Friday, February 28, 2014

Lehigh County Budget Woes


Lehigh County Commissioners want Lehigh County executive Tom Muller to come up with about $14 million in spending cuts in the upcoming budget for 2015.

Mueller in his state of the county address said on Thursday, February 27th, 2014, "Tell me what you no longer want the county to do".

Predictably this set off a brouhaha in the comments left at both the local media and on blogs. Most of them personal and politically motivated attacks having nothing to do with Lehigh County's budget problem. Why should they when the players themselves blow hot air along with the best of them?

Back on May 11th, 2011 South Whitehall Patch ran a "Meet the Candidates" series in which when asked what...Lisa Scheller would have cut from the 2011 county spending plan to avoid the tax increase, she offered no specific reductions

Vic Mazziotti said,"I’ve been around budgets long enough to know there’s always something to cut."

Scott Ott said, "That's the executive's responsibility,"
Here we are folks over two years later and they still ain't got nuthin'. This bunch is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

Well I have a few things for you to think about
In 2012 Lehigh County gave a one time tax credit of $4.4 million to homeowners. Then mixed, stirred, repeated and gave another $3.5 million in 2013. That's almost eight million buck$ right there they could have had in their stash. In 2014 there are no tax credits in the budget for homeowners.

Imagine how pleased homeowners' will be when they learn of a increase not only by the elimination of the tax credit they enjoyed over the last two years but also a who knows how much more of a increase in their taxes this time around.

Currently Lehigh County receives $105.804 million from taxes. Lehigh County gets the rest from grants and reimbursements, departmental earnings, judicial costs and fines, investment income and so forth. Since county can't readily change the income from those sources, the commissioners requested $14 million would most probably be expected to come from taxes to homeowners. That translates to roughly a 14% increase (if unable to make further cuts).

Cedarbrook makes up 18% of the 2014 budget (about $10 million). I suspect this issue will be broached. The temptation may be too hard to resist for politicians looking for low hanging fruit.

The Purpose Of this post
To point out the commissioners along with the rabid commenters alike are trying to take a poke at one another. Neither of which are offering solutions.



Both are playing this asinine game of personal attacks and political one-upmanship while the ship continues to sink. It's like two drowning people who can't swim holding onto each other.
     WHERE ARE THE SOLUTIONS FOLKS!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yes People Do Want To Work

Despite what you hear about people not willing to work... IT'S NOT TRUE.

The Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City announced 50 job openings. Many would be hired on the spot. Some starting as early as this weekend. 1,300 people lined up Wednesday (02/26/2014) to apply before the sun came up.


In Tennessee more then 300 lined up outside a new Ollie's Bargain Outlet store last Wednesday (02/19/2014) hoping to get one of 55 jobs.

On Monday, February 10th, 2014 over 150 people waited in line for hours to apply at a new Wal-Mart in Sylvester, GA

January several hundred showed up for The Morning Call/Career Builder Career Fair at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Upper Macungie, Pa.

Around 1,300 were expected at the job fair hosted by Cumulus at the ArtsQuest Center later that same month in Bethlehem, Pa.

Like John Micek at 'The Patriot-News' pointed out on January 22nd, 2014 "The real issue in unemployment debate is still the lack of jobs, not job-seekers". As John goes on to point out, in November here in Pennsylvania there were 2.3 unemployed workers applying for each of the 1 job openings.

To hear many bloativators in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg and on TV speaking you'd be left with the impression anyone without a job was either too stupid or lazy to get one. That is simply not the case. My only hope is one day these same blowhards find themselves in the same pickle. Course if they ever were, TV or newspapers would no longer be interested in their stories either once they were out of office or no longer a paid pundit.

I did find one story that offers hope to those looking to make a couple of buck$. It's about a 15 year old 9th grader who is thinking outside the box. He shovels snow around Teaneck, NJ. What makes him different is he uses the credit card reader 'Square' on his cell phone to accept payments. Like he said a lot of people are short on cash. So far he's made around $600 this winter because he does it for half the price professionals charge.

So Here's My Advice
Don't wallow around waiting for some human resource manager to make you jump through hoops. In-between career fairs and waiting in lines think outside the box. Working for somebody isn't the only way to make a buck. Everyone has something to sell, whether it's labor, some sort of talent or skill they have. Look around your own life. What would you be willing to pay someone else to do for you? What kind of object or service may be what your looking for and isn't readily available?

While unemployed you have lots of time on your hands that someone working may not. Make that advantage work for you. Think about making/buying something to sell at flea markets, washing cars, groceries shopping, doing laundry, cooking home meals and other things few others are doing. It's better then trying nothing at all while you wait for your ship to come in.

A twofer...
Entrepreneurship
+
This video also talks about green energy at the end
Another thing I'm also interested in the USA pursuing further


Rent A Potty


If you live in New York City would you pay to rent a high class bathroom which you're allowed to use for 15 minutes at a time when you go out?

Some people are. It cost about eight bucks a day plus a membership fee.

The toilet paper is still free and Grade A number 1 when you number 2.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

USA Is Falling Further & Further Behind

While we here in the United States argue over the XL pipeline and fracking fossil fuels, the Europeans are making strides years ahead of us. Now 'Clean Technia' is reporting Barcelona’s BYD’s Electric Buses Can Go 30 Hours On Single Charge. "Based on the results of a pilot test performed in New York City last year (2013) during the months of August–October. Charging to full capacity took, roughly, 3–4 hours, and was completed at night." The battery system in the bus is supposed to last about 7.5 years

Between the European Union's strides made with green energy (solar, waste to energy, turbines, etc.), workers rights, healthcare, education and industrial manufacturing initiatives, one can't help but wonder if 10 years from now the United States will have a place in this world if we don't soon start to get our act together.

Let us never forget where steam & jet engines and rockets were first invented. Where the world's leading research in today's particle physics is located (the Hadron Particle Super Collider in Switzerland). Europe's miles ahead of us in mass transit and bicycling to work. Now that they have their own currency too, we better light a fire under or asses before it's too late!

We'd all like to think we are the cat's meow and more, but for the first time I will speak about where I worked and my personal experience and concerns. I worked at Kraft Foods.

When I left, the food plant's label machine for 'Grey Poupon' was bought from and serviced by Italian technicians who barely spoke English. The label machine for 'A1' steak sauce was from Germany. When I left Kraft was setting up the plant to produce 'Maxwell House" coffee packets by 3 teams of 4 specialized technicians brought in along with robotized equipment from Germany. The latest forklifts were Mitsubishi owned Caterpillar Forklifts. Nearly all the electronics needed to run this equipment along with the code daters and the cooking controllers were dependant on Asian manufactured equipment. So too were many of our ingredients imported from dozens of countries in South America, Australia and various other nations.

Either we can continue to disillusion ourselves and let the rest of the world pass us by or wake up to reality. Europe's not going to cut us slack while we stand around arguing among ourselves or fool ourselves into believing that we hold all the cards. Snooze.. you lose. It's as simple as that.

Uploaded 02/13/2014


American Idol Will Lose Money This Year

HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

Because according to The Daily Mail between Ryan Seacrest's salary of around $15 million and Jennifer Lopez's $17.5 million salary it's little wonder why. That plus another $5-$7 million on a new set.

Between ratings falling almost 30% and the former contestants suing Sony Music for in the neighborhood of $10 million this year's is likely to be it's last.

Like many other TV programs and their stars, it appears they are victims of their own greed. I kind of figure Ryan or Jennifer aren't inspired like they once were, but rather are trying to grab the last few bobbles before this relic goes under.

Boo Hoo. No worry. I have hundreds of videos with undiscovered artists on YouTube. Many of them better then the contests on AI.

Hospital Legally Stealing Money?

When I first saw this report on WPIX11 (New York) it made me wonder?

The hospital billed $14,107.09 to put 4 stitches in this guy's kid


COMMENTARY
This makes the case why it's important to get a really good education. A roofer or car repairman would go to jail if they charged someone this much for a minor repair.

I truly believe there's no way we're ever going to repair our medical system in the United States. The insurance company's not on the hook. They'll pass these cost on eventually to their customers. If this guy didn't have insurance, then the hospital would project this on to other of their patients who do. Looks like everybody's a winner!
     except us chumps

Is it any wonder why hospitals, pharmaceuticals, doctors and insurance companies oppose anything that smells like national healthcare? Imagine for one moment the solution being as simple as making Medicare available 100% to everyone. Government could still contract out the collections for premiums and payments to medical providers to the private insurance companies. So they'd still be around. What wouldn't be happening, if there was a single payer system, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies wouldn't be able charge patients whatever the hell they want.

Truly I can understand why the medical industry at every level will fight tooth and nail. They have a good thing going right now without any cost controls in place what-so-ever. With this much money in play and given these huge power brokers, I guarantee you 100% because of that the United States will never see the day healthcare is nationalized like in other countries.

If someone is waiting for that day, it will come on the same day as Pinocchio becomes real and turns into a boy. Neither which ain't never gonna happen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bethlehem School District Outsourcing Jobs

It's being reported the Bethlehem School District is outsourcing a bunch of jobs. While that does appear to be a positive from the district's point of view a word of caution.

You Get What You Pay For
From my experience when the place I worked at did this should serve as a word of caution...

(1) Nearly everyday someone else showed up other then the person the day before. They had to be quickly trained on the fly. This added lots of costs in lost productivity. In the case of educating, feeding students etc. it's not just downtime like it was for the company where I worked. We're talking about the quality of education, the way classrooms are cleaned and the way in which food will be prepared.

(2) There is such a thing as employee loyalty. That goes out the window when someone working knows they have no future hope of getting a steady job no matter how well or hard they work.

(3) Whether it be the company I worked for or the Bethlehem School District both expect to pay less then they had been paying. The temp agency needs to take a cut out of that lesser amount. Therefore temp workers will be lucky to receive 75% of what the workers along side of them receive or once did. What kind attitude do you think these workers will have?

(4) Time and again we've heard in the news about how government contractors fudged background checks. Yeah I know, this time it will be different.

It's about administrators taking responsibility. It may seem like a great way to absolve the district of possible lawsuits and doing a run around with problems from the unions. Contracting with someone else to worry about employees and what they are paid never turns out well, does it?

How About This Instead?
Administrators grow a set and face down new hirees and unions explaining the terms going forward. Not just by threatening them, but sitting down and explaining why. If future employees (or their unions) refuse to see why this is necessary and become unreasonable, then start shutting down schools. Start sending those students to private charter schools until employees come to realize it's not in their best interest to keep up the fight.

Believe me I don't want things to end up this way, but if employees can't be reasonable sometimes they've need to be shown the alternatives. It's in the best interest of taxpayers who've been overburdened. Some may say isn't that what Bethlehem School District is doing by outsourcing? NO

Outsourcing is far different from supporting or creating charter schools. One creates competition. The other (outsourcing) does not. One continues to hold a monopoly on education (outsourcing) the other does not.

Changes are coming one way or the other. I prefer education remains under government, but taxpayers should not be held hostage nor employees be outsourced because of their unreasonableness to compromise either.
      Verstehen?

Military Spending Out Of Control

For many this is old news we've known about since June 2013. This post is for others who aren't aware that the military is leaving $7 billion worth of equipment behind in Afghanistan.

Some of the equipment consist of 2,000 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP's) initially costing $1million apiece. About 11 million pounds of other equipment was already shredded into scrap metal and has been sold to Afghan contractors for a few pennies a pound.

The reason I brought this up is Bill from Nebraska reminded me of this once again with a vBlog he posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 regarding government waste. Rather then me rattling on incessantly, Bill puts things in a better perspective then I could..





Bill also has a vBlog on how to get free housing w/o government's help

Posted: Monday, February 10th, 2014


Monday, February 24, 2014

Somebody Want To Call Me Out?

Check out my posts below. Anyone want to discuss what I posted or call me out?

Is there anything I've said that is flat out BS?

I have lots of opinions, but that doesn't always make me right, does it?

In the absence of challenge I shall assume everyone agrees with me :-)

Schools Bigger Isn't Better

There's been a lot of smoke being blown around here about consolidating the Allentown School District with others in some form or another. As if that would solve our budget woes. Here's a look at just four other cities who's school districts' have been consolidated years ago.

06/16/2013-- Philadelphia
"Under a draconian budget passed by the Philadelphia School District last month, none of these supporting players — aide, counselor, secretary, security monitor — will remain at the school by September,... Pink slips were recently sent to 19 percent of the school-based work force, including all 127 assistant principals, 646 teachers and more than 1,200 aides."

04/03/2013-- New York City I
"80 percent of New York public school graduates who enrolled in City University of New York community colleges last fall still needed high school level instruction—also known as remediation—in reading, writing, and especially math... "

06/05/2013-- New York City II
"The administration plans to spend nearly $25 billion on education -- the largest investment ever made in New York City public schools." That comes even as the city lost $250 million in state aid because of the dispute over teacher evaluations..."

08/01/2013-- Los Angeles
"Los Angeles, again, is a good example; the same school district that is going to spend a half-billion dollars on iPads has been laying off teachers. To justify those layoffs, the school districts have been citing a $543 million district budget shortfall, yet somehow, those same officials apparently don’t cite that same budget shortfall as a reason to avoid spending $500 million on iPads."

07/24/2013-- Chicago
"Chicago Public Schools will drain nearly $700 million in reserves, raise its share of the Cook County property tax as much as possible and make cuts that include $68 million from the classroom to close its $1 billion deficit, according to a $5.58 billion preliminary budget."


COMMENTARY
I could have cited dozens of others which reflect much the same. in nearly every part of the United States. The problems are the same no matter how many consolidations or how large a school district becomes. It should be obvious based on these others that have already gone that route, "Bigger Isn't Better".

So What Are Some Of The Solutions?
Schools have drifted away from teaching the fundamentals. Schools have taken on larger roles like feeding their students, day care for teenage mothers, sports, arts, various community/social programs and so forth. In other words have gone beyond their mission which use to be teaching the basics like reading, writing, arithmetic and history.

Another issue has been the amount of administrators assigned to seek out federal and state funding along with the requirements that are needed once they get that funding.

Then there's the constant in-class administrative evaluations of teachers by looking over their shoulders constantly. Does not student test results indicate when individual teachers are getting the job done? Why is there a further need for administrators to apply pressure to both teachers and students by sitting in the back of classrooms?

In the 60's William Allen had one principle. One assistant principle and 3 councilors and still managed to achieve better results. Triple their number today along with outrageous salaries.

In A Nutshell
We've over complicated things more then they need be. The role for schools should be to educate students. Not oversee students and parents social needs. Nor create a one size fits all that teachers need to follow to the letter. We need to trust teachers in what ever approach they take and evaluate them based on the results in good test scores no matter the method they use.

Teacher layoffs should be based on student performance, not seniority nor threats by teacher unions to do otherwise. He who pays the checks is the boss in any other line of work. It's not being anti-union to expect job performance to be key in retention of one's job.

Unless we make these kind of changes no amount of consolidation is going to fix any of our problems. We can throw 10's the money or consolidate till all the school districts in Pennsylvania are one, but it will solve nothing.

Bigger isn't better. Never was. Never will be.

If it were possible Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia would have model schools. Indeed if bigger were always better Jupiter would be a great planet to live on..

Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Madison Rising' Rocks National Anthem

Apparently there's a big fuss over 'Madison Rising' version of the national anthem at the opening season of NACAR yesterday (02/22/2014). Personally I have no problem with it and think it is quite spectacular to hear it done in this way...



Cost Of Iraq & Afghanistan Wars

Talk about stupid !
Why is anyone complaining about paying for our social need programs, education, social security or Obamacare after we spent nearly 3x's as much on these stupid wars. Wars in which taxpayers will see nothing in return for our cost on human lives or any investment what-so-ever in them?

Published on Feb 22, 2014


Biggest Fracking NIMBY Of Them All

It turns out the biggest person right now against part of a fracking operation in Texas could be the CEO of ExxonMobile (the biggest natural gas producer in the USA). The CEO is suing to block a water tower near his Texas home that would store uncontaminated water which would then be hauled to a drilling site and be used for fracking. The lawyers claim this isn't about being against fracking. It's about lowering property values with trucks going in and out.

Does it really matter? The guy doesn't want part of the fracking operation near his home. That's sort of the whole point isn't it? When it comes to fracking it's not just about the wells. It's where to get the 10,000's gallons of water from? Where to store the contaminated water? The trucks and pipes go for miles around these drilling sites. Indeed gas is very clean burning, but it's far from being clean energy. All fossil fuels are dirty. Which brings me to..

If this world were sane we wouldn't be even close to talking about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Not when California farmers' are facing the worse drought in our life time. One which means there will be a fraction of the produce come this spring. If there was any rational sanity left we'd be stringing pipes to supply water as fast as humanly possible.

Ole King Midas may get rich if we complete a oil pipeline but fat lot of good it will do him without food. Not the kind of food that will cost twice as much to bring in from another country. Not the kind of food that is grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers that would never be allowed into this country otherwise.

Friday, February 21, 2014


One Step Forward Two Steps Back
Speaking about economic impact-- The oil pipeline will bring in a few thousand temporary jobs while it's being built. Several hundred more after it's completion. That's all fine and dandy to add these jobs, but not considering building a water pipeline to California farmers is nuts. In 2012 there were 80,500 farms in California producing $44.7 billion worth of sales. A good number of those that could be now in jeopardy. Construction of the XL pipeline boasts it could generate $521 billion by 2035.

Do the math over 21 years. California farmers would generate $938.7 billion (w/o accounting for inflation). That's almost twice as much !



Hence if we do nothing to help these farmers get water, but built a oil pipeline instead we've taken one step forward.. two back. The worse sin of all is we may trade off oil for the very food all of us need to survive on each day. Not just this year, but after year. We can live with less oil and gas, but not food and water.

Plentiful clean water is increasingly becoming harder to come by. Much more so when we pollute our rivers with spills like we've seen where whole cities' water systems were forced to shut down. How much more foolish even more so to waste this vital resource inefficiently on gas extraction. If we had any sense we'd be diverting where water is plentiful to other parts of the country where it's not.

Would not these water pipelines supply the same number of jobs while also saving our food supplies from disaster? I question the sanity in our reasoning in doing otherwise.

Yes King Midas was part of Greek mythology. I wonder if it's even being taught anymore in our schools? It should be. When it comes to the U.S. domestic policy priorities over a oil pipeline and not even talk of supplying much needed water one could assume King Midas were running the show.

The CEO may hate that water tower, but farmers would beg for dozens of them. The sensible thing to do is make both their wishes comes true.

Unfortunately farmers stand a better chance by appealing to Zeus for rain, then wishing for a solution to come out of Washington D.C.. As we all should know by now when it comes to Washington, D.C., "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mozart Rolling Over In His Grave

'2Cellos' (Sulic & Hauser) perform "Thunderstruck"



Here they are again performing LIVE-
"You Shook Me All Night Long" @ Arena Zagreb (Coatia)

Just when I think I've seen everything I thought entertainers could come up with, someone always comes along and surprises me. Hey if ya wanna make it big in the highly competitive field of entertainment, ya gotta have a gimmick, right?


Facebook: 2Cellos


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obama Encourages Trades Education

Barack Obama Speaking At A GE plant In Wisconsin Thursday, Jan. 30th, 2014


This set off a firestorm from both the 'left' and the 'right'. Since then he sent off a personally handwritten apology to Professor Ann Collins Johns, who teaches Art History at the University of Texas, Austin after she criticized him on the White House's website.

Count me as one of Obama's critics on this issue
He folded like a cheap suit. What he said was not only correct, but he put in such a way to be humorous. He said it in the least offensive way possible all-the-while offering some damn good advice. I'm a strong advocate for today's high school graduates looking into alternatives for getting a well paying job outside of a overly expensive college education. See my post: "No Need For College"

'The Art Career Project' website states, " In 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, museum curators and archivists made $47,220 and $45,020, respectively. University professors, on the other hand, made an average of $58,830 in the same year."

Check out this article published on January 10, 2014 at 'Forbes'. It says most of those who graduated in 2013 from a four year college with a Bachelor's degree can expect to earn an average of $45,600. Engineering majors are making out the better. They can expect to start out at $62,600. Those with degrees similar to what Obama was addressing could expect to only earn around $38,000 and are less likely to even find a job.

I don't want to repeat everything I said in my prior post ('No Need For College'), but one thing came up since I wrote that. Last night (02/19/2014) Allentown city council approved the hiring of three police officers at $50,192 a year. In light of that...

I ask again. Why someone after high school should spend 10,000's of dollar$ per year for 4 years (not earning money while they attend college) when they can earn as much or more in the trades in a little as two years at 1/4 the cost?

Barack was correct in everything he said and was polite while making his point. He owes no apology.

Whether it's a sitting president or someone on a barstool, anyone who waffles from what they believe is not someone who can be depended on. Yes I know it's election year, but wiggling around like a bowl of jello doesn't inspire confidence. This is why I'm displeased with this President's apology.

Talking Dog 4 Sale



A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: 'Talking Dog For Sale 'He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

'You talk?' he asks.

'Yep,' the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says 'So, what's your story?'

The Lab looks up and says, 'Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so... I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.' 'I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running...

But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.' 'I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired.'

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

'Ten dollars,' the guy says.

'Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?'

'Because he's a Bullshitter. He's never been out of the yard'

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Is It?

Bill White of the 'Morning Call' and Kathy over at 'The Junk Drawer' have been playing this game of 'What Is It?" for some time. Today I came across another one over at DNAinfo New York that may have them all beat...


Turns out an excavation over at New York city hall revealed what they first thought was a spice grinder made from a mammal bone was used for nothing like that at all. Rather then keep everyone in suspense... “Women used them for contraception, shooting solutions of astringents made from minerals or tree roots and barks into themselves before or after sex... Several later versions were found in digs near brothels in New York [near the former Five Points neighborhood] more than 15 years ago — but whether you were a prostitute, or upper class, it seems women across economic and social lines were using them. I suppose they could also be used for.... never mind. Enough said already :-)

Sen. Pat Toomey Against Raising Min. Wage

The Express-Times reports Sen. Pat Toomey is against raising the minimum wage.

I'm shocked I tell ya!

Here's a list of his 'NO' votes starting with 02/15/2014 going back to 01/28/2013. Debt Limit – Passage
Farm and Nutrition Programs Conference Report – Passage
Unemployment Benefits – Cloture
Federal Flood Insurance Premiums – Passage
Omnibus Appropriations – passage
Federal Reserve Chair Nomination – Confirmation
U.S. Court of Appeals Nomination – Cloture
Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014
John Koskinen, of the District of Columbia, to be Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Millett Nomination – confirmation
Executive and Judicial Nominations – Cloture
Nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to US Court of Appeals – Cloture
Nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to US Court of Appeals – Cloture
Continuing Appropriations and Debt Limit Suspension – Passage
Continuing Appropriations Conference Request – Motion to Table
Continuing Resolution
Byron Todd Jones Nomination to be Director of the ATF - Confirmation
Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations – Cloture
Cordray Nomination – Confirmation
Perez Nomination – Confirmation
McCarthy Nomination – Confirmation
Student Loan Interest Rates – Cloture
Immigration Bill – Passage
U.S. Immigration Policy – Motion to Table Cornyn Amendment
Farm Bill – Passage
Student Loan Rates Bill – Cloture
Internet Sales Tax – Final Passage
Internet Sales Tax – Cloture Motion
Firearms Legislation – Straw Purchases Amendment
Fiscal 2013 Continuing Appropriations – Passage -
Fiscal 2014 Senate Budget Resolution – Adoption -
CIA Director Nomination – Confirmation
Hagel Nomination – Confirmation
Democratic Sequester Alternative – Cloture
Defense Secretary Nomination – Cloture -
Temporary Suspension of Debt Limit – Final Passage -
Disaster Relief – Final Passage -
Temporary Rules Changes
Please folks let's not jump to conclusions. Maybe it's not his fault. Someone ought to call a repairman. I think his yes button is broken.

SOURCE:
MegaVote @ Congress.org
Both chambers are in recess.
The Senate returns Monday, Feb. 24,2014.
The House returns Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The One Percent's Annual Party

Kevin Roose wrote a piece in 'New York Magazine' which came out today (02/18/2014) entitled, "One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society". Kevin was a former reporter at the 'New York Times' at the time.. Some of the things he writes are... "It was January 2012, and Ross, wearing a tuxedo and purple velvet moccasins embroidered with the fraternity’s Greek letters, was standing at the dais of the St. Regis Hotel ballroom, welcoming a crowd of two hundred wealthy and famous Wall Street figures to the Kappa Beta Phi dinner...

... It was a secret fraternity, founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, that functioned as a sort of one-percenter’s Friars Club. Each year, the group’s dinner features comedy skits, musical acts in drag, and off-color jokes...

...The jokes ranged from unfunny and sexist (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?” A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish”)

... The neophytes – who had changed from their drag outfits into Mormon missionary costumes — broke into their musical finale: a parody version of “I Believe,” the hit ballad from The Book of Mormon, with customized lyrics like “I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe my plan involves a seven-figure bonus.”
He also posted a few audio tracks of what he recorded before he got tossed out. I'm not sure a bunch of rich folks getting drunk and raising hell is a threat to the middle class. However one thing we can most definitely take away from this is they are no fans of Democrats such as Hillary or Barney Frank. Most certainly it doesn't speak well of their concern for those of lesser wealth then they outside of their circle.

I could understand a bunch of uneducated blue collar rednecks hacking down drinks and talking like this in a local bar after work. However when a bunch of these so called well educated and successful overgrown kids do something like this it shows me money hasn't bought them a nickel's worth of class.

So what have we learned kids?
There's no difference in the animosity between those who are rich and those who are not.
     Except for a coupla's million buck$ between the two :-)

Rand Paul's Outrage Over Former President Clinton

Rand Paul is all over former President Bill Clinton's moral turpitude. I'm not quite sure how it benefits him. In so doing Rand is showing us his own flawed character. When Rand rips apart former President Bill Clinton's character it makes himself look like someone resentful, jealous and a sore loser.

Since Rand Paul is a fan of history regarding Presidential improprieties I offer the following..



Being the U.S. made it through all those stinkers I'm sure if we elected the wife of Rand Paul's target of wrath, we'll get along just fine.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Cars Are Dangerous"

So says Jon Geeting over at 'Keystone Politics' who goes on to say, "I’m amazed at how quickly I got bored with this story.... The idea that all these people “have to” drive into Philadelphia every day is the biggest lie in our transportation politics."

So sayeth Jon who has no tolerance for anyone who does not conform to his view of the world from where "he sits".

Robert (our neighbor) who's trade is in commercial ceramics, tile and brick. His company was the one that got the contract for the market street train station back when it was built. However his company is located well north of center city Philadelphia. He and his 30 man crew drove into center city every day to the work site.

The late father-in-law worked for Breyer's ice cream for over 20 years before Kraft bought Breyers. It was then that he was forced to commute to Philadelphia to pick up his truck for deliveries to finish out his career.

What both have in common is there was no, nor ever will there be trains or buses for either location. Robert's wife was a teacher in Allentown. The father-in-laws wife was a supervisor for the Bell Telephone operators on Linden Street in Allentown. As you can see moving down into Philadelphia would be impracticable for either of these two. Multiply them by the thousands who (like them) need to make the trek daily into Philadelphia and you can readily see why Jon's statement is one of either ignorance or callousness.

Presently one of my daughter's twins needs medical attention. It was recommended by our local medical specialist that she take her baby to 'Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia'. Should she take a two hour bus ride? Then call a cab to make the trek 3 miles across town and back? Then another two hours back home on the bus? This all the while changing diapers, feeding etc.?

Face it Jon no train or bus is ever going directly to any of these locations. The reason why the expressways and streets are full is because there's no other practical way of transportation for these people or folks like them no matter how may choo choos or buses there are in your world of fantasy.

And even if there were... the 14 mile stretch of PATCO is a mess. 1/2 of PATCO's elevators are out of service".

Considering how many 10,000's of drivers commute to New York they have a better safety record then the some of the 48 train operators falling asleep on the job over the last 4 years. Some of which were paid over $100,000 to see to it that their riders arrived safely.

Jon it's all great that you can say you are "bored with this story", but frankly I'm bored with your repetition against those who have very valid reasons to do what they have to do and to those who you feel are less intelligent then yourself as to why they need to own cars.

It's all fine that Jon can get by not owning a car, but Jon should respect those who do. The reasons why they are forced to do so for practical reasons doesn't make them less intelligent then Geeting who seems to think he is more so. Enough with your disdain Jon!

The Snow Is My Fault




Well at least it wasn't as bad this time as it was back on January 8th, 1996



Trina uploaded this video of Allentown's snow removal
being done on N. Fulton St in Allentown on 2/16/14


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snow Brings Out The Worse In People

I've been reading a lot of online comments here and there. First off let me say this. East Side and downtown Allentown versus West End Allentown is a bullshit argument. Each part of Allentown has it's own unique problems. Since 5 crews were assigned to center city the West End has not seen much plowing either. It isn't like I or the neighbors are sitting back with our feet propped up sipping on piƱa coladas. My wife missed 3 days of work so far and I've spend countless hours trying to unplug the back alley where our garages are. Some would have you believe otherwise.

Don't get me wrong center city needs those crews and they should absolutely be the priority right now.. Heaven forbid a fire or medical emergency would cut them off. I'm highly in favor of what these crews are doing.

It irritates me time and again when one part of Allentown is pitted against the other. One could argue we pay higher taxes so we should get more plowing. Absolutely not! Nor shall I complain when my taxes are spent for the heavier policing required downtown throughout the rest of the year. They need that for a reason. In the summer we hear people complain about the city hauling grass clippings from out here. Be far it from me to complain when the city only sweeps out here once or twice a whole summer. Downtown needs that more then we.

Look folks we are in a bind due to this snow just like everyone else. While parking may be less a problem, getting out is not. Why is it some people are always looking for an excuse to speak ill of another? Snow sucks for everyone. I've lived downtown for years where our street was too narrow for the plows. I had to shovel a alley to another alley to get to the half street to get to Allen Street. I understand the kind of difficulties people are enduring right now. But really neither the street crews, the city nor we in the West End made it snow.

Why can't people accept the fact that no one has it made right now. If people spent as much time shoveling as complaining maybe things would be less awful. Even my neighbor bitched at me for not clearing enough snow out of our alley. Then another neighbor pulled into the alley where I did clear and blocked it and my garage for hours eliminating any possibility that even if a snow plow came along they couldn't get through (including my wife being unable to get out of our garage-- a co-worker had to drive her to work today).

Admittedly, I do get cranky with people who are cranky. File this one under.. "what the hell's the matter with people!"

To quote an lyric from a song the 'Up With People" once sang..."If more people were for people...
More people everywhere..
There'd be a lot less people to worry about and a lot more people who'd care"


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Special Guest At The Hay-Adams

A friend of a friend took a photo of a very special guest staying at the Hay-Adams in Washington, D.C. today (02/13/2014)



Thinking About The Homeless In Today's Snow

CNN is reporting-- "As the temperature plunged into the low teens on a January morning in Camden, N.J., seven aid workers set out on a daunting mission: to count the homeless in the nation's poorest city.

Which made me wonder how Allentown's homeless are making out in this horrible snow storm?

All the homeless shelters we've been focused on in Allentown only offer shelter in the overnight hours. Where are they supposed to go today in the daylight hours? All the malls and businesses the homeless might have hung out in to get warm are closed.

The only place I know of is down at St. Paul's church who has gone way above and beyond. I've not spoken with Rev. Richard Baumann in several years, but one thing I know... here is a man who could have retired years ago or ignored those who came inside seeking refuge in the pews. Instead Rev. Baumann has become nearly the single most important person in Allentown for those who seek unconditional refuge.

While "Allentown City Council grapples with how to help homeless" Rev. Baumann of St. Paul's church is not just sitting around 'talking the talk', but is 'walking the walk'.

For those not familiar with St. Paul's church, it's not only one of the last of the grand churches left in Allentown, but is also one of the least funded. It may not have the largest budget, but it definitely is the largest supporter of not only the homeless, but the Hispanic population downtown throughout the year. I'm sure Rev. Baumann would never admit to it, but without his determined efforts and dedication I doubt St. Paul's would still exist. Words can't express the appreciation and respect I have for the man.


UPDATED
(10/07/2014)

WFMZ is reporting, "A homeless shelter that can accommodate at least 50 people will open in the middle of Allentown on Nov. 1"

Announcement- School Is Closed

North Carolina's Durham Academy Head of School Michael Ulku-Steiner and Assistant Head of School/Upper School Director Lee Hark announce that school will be closed Feb. 13, 2014




UPDATE
Express-Times reported Northwestern Lehigh School District did something similar.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Wolf of Sesame Street

Revealing the secret corruption inside PBS’s news division

Pando Daily-- "The news of PBS actively soliciting financing from billionaire political activists – and custom tailoring original program proposals for those financiers – follows a wave of damning revelations about the influence of super-wealthy political interests over public broadcasting. Thanks to collusion with PBS executives, those monied interests are increasingly permitted to launder their ideological and self-serving messages through the seeming objectivity of public television.

WNET officials refused to provide any details of the Arnold Foundation-PBS contract with a spokesperson telling Pando that “such agreements are always confidential.” This refusal came despite PBS being a public institution that watchdog groups insist is subject to Freedom of Information Act regulations.


What's The Fuss?
Recently PBS did a special entitled "Pension Peril”-- "secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.".

It's clear both MSNBC and FOX are agenda driven. When PBS also climbs on the band wagon it now becomes a matter of whether there's no longer a single media organization that can be trusted. Were things always this way or was it over the last few years ethics have gone out the window?

A point can be made as to whether someone doing a blog or tweeting is any less reputable then what we once assumed our main stream professionals provided? Especially when one considers someone doing the tweeting or blogging on a topic isn't contingent on someone's bankrolling their efforts. Kind of makes you wonder if there's anything we can place our faith in doesn't it?

Snow's Coming.. Get The Hell Out Of Allentown

The City Of Allentown has released the following.. "Mayor Ed Pawlowski declared a Snow Emergency in the City of Allentown at 4pm today, Tuesday, February 11, 2014 that will go into effect at 7pm on Wednesday, February 12. That Snow Emergency will stay in effect until further notice.

By ordinance, a “snow emergency,” requires owners to remove their vehicles from posted routes. Signs are posted on snow emergency routes, which are also published on the city website, www.allentownpa.gov. City Streets Superintendent Mark Shahda warns that vehicles left on designated routes during a snow emergency will be ticketed and towed. Parking is prohibited on the routes until the emergency is officially lifted. Residents should also go the city website or avail themselves of local news media sources to learn when the snow emergency is lifted.

In addition, the city is posting the following areas for No Parking effective at 7pm Wednesday, February 12.
     Jordan St from Whitehall St to Turner St
     Green St from East of Meadow at the dead end to 12th St
     Cedar Street from 3rd St to 12th St
     Whitehall St from Meadow St to 8th St
     Penn St from Sumner Ave to Union St
     Lumber St from Whitehall St to Linden St
     Jefferson St from Carey St to Liberty St and Gordon St to MLK
     Madison St from Allen St to Winton St
     Franklin St from Early St to MLK
     Fulton St from Linden St to Elm St and Turner St to Washington St
     St Cloud St from Maple St to South St and Turner St to Chew St
     West St from Gordon St to South St
     St George St from Tilghman St to Liberty St and Chew St to Linden St

“Any heavy snowfall may make these streets impassable for plows and emergency vehicles,” said Pawlowski. “Owners need to move their vehicles for the overall safety of the neighborhood.”

City residents are advised to wait until plows have been down their street before shoveling driveways and ask residents to avoid throwing snow back onto the streets.

The Allentown Parking Authority is again providing free lots:

LOT NAME LOCATION
     Transportation Center Sixth & Linden streets
     Northeast 121-137 N. 7th St
     Germania 108-126 S. 7th St
     Fountain 923-933 Walnut St
     Community 13-37 S. 6th St
     Walnut @ 9th Deck Corner of 9th & Walnut Sts.
     Spiral Deck 820 – 836 Linden Street
     “E” Lot 226 N. 9th St

Motorists are urged to go the parking decks beginning tomorrow, February 12 at 4pm at Sixth & Linden, Ninth and Walnut and 820-836 Linden to fill them first. That will give the Authority the best opportunity to plow its surface lots.

The Authority properties will remain open until after the snow emergency is lifted.

Parking will also be available at the Allentown Fairgrounds beginning at 2pm on Wednesday, February 12. Motorists should enter at Gate 8 near the intersection of Liberty and St. Cloud streets and they will be directed to the proper parking area. The Fairgrounds can accommodate approximately 150 vehicles.

Residents are asked not to place items in the street in an attempt to save parking spaces. The city also requests resident participation in clearing snow from storm sewer drains and fire hydrants."
Back in the 90's, when we had huge snowstorms back to back, I called my brother who had just moved to Old Zionsville on a back road where he and only 3 other homes were to rag him. This after I was trapped and missing work for 3 days living in downtown Allentown. I wanted to taunt him by asking how it was going out in the boonies. He replied he was only trapped for 8 hours before township plows came through. He never missed a hour of work at Strohs for is 3rd shift mechanics job. The yuck, yuck was on me!

I do agree with the mayor, we need to unblock these streets for emergencies. On the other hand I can understand why residents are fleeing to the suburbs from here and in other cities to escape these kind of problems. This snowmageddon isn't make much of a case for cheer leaders in support of urban renewal.

Taxes For Schools Are Out Of Control

The Express-Times is reporting only about 15 people showed up for the Allentown School District town hall meeting on Tuesday night (02/11/2014).

Was This Because Of Apathy Or Futility?
I very much admire and appreciate the Allentown School District superintendent Russell Mayo hosting four town hall meetings. What I'm about to say should not be misconstrued as a criticism to either he, the ASD or any of the other school districts of which I'm about to speak. Rather I'm speaking about this lack of participation from a taxpayers point of view.

Looking over my federal income returns from as far back as 2007 I've noticed that we paid over $200 more in school taxes then we did in federal taxes on both mine and my wife's earnings combined. Now that I'm retired and no longer working doesn't mean I won't be paying until I die whether in rent or on the home we own.

In addition to what I and others pay individually the overwhelming majority of the school districts' budgets (about 2/3rds) come from both the federal and state governments. Then on top of that they also receive even more money from profits at Pennsylvania's casinos. I'm not taking a poke at any of the school districts or their administrators when I say, enough is enough!

This blogger isn't pretending to have all the answers, but rather trying to explain why people aren't showing up by posing a few questions as to the purpose of having them.

Will any of these town hall meetings resolve these problems and make them go away? Will these meetings be little more then an informational as to the problems facing districts and why taxpayers are going to get hammered even more? If so, we already know that. No sense wasting a hour or two to explain this districts budget woes. I get that. What I don't get is how things got this way and will remain this way throughout the foreseeable future.

Let's use Whitehall-Coplay School District for example. The township has at least 6 shopping centers and 100's of stores and finds itself in the same fix. I'm not picking on this school district, but here you have one of the most commercially developed areas in Lehigh County facing a budget problem too. It doesn't matter where you turn. In any school district, whether it be urban, suburban or otherwise, their budgets are all in a pickle. Why is that?

Again, I'm not accusing any district or it's administrators, but I think it's safe to say taxpayers are sick of hearing about it this same time every year. Year after year. What's the point if nothing is ever going to change? All the whining in the world isn't going to change a thing. Should it be any wonder why people don't show up annually for another dose?

Yes I feel bad for the sorry state our education system is in. I feel even sorrier for all the taxpayers throwing ever increasing money into the black hole that this has become. There's no point in going to a meeting where those leaving it are left only to shake their heads in despair. Yes we know there's a problem. We don't need that drummed into our heads.

Does that explain the lack of attendance?
I think so.

I have some ideas, but those are beyond the purpose of this post which was to explain why the lack of attendance at the meeting. If anyone has a further interest in discussing this further I'd be happy to entertain them in comments. Otherwise I'll end this post on what I've just talked about. The lack of public participation.

Uploaded on Dec 7, 2013


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Lot Of Shit



Monday, February 10, 2014

Not Much Going On In The Blogosphere

Point Of Observation
I have 40 other blogs here in the Lehigh Valley listed on the right. 19 of those haven't posted anything for over a month. 4 others are active about once or twice a week. About 8 of us post daily or at least every other day or so. Out of we 12 (who post frequently) only about 4 receive comments. It makes me wonder why only 1 out of every 3 active bloggers receive comments. Anyone have an explanation?

It also makes me wonder why half of them haven't posted anything for a month or more?

Really... it's no big deal , but I would like to see a more active blogosphere here in the Lehigh Valley. Anyone want to weigh in on this?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sean Hannity's Home Up 4 Sale

Looks like even though Sean Hannity bluffed about being 'water boarded' he's making good on his threat to move out of his home on Long Island. Currently his home is listed on a multilisting real estate site for $3.6M. The taxes on the home are listed at almost $57,000.

That may seem to be a lot for taxes but for 52 year old Sean Hannity who is said to have a net worth of $35M it's not all that outrageous as he makes things out to be in my opinion. Remember too real estate taxes are IRS deductible. That should help him out by paying for a few suits (probably also a deductible business expense).

Here's a bit of a comparison for Sean to the average smuck. The asking price represents about 10% of what's said to be Sean's net worth. What's your net worth ratio compared to the value of your home?

That's the reason why I don't think anyone should be hosting a pity party for him. No I'm not envious of his wealth, but here's a guy who could pay $4M cash for another home and still have $31M left over and continues to bitch about paying taxes. Seems to me the guy's doing alright for himself. I'd be quite certain when he negotiates his contract his accountants already have in mind a net figure and inflate his gross salary request based on that figure.

None of us like paying taxes either, but how many of us could use just 10% of our assets to buy a new home for cash and then expect empathy when we would bitch about it?

Slot Machine Hasn't Hit In 20 Years

There's a slot machine in Los Vegas that hasn't hit in 20 years.

It's the last one of 50 old mechanical $1 progressive machines who's payout has now reached $2.3 million. Of course it's the most popular machine at the MGM Grand.

Under gaming laws in Nevada it can't be taken out of service till it pays out.

20 years may seem like a long time but when you consider how long I've been playing the lotteries here in Pennsylvania and haven't won anything over 20 bucks... it's no big deal :-)

Rupert Murdoch's Ex Wife & Tony Blair?

Is It True What They Say About Rupert Murdoch's Ex Wife & Tony Blair?

This makes me wonder when Rupert's newspapers were accused of tapping phones in the U.K. there was a more personal motivation for them?

Little boys grow up to be big boys. Neither of them like it when someone else is playing with their marbles, eh?

Should Companies Use Social Media?

Coca Cola's Facebook page took quite a hit after their commercial aired on the 'Super Bowl' broadcast.

It seems the thing to do these days for companies is to use social media sites to make themselves appear in touch and personal. It also cost them practically nothing to spread the word about their products. However the problem is they can't control the message. It opens them up to bullying and false accusations. The kind of stuff that cost them dozens of hours and numerous posts to try and defuse the emotions and false claims..

In a number of instances this does more damage then good. At what point does it cost companies more to employ a team of PR experts to try and tamp down bad publicity then it would to pay professionals to develop positive reinforcement based commercial advertising?

A word of advice to companies.. if your company's looking for free social interactions on the internet, it could end up costing a bundle. Not a good idea. Here's another piece of 'free' advice...I don't know who came up with this seemingly swell idea, but whoever did should be sent packing.

It's IRS Season Again

I've observed over the years at this same time every year the IRS makes a move to strike fear in the hearts of all taxpayers. It happens every year. They hammer a really high profile well known name with taxes and this year is no exception.

The IRS sent the Michael Jackson Estate a $702M tax bill. The IRS is accusing the estate of a underreporting net income by a fraction of what the estate is actually worth. For one, the MJ estate says the Beatles catalog is worth $0. The IRS estimates it to be worth $469M

One of the things I've noticed countless times is many performers are worth more dead then alive. Is it any wonder producers knowing this could care less about the welfare of the performers they have under contract?

So what have we learned from all of this?
Ski masks and guns are for losers who don't own a suit and are too dumb to realize there's a legal way to go about the art of thievery.