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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 30, 2008

DotPenn: Your Source in Central Pa.

DotPenn, "News and Reviews for the Illiterati," is a blog dedicated to covering the "shenanigans of local deadbeats" in central Pennsylvania, mainly in that strange area around PSU.

Somebody's got to do it. In a recent story, it reports Claysburg police are hot on the trail of Sasquatch.
Sasquatch, from an American Indian word meaning “Amish-smelling,” has been reported in the mountains near Claysburg. Once it was just thought to be yet another hillbilly inbreeding experiment gone awry; however, the latest reports suggest that Sasquatch is alive and on the move.

“We don’t take kindly to various drugged-out creatures comin’ into our town and stealin’ pick-a-nick baskets and leaving their big ugly paw prints around,” said town monster control officer and bebop saxophonist Roscoe John Coletrane. “That menace will be six big feet in the ground once me and the boys are done with him… or her… don’t mean to be sexist.”
It's nice to see another blog that never lets facts get in the way of a good story.

Four Day Work Week in Northampton County?

GrassrootsPa and NBC10 in Philly report Northampton County is considering switching to a four-day work week with ten-hour days. Advantages? Less gas, absenteeism reduced and parking woes reduced. Disadvantages? Ten-hour work days are tough on families and four-day work weeks present problems for prisons and courts.

Insects Devouring Young Baseball Players

Early Saturday morning, I watched helplessly as a group of eight and nine year-olds from Lehigh Little League dumped all over my grandson's team from Northwest Bethlehem in a scrimmage. As painful as that was, these noble rivals faced two bigger enemies. One was the heat. But the biggest foe by far? Insects. They've been merciless. They're ravenous this year.

Some kids sent into the outfield have never returned.

I'm pretty much useless in the field, so I've been acting as the first aid guy. The kids are getting ready for a tournament in Coplay, starting on Tuesday night. I look after minor injuries so that coaches who actually know what they are doing, can teach fundamentals to these young athletes.

One of my rituals is to spray insect repellent on every kid I see at the beginning of every practice. I usually have to repeat it before practice is over. I worry whether I'm giving them cancer. Last week, I missed one ten year old. He went out into the field, but returned in tears a few minutes later, claiming a bee had stung his ear. His ear was beginning to swell up like a balloon.

Me: "Did you see a bee?"


Me: "Are you allergic to bees."

"Kind of."

Me: "What's your dad's phone number?"

"He's out of town on business."

Me: "Well, how about your mom. What's her number?"

"I don't know."

I did what I do with every injury. I applied ice. I think I learned that in the Army. Maybe it was the boy scouts. Earlier in the week, my grandson stopped a line drive to third with his adam's apple. Our best fielder scratched up his legs while diving for a ball in stones. Everyone, including the insect bite victim, got the same treatment. An ice cube. He sat in the dugot, holding an ice cube to his ear, while I ran all over the place, looking for some sting medicine. A coach from another team had some, and it helped this boy right away.

When this boy's mom arrived on the field, I asked if her son was allergic to bees.

"Kind of."

I decided not to ask whether she knew her phone number.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pawlowski Better Load Up on Phillips Screwdrivers

The worst kept secret among Allentown politicos is that city council VP Tony Phillips will switch parties to Republican to improve his odds against incumbent Mayor Ed Pawlowski. The first half of that rumor is now reality. Phillips is officially a R.

It's only a matter of time now before the Phillips screwdrivers begin their work, attempting to marginalize him as they do with every critic.

Phillips is a twenty-two year veteran of the Allentown police department and a life-long Allentown resident. He's a Moravian grad, and teaches in Philly. He's also a victim of racial discrimination, documented extensively in a federal district court opinion. Phillips was forced to work for over ten years with an officer who wore a swastika pin on his uniform and made racist remarks.

Phillips has been called a "chowderhead" and "halfwit" for opposing Allentown's bond refinancing scheme. He has criticized the $73,000 salary paid to the city's information technology director. He opposed a 54% payhike for Allentown's next mayor. He stood up for suffering Hamilton Street merchants - most of them minorities - when they were thrown under the bus by LANTA. He dared complain when the city tried to get a special booze license for Johnny Mañana's - an upscale nonlocal eatery that will send all of its profits out of the city - while thumbing its nose at less trendy establishments.

Pawlowski called Phillips a "lone wolf." As far as I'm concerned, that's a compliment. But then again, some of us prefer independent thinkers to bobbleheads.

Pawlowski also complains that Phillips merely switched parties "as a tool for self-promotion and self-aggrandizement.'' Horrors! That's rich, especially from a dude whose face is plastered all over a municipal web page paid for by taxpayers. Allentonians also pay for a web page that tells us Ed is a "leader with skills honed by experience." Wow! And when Ed first got here from Chicago, he hit the road running because of his "already impressive resume." Oh, yeah, he's also helped "thousands of people" live that American dream.

I'll be sitting down with Tony later this month. I'll have more to say then.

Friday, June 27, 2008

King Edwin Hopes to Pillage Another Allentown Building

The King of Renaissance Square, Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski , can be good to those he likes. Royal favor, from time to time, has been bestowed on Johnny Mañana's (that's with a ñ, damn it!). Servants there have been permitted to feed the Royal Stomach, of course without any tips. That business, along with Allentown Brew Works, is exempt from all but federal taxes.

In fact, many downtown businesses are the beneficiaries of Royal Grants.

Vickey's Sweet Spot 621 Hamilton St. $11,190
New York Urban 740 Hamilton St. $19,366
Total Office Solutions 915 Hamilton St. $20,000
Wireless & Beyond 965 Hamilton St. $20,000
Ileanette's Beauty Salon 913 Hamilton St. $20,000
Johnny Manana's 835 Hamilton St. $50,000
Cosmopolitan 18 N. Sixth St. $50,000

But there are many other businesses who daily face the Royal Wrath. The defunct Neuweiler Brewery owner was conned into coming into Allentown and then jailed for code violations, many of which occurred before he owned the place. The King has His own designs for that property, and is making life uncomfortable for the current owner. All the King's horses and all the King's men recently attempted to evict everyone from the Livingston because the owner was fixing the roof without Royal permission. Lady Pamela and The Duke of Donovan stopped that.

All the King's horse and men, however, know no rest. Apparently, the King wants to seize another property, so his code enforcement hounds were unleashed early yesterday morning at Monument Plaza, 645 Hamilton Street. Owner Steve Blakesley spent $1.83 million to buy that property and sunk another million dollars into renovations. But that made no difference yesterday to a swat team of enforcement hounds. Four city vehicles and a city attorney attacked the building, crawling all over to find code violations. The prophet Michael was there, but said nothing out of fear this would just encourage the King to become even more vindictive. But Sir Alfonso Todd spoke out on Michael's blog, and I'll repeat his comment here.

MM, you may not want to say it but I will. The City has not assisted 645 Hamilton Street and has bordered on harassment and bullying with its treatment. They tend to speak about how the NYC owner and his investors bought a building and has not fixed it appropriately, thus it cannot be opened for use to ANY business. Well, I am here and I have witnessed building and zoning officials lack of assistance when it comes to "certain owners" in Allentown. It's deplorable that unless you are a part of the IN CROWD with the City, it seems you are not promoted or assisted with issues that will affect the City as a whole. 645 Hamilton is a prominent building on the corner of 7th Street. You would think the City would be glad that some investors came in and bought a building and were willing to invest in the City. They have given subsidies, tax breaks, and grants that total millions to other businesses on Hamilton but this building has been given nothing but hard times. The owner has met with the Mayor and Zoning and joined LVEDC and did what he thought was the correct thing to do but to no avail. He actually has come to a point and asked who he had to "pay off" in order to get fair treatment from the City. This building is literally BLACK BALLED. Today 8 people from the zoning, electrical, safety, and whatever else they could think of Department, came to the building for inspections and I promise it was just to tear the building apart with future citations. At this point, I wouldn't blame the owner if he just "mothballed" the building as many other surrounding building owners have done and let it sit empty as he waits for the highest bidder to call. It's a shame too, because with the loss of Federal Grill, Rite Aid, Dandy Dry Cleaners and India Boutique, you would think that the City would be uplifting and breaking their backs to help these investors but instead they are running them and other possible businesses out of town. I hope they have a method to their madness. If not, Allentown leaders may be their OWN worst enemies...

State Rep. Dally to PPL: We Don't Need No Steenkin' Power Line

Rep. Craig Dally (R-Northampton) is a legislator whose gerrymandered district includes Bushkill and Moore Townships. Those two townships are in one of three possible paths being considered by PPL for a new, 150 mile long, high voltage power line extending from Berwick, PA to Roseland, NJ. Dally has told PPL to keep this power line out of the Lehigh Valley.

Here's part of Craig's letter.

PPL has identified three possible routes for this project. Route A begins at the PPL Electric Utilities switching station near Berwick and travels northeast through Luzerne and Lackawanna counties on a path of an existing 230-kV power line. The line then travels east through Lackawanna and Wayne counties primarily on the path of existing power lines before heading east-southeast through Pike County.

Route B begins at the PPL Electric Utilities switching station near Berwick and travels through Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wayne counties on the same power line rights of way as Route A. Route B separates from Route A at a point northeast of Lake Wallenpaupack and travels south through the Delaware State Forest on the path of an existing 230-kV power line.

Route C begins at the PPL Electric Utilities switching station near Berwick and travels south primarily on an existing future-use right of way through Luzerne and Schuylkill counties. The line then travels east primarily on future-use or existing transmission power line routes in Schuylkill and Lehigh counties. The line then moves east-northeast through Northampton County on the path of an existing power line.

As the State Representative for the 138th House District, I am writing to formally oppose proposed Route C. After reviewing the information concerning this Route, 1 believe that another option would be best in order to achieve the stated goals of PPL to improve electric service reliability and ensure that existing infrastructure is not overloaded. I believe that planning such an expansive project on "future-use right of ways" or "future-use transmission power line routes'' unnecessarily burdens the citizens of the 13 8th District while other options use existing power line rights of way.

Further, I have heard from many constituents who received PPL's notice concerning the Susquehanna-Roseland Power Line and they have encouraged me to express opposition to Route C based on potential environmental impacts, impacts on scenic and historical sites, existing land use, and plant and wildlife habitats. I believe that during the public comment period, these views will be echoed by many individuals.

I appreciate the need for PPL Electric Utilities to address the growing infrastructure needs of Pennsylvania's power network. I take you at your word when you say, "We understand that this kind of work can cause concerns for nearby residents. We are being extremely careful to balance the need to build this project with our responsibility to care for the environment and to minimize the impact on nearby residents." I believe that after the series of public input meetings concerning Route C, PPL will come to the same conclusion that I am advocating here - that Route C is not the best option for this project.

Allentown's "Renaissance Square" Sinks Into Dark Age

The renaissance is over.

Allentown's downtown, recently dubbed "Renaissance Sqaure" by King Edwin Pawlowski, continues its downward spiral. For one thing, the elegant Federal Grill is closing its doors. (That's what QCD blogger Genevieve Marshall, fresh from a game of bocce, tells us.) LVDem, the Lehigh Valley's original poliblogger, met me for dinner there a few months ago. Our combined presence probably ruined the Grill's feng shui. He also had a gas attack that night, which drove everyone out. So blame that one on bloggers.

Whatever the reason, the rest of Allentown's downtown remains a failure. Giving it a pretty name is no more effective than claiming Allentown's crime is really just a perception problem.

Michael Molovisnky, the Queen City's cryptic prophet, has persistently warned of the continuing decline of Allentown's downtown with words "burnt like a torch." His latest revelation? Rite Aid Pharmacy, located at 733 W Hamilton, is closing its doors. Although he detests being likened to a reporter, the prophet is two hours ahead of Channel 69 on that one. Revenues at Hamilton Street's Rite Aid were down 40%.

Molovinsky incurred the King's wrath when he told you that, by Royal Decree, three merchants were being evicted from The Americus at 541 W Hamilton. One of these businesses was Minich Jewelers, which had been in business for 73 years.

But wait, there's more! Happy Garden, a Chinese restaurant located at 532 W. Hamilton Street, is also closing. It's not so happy these days. They actually had a sidewalk sale of their tables and chairs.

Incidentally, the revitalization of Allentown's downtown is the excuse I've heard given for Pawlowski's delay in taking any steps to deal with public safety.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Express Times Scrapes Bottom of Barrel

The Express Times has an interesting weekly feature called Five Questions, an audio interview with local luminaries like shy and soft-spoken Jim (flaming monkeys) Hickey or Easton's Chanelle Price, the fastest mid-distance runner in the country.

But now it's summertime, and all the important people are at the beach. So for this week's Five Questions interview, poor Sarah Cassi was forced to interview a blogger - moi. I had to promise to keep my hands on the table at all times for some reason.

Q. Do you have sources you depend on or people that feed you information?

"I make most of it up. It's pretty much fabricated. It's pretty much pure lies. It's totally worthless. Thank you very much."

Express Times editor Joe Owens has his own report.

Q. Why don't you write a newspaper column?

"Because they'd need to run my picture and people don't deserve that at the breakfast table."

That bastard! I'm pretty sure I can nail him with libel for that one.

Big Coal: The Real Reason Why PPL Wants Those Power Lines

"Damn the carcinogens, full speed ahead!"

PPL is coming through, baby. It's laying down a new power line from Berwick, PA to Roseland, NJ, cutting a 200' wide path over a 100 mile distance in PA. There's little we can do to stop this Giant Energizer Bunny, either. Let's say our state regulators in the PUC, by some miracle, actually dare to say no. PPL can simply run to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and get eminent domain powers.

PPL tells us this is for our own good because it will prevent blackouts and power overloads. I don't know about you, but I haven't noticed any blackouts here in the Lehigh Valley. Not even a brownout. In fact, Pennsylvania is actually an exporter of electricity.

Since who's the real beneficiary?

Big Coal, baby. The Black Gods. The same bastards who killed most of my relatives in the coal regions. The lucky ones died in mine collapses. Many more suffered for years with black lung disease. It has killed thousands, devastating the environment in the process, making much of the coal regions look like a barren wasteland. But Big Coal is back, baby, hotter and darker than ever. Each American now consumes twenty pounds of coal every day, just to keep those air conditioners and toasters hummin'.

After all, it's patriotic. Big Coal will free us from Big Oil and those dirty Arabs. PPL will be expanding electricity generation at its coal-fired Washingtonville plant near Berwick. And guess what? It just dumped $600 million into the site for new scrubbers and a drywall factory.

It's not all bad news. After all, we do get to pick one of three routes for this 500 KV line. PPL even created a web page so we can play engineer and NIMBYs can argue with each other. But there's no real choice. What this power company is doing is just like giving a prison inmate three choices on a brand of Vaseline. No matter what route is chosen, we're going to get screwed.

Attorney Wil Burns, who represents the Sierra Club, believes these power lines are a mistake for the following reasons: (1) wasted energy (when electricity is shipped over long distances, it loses ten per cent of its power); (2) security (those dirty Arabs will slice the lines and force us to buy Big Oil); (3) higher electricity costs (who do you think will be paying for those power lines?); and (4) air pollution (coal-fired generators contribute three-fifths of all sulfur dioxide, one-third of all mercury, and one-fifth of all nitrogen oxide emissions in the United States).

I have another concern. Although energy officials deny that high voltage lines present a health hazard, the reports I've seen about childhood leukemia and cancer are shocking. I'd like to hear from someone who has no financial interest in this matter.

A grassroots movement of citizens from Lehigh and Moore Township is mobilized, and has already established a blog, DroptheLines, to oppose PPL's greedy scheme "to maximize profits by taking advantage of a poor decision by the Department of Energy that favors the profit of a large company over the well-being of Pennsylvania’s residents and favors coal and nuclear power over clean alternatives."

Tonight, between 5 and 8 PM, PPL's latest money-making attempt will be presented at Northampton Community Center, 1601 Laubach Ave., Northampton, PA 18067.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Michael Molovinsky for President?

Local celebrity and blogger Ken Matthews may have lost his radio spot on B104, but still has a nose for news. He just forwarded this breaking story about everyone's favorite blogger, Michael Molovinsky.

Morning Call Allows Hate Speech, But Stifles Criticism

If you belong to the local KKK, I'm sure you know all about The Morning Call Readers' Forum. Filters may prevent even the mildest of profanities, but people can and do make outrageous remarks about anyone who is different, even lefties.

Do you honestly think there's a difference between "I hate niggers" and "I hate n****rs"? Does it really matter that words like "shit" or "bitch" are filtered when people can still refer to Allentown's minority population as "filthy mongrels"?

On the plus side, there's lots of good advice on where you can buy cheap Swastikas, get skinhead haircuts and have your sheets cleaned and pressed.

Minorities, homosexuals and Jews have been easy targets for centuries, so this is really nothing new for them. But it's still hypocritical when the paper sponsoring that venom piously beats its chest and proclaims it stands for "[t]olerance and respect for all persons, irrespective of differences of race, religion or culture. When people disagree about issues, we will advocate for and provide opportunities for a civil discourse that seeks common ground and constructive solutions."

In reality, The Morning Call stands for the Almighty Dollar. All hail!

The paper has yet to publicly acknowledge its readers forum is even a problem, let alone promise to do anything to stop the hate.

Here's what kills me.

The KKK can congregate all over the readers' forum, so long as they don't curse. But the paper has habitually blocked comments from Bill Villa, a Morning Call critic, to the forum or on Morning Call blogs.

Who the hell is Bill Villa? He's a nobody, a schlep like you and me. Not too long ago, his daughter was taken away from him by a drunk driver. Is he angry? Yep. Bitter? You bet. But he's also smart and thinks there has been an injustice. Maybe he's wrong. Maybe he's right.

Until recently, columnist Bill White has denied Villa's comments are deleted. "I have never deleted any comment by Bill Villa. If he tried to post a comment and it didn't go through, it's because of the same occasional glitch that has blocked me from posting comments on my own blog on several occasions, always from home." Yet just last week, Villa was again blocked from commenting on a Bill White blog. This time, there was a different explanation. "Mr. Villa is engaged in a dispute with our editors, and I'm not going to inject myself into it or make this a forum to debate it."

So the local paper apparently is blocking comments from the father of a drunk driving victim while enabling the Aryan Nation. I have one question - are these people out of their frickin' minds?

Villa's blocked comment is posted in its entirety at AJ's Weblog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leonard Zito Returning to Northampton County Bench

When President Judge Robert A Freedberg goes to the Superior Court, guess who will be appointed to fill his vacancy? According to a reeliable source, the vacancy will be filled by Leonard Zito, who will be returning to the bench for a second time.

Zito, who currently serves as Solicitor to Northampton County Council, was previously required to step down from the bench after an appointment because he had pledged he would not run. This time around, he is free to run if he wishes, and intends to do so.

Anonymous Commenters Welcome, But I "Out" Trolls

My Comments Policy

You are welcome to comment anonymously here. Some of you have good reason to fear retribution if your identities are disclosed. Without anonymity, we'd all be deprived of your inside insights. Others among you may own small businesses, where it is never a good idea to voice strong opinions. A few of you may even wish to remain anonymous simply to protect your children's identity.

Whatever the reason, I am more interested in the message than the messenger. I respect the preference of many genuine commenters for pseudonymity and will protect their privacy. On the other hand, I have and will out people who hide behind the veil of anonymity to launch nasty personal attacks. I'll also out public officials and corporations who attempt to mislead readers.

I'm about to do it again.

These sinners violate the Daily Whackjob's Fourth Commandment: "If you feel like you can’t say something using your real name or your usual screen name, then you probably shouldn’t say it." Violations inevitably lead to the Sixth Commandment: "Don’t be surprised when anonymous commenters/bloggers get outed after making fools of themselves."

A Few Outed Trolls

Over the past two years, I've outed a few such fools. One of them is George Speros Maniatty, Jr, an anonymous troll who constantly tries to ruin meaningful discussion with misinformation and childish taunts. He's an Allentown Democratic committeeman and rabid Sam Bennett supporter. But candidates keep George at arm's length because his sleazy antics can get them in trouble. George's myspace profile tells us he's single and looking. I'm already taken, so he's reduced to friends like "Ivana Fukalot."

I outed Northampton County council member Lamont McClure when he disingenuously tried to pass himself off as a normal "man on the street", who was gathering information about county government on the basis of what he reads in The Express Times. I even outed an astroturf blog being paid by AT&T to manipulate public opinion about net neutrality. In both of those cases, there was a dishonest attempt to manipulate public opinion.

You can be a troll, too!

Local blogger Chris Casey thinks my comments policy is just horrible, repeatedly calls me a blog Nazi (without having the guts to mention me by name) and ridiculously complains my comments policy is the reason no one ever comments on his blog. Waaah. He even goes so far as to recommend you all rush out right away to buy anonymous surfing software so that you can all be trolls, too. I've got news for Casey. Anyone, including him, who thinks anonymity gives him a license to launch vicious personal attacks, is eventually going to be outed.

This brings me to the latest troll, a person who first appeared in January, when I wrote about Allentown Mayor Pawlowski's strong-arm tactics against a 75 year-old woman who dared conduct yard sales outside her Turner Street home. Lagata8484 exploded with a vicious diatribe aimed at Lázaro Fuentes (with an á, damn it!), Michael Molovinsky, Scott Armstrong and yours truly.

The words that never hurt you

Bernie: "is only known to his bellyaching companions and the leaders in business and commerce and government dont take him seriously as he is annoying and very small."

Molovinsky: "was ridiculed and trounced when he took himself seriously and made a run for mayor, the city has spoken loudly that no one knows how his mind works nor cares."

Armstrong: "is ever present at city council meetings bitching about stuff that no one else seems to care about. He is a case study for bad style and has a pit bull mind on a french poodle face and a voice that makes God cringe."

Fuentes: "Lazaro's Hispanic Chamber may be down to 2 members soon, him and his wife , as he is a hispanic version of Scott. The chamber has no presence in the latino community or any where else, it has as much credibility as Lazaro's degree from Columbia University. What a joke the lot of you are."

Intimidation Tactics a Pawlowski Standard

According to Scott Armstrong, these intimidation tactics are standard fare from Pawlowski's horde. He should know. Sycophants have attempted to intimidate Armstrong with love notes like this:

"I heard you on WAEB the other morning. You certainly have a big mouth. Instead of flapping your gums, why don't just keep sucking cocks? We in the neighborhood know exactly what you do, and to whom you do it. We are watching every move you make. We wonder what the members of Allentown City Council, would think of you, if they only knew. The next time you attend a Council Meeting, you are going to be exposed, for what you are. A cock sucker.
Have a great day, From all us"

And this:

"Hey, Blow anyone today? You know who we are!! TaTa, You, neighbor on the corner."

Verbal intimidation is one thing, but it extends to physical threats, too. Armstrong tells me "my car was vandalized with an M-80, and it was keyed countless times. The phone would ring when I entered the house and when I picked it up the caller would hang up; this happened routinely and was meant to send a message. My back door bell was rung in the middle of the night. My phone would ring at all hours with no one on the other end."

Armstrong is by no means alone. I've noticed myself that the standard response to any criticism of Mayor Pawlowski is an anonymous personal attack. But I had decided to ignore Lagata8484.

Until last week. That's when he posted a comment that snarked Lázaro's wife, calling her a "rice and beans" eater. I tried ignoring that, but can't.

Pawlowski Troll is Edward DeGrace

Lagata8484 is actually Edward DeGrace, described by Scott Armstrong as a Pawlowski apologist. "He's part of the city machine and will do what he has to do to make sure the machine succeeds." DeGrace, who actually hails from Cape Verde, is a Democratic activist who worked for Pawlowski's 2005 mayoral campaign. I tried calling him at his home last night, but this Air Products-employed intimidator was too scared to get on the phone. Morning Call archives paint him as a "community activist" who has even had a few op-eds published. He's also a Pawlowski bully who lacks the courage to be accountable for what he writes.

It matters very little to me if someone wants to attack me or talk about my alcoholism or legal suspension or weight or adult film career. And I appreciate people who disagree with me. I already know what I think and think we all benefit from different points of view. But when someone uses anonymity to attack other people, they're already doing something stupid. After that, it's only a matter of time.

A US Bicycling Hall of Fame Here in the Lehigh Valley?

The US Bicycling Hall of Fame is looking for a new home. If Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham gets his wish, it will be right here in the Lehigh Valley. He's expected to announce a plan to lease a Lehigh County-owned site, located right next to the Velodrome, at 1:00 PM today. His news conference will occur on site and architectural drawings will be on display.

Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners will vote on Cunningham’s resolution on Wednesday, June 25 at 7:30 pm.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wayne Grube Sticks it to the Man

Twelve years after the fact, The Morning Call now explains how PPL managed to slip in a bill deregulating the entire electric industry. State senator Lisa Boscola piously condemns it. But as Bethlehem Dem reports, Boscola is actually one of the many legislators who voted for it. Between 2001 and 2007, Boscola raked in $4,600 from PPL's PAC. What's even more mind boggling, at least to me, is her bizarre claim that her chief of staff may be leaving so he can work in the "energy industry."

Bethlehem Dem concludes Boscola is an "opportunistic hypocrite who takes opposing sides of the same issue when it is convenient for her." Hopefully, this little ditty will cheer him up.

At last Thursday's county council meeting, a routine easement to PPL was on the agenda. The county was being asked to grant this soon-to-be-deregulated company an easement over county land. Council was assured this easement imposed no burden on the county and that the land itself is worthless.

But council refused to grant the easement, insisting that there be two appraisals first, and that PPL pay for them. When an engineer got up to complain, former council prez Wayne Grube had a very quick answer. "I don't know how in the world we can feel sorry for that utility. Those people have the funds to pay for an appraisal." Even Angle was persuaded.

After the meeting was over, I saw Wayne and told him, "You really stuck it to the man!" He barked, "Yeah, and now when I go home, all my lights will be off."

Why The Bachmann Publick House Should Be Preserved

As both The Express Times and Morning Call reported last week, Northampton Couny Council has postponed acting on a resolution under which the county would commit $520,000, over four years, to revitalize Easton's 1753 Bachmann Publick House. Lafayette College is also willing to commit $320,000, but the vote has been postponed. Ostensibly, this is so the Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society can consider running the place. In reality, there may not have been five votes to move ahead.

According to Finance chair Ron Angle, more than the historic landmark is being preserved. Two other buildings are included, including a a storefront that sells Bachmann trinkets and another that apparently houses a massage parlor. Angle thinks these nonhistoric properties should be sold.

But the county's first courthouse should be preserved. Easton Mayor Sal Panto, himself a former history teacher, has previously said, "That building is Northampton County and I love it. ... Let's try this for the sake of history." Lafayette's President, Dr. Dan Weiss, has submitted his own business plan. Part of that plan explains why the Bachmann matters, and I want to share it with you.

The General Significance and Meaning of the (1753) Bachmann Publick House

It is important to begin to understand the significance and meaning of the Bachmann Publick House as a valuable public cultural resource. These facets are the following on local/regional, state and national/international levels:


* The Bachmann Publick House is the only colonial period (up to 1776) tavern to survive in the Easton area, along with a very limited inventory of similar tavern buldings in what was once Northampton County (Now the counties of Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, Schuylkill, Monroe, Pike, Luzerne, Columbia, Lackawanna, Wyoming, Sullivan, Lycoming, Bradford, Susquehanna and Wayne). Of this limited inventory, the 1753 Bachmann (Tavern) retains the highest percentage of its original historic building fabric. By comparison, the historic Sun Inn of Bethlehem is basically a stone shell with new reconstructed historic millwork.

* The Bachmann Public House was the location of the first Northampton Court of Sessions and county meetings in 1754. These functions were for the area that now includes all of twelve and parts of three counties, forming the Northeast Region of Pennsylvania of today.


• It appears that the well preserved Bachmann Publick House is one of possibly only six surviving historic building/locations of Colonial Period (1640 to 1776)county courthouses in the state of Pennsylvania, today.


• The Bachmann Public House was a significant quasi-govemment building during the October 1758 Easton Treaty conference between British officials, the colonial government of Pennsylvania and Native American tribal nations including the Lenni-Lenape, the Six-Nations of the Iroquois, Nanticoke, Shawnee, Conoy, and others. This was one of the largest gatherings of Native American representatives during the colonial period, and is described by Walter R. Borneman in "The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America" (published in 2006)as follows:
" The outcome of the conference in Easton was twofold. First, the Iroquois demanded that the Pennsylvanians renounce their purchases, resulting from the Albany Congress, of all lands west of the Alleghenies. These included country around the forks of the Ohio long claimed by the Iroquois through their influence over the Ohio Indians. Pennsylvania's agent agreed, and their acquiescence effectively recognized Iroquois hegemony over the other nations in the region, particularly as the lands were symbolically returned to the Iroquois, not the Ohio Indians.

Second, however, the Delaware and Ohio Indians were appeased by a promise from Governor William Denny of Pennsylvania that despite whatever influence the Iroquois might have over them generally, Pennsylvania would continue to deal directly with them on matters of local concern. These were essentially a respect for past treaty reservations and a resumption of trade once the French were expelled.

This left all parties with most of what they wanted. The Iroquois had reasserted their dominance over the Ohio Indians in external affairs, the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares had received certain assurances of territorial integrity from the Pennsylvanians; and the Pennsylvanians had won the Ohio Indians and eastern Delawares back into the fold of British influence.

Arguably the most important Indian conclave in Pennsylvania's history, the Treaty of Easton was formalized on October 25,1758. When word of it spread westward and reached Fort Duquesne, those Ohio Indians who had been allies of the French for more than three years quickly melted away into the forest. Suffering from lack of supplies and now deserted by their Indian allies, the remaining French soldiers at Fort Duquesne were feeling increasingly isolated and alone as General Forbes, still in agonizing pain from his illness, considered his next move."

This 1758 Treaty of Easton laid the political foundation and set into motion events that lead to France loosing its hold on Western Pennsylvania and throughout the upper Midwest. This assured that British colonial interests would be dominant in North America, and insured that the legal traditions of Britain would influence the basis of more democratic laws for the future United States of America and Canada. During this 1758 conference the Bachmann Public House would have been a place of numerous formal and informal meetings among the most prominent colonial era leaders of Pennsylvania and the region, and is the best preserved building, associated with this important event, to remain today.

• The Revolutionary War era saw the Bachmann Publick House as one of the more important public taverns in Easton. It was the site of meetings and discussions involving prominent individuals from 1776 to 1783. Gen. John Sullivan and other officers of the Continental Army would have met here. Most importantly Thomas Paine stayed in Easton to meet with at least six chiefs from the various Iroquois tribes for several days in late January 1777. Paine possibly participated in social interactions with local, state and continental leaders at the Bachmann Publick House, as well as at other, now gone, public taverns, where the participants were lodged, ate, drank and participated in important discourse regarding the activities, policies and philosophy of the American Revolutionary cause and struggle.

In a basic popular sense, what does the Bachmann Publick House mean to the general public and how could it function as a public facility? In reflection, Mr. Gary Evans of the working committee offered this following encompassing statement. Mr. Evans observed that the Bachmann Publick House should be, "A place to discuss the democratic values we cherish". There is high value in realizing what this statement could mean relative to the Bachmann Publick House's renewed actual programs and activities.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Does The Morning Call Have a Watchdog Reporter?

QCD's blogger list, which consists of about a gazillion reporters, now lists Paul Muschick as "watchdog columnist." Back in March, The Morning Call was looking for someone "to act as a zealous crusader for the reader by exposing fraud, inequity, injustice and incompetence in government, institutions, bureaucracies, corporations and business via a twice weekly watch dog column."

Gee, I thought they were all supposed to do that. Silly me.

In any event, congrats to Paul, who was very well-regarded when he covered Northampton County. I saw him figure things out in five minutes that would take me several days.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Boscola Claims Her Chief of Staff is Leaving

Bernie Kieklak, chief of staff to state Sen. Lisa Boscola, may be quitting his job, according to a scoop from The Express Times' irrepressible Jim Deegan. As more discerning readers of this blog will remember, Bernie got into a jam this time last year as a result of sleazy misogynistic comments posted on this blog. Single-handedly, he pretty much ended any hope Boscola entertained of running for Congress.

Like everything involving Bernie Takes No Prisoners, as he liked to call himself, nothing is as it seems. He's quitting, but there's no resignation letter. According to Boscola, even the energy industry wants him, but she has no idea whether anyone else has hired him.

Say what?

In typical BTNP fashion, he's ignoring emails and phone calls, turning this into a soapbox drama. Personally, I think he's starting a new blog - Friends Don't Let Friends Blog Drunk. He'd be pretty good. This excerpt from his own obituary, which he wrote himself after losing a bet with me, reveals that much:

"O'Hare, who wore his high-school prom dress for the occasion, was humble as ever in front of the throng of international reporters, papparazzi, and inflatable groupies who numbered in the thousands.

"'I'm the smartest person on the planet and I'm always right,' O'Hare said.

"Meanwhile, the idiot Senate aide, Bernard Kieklak, was shackled and locked in stocks in the town square until his boss, Senator Lisa Boscola, doused him with 15 gallons of gasoline and set him ablaze with the designer Gucci flame-thrower she always carries in her purse.

"As the flames consumed him, Kieklak could be heard to shout, 'I was wrong and I admit it. Bernie O'Hare was right. And I apologize to Lefler and Micek [Morning Call dudes] for saying such stupid things... and at least I don't have to kiss Jolly Joe!'

"There are no funeral arrangements planned. No one liked him, not even his friends."

I miss the bastard.

Northampton County's Capital Needs

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa has given council a progress report on the capital needs of the county, as well as other drains on cash. I thought I'd share it with you.



None of this can happen without the bond issue or funding from another source. ... The bond issue needs to be decided soon!

Parking Deck - Reviewing immediate repairs that need to be made - trying to keep costs down. [$16 million for new deck].

Parking Deck Demolition - No report. [$4 million demo cost].

Archives - Decision made to be a stand alone building. Sent out RFQ's. Three firms selected. Met with them to discuss the design of the new archives' building. These three firms were given RFP's with a response date of June 12, 2008. Selection of an architect to be made within a week after June 12, 2008. [$3 million cost].

Juvenile Justice Center Expansion - Decision has been made to recommend USA Architect for the design of the center as the result of the RFP process. [$5 million cost].

Old Courthouse Replacement Windows - Engineering fact finding is under way to
determine the scope of the work. Reviewing alternative energy saving programs that might assist with the funding. [$2 million for 120 old windows].


Gracedale Windows - Contract is signed. The first preconstruction meeting was held, The contractor has begun set-up operations.

Prison Roof - No report.

Courthouse Concrete Work - I am attempting to secure a signed letter from Mayor Callahan indicating the exact amount of the unused Commerce Center Boulevard grant. We are at the beginning stages of gathering necessary information for the concrete work.


Proper documentation to be submitted to Bethlehem Township in June for target healing dates in July with the Bethlehem Township Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Boards.


Pavement of the Union Street Gravel Lot - Working on lighting as rapidly as possible in view of recent break-ins to cars parked there. The goal is to have lighting by end of June 2008.

Gracedale Repaving of Parking Lots - The engineering study is under way.

Weaversville Park - On schedule.

Open Space Line of Credit

*Hay Study - In progress, nearing the end.

*Correction Officers Arbitration - Resolved.

*Deputy Sheriff Arbitration - The decision expected within a month

Stoffa Withdraws Cabinet Appointment

At last night's meeting of Northampton County Council, exec John Stoffa quietly withdrew the nomination of Archie Disidore III as our new Director of Court Services. That was probably a wise move. At Wednesday's personnel committee hearing, it was evident that nomination is going nowhere. Some members of council view the position as an unnecessary duplication of work already being done by the Court Administrator, and think we should adopt a charter change to consolidate the two offices.

Despite similar sounding titles, these are two very different positions. For one thing, the Court Administrator is actually a state employee who reports to the President Judge. And Northampton County judges already have way too much power. They supervised most of the $43 million courthouse expansion, a disaster with close to $3 million in cost overruns.

But if council really wants to consolidate, they might as well merge the county executive and their own jobs with the Court Administrator, too. The judges already try their best to run the county behind closed doors. Might as well make it official.

Northampton County Inches Closer to $30 Million Bond

The vote was 7 to 1. Northampton County council member Lamont McClure believes the county already has enough debt, but the rest of his colleagues voted last night to support a resolution endorsing a $30 million bond for capital projects. There was little discussion. Council member Charles Dertinger was absent.

This resolution does not authorize the county to borrow any money, but only expresses a consensus that county exec John Stoffa should continue exploring a $30 million bond.

Jazz, Bop & Folk Music Next Friday in Bethlehem

Although I love to argue with Look Out Lehigh Valley, I value her skills as a writer as well as her contributions to the blogosphere. But did you know she's also a concert promoter? Well, she is, and has planned one for next Friday, featuring three very different bands.

Date & Time: Friday, June 27, 7 PM

Place: The Banana Factory, 25 W 3rd St, Bethlehem, PA


Mostly Other People Do the Killing, a Long Island jazz band "founded on the idea that not only is Jazz still alive and vibrant, but it can and should be fun, engaging and thoroughly contemporary."

Strand of Oaks, epic folk music for the new generation, from the coal regions.

The Secret Life of Sofia, folk rock from Brooklyn.

Cost: If you can afford it, between $5 and $10. Any profit will go to Second Harvest Food Bank.

I've listened to the music. It makes me wish I were young again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Northampton County Inches Closer to $30 Million Bond

I told you earlier this month that Northampton County is taking baby steps towards a $30 million bond for these capital improvements:

New parking deck - $16.1 million.
Stand alone archives building - $4 million.
Juvenile Justice Center Expansion - $5 million.
Old courthouse replacement windows - $2 million.
Demolition of old parking deck - $4 million.

Fiscal Affairs Director Vic Mazziotti yesterday told the Finance Committee that the thirty year payoff on this bond will be between $50 and $56 million. He also claimed the county is on track to have the money by October. Tonight, county council will be asked to adopt a bond issue resolution. This is preliminary to an actual bond ordinance, based on realistic cost estimates.

Who You Calling Apathetic?

We all have our pet peeves. For some of you, it's dog shit on the sidewalk. That never bothers me. It tastes pretty good. But one thing nearly always sets me off. It's when the damn MSM suggests or hints in any way that we're apathetic.

Every election season, my sitemeter tells me people are very hungry, especially for the local races. So earlier this week, when I saw a Bill White column complaining that voters are no longer willing to lynch elected representatives on sight, I set him straight by quoting the titles of some of his recent blogs, like "Arf Arf."

That really pissed Bill off, so he flamed me on his blog. I got all holy and indignant and Bill backtracked a bit and then Micek jumped in and said he has a mancrush on Mike Royko and Molovinsky asked, "Where's the beef?" and Bill Villa demanded justice and another blogger sucked up to the dead tree writers while Bill White and Micek broke out the love oils and heaped praise on each other and some dude named Jonah got swallowed by a whale.

It was all pretty cool, actually.

Interactivity. It's what's for dinner. Better than dog shit.

Ron Angle: We Don't Need No Steenkin' Hallwalkers

Earlier this month, we learned that Northampton County's criminal division is still a mess. That's the office where a former deputy embezzled at least $120,000. Before this theft was uncovered last year, the office had not been audited since 1992. Now, it is undergoing audits every other week, and a new boss is in charge. But Controller Steve Barron still only gives that office a 5 out of 10. That's bad news.

According to several people who work there, the new boss plays favorites. Others charge workers resist every effort to improve the place. According to a commenter, "Take anyone of them aside and they will rant on about every other person in that office. It is a most divisive atmosphere to work in. The money problem will continue and it's just waiting for the next [thief] to figure out how to get their hands on all that unaccounted for cash."

The criminal division is just one of six row offices that reports to the Director of Court Services. The other offices are Archives, Civil Division, Orphans Court, Protection from Abuse and
Register of Wills. Until recently, affable Bill Hillanbrand served as Director. But guess what? He bolted for 911 and emergency management. Apparently, that's less stressful.

Go figure.

At yesterday's Personnel Committee meeting, county executive John Stoffa proposed Archie D'Isidore III, a former Dun & Bradstreet public record consultant, as Hillanbrand's successor to this $59,000 cabinet level position. You'd think council members would be relieved that someone is on hand to keep a watchful eye on six offices. But this is the People's Republic of Northampton County, where nothing is simple.

The person who started the buzzsaw? Council member Ron Angle, normally a John Stoffa ally.

"It was always a hallwalker's job. It was a political plum. It was originally created so that Gene Hartzell could have a home. Glenn Reibman gave the job to Jerry Seyfried so Seyfried would not run against him. To put anybody in it is to continue that craziness."

As the hearing continued, things looked less and less hopeful for D'Isidore. Council members Diane Neiper and Angle both want to see a job description, and Council Prez Ann McHale dramatically revealed this appointment was actually based on the recommendation of Personnel chair John Cusick.

Ah Ha!

At first, Cusick tried to deny it, but McHale then produced a letter from Stoffa indicating that Cusick had, in fact, recommended D'Isidore for the job. Cusick then explained that D'Isidore is a family friend who indicated he was available. McHale wanted to know whether Cusick would recuse himself, and Cusick declined, stating he has no financial interest in the appointment.

McHale was not amused. "We're here to legislate, not to fill appointments."

D'Isidore's appointment is scheduled to go before council tonight. Who knows what will happen. But his nomination should be approved. It's true that the Director of Court Services has often been a political perk. But just as often, dedicated employees like Maurice Dimmick and Bill Hillanbrand have been in charge, and they improved the row offices. At this moment, those row offices need supervision. Perhaps council would prefer waiting until there's another embezzlement somewhere else.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Upward Bound Allentown Wants You!

A determined and growing gaggle of activists wants to change Allentown. At the spearhead of this movement is a quiet mother, artist, teacher and blogger - Mrs. Dottie. Her group, Allentown Chen-Arts, is already planning its third meeting on Saturday night.

But an even bigger event is being planned. Street art, baby! Upward Bound Allentown is a multicultural celebration of music, art and food that will take place on Allentown's Hamilton Street (between 6th and 7th Streets) on Saturday, July 12, 10 AM thru 6 PM.

Organizer Alfonso Todd (AlfonsoTodd36@msn.com) is looking for performers, artists, vendors and volunteers. Michael Molovinsky has already volunteered for the dunk tank between 10 and noon.

I'll be selling kisses and might do a Chippendale routine.

Lehigh Valley Catz at Coca Cola Park on June 30

The Lehigh Valley Catz, our other baseball team, will host the Quakertown Blazers at Coca Cola Park on June 30, at 7 PM. It will cost you $5. Both teams are part of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league supported and sanctioned by both Major League Baseball and the NCAA. Thirty-seven former Catz have gone on to play professionally over the last eight years, including pitcher Jamie Moyer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Morning Call Backs Ron Angle, the Great Dissenter

Nobody on Northampton County Council agrees with Ron Angle. No surprise there. But yesterday, The Express Times did, and published a gutsy editorial that criticized the actions of one of its bigger advertisers, St. Luke's . Today, even The Morning Call follows suit, although in more tepid terms.

Should St. Luke's Hospital, a nonprofit, be permitted to float tax exempt bonds to develop land for non-hospital purposes? Angle suggested we wait until we know the answer to that question, but the rest of county council was in such a hurry to do the bidding of the big money people they even convened a "special meeting," something they would never do for you or me.

In its typical equivocal fashion, The Morning Call claims the St. Luke's bond is either "a mistake" or "a wise investment in a public purpose." Let me be a little more clear. It's a mistake by Northampton County Council. Thanks to them, a non-profit hospital has a leg up over any private developer. Whether St. Luke's actually exercises that advantage is purely academic.

Eckhart & D'Amore to Duel at Coplay Coke Wagon

Get this. This Friday through Sunday, the Coplay Town Watch is actually sponsoring a coke wagon at Sam's Club in Whitehall. You read me right - Coplay is selling coke. The Coplay Town Watch is the parent organization of Coplay's Neighborhood Watch and an assortment of committees for feral cats, "Properties of Merit," Childrens' Bike Derby, Sunday Watch Walk and National Night Out.

Lehigh County Commissioner Bill Leiner is even looking for volunteers willing to commit two hours of their time. "We have sponsored the 'Wagon' for about 10 years. It truly is a fun weekend." I'll bet. I wonder if volunteers get any free coke.

Open times are as follows:

Friday, 6/20 - 2 pm to 4 pm, and 4 pm to 6 pm.
Saturday, 6/21 - 4 pm to 6 pm
Sunday, 6/22 - Noon to 2 pm

If you can assist, please email Bill at Billleiner@aol.com. If you can't volunteer, Bill still asks that you "consider stopping by and partying with some of the great folks helping to make Coplay a ... safer, better and cleaner community."

The highlight of Coplay's coke wagon will be a Sunday duel between Lehigh County Commissioner Glenn Eckhart and Allentown City Council prez Mike D'Amore. They'll be using standard revolvers issued to Lehigh County Deputy Sheriffs, so it's considered unlikely their weapons will actually fire. Echart's second, Commissioner Dean Browning, predicts, "I think they'll just pistol whip the shit out of each other." Originally set for Friday, the contest had to be rescheduled because Eckhart refuses to drive through Allentown.

AG Candidate Starts 16th Homicide Trial

He's supposed to be traipsing all over the state right now. After all, he's running for Attorney General. Instead, John Morganelli has just made the opening statement to his 16th homicide trial. Most DAs don't like to get their hands dirty and won't try sixteen cases in a lifetime, let alone a murder case. Few will risk the possibility of losing a major trial, especially during a political campaign. We get our money's worth from John.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Express Times Backs Ron Angle, the Great Dissenter

Last week, I made more than a few of you gag when I called Ron Angle Northampton County's Great Dissenter. He was the sole legislator to vote against a $175 million bond financing plan that will enable St. Luke's Hospital to sell tax exempt bonds to purchase and "improve" 500 acres of Bethlehem Township's fertile farmland. Only 300 acres is needed for health care services expansion. The remaining land might become a village, or it might just be held and flipped at some later date when the real estate market heats up. Using tax exempt bonds for property speculation or to develop a "towne centre" gives nonprofits like St. Luke's an unfair advantage over the private sector.

One of you huffed, "[T]he true shame of Bernie O'Hare and Lehigh Valley Ramblings is that it continues to give credence to demogogues while dissing the elected leaders who are truly making a difference -- or, at least, trying, to make [a] difference in their communities."

I guess you better add The Express Times to that list. Today, it agreed with Angle. "What St. Luke's does with that land should be St. Luke's business but county taxpayers shouldn't be asked to support development plans that are undefined and thus have no provable connection to public interest. Angle is correct in saying the council should have balked at public financing for the additional land -- particularly a parcel at one of the choicest locations in the Valley."

Considering all the advertising revenue that St. Luke's contributes to local papers, this was a gutsy editorial.

Bethlehem's South Side Film Festival Starts Tuesday

Bethlehem's South Side Film Festival. Fifty films over five days for five bucks per film, starting Tuesday. Fifty bucks gives you a pass to all of them. What's playing? That answer is here. Where? That answer is here.

The Philanthropy of Sands Bethworks

Gambling strikes me as a stupid waste of time and money. But since we already let people smoke until they get cancer and drink until they kill someone, what's the big deal? If I were King, I'd let people smoke weed, gamble and booze to their hearts' content. I'd even legalize those "massage parlors".

Hey, we're killing this planet anyway, so let's party!

Now all the corporate pitchmen advocate that, no matter what our vice, we kill ourselves responsibly. Those Bud Girls really discourage teenage binge drinking, don't you think? And problem gambling? Who ya' gonna' believe, a billionaire casino owner or some dinky little church always preaching at you? Sheldon G. Adelson, the billionaire CEO behind Sands Bethworks, is even a recent recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, given to those who exalt the common good over their own bottom line. They don't hand those out every day. According to Adelson, "the act of philanthropy and good corporate citizenship is not an obligation, it's an honor."

So don't be worried about that casino, which will contain 3,000 slot machines and electronic table games, 300 hotels rooms, 40 upscale stores, 8 restaurants and 4 night clubs, all of them under one roof. Don't fret about all that money leaving the Lehigh Valley economy and going straight back to corporate headquarters in Vegas. After all, the casino will have lots of menial jobs for you and me. We'll at least have the satisfaction of knowing that our slave wages help the philanthropy of a Woodrow Wilson award winner.

So it's no surprise that Chris Benedict, a Freedom High grad, would ask the new casino to help defray some of the cost of his class' 25th reunion, which will be held at Musikfest this year, jointly with Liberty High School. He's been soliciting corporate and business sponsorships as low as $50.

He was shot down by Susan Stachowski, Executive Assistant to the President, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

"Regarding any request for contributions or investment, unfortunately, we would not be able to participate in any projects requiring financial support prior to our opening. Our commitment to our shareholders and the State is to get the project up and running as soon as possible and we are going to be focusing all our resources on accomplishing that goal."

Gee, she doesn't sound like Woodrow Wilson at all. I thought some things were supposed to be more important than the bottom line. Before that casino was approved, the Sands was handing out money like there's no tomorrow. For example, it contributed $2,500 to one of Benedict's classmates for an annual golf outing, Par Fore Kids, benefiting kids at Pembroke. The casino even threw in a free weekend trip to Las Vegas. I don't know if they threw in any Bud Girls. Now, Benedict's classmate can't even get the Sands to return his calls.

Incidentally, Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham is a member of Diamond's graduating class. But what has he done lately?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Father Did Not Like War Trophies

Last week, when I was at the courthouse searching a title, a pleasant young man introduced himself to me as a District Attorney's intern. He was writing a history about all of Northampton County's DAs, and wondered what I could tell him about my dad. Not much. I could no longer remember when my dad had even died or how old he had been. That night, I read a few things Vonnegut had to say. He wrote that my Dad didn't like war trophies. That says a lot. Now I remember. Happy Father's Day, Dad!
Vonnegut, (from Slaughterhouse Five):

When I was somewhat younger, working on my famous Dresden book, I asked an old war buddy named Bernard V. O'Hare if I could come to see him. He was a district attorney in Pennsylvania. I was a writer on Cape Cod. We had been privates in the war, infantry scouts. We had never expected to make any money after the war, but we were doing quite well.

I had the Bell Telephone Company find him for me. They are wonderful that way. I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years.

I got O'Hare on the line in this way. He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war. I told him who I was on the telephone. He had no trouble believing it. He was up. He was reading. Everybody else in his house was asleep.

"Listen--" I said, "I'm writing this book about Dresden. I'd like some help remembering stuff. I wonder if I could come down and see you, and we could drink and talk and remember."

He was unenthusiastic. He said he couldn't remember much. He told me, though, to come ahead.

"I think the climax of the book will be the execution of poor old Edgar Derby," I said. "The irony is so great. A whole city gets burned down, and thousands and thousands of people are killed. And then this one American foot soldier is arrested in the ruins for taking a teapot. And he's given a regular trial, and then he's shot by a firing squad."

"Um," said O'Hare.

"Don't you think that's really where the climax should come?"

"I don't know anything about it," he said. "That's your trade, not mine."

* * *
As a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization and wonderful dialogue and suspense and confrontations, I had outlined the Dresden story many times. The best outline I ever made, or anyway the prettiest one, was on the back of a roll of wallpaper.

I used my daughter's crayons, a different color for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle. And the blue line met the red line and then the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead. And so on. The destruction of Dresden was represented by a vertical band of orange cross-hatching, and all the lines that were still alive passed through it, came out the other side.

The end, where all the lines stopped, was a beetfield on the Elbe, outside of Halle. The rain was coming down. The war in Europe had been over for a couple of weeks. We were formed in ranks, with Russian soldiers guarding us -- Englishmen, Americans, Dutchmen, Belgians, Frenchmen, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Australians, thousands of us about to stop being prisoners of war.

And on the other side of the field were thousands of Russians and Poles and Yugoslavians and so on guarded by American soldiers. An exchange was made there in the rain -- one for one. O'Hare and I climbed into the back of an American truck with a lot of others. O'Hare didn't have any souvenirs. Almost everybody else did. I had a ceremonial Luftwaffe saber, still do. The rabid little American I call Paul Lazzaro in this book had about a quart of diamonds and emeralds and rubies and so on. He had taken these from dead people in the cellars of Dresden. So it goes.

An idiotic Englishman, who had lost all his teeth somewhere, had his souvenir in a canvas bag. The bag was resting on my insteps. He would peek into the bag every now and then, and he would roll his eyes and swivel his scrawny neck, trying to catch people looking covetously at his bag. And he would bounce the bag on my insteps.

I thought this bouncing was accidental. But I was mistaken. He had to show somebody what was in the bag, and he had decided he could trust me. He caught my eye, winked, opened the bag. There was a plaster model of the Eiffel Tower in there. It was painted gold. It had a clock in it.

"There's a smashin' thing," he said.

And we were flown to a rest camp in France, where we were fed chocolate malted milkshakes and other rich foods until we were all covered with baby fat. Then we were sent home, and I married a pretty girl who was covered with baby fat, too.

And we had babies.

And they're all grown up now, and I'm an old fart with his memories and his Pall Malls. My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in a lumbermill there.

Sometimes I try to call up old girl friends on the telephone late at night, after my wife has gone to bed. "Operator, I wonder if you could give me the number of a Mrs. So-and-So. I think she lives at such-and-such."

"I'm sorry, sir. There is no such listing."

"Thanks, Operator. Thanks just the same."

And I let the dog out, or I let him in, and we talk some. I let him know I like him, and he lets me know he likes me. He doesn't mind the smell of mustard gas and roses.

"You're all right, Sandy," I'll say to the dog. "You know that, Sandy? You're O.K."

Sometimes I'll turn on the radio and listen to a talk program from Boston or New York. I can't stand recorded music if I've been drinking a good deal.

Sooner or later I go to bed, and my wife asks me what time it is. She always has to know the time. Sometimes I don't know, and I say, "Search me."

I think about my education sometimes. I went to the University of Chicago for a while after the Second World War. I was a student in the Department of Anthropology. At that time, they were teaching that there was absolutely no difference between anybody. They may be teaching that still.

Another thing they taught was that nobody was ridiculous or bad or disgusting. Shortly before my father died, he said to me, "You know -- you never wrote a story with a villain in it."
(Blogger's Note: Originally published 6/18/06).