Saturday, September 24, 2016

College towns

Yesterday we drove to Boalsburg to visit the Pennsylvania Military Museum.  We drove through three college towns–State College, Lewisburg, and Bloomsburg.  

It was an amazing study in political demographics.  The three college towns were full of Hillary Clinton yard signs.  Then, as we got into the rural areas, the Trump signs became prominent.

The problem is, there aren’t enough college towns in Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Memos to Diggity Dog and Wentz Motors

First, some background.  I have been eating occasionally at Diggity Dog, located on 1st Street in Lehighton, for a number of years.  Our Democratic Information Center for a time was located right next door, and I liked the guys who ran the place.  If you are going in, I recommend the Mac and Cheese.  

I also found out that the owners are hot pepper aficionados, so for the past few years I have been dropping off about half a peck of hot peppers every fall.  You can imagine how upset I was to walk in and see a Trump sign facing me as I opened the front door.

I thought about this for some time, and I decided to present them with a memo entitled “The Trump sign in your place of business.”  Here’s what I wrote:

First, let me say that in all the times I have come in here, I have enjoyed the ambiance and the staff.  I have also learned a good deal about Lehighton.

Secondly, as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I believe strongly in the right of free speech and the First Amendment that guarantees it.

Thirdly, I will not do what Mr. Trump does, and call you names or insult your integrity.  I would, however, like to explain why I am bothered by your Trump sign.  I am sure that some of your customers are Independents, Libertarians, or Democrats.  For you to advertise a Republican Party candidate at your place of business is disrespectful to those customers.

Additionally, I personally regard Mr. Trump as a danger to this Republic and the liberties for which it stands.

For the first time in our nation’s history, he would impose a religious test on immigrants.  He made millions of dollars at the taxpayers’ expense by using questionable tax breaks.  He bribed the Attorney General of Florida to drop an investigation of Trump University.  He stiffed his creditors on numerous occasions by declaring bankruptcy, then bragged about it.  He thinks global warming is a Chinese hoax.  He doesn’t understand how the U.S. military works.  He won’t release his tax returns.  He would round up millions of people, many of whom have lived here for almost their entire lives, and dump them across the border.  He believed up to a few days ago that our president was born in Kenya.  

Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein are not perfect candidates, but at least they don’t have the sort of thin-skinned temperament that could involve us in a nuclear war.  Trump will be a disaster if elected; he has already done incredible damage to this country by preaching hatred and violence.

And yes, you will be getting some peppers.

I presented a similar memo to Wentz Motors, another business I have used and respected, which has Trump signs in front of the business on Route 209.  I think it is important to let people know when we disapprove of their politics, especially in this election, which is not the normal election by any means.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Environmental score card

Four environmental groups–Sierra Club, Penn Environment, Clean Water Action, and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania–have developed an environmental scorecard for Pennsylvania legislators.  

You can look it up, but I’ll save you some time.

Doyle Heffley’s score was zero, as in 0.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Lehighton Women's Club

After 103 years of community service, the Lehighton Women’s Club has disbanded.  

Sixteen years ago Robert D. Putnam wrote Bowling Alone in which he argued that cooperative associations and organizations were in trouble in America.  Service clubs like the Moose, the Elks, and the Kiwanis were either dead or on life support.  Putnam was concerned that this lack of community organizations was weakening American democracy as people turned inward.

Way back in 1831 Alexis deTocqueville noted that Americans didn’t wait for government to solve problems; they formed associations to fix the problems themselves.  He thought this was one of the strengths of America.

Voluntary associations accustom people to get along with each other.  They are good for democracy and for the community.  Fortunately, in our area volunteer fire companies, local food banks, the Lions, and the 4-H Clubs remain active.  The Palmerton Concourse Club, an organization of women comparable to the Lehighton Women’s Club, has 130 members and performs many charitable acts every year.  The Friends of Beltzville State Park, a group formed earlier this year, shows that the volunteer spirit is alive.  

We need to foster these groups.  Get off your butt and join up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Gerrymandering and Doyle Heffley

You can tell a lot about a legislator based on his or her attitude toward gerrymandering.  If the legislator is a party hack from either party, he or she won’t mess with the present Pennsylvania system of drawing legislative districts.  

I want to thank Bill White, a columnist for the Allentown Morning Call, who periodically calls attention to just how badly Pennsylvania districts are drawn.  

Today Mr. White listed area legislators who have signed on to House Bill 1835 or Senate Bill 484, both introduced to reform the redistricting process.

Many legislators in gerrymandered districts have no opponents, so they love the current system.  There is one local legislator, however, who is not co-sponsoring a reform bill, and he does have an opponent.

Doyle Heffley evidently likes the current system.  He is not a co-sponsor of the districting reform bill in the House.  His opponent, a reformer, is Neil Makhija.  Heffley is also the sponsor of a really bad bill that pretends to alleviate the opioid crisis, but will actually make things worse, although it will enrich big pharma even more.  It is time to kick Doyle out.  

If you are worried that the poor man will not have a job, don’t fret.  He already has his state pension locked in.  Vote Makhija.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Stealing political signs

It’s late at night, no one is around, and right in front of you is a yard sign for a candidate you abhor.  How easy it is to just pull it up and throw it in a nearby dumpster.  Nonetheless, this is a temptation that most people resist.  It is a form of mutually assured destruction.  If you take down an opponent’s signs, what is to stop his or her supporters from removing your candidate’s signs?

Unfortunately some deplorable Trump supporter (or supporters) succumbed to the temptation and removed most of the Hillary Clinton signs in Jim Thorpe, including signs in people’s yards.  

My suggestion to people who had signs stolen is to make homemade ones that say, “My Hillary sign was stolen by a Trump supporter.”  That way you don’t have to buy a new one, and the message gets out.  Whatever you do, don’t take Trump signs down.  We are better than that.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dumping TVs and household chemicals

Sometimes governments do really stupid stuff.  First the state legislature said you couldn’t put old television sets and computers in landfills.  That was perfectly understandable, since they contain all kinds of harmful materials.

It is the same with household chemicals, garden herbicides and pesticides, and old paint cans.  You are’t supposed to put them out with the garbage.  Again, understandable. 

Unfortunately, no alternative was provided.  So, you have an old TV.  You have old paint cans in your garage.  But you have no legal way to dispose of them.

What do people do?  They throw them along the highway, dump them from dirt roads in the woods, or put them into informal and illegal dumps that spring up.

In this case, it is not only the dumpers who are irresponsible.  The Pennsylvania legislature and municipal governments are also irresponsible.  

The irony is that the cleanup from the illegal dumping will cost far more than if the state legislature provided money for electronic recycling and hazardous waste disposal collection sites.