Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Big Is The Ocean?

Before I watched the following video it brought back a memory of mine. When we went on our first cruise we had to fly to Puerto Rico over the Atlantic Ocean.

As we flew at 30,000+ feet I stared out the cabin window for at least an hour trying to catch a glimpse of something below.

At some 6 miles above the Earth one can see 100's of square miles of surface below. One would think I'd have spotted at least one vessel. Perhaps a small plot of land. SOMETHING? ANYTHING? NADA!

My perception of just how huge and remote this Earth can be changed that morning. My imagination wandered into thoughts of the near impossibility for rescue in this remote area if one were to be run into trouble even if the plane were to survive the impact. This wasn't fear, but more like 'wow we sure are in the middle of nowhere'. Throughout my life there's been a tree, a street or building. There's no way one could orient themselves when there's nothing to orient to. There's something new and weird about being humbled by the sheer vastness of it all.

I did this same kind of observation aboard the ship some 11 decks above sea level. Except for occasionally spotting a passing ship I saw nothing. For me personally when it comes to the size of the sea I have a much greater appreciation of it then I did before that trip.

I was left with an sensation of how small we are in all of this vastness of this the Earth we call home. It also showed me how dependant we all are on familiar surroundings. So as you can see this wasn't just some trip, but also an opportunity to reflect, absorb and add to my experience in this life and the weirdness that ensues when we're removed from our everyday environment.

So when it comes to the question how big is the ocean, these thoughts best describe my personal sense of it.

Scott Gass

Video Courtesy "TED Ed"

Saturday, June 29, 2013

28th Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven.

Sorry I was a little late with this one. The '28th Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven' was held Wednesday, June 19th to Saturday, June 22nd, 2013.

However according to to their website there will be an all you can eat 'Pancake Breakfast Fly-In or Drive-In' held Saturday- July 27, and Sunday-Sept. 29, 2013 at William T. Piper Memorial Airport, Hangar 1; 8am - 12:30pm. There also will be "Discovery Flights by AvSport of Lock Haven..$60.00 for 30 min.".

With the news that the board of LVIA might be willing to turn over Easton's Braden Airfield operations to pilots, this may be something that could prove useful for them to look into doing as well.

The Website for EAA Chapter 70 (Braden Air Park) doesn't list any upcoming activities like those up in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Perhaps if someone from Braden comes across this video it will inspire them to emulate what the 'Cub Haven' folks are doing up there. This would serve two purposes. #1 Raise money. #2 Make the public much more aware.

I'm reluctant to see any more of these closed. We already lost the small airfields in Kutztown in 2009, Trexlertown in 1966 and the Bedinsky Airfield, Mahanoy City at some point between 1975-2011. Most of these were turned into malls. We have plenty of malls, but airfields can never be replaced once they are gone.

CLICK HERE for a list of Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields in the Allentown Area

In 1909 two planes took off from the Allentown fairgrounds and that in 1910 pilot Glenn Curtiss took off in his plane, using 19th Street as his runway, and flew over the Allentown Fair, in what was the first known heavier-than-air flight in the Lehigh Valley!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Allentown School Board Screws Taxpayers, Again!

"The Allentown School Board gave its blessing to special tax incentives for a former metal fabrication plant, which city officials hope will spur redevelopment there.... The board unanimously voted to add the Allentown Metal Works, a 393,000-square-foot plant at 606 S. 10th St., into a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone."

When is ASD going to give us homeowners a tax break !!!

Every time they take another property off the tax roles, another property owner is forced to make up the difference

I as a private homeowner, on a very limited fixed retirement income (solely dependant on Social Security) am fed up to my ears with the lot of them. If we had any kind of real government representation these thieving &*##$ wouldn't be allowed by law to excuse one damn property from paying taxes until the school budget was balanced.

Bethlehem Sidewalk Seating-- BAD IDEA?

From the 'been there, done that' department...

There are certain people who are once again extolling the virtues of sidewalk seating. This time in Bethlehem's Southside. Yeah good luck with that!

When my mom was still alive in her senior years she rode the bus to downtown Allentown's mall at least 4 days a week. She complained incessantly about the bums and skateboarders who would use these as their home away from home.

Oldsters like herself (in her 80's), shoppers and cafe users never stood a chance. This especially was the case on rainy days under the mall's canopies.

She was not alone...

City Removes Benches In Downtown
June 10, 1993 by CHUCK AYERS, The Morning Call
"The city's removal of the benches was motivated by a longstanding problem. The benches served as magnets to the city's vagrants and homeless. They'd often sleep on them at night, sometimes in the day. The benches were viewed as a significant part of Allentown's perception problem -- that the downtown is filled with homeless waifs and dirty bums... Don Bernhard, Allentown's director of Community Development, said that downtown business owners and community leaders have been complaining about the benches for years. "Literally, I've had 100 different requests to take them out. No other bus stops in the city have benches to sit on," Bernhard said...

So far, the plan has moved those normally sitting on the benches to large concrete planters -- the loitering crowd, bus riders and shoppers. But Bernhard has a plan to eliminate those sitting spots, as well. The city is planning to cap the planter walls with cast iron ornaments that will make sitting nearly impossible."
If Southside Bethlehem wants to invest a bunch of dollars and things turn out differently, good for them. But I wouldn't go all out on this latest brain storm idea before seeing whether or not things will turn out differently for them. Especially considering the Lehigh university night time crowd.

The problem I have with all these bright and brainy ideas is that most of them have been tried before. These young social engineers who presume they thought of this first need to get a grasp of the local history on these kind of things. I suggest first trying one seating area at a time and see how it goes before going hog wild. If things turn out differently, good for them. If not, don't be too surprised if history were to repeat itself.

File this one under, "what's old is new again"

Nonprofits Are Costing Taxpayers A Bundle

Coming up in the November elections here in Pennsylvania will be a referendum regarding changes on how Pennsylvania will treat tax exempt organizations. On Thursday, June 27th, 2013 SB4 cleared the house after passage by the state senate on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

If voters approve this measure on the ballot in November it will change Pennsylvania's constitution so that the state legislature will have the sole authority to determine the tax-exempt status rather then allow courts to determine which organization qualifies as a charity.

The problem I have with that is politicians are always looking for some lobbyist group to pad their pockets come election time. With the courts, that's not so much the case.

The other issue I have is in some areas like Meadville, Pa. more than 43 percent of the land is held by tax-exempt organizations. Alarmingly, in some communities up to 2/3rd of the land area is held by non-profits.

If your interested you can find more details at 'The Patriot-News'

I'm not the only one who's been critical of this piece of legislation.

Pa. state Rep. Dan Frankel (during the debate prior to passage) urged members to oppose an effort to allow nonprofit organizations to not pay taxes, shifting more of the burden onto homeowners. Frankel argues that this major change to the constitution is being done without public input or hearings.

I urge voters in November to disapprove

We already have a whole bunch of grab bags through the NIZ, KOZ and other schemes that are exempting private investors from paying taxes. We have the state handing out a bunch of cardboard checks in 'walking around money' coupled with dozens of other incentives here in Pennsylvania. All of these (and more) are in hopes to curry political favor by our representatives. Why give them one more tool that will be paid for by the ever decreasing number of us who are left to pay taxes for them?

Cursive Handwriting: Extinct As The Dodo Bird

As unbelievable as it sounds, many schools are no longer teaching kids to write in cursive. OK, so maybe it's not that unbelievable for a lot of younger folks, but it sure was shocking for me to learn of this.

Handwriting becoming a lost art as fewer schools teach cursive
By Diane D'Amico, Staff Writer | Press Of Atlantic City
"New Jersey Department of Education language arts standards used to require that students be able to write legibly in manuscript or cursive by the end of third grade. But the state has since adopted the national Common Core Standards, which do not include cursive at all and put more direct emphasis on technology... Now third grade students are expected to use keyboarding skills to produce and publish writing."
Cursive handwriting being erased from public schools
By T. Rees Shapiro | The Washington Post
"For many students, cursive is becoming as foreign as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In college lecture halls, more students take notes on laptops and tablet computers than with pens and notepads."
The New Script for Teaching Handwriting Is No Script at All
By Valerie Buerlein | The Wall Street Journal
"... children will no longer be able to read the Declaration of Independence...

It is becoming increasingly rare to even have to sign your name. By 2016, nearly half of all home loans could be closed electronically, meaning that thousands of people will buy homes without having to physically sign their names, according to a recent survey by Xerox Mortgage Services."

Video Courtesy "ABC5 KSTP (Minnesota)"

~ ~ ~
Let me start off my commentary with a little bit of my family history. My dad who was born in 1900 grew up on a farm about 4 miles to the West of Lehighton, Pennsylvania. He attended a one room school house with about 15 other kids that were of all ages. They either rode horses or walked to school. Conditions at the school required they help gather firewood to heat the school. Sweep out the school or even help with repairs. The older kids were required to tutor the younger kids in the grades below them while the teacher worked with older kids then they. 9th grade was considered the equivalent to today's H.S. graduation. So by the time he was about 14 or 15 he was done with his education and ready to go to work on the farm.

Keep in mind my dad finished his education way back in 1915. Yet when I went to school in the 50's and 60's he was able to help me with fractions, square root and some very basic algebra. And yes he knew how to write in longhand (cursive writing). Isn't it amazing with only 9 years education, despite the numerous chores that kids don't have to do at today's schools, he was still able to learn what kids are not being taught in many of today's schools.

How was it possible that my dad's one teacher back in the early 1900's could teach all 9 grade levels of reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history. This while seeing to it that the wood necessary to heat the room was supplied and the stove was stoked. The room and outhouse was cleaned and maintained. That the horses waiting outside were watered and fed during the day. You mean to tell me with the millions of dollar$ that we spend every year for a whole host of administrative experts, teacher assistants, day care, custodians, cafeteria workers, transportation and who knows what the hell else, we can't find the time to teach something so basic as handwriting?

You've got to be kidding!

The Pacific Ocean Has Become One Big Garbage Dump!

Our deep sea garbage dump
By Daily Mail Reporter
"A massive study of the Pacific Ocean floor shows it’s a huge underwater garbage dump."

The following video's description says..
"Using advanced technologies, such as remotely operated vehicles, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)is helping to uncover the far-reaching presence of man-made debris in deep ocean ecosystems. Over the past 25 years, we have recorded evidence of debris up to 13,000 feet deep and 300 miles offshore from waters off of central and southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California. We've seen trash everywhere we've looked.

In the greater Monterey Bay region, the majority of debris items were single-use, recyclable items. Plastic shopping bags and aluminum beverage cans were most common overall. Surprisingly, plastic and metal were found relatively more frequently at deeper depths, suggesting that the extent of marine debris on the seafloor may be far greater than known to date. MBARI researchers hope that this study will increase awareness of the growing problem of man-made debris in all parts of the ocean.

It is far too expensive and impractical to locate and retrieve debris after it reaches the deep seafloor. The best solution is to reduce our reliance upon single-use, throw away items. Recycling, reusing, and properly disposing of trash items will help to keep litter from ever entering the ocean."

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is a nonprofit research institution where scientists and engineers work together to explore and study the sea. Located in Moss Landing, California, MBARI is supported primarily by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

For more information, please see the MBARI web site

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Should The Minimum Wage Be Abolished?

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) seems to think so.

"WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate's labor committee, said in a hearing Tuesday that he would prefer to see the minimum wage abolished."
June 25, 2013

"Many are classifying full-time workers as contractors to evade the law...

By treating employees as contractors, employers are able to dodge not only the minimum wage law, but all of the provisions of the Fair Labor Standard Act, including protections against retaliation and overtime rules."

America’s Wage Crisis
By Richard L. Trumka and Christine L. Owens | Reuters/Opinion
"The minimum wage isn’t what it once was. When the minimum wage was roughly half the average wage, in the late 1960s, full-time, year-round minimum wage earnings for one worker lifted a family of three from poverty. Not anymore. Today, a minimum wage worker lives on $3,000 less than the poverty line — and the minimum wage is worth only 37 percent of the average wage.

If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1969, it would be around $10.70 today. If it had kept up with productivity growth, it would be $18.72. Meanwhile, if it matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1 percent, it would be $28.34."

Sen. Bernard "Bernie" (I-Vermont) Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is a junior United States Senator.

No matter how you spin this, the poor keep getting poorer. Will we shortly reach the breaking point between the haves and have nots?

We are witnessing city after city and school district after school district sinking into insolvency simply because there isn't enough tax revenue coming in. They are getting increasingly desperate. Philly schools on Tuesday (June 25, 2013) have received tentative approval from the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee to add a $2.00 tax on a pack of cigarettes. The Allentown School District will need over a 30% tax increase to fully balance the budget over the next 4 years!

Diminishing Wages Are The Problem
Therein lies the very solution.

What we have here is a dichotomy. On one hand we can continue down the path in which government forces money out of our pockets through it's taxing authority. The other to strong arm the private sector into paying livable wages.

On the current path government taxes and spends the money we are forced to give which compounds an already bad situation for low wage earners who live on the edge of a financial cliff. The other is to legislate livable minimum wage standards. Either way one thing's for sure, the government will get the money required one way or the other in an effort to try and balance their dismal budgets.

I'd much prefer to see businesses charge a few percent more on their prices to meet higher labor cost. We have two choices. One is to be forced to pay higher taxes involuntarily (like we have been doing). The other to pay a dollar or two more at restaurants and stores. I prefer the latter for two reasons. For one, I can control my costs on what I can personally afford. The other reason is this money stays in private sector where it can do the most good.

Just like the government, people who have more money, spend more money. The difference between the two is when politicians spend, they spend our money. It's human nature to be a lot more careful what you do with your own money then someone else's. This is a situation where either way somebody's going to be forced to pony up more money one way or the other. There's no avoiding that fact.

I'd rather see people getting a few bucks more in their pockets that will justify the reasons to go to work. Today's minimum wages make it a losing proposition after transportation, day care, work clothes and health care costs are factored in. You have got to make people have an incentive to get up in the morning and go to work with the hopes of having a few dollars left over.

Coupled with readjustment to the foreign trade deals and less government hand outs can work. However by just cutting off the so-called handouts w/o providing hope and the means for people to better themselves is a recipe for disaster. It will lead to riots in the streets like we've seen in other countries. It's human nature that desperate people do desperate things. I don't want to see that happen here in the United States. We need to close the gap between the haves & the have nots. It's just that simple.

Increase The Minimum Wage
Close The Loopholes

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Allenschteddel's Adelaide Silk Mill

The Adelaide Silk Mill, Allentown, PA, circa 1915
I found this photo at Explore Pa. which credits the 'Pennsylvania State Archives' for the photo.

Beneath the photo it says, "In 1929 roughly one quarter of Allentown's workers labored in its more than twenty silk mills. Four years later, factory employment in Allentown was down nearly 50 percent, factory wages had dropped 74 percent, and unemployment had soared from just over 2 percent to close to 40 percent of the work force. Opened in 1881, the Adelaide Silk Mill by the late 1800's was one of the world's largest silk mills."

The reason I brought this up is according to 'The Express-Times' , "Developer Borko Milosev has Adelaide Mills under an agreement of sale and wants to turn it into a residential, commercial and office mixed-use facility. It would include 150 apartments." But he wants to do with the help of having the property declared a 'keystone opportunity expansion zone' (KOEZ) which would exempt them from having to pay real estate taxes on it for 10 years.

At one time this was "one of the world's largest silk mills." Early on in this like the other 20 textile manufacturing locations in Allentown housed workers receiving paychecks from them. These days not only are we left without those jobs, but these same buildings, that once paid out money, are looking to take in money instead. As if that weren't concern enough, these very same buildings hope to sponge off taxpayers to do it. This is all upside-down. Is it any wonder Allentown tax revenues are screwy?

Just about anywhere else but Allentown apartment complexes have been built by commercial developers with their own money. Here in Allentown taxpayers are asked required to financially assist them. Why is that? Is it because w/o cheaper rents these tenants who would have to pay more elsewhere won't come here? EXACTLY MY POINT!

Allentown already has a problem with low/no income wage earners. Why attract more of the same? One must ask why some apartment developer would be interested in Allentown in the first place? There's obviously a more lucrative market outside of the city. Is it because they are patriotic and trying to make Allentown a better place? I doubt it. Common sense dictates otherwise.

No I do not prefer these buildings sit empty, but when it comes to paying taxes nothing from nothing is still nothing. A empty building is still far cheaper then having to provide police, school and other taxpayer supported services for a building full of people who aren't contributing one nickel for them through KOEZ.

I, for one, am tired of hearing this deal will pay off in 10 years, the NIZ in 30 years or in 50 years for leasing the water department. Many of us will never live long enough to see that day, even if these experiments should pay off. Which is questionable.

Homeowners get no such tax breaks. Each year that goes by, those trapped on fixed incomes or those who cannot afford to keep up are driven out or are forced to neglect repairs. Those that can afford it, move out of the city. How's this a good thing for Allentown?

Personally speaking I'm on a fixed income and expect the wife and I to assume room temperature long before any these schemes pay off. The wife and I've paid well over $100,000 in real estate and payroll taxes to this city over the years. About another $10,000 more for water and garbage. Never been arrested or used the courts. Kids have been out of school for over 30 years. I've called the police maybe twice in all these years. Ambulance or fire.. never. My footprint on the city and school services is minimal. Why then am I not afforded some sort of break these investor guys from out of town are getting instead of being forced to pick up an even greater portion for them to enrich themselves? Shouldn't the city encourage couples like us to stay rather then bail or be driven out by taxing us beyond our means?

To those who say 'tough beans', I say this. Someday everyone becomes old or will face a limited income. I never thought it would happen to me either, but IT DOES. To these same people who think they got it all figured out... back in the 60's I never could have imagined how far Allentown could sink over these last 50 years. Anyone who thinks they are immune from suffering the same fate on the path I've traveled are fools.

In the decades ahead it's a sure bet the new arena, offices and restaurants you so admire will look a whole lot like the old Adelaide Silk Mill does today. You can take that to the bank!

"History is nothing more than today's yesterday"
~ LVCI ~

Monday, June 24, 2013

Coupla' Great Music Mixes.. Michael Henry & Justin Robinett

What I like about these guys are their arrangements. They don't just perform these tunes. They rearrange them, making these their own interpretation of them. That's what sets these guys apart.

Cover tune of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"

"I Dreamed a Dream"

Both Videos Audio Recorded/Edited/Mixed/Mastered by: 'MHJR Music'

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Life Insurance Companies Exploited Loophole

Employee Of The Month

According to 'The Daily Mail' thousands were billed for life insurance after they died.
"Because most policies require the beneficiary to file a claim, insurance companies are able to legally continue drawing on the policy's cash reserves until funds run out... if the beneficiary does not make a claim, the insurers can continue to draw payments from the policy's cash reserves... Once the cash reserves were depleted, the company would cancel the policy"According to NBC News: 1 in 600 may be owed unclaimed life insurance money

Since this scheme was uncovered back in 2011 insurance companies have been paying settlement money into the 'unclaimed property' funds in each state.

NBC did a great job on reporting and has further links with more information. Check it out at the link above or click on the logo below if your interested.

I urge my readers in each state where they live to check and see if they have property coming to them. After learning of this insurance settlement, now would be a most excellent time to see if you are owned money. The 'National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators' maintains a excellent site which provides links to each state's 'unclaimed property' departments.

In Pennsylvania it's a snap, takes less then a minute & best of all, it's free.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pensions: Allentown Teachers Getting Too Much?

For quite a while Allentown teachers have been taking heat over their retirement pensions from the Allentown School District. Some taxpayers are cranking that these ridiculous school taxes are all because of these teachers receiving extravagant pensions. This issue is more complex then that.

Much of what is being said is based on opinion by biased individuals. Some of who are being less then truthful when it comes to the actual facts. What I'm attempting to do with this post is present factual research along with links to their sources followed by my opinions..

Burning The Candle At Both Ends
One of the unintended consequences of laying off or forcing teachers to retire is now there are less employees who are paying into the pension fund. According to Pennsylvania's Public Schools Employee's Retirement System (PSERS) teachers contribution rates starting July 1, 2013 will be 16.93%. Depending on which source one references the average ASD teacher's salary varies between $50,000-$60,000.

Since Gov Corbett assumed office in 2010 Allentown has left 404 teachers go. This works out to $3,761,846 ($55,000*.1693*404) less being paid into the pension fund from Allentown teachers that would have been otherwise.

This is a big deal because last year Allentown teachers were the 4th largest contributor.

Statewide according to PSERS the "contributions (over 30 years) are expected to be nearly $1.2 billion less than previously projected despite the higher employer contribution rates" because of these layoffs and early retirements.

What Is The Average Pension For A Teacher In Pennsylvania?

Statewide According To PSERS

What Contributed To This Mess?
Pennsylvania declared itself a pension fund contribution holiday: According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) November 2012, "The General Assembly made changes to laws governing the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2010 that provided employers with and then continued an employer contribution holiday. School districts and the Commonwealth did not pay their fair share over a 12-year period."....

"The PSERS employer pension rate was set to increase to 7.58 percent for the 2010-11 school year, but the General Assembly, needing to find additional funding to balance the budget, rolled back the increase to 5 percent with passage of Act 46 in July 2010. By deferring the rate increase, it added to the pension debt."

In Defense Tom Corbett Put Out This Video In March 2013

So what does Governor Corbett intend to do about this?
In May he supported creating yet another payment holiday by supporting Senate Bill 922 which would cut pensions and further delay the increased employer contributions. The bill as of June 20th, 2013 is currently being reviewed by the appropriations committee.

In My Opinion
The reason this blog doesn't get a bunch of comments is it's whole lot sexier for other bloggers and readers of them to ignorantly bash teachers rather then read dry material like I've presented above.

What we have here is a case of mob mentality ignorantly going after yet another segment of the middle class while getting their pockets picked. In others words most people are being duped by those who are lining their pockets while the average smuck isn't even aware of the what's really going on, thanks in no small part to what's being reported in the media and by other bloggers.

There are a couple of conclusions one comes to after becoming aware of the true facts...
* The state has reprioritized what it wants to spend money on. Education has been shortchanged as well as middle class teachers while NIZ, KOZ and other programs have been assigned a higher priority for those who have motives to seek profit in the private sector. This coupled with the tax breaks that are benefiting political contributors to the detriment of other working Americans who are just trying to eek out a fair, ethical and decent living.

* The teachers, like most of the middle class and unions, have become scapegoats for the money grabs by those seizing political economic control who are well connected (at all levels).

* Other bloggers in the Lehigh Valley are either displaying their ignorance, too lazy to do the research or are seeking to garner attention by posting half-assed misinformation when it comes to these teachers.
Working folks who read these blogs can chose to continue to rip each other apart or support one another. Frankly I want no part of these other bloggers who for a long time have been more concerned about bashing one another, disrespecting another blogger and/or are disrespecting some other segment of society because it's all the rage with some sheeple .

As to whether that makes this blog popular with others or not...
seeking out facts is what shall remain my highest priority.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Philly Mayor Nutter A Deadbeat?

Yes & No

According to 'The Daily News' the mayor fell behind on his gas bill. As a consequence the city sent him a cutoff notice and placed a lien against his house back in May of this year (2013).

The mayor responded to 'The Daily News'--- "The bill is paid. Nothing happened. There's no story here." In Philly the gas company (PGW) is city owned and the mayor has expressed an interest in selling it. Because of that, the union isn't very pleased with him. Is this a case of 'payback's a bitch' or has he been so busy running the city and it's finances that he neglected several notices when it came to his own?

While I suspect it's the latter, what really pisses the mayor off is he considers this a personal matter that shouldn't have been leaked to the press.

While there sure seems to be a lot of leaking going on these days it also can be said, people who live in glass houses...

Nutter swears to crack down on delinquent taxpayers
"There are some other trifling, raggedy people around here who can actually pay, who don't pay. We're going to chase their little asses down as hard as possible."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Upcoming Trade Deal: Another News Leak

According to Citizens Trade a meeting between 'The Trans-Pacific Partnership' (TPP) is coming up in California from July 2nd through July 10th, 2013. The meeting will discuss trade deals between the United States and eight other countries with three other countries who's membership is pending.

It appears CTC got a hold of a leaked draft that indicates "negotiators are considering a dispute resolution process that would grant transnational corporations special authority to challenge countries’ laws, regulations and court decisions in international tribunals that circumvent domestic judicial systems."

Admittedly I have more questions then answers.
* Who appointed and has authority over what our U.S. Trade Representatives agree to?

* Are these reps actually empowerment to do so, constituently speaking?

* Does congress have a final say or do these 'trade agreements' bypass the wishes and laws churned out by members of Congress?

* Will the details of these trade agreements, negotiated behind closed doors, be made wholly available to the public?

* How is it possible these agreements can override our agencies regulations on labor, environmental, copywrite, tax revenue laws, etc.?
The other issue that concerns me is the continuing trend towards one layer upon another of our various court jurisdictions. We currently have a series of courts that oversee our citizenry at the federal, state and county levels. Another set of courts that rule under military law. Another set of secret courts that deal with classified agencies' documents and operations. The Supreme Court. And now some "international tribunal" has been added to an ever growing list.

Much like our federal government is comprised of it's 50 states, has the United States now become more like a member of some larger world government? State laws take precedence over local laws. Federal laws over states' authority. When United States turns over it's legal authority to " international tribunals" via these trade agreements, it appears to be so.

Who is this 'Citizens Trade Campaign' group that came across this draft?
"A national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups founded in 1992 to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)."

What about the G8 summit which wrapped up over this past weekend?
Well according to Capitol Hill Daily the biggest issue was corporate tax evasion. Britain called on all nations to exchange information and attempt to plug up loopholes. As far as sharing more information about corporations here in this country with other nations, the United States said that it "is not willing to do more at the moment than press for new legislation. According to Wikipedia other nations seemed to be more onboard with the proposal. But were they really?

Everyone seemed to be talking the talk, while not actually committing to walking the walk...

For all the G8 summit accomplished Britain & Ireland could have saved the $92 million it cost to host the conference. They might as well have all stayed home, photoshopped the whole gang and given them each a meal certificate. It would have cost a whole lot less. Looks like protestors who showed up also wasted their time and money being worried about this hookup.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nosy Animal Videos

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Find A Human Skull In Your Backyard?

Better to shut up about it and just leave it there!

"Earlier this month, while digging holes for a new fence at their home in Sarnia, Canada, couple Ken Campbell and Nicole Sauve found the remains of a 400-year-old Native American woman... According to local law, Sauve and Campbell are responsible as the property owners to pay for the archeological assessment of any human remains found on their land."
Good Lord, what happens if they should find dozens more of them are buried there!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Banking Schemes Preyed On Homeowners

On Friday, June 14th, 2013 Reuters News Service reported that some former employees of Bank Of America alleged that they received bonuses and other perks to make sure a number of homeowners did not get 'loan modifications' even if they qualified for them.

This comes as no surprise to me. Here's why. Already way back in October of 2010 I posted about banks needlessly foreclosing on properties.

My post was based on a news story published at the Huffington Post on October 14, 2010 entitled "Wells Fargo WON'T Halt Foreclosures Despite Evidence That Servicers Didn't Read Paperwork". I've scrubbed and reworked this blog since that time so that post is no longer here.

Let's take a look back over the last three or four years and what's happened since. Banks allowed extremely risky mortgages. Some have argued buyers were at fault for the entire mess. My counter argument then was and still is that bankers are supposed to be professionally educated on financial matters, unlike many of the borrowers. This being the case why did banks continue to loan money so irresponsibly to them?

CON #1: The short answer is because they knew they weren't going to get screwed. Over the last 4 years we've come to learn banks bundled their bad mortgages and got rid of them by selling them rather deceitfully into and as part of 'structured investment vehicles'. As we all know the crap hit the fan when the bottom fell out after investors in them were left holding the bag. Then the government (that's you & I) came along and bailed them out to the tune of $700 billion under TARP.

CON #2: Since that time, as you can see above, many (if not most) of the homeowners were either denied or conned from getting modified mortgage relief causing them to lose their homes to foreclosure allowing these money sharks to acquire them almost up to this very day.

CON #3: Hundreds of thousands of properties are now owned by these mortgage lenders all across the United States. What good does foreclosing so they can get a hold of them do? I'm glad you asked. Here are a few headlines explaining how investor groups (bankers) are hoping to turn them in cash cows. Some investment groups are snatching them up by the 1,000's in hopes of either renting them or flipping the properties.

So what's wrong with that? Again, I'm glad you asked. According to the Washington Times they are creating a whole new housing bubble crises . Let's take Miami as just one example where it's estimated this has artificially driven home prices up 35%.

Over the last four or five years wages remain stagnant. If the reality market was left on it's own (w/o investor groups buying them up) prices would now become affordable for people once again. Much of the current crises would therefore begin to go away. But that's not what is being allowed to happen. A false housing market is once again being created.

A few years ago banks started out inflating the market by loaning money to anyone who didn't assume room temperature. Now those private investment groups are pawning them off once again at inflated prices sending us down this same road in almost an identical manner to which we are still trying to recover.

What do you think is going to happen to these private investors if they can't flip or rent the properties to generate enough returns after over inflating their values? The more that investment groups buy, the more inflated (fake) the values become just like the first time where all this started out. Meanwhile money sharks who are talking people into pooling their earnings and savings into buying these risky houses for investment are collecting fees, commissions and bonuses off these suckers. It's a disaster just waiting to happen.

As if all this weren't bad enough cities are still continuing to struggle with bank owned blighted properties. Properties who's lawns aren't getting mowed. Homes that are going into further disrepair while city property taxes continue to accumulate and remain unpaid.

I should mention one more side business banks are in.. homeowners insurance.

According to the 'Wall Street Journal' it wasn't until March of this year (2013) the feds cracked down on this ploy. The way it worked was if a homeowner lost his or her homeowner insurance the bank would assign one to the mortgage holder. These typically cost twice as much and in some cases as high as ten times what they were paying. See if you can guess who the insurance companies are a subsidiary of. In some other cases the mortgage holder would receive a commission in the neighborhood of 10% according to the article.

Loan sharks are constantly dreaming up ways to get their hands on others' money. Inflating home market values worked for them once. Why wouldn't it again with a little retweaking?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Some Alarming Statistics

"The number of Americans killed from gun violence since last December’s shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn. has surpassed the total number of U.S. military casualties during the nine-year war in Iraq."
June 16, 2013:
Chicago Shootings: 6 Killed, 13 Wounded Overnight Sunday;
Total of 7 Dead - 36 Shot Over Weekend

By Erica Demarest | DNAinfo Chicago
In 2012 there were 506 homicides in Chicago

"Detroit said Friday it would stop making payments on about $2.5 billion in unsecured debt and ask creditors to take about 10 cents on the dollar of what the city owes them in a move to avoid what bankruptcy experts have said would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.... underfunded pension claims likely would get less than the 10 cents on the dollar."

Video Courtesy "WSJDigitalNetwork"

Click On This For A LIVE update of New York State's Debt Clock

Click On This For A LIVE update of Pennsylvania's Debt Clock

Click On This For A LIVE update of the Global Debt Clock

Have A Nice Day

eMail Privacy.. There Ain't None!

* Northampton Community College officials were recently surprised to learn students' email addresses are subject to the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law.

* Under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, a public entity cannot ask the requester why they want the information.

It seems in today's world everybody has rights except the individual who's being snooped. It seems simple enough for legislators to add to the law defining specifically who and why a person need be allowed access to the email directory under the so-called 'right-to-know' law. Will they?

Here's another case of a well intended piece of legislation that's being abused and allowed to run amuck. Some people are costing the system money while at the same time bogging it down by making dozens, if not hundreds, of unnecessary requests just to be a pain in the ass or snoop. It's time to revisit and refine the abuse taking place because of this piece of legislation.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gun Training Video

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Love, No Matter What (TED Talks)

What is it like to raise a child who's different from you.

Andrew Solomon: An activist and philanthropist in LGBT rights, mental health, education and the arts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Few Blog Clarifications

I've decided to respond to some criticisms of this blog in a FAQ type of format.

Some have come from comments I've not approved.

Others from various current sources elsewhere and some not so current.

Still others are a compilation from previous comments left here prior to the January 2013 reincarnation of this blog.

Why do you use the term "courtesy of"?
When I post videos from YouTube I use the term "courtesy of.." even though that is not necessary. When people upload videos they have an option as to whether they will allow the embedding them or not. By allowing the embedding of videos, they are giving their consent for the right to do so. While anyone can click on the title and be taken to it's author, I go one step further by crediting them because I appreciate that and want to go the extra measure in crediting them for doing so.

What about using charts and other visuals?
If you click on a chart or something I feel is proprietary it will open in a new window or tab and take you to the site I got them from.

You make a lot of claims. What's your Source?
I am meticulous about making myself clear about the source from which my statements are based. They too will open in another window or tab for verification.

Seems all you do report what's already public knowledge, why?
That may be so, but in so doing I'm sharing stuff I've come across that people might have missed. Things that I found to be of interest to me and I wanted to share with others. I would never pretend to be a reporter or have the resources of the New York Times, Fox News or others. In all cases by linking to the sources I'm fully crediting them. Again in this case like the YouTube videos they fall under 'fair use' and do not require their permission. In fact most sites, when I copy and paste show up on in my clipboards saying, "Read More At Http//:..... ". So obviously they encourage this type of thing. There are sites that won't even allow you to copy and paste by disabling the browser's functions from doing so. I fully respect their wishes and do not use their material here.

My site like a vast amount of others are referred to as "news aggregators". It could be said even large TV networks and newspapers do much the same in-so-much as they rely on the AP, Reuters and others for their stories.

Your anonymous and why don't you participate in the stuff you post about?
First to address the anonymous part. This isn't about me or who says what, but rather what is being said and the issue being spoken about. Just because a person is identified by name doesn't mean they have creditability. Take O.J. or Casey Anthony for example. I'd much prefer links to articles in which the author confirms their facts rather then who they are. Names mean nothing to me. The facts are the most important, not the author of them.

As far as civic involvement, attending meetings and organizing. Since when have they become a requirement before commenting or having an opinion? If this were the case no one who did not attend every press briefing, council meeting, protest demonstration, do a stint in a military, become a politician, commit a crime, have a talent for performing and the thousands of other things that people do SHOULD KEEP THEIR FAT MOUTHS SHUT, RIGHT?

Of course not!

We all formulate opinions and base our knowledge on those who have chosen to experience these things for themselves. Because they have done so, doesn't make them uniquely qualified somehow and that they alone have earned the right to speak. That somehow everyone who has not tread the same path as they are unqualified and should be discounted. To those I say, get over yourselves.

Why Don't You Involve Yourself More With Other Bloggers?
If experience has taught me one thing since I started blogging, it's that there's no comadre. The very first post I made back in 2008 was received with criticism and anger. I may be slow to learn but on January 2013 I revamped this blog entirely by removing almost all of my prior posts. I've been trying hard not get in another tangle with other bloggers and have desperately tried to remain separate in my own little world by not interacting with them.

I've now constrained myself to posting things that I wish to share with my readers about stuff I've come across that interest me. No longer do I care about blogger guidelines that will attract the most readers or what others may think. I've found myself more pleased with what I'm now doing. The most difficult part for me is staying off other sites and leaving comments. I'm not perfect about that but I'm trying :-)

You bitch and moan. Do you ever offer solutions?
Note that I've been trying to offer solutions in all the posts I've made since January of this year, rather then just crank.

What makes you an expert on anything?
Short answer is.. I'm not. I simply post on things that peak my interests or tick me off in some way. I have never claimed to be an expert. Nor do I claim to be a reporter or an activist. Just some average smuck who has an opinion and a suggestion or two. Hopefully I can spotlight posts that others find as interesting as I or may have ticked off other people too. If people want to leave a comment, so-be-it. If not that's fine with me too.

What's the theme of this blog?
It has none. I'm all over the place and I like it that way. Hopefully people will come here never knowing what to expect. I have way too many interests to focus on any single one of them.

Some people think your a waste of their time. Are you?
Not to me. I enjoy writing about all the various things I come across. If someone wants to leave comments that bash me or find my blog useless, I say, don't come back. Nobody dragged your butt here in the first place.

To the regular readers of this blog (there are many of you), I wish to acknowledge and thank you for continuing to come here and read this blog year after year. I'm aware of you and it's what inspires me to continue. I really do appreciate that folks.. I really do!

NSA Leak: Is Edward Snowden A Traitor?

I find irony in all of this. Washington, D.C. has it's panties in a twist over the fact that this guy exposed government documents that indicated the U.S. is snooping on our emails, phone calls and internet activity. The U.S. government considers Ed's snooping around on it a criminal act, but when government does the snooping it's A-OK.

Is this a bit like calling the tea kettle black?

We are asked to trust the government. Should we not ask the same of "our" government?

Yes I know there are bad guys out there, but I'm not sure we can assume everyone in government wears a white hat either. Hero or traitor, the guy brought this to international attention. So the main issue here isn't Snowden. It's to what degree the citizens of the world wish to empower "THEIR" governments?

How can it be OK to snoop on us, but not OK to snoop on those to whom we've entrusted who then keep secrets from us? Are they not supposedly subservient to us, rather then the other way around?

What Say You?

On This Day: Reagan Says, "Tear down this wall"

From the archives of CBS News, Bill Plante reports on President Reagan's historic speech at the Berlin Wall, on June 12, 1987, where he called on Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down" the wall that divided East and West Berlin.

Video Courtesy "CBS News Online"

The Whole 26:43 Minute Speech

Video Courtesy:
"The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library"