Month: March 2010

What A Surprise: The Box Isn’t So Locked

Lockbox When I returned to blogging a few weeks ago, I promised myself that I was going to avoid local Allentown politics as much as possible. A lot of Perspectives’ readers are not Allentonians.  And the truth is, I’m frustrated beyond words with Allentown’s slide in to the abyss and the inability of anyone in a position to do so to show an ounce of courage or leadership.

But promises are made to be broken, and even though fellow blogger extraordinaire Bernie O’Hare beat me to it, I feel compelled to comment on Jarrett Renshaw’s well-written story in Sunday’s paper, titled “Allentown Loan Deal Isn’t Paying Off”. Really. What a surprise.

Anyone who’s ever been married knows that one of the ways you keep a relationship “healthy” is by resisting the urge to say “I told you so” when your partner turns out to be wrong and you turn out to be right. But there are no such rules in journalism or politics, so excuse me while I mention that there were people out here in the wilderness, myself included, who were trying to sound this alarm, years ago, and no one, including The Morning Call, would listen.

Now that the light is finally shining on the inside of the open lockbox, and it looks like the reserve may have dipped below it’s legally “locked” level, and even though the convoluted deal hasn’t earned a fraction of the interest projected to help pay down the debt, don’t get your hopes up that anything will change.

City Council will continue to verbalize a few mild protests, the mayor will go on blaming his predecessor and the worst recession since the Great Depression, and there will be no consequences for this deception except for the increase in taxes of the dwindling number of Allentown citizens who still actually pay taxes.

A Step Back From The Cliff

A lot of Americans are upset about the passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill. Depending on what poll you read, somewhere between 30 and 50% of the country’s citizens don’t approve of these changes.

Rumors about what is and is not in the Bill are flying around like flies at a picnic, and rumors weren’t the only things flying today. Bricks were thrown through the office windows of some members of congress who voted for the Bill, and one Congressman’s brother, whose house was mistaken for the residence of the Congressman, had his gas line cut. 

This is not how Americans settle our differences: It is how third world countries and dictators settle theirs. We need to take a step back and take a deep breath. There’s an election coming up in 8 months, and it’s at the ballot box that Americans should express their frustration and disapproval.

This behavior is beneath us and weakens our moral authority. .

The Mighty Oak Has Fallen….Acorn Closes It’s Doors

Lots going on in Varkonyland right now so will be brief, but I just had to post about the demise of Acorn.

Every once in a while, the bad guys get caught in their own web. And although I do not approve of the entrapment that was used to bring Acorn down, I’m glad they are finished…well, kind of finished.

As reported by the AP, two of their largest affiliates, New York and California, have changed their names and are still operating. But by and large, local chapters and field offices have closed for good. We will shed no tears at their passing. Hopefully, legitimate community organizations will take their place.

And while we’re on the subject, lest we have short memories, it would be good to be reminded who ran the Acorn field operation here in the Lehigh Valley in its heyday: That would be Siobhan Bennett. 

An Uncertain Future…Healthcare Reform

Well, it’s happened, the Healthcare Reform Bill is passed. It certainly isn’t anything I would have voted for if a member of Congress, but it’s going to be the law of the land. Now all we can do is hope for the best. On a personal basis what I hope for is that this knot I have in my stomach is a result of the usual human reaction to change, and not a harbinger of pain and discord that is to come.

I’ve been interested in politics since I was a teenager and it is not hyperbole to say that I’ve never seen an administration so determined to pass something against the will of the majority of the people who elected them.

Perhaps our grandparents felt the same way when Social Security was enacted and our parents when Medicare came to be, but I don’t recall ever hearing anyone from either of those generations being as opposed to those social changes as I’ve heard against the Healthcare Bill.

I have an overwhelming sense of sadness tonight, like something has been lost that will never be recovered. In an effort to dispel the gloom, I’m going to try to think about someone “out there” who has suffered because they didn’t have health insurance and be happy for them that they will now be covered.

I just wish we could have accomplished that goal in a more direct, straightforward manner that addressed their specific needs without creating this monster of a Bill that I fear is going to eat us alive. 

State’s Rights Showdown

dont_tread_on_meSince reentering the blogosphere I have consciously avoided highly controversial subjects, especially those involving national politics, preferring instead to focus time and energy on my work and my causes…areas where I can impact my own life or the lives of others rather than be frustrated over something I can’t control.

As a writer and observer of the human condition, some things are too fascinating to ignore. An issue that could be of historical importance is starting to appear in the national dialog: The unconstitutionality of the healthcare bill. There are those who believe that under no interpretation of our Founding Document can you mandate the citizens of this country, private or corporate, to buy health insurance, or levy a fine against them when they don’t comply.

A groundswell of people and states who agree with that premise seems to be building. Idaho has been the first to pass legislation ordering the state Attorney General to sue the federal government if the healthcare bill becomes law. Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states.

According to some Constitutional scholars, the Constitution’s “supremacy clause ” which gives the federal government ultimate control over the states may win out, but with so many states willing to put up a fight, we may just find that healthcare reform has an unintended consequence…a Constitutional Convention.

American Justice

Justice w-flagThere are many things about America that I love, but none more so than our “trial by a jury of your peers” and verdicts that must surpass a “reasonable doubt”. Yes, there have been some terrible and very public miscarriages within that system, like the acquittal of O.J. Simpson. But by and large, most juries do their duty without consideration of race, creed, or social rank.

Pennsylvania has just witnessed one such example: Acquitted of the most serious charges against him of vehicular homicide and aggravated assault, the case of Thomas Senavitis, proved that justice indeed cannot see through that blindfold she wears.

Senavitis is an “everyman” with a drinking problem: A thin, worn-out looking working-class guy whose 15 minutes of fame captured him with a graying mustache, in a tee-shirt and Midas Muffler baseball cap.

Held without bail, he’s spent the past nine months in prison while, according to the story in The Morning Call, his wife has been pleading his case, insisting he’s innocent of killing a prominent and popular politician, State Senator James Rhoades, by crashing his pickup truck into Rhoades’ Cadillac.

So here we are with a movie classic case of the little guy accused of wrongdoing against a high-profile person of power…and the system worked. The preponderance of evidence, not social standing, or money, or politics, won out.

And what gives that jury even more street cred is that they did convict Senavitis of DUI and another lesser charge. Justice was served on all sides. Senavitis is now in jail for the crimes he did commit and not for the ones he didn’t.

Justice’s scales remain perfectly balanced.

In Memoriam: Brian Mickley

brian1One of Allentown’s most devoted native sons has left us. Brian Mickley was a rare breed in so many ways: A true Allentonian…born, raised, educated, married, employed, in the city he loved.  And when Brian was committed, he stuck. That level of character is something you don’t see much of these days.

Brian married his childhood sweetheart, Carol Schneck. They met when she was 14, he was 16.  You only needed to be in their presence a short time before you realized they were soul mates. Brian & Carol

He always wanted to be a firefighter and became one at 19, rising to the rank of Chief which was the culmination of a lifetime dream. It didn’t end well because Brian was incapable of playing politics. As his long- time executive assistant, Linda Hanna said, “He is egoless. Some people don’t recognize that style of leadership.” Even as Chief, he was highly regarded by his men. I.A.F.F. Local 302 has a moving tribute on their website.

In this day of self-aggrandizement and me, me, me focused society, Brian Mickley stood out like one of those old-time western heroes: Tall, imposing, and quiet. Being in his presence was reassuring because you had the feeling that no matter what happened, Brian could handle it. But if you looked closely, you could always see a twinkle in those blue eyes.

Brian Mickley lived his life in love and service to his family, friends, and his city. He volunteered with local fire departments, taught young firefighters how to stay alive, and shared his “other love”, astronomy, with a generation of children at the Lehigh Valley Planetarium on South Mountain. 

Speaking for myself, I will never again look up in the night sky without thinking of him.

Brian will be dearly missed by his family and friends. For the city of Allentown, the loss is irreplaceable.

Blogger’s Note: When Brian retired from the Allentown Fire Dept., I wrote a tribute to his  service. That story is available online at The Morning Call.

One Evening…Many Stories

Thread_Postcard-1On Wednesday, March 31, in a little over two weeks, a very special event will take place here in the Lehigh Valley. It’s not a glamorous society outing, although there will be wine and hors d’oeuvres, it doesn’t cost very much money to attend, and what cost there is is a tax deductible contribution to a very worthy cause. Rather it is a one-of-a-kind celebration of love, loss, courage, and most of all the indefatigable strength of the human spirit.

The reason the Benefit Screening of the documentary “Thread”, and the panel discussion that will follow, is so unique is because until now, you would have had to travel to New York or San Francisco to share this experience. But now, the many people and their stories whose lives have intersected a half a world away, will come together, here, at our own Cedar Crest College, for one common cause; to support the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the Afghan women associates of the Business Council for Peace. .

The evening will include members of the Pennsylvania National Guard; heroes who have served in Afghanistan. There will also be well known members of the community whose generosity have helped to support the event; Bob & Sandy Lovett, Vic & Jody Mazziotti, Joe & Judy Kaminski, and Sally Gammon. The producer and director of the film, who took their lives in their hands to make this movie will be there, as well as the founder of Bpeace, who started the organization after witnessing the events of 9-11, firsthand. Palwasha

And there will be Palwasha; young, beautiful, smart and determined to help save her country. Palwasha is one of the Afghan women featured in “Thread”. Out of all the stories that will come together that night; all the “Threads” that will weave the tapestry that is “their” Afghanistan, few will be more moving than hers. Pursued by a village elder for marriage at a young age, her parents refused him and encouraged her to get an education. What was done to save one daughter could not save the other. Palwasha’s younger sister disappeared on her way to school and has never been seen again.

If you would like to hear these stories first hand, to share in this evening that will be like no other, if you would like to help the very brave women of Afghanistan, you can purchase tickets or make a donation, here.

The Women of the Greatest Generation: WASPS Honored

What a relief to read the story about the Women Air Service Pilots of World War II being honored in Washington with Congressional Gold Medals: Long overdue, but better late than never. After the insanity and betrayal of the past 24 hours involving “Jihad Jane”, the lives well lived of Lillian Yonally, and her fellow pilots, was refreshing and inspiring.

What I found particularly moving about the story was that she never mentioned her wartime service to her family. According to a story in The Morning Call, Yonally’s son, Jack, said that while he was growing up, his father was the important military man in the family and his mother was ”just mom”. How typical of women from that time.

Rosie RiveterWhen you think about the self-absorbed, self-promotional culture that surrounds us now, it’s hard to imagine someone who had performed such dangerous, heroic work, not telling everyone who would listen what they were doing. Today, they’d have a reality TV show and a book deal.

I remember my mother recounting tales of friends who went to work in factories, Rosie the Riveters , doing heavy dangerous work. And how even women who remained in more traditional roles, did “something”, rolled bandages, wrote letters, volunteered at the USO, because the country needed everyone to pull together.

I hope before they’re all gone, our parents and grandparents know how grateful we are for their service and sacrifice and that they will always be recognized as our “Greatest Generation”.

You Couldn’t Make This Up: Jihad Jane…in Pennsburg

All writers have vivid imaginations, even us non-fiction types have the ability to spin a pretty good yarn, it’s part of the job. But the most intricate Tom Clancy or Stephen King plot might sound implausible if it revolved around a middle-aged American woman in a small, rural Pennsylvania town, who turned into an international jihadist, stealing passports and planning to do murder in Sweden. 

No one gets a book advance for this story…you can read it for free at mcall.com and in The Morning Call. At almost every paragraph I found myself saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me” or “This can’t be true”. According to the story, Colleen LaRose, “used e-mail, YouTube videos, phony travel documents and a burning desire to kill ”or die trying, to help recruit a network for suicide attacks and other terrorist strikes in Europe and Asia, based on a federal grand jury indictment filed Tuesday.”

Whether this woman was acting out some desperate need for attention, suffering from mental illness, or just devoid of any sense of self-worth not to mention patriotism, we should all be grateful to her for the service she has rendered. If you thought the enemy lived thousands of miles away and would be easy to profile, think again. It is only a matter of time until someone, who we would never suspect, blows themselves up on an American bus or train, or in a shopping mall.

The threat of terrorism is real, it is among us, and we must never let down our guard.

Oh, I almost forgot: I want to wish Colleen LaRose, Happy Women’s History Month. The theme for 2010 is “Writing Women Back in to History”…Ms. LaRose, if you are guilty of these charges, you certainly will have found your place in history…as a traitor.  

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