Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Recount

Trump and his supporters have gone to court to block the vote recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Why?  Is there something to be afraid of?

Friday, December 2, 2016

The population center of Pennsylvania

Imagine Pennsylvania as a flat map, and that an identical weight has been placed at the residence of every person in Pennsylvania.  According to the latest newsletter of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, that map would balance in Watts Township in Perry County.  (There aren’t any big cities in Perry County, but it’s to the north of Carlisle.)

From 1900 to 1950 the center was either in Juniata County, to the west of Perry or right on the border with Perry.  Then  the center began to move east.  From 1960 to 2010 the center shifted east about 13 miles.  It’s now close to the Susquehanna River, and by 2020 may cross it.

What’s happening is that the population in Western Pennsylvania is decreasing; the population in the Lehigh Valley and suburban Philadelphia is increasing.  

I’d like to tell you the political implications of this, but I’d be guessing.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rural PA for Hillary Clinton

Only it wasn’t.  

In September we drove up to the Democratic Headquarters in Bloomsburg to pick up 100 “Rural PA for Hillary Clinton” yard signs.  The signs were purchased by the rural caucus of the state Democratic Party; Carbon County is part of that caucus.  While residents of Lehighton or Jim Thorpe might not feel rural, Carbon County as a whole is considered “rural.”

All across the country rural areas were a disaster for Clinton.  In 2008 Carbon County voted for Obama as did the whole state of Iowa.  In 2012 Iowa again went for Obama.  Not this year.  In Pennsylvania rural counties are expected to vote Republican.  What was different this year was the margin by which they voted Republican.

As long as the Democratic Party fails to make inroads in the rural vote, the party will have a difficult time ever winning the Senate.  Remember, Wyoming, with fewer than 600,000 people, gets two Senators, same as New York or California.  The Democrats will also lose state legislative seats, and those Republican legislators will adopt gerrymandered districts and voter suppression laws.

A reader recently forwarded me a link to a Washington Post article that featured the views of Agricultural Secretary Vilsack.  You may want to check it out.  <>.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Recently I listened to a course from the Teaching Company on the subject of English in America.  The professor emphasized that new words enter the language constantly.  Every year a group of linguists votes on a “word of the year.”  It would not surprise me if the word of the year for 2016 was “alt-right.”

Fortunately, some new words don’t last.  “Alt-right” is short for “alternative right,” and it is used to describe people like Trump’s White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon.  

Here’s is what Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, a conservative magazine, said about the term.  He explained he was not opposed to using it as long as it was applied to a specific group.  In Lowry’s words, quoted in the New York Times, the term should be reserved for “people who are obsessed with race and, in one form or another, are white supremacists.”

In this blog I will not use the term “alt-right.”  I will use terms like “white supremacist” or “racist” or “neo-Nazi.”  Let’s call them what they are.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A right to be scared

Last night at a meeting of the Executive Board of the Palmerton Area Historical Society, I was handed a picture of the White House with a big Trump sign on top in shiny gold letters.  I think everyone on the board knows my politics, and they assured me it was all in good fun.

I said I was sure it was, but nonetheless I was very frightened.  I said some of my former students and my friends could be deported, and many of the remarks Trump made during the campaign scared me.  A couple of the members scoffed.  “It was just campaign rhetoric,” and “It won’t be that bad.”

Let me quote three front page headlines in the Times today.

“Trump’s Threat to Close Door Reopens Old Wounds in Cuba”
“Fierce Crtitic of Health Care Law Said to Be Pick for Health Dept.”
“Plan to Revive Waterboarding Faces Obstacles:  A Trump Campaign Vow”

Yeah, I’m scared.  I have a right to be scared, as any reasonable person should be.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hunting with semi-automatics

Gov. Wolf signed HB 263, a new law to allow the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting.  The law gives the Game Commission the power to regulate “sporting rifles” for various game species.

Some hunters say this will allow them to take a quick follow-up shot to finish off a wounded animal.

Wouldn’t it make even more sense to use fully automatics?  You just hold down the trigger and the weapon keeps firing.  Wouldn’t hunters be much more effective?  Why isn’t the NRA pushing for this?  

RPGs would be even more effective.  You could really blast a deer with a rocket-propelled grenade.  The Second Amendment says you have the right to bear arms.  It doesn’t forbid RPGs, does it?  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Go Back To Your Own Country

On Friday evening my neighbors and their two girls went to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” at the Mahoning Valley Cinema.  The kids in the row behind them kept crinkling their candy wrappers, and my neighbors asked them politely to stop doing that.  

They did, but after the movie the mother of the kids confronted my neighbors and said, “That was very rude of you.  My kids eat candy at the movies, and they can make noise if they want to.”

My neighbor, an immigrant from India, said, “No, that’s why there is an announcement to turn off your cell phones before the movie starts.”

At this the woman said in a very loud voice, “Why don’t you go back to your own country.”  I think she was expecting support from the people around her.

Now, here is the good part.  A woman behind her said, “That is unacceptable.  We are a small community here, and that is not the way to behave.”  Other people stated agreement and apologized to my neighbors for the woman’s behavior.  She left the theater in a hurry.  The manager heard about the incident and offered my neighbor free tickets to another movie.  A local clergyman added his apology.  

All right, Lehighton.  My neighbor said he was quite surprised by the support, and quite touched.  So am I.