Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ObamaCare- A More Positive View

There sure is a lot of misinformation being put out by those who would like to things to remain just as they are. For one the doctors whose salaries are between $150,000 and $250,000 a year with hourly earnings between $50 to $150 an hour.

There's the big pharmaceutical industries. Then there are the medical insurance companies without 'Obamacare' who would get to cherry pick from those who have no employer based medical coverage.

Another enemy of 'ObamaCare' is congress who's members depend on campaign contributions from these groups. Congressional members who are under constant bombardment from the lobby groups funded by the billions of dollars invested by special interest groups determined to keep the status quo.

Perhaps the biggest reason of all are the Republicans who are determined to win back the White House at all cost. There is no larger nor determined group to see 'ObamaCare' fail then they. Even if they have to shutdown government then blame Obama for it. It's simply unimaginable for them to allow Obama's signature piece of legislation to stand. The logic being once 'ObamaCare' fully kicks in, many Americans will start seeing their yearly medical insurance premiums going down as much as $10,000 a year. That makes for a pretty tough argument for booting Democrats out of the oval office and congress.

Is it any wonder people are turned off after seeing unending deceptive advertisements costing millions of dollars each year in an attempt to derail 'ObamaCare'.

I won't pretend to know whether everything about the 'Affordable Care Act' is hunky dory. I'm sure there are more then a few parts that still need fine tuning. One thing I'm certain of, it's not as bad as we've been told by those benefiting greatly under the current way we are paying for medical coverage. Of that you can be sure!

Check out Tami Luhby's article at CNN Money-- New Yorkers to see 50% drop in health insurance costs in Obamacare exchange

According to this July 17th press release from Governor Cuomo...

"On average, the approved 2014 rates for even the highest tier of plans individual New York consumers could purchase on the exchange (gold and platinum) represent a 53 percent reduction compared to last year’s direct-pay individual rates. The fact that these average individual rates are effectively being cut more than in half is primarily because a greater number of uninsured individuals are expected to obtain coverage in the individual insurance market – lowering overall premiums. (Note: That 53 percent reduction does not include the impact of federal financial assistance for individuals meeting certain income thresholds who are purchasing coverage on the exchange, which would lower costs even further for many consumers.)

Furthermore, despite the fact that health care costs per capita are approximately 18 percent higher in New York than the national average, the average approved rates for the benchmark individual “silver plan” in New York would be in line with (nearly 10 percent lower) the nationwide average

The following companies had health insurance plan rates for the health benefits exchange approved today by DFS. The rates approved today are subject to final certification of the insurers’ participation in the exchange
•Affinity Health Plan, Inc.
•American Progressive Life & Health Insurance Company of New York
•Capital District Physicians Health Plan, Inc.
•Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York
•Empire BlueCross BlueShield
•Fidelis Care
•Freelancers Co-Op
•Healthfirst New York
•HealthNow New York, Inc.
•Independent Health
•MetroPlus Health Plan
•MVP Health Plan, Inc.
•North Shore LIJ
•Oscar Health Insurance Co.
•United Healthcare

Enrollment for the exchange begins on October 1, 2013 for coverage that will be effective January 1, 2014
There are certainly a lot more companies to choose from then previously. If this sucked so bad, why are so many stepping forward?

For a breakdown of all the specific rates in New York for 2014 CLICK HERE

Well that's only New York you say. Well in Maryland they are reporting "A 21-year-old nonsmoker will be able to buy health insurance that costs as little as $93 a month on the Maryland Health Connection... The state joins California, New York and elsewhere in achieving monthly premiums below estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and others."

These were the main points I wanted to make. However for those who would prefer a longer read, here are some more goodies....

New York Magazine- "Obamacare Still Not Collapsing", "The employer mandate that the Obama administration is delaying is not a central part of the law. You could repeal it without any functional changes to the guts of the law"

Forbes, "The Congressional Budget Office, in a 2012 report, argued that employers do not have a large incentive to dump workers’ coverage. And even if employers dropped coverage for an additional 20 million workers relative to the CBO’s projections, the deficit would not increase, says the CBO, because the subsidies paid to low-income workers would be offset by an increase in tax revenue from lower utilization of the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance... If you like Obamacare, and you want it to work, you don’t need the employer mandate.

ObamaCare About The Employer Mandate

No all the investors in hospitals are against the new healthcare law. 'The Raw Story' reports Hospital investors ‘sold’ on Obamacare despite bumps. "They expect company earnings to strengthen as more Americans gain insurance coverage and hospitals lose less money treating the uninsured... The biggest benefit from health reform is expected to be an influx of patients whose treatment will be paid for either through expanded Medicaid programs or with private insurance obtained from state-based exchanges that will take effect on January 1. That should help drive down the percentage of revenue now being written off as bad debt for treating the uninsured, which can be up to 20 percent or greater for some hospital chains.

This legislation is extremely complex. Some of it is good. Some of it not so good. There is big money riding on this thing. There sure are bunch of loud mouths shouting too. At the end of the day both are trying to appeal to peoples' raw emotions and preconceived beliefs. When this happens, the facts are largely overshadowed and buried. One needs to dig and sort things out for themselves.

I'd be willing to bet 90% of my readers never got this far into reading my post. I've been told numerous times to keep it to one paragraph. For the vast majority of people reading anything more then 10 sentences would be like waterboarding. This holds true when I read my stats. Be that as it may, it can't be said I didn't take thrice the time it would take for even a lazy person to read.

Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S. Congress Hard(ly) At Work

In a few days the U.S. Congress will be going into recess. Except for two sessions in the 'House of Representatives' on Thursday, August 1st and Friday, August 2nd both the senate and house are taking off the entire month of August. When they return on September 9th they will be facing a grueling 9 day schedule for the entire month of September.

When congress returns it will be facing the deadline for funding the United States. Failure to pass legislation will result in shutting down the government. Congress also has to enact legislation that would raise the budget caps both due by October 1st. This leaves them only 12 sessions between today Monday, July 29th and October 1st to figure things out.

Getting this work done isn't looking to too promising. According to an article Sarah Jones wrote for 'Politicus USA' on July 2nd congress only managed to pass 15 actual bills up until that time. It's no wonder. This bunch only scheduled themselves to get together only 4 months this year for a total of 126 sessions.

It isn't like congress was lazy as some accuse. They managed to vote 40 times against 'National Healthcare" despite knowing it was DOA in the Senate. Even if they could get it past the Senate there's no way in Hell the President would sign it. According to 'Govtrack', "Around 10,000 bills and resolutions are considered by the U.S. Congress in each two-year session, but of those only about 4% will become law." You know important things like..S.Res. 201: A resolution designating the first Wednesday in September 2013 as “National Polycystic Kidney Disease Awareness Day”.

S.Res. 35: A resolution congratulating the Baltimore Ravens for winning Super Bowl XLVII.

S.Res. 183: A resolution commemorating the relaunching of the 172-year-old Charles W. Morgan by Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea

H.Res. 107: Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 890) to prohibit waivers relating to compliance with the work requirements for the program of block grants to States for temporary assistance for needy families, and for other purposes

H.Res. 4: Authorizing the Clerk to inform the President of the election of the Speaker and the Clerk

H.R. 1411: California Coastal National Monument Expansion Act of 2013

Point is, I have no problem with congress not passing another bunch of laws that most likely would only mucky things up anyway. What I do have a problem with is their callous disregard with the things that need to be done. Things like screwing around with the U.S. budget till the last minute before there's a government shutdown. Playing politics (with Obama) by forcing sequester to continue into 2014 . A move that according to the CBO could cost us up to 1.6 million jobs.

I have rather a simple theory. More governments have collapsed throughout history from within then by outside enemies. One of the most effective ways to defeat one's enemy isn't through the use of military force but rather by collapsing its economy. The United States tries to employ this method all the time through the use of embargos on other nations.

It's all fine and dandy to try and defeat the other political party in this manner, but when does it cross the line and we end up jeopardizing our nation's own well being?

Whoever is President represents not only their political party affiliation but also the American people. When congress ends up hamstringing the President, does it not also take down the American people who elected that person right along with him?

Many may see congress as nothing more the bunch of politicians blowing hot air. Not I. I view this current batch of legislators far more the that. They are playing games that could end up threatening the continued existence of the United States more then those who dare war against us.

The Daily Show - A$$holes Wanted for Congress 07/25/13

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Something I Noticed About Electric Consumption

Over the hot spell I noticed that my electrical voltage dropped back to around 115 volts in the day. At night it returned to around 120 volts. Now it may seem like 4.17%. isn't a big deal, but consider this. The average 10,000 air conditioner uses from 8 to 10 amperes. The wattage (that which you pay for in your electric bill) used is between 960 watts and 1,200 watts to power this size air conditioner when voltage is at 120 volts. However at 115 volts the power consumed then becomes between 920 watts and 1,150 watts. (Power=Voltage x Current).

When the utility company reduces power the wattage that you are billed is reduced accordingly. This on the surface seems fair since I am getting less I am therefore paying less. However here's the rub. At 115 volts you are getting only 9,583 BTU's worth of cooling out of the 10,000 BTU's the air conditioner was designed to deliver. OK, so you say what's the problem with that, the AC will run 4.17% longer to get to where it needs to go. NOT SO!

I don't want to get all technical, but the fact of the matter is that electric motors lose efficiency (horsepower) when their voltages are reduced. This isn't in direct proportion to the 4.17% we are discussing. It exceeds that.

Air conditioners lose further efficiency in another way. Again without getting all technical. There is a certain amount of refrigerant allowed to flow between the high side (condensation coil) and the low side (evaporation coil). If this flow is reduced (by less horsepower coming from the compressor motor) there is further reduction in an AC's cooling efficiency in most home units.

As you can see when the power company drops back just 5 volts AC's suffer in two ways. The compressor motor not only produces disportionately less horsepower, but in turn also delivers less refrigerant at lower differential pressures then it does when voltages are at 120 volts (where it was designed to run most efficiently). This results in less cooling even if it runs 4.17% longer.

It may very well be that power companies need to protect their grid with 'brownouts'. But it doesn't hurt their bottom line either if customers are using more electric then they would have otherwise at 120 volts. Summertime also is usually the time they shut down turbines for maintenance. Maybe this helps pay for that, eh?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Interactive Newspapers- The Savior Of Print Media

Something both 'The Morning Call' & 'Express-Times' may want to consider. Here's what 'The Spring River Chronicle' in Arkansas has been doing since June 2011..

The First Fully Interactive Newspaper in the U.S.

Since that time there's been even greater advancements made. By using conductive inks with standardized printing methods a reader can simply push an icon in their newspaper and with the proper software, it will transmit to their iPad or SmartPhone.

Intro to Interactive Newsprint Video Source 'Interactive News Print'

Think about the possibilities. By utilizing SmartPhones and iPad apps newspapers could offer updates to the story, discussion rooms, comments, sharing what a reader read with others, direct feedback (either by texting or speaking) to the reporter. The publisher would have the stats on just how many times an article was read.

Advertisers (for a premium) could have all these things offered to them as well. Perhaps charged for each feature they'd like to have for themselves. This all in one place simply by pressing or scanning an icon printed or embedded in the published article or advertisement.

All of this leads to further opportunities for monetizing. Face it, the next generation is glued to their electronic devices and are no longer content with just glaring at newsprint. They want to socially interact with it.

The question I ask myself is why haven't more newspapers done this? It's not like I'm brilliant. Instead of sitting around spinning their wheels and whining about the good old days, get the cobwebs out of their heads. Gutenberg invented a press which was cutting edge technology in it's day. He used his head and created a break through that enabled newspapers to be printed en masse. Are there no more great minds down at the newspapers that can think beyond doing things as they've always done them? If this is so, then newspapers will continue to 'wither on the vine'.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Schlossberg: The New Allentown

People called me nuts when I said on this blog a year ago that we'd be on the hook for $1 billion!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How England's Royals Pick Their Names

Now that England's Kate & William named their baby 'George Alexander Louis' there's been a great deal of interest in how the royal families derive them. In this case he will be known more formally as 'His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge' until/if such time he becomes king. Upon being made king he will then become 'King George VII'.

G.A. Louis now becomes third in line to the throne behind Prince Charles (his grandfather) and Prince William.

Now if all this naming business becomes a bit confusing 'The Official Website of The British Monarch' explains it this way."Members of the Royal Family can be known both by the name of the Royal house, and by a surname, which are not always the same. And often they do not use a surname at all.

Before 1917, members of the British Royal Family had no surname, but only the name of the house or dynasty to which they belonged.

Kings and princes were historically known by the names of the countries over which they and their families ruled. Kings and queens therefore signed themselves by their first names only, a tradition in the United Kingdom which has continued to the present day."
In other words. Surnames can come from their various 'dynasties', but can also sometimes change due to their 'line of succession'. That is, if they choose to use them at all. Hey, when your royalty you get to make the rules, right? :-)

How The Game Is Played
The line of succession goes from the first born eldest male heir to the throne (Prince Charles). The next in line would be his first born male child (not his brothers). In this case Prince William. Now that William has had a son, that son becomes 3rd in line (knocking Harry out of 3rd place pushing him back to 4th).

Let's mucky this up a bit more. If Prince Charles never had a son his younger brother (Prince Andrew Duke Of York) was 2nd in line to the thrown. However since he has had two sons, Prince William and Prince Henry Charles Albert David (Prince Harry), that pushed Andrew back to 4th place.

Prince Harry was in 3rd in line but now that William & Kate had their baby that pushes him back to 4th and leaving Prince Andrew now 5th in line for the throne. Prince Andrew's 2 kids along with Prince Charles's other brother (Prince Edward Earl of Wessex) are pretty much out of the running as they are now in 6th thru 9th heirs to the throne. They could be pushed back even further if Prince Harry were to have a son sometime in the future. Clear as mud, eh?

Fret not. If your still confused (and who wouldn't be) check out the royal site for the whole scoop on 'succession' and 'precedence' for the royal events. There's also a listing of the current sixteen royal families. In addition check out the currently occupied royal castles and palaces along with the 23 others which are no longer occupied and a whole bunch of other goodies.

Who was that?

Future Photos Of Detroit In The Year 2100

What has happen in the past, will recur again. History repeats and repeats itself. Different names. Difference places. Most of those inhabitants didn't see it coming either. Detroit isn't the first city to take a dump. Nor will it be the last. But there is hope. Many of the cities which have fallen in the past are now making a comeback with the tourists.

Take for example the city of Ephesus in Turkey

Other cities have had stadiums that have become quite popular with tourists

So have the much neglected houses of worship become popular tourist destinations, like this one in Tulum

Behind Detroit's Notorious Ruins
Uploaded on Dec 2, 2009

I know I'm being somewhat of a smart ass here but the point is, history has proven no city can last forever. Some advocates have been calling for regionalizing (swiping) the taxes from Detroit's surrounding suburbs. Some are even calling on the state of Michigan and federal government to bail out Detroit. My own view on this is sometimes you got to know when to fold and cut your loses.

Cities have sprung up from empty land. In the case of Detroit the best plan may be to return it to empty land. It's outlived it usefulness just as many other cities and towns have done that once prospered under the gold rush, oil drilling, logging or coal mining days and are no longer with us. No it's not pretty, but we can't always save the patient no matter how much money, well wishes or heroic efforts are made.

These movements to 'save our cities' and 'regional taxation' schemes aren't working. One city after another continue to slip backwards New York City currently has a $1.3 billion deficit. Philadelphia has had a $5.9 million budget shortfall over the last 10 years. It's a similar story with each of their school districts. These cities and countless others.

I've been accused of being thick headed, but even I know to cut my loses when something isn't working. Most of the former manufacturing and industrial sites in these cities have now become tourists museums for what once existed there.

So what do I propose instead?
It's obvious that the masses have spoken. Industrial and commercial sites have relocated beyond the cities. Around them one housing development after another has sprung up. These have now become what cities once were. Like it or not, this is what people are doing. No amount of coaxing is going to get them to move back into the city.

Think of it this way. A farmer plants a crop. The farmer then harvests the land and then turns it over for the next crop. Cities have exhausted their harvests. It's time to turn them over into what they once were (empty fields) when they too are no longer productive. No farmer in his right mind would trying planting new crops without first turning over the ground removing the weeds that have sprung up. Yet here we are trying to plant new crops on top of the old. These old structures are simply not applicable to today's manufacturing needs. Neither are they for attracting housing for the middle income or above average earners who obviously aren't buying what we're selling.

There very well may come a day in the future when people no longer wish to flee to the suburbs and start returning to the cities. That day isn't today. If we ever hope to see a turn around we need to study what makes the suburbs attractive and emulate that. If that means reducing density, so-be-it. If that means larger grassy areas, so-be-it. If that means downsizing by reducing our populations by whatever means possible, so-be-it too. Either that or we can continue failing by trying to subsidize everything under the sun by bleeding our neighboring suburbs, the state and federal government dry and drive them into the ground with us.

Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives there's not one large mall in Allentown?
Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives not one large manufacturer relocated to Allentown.
Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives for cheap housing where are the higher wage earners?
Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives public transportation is used sparsely?
Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives the government budgets remain in the red?
Shouldn't it be obvious by now that despite these incentives the job outlook in the city remains stagnant?

Somebody please explain to me when I can start to see results. Yeah my plan may seem kinda stupid, but not as stupid as pursuing the same plan in city after to city only to see their outcomes as that of Detroit's. We all are familiar with the definition of insanity. You know, about doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different outcome.

Again, for one last time, I'll repeat my challenge. Show me one city with a success story that's been turned around by these tax incentives, stadiums and/or housing incentives after being offered them 10 years ago. Nobody could previously and I very much doubt anyone can now either.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Think I Am, Therefore I Am.. Not Necessarily

Philosopher John Searle addresses consciousness as a biological phenomenon

Chasing Our Own Tails
The statement "I think, therefore I am" could be said to be awareness of oneself. Awareness is nothing more then a product of consciousness. Since without consciousness (in a unconscious state) there can be no such self awareness it can be said we don't exist unto ourselves under these conditions. However a person outside of our self is still consciously aware of our being while we are lay in a state of unconscious. So this doesn't mean that we don't exist, right? But where do we exist? In their consciousness not in our own under these conditions. So now we've become dependant on someone other then ourselves or what we call 'collective consciousness" for our continued existence.

Let's Take This All The Way To The Top
In the beginning there could exist no self awareness nor consciousness within the creator since both are products of biological conditions (humans). In order to bring about conscious awareness the creator (God) would have to first create humans. However in order to do that the creator would have to first develop a plan. A plan which of course would require self awareness that it/she/he existed in the first place. All which at first seems could only come about after the creation of humans, not before. Seems we're in a paradoxical catch-22 situation, no?

What Came 1st Can't Be Lesser Then What Came After
Scripture tells us the eye cannot see it's own self. Therefore it follows conscious awareness only exist as a reflection. That makes this "I think, therefore I am" nothing more then a reflection of something far larger going that cannot not possibly be understood by the human mind. If the only tool we have is our mind and it is operating within itself, it cannot possibly hope to understand what's truly going on through intellectual musings within it's own limited perimeters.. Back to that old catch 22 again, eh?

It is said everything that exist lay within all things that don't. The latter being far greater. Some lean on faith for what they cannot understand. Some simply block out anything they don't understand or care to think about. Still others make up things and declare them truths for what they can't comprehend. Each are much like the unconscious person I mentioned above.

There is yet another way to approach this (since no one can understand through one's human faculties). For the sake of definition I will call it 'taking a stance'. If one simply takes a stance (position) that the universe (and all the people in it both good and evil) is what it is and accepts that, one becomes more attune (one with it). Some religious philosophers called it surrendering to 'God's Will'. I'd rather think of it as leaving one's ego behind. Another way of saying it is 'going with the flow'.

All Our Troubles Begin With the 'Ego'
You Can't Beat The System
The human 'ego' tries to beguile us into thinking we are lazy, surrendering or uncaring when we resist our inclinations to 'change the world'. Whenever human reasoning gives into the temptation to change the world, what results is conflict with others. Things like wars and social bickering with those who's minds will never adapt to our own views no matter how much we argue. Simply put our world and the universe is what it is. Accept the world for what it is or die trying to make it what we think it should be. Either way the world will be much the same way it was when we came into it as it will be when we leave it.

The short and long of it is, enjoy the ride while it last. Whoever or whatever the creator is/was or what ever evolves is larger then we who are only temporary reflections of that. To do otherwise would be like a shadow (reflection in a mirror) trying to outwit that which is standing before it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

1 Way 2 Beat Paying Taxes On U'r Billion$

Give It All Away!

"He has given away 99 per cent of his fortune to health, science, education and civil rights causes around the world through his Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation.

Chuck Feeney, who still has a sizeable $2 million left in the bank, made his money from duty free shopping and quietly began giving his money away in the 1980s...

...Feeney, who was raised by Catholic parents in an Irish-American New Jersey neighbourhood during the Depression, preferred to use his influence and connections during his lifetime rather than letting his money be frittered away after his death."

Making the Most of Our Final Years – An Update
Christopher G. Oechsli, President and CEO, The Atlantic Philanthropies
"We are now squarely on the trajectory that our founder, Chuck Feeney, and Atlantic’s Board of Directors established for us in 2002: to conclude all of our grantmaking by 2016.

* By the end of 2014, we expect to have committed the vast majority of our core programme grants in the United States, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We have already winnowed down several of our grantmaking priorities in these regions.

* We will complete all our grantmaking by 2016."

This whole thing reminds me of the 2000 movie "Pay It Forward"

An inspiring 5 minute clip from the movie
Wikipedia: "Pay It Forward": "'Pay it forward' is implemented in contract law of loans in the concept of third party beneficiaries. Specifically, the creditor offers the debtor the option of paying the debt forward by lending it to a third person instead of paying it back to the original creditor.

Pay It Forward: Random Acts of Kindness Soundtrack sung by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo╩╗ole

Some Youtube examples of 'Paying It Forward' in real life

It seems in the media and on blogs all we hear about are the bad actors. It's my hope if you take anything away from this post it's that there are tons of good people doing good things. Too often all we hear about is our reliance on government instead of each and other. Imagine "if more people were for people, all people everywhere, there'd be a lot less people to worry about and a lot more people who'd care".

The 'Up With People' organization is another fantastic movement which began in the mid 60's. Despite what people may take away from my current posts I am and always was an optimist. Back in my radio broadcasting days, I was inspired to do several programs with the local Lehigh Valley 'Sing Out' organization's singers and their leaders. Those stories would make a post in itself. Perhaps some other time as this has become too lengthily already :-)

Monday, July 22, 2013

On This Day LVRR Had A Wreck In Allentown

On July 22, 1858 a Lehigh Valley Railroad train was crossing a bridge over the Jordan Creek when it collapsed killing the fireman and engineer. Four other employees were injured.

Photo Credit: 'Library Of Congres'

Terrible Accident on the Lehigh Valley Railroad Daily Express | Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler
"July 22, 1858-- A dreadful accident happened this morning on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, at Allentown, to a train of empty coal cars on their way to Mauch Chunk, by which the fireman and engineer lost their lives, and four other employees of the road were injured.

The accident occurred about half past seven o'clock. The train was passing the bridge over the Jordan, which has two spans, and the locomotive had nearly reached the pier when the span upon which the train was began to give way, and sank gradually for a minute or two, and then fell with an awful crash, carrying down the locomotive and about forty coal cars..."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Zimmerman Case.. How I See It

This was a case of when dumb and dumber world's collided. This has nothing what-so-ever to with 'stand your ground' laws. The entire defense was based on 'self defense' from some guy who couldn't leave things well enough alone.

Over the four day July 4th weekend there were 72 shootings in Chicago. Last weekend there were 25 shootings in Chicago. Nobody saw fit to make an issue of them. Neither were there mass protests or outrage in the OJ case when Nichole Brown was killed.

Either we accept and have faith in the justice system or we do not. Everyday there are black on black, black on white & white on black crimes committed. Why is this one so special? Is it because the news media hyped it and are playing us?
America Stop Being So Damned Gullible!

Detroit Files For Bankruptcy

The biggest city ever in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy

What has happened in Detroit has been coming on for many years, as you shall see by the dates as to when the following videos were uploaded. Rather then babble on and on, I will pose the following question. Is this what's in store for America's future going forward?.

At this same time in July 2012 there were "21 Pennsylvania cities jockeying to avoid bankruptcy". There are over two dozen municipalities in Pennsylvania who already are operating under Act 47 bankruptcy protection including Harrisburg and Reading, to name but two of the larger ones.

I'm not sure how we can stem the tide, but we damned well better or for America's next generation things aren't looking too good. Let the following videos serve as a warning. What happened in that city can happen in others.

Dying Detroit
Uploaded on Mar 24, 2009

Entire Neighborhood Abandoned. White Lady Remains
Uploaded on Mar 31, 2010

Detroit's Ghetto: The worst Ghetto in the USA
Uploaded on Jan 4, 2012

Detroit on Fire
A look at the arson/vacant home problem in Detroit through the eyes of the Detroit Fire Department
Uploaded on Oct 24, 2011

Dan Rather Reports - A National Disgrace
This special two-hour report documents Detroit Public Schools
Uploaded on Jan 14, 2012

Detroit Mansions
Uploaded on Jan 30, 2010

What's truly maddening for me is all four of today's cable new channels are so focused on Benghazi and the Zimmerman crapola they have completely 100% ignored what you have seen presented here on this blog. Shame on these useless bunch of news readers, the lot of them. Why are they deliberately colluding to hide this information from us?

Could it be America doesn't give a rat's ass?

Judging from my past responses in comments when I post these kind of things..I doubt it.
And that's a damn shame too!

Forget About Debit & Credit Cards...

"The system doesn’t require a wallet, bank card or phone - instead a camera is positioned at the checkout and takes a photo of a shopper's face when they are ready to pay.... It then scans a database for the face and matches it to stored payment details in order to complete the transaction."

Think about it. No one can steal one's debit nor credit card ever again. In the not so distant future all one needs to do is walk up to an ATM or cashier and enter the amount they want. One may leave home and forget their cards, but one could never forget to leave their face at home :-)

I can see a day when one clocks into work simply by entering the lobby. No longer could someone fraudulently clock themselves or someone else in. Further apply this to red light cameras, E-Zpass and traffic stops which could positively identify the actual driver who might have misplaced his/hers driver's license or was trying to BS a cop. Imagine how a stolen concert ticket would no longer have value. A way to pay for parking. Logging on to a computer. It could be used to positively identity someone commenting or using a social internet site seeking to hook up. etc., etc., etc.

The list of possibilities are endless. Some may good. Maybe some, not so much.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Allentown School Tax

I just paid my 2013 school tax bill.
School taxes are a forever gift that keeps on giving to the school district

What you see is a chart of my budget for 2013...
My school tax cost me 40% more then my heating, cooking, hot water gas bill
My school tax cost me 40% more then my electric
My school tax cost me 30% more then my cable bill for TV, internet & telephone combined
My school tax cost me 5x's more then my car insurance for 2 drivers with 2 cars
My school tax cost me 10x's more then my water
My school tax cost me 2x's more then my homeowner insurance
My school tax cost me over 3x's higher then my county reality tax
My school tax cost 2x's as much as city reality tax (with the garbage fee included)

While what I spent on groceries and medical were both twice as much, there is a difference.
           I can do something about those!

The Allentown School District claims it costs $5,881 per pupil. Let's do a little math here. I had 2 kids x in school for 12 years. That adds up to $141,144 (in today's money). The youngest graduated 20 years ago. The other 6 years before that (26 years ago). The way I figure it I've more then paid my fair share in a number of ways.

More then my fair share?
Yes absolutely.. LOTS MORE!
Here's the breakdown. "53.8 percent of the district's basic education comes from the state, while 37.2 percent comes from local taxes and 9 percent from federal grants.". What this means is only 37.2% of ASD's budget comes from the taxes I paid directly. The other 62.8% came from state and federal funding. Keep in mind I also didn't account for the 12+ years I also paid into school taxes while the both were in school.

What this all boils down to is the money it cost to educate my two were already paid for by my state, federal & reality taxes years ago. Then on top of that the school district will not only get this years school taxes from me but another $3,693 per student from the state and federal government (62.8%*$5,881). AND I'm not even factoring in the unexpected recurring state funding of $8.2 million. Then there are those who are older then myself who never even had kids in school.


* There needs to come a point at a person's age where one's debts for education are considered paid in full. If Social Security can track one's lifetime earnings, surely the school district could as well when it comes to paying them back.

* Unlike both the city or county, the school district provides no direct service to the individual taxpayer who hasn't had kids in school for years or never had kids in the first place..

* Taxpayers are paying at three levels. The state. The federal and again at the local.

* At least with my other expenditures I'm getting something for them and not being charged for services I no longer require until the day I die. Services that have been paid for in full for some time now.

These school taxes are what are forcing older people out of their homes and into publicly funded old folks homes where they no longer are required to pay school taxes. I for one abhor the idea of living in what I consider a chicken coop where they can cut off your oxygen and air conditioning at will. It's not exactly the kind of ending I had in mind when I started working 51 years ago. So pardon me if I take it personally when someone(s) picks my pockets long after I've repaid my debts. Be forced to give up my independence and the home I've worked hard for most of my life. Yeah I'm kinda' funny that way!

The School Tax Vise
Jessica Parks and Chris Palmer, Inquirer Staff Writers
"Taxes soar, but still suburban districts struggle. And the problem's worsening... Unlike New Jersey, where overall property levies have risen even faster, school millages in Pennsylvania constitute a heftier share of the annual property-tax bill."

Tom Thum

Video Courtesy "TED Talks"

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rail Feasibility Study HERE WE GO AGAIN!!

Great googly moogly, it's easier trying to kill a zombie then stop the wasting of money AGAIN on these ever repeating rail feasibility studies!

"ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A small but important first step toward the possible return of passenger rail service to the Lehigh Valley was taken late Wednesday night by Allentown City Council... Kirk Raup has estimated restoring rail service to the Lehigh Valley would cost $500 million, with half the money coming from the federal government."This is the fourth time I'm posting about this nonsense. The first time was June 9th, 2010. The second time I posted was on December 12, 2012. The third was on March 20, 2013.

I'm not going to post all the links that back up 100% of what I'm about to say. They can all be found in those prior posts. Rather I'll briefly as possible list the talking points against wasting taxpayers dollars yet again for a 3rd study.
(1) If New York's MTA can't operate at a profit with over 10 million riders a week traveling uptown and downtown in a single city, why would anybody in their right mind consider 1,400 riders traveling 87 miles from Allentown to New York across three states a good idea?

(2) Not only does the Bieber Bus make it to NYC from Wescosville in as little as 1 hour 15 minutes , it does so at a profit and takes you right into 42nd street. It has 13 different departure times in the morning and another 6 more in the afternoon. Bieber's Charcoal Dtive-in location has parking for nearly 200 cars. Allentown's proposed rail service can't possibly provide this kind of service.

(3) Kirk Raup estimates it will cost roughly $500 million. However the prior study indicated it would cost $649 million and another $11.7 million yearly to maintain it. That's because the $500 million doesn't include the estimated $20 million a mile cost to connect Easton to High Bridge New Jersey. Both TransBridge and Bieber cost taxpayers nothing and both make a profit.

(4) The buses take from a little over 2 to 2 1/2 hours. This was the same amount of time the old LVRR took. However under this new plan, riders would have to switch trains in High Bridge New Jersey and again switch trains in Newark before going into New York itself. No matter how you slice it even if one could board the next train within 5 minutes, it would add an additional 15 minutes to the travel time.

(5) The station in High Bridge is closed. Arriving passengers would have to wait in the cold or inclement weather for the High Bridge Line. Of greater concern is the fact that New Jersey Transit (which operates the rail service) had considered reducing or ending the service to High Bridge (which is the end of the line for that branch). Would not NJT, knowing how dependant our LVRR service would be on the High Bridge station, be so inclined to shake us down for a couple of bucks to keep the service running?

(6) Alternatively there was talk of using the Norfolk-Southern rails. NS made it clear freight trains would be a priority. Passenger trains would be required to pull over to a siding and allow them to pass. The reasoning is they didn't want their freight trains getting stuck behind passenger trains stopping every few minutes to pick up passengers. Another consideration was currently their rail system does not conform to federal standards for passenger service. This would require NS make vast and expensive upgrades. Something they are definitely not keen on doing

(7) Most of the prior train stations in the Lehigh Valley are now owned privately. Some house other businesses. This would result in them being taken off the tax roles.

(8) Currently it is estimated 1,400 ride the buses daily into New York City. How many would be willing to switch over to riding the rails that might take up to an 1/2 hour longer? In addition trains are notorious for not running on time. Buses are almost never late.

(9) Buses leave every 30 minutes to accommodate NYC workers' various starting times. Trains leave an hour to several hours apart. There's simply not enough track room nor enough trains to do otherwise.

(10) Currently it cost $46 round trip on Bieber bus from Wescosville, Pennsylvania. If these folks were truly concerned abut getting people to use public transportation, why not take the $11.7 million it would cost to subsidize this rail system every year and offer 254,347 free round trip rides instead?
This works out to about 181 days for all the 1,400 who currently take the bus daily. One of the ways it could be implemented is handing out a free ticket for every two a rider pays for. I'm sure the bus company and riders would love it. So would the taxpayers for not spending the additional $500-$649 million in the first place!

Yeah we all love choo choos I get it. Yes we all would favor greater use of public transportation. I get that too. BUT isn't using my suggestion #10 a much better way to go about it?
* No property would be seized.
* It could be implemented immediately.
* Earned free rides is a fantastic incentive to use public transportation
* Bus companies already have the business model setup. No overhead costs required by yet another bureaucracy.
* Buses can change routes on demand. Trains cannot pull up and move their tracks.

This whole train idea is yet another example of over thinking
Government spending money trying to find a solution for a problem that doesn't exist

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Local Travel Spots

Looking for a few places to visit within a few minutes to a couple of hours from around here?
Here are a few suggestions.

Lehigh Valley, PA (Posted: Sept. 2009)(video courtesy Coldwell Banker)

Lehigh Valley Zoo (Posted April 2010) (video courtesy Discover Lehigh Valley)

Dutch Springs (Posted: April 2010)
(4733 Hanoverville Road, Bethlehem, PA) (video courtesy Discover Lehigh Valley)

Allentown Art Museum (Posted April 2010) (video courtesy Discover Lehigh Valley)

Easton Area. Attractions (Posted: Nov. 2008) (video courtesy spakls103)

The Crayola Factory (Posted: April 2010) (video courtesy Discover Lehigh Valley)

Reading, Pa. (Posted Jan. 2009)
(5 top sites to visit) (video courtesy PBS39)

Jim Thorpe, PA (Posted: Sept. 2009)
Reading & Northern: Steam Train (video courtesy CSX6000)

Posted August 10, 2009 (video courtesy jtccvideo)

Knoebels (Elysburg, Pa.) (Posted: Sept. 2007)
"Photos are circa 1988 and set to the song "Knoebels Grove"
by Dave Parker, a Knoebels entertainer of this era."(video courtesy cpark099)

Dave Parker : "Fly With The Phoenix" (Posted: July 2007) (video courtesy cpark099)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lehigh Valley Transit Trolleys

Although these clips you see here have no sound, the videos on the DVDs themselves are fully narrated and include sound.

If these DVD clips stir an interest to readers of this blog, I encourage you to visit the 'Rockhill Trolley Museum' website store where they offer a collection of DVD's featuring the films of Gerhard Salomon you see here. Better yet, visit the museum in Rockhill Furnace, Pa. The museum is located a little over 75 miles West of Harrisburg and about 153 miles from Allentown.

For those who do not know who Gerhard Salomon was click here to read his Obituary in 'The Morning Call'.

Lehigh Valley Transit Co -- 6th St Loop -- Allentown

Misc Clips: 1947
West Catasauqua, Fullerton, Allentown 6th Ward, 12th & Gordon to 17th, past the fairgrounds.
West Catty service was abandoned in August 1949.

Still Frame Photo of Easton's Center Square (1949)

Still Frame Photo of Northampton Street Easton

Also check out my previous posts on trolleys HERE and HERE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On This Day July 16th

In 1935 drivers for the first time had to dip into their pockets to pay for parking on city streets when meters were installed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the first time in the United States.

France was under German occupation for two years before 1942 rolled around. It was on this day, in 1942, orders were given that 13,152 Jews being held captive at the Winter Velodrome in Paris be deported to Auschwitz for extermination. This part of France's history was known as the "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" France was not liberated until August 1944.

On this day in 1945 the very first nuclear bomb was detonated in New Mexico. This ushered in an era we refer to as the beginning of the 'Atomic Age'. Some equate this to the opening 'Pandora's Box'. This Greek myth describes how the lid can never be sealed again. All that remained inside afterward was Elpis (the 'Spirit Of Hope"). My apologies to the ladies since it's obvious Greek males conjured up this tale to blame all the evils of the world on Pandora (the first woman on Earth). A tale very similar as to that in the Christian Bible's 'Book of Genesis'.

In 1948 the Arab-Israeli War was in full swing when on this day Nazareth was captured by the Israelis. Two days later on July 18 a second truce was declared. Eventually on September 22, 1948 the legislative branch of Israel (the Knesset) passed legislation that declared any part of Palestine that Israel captured would then become part of Israel. However the war continued on until March 10, 1949 when Israel signed armistices separately with both Egypt and Lebanon which pretty much left the Palestinians w/o backing. Needless to say the Palestinians weren't pleased then nor are they now to this day.

The very last time Barnum & Bailey Circus performed under a tent was on this day in 1956. Since that time they rent arenas for their traveling shows..

While 'ballistic missiles' were around since 1942 it was on this day in 1960 the first one was fired from a submerged submarine, the 'USS George Washington'. On October 3, 1942 Nazi Germany fired the first in the series of 'V2' rockets they developed. By 1944 they were using them against Paris and London. By the time the war ended in Spring 1945 the Germans launched over 3,000 of these against their enemies!

In 1969 the 'Space Race' was won by The United States when the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon first.

Our difficulty in Iraq all began in 1979 when Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (Saddam Hussein) became the 5th President of that country. He ruled from 1979 for the next 24 years until military coalition forces unseated him on April 9th, 2003. Unofficially Saddam's rule over Iraq extends far longer. As Vice-President under General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr who was suffering from ill health, Saddam pretty much controlled everything for several years as Iraq's de facto leader.

Saturday, July 16th 1955 was the eve before the official opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. About 6,000 special guests were invited to attend the park's opening on Sunday, July 17th 1955 before the park open it's doors to the general public the next day. Disney employees received a quick learning experience that Sunday. Well over 20,000 showed up uninvited with fake tickets. Those in attendance for ABC's live broadcast of the event included Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and Ronald Reagan. Not to be confused with Michael Jackson's 'Neverland Ranch' which he bought in 1988. He owned it up until 2005 :-)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Latest Snowden Leak On Electronic Eavesdropping

'Guardian' reporter Glenn Greenwald published his latest article based on information provided to him by Edward Snowden.
How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty | The Guardian
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply
Readers can decide for themselves as to whether the information is reliable or ethical. But I have had several thoughts along those lines for a very long time.

Just suppose I want to track someone's activities to where they go and what they are doing on their computer. Further suppose that today's current malware and virus software made that very difficult if not impossible. How would I go about it. Well here's what I'd do.

I'd setup my software to request constant updates that would feed back log files that were created by users of my installed program. This would nearly bypass any of the virus/malware keeping watch out for such things. If one studies the service agreements one will notice in just about each of them it states they collect information. They make it sound benign. But is it really? How could anyone know who hasn't broken down the assembly code line-by-line? The answer is, you can't.

This method so simple, I'd be amazed if they weren't doing it. When you push that update button you are granting permission to access your system files as the "administrator" of the computer. There are ways you can set up your login as a 'non-administrator', however in most cases (since you don't have the authority) the update will fail. You will be requested to log in as an 'administrator' before the update can proceed. It matters not whether the software calls it an 'update' or a 'patch'. Can you now understand why just about every piece of software you ever installed is always nagging you?

Now if I were a programmer of any operating system out there who was under NSA order, I'd be able to do pretty much the same thing before the computer booted up. Even before someone logged in. But wait you say. What if I disconnect from the internet? Most likely the files would have been created already and are set to go. Meaning, you could never plug into the net ever again. That would make the computer pretty much useless wouldn't it?

One of the things I've observed is just how busy the computer is when your not even doing anything. Try stopping right now. Don't do a thing and watch the light blinking indicating your hard drive at work behind your back.

What's it doing?
Well some things it's doing is indexing your files in the background. Writing locations for your files to the hard drive's 'master file table'. Scanning for viruses while your not busy and other such mundane tasks. Here's were it gets interesting. Try starting you computer up with the basic operating files option. Don't log in. Just wait. Don't do anything. Leave it sit there overnight. Now it had all night to take care of those things, but if you wait long enough in the morning before you touch it.. bingo there goes that disk activity light again! Why?

Then there's the browser temporary files. You've erased them. WRONG! You could use a separate program that cleans your disk, but they're still there. Windows has a 'protected mode' in which files stay hidden whether you checked that option to see them or not. I've set my browser up to use what they call a 'ramdisk'. What that means all files are stored in my RAM. Turn off the computer everything is erased from the RAM. However even when I've unplugged my computer overnight and rebooted and took a look at the RAM before anything else, there were a few of those files! Apparently reloaded to it from deep down in the bowels of the operating system from who knows where.

There's yet another thing that should be mentioned. Some computer users may use a program that "wipes the free space" clean on their harrdrive. There's two issues with that. First off it only "wipes the free space", not the files which stay intact anyway. Number two, I can think of no better way to get the attention of government investigators. It's like a flag to them questioning what you were trying to hide. Same goes with your attempts at encrypting emails which pretty much does the same thing and obviously doesn't work anyway. So yeah.. if the secret classified courts require design engineers to provide a means there's no way anyone can prevent them from doing so.

Between the manufacture updates, patches, system design and perhaps a 'key logger' installed by a close friend or relative, one should imagine themselves as having someone standing behind looking over their shoulder watching every single thing they do. Don't do anything you wouldn't want any of them to know about and you'll be just fine.


Video Courtesy of 'Bloomberg Law'

Sunday, July 14, 2013

KOZ, Yeah It's Like That!

"Allentown officials hope to spur the economic redevelopment of two old landmark factories in the city by designating them part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone --KOZ.

They are the former Allentown Metal Works, which covers more than 17 acres just above Little Lehigh Creek at 606 S. 10th St. and Adelaide Mill at 333 Court St. Formerly the home of Phoenix Clothes, it is just off Hamilton Street and across N. Race Street from the city’s bus terminal.

KOZ properties that are redeveloped do not have to pay any local or state taxes for 10 years"
Imagine if you will that you have no income. So you agree to work for free for 10 years just so you can say you have a job. Yeah it looks pretty good on your resume, but your bottom line just plain sucks.. doesn't it?

Now further imagine that you'd have to spend money over the next 10 years just for the privilege of having that job that isn't paying one thin dime to you.

Yeah for taxpayers it's kinda' like that!
Under Allentown's KOZ if these building were occupied they would require city services such as inspections, fire, police etc.. The other would require in addition to those services the enrolling of many more students in the Allentown School District without having to pay for them.

Under one scenario (without KOZ) both properties sit empty generating zero revenue. Under the other scenario (with KOZ) both are occupied but still generate zero revenue in the hopes after 10 years we'd have something to show for it.

I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday
Ten years from now whoever occupies the 'Allentown Metal Works' will have exhausted their tax depreciations and advantages then move on the next city that's offering a sweet tax deal. The owners of the 'Adelaide Mill' apartments will flip the property for a quick buck to some dubious investment group (most likely from out of town) which most likely will shut the place down before they have to pay taxes in ten years. NO I'm not being negative. That's what shrewd investors do. History proves it time after time and again.

One town in Oklahoma placed huge posters in all the empty storefront windows so they would look occupied. This whole KOZ thing is like a fake western movie set on a Warner Brothers movie lot. What's the point of having occupied buildings if taxpayers never end up benefiting from them?

Think I'm FOS?
OK.. Here's my challenge. Show me one example in Allentown where KOZ has ended after 10 years and is paying off.
I Didn't Think So!