Thursday, February 25, 2016

News Roundup & Commentary (02/25/2016)

I don't know how many of you have seen the 2006 film entitled "Idiocracy". The wife and I have said for some time with everything going on these days this movie should be reclassified as a documentary rather then comedy satire.

Now apparently the co-writer, Etan Cohen, feels the same way. He said, “I never expected Idiocracy to become a documentary,” What follows may demonstrate some perfect examples of why this may be so.

Huffington Post:
The U.S. Has Lost Its Damn Mind
"On December 2, 2015, an absolute tragedy occurred. Fourteen Americans were killed and 22 were seriously injured in a mass shooting in San Bernardino. Which of the following would you attribute responsibility for what happened?"
"Let me give you a hint. It's not the one that comes in five flavors. Next question: in the wake of San Bernardino, which one is the U.S. government going after?"

One of the many things that annoy me..
Visiting sites on the internet that have constant popup ads along with hunting down hard to find autoplay videos buried deep down in their all too busy pages. Popups can block the entire screen until you hit the little X to close them. Yeah what else does hitting that X do? I never fall for them. Instead refresh the page and if that doesn't do it, I'm outa there!

Windows 10 Users Start Seeing Full-Screen Ads As Screen Savers. There's a way to avoid it. Read the link. Point is the internet and operating systems have become way over commercialized. Could "Smart TVs" soon become like those portrayed in the movie as well?

Trade, another example of Idiocracy-- "Under NAFTA, cheap American grain shipped to Mexico without tariffs destroyed peasant farming. And that prompted migration north. Meanwhile, American factories saw desperate Mexicans willing to work for a pittance, a government unwilling to pass or enforce environmental laws, and because of NAFTA, no tariffs when the goods were shipped back to the United States. That propelled factory migration south. Before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade surplus with Mexico. That disappeared within a year, and now the annual trade deficit is approximately $50 billion." In my opinion the new TPP agreement is like NAFTA on steroids.

Takata Airbag Recall Could Expand-- "Federal safety regulators are currently discussing the possibility of expanding Takata’s shrapnel-shooting airbag recall to cover another 70 million to 90 million inflators." Seems there's a lot of bullshit going around when you consider Volkswagen admits 11 million cars worldwide fitted with suspect software. My common sense makes me want to question if any one of the damn things work the way we were told. What do they think, we're idiots? Yeah maybe. (reference the film)

Russia Wants To Start Flying Surveillance Planes Over U.S.-- "Russia and the United States are signatories to the Open Skies Treaty (2002), which allows unarmed observation flights over the entire territory of all 34 member nations to foster transparency about military activity and help monitor arms control and other agreements." Read who were the idiots who thought this'd be a swell idea. Screw em'. Let Russia use Google's Earth maps like everybody else does.

The Allentown School District is going to court to argue for collecting property taxes for Allentown's arena. BUT as Michael Molovinsky points out on his blog, "This case is being heard by Judge Douglas Reichley... Reichley didn't mention that previously he was a state representative, who passed the NIZ."

Officials representing the arena's interests say it can't afford the taxes and they'd be in serious financial straits if they were forced to pay. Thank God none of us property owners face the same problem. I'm certain each and everyone of us can easily afford and are more then willing to make up the property tax loses from the previous 40 or so business owners who once paid theirs before they were removed.

Looks like the $282 million state taxpayers spent for "the most expensive minor league complex in the country" plus the $2 million (2014) we spend for extra police down there isn't going to produce a "return on investment" for taxpayers anytime soon. It never may. In my opinion we got Milli Vanilli'd on this deal.

WFMZ-TV is reporting, The Allentown School District, teachers union is being sued<. At issue is "a contract provision that allows the AEA president to work for the union while drawing a publicly funded salary and benefits.. current salary is $81,608, according to the Fairness Center. With other benefits, that totals $126,723 in the 2015-16 school year.".

In the classroom or not I question if it should cost taxpayers $10,560 a month for any teacher. If you factor in snow days, holidays and the summer months this adds up to less then 9 months of work.

In 2015 the average teacher in the Allentown School District received $62,694. Although some could earn up to a maximum of $132,259 + Benefits.

I believe the $62,694 is very reasonable but I do question if it's reasonable to pay someone over twice as much just because they grab a few college credits every summer so they can increase their pay. I don't see how someone teaching some elementary kid his colors and ABC's is going to do a better job holding a masters or doctorate then a 4 year degreed educator. Let's be realistic.

The other issue I have is what the hell are these school board members doing and why are they even there. They were supposedly elected to represent the interests of taxpayers who elected them and to fulfill the students educational needs. Both in the most effective and efficient way possible. I'll let other decide if the board members fulfilled that mission.

As for me they get a big fat F for failure. Although teachers played a part, board members have left union negotiations get out of hand. I realize their hands are tied in many ways, but who other then Scott Armstrong came out in public and strongly spoke about both what was going on and what his positions were. Board members may be restricted what they can or cannot do. One thing they have always been allowed to do is SPEAK OUT. Any board member who doesn't try to inform and rally public support for their positions needs to leave.

Holding a seat on the school board is a public position. There can be no greater means to make change then to court public opinion behind him or hers' views. While I appreciate members aren't being paid to receive a lot of flack.. anyone who isn't willing to fight for students and taxpayers interests publicly need to go. They don't belong there. Especially if they are beholding and so inclined towards teachers' interests only. Teachers have a union representing them for that.

Who, if not the board members, should represent the main interests of taxpayers and students?

Something has got to change. Otherwise change will continued to be forced on the school district through back door means by both courts and legislators. I'd much rather board members take a much more active public role. Hiding behind meetings and keeping silent the other 29 days out of the month isn't going to take us where we need to go. They either can continue as they always have or get the public involved by speaking out as many times as they possibly can.

These aren't the same kind of secret decisions large corporation boards can make. Whatever decisions the school board makes will eventually become well known to the public whether it attends meetings or not. Why not run them past the public first well in advance and as much as possible? It sure could save members a lot of flak down the line.

Communication is the key. A good start would be recorded meetings posted online. School District website press releases by individual board members along with their email address would also go a long way in achieving this end. At the very least it would give the public less excuse to become upset by claiming they had no knowledge. There's no such thing as too much information when it comes to CYA in my opinion.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Same Drug Cost 10x's More Than In Canada

"In a floor speech May 2, 2007, Sen. Bernie Sanders reflected on his trip to Canada with Vermont women diagnosed with breast cancer to buy affordable medication at one-tenth the price."

Take "Spriva" For Example
It's cost in the United States is around $280+ a month (for 30 capsules). Because of it's outlandish price many insurances (including mine) will not pay for it. Yet when you go online you will see it costing in other countries as little as $40 for the exact same product's quantity and strength..

Don't think for a moment there is a generic substitute either. Although the drug first went on the market in 2004 various forms of it are under patents ranging from the year 2021 up until 2027 (pending renewals). However because of it's low price in Britain their National Healthcare Service covers the entire costs for patients who require it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How Much Is A Squirrel's Life Worth?

Yesterday we awoke to some critter making noises in our fireplace while watching our two year old grandaughters. After grabbing a flashlight to look in behind the smoke covered glass I discovered a squirrel's blinking eyes calmly looking back at me. I can't be certain how long the little rodent was in there or how it even got down past the closed damper but there it was.

Turns out a few hours later he wasn't so calm after all. Not on his last leg either. He managed to rip out every piece of insulation I had between the fireplace insert and the brick. Despite my displeasure I found it hard to let the little jackass suffer. Having no resolution come to mind several hours later we decided to call the city's animal control. Apparently on Saturdays and Sundays animals don't need rescuing because nobody answered the phone. Besides it appears the city's animal control doesn't provide this service. I tend to think they only exist to fine and enforce code. Not a big help.

Time to kick it up a notch by calling local pest control services. Yeah well there ain't no way I'm going to pay $450 to save that rodent's ass. Neither $350 the next one we called wanted either. When you stop and think about it my last one hour visit to the doctor's office billed my insurance $250. Why would anyone waste the money and time to become an MD if they can earn this much moola simply buying a thick pair of gloves and a twenty dollar live bait trap? What the hell is wrong with this picture!

After looking at a bunch of how not to remove squirrels from a fireplace YouTube videos we decided to take yet one more crack at it. We called and found this guy around 2:00 pm who would rescue this creature's furry little ass for $150. He said he could come the next day. Wouldn't you know late in the afternoon around 4:30 pm the critter disappeared after his destructive tirade. No squirrel in the fireplace area. No more noises from the damper above either like before No nothing from that point forward. I don't know if this pest somehow impossibly managed to climb back up the chimney to escape or did he climb back up to the smoke shelf behind the damper and croak?

OK, so now it's the next morning. Still nothing. No noise. No reappearance what-so-ever. Frankly I could care less on removing the critter if he croaked. The whole point of spending the $150 was to save his furry little ass (because we are idiots that way).

So a little after 8:00 am, long before the scheduled 11:00 am appointment we called the main number back trying to cancel the appointment. Left a message the only way possible on the answering machine. Doesn't this guy call later in the day to say he was 20 minutes out. We explained the situation and he said he never got the message. I said we'd call him back tomorrow if the squirrel made another appearance. Although I told myself I'd be willing to pay a penalty if I had to for the squirrel chaser's inconvenience. Somehow I don't think it went over very well with him. From what I sensed by the tone of his voice he's pissed as hell with me.

This Went From A Rescue To A Recovery
I don't think I'm wrong not wanting to spend $150+ on what possibly might be a dead squirrel. I wonder how many others would be willing to spend even twenty bucks for an animal rescue like this in the first place.

Although this is the first time anything crawled down the chimney the wife is now on my case to get a chimney cap installed. Talk about a dilemma. Looks like I'm out a stack of loot no matter how this plays out. We only lit the damn thing three times in the 26 years we've been here. Yeah it do sure make the living room look pretty, but other then that it's useless.

Thanks too Mr. Squirrel for chewing up the wood on my window flower boxes, chasing the birds away at my feeder, shorting out the electric on the pole three times out back and continually digging up our flower pots. As you might have gathered by now I'm not your biggest fan.

One Final Story
The neighbor next to us once lit their fireplace and out came a squirrel on fire into their living room ending up with their three dogs chasing it room to room. Woo-ha!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Allentown Number One In Pennsylvania For Lead Exposure

WFMZ-TV Reports Study: Allentown tops Pennsylvania in lead exposure

I've learned there may be a couple of reasons why. Most of those results came from test results of kids on Medicaid. Normally the majority of pediatricians don't perform this test nor report to the state like the Pennsylvania run Medicaid does It follows then that most of those tested came from poorer family homes. Most of these kids are living downtown in older low rent homes. Homes that may have very old plumbing before lead lined pipes were banned in 1986.

This seems to jive with what is reporting concerning Philadelphia properties-- "The city estimates there are about 50,000 lead service pipes leading from water mains into residences."

I have little doubt water leaving the treatment facilities complies with federal standards, but what ends up coming out of faucets could contain higher levels of lead. Allentown's mayor is pointing the finger toward older homes with chipping lead paint.

Neither theory may be entirely accurate (in so much not every kid is tested) nor that paint chips could be responsible. We simply don't have enough information. However if I were to venture a guess I'd tend to lean towards older home's plumbing being the likely culprit. Our home was built in 1927 and I found some lead pipes. All were sewage pipes. I've bypassed several of them with new PVC piping. I also feel a bit better because they no longer are leaching into Allentown's waster water treatment system then into the Lehigh River.

What I'm hoping is Allentown doesn't go off the rails before we have full and accurate information. What concerns me is Allentown having a knee jerk reaction and start inspecting and requiring home owners to do lead based paint remediation along with the associated fees when that may not be the problem.

If the city wants to be proactive before doing anything they should create a list of those homes still using lead pipes to bring the water from the street into the home. It seems to me ingesting water in a home which still has lead pipes is a lot more likely the culprit then some kid chewing or sniffing in old paint chips. Let us not put the cart before the horse till we have all the facts for the sake of political expediency.

When and if they find lead pipes (or the solder used on copper piping couplings) to be the culprit it doesn't necessarily require expensive replacement. There are whole house & point of use filter units for piping available on the market. The point of use filters cost under $400 on up to whole house filters starting at around $1,000. They can remove up to 99% of both lead and other heavy metals (like mercury). An added bonus is they also greatly reduce the trace amounts of industrial & pharmaceutical pollutants that may still remain coming into the home even if a pipe were replaced.

:There that wasn't so complicated was it?

While We're On The Subject Of Water..
U.S. Uncut is reporting Nestle is Pumping Millions of Gallons from the Great Lakes for Free While Flint Pays For Poison-- "Residents continue to pay $864 a year for water that is making them sick... Meanwhile, less than two hundred miles away, multi-billion dollar corporation Nestle has been pumping millions of gallons out of Lake Michigan for free. In fact, they receive 13 million dollars in tax breaks to do so. Despite making over 15 billion dollars in profits in 2014.."

Yeah about that. Here's a video I made back in 2007.
Purified Drinking Water w/o The Bottles

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Allentown There's No Renaissance Going On

I don't care how many videos, websites and puff pieces appear in the media Allentown IS NOT undergoing a renaissance. A renaissance implies Allentown is experiencing a rebirth or there is some sort of spontaneous resurgence going on here. In actuality taxpayers are risking $1b in an attempt to reinvent the city. That's certainly not what I think of when it comes to the term "renaissance".

Let Me Explain
This hype is implying Allentown is returning to it's glory days. That simply is not the case. Back in those days if you lived in Lehigh County and wanted to catch a train you HAD to come to Allentown. If wanted to purchase a fur, musical instrument, furniture, see a movie or shop in large department stores Allentown was the only game in town (so to speak). In other words people were nearly forced to come downtown for their needs.

Over the years everything once to be found only exclusively in Allentown has became available to those living outside the city. At this point anyone wanting to see a movie will not find one theatre in Allentown. Today's Kmarts and Walmarts make the no longer existing Hess's, Leh's and Zollingers look pale in comparison. Anyone hungry for a meal can go nearly anywhere within a mile where they live. No need to drive downtown, pay for parking and walk a block or two. I could go on endlessly listing all the businesses that could only be found exclusively in Allentown at one time.

Reinventing The Wheel Is Fruitless
Other then the arena there's nothing being built within the NIZ that will create any kind of exclusivity for Allentown that cannot be found elsewhere. If we're going to label this as some sort of "renaissance" it would require Allentown recreate what made it a prior success in the first place. And that was build stuff downtown that outside areas cannot offer.

Hotels, got a bunch of those. Food joints, got a bunch of those too. Office buildings, are you kidding they're every few feet everywhere you look. Outside of new restaurants these office buildings were second worst idea. Without going into detail take Talen Energy and National Penn Bank office buildings as two examples. Talen is likely to move after a work force reduction. National Penn (with it's merger) will reduce it's work force and no longer will Allentown be it's main headquarters. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand major corporations constantly move their offices to greener pastures every five years or so. Short term gains are not a long term success.

What NIZ Funds Could Have Done Better (Create A Uniqueness)
The arena should have been built at 'Riverfront'. In the first place there's easier access. The same restaurants, offices and a hotel could have just as easily been built down there and most likely (if they had adequate parking) been more successful both event and none event nights. The view certainly would be better. In addition whether people liked them or not there were some 40 businesses that would still be on Hamilton Street paying taxes like they once had. It would have saved the cost$ wastefully spent to force them out via eminent domain as well as the tax loses by them no longer being located there. How dumb is that!

Let's Talk About What Draws People In the First Place
Ever have to take a trip out to the LVHN campus out on Cedar Crest Blvd. or to Philly for a medical visit? They're both packed. Why.. because people have a need to go there.

Ever visit Musikfest or the Sands Casino? They're packed. Why.. because people want to go there.

Ever go to the Allentown Farmer's Market. it's packed. Why.. because people want to go there.

What they all have in common is their distinctive uniqueness. They provide something people can't find elsewhere. Someone explain to me exactly makes Allentown so unique that people would want to come here for what they can't find elsewhere. Better medical care? Better schools? Safer, nicer neighborhoods and homes?

NIZ (other then the arena) hasn't created one thing that can't be found elsewhere. We can throw whatever amount of taxpayers dollars we want but none of it's going to stick unless Allentown has something other communities can't offer. We once did, but no more. Thus this is nothing like a "renaissance" of what Allentown once was known for.

Cheap rents can only take you so far until the tax advantages run out. An arena is only good as it's next event and usually isn't profitable. Allentown is far from alone in what's happening in nearly every large city, but it surely isn't a shining beacon either. Let's not kid ourselves. Trying to BS our way into success isn't going to work over the long haul no matter how concerted the effort or how many may pretend otherwise.

Mistakes were made (deliberately or otherwise). A far more conservative approach would have been to concentrate our efforts on the Riverfront area which most needed our attention, assumed less risks and no doubt cost taxpayers far less It's too late to fix this. We're already too deep to turn back. That's the reality we now face. All that's left is to try and spin this, create puff pieces in the media and hope some people will naively buy into what we're selling. Time will tell if that's possible. Stay tuned. I'm not very optimistic, but we shall see.

If You Have Inclination Check Out
All My 226 Postings On Allentown

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ziplines Can Be Boring

Not This One!

The manufacturer's website in the U.K.

I'm impressed how someone is always thinking and improving on older ideas.

When I was a kid my dad sawed up a board attached it to a regular pulley. Threaded it to a cable wire he stretched between two trees down the slope in our back yard. The problem was often times I ended up going down backwards after it spun around slamming my coconut into the tree at the bottom since it didn't have brakes.

Hey, you don't think maybe ....?

Monday, February 15, 2016

No Autopsy For Scalia?!

Something Smells Fishy

The Washington Post (02/14/2016)-- ".. the resort’s owner, who grew worried when Scalia didn’t appear at breakfast Saturday morning. It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body — which is permissible under Texas law — and without ordering an autopsy."

My San Antonio 02/15/2016-- "We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled," said Poindexter"

The New York Times (02/14/2016)-- “His hands were sort of almost folded on top of the sheets,” said Mr. Poindexter, a manufacturing executive from Houston. “The sheets weren’t rumpled up at all.”

Lionel Says..(02/15/2016)
We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled." What?! Hey, Sherlock Holmes, get Quincy on the phone. You've got to be kidding me and there's no autopsy?! My friends, this case stinks to high heaven. A vagrant found dead in a dumpster behind a liquor store would get an autopsy. But not Scalia?

The most high profile SCOTUS justice of the past quarter century is found dead, and the cause of death is determined by a Justice of the Peace without seeing the body? Let me repeat - without seeing the body. And no autopsy was performed. The deaths of transients found in abandoned buildings are investigated more thoroughly than this, and Scalia was arguably one of the most powerful individuals in nation."

Official Lionel Website:

Now we'll never know for sure.

USA Today reported on 02/15/2016-- "Scalia’s remains were discreetly driven by van overnight to an El Paso funeral home with an escort from a procession of Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers and U.S. Marshals Service vehicles. After arriving at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the Sunset Funeral Home embalmed Scalia’s remains, according to Chris Lujuan, a funeral home manager. Embalming is required by Texas law before a body can be transported out of state."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Defense Attorney Has Bad Day In Court (Humor)

A defense lawyer tried to trip up a police officer's testimony at trial.

While being cross-examined by a defense attorney during a felony trial, the lawyer tried to undermine the cop's credibility by asking some round about questions to trip him up.

Unfortunately things went sideways pretty fast

Q: “Officer, did you see my client fleeing the scene?”

A: “No sir. But I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender, running several blocks away.”

Q: “Officer, who provided this description?”

A: “The officer who responded to the scene.”

Q: “A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender. Do you trust your fellow officers?”

A: “Yes, sir. With my life.”

Q: “With your life? Let me ask you this then officer. Do you have a room where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?”

A: “Yes sir, we do!”

Q: “And do you have a locker in the room?”

A: “Yes sir, I do.”

Q: “And do you have a lock on your locker?”

A: “Yes sir.”

Q: “Now why is it, officer, if you trust your fellow officers with your life, you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with these same officers?”

A: “You see, sir we share the building with the court complex, and sometimes lawyers have been known to walk through that room.”

The courtroom erupted in laughter, prompting a recess to be called.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Aircraft Hits Four Buildings

This is tough to see. It just shows the dangers of attending these events.

Amazing photo below shows great detail.

The pilot at low level had no control over his aircraft.

It narrowly misses a crowd gathered for the air show and slams into four buildings.

One can only imagine the horror of the occupants inside those buildings.

No one was killed, but it probably scared the crap out of them.

Stop Payment On A Check Info
A Stop Payment On A Check Only Lasts About Six Months
"..a merchant lost her check and she wrote a new one, stopping payment on the original check. Three years later, the original check finally hit her account."

I did not know that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When You Reply to Spam