condemn Muslims for shrouding their daughters while we train ours to become pole dancers.
Two weeks ago, I watched a pee-wee football coach screaming so loudly at his own kids he actually intimidated the kids on the other side. No one had any fun. When his treasured victory was jeapordized, he actually killed the clock and knocked nine minutes off the game. I hope the Glepchoonites were in church.
Glepchoonites 2, Humans 1.
I'll take a pick up game among kids over organized sports any day of the week. But don't get me wrong! Not all organized sports are bad. Kids do enjoy a little competition, although they're not so focused on it as adults. They love the uniforms and sometimes meet other great kids. And with the right coaches, they have fun. Some coaches still remember that.
Last week I worked the chain gang at a flag football game in Allentown. The other side was a little smaller, and they were having trouble moving the ball. After a few setbacks and on fourth down, one of them broke away for a terrific run and just missed a first down. The Allentown coach winked at me, signaled a first down, and told me to move the chains. They let the kids play, and they had a blast.
I smiled, moved down the field, and stepped on one of those big ugly bugs that keep popping up everywhere lately.
Glepchoonites 2. Humans 2.
And so the battle rages.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
County Solicitor, Karl Longenbach, Esq., says Stoffa lacks the power to remove Garvin. And unfortunately, he's right! Under the Charter, a commission member "forfeits" his office if he lacks any qualification or violates any prohibition. But nothing in the Charter gives our Exec the authority to remove a wayward elections chair. How's that for a kick in the pants?
Now this doesn't mean that Garvin is home free. Council might have the authority to declare the office "forfeited." And the Attorney General or DA has authority to commence proceedings against someone who has forfeited his office.
Although I doubt a Democratic Council has the political will to rule against one of their own, they certainly should ask Garvin to resign. We all should. And although Attorney General Tom Corbett has the authority to commence proceedings to remove Garvin, he's no miracle worker. November is only weeks away.
Right now, the best service Wally G could perform for Northampton County would be to step down from the elections commission. But he's not really interested in what's best for the county or he would have already resigned. He just wants Democrats elected, no matter how bad things look.
In the long run, he's actually hurting his own party.
I've set up a small Act Blue donor form on the left sidebar of this blog for two interesting newcomers trying to make a difference in the land of midnight payraises. Today I'll focus on Russ Shade, Democratic candidate for the 183rd legislative district in the Northampton area. He's trying to usurp Julie Harhart, an unresponsive state rep. who has forgotten her promise to "serve" only four terms.
To retake control of the state house, Democrats need just eight seats. They're getting a lot of help from Republican House Speaker John Perzel, who defended an obscene state lawmaker payraise by incredulously claiming farmers and tattoo artists get more dough, and that some poor legislators have trouble getting credit.
Russ Shade, who managed John Stoffa's astonishingly successful county executive campaign without a dime of special interest money and against party bosses, thinks campaign money should come mostly from residents that actually live in the local community, and not PACs located in Toodeloo. But what about Harrisburg?
Harrisburg! We have a problem.
In Russ's own words,
Our legislators have made it legal for themselves to be away from the Capitol but still vote on important issues.
They vote to suspend rules so they can ram through bills in the middle of the night and nobody will notice what is going on (e. g. the pay raise).
They've exempted their expense reporting from the Pennsylvania Open Records Law.
Their approach to business taxes has driven away thousands of potential jobs.
They've failed over and over to reform the tax structure in this state, preferring instead to debate taxing candy and garter belts.
They use taxpayer-provided slush funds to fund projects in their districts (which helps them get re-elected).
They get a $650 car allowance (what? you mean if I'm a legislator I actually have to spend time in Harrisburg? Shouldn't the taxpayers have to pay for my traveling there in style?)
Instead of being reimbursed for actual expenses, they can take a per diem payment to use as they wish - without having to account for it..
They average 77 session days a year.
They get to vote themselves a pay raise whenever they think they can get away with it.
They insert amendments into bills for the benefit of "special interests" (a.k.a. campaign contributors).
If they fail at their job (failing to deliver real tax reform, not adhering to the PA Constitution) they get paid anyway.
Harhart can piously claim she voted against the midnight payraise, but she also voted to suspend rules that required that bill to be considered for three separate days before enactment. And all but five percent of her campaign dough is from special interests well outside her district. They take care of her, and she's taking care of them, not ordinary schleps like you and me.
If you want to take back your government, give Russ a hand and send a little dough with the Act Blue pledge from on the left sidebar. Small contributions from enough of us, even $5, will make a big difference in an important race. I've kicked in as much as I can spare, and will try each week. We can complain about Bush and Cheney all we want, but it's in the small races like these where the battle is being fought. And so the battle rages.
Monday, September 18, 2006
"... I am having a hard time convincing myself that I should care about it."
These are reactions to my Friday and Saturday posts about Northampton County Elections Commission Chair Walter R. Garvin. The Home Rule Charter bars political party officers from the election commission. Yet our elections commission chair is not just an elected Democratic committeeman, he's also a regional chair. And he hosts a partisan radio show under an assumed name. Why should we care? We should if we care about the integrity of our voting system. And this has been complicated by new and highly controversial touch screen electronic voting systems.
Northampton County purchased its little black boxes from Advanced Voting Systems while Lehigh County uses a Diebold innovation. Both systems have the same two problems. First, there's no paper trail. That's too expensive, we're told. Second, they can be hacked. Diebold reps call this internet hysteria. But a group of Lehigh University computer science and engineering professors are convinced there's “a wide variety of threats, many of which could be carried out by a single perpetrator or a small group needing only a modest understanding of computer security.” Pennsylvania's new voting machines already face a legal challenge as well as a House Bill to require paper trails.
In addition to worries about a paper trail and hacking, Jon Soden of the Lehigh/Northampton Progressive Alliance points to problems with our very first use. In the last election, a "glitch" turned Northampton County's ballot upside down, so that Democrats were voting in the Republican primary and vice versa. "If this was done in the 2004 election anyone voting for Kerry would have really been voting for Bush if the problem was not found and corrected."
Could you imagine how any election irregularity, no matter how innocent, will be interpreted if party honchos are allowed to sit on the election commission? And should the chair of an elections commission host a radio show promoting party propaganda from either side? When vote counters get political, public confidence in new requirements HAVA (Help America Vote Act) requirements is jeapordized.
Much ado about nothing? Ask the folks with hanging chads in Florida. Ask Ohio Democrats. I suppose the answer depends on whether you like your vote to count.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Norco's Elections Chair - Dem Committeeman, Area Chair & Partisan Radio Show Host - Isn't This a Conflict?
Last time I told you about Wally G, aka Walter R Garvin - political radio show host, Democratic committeeman and Chairman of Northampton County Elections Commission. On the radio, he's known only as Wally G. I guess he didn't want people to know he was moonlighting by reading a propaganda script every week. So he altered his name to fool us, but not for long.
Garvin claims his radio show's purpose is to inform the public about Congressional voting records. Wrong! It's an hour long sermon from the Democratic party. In fact, it's featured on the Northampton County Democratic Party's web page with the following description: "Sick of Right-Wing Talk Radio Blather? Tired of them insulting our intelligence? Then tune in to WGPA SUNNY 1100 AM and host WALLY G ..." That web page dishonestly fails to identify Wally G as Walter Garvin, the area chair for Freemansburg, Bethlehem Township, Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township. Garvin is clearly an "officer in a political party."
Garvin's involvement with a local political party is a clear violation of the Home Rule Charter, which plainly bars officers in a political party. Moreover, Wally G's disingenuous decision to host a very partisan radio show under a nom de plum, creates serious concern whether he could be impartial in his role as Elections Chair.
When I expressed these concerns yesterday on another radio show where Wally G was a guest, Garvin and host Don Russo snorted that if I had a problem, I should let my pals Angle and Stoffa know about it. So I did. As it turned out, Angle was listening to the show and fired off a memo to Stoffa by the time I called him. The Morning Call's Paul Muschick has an excellent report about this conflict of interest, and learned a second elections commission member, Lilly Gioia, is also an elected Democratic committeewoman.
Local Dem chair Joe Long claims all is well in the land of Oz. Long himself was probably elected illegally, as I noted in a previous post. He's also been rated as one of the state's worst county chairs. He should read the papers. Voters are disgusted by the shady tactics of politicians in Washington and Harrisburg. Yet he shames his party with a dishonest tactic by encouraging an area chair to do a partisan radio show under an assumed name. He creates a conflict of interest by stacking the elections commission with committeemen, who are party officers. The Democratic party should be associated with reform instead of business as usual. Long would best serve local Democrats by resigning.
By the way, Northampton County Dems are having their little shindig tomorrow. I think I better wait 'til next year. I'm not that hungry anyway.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Here's what the Home Rule Charter says about members of the Elections Commission: "None of these nominees shall hold public office or be an officer in a political party." Now isn't an elected Democratic committeeman an officer in a political party? He does things that Democrats like me can't do, like electing the county chair. And since he's actually elected publicly, doesn't he hold public office? Apparently not in Northampton County. The Home Rule Charter provision against an elections commissioner holding public office or being an officer in a political party was clearly designed to prevent the intrusion of partisan politics in the electoral process. Yet that "check and balance" seems to be forgotten. And to make matters worse, this guy hosts a highly partisan radio show advocating Democrats in the upcoming election. Will Republicans feel safe knowing that he's counting the votes?
John Stoffa said Wednesday there's nothing wrong with government, but that sometimes the wrong people are in government. This is an example.
In my last post, I told you about some Dent-bashing going on at WGPA AM. Just last night, I listened to Dertinger speak twice, both at Stoffa's home and at a Northampton/Progressive Alliance meeting. He was extremely critical of Dent, but confined his complaints to issues like Iraq. Nothing personal.
Now I don't watch TV so I'm not exposed to all the political ads hitting the airwaves as election day draws near. But one of these ads upset Democratic congressional candidate Charles Dertinger enough for him to call foul in a press conference yesterday. He later issued a press release detailing his complaints about Congressman Charlie Dent.
Apparently, Dent has attempted to link Dertinger with former campaign consultant Michael Solomon. Actually, if Solomon was linked to anything, it was the dough. He spent most of his time hovering around Glenn Reibman, lining up county contracts and taking a cut here and there. Solomon got a little greedy and eventually ended up in federal prison. Although Solomon did do some campaign work for Dertinger in 1999, no one at that ime suspected him of anything. And Dertinger met him five times tops. He's met me more than that. I hope no one tries to saddle him with my sins.
Just as it's unfair to try to connect Dent to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, it's unfair to tie Dertinger to the convicted Solomon. Charlie Dent was wrong to lash out. Mudslinging can backfire.
Let's stick to the issues, whether it's health care, Iraq or social security. No need to resort to name-calling or mudslinging. Leave that to us bloggers.
Update: For an account by a real reporter, check out Sarah Cassi's story for the Express Times, including Angle's assertion that Dertinger is a "loony." That might be good radio but it's not right in a Congressional campaign.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
LVDem last month blogged about a new "local liberal talk show" airing on WGPA 1100 AM every Wednesday between 4 and 5 P.M, hosted by a "Wally G." It's called "Checks and Balances." I enjoy Air America, do a little talk radio from time to time myself, and decided to tune in yesterday. It was the longest hour I've spent in some time, longer than an hour in church.
First, the dude on the air wasn't taking any calls. So it's not talk radio. Second, all Wally G did was read a script in a monotone voice, interrupted by a few musical interludes. Man, I don't know how anyone could listen to that for an hour and stay awake. Third, if this program is aimed at swing voters, it's missing the mark. I'm a screaming liberal, and even I was turned off by the constant Dent-bashing. Wally G claims ninety percent of Republican ads are attack ads, but 100% of this program was a smear. He implied Dent is corrupt. He even went so far as to say that if Dent sleeps with the dogs he'll wake up with fleas, whatever that means. He did it in such a boring monotone that most people were probably dreaming when he said it.
Charles Dertinger, Dent's Democratic opponent this Fall, last night told the Northampton/Progressive Alliance he thinks Dent is a good person. His disagreement with Dent focuses on issues. If Dertinger can stick to the issues, why can't a scripted propaganda blast?
Liberal talk radio is always bashed as too boring to survive in commercial broadcasting? Anyone who listens to Randi Rhodes knows that's totally untrue. But Wally G has some work to do if he wants anyone other than diehard Dems to listen to his show. He might try a joke, inflecting his voice or dragging in Jolly Joe Timmer. But he's got to do something before he's his only listener.
Both were tall, awkward and gangly men with large hands calloused by hard labor. People sneered at both when they first took public office, certain they'd been elected by accident and could never last. One of these men, Abraham Lincoln, is arguably our greatest president. And the other fellow, John Stoffa, will probably be remembered as Northampton County's best county executive.
I was at Stoffa's house Wednesday night. He threw a little party for his former campaign manager, Russ Shade, who's looking to upset Julie Harhart in the state rep. race for the 183rd legislative district. I read LVDem's post and decided to crash it. I wore my Angle disguise and slipped right in. Stoffa didn't mind. He's easy that way.
I'll let you all in on Russ' terrific effort in the next few days. Local luminaries decorated this little shindig like Christmas tree candles, but Stoffa was clearly the shining star. He introduced Russ by telling us, "I first met Russ Shade on the Internet ... ." When we finally stopped laughing, he actually said very few words that had more meaning than anything I've heard any politician say for some time.
"There's nothing wrong with government. But sometimes, some of the wrong people are in government."
"Everybody should run for political office at least once. If you lose, you're no worse off than before. If you win, you might get something done."
Like Lincoln, Northampton County politicians are finally beginning to see Stoffa's qualities, and that's good news for this county. Before I left, I wandered through a few rooms, and was amazed by the number of books strewn about, written by the likes of Hemmingway, Faulkner, Vidal and Vonnegut. I'm not honest like Lincoln or Stoffa, so I stole one of them. I've already tossed the cheap yarn Stoffa was using as a bookmarker. I'll sell it at a yard sale.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
HOLLYWOOD: Those of you who think former Northampton County Exec Glenn Reibman is content with his job at the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, think again. He's a man on a mission. Yes, siree!
In fact, he'll soon be making his film debut as Jack Frost in Santa Claus 3: The Escape Clause. Contacted on the set, Reibman explained, "If actors can become politicians, why can't politicians become actors?" Reibman, who often refers to himself as the "county executive of the future," claims his eight years as chief county honcho was great training for his current role.
"For eight years I ruined Christmas after Christmas for county employees. You should have seen the looks on their faces the year I gave them flimsy plastic ice scrapers. That was priceless! Now I get to replace Christmas with Frostmas and ruin it for their kids, too."
Reibman defended his appearance at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lehigh Riverport on September 11. "The next time a piece of Manhattan disintegrates, I want New Yorkers to know we'll have reasonably priced condos waiting for them right here in the Lehigh Valley."
Reibman also insisted the new rotunda at the courthouse expansion is actually a miniature rocket ship built as an escape pod for himself and the judges in case of national emergency. "I think of everything. That's why I'm the county executive of the future."
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Lehigh Riverport is one of the corporate welfare projects spawned by Northampton County's controversial $111 million megabond. It's sad that so soon after the darkest day in our nation's history, Ed Rendell and a bunch of local political hacks would trivialize that tragedy with a ribbon-cutting ceremony designed to do nothing more than attract votes.
I still plan on voting for Rendell, who tried vainly to explain away his appearance. This ceremony demonstrated callous disregard for fellow human beings. That's typical for Reibman, but I expected better from Rendell.
Blogging gives me an outlet for my very strange opinions. Editors, pols and reporters are thrilled that I finally leave them alone. Better yet, I get a wide range of comments from very interesting and entertaining people whose views always educate me, even when they differ from mine.
Well, I finally did it! I'm in the big time now, bippy. After last week's post about Santa Claus being spotted at Coopersburg's Saturday night swing club, I've attracted a troll. His name? F--- you. He posted some tasteless remarks here, here, here and here. One of them tells me "I have a pic of you now, you little c-------er ... payback is a bitch." This is the price we all occasionally pay for writing about anything remotely controversial.
Monday, September 11, 2006
So here's a little trick that someone told me about. Go to Google, type in failure, and you'll have to laugh at the first few entries.
On Wednesday at 7 P.M, the Northampton/Progressive Alliance will be hosting a Q&A session with the Democratic candidate Charles Dertinger. The format? A roundtable discussion at Wegmans in Bethlehem off of Route 512. Dertinger can expect some tough questions from local progressives. If you have a few minutes, drop by and meet Charles.
I'll let you folks in on a little secret. I met both Charles and Charlie separately this summer for a very long chat. (Dertinger loves tea while Dent likes cobb salad) Both are very well-informed, hard working, and concerned about this district. We could do a lot worse. And both are actually fairly level-headed, no matter what you may hear from either side. I've been highly critical of both candidates in previous posts, but they impressed the hell out of me when I met them. Dent, in particular, is a very unassuming fellow for a Congressman. I'll be writing my own assessment of each candidate in the weeks to come, but it's more important now to hear what they have to say.
They are both entitled to a little respect.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Lehigh County's judges aren't happy. Northampton County is getting a luxurious $42+ million courthouse, complete with wind sensitive fountains, cool tunnels, and private potties for just about every judge. Lehigh's judges think they can do better than that, and are rejecting a proposal from Lehigh County Exec Cunningham that will keep costs under $60 million.
"To hell with the cost, we're judges! We can sit your ass in an electric chair if we want."
To pay for the disaster in Northampton County, over 100 positions were axed and taxes increased nearly seventy per cent over two years. Those employees left have suffered with frozen salaries for three years while President Judge Freedberg traipses off to Europe and the court administrator summers in Australia instead of his Cape Cod home. The project is nearly a year behind and $3 million over budget.
A few weeks ago, LVDem told you Lehigh County judges actually wanted a private meeting with commissioners. And these are the guys who supposedly enforce the Sunshine Act! No wonder there's so many flagrant violations.
In his latest display of judicial arrogance, President Judge Platt told commissioners he'd rather see no expansion at all than go along with what the county exec proposes. And DA Jim Martin is threatening a criminal negligence prosecution.
Do you know what's criminally negligent, Jim? The disaster in Northampton County. Ask the employees who've become ill.
Platt and Martin would make great schoolyard bullies, but should have no say in how the public's money is spent.
You can thank a Big Fat Slob for this post. He's got a terrific blog but has just ruined me. I've spent months now trying to build a reputation as a respectable blogger, having failed at pretty much everything else in my life. This all comes tumbling down today because he's ordered me to write five weird things about myself. If I refuse, I go into some bloggers' black hole, to be shunned by other bloggers for eternity.
But here's the problem. Everything about me is weird. Something is seriously wrong with me. I know that. So when I list five things that may seen weird to me, it will probably convince you I need to be committed. OK, here goes.
First, I like the smell of my own farts. In fact, that smell should be bottled as a cologne. Eau dO'Hare.
Second, whenever I go for a run, I end up with the runs. Where do you think the Lehigh Valley's brownfields come from, bippy?
Third, I'm afraid of my phone. It's evil.
Fourth, I love movies, but can no longer watch television. It bores the hell out of me. When I try, I fall asleep in about ten minutes.
Fifth, about those runs, I almost always forget toilet paper.
Sixth, I really hate Santa Claus. I know I was only supposed to list five weird things, but
Seven, I'm incapable of following simple directions.
Hope you're happy, you Big Fat Slob. Now I get to name five other bloggers and assign them the same task. I select BillyBytes, the loafers at EastonUndressed, NewsOverCoffee, I've Made a Huge Tiny Mistake and Lehigh County Redneck.
Friday Afternoon Update: You've got to check out the five weird things that Lehigh County Redneck listed about herself. Holy canoli!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
OK. Pop quiz time! Which one is noted Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle and which is mass murderer John Wayne Gacy?
Amidst all the controversy over Nazareth's proposed government center, one fellow seemed out of place at last night's borough council meeting. He was a soft-spoken young man, and was the first to rise during last night's courtesy of the floor. He was not there to save the park or to rail against government spending. He instead quietly asked for permission to hold a candlelight vigil in Nazareth's circle tonight between 7:30 and 8:30 PM.
When asked why, his simple answer was that something needs to be done about the genocide in Darfur. Four hundred thousand fellow human beings have been needlessly murdered, and another four million Sudanese are starving. The U.N. has finally authorized peacekeepers, which might stop this senseless slaughter. The vigil will commemorate the victims of this mass murder. People unable to attend the vigil are asked to light a single candle in their windows tonight to remember those who have died.
Council unanimously approved the request. The courtesy and sensitivity they displayed made me forget, if only for a moment, that we really are all on the same side and want what is best. I too often look at things in a simplistic way - council members v. residents, pols v. taxpayers, liberals v. conservatives. I tend to forget that most of us are people of good will even when we have different approaches to a problem. For more on the situation in Darfur, click here.
Thursday Night Update:
I passed up tonight's county council meeting to participate in Nazareth's vigil for the genocide victims of Darfur. It was a small but moving experience. I was especially impressed by the youth and sincerity of these participants.
There will be no big headlines in either paper tomorrow about this tiny vigil. When I made this point to one of the organizers, he smiled and reminded me that Mother Teresa once said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love." This was a group that would consider itself successful if it only reached one person.
It reached me.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The borough manager is doing everything he can to make sure those in need of lap dances don't go elsewhere.
I decided to check it out Saturday night, purely for investigative purposes, but the bastards at the door wouldn't let me in. They didn't like my partner, Sexy Sylvia, an inflatable doll I picked up recently at a yard sale in Upper Macungie. I'm sorry, but that's discrimination!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
J. Michael Davis, driving force behind the folly to relocate Nazareth's government center to a local park, surprised us all tonight when he abruptly resigned his position on Borough Council, a position he's held for eleven years. He chaired most of the closed door meetings that supposedly reviewed at least nine or ten options for a new municipal center. Davis had boasted (or complained) in previous council meetings that he had spent hundreds of hours in this mysteriously secret review. But in his letter of resignation tonight, he made no mention of the controversial proposal. Mr. Davis did mention his four children, seventeen grandchildren, and his interest in Habitat for Humanity. I wish him the best, and hope he has time to enjoy his grandchildren. He might even consider taking them to Nazareth Hall Park.
Davis' resignation is a serious blow to those advocating a new municipal center at Nazareth Hall Park. Council now has thirty days to fill Davis's seat and will publicly interview interested applicants on September 28. They've decided to suspend all consideration of any new municipal center until then.
But no matter how many new faces, Borough Council will continue to face a distrustful public until they change their attitude about the Sunshine Act.
Wednesday Update: At last Thursday's Council meeting, Nazareth Borough Council members repeatedly told borough residents that it had considered no options for a municipal center expansion since the previous meeting, nearly one month before. In denying there had been any meeting or discussions, Councilman Bowers testily told one constituent, "What part of no don't you understand?"
But Council members had a different story for Express Times reporter Courtney Lomax. They told her they're "still looking at other options," including a real estate purchase. Davis is predicting a near unanimous vote on this latest proposal.
So what is it? This is the kind of thing that happens when municipal bodies meet too often behind closed doors.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Thanks to some terrific reporting by the Morning Call, we've learned that Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski both very recently maintained slush funds for corporate contributions. Although ostensibly set up to defray inaugural and transition expenses, they were still raking in contributions in June. Accounts weren't closed until reporters started snooping around.
Pols were able to write checks to themselves for nice little perks. Cunningham's chief of staff wrote himself a check for $300 in June for pin money at a convention. What the hell does that have to do with Cunningham's inaguration or transition?
What these pols did is highly questionable. Maintaining a secret fund to funnel corporate contributions long after an inauguration is very likely an attempt either to evade campaign finance laws or grab creature comforts not available to the public at large. It certainly does not pass the smell test.
Elmer Gates, a local gazillionaire who owns banks and likes to have his way with local pols, insists that the $1,000 he gave to Cunningham has absolutely nothing to do with the $400,000 that Lehigh County deposited with his bank. He just wants "good government." Hmm, I wonder what Elmer considers bad government.
When asked why he didn't set up a similar fund, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa told a reporter he wanted to "stay clean." I wish some of our other local pols were as hygenic.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Ron Angle, you may recall, has been kicked off just about every radio station in the Lehigh Valley and Poconos. His politics make Attila the Hun look liberal. His long range plan for the middle east? A parking lot. His answer to illegal immigrants? Machine gun nests at the border. And don't get him started on those Ten Commandments or I'll take my six inch samurai knife and commit harakiri right on the air.
As if his views aren't bad enough, he's mad at me right now. I spoke against that Council payraise , and County Executive Stoffa actually vetoed the damn thing. I didn't expect that to happen! Nobody listens to me.
Now Angle's pissed at both of us. God, take a dime from a gazillionaire and he freaks out. I don't even know why he wants me on the air with him. Maybe he wants to kick me some more because Stoffa keeps ducking him.
All I can say is it's a good thing Angle can't read or I'd really be in trouble.
All kidding aside, and despite my many differences with him, I love the guy. He advocates open, accountable government and fiscal responsibility. He's not nearly so conservative as he would lead you to believe. And he has been a good friend to me over the years. I do think he displays insensitivity at times, and will challenge him if I hear him say anything along those lines.
We'll be on from 8 to 10 AM at 1100 AM. You can livestream us on the web. Feel free to call in at 610-866-8074 with any questions or comments, or post them on this blog as a comment and I'll try to ruin Ron's Labor Day.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Ever watch a Samurai movie?. I love them. They remind me a lot of westerns except there's a lot more blood and severed heads flying through the air. Despite their brutality, these sophisticated warriors had their own code. "The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death."
A friend returning from Japan once gave me a samurai sword letter opener. It's only six inches long, but think twice before coming after me, bippy. I've watched Zatoichi, and I think I have his moves down.
Honestly, I don't think I'm cut out for samurai life (or should I say death?). I'd be better as a masseur or geisha or something.
But whether ninja or damiyo, you'd like this cool Japanese name translator . Some names don't make much sense. My name roughly translates to "straight tree near a crossing." Guv' Ed Rendell is a "large radiance around wisteria fields." Huh?
But George Bush's name is the most appropriate - "mighty blow to a country of good fortune."
Try it yourself this weekend. Sayonara.