Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure has vetoed the attempted murder of an exclusive, voluntary, employee-only, health center for county workers and their families. McClure has proposed a health center for two reasons. First, he thinks county workers will like and use it. Second, it will help s County to combat out-of-control health care costs, They've risen from $11.3 million in 2017 to a projected $23 million next year. Council member John Brown County Council members who support trhis ordinance would apparently rather see the solution that Brown imposed when he was Exec, - an increase in co-pays and employee contributions. Integrity Health, whom McClure would like to employ, operates at eight different locations. I've suggested several times that County Council should reach out to some of these end users. I can report that one of them, Long Branch School District, is quite pleased.
Dr. Michael Salvatore is outgoing Superintendent at Long Branch. He's been tapped to become senior VP at Kean University. His school district was confronted with rising costs as well, but felt it was unfair to place them on the shoulders of his teachers and staff. Here's what Dr. Salvatore says about the employee-only health center:
"What I loved about this model ... is that [all staff] had the same concierge-type service as everybody else. No waiting lines, no co-pays, we did a fabulous job that first year. Care coordination was the difference maker. Having the staff from the partnership health center communicate with medical professionals to avoid unnecessary appointments and procedures, our staff benefited tremendously and we has major savings from that. The following year we collected enough information that we started to add more to our medical services because what we realized was, educators are people who take care of other people; sometimes, they leave themselves behind. We want to make sure that they had the care that they deserved. We started to offer a wide array of medical services, including chiropractic, physical therapy, x-ray technicians on site, we even had acupuncture and free yoga sessions. Our goal od fiscal sustainability was accomplished, but more importantly, we were taking care of our people."
Blogger's Intro: This is a story told by Lucy Lennon. She describes herself as a Realtor, but is a lot more than that. She ran the Dancing Fish in South Bethlehem, where she introduced sushi long before it became popular. Her experience turned her into a vocal advocate for small business owners in Bethlehem. She's an animal lover. She might own several dogs at any given time. She's a Republican who can and does get involved in local races. She took John Brown by the hand and walked him up and down city streets when he first ran for Northampton County Exec, and he nearly won the city. Her latest problem involves an attempt to help the Lutheran Church gather the funds to consolidate into one church. Here's her story.
First off-let me apologize for the length of this post…it’s a doozy…
I am writing this for many reasons, for the protection of my clients, and for my own safety and peace of mind.
Let me begin.
I am a Realtor, who proudly calls Bethlehem my home-both professionally and residentially . I am quite outspoken in my love and appreciation of the city, it’s employees, small business community, schools and residents. I’ve always felt that City Hall was a great resource for me ( and others ) to guide us through permits, zoning and development. And now, more than ever, it’s all changed. Now The Mayor and The Economic Development Department have become actual obstacles in my ability to make a living and my clients ability to choose whom they do business with. Ethically not what I would expect from my elected city officials.
As you may know, I have 3 churches and 1 parking lot listed for sale. The parking lot [1.3 acres] being a large piece of property in the city that the city has had an eye on for over 20 years. These churches are facing a financial crisis and in order to continue with their service to God, the community and their ministry, they have made a decision to sell their properties and merge to a new location.
The City has approached the churches through the members themselves, myself, and various methods. I personally was told to inform any other interested parties that the city was interested in the property and if another interested party had ongoing/projected projects-to remember that they would have to deal with the city. I was also informed, personally, that if their offer was not accepted they could always take the property through eminent domain ( the mayor said this with a chuckle, shared with a member of ED )
I showed the property to both developers and other non profits. 2 developers, who were very interested and wanted to submit an offer told me in no uncertain terms that they were told to back away, from the city. An additional developer’s realtor insinuated the same.
In the end 3 offers were submitted. The “winning” offer was hands down better for my clients-in terms, timing, lack of contingencies and pricing. The churches, with their attorney’s blessing, voted unanimously to reject the city’s offer and accept an offer from another non profit.
The churches have now received notice that The Bethlehem Parking Authority will be filing to take the property by eminent domain.
This would in essence potentially create a delay, if not a cancellation of the contract to sell to their buyer. And cause a financial catastrophe for the churches’ future.
Here are my questions…
When did it become ok for the Mayor and his administration to dictate who buys or sells property in the city of Bethlehem?
Is the city of Bethlehem now in the real estate business?
When did the threat of eminent domain become a weapon?
You may ask why I am bringing this to light…
I now fear my clients may be bullied into bankruptcy or financial and spiritual ruin.
I worry that my other clients may now experience difficulties in City Hall.
And me personally?, I’m not quite sure what they can do, but so far I’ve seen vindictive and unprofessional behavior and it can only make one wonder….
As I understand it, the Mayor lobbied the Church to let the City have the property so it could build a homeless shelter. This had some appeal to some of the voting members, but they unanimously decided to seek bids on all properties. It later became apparent that, instead of a homeless shelter, the Mayor wanted the property for an affordable housing project.
It's unclear to me whether a Parking Authority may condemn private property for affordable housing. Under Kelo v. New London, the answer would probably be Yes. But the Supreme Court has changed and might be more interested in preserving private property rights now than it was in 2005.
An op-ed from NorCo Exec Lamont McClure, published in The Morning Call, touts the importance of our affordable housing and open space. Here is an excerpt.
"Our extensive parks and trail system has always been appreciated, but the pandemic showed us that these areas aren’t just a nice place to take a stroll on a Sunday afternoon, they’re a crucial resource to promote public fitness and, during lockdowns, necessary to keep our sanity intact. And they’re a reminder that good things don’t simply happen; they require planning. Governments do not have the luxury of just living in the present; one eye must always be on the future to build the infrastructure necessary to fulfill the needs of future generations.
"In 2022, some of Northampton County’s major challenges included the traffic and air pollution that comes from a building boom in large-scale distribution centers, and a shortage of affordable housing. To address the issue of warehouse proliferation, the county has been aggressive in protecting farmland, open space and environmentally sensitive land. We preserved 941 acres of farmland in 2022 and plan on continuing these programs in 2023 and beyond. But this approach won’t solve the problem of ill-conceived and ill-sited distribution centers. That’s why, in 2022, the county invested $75,000 to develop a Freight-Based Land Use Management Guide. This document provides drafts of model ordinances municipalities can use to prevent unsupportable freight development from being constructed in their communities.
"Housing is a thorny issue, as it is governed by the laws of supply and demand and constructed by private developers. However, we can’t ignore the fact that it is in the community’s interest for the people who work in Northampton County to be able to live in Northampton County. This year our Department of Community and Economic Development participated in two projects — planning for the development of five affordable townhouses at the site of the old Glendon Hotel and contributing $1 million in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley to buy 11 acres in Forks Township. Habitat for Humanity plans to build 50 affordable housing units on the property in coming years.
"The future of Northampton County is green. Green for the color of our environment and green for the color of our economy. It’s important that Northampton County works for everyone — farmers, factory workers, construction laborers, educators, health care professionals and outdoor enthusiasts. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” We look forward to working with our partners in 2023 in continuing the work of building a brighter future."
Blogger's Note: It's always a good idea to quote Lincoln, except for anything he said about predicting the future. If he was any good at it, he might have finished his second term.
On Christmas Day, four power stations were vandalized in Washington State, leaving 14,000 people without power. Authorities claim these attacks were coordinated. Earlier, shootings at two electrical substations in North Carolina left 40,000 without power for several days. There have also been "intrusions" in South Carolina, Hawaii, Oregon and Florida. Politico reports these power grid onslaughts are at their highest level since 2012.
These are just the physical attacks. In March, Texas utilities and energy producers went on high alert in March after detecting probes by Russian hackers looking for weak spots in digital systems. Ukrainians have been enduring a winter without electricity and water, thanks to Russian attacks. What we fail to realize is that our own power grid is vulnerable, too. The United States has yet to implement GAO recommendations to enhance the security of our energy grids. This is inexcusable and could end up costing lives.
Authorities believe anti-government extremists may be behind some of these attacks, noting online forums that actually encourage these attacks. That's certainly possible, I also believe it's certainly possible that some of these attacks are really coming from Russia and China. The extremists who actually pull the triggers are just their useful idiots.
As I feared, former Northampton County Council member Ken Kraft, who resigned to take an exempt (political) appointment with the county under Executive Lamont McClure, has announced that he's running to represent District One again. His candidacy is insulting. He already quit Council in the middle of his term to take a political appointment at the jail. Now that he has five years in, he can collect a pension and go back to being a rubber stamp for McClure.
Kraft told WFMZ-TV69 that he wants "to do what is best for NorCo (Northampton County) and not a party," but that's complete horseshit. Ken Kraft is interested in Ken Kraft. He's already abandoned office once midstream just to pad his pension. Why on earth would we want someone who put his own financial interest over his duty to his district? Moreover, as a former trade union agent and Dem appointee to the Elections Commission, he's as partisan as it gets. If you get past that, how can someone who worked as a McClure political hire be considered a true check and balance on the Executive? I think McClure is a good Exec, but ham-handed power plays like this actually hurt him more than they help. Finally, Kraft has no filter. He has a tendency to be abrasive and put his foot in his mouth.
Over two thousand years ago, Marcus Cato spoke against the revolving door of the same tired faces constantly stepping in and out of public office. "You appear to think either the office is not worth much or else that there are not many worthy people to fill it," he admonished Romans.
District One is not Rome, but consists of Bethlehem, Hellertown, Williams and Lower Saucon Tp. It certainly includes people who are far more worthy than Kraft, but he's banking that no one takes him on. The biggest issue in that district right now is the expansion of the Bethlehem landfill. Where has Kraft been? Nowhere.
I have complimented Northampton County Exec Lamont McClure for doing his best to add acre after acre to our open space with the acquisition of parklands. The County has also added trails and prerserved farms. But what about closed space? McClure's done nothing about that. We have plenty of parks, but no dungeons or pickleball courts. That's where a dominatrix known only as "Mistress Krave" enters the picture.
Clad in black latex and accompanied by two slaves in stilettos and reflective masks, Krave was at a Fort Lauderdale's City Commissioner meeting last week to demand a BDSM dungeon for the doms and subs in Broward County.
“I look forward to spanking each and every one of you at the new esteemed dungeon,” concluded Mistress Krave.
As surprising as this might be to you, there's a dungeon shortage in Broward County.
Merchants at Palmer Park Mall might see a bleaker Christmas than expected. On the busiest shopping day of the year, the Mall has been forced to close as a result of a power outage. Shoppers and merchants have both been evacuated. No word on when it reopens. The Mall's Facebook page has not been updated since December 18. Call before you go.
A biographer has asked me for information concerning the friendship between my father and author Kurt Vonnegut. My brother, a pack rat, produced a letter that Vonnegut wrote to his own family, not long after he and my dad were released from a POW camp at the end of WWII. In many ways, this three-page letter is his first draft of Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut sent my family a copy of that letter, apparently as a Christmas present, in 1996.
Bewildered that he has somehow survived, the young Vonnegut tells his folks, "I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait." Fortunately for us, he got around to it.
This letter is too important to sit in a dusty attic, so I'm sharing it with you. If you'd like to see a pdf copy, just click this link.
I'm told that you were probably never informed that I was anything other than "missing in action." Chances are that you also failed to receive any of the letters I wrote from Germany. That leaves me a lot of explaining to do - in precis: I've been a prisoner of war since December 19th, 1944, when our division was cut to ribbons by Hitler's last desperate thrust through Luxemburg and Belgium. Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges' First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight - so we gave up. The 106th got a Presidential Citation and some British Decoration from Montgomery for it, I'm told, but I'll be damned if it was worth it. I was one of the few who weren't wounded. For that much thank God.
Well, the supermen marched us, without food, water or sleep to Limberg, a distance of about sixty miles, I think, where we were loaded and locked up, sixty men to each small, unventilated, un-heated box car. There were no sanitary accommodations - the floors were covered with fresh cow dung. There wasn't room for all of us to lie down. Half slept while the other half stood. We spent several days, including Christmas, on that Limberg siding. On Christmas eve the Royal Air Force bombed and strafed our unmarked train. They killed about one-hundred-and-fifty of us. We got a little water Christmas Day and moved slowly across Germany to a large P.O.W. Camp in Muhlburg, South of Berlin. We were released from the box cars on New Year's Day. The Germans herded us through scalding delousing showers. Many men died from shock in the showers after ten days of starvation, thirst and exposure. But I didn't.
Under the Geneva Convention, Officers and Non-commissioned Officers are not obliged to work when taken prisoner. I am, as you know, a Private. One-hundred-and-fifty such minor beings were shipped to a Dresden work camp on January 10th. I was their leader by virtue of the little German I spoke. It was our misfortune to have sadistic and fanatical guards. We were refused medical attention and clothing: We wore given long hours at extremely hard labor. Our food ration was two-hundred-and-fifty grams of black bread and one pint of unseasoned potato soup each day. After desperately trying to improve our situation for two months and having been met with bland smiles I told the guards just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came. They beat me up a little. I was fired as group leader. Beatings were very small time: - one boy starved to death and the SS Troops shot two for stealing food.
On about February 14th the Americans came over, followed by the R.A.F. their combined labors killed 250,000 people in twenty-four hours and destroyed all of Dresden - possibly the world's most beautiful city. But not me.
After that we were put to work carrying corpses from Air-Raid shelters; women, children, old men; dead from concussion, fire or suffocation. Civilians cursed us and threw rocks as we carried bodies to huge funeral pyres in the city.
When General Patton took Leipzig we were evacuated on foot to [...] the Checkoslovakian border. There we remained until the war ended. Our guards deserted us. On that happy day the Russians were intent on mopping up isolated outlaw resistance in our sector. Their planes (P-39's) strafed and bombed us, killing fourteen, but not me.
Eight of us stole a team and wagon. We traveled and looted our way-through Sudetenland and Saxony for eight days, living like kings. The Russians are crazy about Americans. The Russians picked us up in Dresden. We rode from there to the American lines at Halle in Lend-Lease Ford trucks. We've since been flown to Le Havre.
I'm writing from a Red Cross Club in the Le Havre P.O.W. Repatriation Camp. I'm being wonderfully well fed and entertained. The state-bound ships are jammed, naturally, so I'll have to be patient. I hope to be home in a month. Once home I'll be given twenty-one days recuperation at Atterbury, about $600 back pay and - get this - sixty (60) days furlough!
I've too damned much to say, the rest will have to wait. I can't receive mail here so don't write. May 29, 1945
Last night, we heard from the leader of the free world. It's not Joe Biden. It's not Donald Trump. It's Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The former comedian has become a statesman while our so-called leaders are the real clowns.
In a rousing speech before the United States Congress, Zelenskyy had this response to 300 days of attacks from an autocrat aimed at toppling democracy: "Ukraine is alive and kicking!" Fighting back tears at times, he gave the United States a flag signed by soldiers fighting in besieged Bakhmut, where he had been just 24 hours earlier. He repeatedly thanked the United States, which has been generous. Below is a transcript of his remarks.
He was festooned in his ubiquitous military green sweatshirt and cargo pants, the same clothing he's worn for the past 300 days as he's dodged Putin hit squads and bombs. Some idiots think he should have worn a tuxedo. His country is at war. When Winston Churchill appeared before Congress, he wore his air-raid outfit.
Far-right (and some left-wing) lunatics have attacked the leader of the free world. Beyond his attire, they even accuse him of money laundering with no evidence. The only criminal conduct I see came from former President Donald Trump, who blackmailed Zelenskyy by holding up military aid unless he agreed to smear then candidate Joe Biden. Some of them think being that calling for 20 strong men to remove elderly school directors, or that smearing walls at the capitol with shit, is what makes them tough. No, standing up to constant bombardments of missiles fired by a bully from from hundreds of miles away is tough. Enduring the lack of heat in one of the world's coldest countries is tough. Prancing around armed and in military gear at a flag rally is not tough. If you want to know what tough is, look to Ukraine. If you want 20 strong men, look to Ukraine.
Dear members of the Congress, representatives of both parties who also visited Kyiv, esteemed congressmen and senators from both parties who will visit Ukraine, I am sure in the future, dear representatives of diaspora – present in this chamber and spread throughout the country – dear journalists, it’s a great honor for me to be at the US Congress and speak to you and all Americans.
Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.
And it gives me good reason to share with you our first, first joint victory. We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world.
We have no fear, nor should anyone in the world have it. Ukraine gained this victory, and it gives us courage, which inspires the entire world.
Americans gained this victory and that’s why you have succeeded in uniting the global community to protect freedom and international law.
Europeans gained this victory, and that’s why Europe is now stronger and more independent than ever. The Russian tyranny has lost control over us.
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And it will never influence our minds again. Yet, we have to do whatever it takes to ensure that Congress of the global south also gains such victory.
I know one more, I think, very important thing. The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin, in their minds.
Yet, the battle continues, and we have to defeat the Kremlin on the battlefield, yes. These battles not only for the territory for this or in other part of Europe. The battle is not only for life, freedom, and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer.
This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren. It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans, for all.
This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored hoping that the ocean or something else will provide a protection. From the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America and from Africa to Australia, the world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and at the same time to feel safe when such a battle continues.
Our two nations are allies in this battle. And next year will be a turning point. I know it. The point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom, the freedom of people who stand for their values.
Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, yesterday before coming here to Washington, DC, I was at the front line in our Bakhmut, in our stronghold in the east of Ukraine in the Donbas.
The Russian military and machiners have been taking Bakhmut nonstop since May. They have been attaking it day and night, but Bakhmut stands.
Last year, last year, 70,000 people lived there in Bakhmut, in this city, and now only a few civilians stay. Every inch of that land is soaked in blood. Roaring guns sound every hour. Trenches in the Donbas changed hands several times a day in fierce combat, and even hand-fighting. But the Ukrainian Donbas stands.
Russians, Russians use everything, everything they have against Bakhmut and other of our beautiful cities. The occupiers have a significant advantage in artillery. They have an advantage in ammunition. They have much more missiles and planes than we ever had. And it’s true, but our defense forces stand.
And we, and we all are proud of them. The Russians’ tactic is primitive. They burn down and destroy everything they see. They sent thugs to the front lines, they sent convicts to the war. They threw everything against us, similar to the other tyranny, which is in the Battle of the Bulge.
Threw everything it had against the free world, just like the brave American soldiers, which held their lines and fought back Hitler’s forces during the Christmas of 1944, brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing the same to Putin’s forces this Christmas. [This is when my father was captured bring the Battle of the Bulge].
Ukraine, Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender. So, so, here the front line, the tyranny which has no lack of cruelty against the lives of free people, and your support is crucial not just to stand in such fight, but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield.
We have artillery, yes. Thank you. we have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really. To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold, that it holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed.
It’s true. Just like the Battle of Saratoga, the fight for Bakhmut will change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom. If your patriots stop the Russian terror against our cities, it will let Ukrainian patriots work to the full to defend our freedom.
When Russia, when Russia cannot reach our cities by its artillery, it tries to destroy them with missile attacks. More than that, Russia found an ally in this, in this genocidal policy: Iran. Iranian deadly drones sent to Russia in hundreds and hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other. It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now. We must do it.
I believe, I believe there should be no taboos between us in our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.
Financial assistance is also critically important and I would like to thank you, thank you very much. Thank you for both financial packages you have already provided us with and the ones you may be willing to decide on. Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.
Russia, Russia could stop its aggression, really, if it wanted to, but you can speed up our victory. I know it. And it will prove to any potential aggressor that no one can succeed in breaking national borders, no one committing atrocities and reigning over people against their will, it would be naive to wait for steps towards peace from Russia, which enjoys being a terrorist state.
Russians are still poisoned by the Kremlin. The restoration of international legal order is our joint task. We need peace, yes. Ukraine has already offered proposals which I just discussed with President Biden, our peace formula, 10 points which should and must be implemented for our joint security, guaranteed for decades ahead and the summit which can be held.
I’m glad to share that President Biden supported our peace initiative today. Each of you, ladies and gentlemen, can assist in the implementation to ensure that Americans’ leadership remains solid, bicameral and bipartisan. Thank you.
You can strengthen sanctions to make Russia feel how ruinous its aggression truly is. It is in your power, really, to help us bring to justice everyone who started this unprovoked and criminal war. Let’s do it.
Let terrorists – let the terrorist state be held responsible for its terror and aggression and compensate all losses done by this war. Let the world see that the United States are here.
Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe candlelit. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there will not be – there will be no electricity. Millions won’t have neither heating nor running water. All of these will be the result of Russian missile and drone attacks on our energy infrastructure. But we do not complain. We do not judge and compare whose life is easier. Your well-being is the product of your national security, the result of your struggle for independence and your many victories. We, Ukrainians, will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.
We’ll celebrate Christmas, celebrate Christmas and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian – if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. only victory.
We already built strong Ukraine with strong people, strong army, strong institutions together with you. We developed strong security guarantees for our country and for entire Europe and the world together with you and also together with you, we’ll put in place everyone who will defy freedom. Putin. This will be the basis to protect democracy in Europe and the world over.
Now, on this special Christmas time, I want to thank you. All of you. I thank every American family, which cherishes the warmth of its home and wishes the same warmth to other people. I thank President Biden and both parties, at the Senate and the House, for your invaluable assistance. I thank your cities and your citizens who supported Ukraine this year, who hosted our Ukrainians, our people, who waved our national flags, who acted to help us, thank, thank you all, from everyone who is now at the front line from everyone who is evading victory.
Standing here today, I recall the words of the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which I think so good for this moment: “The American people, in their righteous might, will win through – to absolute victory.” The Ukrainian people will win too. Absolutely.
I know that everything depends on us, on the Ukrainian armed forces, yet so much depends on the world. So much in the world depends on you.
When I was in Bakhmut yesterday, our heroes gave me the flag, the battle flag, the flag of those who defend Ukraine, Europe and the world at the cost of their lives. They ask me to bring this flag to you, to the US Congress to members of the House of Representatives and senators whose decisions can save millions of people. So, let this decisions be taken. Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen. This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united – Ukraine, America and the entire free world.
On Monday, Northampton County added another 41 acres to its parks portfolio. It's located in Allen Tp and is called The Bodnarczuk Preserve in honor of the Ukranian damily that once farmed the land and operated a nearby grocerystore. The propery was valued at $900,000, but $675,000 of the purchase price was donated by the Mauser drothers, maternial grandsons of the Bodnarczuks.
With this acquisition, Northampton County now owns 2,262 acres of parklands. This is no accident. Executive Lamont McClure has focused more on purchasing land than developing it. Better to get it now because they aren't making any more of it. That's 41 acres that will never become a warehouse.
This tract includess mature woodlands, rolling terrain, vegetated riparian areas, geologic formations, grass pathways, small pond, agricultural fields, steep slopes, and the Hokendauqua Creek.
These are the final entries from my dad's brief writing career, a diary which he started almost immediately after being released as a German POW. My father was a complicated man, and I considered him a cold bastard much of the time. These diaries, and some other letters he wrote to his own "mommy and daddy," opened my eyes in many ways.
I wish I had been a better son.
In addition to the personal impact, these diaries provide a brief glimpse into that greatest generation. Like my father, most WWII vets share very little about the sacrifices they made when the entire world needed them. Sadly, a thousand of them die daily, and with them the memory of a time when Americans were considered "prima."
My lazy senses responded sluggishly to the blare of a bugle that had commenced blowing about 5:30 this morning. Some character dramatically announced that it would be appreciated if everyone fell out. A true count was needed due to the fact that today had been chosen as 'the day' by the powers that be. I did not fall out. Soon after we drew rations and packed. At 11:30 we fell out, were issued cigarettes and were given cigars by the Russkies. Then, after waiting for the usual period, we marched to the exchange lot. As is usual in all these matters nothing went as scheduled. We waited in the exchange lot for almost three hours during which it rained most of the time. The trucks finally arrived and we loaded and were off.
Vonnegut, Dannine and I were lucky enough to get a civilian bus instead of a G.I. truck. Kruse, Jones, Coyle, Watson and Burns also piled into a civilian bus but unfortunately not the same one. After three hours rolled around we arrived in Halle. According to the authorities we will be here three days at the most waiting to be flown via C-47 to LeHavre, France.
I have just digested my first Army food in 6 months - '5 in one' rations consisting of ham and sweet spuds, cheese, crackers, pineapple, rice pudding cigarettes and chocolate. How amazed the limeys were when we told them that the above was for one meal and not one day! We got separated from Jones, Kruse, Coyle, Watson and Burns.
Awoke, washed and drew more '5 in 1' rations of the same unsurpassed American caliber. Before much of the day had passed we moved to a new area of camp. They are separating the English and Americans. I wish they had done that six months ago. Spent the rest of the day on my lazy back reading.
Routine day. I showered, deloused, read, ate and am about to turn in. Red Cross Clubmobile presented itself and I basked in about six doughnuts and a cup of real coffee. Prima.
This is the latest installment from my dad's short-lived diary, penned shortly after his release from a German POW camp. In these entries, my eighty pound and half-starved father worries about his brother, Art, who was then serving in the South Pacific.
Uncle Art was wounded shortly after my father's posts, but not seriously. He was shot in the ass. When I once questioned him about it many years later, he snarled, "I was in front of the front lines, going for extra ammunition."
That's about all he ever shared. He kept no diary. He drank a lot, too. 5/20/45
All of my equipment, loot, real and personal property was once again in moving order waiting to be donned on my aching back as soon as the order to move was given. I waited and waited, a practice at which I have become very adept, for hour upon hour but no such order came. As we were lined up for midday chow ten G.I. trucks pulled up as only G.I. trucks can and I thought that this day would at last see me back to our own lines. However, due to the absence of certain documents or some such reason we are again detained by the Russians. I'm becoming a firm believer in the Vonnegut statement that "getting out of Germany is like walking in sand." The rumor now seems to be that we will pull out tomorrow when the trucks return with the proper papers. More of Hq. Co. showed up today in the persons of Sgt. Shuve and Pfc Sabbatino. Both look OK except for the loss of weight common to all POW's. Neither could give me any info regarding the whereabouts of Sgt. Boyle, Heinbeck, or Edgeworth. I'd certainly enjoy seeing those boys again.
The war in the Pacific seems to be progressing favorably, although we are meeting stiff resistance on some of the islands. I have an uncomfortable feeling that I'll learn more of that phase of our international troubles through first-hand experience. I'd like to see that part of the world but it would be just my luck to accomplish the feat through the medium of being a POW of the Japs, and twice in a lifetime is too much. The Russian band serenaded us again tonight. I'm getting to really like Russian music. The Russians are very much like Americans in their outlook on life. I suppose that is what queers the English with them. A few of us went across the hall to where we had discovered a radio in the room of one of our comrades. We listened for a while and left being driven out by static and by the system the joker in charge was using to operate the darn thing. He's one of that particular species of mankind who thinks he's operating the blue network whenever he comes across a radio with more than two dials on it. We are now preparing for bed at the end of a rather uneventful day.
Lo and behold I am still in Riesa. No trucks appeared today or had been rumored. However, we did receive a visit from two chaplains - one Protestant and one Catholic. They both held services and I heard mass and received communion for the first time in five months. The chaplain who was from the 69th division claimed that we would be out of here in three or four days. He seemed pretty confident that we would be back in the states within a few weeks after we hit our own lines. My inbred scepticism [sic] prohibits me from placing too much stock in his optimistic statement. Time and time alone will tell. The chaplains also brought some V-mail along with them. I wrote to my parents and to Aunt Mae. The letters are supposed to be on their way, having been brought back to our own lines with the chaplain who left here seven o'clock this evening.
A very routine day. I slept through reveille and all the morning, arising only for breakfast. Most of the afternoon was spent by all of us chewing the rag in the room where we were assembled. I thought of home today. Nothing now seems more welcome than news of the family. I am worried especially about Art. I certainly hope he has been as lucky as I in regard to ducking bullets and artillery.
It is early evening now and all of us are in the room now writing, reading, playing cards and talking. Things will no doubt continue along the same line until bed time.Blogger's Note: First published 12/17/07.
I was awakened this morning by that good old American "you gotta get up" bugle call. I must confess that it was the first time in my life that it ever sounded good. No doubt in four or five days I will be back in the old routine of cursing it. All eight of us met the chow line early in order to assure ourselves of 'seconds.' We were successful in the endeavor. In fact we were successful for all three meals by religiously following the same procedure. It makes one feel piggish but I know of nothing better to help that empty stomach feeling.
The highlight of the day consisted of the introduction and confirmation of a rumor that we are moving back to our own lines tomorrow. It seems that we will march out to some motor pool about three kilometers from here and there we will entruck. G.I. coffee and 'shokolade' here I come.
The Russkies had a band serenading us this afternoon. It consisted of 15 pieces and stressed the bass section. They were very good and we all enjoyed the Russian music. One American piece "Rose Marie" was played, and it brought down the house. Aside from listening to the band concert and eating, all I have done all day is sleep. I won't be worth anything when I get back to the states.
However, I am becoming anxious to get to law school. I hope I won't have to go back to college to finish earning my degree. Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learned in the past half year it is 'things will be as things will be.' I don't believe I'll ever be demonstratively impatient again.
James, Kruse and I have plans to play a little rummy this evening. We played last night and of course Jones won. That joker has more pure, unmitigated luck than anyone I have ever come across.
All the fellows here expect to be flown back to the states. I can't picture myself admiring the Atlantic ocean from the windows of a C-47 but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Should it so happen it will certainly be wonderful. The sooner I get to see the best set of parents in the world the happier I will be. I'll bet a Jerry luper there are a lot of changes in the old town. With luck I will soon see for myself.
There was a Tommy over to see us today. He came uninvited and when he left statements such as "come back soon" were conspicuously absent. All of us Americans are set up in much finer style here than the English. It seems that Joe [Stalin?] doesn't care too much for them. After the way they've bled us we can appreciate his sentiments. They've had no cigarettes issued since they've been here whereas all of us are smoking ourselves silly on Chesterfields, Luckies, and Camels. That's just one more condition that the end of the war has set back to normal.
Everything that we have been or rather had been reduced to by our stay in Germany has been rectified. I've had Germans beg me for food, clothing, and cigarettes. The mention of the magic word 'American' elicits "prima" instead of 'schwein.' The past week has effected quite a change in Germany and certainly as far as we are concerned it is a change for the better.
For the third time, the US House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol conducted its final hearing yesterday. Since the Committee will exoire at year's end, I doubt there will be any more final hearings. The full report will be released Wednesday, and a 154-page executive "summary" of the committee's findings has been released. It'ss o long that CBS news has published a summary of the summary. It has also made criminal referrals against Trump and two lawyers who assisted him.
Trump should soon be able to sell NFTs of himself in prison garb.
December 16, 1944: The Battle of the Bulge begins.
December 19, 1944: My father and Kurt Vonnegut, two intelligence scouts in the 106th Infantry Division, are captured by advancing Germans. Looking through a phrase book, my father screams, "Nein Scheissen," thinking he's asking them not to shoot him.
He's actually saying, "Don't shit."
That little mistake may have saved their lives.
This is the second in a series of entries from my father's recently-discovered dairy. He kept it about a week after his release from a German POW camp. This second post, like the first, is strictly present tense. Yet just three months before, my dad and writer Kurt Vonnegut had ringside seats, as POWs, to the American and RAF firebombing of Dresden - Florence of the Elbe.
POWs hid in meat lockers underneath a slaughterhouse during this incineration. One POW blurted out, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight." I can't help but think that was my dad. That was his humor.
In a public radio interview, Vonnegut speaks of a conversation he had with my father, some twenty years later.
"What did you learn?" Vonnegut asks.
"I will never believe my government again."
Churchill, who had advocated the firebombing, was knighted.
We moved over to the other compound today. That seems to be the chief benefit accruing to those who have been deloused. The rooms here are much cleaner and better equipped. We eat three times per day restaurant style and the shilly (chile?) is both good and thick - a happy set of circumstances not found readily in Germany. We spent most of the day getting our loot in order and this afternoon learned to our gratification that we were scheduled to move out. About an hour later a sergeant from the 1st Rangers division put in an appearance and announced that trucks were on their way to bring us either to Riesa or Leipzig where there are concentrations of former P.O.W.'s. I had no idea the sight of a G.I. would be so sensational. Needless to say, the limeys hogged him before any of his own countrymen had a chance to learn much from him concerning the good old U.S.A. Well, the trucks finally arrived and after the normal red tape we piled into them and took off. Approximately two hours later we found ourselves in Riesa. Temporary quarters were provided for us in some Jerry barracks. We are supposed to move in the morning to some other place in town where there are more G.I.'s. Our present barracks aren't at all bad except for the lack of anything soft upon which to lay our weary bones. There are some limeys here who have been waiting to get out for almost a month. It seems that Stalag W-B was liberated by the Russians on April 23. Blogger's Note: This was originally published on 12/12/07.
From the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley: On Sunday evening, we were notified of an unfortunate event at Christkindlmarkt, a holiday market in Bethlehem organized by ArtsQuest. At least four people were seen wearing T-shirts that read, “It’s Okay to be White. Less than 1% of White US Households Owned Slaves but Every Slave Ship & Auction was Owned by Jews.” These same people were heard telling patrons that “Jews were responsible” for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as slavery, and that Jews “own and run everything.” According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the “It’s Okay To Be White” slogan became popular with white supremacists several years ago, and it is upsetting to see people wearing these shirts and making these hateful comments in our community.
Within an hour of being notified of the event, Robby Wax, President of JFLV, spoke with Vicki Doule’, the Chair of the Board of Directors for ArtsQuest, as well as Kassie Hilgert, President & CEO of ArtsQuest. Both Vicki and Kassie expressed their disappointment that patrons wore T-shirts with a hateful message and made these statements at an event designed to celebrate the peace and tranquility of the Christmas holiday. Kassie also spoke with Aaron Gorodzinsky, JFLV’s Director of Campaign & Security Planning, to convey her support for the Jewish community and ArtsQuest’s clear position against antisemitism. As a result of this occurrence, ArtsQuest is reviewing its policies to prepare for any similar circumstances that may arise in the future. ArtsQuest also issued a statement on social media on Sunday night condemning antisemitism.
Despite this incident, we should be mindful of the wonderful support we have received and are continuing to receive from the non-Jewish community across the Lehigh Valley in response to increasing antisemitism. For example, the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton each signed proclamations this week against antisemitism. We will receive the Easton proclamation on Tuesday at the community menorah lighting ceremony. The Allentown and Bethlehem proclamations are pictured below. In addition, Bethlehem Mayor William Reynolds will join several interfaith leaders on Monday night to help light a Menorah, and our entire community is invited to join as we celebrate Hanukkah. You can find additional information about the event here.
Events like this one are alarming, but we are prepared to respond to antisemitism wherever it arises. We began our “Shine A Light” campaign specifically for this purpose, and we appreciate your support as we continue to partner with organizations and leaders within and outside our community on this important mission.
Every Thanksgiving over the past 10 years, Frank Pintabone has pooled money from himself and a number of local businessmen to purchase turkeys. He then loads them in his pickup tuck and hands them out on a first come, first served basis. He starts in Easton and finishes in Allentown. They go very quickly, especially in Allentown. When I found out about this a few years ago, I asked Frank if I could run a story. He declined because it might make hungry but proud people less willing to accept needed help. I understand, but I'll mention it now because this is precisely the kind of person we need to see in public office. He's running for Easton City Council, and his election should be a no-brainer.
Because I'm suffering from a mild case of leprosy, I was unable to attend Frank's announcement on Friday. He sent me a copy of his statement, which is below.
Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining me today. I am humbled and honored to stand here amongst some of Easton’s greatest past and present community leaders
When I was 19 years old, Mr. Boyer's mom, Josephine Boyer, assisted me in being appointed to the executive board of the Boys and Girls Club of Easton. Over the years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving on many other boards, including the the Easton Area School Board, the operating committee of the Career Institute of Technology, the executive board of the Easton Neighborhood Center, the Northampton County General Purpose Authority, and currently the Easton Planning Commission, all positions that I have served in with honor and commitment.
I am a 4th generation Eastonian, with my son and granddaughter (who is here with me) making up the 5th and 6th generations of my family in the city of Easton. I’ve been a lifelong resident of the Easton’s south side. I am a local business owner and investor right here in this city. Easton has been good to me.
And that is why I have invited you all here today, to announce my candidacy for Easton City Council.
As good as Easton has been to me, I imagine Easton becoming even better than it is today.
As your councilman, I will push for a trolley system, an inclusive transportation system that connects the South Side, Down Town, West Ward, and College Hill neighborhoods together…
I will push for a crackdown on absentee landlords in Easton, resulting in decreased blight, crime, and cleaner neighborhoods.
I will also push for a full service grocery store in the West Ward.
I will be a voice for taxpayers in Easton. I applaud Mayor Panto and City Council for once again holding the line on property taxes, however, I will work diligently to not only hold the line, but to lower property taxes in the city.
When I served on the Easton Area School Board, I made similar promises.
I promised more public speaking time for community members, so that they can have their voices heard by the district.
I promised to move meetings into different areas of the community so that there could be participation across the entire district.
I promised to build brand new school buildings for the students of southside and the west ward.
I promised that all of these things would happen. And they did.
Shirley Chisholm once said “service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth”. I look forward to continuing to serve the city of Easton.
I am from the neighborhood, and I am for the neighborhood, and I want to be your next Easton city councilman at large.
The apple has fallen close to the tree. Brian Panella, son of Pennsylvania Superior Court President Judge Jack Panella, has announced his candidacy for the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. There's an opening in the bench because Judge Stephen Baratta is stepping down at the end of the year.
Panella, who resides in Bethlehem Township, was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley. He's a graduate of Notre Dame Green Pond and DeSales University, where he majored in Marketing and ran Varsity Cross Country and Track.. He's a 2016 grad of Widener University Law School, where he served as a Vice Governor with the American Bar Association and was President of the Student Bar. He is engaged, and is expected to tie the knot in July.
After his graduation from law school, Panella became associated with Goudsouzian & Associates, one of the Lehigh Valley's top law firms. He served as a Conflicts Counsel and Custody Master in Northampton County for four years, where he gained experience representing indigent and incarcerated parents and in shielding children from abuse and neglect. He has also served as a Solicitor in numerous local boroughs and townships. In West Easton, he played an integral role in the creation of a police department.
In January, Panella was unanimously selected by Bethlehem City Council to serve as its Solicitor.
Panella is certainly a youthful candidate, but takes an old school approach to serving his community. These days, most of those seeking public office consider their community service as nothing more than working a phone bank for a political party. Panella has instead involved himself in service organizations like the Palmer Kiwanas and Easton Lions Club. He has also volunteered his services as Solicitor to the Northampton County Retirees' Association.
His entire career as a lawyer has been one of community service. He has done it on a family level. He has done it on a community level. This makes him uniquely qualified for the bench.
The knock on Panella is his relatively young age. But what's important is maturity, not chronological age. Some of the seasoned veterans on Northampton County's bench right now refuse to speak to each other, acting more like middle schoolers than impartial jurists.
Writer Kurt Vonnegut's letter home, written soon after his release from a POW camp, was published here yesterday*. Believe it or not, my dad was the real writer back then - he even kept a diary for an entire week.
Unlike Vonnegut, he sheds no light on what had actually happened to him as a POW. He provides no explanation about his weight going from 150 lbs. before the war to 80 lbs. as Adolph's guest. Mum's the word. He'd stay like that the rest of his life. Vonnegut's three-page letter tells me more about my dad's POW experience than he himself ever shared.
He just drank. A lot. Especially at Christmas time. That didn't kill him. Neither did the Germans. The cigarettes did.
But for one week, my father chronicled his post-release experiences in amazing detail. Just twenty-two at the time, he was a pretty good writer himself. Occasionally, he mentions Vonnegut, who was just a "minor being" at the time. For the next few days, I'll share my dad's thoughts with you, day by day.
Our mangy but well-fed crew left DiHille's at noon today. We proceeded over the Elbe to Russian headquarters in the city and after much confusion - due to our ignorance of the Russian language and vice versa - we were directed to the Hitler Caserne on Konigsbage Strasse. Here we find ourselves confronted with the perpetual situation of no one knowing anything about anything. However, we are being looked after like pet children by the Russians. We have been here only four hours at the most and have already been fed twice, showered, de-loused and billeted. As near as we can gather from speaking to the limeys and G.I.'s here, we are to stay put until our troops come seeking us. Except for the anxiety that we all have concerning our parents and families, we don't give a damn how long it takes them to root us out.
I heard my first radio program since I was captured. Dannine and I went across the compound and fell in with a few Tommies who have a wireless set in their flat. We heard an A.M.G. broadcast from Hamburg. That American music certainly sounded good. The Tommies surprised us before the evening was over with a meal of spuds, meat and beans. We rejoined our crew with a full stomach and a highly satisfied mien. I don't believe I'll ever get up out of bed again. Goot nacht.
*) Vonnegut's letter home will be published here on Christmas Eve,