Month: March 2010

ACLU Comes to Allentown

ACLUOne of my favorite “veg out” movies is "American President". Michael Douglas is President Andrew Shepherd, the leader of the free world, who has lost his ideals in the political morass that is Washington. He’s under pressure from a conservative challenger in the upcoming election, and when the Pres finally regains his bearings, he delivers a rousing speech to the White House press corps about American values. Within that speech he admits to being a card carrying member of the ACLU and asks his opponent, “And why aren’t you?”. Going on to say, “The ACLU is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?

As of last week, it looks like the Constitution will now have a full time defense in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The ACLU has opened an office here that will specialize in immigrant rights and issues. The story in the March 6, edition of "The Morning Call" quoted community leaders and activists as being very supportive. But when you read that story on the paper’s website, you find over 47 comments posted, almost all of which are filled with an astounding amount of bigotry, hatred and bias.

I probably disagree with the cases the ACLU takes on as much as I agree with them. But It is exactly the people in the Call’s comments section and their narrow view of the world, that makes me grateful I live in a country where an organization like the ACLU has the freedom to exist.

“And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me”. Pastor Martin Niemöller Germany, 1946

Purple Pride in Iraq

The Academy Awards, the tragic death of a beautiful young woman in California, the arrest of an Al Qaeda leader, flashed across our news screens and newspapers the past few days. Unless you’re a real news junkie, you could have easily missed an event that didn’t receive much coverage in the main stream media.  

To paraphrase an old newspaper slogan…Since it no longer bleeds, at least not American blood, it no longer leads. While odds were being placed on who was going to win best actress, 55% of the voters in Iraq went to the polls. Thirty-eight of them paid with their lives, thousands of our sons and daughters did too, which is why I thought the event worthy of more attention.

PurpleFinger wmnAccording to CNN, a woman standing in line to vote said it was her way of fighting back at the terrorists, another, who brought her two young daughters with her to the polling place said she had heard bombs go off and was scared but felt she had to come. It makes one wonder how many of us would do so under similar circumstances.

It is also worthy of note that the new Iraqi Constitution calls for 25% of the members of Parliament to be women. Not only did women across Iraq show their courage and determination by voting…they showed it by running.

The time for debating the validity of the war is long gone. The sacrifice of blood and treasure has been beyond measure. But we are where we are.

Let’s hope that place is the beginning of a stable future for Iraq. 

Allentown’s Cell Phone Ban & My Car Saga

A few days ago I wrote about my search for a new car and the negative experience I had with one local dealer, who I’m not naming, publicly. (All of you who have emailed directly to ask who it is, know that I’ll be glad to name them, privately.)

The lease is up on my current car next weekend so there is no time to waste. Last night, I wrote across today’s date on my desk calendar “Find a Car”, so this morning, off I went.

I love clothes but I’m very disciplined when I shop for them; I’m not much on Chevrolet-Camaroexpensive jewelry…on the rare occasions that I have a little extra money, I’d rather spend it on travel. But when it comes to cars…I’m such a Baby Boomer. Pre-children, I drove Camaro’s…an SS 350, then a Z28. The need for speed must come from all the time I spent watching smoke rise off the line at Vargo’s Dragway.

But I digress: After hours of tire kicking today, I settled on the the make and model of car I wanted, which in my middle-age has become what the industry describes as a “sport sedan”, designed so my middle-aged friends can get in and out of the back seat. The local dealer had two of them. Now comes the negotiation. One fit my budget perfectly. The other had more bells, whistles, and gadgets and was above my budget. Just as I was about to be sensible and take the first one, the salesperson says to me, “This one (the more expensive one) has the complete technology package.

He went on, “Allentown just passed a cell phone ban and the system in this car will sync with your phone for totally hands-free operation…just touch a button on the steering wheel to answer the phone. You know the fines for violating the new cell phone ban start at $150. With all the time you spend in your car on the phone you could save a lot of money.”

He had me at hello. It was all the excuse I needed. I pick the car up next week.

Thanks Allentown City Council.

Stiff Competition: Queen City to Google City

According to a story on Mashable, the online social media guide and clearing house for all things internet, the competition for the Google High-speed Fiber Optics Network, is really heating up.

Cities from around the country are mounting very public campaigns, including Topeka, Kansas, who temporarily changed their name to Google, Kansas…the capital city of fiber optics.

Mayor Bunting of Topeka has really gotten behind the effort, issuing a proclamation declaring the name change and urging “the citizens of Topeka to recognize and support the continuing efforts to bring Google’s ‘Fiber for Communities,’ experiment to our city.”

Not wanting to be outdone in the PR department, Duluth, Minnesota, who is also vying for the Google Network, declared that the names of all first born children will henceforth be Google and Googlette.

The silly season aside, Duluth has its own website dedicated to the effort which states: “Our mission is to win the Google Fiber project by showing Google the community’s passion for fiber – high speed Internet, video and voice – the highly skilled workforce in our communities, the strong, supportive entrepreneurial environment, and the community’s visionary leadership.”

Many very eligible and well organized cities are applying for this project. Come on Allentown, let’s give them a run for their money.

Spinning the Google Wheel of Fortune

The last time I visited the Sand’s Casino, I took a good look around: You could tell some people were simply out for an evening’s entertainment, but others looked down on their luck and desperate. If they could just hit the jackpot…their life would change.

Allentown has a chance to hit the technology jackpot. The odds are high; I’ve heard that cities like Denver, CO, and Raleigh, NC are also in the game, but maybe good planning a little bit of luck will be on our side.

Applying for what, you ask? To be the winner of the Google Fiber RFI. According to their website, “Google is planning to build, and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today wGoogle logoith 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.

And oh yes, they’ll do that build out for free, just like they did in Mountain View, CA, where their headquarters are located.

The site goes on to say…

Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

  • Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
  • New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks; to help inform, and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world.
  • Openness and choice: We’ll operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory, and transparent way.

By the time you’re finished reading this post, if you’re not excited about the potential of what the Google Fiber RFI could mean to Allentown and the number of jobs it could create, you’re either not paying attention or you still use pay phones and fax machines.

But be not afraid, there is actually some real leadership being shown on this issue by City Councilman Michael Schlossberg and the Allentown Economic Development Corp. whose Asst. Director, Matt Tuerk is leading the charge to finish the RFI by the March 26 deadline. 

My sources tell me that everyone is coming to the table to make this happen, from the healthcare networks to major corporations and the arts community. I was pleased to have also been asked for my input, which I gave, gladly.

It sure is Allentown’s turn for a win. Maybe lady luck will be on our side for this spin of the  wheel. Of course, sometimes, you make your own luck.

A Little Help For Our Friends

I’ve written many times about my two trips to Afghanistan: The impact those experiences had on me was life-altering. And although the security situation has  prevented me from returning, at least for now, it has not lessened my commitment to continue assisting the women entrepreneurs of Bpeace in whatever way I can.

That is why I, along with many others in the Lehigh Valley, including Cedar Crest College, Steel Valley Raymond James Investment Group, Inc, and my co-host, Attorney Eleanor Breslin, are sponsoring a very special evening event on Wednesday, March 31, in the PalwashaSamuels Theatre at Cedar Crest.

The benefit screening of the documentary “Thread” about five Afghan women who are bravely trying to improve their lives and their country will help Bpeace to continue it’s work in both Afghanistan and Rwanda. The film is an inspiring story of courage and determination that I promise will change your perspective.

The showing of the film will be preceded by a wine reception, and followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director and producer, the CEO of Bpeace, and a very special guest, Palwasha, one of the Afghan women featured in the film and the young woman whose photo is above.

Tickets for the film, panel discussion, and dessert reception are a tax deductible contribution of $45. Tickets for all of the preceding, plus the wine reception are a tax deductible contribution of $75. All tickets may be purchased online at www.Bpeace.org/Thread 

Further information and a copy of the invitation to this very special event, are available on this blog by clicking “Special Events” in the top menu bar. Then click on the invitation to enlarge.

I hope to see you on March 31 at Cedar Crest College.  Your support will mean so much to so many. 

What Recession? Go Away, You’re Bothering Us

winter hatI’m about to enter the dreaded “new car zone”…that black hole of fear and uncertainty, where we wander aimlessly until we emerge on the other side with more horsepower and gadgets than we need having spent more money than we intended.

I go through this exercise every 3 to 4 years. This time I was looking forward to it. After all, we are in a recession; the government subsidized programs have expired, I should be a valuable commodity…a qualified customer who is serious about driving a new car. I’ll be treated like a queen.

More like a peasant with the plague.

This past weekend I pull in to a local dealership. (I’d love to name them, but I’m going to restrain myself) I’m driving a 4 year old mid-level sedan…it was even clean; I’m nicely dressed…for a weekend; My hair is combed and I have make-up on. There isn’t much more I could have done to appear “legitimate”.

Five salespeople were sitting in a circle shooting the “breeze”. I stood in the showroom for nearly ten minutes before anyone came near me. When someone did, I momentarily thought I had wandered into Cabela’s: The person was wearing one of those hats like you see in the movies on the head of the crazy husband who murders his wife and puts her body through a chipper. 

I spent the next ten minutes trying to convince the salesperson that one of the models I was serious about acquiring was what he had on the showroom floor. I opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat, studied the dashboard display, even asked a somewhat intelligent question about whether it had 17” wheels. Still nothing.

Out of sheer frustration at my continuing inspection of the car, the woodsman took me to his sales manager who was perched high on a dais. Peering over the edge, like a judge at a recalcitrant criminal, the manager asked me how much I was willing to spend. The answer didn’t seem to please him and he told me that he had just sold a similar car to a very elderly couple; I knew I should have bought that skin tightening cream, and they had paid $100 a month more than my price range.

As hard as it is to believe, in this economy, or at any time for that matter, I was allowed to walk out of that showroom without ever having been asked my name or  how to contact me, without being presented a business card, and with no offer of follow-up.

Just as soon as I have a new car from a dealer who values my business, I’m going to reprise that scene in Pretty Woman where, after having spent a fortune on clothes in another store, Julia Roberts walks back in to the Rodeo Drive boutique that wouldn’t serve her the day before, and says to them, “You work on commission, right?” I was in here before and you wouldn’t serve me. Big mistake.”

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