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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

(Updated) Trump: Worst President This Country Has Ever Had (Part Two)

Last week, I angered some of you and pleased others when I said Donald Trump is the worst President we've ever had. After this weekend's revelations, let me say it again. Donald Trump is the worst President we've ever had.

On Sunday, he tweeted a video of a golf-cart parader by supporters in a Florida community. Moments into the video, which you can see above, a golf cart festooned with pro-Trump props shouted "white power" at an angry protester. "Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” he tweeted, along with the video. He later deleted it, and the White House now claims he simply never heard the racist taunt.

Trump's tweet comes in the middle of a national outcry by people of all colors at the systemic racism made clear by the senseless murder of George Floyd.

To believe Trump, you'd have to believe he tweeted a video he did not actually see.

Interestingly, he has made no apology.

Unfortunately, there is more.

Back in January, Russians offered bounty payments to Taliban militants for US and UK troops. Trump denies knowledge of this, too, but some of Trump's usual supporters are dubious. Congress member Liz Cheney asks, "1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the [President’s Daily Briefing]?” 2. Who did know and when? 3. What has been done in response to protect our forces and hold Putin accountable?"

UPDATE: Trump Was Aware of Russian Bounties in 2019

Donald Trump denies he knew Russians had placed bounties on American and British heads. According to the AP, however, this intelligence was included in at least two of the daily briefs provided to the President. Moreover, former national security adviser John Bolton is alleged to have personally briefed Trump in March 2019, at a time when the assessment was still in doubt.

(Originally published 6/29/20 at 12:00 am)

Trump Campaign Sues Pa Over Mail-in Voting

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign sued Pennsylvania and most counties, including Northampton and Lehigh, over the administration of recent changes to state law that authorize mail-in voting. The 57-page polemic (you can read it here) condemns write-in voting, but the complaint itself addresses only how it's been administered. It's asking for injunctive relief from the United States District Court in Pittsburgh to address the following problems:

First, it asks the Court to limit the location at which mail-in ballots can be dropped off to the county elections office or a location that would meet the definition of a polling place. According to the complaint, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar allowed 20 counties to establish drop-off boxes at shopping centers, parking lots, fairgrounds, parks, retirement homes, college campuses, fire halls, municipal government buildings, and elected officials' offices. In Philadelphia, the Committee of Seventy was enlisted to implement a mobile mail-in ballot collection. This might be convenient, but no authority for it exists. Moreover, Boockvar and county elections boards are ministerial, and have no discretion to exceed what is permitted by statute.

Second, it insists that any drop-ff boxes that are legally sanctioned must be monitored and secured. At the most recent meeting of NorCo's Elections Comm'n, Registrar Amy Cozze resisted the notion of multiple drop-ff boxes for precisely that reason. The drop-off box at the county courthouse is both secure and monitored.

Third, the Trump campaign demands that elections officials must disregard all mail-in ballots received that are not inside the secrecy envelope provided with the ballot. Moreover, if a voter writes his name or address on the outside of the envelope, it must be discarded. The Elections Code does provide that a mail-in "shall" be enclosed in the "Official Election Ballot" secrecy envelope with no text, mark, or symbol which reveals the elector's identity, political affiliation or candidate preference, and then "shall" be mailed or personally delivered to only the county boards of
elections to ensure that the ballots are properly cast, kept secret, and not subject to fraud. But what possible fraud is committed when a voter unknowingly puts his name and address on the secrecy ballot, or forgets to place his ballot inside a secrecy envelope? It appears to me that the word "shall," in this context, is precatory, not mandatory. There is a strong public policy favoring the right to vote, and it's absurd to negate someone's efforts simply because he unthinkingly signed his name to a secrecy ballot. It nevertheless is a good idea for a judge to weigh in on this topic because different counties have different interpretations of what is, after all, a state law.

Fourth, the Complaint demands that non-resident poll watchers (persons selected by candidates and parties to ensure that votes are properly counted) should be permitted. Moreover,. elections officials should permit them to be present when mail-in ballots are received. The law already permits a "representative" of each candidate and party, so this seems like overkill.

What I think Trump is really doing is planting the seeds to explain a major defeat in a state he won in 2016. Moreover, while the compliant is highly critical of mail-in voting, it seeks no injunctive relief against it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

NorCo's Election Results Are Official

Northampton County's June 2 Presidential Primary Election results are now official. Registrar Amy Cozze managed to complete the canvass within three days of the primary. She was unable to certify results, however, because of several tie votes in GOP committee races. In accordance with directives from the Department of State, lots were drawn June 19, and results certified soon thereafter.

Total turnout was 29.71%, higher than might be expected in an election with only a few contested races. Democrats were more energized. Their turnout was 37.97%, compared to 34.88% for Republicans. If motivated Democrats vote in the general election, Donald Trump and Congressional candidate Lisa Scheller are in trouble. Democrats outnumber Republicans, 97,136 to 75,466. There are, however, 40,370 unaffiliated voters. Unable to vote in closed party primaries, they will likely be the deciding factor in contested races.

Mail-in voting was a huge success, with 75,466 voters who exercised that option. The elections office began its count at 7 am, and finished soon after the polls closed. Despite a pandemic, 25,661 voters chose to vote at the polls.

There were also 769 provisional ballots. Those are filled out at the polling precinct. A decision to count or disallow them is made during the canvass (the official tally). Most of those who cast provisional ballots are voters who neglected to send in their mail-in ballots. In addition, there are always voters in primaries who insist they are registered as a Democrat or Republican. There are also people who insist they are registered even though no record can be located. This class of voters casts provisional ballots, and the merits of their claims are decided at the canvass. If a provisional voter is discounted, he or she can seek relief from a judge.

Throughout the day, there were two reports of machine failure. In one instance, it is because too much disinfectant was sprayed on the screen. No votes were lost.

At a meeting of the Elections Commission on June 18, Registrar Amy Cozze and her Chief Deputy, Amy Hess, were commended by all five members. Four of these five members had previously challenged every move she made, from the voting machine to the electronic poll books. During courtesy of the floor, four members of The Elections Comm'n were chastised by a member of the public for having "unfairly maligned" the two Amys. Since that member of the public was me, they paid no heed.

I also said they owed an apology for their intransigence with respect to the electronic poll books, which proved to be a Godsend at the polls. Their ability to locate a voter quickly streamlined the check-in process, but that is only part of the reason for their success. With paper boll books, thousands upon thousands of pages must be scanned after an election to determine who really voted. That usually takes two weeks. With epollbooks, it took an hour.

Maude Hornick, who chairs the Elections Commission, refused to apologize for her opposition to epollbooks, despite their obvious success. But she had to commend the two Amys.

"I'm really proud of my staff," said Cozze. "They were awesome."

Cozze was asked about setting up a drop off location for mail-in ballots before the general election. She said she is considering it, but it has to be secure and a chain of custody must be beyond reproach.

She also predicted it will be much more difficult to count the mail-ins during the general election. She expects as many as 150,000, and said she hopes the state legislature authorizes elections officials to begin the count sooner.

Friday, June 26, 2020

What Can Local Gov't Do To Promote Racial Awareness?

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure will meet today with Chiefs of Police, District Attorney Terry Houck, businessman Richard Masters, educators, NAACP officials, community activists and religious leaders. They will discuss recent police violence against persons of color. The recent death of George Floyd has provoked outrage among nearly all of us, no matter our ethnicity. What can local government do to prevent similar incidents and erase 400 years of ingrained prejudice? Here's what McClure says:

Racial Awareness Forum Invi... by BernieOHare on Scribd

The guest list has omitted Council members to prevent a possible Sunshine Act violation and so that social distancing can be observed.

Attendance List For Racial... by BernieOHare on Scribd

Panto, Who Refuses To Remove CC Statue, Calls Zoning Change Opponents Racist

As of last night, nearly 1,500 people have endorsed a petition to remove the disgusting Christopher Columbus statue in Easton. Easton Mayor Sal Panto refuses to lift a finger even though Columbus was a genocidal monster so brutal to native Americans that even the Spanish locked him in chains. I suppose I could say Panto is a racist, but that would be mean-spirited and petty. ... Just like him. On Wednesday night, this privileged white man attempted to make political hay and ally himself with Black Lives Matter by claiming those who oppose his proposed zoning changes are racist.

Here's what Paul Felder, who was there, has to say.

Before the debacle that was Wednesday night's City Council meeting adjourned in disarray, due to the City having bungled public access to Zoom, Mayor Panto delivered a rant that, to me, was unprecedented in the fifty years I've been attending government meetings.

The meeting has been rescheduled to next Tuesday, June 30 (details to follow), but the real story is that the mayor labelled ALL of the organizations and individuals who oppose his zoning scheme as RACISTS who are filled with 'socio-economic, educational and racial' prejudices.

Just to list some of those on the mayor's list: my wife and I are racists, as is Representative Robert Freeman, as are Easton Planning Commissioners Charles Elliott, Bob Sun, Ron Shipman, Bill Carr, Ken Green and William Heilman. (I wonder who appointed all these racist commissioners?)

Also racist: the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, everyone on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, including its Executive Director Becky Bradley, and also most of the people receiving this email. (Unless you support the mayor's zoning changes, in which case you are not a racist. I apologize.)

And why are all of us racists? Because after half of year of refusing to say what is motivating these changes, the mayor and his city "planner," Steve Nowroski have decided that they are all about "affordable housing." Increasing impervious coverage while gutting historic preservation and design standards must all be done in the name of affordable housing! Who knew? (I've been teaching planning courses since 1967, and I didn't know. Racist that I am, I've always taught that a rational approach to planning is able to maximize affordable housing, environmental protection and historic preservation, all at the same time! Who knew?)

Mr. Nowroski likes to cherry pick his facts, such as when he recounts in detail how much the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission commended his reformatting of the zoning ordinance, while neglecting to mention the pages and pages of criticism LVPC issued about the content of his proposed changes. Last night's pathetic affordable housing rationale somehow failed to include reasons for his original proposal of allowing warehouses in the River Corridor District (minimum wage jobs for poor people, I guess) and allowing Lafayette College to build within ten feet of the Bushkill Creek. (Dorms for need-blind students?)

One of the City's proposals, allowing certain multi-family buildings to be three stories rather than two, actually does address an affordable housing issue in an appropriate manner, but neither Mr. Nowroski nor Mr. Panto seem able to distinguish responsible planning practices from foolishness. (Since they are so defensive about their own lack of planning expertise, they find it necessary to distort the motives of their critics, many of whom really are planners.)

Two years ago, the mayor and Mr. Nowroski helped Lafayette College blow up all sorts of affordable housing on College Hill. Now, they are it's champion.

An additional irony: Mr. Nowroski proposes to drastically increase impervious coverage limits in the Institutional-1 (Lafayette) District to 'encourage the College to expand on its own campus,' after the ink is barely dry on his rewriting the zoning code to encourage the College to expand off its campus. This is planning in Easton.

Am I being unnecessarily dramatic here? Absolutely! I am (inadequately) trying to express how disgusted I am by public officials who try to shield their own insecurities and incompetence by calling their opponents racists (to be clear: Mr. Nowroski did not do this, only the mayor), by fomenting class conflicts (their opponents are over-educated 'people of wealth,' you know), and by yelling louder than everyone else in the room. It was a sickening display.

At least Panto has stopped pretending he's other people so he can say nice things about himself. So he's got that going for him.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

I Rode 60 Miles Yesterday

I continue, slowly but surely, to work my way up to a century bike ride. I managed to ride 60 miles and the Delaware and Lehigh Trail yesterday in perfect weather, and was joined for part of the ride by friends. I'll describe the experience over the weekend, but am bone-tired right now.

Dr. Ira Breite Discusses Covid-19 on C-Span

I enjoy listening to C-Span radio because you get to listen to events as they happen, before they are colored by talking heads from the right and left. I particularly like Washington Journal because it allows callers of all persuasions to discuss all sides of an issue. On Wednesday, NYU Langone Health's Dr. Ira Breite discussed the coronavirus pandemic and was quite informative. Let me share some of his insights as a practicing physician in NYC.

Medical health professionals have become better at decided who needs to be admitted, which removes the danger of hospitals being overwhelmed.

Though Covid-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, it is also a vascular disease for some of those infected. People get blood clots in their lings.

Though hydroxychloroquine is unhelpful in either preventing or treating the disease, two drugs - remdesivir and dexamethasone - are helpful in treatment. To a caller who insists hydroxychloroquine works, Dr Breite said, "It's been investigated. It doesn't work. It's over."

Covid is a "weird" disease. A person may only have flu-like symptoms for ten days, and then suddenly, is unable to breathe. This can overwhelm a hospital.

"We're not quite there yet," when asked whether technology exists for self-tests.

Should we wear masks? "I like and support the use of masks, and I don't understand why you wouldn't want to wear a mask." Masks stops droplets from travelling through the air. It is appropriate when we are within 6' of each other, but they are not needed if you are in the woods alone and no one is around. This is a common courtesy that we should be doing for each other. Refusal to wear a mask "makes no sense to me." Masks really mean keeping the economy open.

Visiting grandparents? There is no real good answer. What he tells people is that you should isolate yourself a week before visiting. If you can get a test, do so.

The disease is highly infectious. If one person in a family gets it, they will all most likely be infected. It can spread quickly among asymptomatic young people.

What about "herd immunity?" You need about 60% of the population to be immune before herd immunity kicks in. "It would just be awful." Also, it's still unclear whether the body will "remember" it is immune. Herd immunity will happen once there is a decent vaccine.

Convalescent plasma is the treatment of infected people with plasma that contains antibodies. It is still being researched and a "hopeful" area.

Ultraviolet light does kill viruses, including Covid-19, but there is no evidence that Vitamin D is helpful.

Viruses mutate. The dominant Covid came to NY thru Italy. It might be more infectious than the strain on the west coast, but neither strain is more deadly.

Would you feel comfortable opening schools? It doesn't work. A very small percentage get organ inflammation, but respond well to steroids. Unless it's a boarding school, kids can infect older people.

Finally, Universal Testing to Begin at Gracedale

Better late than never. This weekend, universal testing for Covid-19 begins at Gracedale. All staff and residents will be tested with the assistance of 13 members of the Pa. National Guard as well as six nurses from the state Department of Health. Two hundred and eight-five residents and staff have already been diagnosed with Covid-19, and 71 of these residents were fatally stricken.

The testing is taking place in accordance with a universal testing order issued by the Wolf Administration on June 8. Updated CDC guidance also recommends universal testing at nursing homes, followed by weekly testing of health care personnel thereafter.

Does more testing mean more positive Covid-19 cases? Yes, at least initially. This enables health care professionals to isolate an infected person and then identify and quarantine the subject's contacts. This eventually leads to elimination of the contagion.

“While the Federal Government let us down at the beginning of this crisis, we are deeply grateful to the National Guard for helping Gracedale with this testing at this time,” said Executive Lamont McClure. He's obviously referring to the initial shortage of Covid-19 test kits that crippled the nation's ability to address the pandemic. Initial test kits developed by the CDC were flawed, and it refused to approve test kits that were developed by WHO and working elsewhere.

In addition to a test kit shortage, Pa. Sec'y of Health Rachel Levine directed that “nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions,” which “may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.” Interestingly, around this time, she moved her mother from a personal care home to a luxury hotel.

Nursing homes soon became ground zero for Covid-19 in Pennsylvania, where 69% of the fatalities were nursing home residents. In Northampton County, 84.6% of the 260 fatalities were from nursing homes. At Gracedale, the death toll was 66 as of June 11.

So while it's accurate to say the federal government "let us down," so did the state Department of Health.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

From Hanover Tp: The New "Normal" in Hanover Tp (NC)

Hanover Township, Northampton County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continue to operate under a declared DECLARATION OF DISASTER EMERGENCY.

The Township greatly appreciates the support we’ve received from residents.  We analyze every decision first taking into account the safety and well-being of our employees and then the inconvenience it creates.  We also examine the safety and well-being of our residents and visitors.

This update will only contain items/issues that will change as of June 26th.

GREEN PHASE: The Governor has indicated that Northampton County and Hanover Township will enter the Green Phase on June 26th.    

This does not mean we are back to “normal”.  There are still limitations placed on numerous activities during this phase. We will continue to be diligent in our response and activities.

Please refer to the guidance issued by the Governor’s Office:
Additionally, continue to follow the advice as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TOWNSHIP PARKS: Will be open and be in a “Use at Your Own Risk” state. This will include basketball and tennis courts.  No drinking water at this time.

TOWNSHIP OFFICE: Access will still be by appointment only. This will eliminate congestion in the lobby and protect staff and visitors.

COMMUNITY CENTER: Will remain closed at this time.  We expect it to reopen with limited access and activities on or about July 7th. Appointments will be required to use the fitness room within a specific time frame and limit.  Signed Waivers will be required for access.

FIELD RENTALS: We expect to begin field rentals on or about August 3, 2020. Waivers will be required for use.

DOG PARK: Open – No drinking water at this time.

OTHER ITEMS: If you have a specific question please email the Township at hanover@hanovertwp-nc.org or call 610.866.1140 and leave a message. We'll get back in touch with you as soon as possible.

Staff Extensions: Township Secretary: 223; Township Treasurer: 235; Zoning Officer: 226; Waste & Sewer Billing: 231; Public Works Director: 227; Public Works Department: 224 & Township Manager: 222.  The Community Center number is 610.317.8701.

Trump: Worst President This Country Has Ever Had

In the span of 24 hours, Donald Trump suggested former President Barack Obama had committed treason; was caught in yet another lie about his claim to have asked for a slow down in Covid-19 testing; and had yet another of his disgusting tweets hidden by Twitter because it glorifies violence.  Amazingly, this loose cannon is President of the United States.

Here's how Steve Schmidt, a former campaign manager for John McCain, sums up Trump:
"Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had. And I don't say that hyperbolically. He is. But he is a consequential president. And he has brought this country in three short years to a place of weakness that is simply unimaginable if you were pondering where we are today from the day where Barack Obama left office. And there were a lot of us on that day who were deeply skeptical and very worried about what a Trump presidency would be. But this is a moment of unparalleled national humiliation, of weakness.
"When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don't use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We've never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities.

"It's just astonishing that this man is president of the United States. The man, the con man, from New York City. Many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show, that branded him as something that he never was. A successful businessman. Well, he's the President of the United States now, and the man who said he would make the country great again. And he's brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let's be clear. This isn't happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you're the most likely to die from this disease. We're the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk."
Hopefully, some of my Republican friends are starting to wake up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

85.1% of NorCo's Covid-19 Death Toll From Nursing Homes

Throughout the United States, about 122,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19. Pennsylvania has had the 8th highest number of deaths nationwide. And according to a news release from Northampton County yesterday, the death toll here is at least 249. It's actually higher (at least 260) because some county residents passed away in Lehigh County.

Of  the 249 deaths in Northampton, 212 were from nursing homes. That's 85.1% of all fatalities. Between June 8 and yesterday (June 22), the number of new cases daily has varied from a low of 3 to a high of 20.

The county statement warns that "[y]ounger people remain at significant and serious risk, and should stay-at-home. All Northampton County residents should continue to practice social distancing."

This statement is rebutted by a recent study published in Nature as well as an April study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both of these studies were summarized on NPR as follows:

- People under 20 were about half as susceptible to infection as people over 20.

- Only 20% of those between 10 and 19 years old were sick enough to report an infection, compared to 70% of those over 70.

- Children under age 18 make up 22% of the U.S. population, but account for fewer than 2% of reported cases.

Armed with this knowledge, it's safe to suggest that younger people are far less likely to contract this virus than the rest if us. This flies in the face of our experience with respiratory viruses, but that's what the data show.

Renters and Homeowners Impacted by Covid-19 Can Seek State Assistance

CARES Act assistance for homeowners and renters negatively impacted by Covid-19 will be available on June 29 on the Pa. Housing Finance Agency webpage.

Renters: You will need to document at least a 30% reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or you must have become unemployed after March 1. If unemployed, you must have filed for unemployment compensation with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Their household income must be at or below the Area Median Income for your county of residence, adjusted for the number of people in your home.

The area median income is located here. In Northampton Count

Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100% of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and November 30, 2020. Payments will be made to their landlord on their behalf. Renters or landlords can apply for rent relief for apartment tenants, but renters are responsible for submitting all the documents needed to ensure their eligibility.

Homeowners: Like renters, homeowners will need to document at least a 30% reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or you must have become unemployed after March 1. Household income must be at or below the Area Median Income for your county of residence, adjusted for the number of people in your home. In addition, the property must be an owner-occupied, must consist of one or two separate units and the mortgage must be at least 30 days delinquent.

Homeowners can receive up to $1,000 a month in mortgage payment assistance for a maximum of six between March and December 2020. Financial
assistance payments through this program will be made directly to the mortgagee.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Axios: Pa's Swing Voters Tire of Trump

A swing-voter focus group located in Erie and organized by Axios has been conducting monthly sessions. For the first time in 16 months, more of them oppose than support Trump. They are tired of all the chaos he has brought, and want more stability. Note that a focus group is no poll.

Zrinski Smears Elected Officials Who Missed a BLM Rally ... in Hellertown

Earlier this month, a BLM rally in Hellertown drew a crowd of about 300. Ordinarily, rallies about racial injustice are city affairs. This time is different, with many smaller communities participating. Nazareth, where I live, had one of the first of these peaceful protests. They are an opportunity for victims of prejudice to speak out and express their fears. But if you're running for the State House and your name is Tara Zrinski, it's the perfect opportunity for virtue signalling while throwing other elected officials under the bus.

Zrinski was at Hellertown's rally. Though she herself is a product of white privilege, she spoke. According to Saucon Source, she asked those who are elected officials to raise their hands. Lower Saucon Council member Priscilla deLeon raised her always well-manicured hand, but she was the only one. “We should be all asking here today, where are you?” Zrinski zinged at every elected official everywhere.

Funny thing. I did not see Zrinski at the rally In Nazareth, and I'm sure she's missed most of them. She has a hard enough time getting to Council Committee meetings. But there she was, blasting away at elected officials who have helped her raise money in her quixotic quest to become state representative in a heavily Republican district.

Biden's Best Campaign Strategy? Do Nothing

With the presidential election looming just five months from now, what should Joe Biden be doing? I'm no campaign manager, but think our former VP has hit the right strategy in doing as little as possible while Donald Trump implodes.

Trump's Tulsa rally was a disaster. Amazingly, only 6,200 of his faithful showed up. His re-election has been hobbled by his poor leadership during a pandemic, which has resulted in the worst crippling unemployment seen since the Great Depression. Instead of attempting to soothe the justifiable outrage at police brutality towards minorities, Trump stoked the flames. Before the rally even got underway, he lumped peaceful protesters with "anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes." He ominously warned "you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!" Can anyone say banana republic?

Trump failed to even mention George Floyd, whose death sparked this national outrage. Instead of addressing racial divisions, Trump drove the wedge in deeper by defending Confederate statues. He slurred anyone of Asian descent by referring to Covid-19 as the "kung flu." In other words, he was his typical, ugly self.

Biden, who has always been gaffe-prone, is suddenly ahead in six battleground states. I believe he will stay that way and might even pick up support if he remains above the fray and refuses to engage Trump. He has portrayed himself as a uniter, and as such, should refuse to debate Trump. Not because he'd lose, which he would, but because Trump would drag him down into the gutter. The argument could be made, and I think it;s a good one, that the office of President has been tarred enough.

I Better Stick to Cycling

Last week, I regaled you with a round-trip river ride from Cementon to Jim Thorpe. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, so I took advantage of the beautiful weather for a few more long rides throughout the weekend. To keep myself honest, I also did a 3.5-mile run. After all, I am a highly conditioned, well-trained athlete. Or so I thought. My body sent me a reminder that I'm getting old last when the mere act of walking caused pain. I had a shin splint on my right leg, and the thigh muscles were swollen. I was unable to even stretch it. So I had to rest a few days, and decided to take up another past-time that would get me outside and give me a chance to pit my wits against one of the wiliest creatures known to mankind - trout. I lost. In fact, I was humiliated.

What got me going on this short-lived adventure was a phone call from Hokie Joe. He had some trout for me. I love trout so I was there in a flash. I'm a shitty cook but have a friend who was willing to cook me some trout in exchange for 90% of the fish. Deal. It was delicious. I decided then and there both to begin fishing again and learn how to cook.

When I first quit drinking in 1985, my AA sponsor was an avid fisherman. We went out every day over most of a year, from the unpredictable Delaware River to the mighty Lackawaxen. No matter how hard I tried, I caught nothing. But at the end of that apprenticeship, and just as trout season was ending, I finally caught my first trout in Belfast. After that, I went on a streak the reminder of that season.

For reasons I no longer remember, I stopped. My luck vanished, too. I'd take my son out from time and time, and the only time he'd be successful was when he did exactly the opposite of what I instructed. The same is also true of my grandson. He'd catch fish, but only if he ignored me.

The call from Hokie Joe sparked my interest again. I no longer had any fishing tackle, so I had to outfit myself. At Walmart, there's practically nothing. The Chinese trade war that Trump claims to be winning is obviously having a negative impact on both fishing gear and bicycles. At Mucha's, located in Nazareth, the only thing I could find were ice-fishing rods and reels. I bought two of them, got myself a license, and hit the Lehigh River near a waterfall on Saturday night.

My timing was perfect. The rain had just stopped and I was using red worms as bait. But to get to the river at that waterfall was no easy feat. I had to descend a pile of rocks, and my footing was precarious. I cast into the river. Nothing. Several minutes went by and I tried again. Nothing again. I decided to move just a little bit, lost my footing and went in, head first. So now I'm soaked head to toe and basically had to crawl up the rocks back to the Palmer bike path and limp a half mile back top my car.

Undeterred, I went fishing again on Sunday. This time it was a pay-to-fish campground and I brought my grandson. We were going to fish a small trout pond. Couldn't miss/. But we did. Neither one of us could cast the ice fishing rod. We kept getting lines tangled, and at one point, I was encased in fishing line.

I was back on the bike last night.

Friday, June 19, 2020

How Would You Spend $27.6 M in CARES Act Money?

Northampton County will soon be the recipient of $27.6 million in CARES Act money. Under the Act, the money must be spent on small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development. NorCo Council will have final say in all money appropriated. Below is the general framework.

NorCo Has Paid $1.4M in Hazard Pay Thru June 13

At the request of Council member Bill McGee, Executive Lamont McClure has released a breakdown of $1.4 million in hazard pay to county employees through June 13. It will stop in the pay period ending June 26.

Most of the money went to Gracedale ($904,000), Corrections ($388,000) and the Juvenile Justice Center ($72,000). The pay ranged from 20-30%, with the highest hazard pay going to Gracedale workers caring for residents infected with Covid-19.

NorCo Hazard Pay by BernieOHare on Scribd

NorCo Council Flexes Muscle, Will Oversee All CARES Act Grants

What a difference a day makes! On Wednesday, Northampton County was more or less willing to abdicate any oversight over $4 million in CARES Act grants set aside for small businesses suffering as a result of Covid-19. They seemed ready to just hand the money over to the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and let that organization pick the winners and losers for these $15,000 grants. But Council President Ron Heckman, who was unavailable Wednesday, made very clear at last night's meeting that Council, and not the Chamber, will decide who gets what. By an 8-1 vote, with Council member Tara Zrinski being the sole No vote, Heckman sponsored a measure giving Council the final say in the disposition of county funds. Council flexed its muscle last night, reminding everyone that it is a co-equal branch of government.

"I don't think our participation is necessary," said Zrinski, who argued the money needed to be spent right away. But Heckman reminded her that Council is "the steward of this money. This is one of our fundamental responsibilities." Zrinski said the county should trust the Chamber to make the right call, but Heckman responded with Ronald Reagan's famous quote - "Trust, but verify." He added he wants to see who applied so he knows whether Chamber members were given preferential treatment.

Council member Kevin Lott, usually a staunch ally of Executive Lamont McClure, sided with Heckman. "I will not vote for a resolution that just hands money to the Chamber and says, 'Have a good time!'" He agreed the disposition of County money is Council's job. "This is why we're on Council, to oversee finances." He is even leery about letting the Chamber write checks out with the County's money, saying that is bad optics.

Council member Bill McGee suggested that Council could review applications as they come in and are recommended. He pointed out there's no need to wait until all applications have been processed. Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner added that, if necessary, Council could call a special meeting to award grants so that the delay would be minimal, if at all.

Heckman pointed out that the Chamber is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart, and asked McClure, "What's the vig?" McClure revealed that the Chamber would be getting five per cent of the $4 million in grant money, or $200,000. McClure said this percentage was low, but Heckman seemed dubious. Vargo-Heffner later suggested the Chamber should be asked to accept a bit less money.

This marks the first time since McClure's election that Council has disagreed with the Executive. He seemed unfazed by the minor setback. He said he understood the philosophical objection and would make sure that Council reviews every penny spent, from small business to nonprofits to municipalities.

In stark contrast to yesterday's meeting, Council finally made an effort to use their mikes. Heckman actually designated a clerk to watch the meeting on Youtube and report Council members who failed to use their mikes.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pa. Supremes Enjoin County Ban on Medical Marijuana by Probationers

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has just issued an injunction to Lebanon County permitting probationers with prescriptions to use medical marijuana. In an Opinion written by Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor, the Court unanimously declares that while the Medical Marijuana Act permits counties to deny medical marijuana to those who are behind bars, this restriction has no application to those on probation. "[H]ad the General Assembly intended broader limitations, it would have been a straightforward matter for it to have said this."

What about federal law? Marijuana use, even for medicinal purposes, is illegal. Chief Justice Saylor, however, notes "the federal Controlled Substances Act does not (and could not) require states to enforce it." Moreover, "judges and/or probation officers should have some substantial reason to believe that a particular use is unlawful under the Act before haling a probationer into court."

Bolton's Book

I have no admiration for Donald Trump, but I have even less regard for his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton. I have no intention of reading his tell-all book because he refused to say anything when it most mattered. CNN's Elie Honig, who says Bolton has offered a "staggering profile in cowardice," sums things up quite nicely.
"Bolton proclaims that Trump engaged in behavior that "looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn't accept." But apparently, Bolton was absolutely fine with accepting it. He saw this pattern of obstruction of justice as it happened, and he curled up in a ball until the dust settled and his book hit the shelves.
"Bolton could have changed the course of history. Instead, he will go down in a footnote as an enabler of corruption, a model of cowardice and an opportunist who put self above country."

McClure Wants to End Hazard Pay on June 27

Corrections officers, Gracedale workers and even some caseworkers making home visits to Covid-19 infected homes have received $2 million in "hazard" pay. Executive Lamont McClure awarded this bonus when he had full emergency powers. Now that he's given up most of this authority, it will be up to County Council to authorize continued payment. Last night, McClure told Council he is recommending that hazard pay stop on June 27.

The reason he wants it to end is because he wishes to keep some cash in reserve in case there's a second wave. He added he's unsure whether the County will be reimbursed for this expenditure under the CARES Act.

NorCo Small Businesses Eligible For $15,000 Grants

Northampton County Council's Economic Development Committee met last night concerning a $27.6 million grant it will soon receive under the CARES Act. This money will be spent on small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development. When County Council last met, Executive Lamont McClure said that the "lion's share of the money would be provided to small businesses. Economic and Development Director Tina Smith indicated there will also be an emphasis on minority-owned business.

During a meeting plagued by the unwillingness of Council members to use their mikes, I was able to glean the following:

- $2 million is going right off the bat to the Slate Belt for zero interest loans.

- It appears that the "lion's share" of this $27.6 million is limited to just $4 million for small businesses, with maximum grants of $15,000. Must be an awful small lion.

- The Greater LV Chamber of Commerce will establish the grant process on a first come, first served basis. It is entirely unclear whether the County will delegate decisions on who gets what to a chamber of commerce, but that seems very problematic. Council will hopefully be the body that awards the actual grants. The Chamber did promise to make applications available to nonmembers.

- The small businesses sure seem more like medium-sized businesses to me. The Grant process is available to any business with less than 100 employees.

- The Chamber's rep, Jessica O'Donnell, said she's been getting 20 calls a day from businesses in need. There are chamber nonmembers who might even be more in need.

- There's been no public disclosure of how this money will be funneled to local municipalities.

- NorCo's Human Services Department will use at least some of this money to pay for its drug and alcohol programs.

- The money must be spent by December.

At this point, I have no link to an application for small businesses. The second I get one, it will be posted.

NorCo To Establish Eviction Diversion Program For Tenants Impacted by Covid-19

Landlords will soon be able to commence evictions again in Northampton County. But what about a tenant who's lost his job as a result of the pandemic and is unable to pay? What about unemployed or gig workers still waiting for their first payment from Pennsylvania's hopelessly incompetent unemployment office? Yes, they are out there, and many more than you might realize.

This is why Executive Lamont McClure has established a tenant eviction diversion program. He's enlisted "tenant navigators" from various local agencies already familiar with landlord-tenant issues to mediate the process. If County Council approves this program tonight, a tenant can apply for diversion once the eviction process has started. Eventually, it is hoped that tenants will also be able to seek help before a complaint for eviction is filed. The County will be seeking $1.2 million for this diversion plan.

C-med Program by BernieOHare on Scribd

NorCo Council Again Demonstrates Its Disdain For the Public

Below is an email sent to all nine members of Northampton County Council last night. Instead of conducting public meetings that can actually be heard by the public they supposedly serve, they have fallen into a nasty habit of refusing to use their mikes. I could understand an occasional lapse, but this is insulting to the public.  It is also a basic lack of transparency.

Last night, Northampton County Council's Economic Development Committee met concerning a $27.6 million grant it will soon receive under the CARES Act. This money will be spent on small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development. It was an important meeting because a lot of money is going out the door. But you once again demonstrated your disdain for the public you ostensibly serve by refusing top use your mikes. No one can hear you unless in the room with you, but that is really inappropriate during a pandemic.

Council member Tara Zrinski is the biggest offender. She has been reminded several times, and then starts shouting. She is by no means alone. Last night, it was impossible to hear Bill McGee. Depending on the meeting, you have all fallen short.

I do not see this issue in any other local government. Just you.

You also fail to insist that speakers who make presentations to you are also using the mike.

You have been told about this on numerous occasions. My only conclusion is you really have no regard for the public you supposedly serve.

Do not blame IT. This is on you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Gov Wolf Named "Employee of the Month" ... in Ohio

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According to ErieNewsNow, Governor Tom Wolf has been named "employee of the month." But instead of being an accolade from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this honor has been bestowed by Breakwall BBQ, an Ohio eatery.

Hungry Pennsylvanians are crossing the border to eat there, and the BBQ is setting sales records. Owner Mike Morgan, however, feels bad for the restaurants and servers on Pennsylvania, most of which have now been closed for three months. Some will never re-open.

"We're making a killing, and we're grateful for it," Morgan told ErieNews. "I wish they could too. People are ready to get out of their houses."

One of his campaign ads shows his agenda:

Jobs? - minus two million

Education? - all schools closed, even colleges

Infrastructure? - failed to persuade state legislature.

Reform? - RTKL suspended, refusal to reveal waiver process until records subpoenaed, virtual news conferences in which questions are screened.

He's a lousy Governor, but attempts to impeach him are ill-considered.

"Allentown" Sign Largest City ID Sign in US

Allentown businessman Nat Hyman recently commissioned this mural for a wall of a building once used during the revolutionary war as a prison for Hessians and book bindery. It is now an apartment complex at 347 Gordon Street.

At 40 feet high and 175 feet long, this appears to be the largest city identification sign in The United States, excepting the stand-alone "Hollywood" sign (45' x 350'). It's larger than similar famous signs in Chicago, Nashville and El Paso. So far as I can tell, it is the largest city ID sign that is also part of a structure. For a frame of reference of its size, between the “O” and the “W” is a little spec of red on the ground....that’s the painter!

It has: The Iron Pig, Allentown Fire symbol, Liberty Bell, seal of the City of Allentown, Dieruff Husky, Allen Canary, 1776 Flag, Phantom Hockey and Allentown Police symbol.

Allentown really has no iconic buildings, markers or works of art with which the city is identified. Hyman wanted to create something special to celebrate the positives in Allentown and its people.... something uplifting for its citizens after several years filled with so much negativity.

Probably a hundred people per day have already been stopping to look at it and have their picture taken in front of it.

It’s really cool!

What do you think?

NorCo Statistically Turned "Yellow" on Tuesday

Governor Tom Wolf permitted Northampton County to enter the "yellow" zone on June 5, even though his supposed data-driven approach clearly showed it should still be in the red. Yesterday, Northampton County statistically turned yellow. Numbers cruncher Steve Thode confirms that only 142 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported over the past 14 days. He adds that Lehigh County is flirting with the magic number, but is not quite there.

Of the 249 deaths in Northampton County, 78.7% have been nursing home residents.

Barron Barrels on Bikepath

Thanks to the excellent weather, I've been able to do a a few longish bike rides and even got a 3.5 mile "run" in on Monday. That night, however, I crashed. I slept nearly 12 hours, and when I woke up, I was sore everywhere. So last night, I decided on a nice leisurely walk along the Tatamy Bike Path. As I promenaded behind a gaggle of geriatrics, I saw an orange blur in the distance, moving at a high rate of speed, with people jumping out of the way. I thought the aliens had really come for me, but as this UFO came closer, I suddenly realized it was none other Steve Barron, NorCo's money man.

Barron was riding from Palmer Tp's 25th Street WaWa to the Tatamy trailhead, which means he had already hit some hills and would have to revisit them on his return. He's already dropped a ton of weight, met his goal, but has decided to drop some more. On last night's ride alone, I'm sure he did.

NorCo Jail is Covid-19 Free

For the first time since March 31, NorCo's jail appears to be Covid-19 free. No inmates or staffers currently show any symptoms. While this is certainly good news, it is no cause for celebration. According the CDC, 35% of those infected show no symptoms, but are still contagious. As a result, it has recently changed its testing guidance in "settings that house vulnerable populations in close quarters for extended periods of time (e.g., long-term care facilities, correctional and detention facilities) and/or settings where critical infrastructure workers (e.g., healthcare personnel, first responders) may be disproportionately affected."

Previously, tests were only administered at the jail to persons showing symptoms. The guidance update recommends the following:
- Initial testing of everyone residing and/or working in the setting,
- Regular (e.g., weekly) testing of everyone residing and/or working in the setting, and
- Testing of new entrants into the setting and/or those re-entering after a prolonged absence (e.g., one or more days)
Executive Lamont McClure stated that he has adhered to all recommendations made by PrimeCare, the jail's medical provider. PrimeCare recommended the visitor and volunteer ban as well as the move of inmates from West Easton. It also recommended temperature screening several times a day and quarantines. He also credited corrections officers who understood the importance of wearing a mask and have excelled in this crisis, even saving the life of a despondent inmate.

McClure said he is waiting for a universal testing plan from PrimeCare, and will ask for one if he receives no recommendation. He added PrimeCare is already performing targeted and random tests on asymptomatic people.

Universal testing would also apply at Gracedale, the county's nursing home. The state Department of Health is expected to begin that process in July.

To protect the health of inmates and employees, volunteers, visitors and tours were banned from the jail on March 10th. Inmates may still contact their loved ones via phone, tablets or mail.

There are currently 469 inmates in residence at NCP. Forty-nine non-violent inmates have been granted extended furloughs.

Northampton County encourages everyone to continue to practice social distancing, to wear a mask when they are out in the community and to get tested for Covid-19 if they have symptoms.

The Northampton County sponsored Covid-19 drive-thru testing site at Easton Hospital will remain open until June 26th. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 10:00AM – 4:00PM. The Coronavirus testing site is located in the main parking lot at Easton Hospital, 250 S 21st Street, Easton, PA 18042. The risk of viral transmission at a drive-thru site is much lower than at a walk-in clinic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Bethlehem Tp Zoom Meeting Hacked By Fat Naked Guy

Yesterday, I told you that Bethlehem Tp was poised to purchase six assault rifles to replace another six that have seen better days. While I agree this is probably necessary, national outrage over police misconduct in other jurisdictions made this transaction seem just a tad tone deaf. I suggested that Commissioners table the matter, and so did resident Dennis Brennan. To my amazement, Commissioners agreed. As a result, I skipped last night's meeting and instead went for a "run," if you can call it that, along the Tatamy bike path. I had no desire to listen on Zoom to a conditional use hearing for some kind of shopping center.  But now, Brennan and I are both in deep shit. You see, some fat naked guy hacked into last night's meeting, and posted all kinds of outrageous anti-Semitic and racist slurs. Commissioners had to end their meeting. The only two guys who were moaning about last night's meeting were Dennis and me. So we're probably pretty high on the Township's suspect list, and right after we complained about a police purchase.


I have pictures to prove I was in the Tatamy bike path. See, I snapped this picture of the Bushkill Creek while standing on top of the Bushkill Street bridge.

So I'm innocent. Yes, the bridge is still under construction, and some old bag yelled at me for trespassing. But I'd rather be charged with that than disrupting a public meeting.

I also took a shot of this hang glider while on the path for some strange reason.

So I have an alibi.

Brennan has nothing, and he is kinda' fat.

Monday, June 15, 2020

NorCo Policy Prohibits Chokeholds

Chokeholds by Northampton County Deputy Sheriffs or corrections officers are prohibited.

“The Pennsylvania Deputy Sheriff’s academy does not teach chokeholds,” said Sheriff Richard Johnston in response to an internal review of use-of-force policies requested by Executive Lamont McClure. “Our defensive tactics instructors teach the use of pressure points to gain compliance.”

The Sheriff’s policy concerning the use of non-deadly force (Section IV, part E) has been edited and now reads “The use of neck restraint control techniques are prohibited.” Previously, that section read, “The use of neck restraint control techniques are prohibited unless the NCSD member using them has been trained by a certified instructor in this type of force.”

Corrections Officers at the Northampton County Prison are not taught any chokeholds in their training at the academy. Instructors focus on teaching communication skills and pressure point holding techniques through the Integrated Use of Force Model.

Black Flies Matter (and Bite)

As I cycled along the Lehigh River this weekend, I was nailed a few times by those bastard black flies. They will get worse as summer progresses. They do not kill you. They just make you wish you were dead. Fortunately, the state DEP will spray today, starting at 8 am. 

According to a NorCo news release, grey helicopters will hit the Delaware River near Yardley in Bucks and head north to Delaware Water Gap in Northampton County. They will also spray the Lehigh River from the dam in Easton to Allentown.

They use B.t.i., a naturally occurring bacteria that has no effect on other wildlife.

For some reason, I'm getting itchy as I write this.  

Updated: Is Now a Good Time For Beth Tp Police to Buy Six AR-15s?

On the agenda for tonight's meeting of Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs is the purchase of six AR-15s (technically, they are Sig Sauers) from Atlantic Tactical for $12,078. In light of what's been going on in recent weeks throughout the country, is a request like this just a tad tone deaf.

On May 25, George Floyd's life was taken away by a Milwaukee Minneapolis police officer. Floyd, who is black, was suffocated by a white man who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, ignoring cries of "I can't breathe." This brutality of this senseless death sparked outrage among nearly all of us, no matter our race. There have been numerous multi-racial protests, some violent. Congress is considering The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and there's even a controversial "Defund the Police" movement.

In the meantime, violence continues. On Friday night, an unarmed black man named Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot in the back by a white Atlanta police officer after a confrontation at, of all places, a Wendy's drive-thru. Brooks was running away with a Taser that he might have aimed and even fired at the officer, but Atlanta's Mayor has already determined that's no justification for deadly force. Angry protesters set fire to the Wendy's and even shut down an interstate highway.

Against this backdrop, Bethlehem Tp Comm'rs are considering the purchase of military grade weapons.

Police may need them. In 2017, they were involved in a 10-hour standoff with a man who barricaded himself after shooting and killing his mother. He fired over 100 rounds at police, and one officer was pinned down. The assailant, who eventually killed himself, was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun as well as two Russian assault-style rifles.

In an explanatory memo, Township police say they already have 12 rifles, purchased in 2004. Because they are showing "signs of wear," six AR-15s were purchased last year. These are the final six. The memo fails to indicate what is happening to the rifles being replaced. In an email to Commissioners, Township resident Dennis Brennan urges them to table what certainly appears to be a tone-deaf purchase."Do you really need to make this purchase now?" he asks. "I'm not in any way making any sort of statement that would defund our police department simply asking to table this item as bigger discussions at this time are necessary. If the current rifles are not safe or certified, I could understand but it's not like they are getting used all that often other than target practice. Again, I ask that this agenda item be tabled so the township doesn't on the surface appear to be going the opposite way than many communities across the country, including locally as seen in an article on today's MCall.com. Shouldn't the township be involved in those discussions with our neighboring cities and towns?"

Commissioners should press the pause button.

Updated 10:20 am: Comm'rs Will Revisit AR-15 Purchase Later. - I have received the following email from Township Manager Doug Bruce: "Regarding your blog post today: Please note the Board of Commissioners has decided to pull all purchase orders from tonight’s agenda and revisit them at a later date."

Friday, June 12, 2020

Updated: D&L Trail: Jim Thorpe or Bust!

The weather is supposed to be beautiful today, so I'm going to continue my exploration of the Delaware and Lehigh Trail. This time I'll head from Coplay (mile 83) to Jim Thorpe (mile 107) and back. If you never hear from me again, it might be because I've been abducted by aliens who want to stick an 80' radio antenna up my ass. I doubt you'll be that lucky.

I hope I have some time to knock around in Jim Thorpe.

I've written several stories about this trail, which Pathfinder calls the diamond of the Lehigh Valley. I agree. I also received a call from a lawyer friend who has cycled for years. He claims his age prevents him from long rides, although I'm sure he could outride me any day of the week. Since the shutdown, he's been doing seven mile stretches. He's just completed all 140 miles.

On Monday, he was cycling alone above Jim Thorpe, near Glen Onoko Falls. He likes to ride in the early morning, and no one was on the trail. Suddenly, he saw what he thought was a big Saint Bernard in the middle of the path. As he got closer, he realized it was a bear. He stopped to get his camera out, but the bear took off. I would have thrown my bike in reverse because I am a coward. Maybe shout "Black Bears Matter!" or "Grizzlies suck!"

I've had an encounter with a bear once before. When I was a much younger man, I used to take a weekly hike along the Appalachian Trail between Wind Gap and Delaware Water Gap and back. I usually went alone, though I once coaxed some friends to join me and even convinced mt reserve unit to make the hike. On one of these treks, I could hear leaves rustling not far from where I was walking. This went on a few minutes, and then I met my fellow hiker - a small black bear. He just ignored me.

Not even a Hi!

I thought that was rude.

I will check in from time to time.


I'm happy to report I made the round trip between Coplay and Jim Thorpe. I rode 47.3 miles. It took me five hours, so I hardly set any speed records. But I'll take it. My only complaint? I gained five pounds.

I've written previously about the wonderful rides to Slatington and Lehighton along a well-maintained and very wide gravel path, with stretches of roadway here and there. The jaunt from Lehighton to Jim Thorpe is a bit more adventurous.

First, despite numerous warnings from Pathfinder and others, I still managed to get lost at the link-up to the trail in Weissport. This should be no surprise to regular readers.

Second, the trail is more like the trail between Sand Island and Easton. It is narrower, has a few rough spots, with two narrow bridges over canal spill offs. You can either take the bridge or ford the canal.

Third, though still mostly flat, I certainly knew I was going uphill.

A wonderful pedestrian bridge takes you across the Lehigh River and right into a bustling Jim Thorpe.

The first thing I saw was the Molly Maguires Bar, naturally. But what drew my attention was the cacophony of shouts and horns at a pocket park across from the courthouse. Numerous drivers signaled their support with loud honks.

The honking stopped suddenly when I posed for a picture with one of the peaceful protesters. When I left, it started up again.

I saw no bear along the trail, but ate at the Bear Cafe. Carbon County had just gone green, and I was actually able to eat inside. Chicken noodle soup.

By my calculations, I burned about 2,300 calories yesterday. I drank lots of water over the day, well over a gallon. I had muesli before I started, a cliff bar in Slatington and chicken noodle soup in Jim Thorpe. On my return, I had a cheese and egg sandwich at Slatington. When I got back, I had steak pho at Pho Bowl in Bethlehem, summer rolls, mango with sticky rice and icing. That's not all. When I got home, I had another cliff bar, a snack of grapes, cheese and apple, a shot of fire cider and 1/2 cup of pepitas (I love them). So I consumed 2,800 calories, about 1,000 more than the norm. This morning, when I woke up, I was five pounds heavier.

Shit. ... A never-ending battle.

Was I sore? Very sore last night, but it's mostly gone. I attribute this to a regimen of stretches I try to do every day. I actually think stretching and core work is the most important of all exercise. But it's nowhere near as much fun as riding a bike, running in the rain or just plain walking.

Enjoy your weekend!

UPDATED AGAIN ON SATURDAY, 10:52 PM: - LVCI has posted a hilarious video on the trials and tribulations of cyclists like me. It actually does include some helpful suggestions.

ONE LAST UPDATE, SUNDAY, 7:25 PM: - My grandson and I rode from Bowmanstown to Jim Thorpe and back today for a quick 16-mile ride in outstanding weather! He smoked me, too. Must be his bike.

Dat and an old fart. 

Joe Biden and Lasagna

I won't mention her name, but I know a beautiful lady from Easton who is an amazing Italian cook. I've had her spaghetti and meatballs a few times when I was several tons heavier than I am now. It's the best I ever had. If I ate her cooking on a regular basis, I'd be several tons heavier now than I was back then. It would be worth it. I'd die with a smile on my face. I was unaware until yesterday that there's another person who shares my opinion of this woman's cooking. His name, believe it or not, is Joe Biden. Let me tell you the story.

Back in the '90s, somebody was running for something, and Joe Biden was invited to come up to Easton from Delaware and speak on her behalf. As the third Senator from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he readily agreed. But he had one condition. Was it an outrageous speaking fee? No, he was coming to help a fellow Democrat. His one condition was that he wanted a nice Italian meal.

My friend was asked to book a reservation at some good Italian restaurant. There's no shortage of those in the Easton area, but she refused. "If he wants good Italian food, he's coming to my house," she said, and so he did.

Joe was treated to a nice lasagna meal, after which he went on to give his speech.

Fast forward a few years, and Joe was in the Easton area again for some other Democratic event. This time, an intern who grew up in the Lehigh Valley came with him. This intern, a college student at Weidner at that time, was considering a career in public service. His name is Steve Barron, Northampton County's Director of Fiscal Affairs, aka the NorCo Money Man.

Biden came out to meet the crowd and spotted my friend. He looked at her a moment, smiled, and shouted out, "Great lasagna!"

Barron would go on to tell me that Biden is himself a great foodie, and loves this area because of the different foods available. He loves Syrian and Lebanese food, and has spoken fondly of Damascus in Allentown. He also likes Hungarian, Slovak and Polish food.

"You're Slovak, what's the difference between halushki and halupki?" he once asked Barron.

I wonder if he's ever had garachki.

That's what you use to unlock a garage.

I can explain Biden's fascination with ethnic food because I share it. You see, we're Irish, and our food sucks. Who the hell eats mutton? Seriously. And haggis? That's sheep shit boiled in a bag, for Christ's sake. I swear all British cuisine was invented on a dare.

If Biden returns to the Lehigh Valley during this Presidential race, it will be because of our wide variety of great food.

By the way, I gained 10 pounds just writing this story.