The democracy we deserve

A couple political observations on the “presumptive” nominees:

Most of the criticism about Hillary seems to center around her trustworthiness, despite the fact that there are about as many trustworthy politicians as there are unicorns.

Most of the support of Trump centers around his accomplishments as a businessman, despite the fact that by most measures, he’s an abject failure or at best has merely managed to tread water thanks to his inherited wealth. This is no accomplishment. This is the least you can do.

The other candidates from the major parties only propose more of the same policies and bromides that got us here in the first place.

To me, when you have so much of the electorate with no ability to think critically, produced from an educational system that teaches to the test, this is the kind of election we can expect to endure for generations to come.

My little Jenkintown

In April of last year, the website of the National Geographic published a glowing piece by Marguerite Del Giudice about Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The piece compared it to Mayberry, citing its pleasant peculiarities such as the “Color Day” festivities, and its happy, tiny school system. People do seem to outwardly love this town. When I moved here in 2002, I had in some ways achieved a life-long goal: To live in a traditional, walkable community with easy access to a very busy passenger rail system.

Fourth of July in Jenkintown
Fourth of July in Jenkintown

Situated just to the north of Philadelphia, Jenkintown residents can hop a train at the historic train station and hop off in Center City a half hour later. In contrast, driving adds at least fifteen minutes and parking fees to your trip. As someone who has promoted such a lifestyle for so long, I could finally boast my bona fides as a sustainable development advocate. I was living the dream, brother.

Unlike my years living in Worcester, Massachusetts, I didn’t get all that involved in town politics for the first decade or so. Jenkintown seemed to do just fine without me. The borough had just completed a downtown beautification, it had a highly rated school system, and though it had a struggling commercial district, one could easily point the finger at the Dark Lords of PennDOT who converted Old York Road, our main drag, into a veritable four-lane expressway with an unenforceable speed limit. No small downtown thrives against such an onslaught of traffic.

Jenkintown had just completed a lovely new town square with gazebo (a small block off from Old York Road), and staged more downtown events than you could shake a stick at. I often boasted to non-residents of the amazing variety of housing types — everything from classic Philadelphia-style row houses to grand Victorians, all well-preserved single family homes. What’s not to love? Continue reading

A tax on thee, but not for me

Sadly ironic, albeit typical, that those who benefit from paying no taxes advocate higher levies for the rest of us.

Those of us advocating for School Property Tax Elimination are not asking to be exempt from funding education the way in which your organizations are exempt.  We are simply asking for a shift to a different method of taxation that more fairly and accurately reflects ability to pay through a Personal Income and Sales/Use Tax.

Source: An Open Letter to Select Opponents of School Property Tax Elimination | On the Edge of the Precipice

Pennsylvania taxation knows no bounds

Save Scranton is saying the things that everyone in Scranton already thinks. We need to lower taxes. We need to make the city attractive to businesses and outsiders in order to drive economic activity. The city should not operate like some medieval empire for the benefit of only those who are in government or politically connected(here). That is a travesty and offensive to morality, dignity and integrity. We should not have a government that has it as its primary aim to rob from the very people that it is sworn to protect.

Source: Scranton’s Taxes Are Too Damn High! | Save Scranton

Pennsylvania and the big lie of home-ownership

The Pennsylvania legislature has yet to pass a budget for this fiscal year. With a Democratic governor and a GOP-dominated legislature, we have a form of gridlock in Harrisburg that mirrors the disfunction in Washington. For those who don’t know much about the Keystone State, James Carville famously described it this way: Philly in the east, Pittsburgh in the West, and Alabama in the middle. Electorally, Pennsylvania looks like a sea of red with two small blue peninsulas jutting out from the southeast and southwest corners.

My state representative Steven McCarter, a Democrat, announced a town hall meeting last week to present his version of events. No surprise, McCarter laid much of the blame for the stalemate on the opposing party, and indeed, the GOP has held quite firm on its pledges of not raising or creating new taxes. The room of nodding heads expressed their various vexations at these events, agreeing with Representative McCarter that only new taxes could settle this budget impasse. Continue reading

Samsung listens in

The news comes after Shane Harris at The Daily Beast pointed out a troubling line in Samsung’s privacy policy: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Source: Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs

Oops.

We may be in the market for a new TV sometime soon, and one of the things I don’t want is a “smart” TV. This is just one of the reasons why. The other being that I don’t want to be tied into a set-maker’s smart interface, thanks.

Eagles of Death Metal’s Frontman Blames France’s Strict Gun Control


“Did your French gun control stop a single person from dying at the Bataclan? If anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so,” said Hughes. “I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.”

Source: Eagles of Death Metal’s Frontman Blames France’s Strict Gun Control | Variety

The government cash grab blitzes the NFL

Granted that some might shed few tears for rich jocks, especially playing for an organization that has made the tax break a crucial part of its viability. However, punishing the players, no matter how wealthy, takes a lot of nerve, especially when the money goes to no good use anyway.

Some of you may be thinking this analysis is unfair because California isn’t imposing a 198.8 percent tax on his Super Bowl earnings. Instead, the state is taxing his entire annual income based on the number of days he’s working in the state.

But that’s not the economically relevant issue. What matters is that he’ll be paying about $101,000 of extra tax simply because the game took place in California.

However, if the Super Bowl was in a city like Dallas and Miami, there would have been no additional tax.

Source: Losing the Super Bowl Twice: California Taxes Cam Newton at 200% | Foundation for Economic Education

Bernie Sanders Loves This $1 Trillion War Machine

Bernie does love the single-payer system!

The Vermont senator persuaded Lockheed Martin to place a research center in Burlington, according to Newsweek, and managed to get 18 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets stationed at the city’s airport for the Vermont National Guard.

“In very clever ways, the military-industrial complex puts plants all over the country, so that if people try to cut back on our weapons system what they’re saying is you’re going to be losing jobs in that area,” Sanders said at a Q&A in New Hampshire back in 2014. “[W]e’ve got to have the courage to understand that we cannot afford a lot of wasteful, unnecessary weapons systems, and I hope we can do that.

”History has shown that Sanders has not had the courage to do that.

Source: Bernie Sanders Loves This $1 Trillion War Machine – The Daily Beast

The party in power becomes the party about power.

Socialism for the rich

A very different form of socialism for the rich protects their communities from even the dangers of a free market. A whole array of laws and policies prevents outsiders from buying up property near them, even when these outsiders are ready to pay prices determined by supply and demand, rather than by eminent domain.For example, the “open space” laws that have spread across the country to protect upscale communities represent one of the biggest collectivizations of land since the days of Josef Stalin.Upscale residents say that they have a right to protect “our community.” But not even the rich own the whole community.

Source: Socialism for the rich – Thomas Sowell – Page full

In a very real sense, this is also happening in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The school board, staffed by wealthy professionals have no issue exacting an ever greater amount of flesh from homeowners to fund an already bloated budget, leaving the town’s working class unable to afford their own homes and to send their kids to those schools.