Friday Happy Hour: Max Headroom Edition

Max Headroom

We open today’s lovingly-crafted screed by wishing a very happy birthday to the First Lady of Pennsylvania, Frances Wolf!

President Trump had quite a busy year this past week, which opened with him blowing off a meeting with the queen of Denmark because she is apparently not interested in selling Greenland to the United States. Having once been to Montana, we were unaware that we needed more empty space. 

Trump then dramatically escalated our trade war with China, which caused a tariff-ic response by the Chinese, which in turn sent the Dow into the crapper. Again. This caused a Tweetstorm of epic proportions by the POTUS, who ordered U.S. companies to stop doing business with China. Trade wars, it turns out, can be quite messy.

The president wrapped up the week by taking a flame-thrower to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell because the Fed signaled it will not be lowering interest rates. Powell’s job status is about as stable as weapons-grade uranium right now.

In other presidential news, former President Obama is buying a $15 million house on Martha’s Vineyard. That guy just keeps living his best life, doesn’t he? 

Bernie Sanders this week continued being Bernie Sanders by unveiling a climate-change plan with a price tag of $16 trillion, which is roughly enough money to buy Greenland 320 times. Bernie continues to be the personification of “go unfathomably big or go home.” 

A new report was released this week claiming that Pennsylvania has better roads than either New York or New Jersey, which is kinda like being damned by faint praise. Don’t expect that lofty ranking to be in place for long unless we figure out a transportation funding solution sometime soon.   

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is joining forces with the other 49 state attorneys general to defeat the robocall scourge once and for all. This is awesome news, as we are growing tired of being offered extended vehicle warranty coverage on a car we haven’t owned since 2010. 

A group of environmentalists came to Harrisburg’s beautiful City Island yesterday to announce that sewage overflows have caused the level of fecal matter in our waterways to skyrocket to 10 times the normal limit. Which got us wondering whether the band Live, which hails from York, wrote the song “Shit Town” about any place in particular.

Governor Wolf this week announced some loot to clean up groundwater contamination caused by chemicals used in fire retardants. The so-called PFAS contamination has made headlines in Bucks County for quite some time, and not just because nobody knows what PFAS stands for.  

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing has been working on sentencing guideline reform for the past decade with very little progress being made, we found out this week. To put that in context, everyone who was sentenced to a 5-10 stretch since this project began is now out of prison.   

The Philly soda tax was in the news this week, as the city has collected a whopping $191 million since the tax was implemented 2½ years ago. But please tell us again how it has had “no impact” on customers or grocery stores. Trust us when we tell you: if you yank $200 million out of the Philly economy, it is gonna leave a mark. 

Lack of broadband and high-speed internet service in rural Pennsylvania is hurting small business development, we heard this week (for the millionth time). This time agriculture is in the barrel, because in case you haven’t heard, farming is a fairly technologically advanced business these days.  

Pittsburgh city leaders are getting ready to unveil the long-awaited 2020 Bike Plan for city streets and sidewalks and highways and byways. This will inevitably lead to another annoying Twitter tirade by Stan from Blawnox about how we “don’t need any of them damn bikes n’at on our doggone streets!”   

There is a court battle brewing that will decide whether so-called safe injection sites are legal in Philadelphia. It is sad that, as a society, our addiction problem is so acute that we even have to have this discussion, but… here we are.

PennDOT would like you to read this friendly reminder about what to do when you are trying to drive around a school bus. The short answer is: don’t drive around a school bus, ding-dong. Keep the wee ones safe as they head back to school.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Virginia, where a mysterious man with a TV on his head is depositing vintage TVs on people’s porches for no earthly reason. We are sure there is a Max Headroom joke here somewhere, but we don’t wanna admit to being old enough to remember Max Headroom. 

That what passes for news around here as the Dog Days of August click down to the return of the General Assembly. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Florida Man Edition (Again)

Walmart

In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last week, much of the national chatter this week focused on what should be done – or not done – to address gun violence. Universal background checks and “red flag” legislation that would take guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others seemed to gain the most traction. Whether the traction continues or dwindles as it has in the past remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, police attempting to serve a narcotics warrant touched off an eight-hour shootout in North Philly in which six officers were wounded and several others injured. Comments by Mayor Jim Kenney urging state and federal action on gun control spurred a rebuke by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, which we presume the mayor regards as a badge of honor. The gunman was taken into custody.

The Philly shootout prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to reschedule to today an event at which he signed an executive order that he says will strengthen gun violence reduction efforts in Pennsylvania and make communities safer.

Another roiling topic this week was the economy – U.S. and global – as the Dow suffered its largest decline of the year on bad news from the manufacturing sector and the bond market. Whether we’re looking at the probability of a recession or there’s nothing to worry about – yet – is a matter of who one talks to. An article by WaPo economics correspondent and former PennLive/Patriot News Deputy Editor Heather Long takes us pretty much down the middle.

President Trump stopped by for his 13th visit to PA as president to tout the creation of jobs at the Royal Dutch Shell Petrochemical Complex in Monaca. Or as the White House called it, “Monaco.” He spoke for an hour about a whole bunch of other stuff too.

The national average price of gasoline has fallen to the lowest level of the summer and is the lowest it has been since March. Some OPEC members have discussed cutting production, but analysts said such a move would likely slow the price decreases rather than stop them altogether.

This whole marijuana thing just keeps having more public policy twists and turns. A Lehigh County judge ruled that police who smell marijuana in a vehicle may not search said vehicle if an occupant happens to be carrying a medical marijuana card.

Governor Wolf asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get to the bottom of why at least four Pennsylvania children were recently separated from their parents. He demanded that the agency halt the practice until it has a plan to ensure the welfare of children.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that said the PA Turnpike Commission did not violate the right of truckers and others to travel between states. The court said that Congress authorized using toll revenue for things other than Turnpike uses, so it therefore does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Charter schools and Governor Wolf have created quite a row over the governor’s plan to revamp PA’s charter school law. Wolf called the law “flawed and outdated” and said it hurts public schools, and the charter schools reacted by complaining about the governor’s “blatant attacks.”

In Shippingport, First Energy Solutions announced that it will shutter the last of three mighty Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power generation units in November, some 19 months sooner than originally planned. “A lack of economic viability” was cited as the reason for the closing.

We cannot let the week pass without acknowledging Ag Progress Days, an annual event showcasing all things agricultural, from invasive species, to water quality, to no-till cover crops, to… well, you get the idea. The point is that ag is pretty darn important here in the Keystone State.

The Erie School District may be heading toward a state takeover after its board voted to defy two directives by the state-appointed financial administrator. The district might want to consider, um, going to school on what happened to the Harrisburg School District in recent weeks after it defied state directives.

This week’s We Can’t Make This Up section is actually more of a We Don’t Need to Make This Up section, featuring the ever-popular combination of Florida Man, Walmart and a vehicle. Michael Dale Hudson was arrested and charged with multiple offenses after careening through a Walmart in a golf cart and striking numerous shoppers before crashing into a cash register. Dude, if you want to play through, just ask.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week, boys and girls! Who would have thought we’d have all this in the Dog Days of August? Can September arrive too soon? Have a terrific weekend and check back in with us next week.


Friday Happy Hour: Clumsy Devil Edition

NJ Devil

The nation spent the week mourning the horrific events of El Paso and Dayton, and so once again our nation’s elected officials found themselves in the “what-to-do-about-it-all” debate. Up first was our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who again pledged to get his background check legislation moving. He was noticeably cooler to the idea of a ban on assault weapons.

At the state level, a powerful GOP state senator signaled she will begin to hold hearings this fall to come to an agreement on what Pennsylvania’s policy makers should or could be doing. Expect gun violence to immediately become the most-discussed topic in Harrisburg this fall.

And while we often focus on big-picture solutions around here, we should note that the recently established anonymous school safety tip line logged 23,000 calls this past year. It is tough to quantify how many lives were or could have been saved with this simple phone line.

But sadly, we also learned this week that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a staunch gun-control advocate, has been the target of death threats in recent weeks. Because nothing says, “I deserve unlimited access to guns” like “and I’ll shoot you if you disagree.”

Last week, we brought to your attention yet another plan to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania, this time using a mix of taxes that includes a 4.9% tax on retirement income. As we expected, that idea is going over like a Sarah Silverman speech at a Trump rally.

Of course, we do this property tax dance each and every year because voters continually say that of all the taxes they pay, property taxes are the most hated. We learned this shocking news because somebody paid a pollster to ask the question. Really? We needed a poll? We wonder what people think about being forced to eat glass. All that aside, we will once again remind you that while nobody likes the property tax disease, nobody likes the cure either.

Speaking of taxes, Pennsylvania no longer has the highest gas tax in the nation, thanks to California’s recent bump in theirs. We are contractually obligated to remind everyone that, while Pennsylvania’s ranks second in the nation, we also divert a huge chunk each year to the State Police budget. Thank you for that constant reminder, Senior Triad Consultant George Wolff.

The same poll that showed us how much people loathe property taxes also showed Joe Biden with a lead amongst Pennsylvania primary voters, although Elizabeth (I Have a Plan for That) Warren is pretty close behind. Seems like a direct challenge, Scranton! You gonna let her knock your favorite son off the perch?

Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed legislation into law that will enable foster children in Pennsylvania to go to college for free. Bernie Sanders reportedly called the governor to remind him that EVERYONE should have free tuition, not just foster children. Because Bernie is everywhere and he… hears… everything.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers put everyone’s lives at risk by proposing to deregulate children’s lemonade stands. Seriously? You realize what those kids put in that stuff, right? Oh well, caveat emptor! Don’t call us when you end up drinking a mix of sugar and water from the nearest puddle. NOTE: this is actually an awesome idea. On behalf of all the young entrepreneurs out there, thanks!

This just in: Parx Casino in Bensalem has opened a snazzy new sports book, where all you E-A-G-L-E-S fans can go and bet your mortgage on the next preseason game.

Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary did a little tour of the Commonwealth to tout his shiny, new PA Preferred Organics program. If you don’t think there is a big future in organic products, you obviously follow ZERO millennials on Twitter.

A group of lawmakers convened a meeting to discuss Pennsylvania’s woeful state of high-speed internet access in rural parts of the state. The meeting was not live-streamed because, well, see the first sentence.

On a totally unrelated note, our friends at Agile Networks announced that the firm been acquired by InSite Wireless, one of the country’s largest private operators of wireless communications infrastructure. Like we said, this is totally unrelated to Pennsylvania’s rural broadband challenges. At the moment.  

Our friends at Comcast this week announced a big expansion of its Internet Essentials program. After starting out offering Internet Essentials to families with children participating in the National School Lunch Program, Comcast expanded eligibility 11 times over the last eight years to include residents of public housing, low-income veterans and pilot programs for low-income seniors and community college students. Next up? All qualified low-income households in Comcast’s service area, literally doubling the number of people eligible to participate in the program. Congrats!

 In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Edison, New Jersey, where a New Jersey Devils mascot ran through a glass window at a child’s birthday party. Pretty sure the kid would have settled for a picture or something. You’d never see Gritty doing anything that crazy.

That’s what passes for news around here as August rolls on, and we start dreaming of the return of the legislature. Ha! Just kidding. Nobody dreams of that, not even the legislature. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Yellow Potatoes Edition

Potatoes

The horde of Democrats running for president got together in Detroit this week to slap the living hell out of each other for two days. Only the Democrats could conceive of a plan that allows 16 people who will never be president to stand on stage and excoriate the four who actually might be.    

In the runup to the 2020 census, it looks like Pennsylvania’s population growth (or lack thereof) will cost us yet another congressional seat. If this trend continues, we are gonna be a much more expansive New Hampshire before long.   

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey this week took some very direct shots at corn-based ethanol subsidies and fuel mandates, which he says (probably correctly) are outdated and cost motorists extra money needlessly.  Iowa, it should be noted, would like to have a word with Mr. Toomey.

Gov. Tom Wolf and four other governors this week pushed all presidential candidates to declare their open support for more money to aid in the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes. This move, in our humble opinion, was genius. If you look at those states (which include good old Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan) and then look at the must-win Electoral College states… well, you get the picture.  

President Trump this week announced a plan to crack down on eligibility for SNAP benefits (the food stamps of yore), which could negatively affect 200,000 Pennsylvanians. The move did not sit well with Governor Wolf. Farmers, it should be noted, would like to have a word with President Trump.  

Amazon this week announced that its emerging love affair with the Pittsburgh area is taking another step by building a million square foot fulfillment warehouse that will employ 800 people. It has been rumored that Heinz will not renew its deal for naming rights at the field where the Steelers currently play, so hey, welcome to Amazon Field, right?  

The state has authorized new speed control cameras on Interstate 78. If you’ve ever driven on that road (and who amongst us has not?) this is probably a pretty solid idea. People seem to treat that road like it’s Pocono Raceway.

We pause for the following public service announcement: A “good Samaritan” is defined as a compassionate person who unselfishly helps others, especially strangers. Few personify the term as well as Ross Willard, president and “chief mechanical officer” of Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide all residents of the greater Harrisburg area – especially those of limited means – with access to safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation in the form of bicycles. The building in which Ross operates has been sold, and he must move within the next 60 days. He’s looking for ample space, in Harrisburg, accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians, and with reasonable rent (you know, free?). PennLive published a feature story about it this week, and here is the organization’s website.

Despite its puzzling insistence on keeping that creepy Gus as a mascot, the Pennsylvania Lottery is on quite the roll, we found out this week. Sales were up 7% last year, with profits coming in at a cool $1.14 billion. Imagine what could happen if Gus “retired.” 

Pennsylvania voters will have a chance this fall to vote on a constitutional amendment that will establish a so-called victim’s bill of rights, also known as Marsy’s Law. Getting this baby on the ballot was one of the best examples of how Pennsylvania is not crippled by the same partisanship that Washington currently is. Good things actually get done around here.    

We hesitate to even mention it, but there has been yet another property tax elimination bill introduced in the General Assembly. This one would backfill the $14 billion in school funding with a local income tax, a higher state sales tax and – TA DA – a new tax on retirement income! For those who may have just moved into Pennsylvania, we will say this once so that you understand it up front: PROPERTY TAXES WILL NEVER BE ELIMINATED IN PENNSYLVANIA. FULL STOP.   

Pennsylvania apparently manufactures a metric crap-ton of potato chips each day. This week we watched in amazement as people got into vicious online arguments, the likes of which we haven’t ever seen, over the ranking of the best chips in Pennsylvania. Wars have started over less.  

This dovetails nicely with our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, which takes us back out to western Pennsylvania, where a woman urinated all over the potatoes in the produce aisle at Wal Mart.  Those places do have bathrooms, as we understand it. And security cameras, as she apparently did not understand.

And that’s what passes for news around here as the dog days of August set it in beautiful central Pennsylvania. If you listen closely, you can actually hear yourself sweat! Tune in next week where we will once again regale you with tales of yore. Until then, from all your friends at team Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Cokehead Edition

Kilo of cocaine

The U.S. economy beat growth expectations again last month, with the GDP growing by 2.1%.  While President Trump was obviously pleased with the news, he couldn’t resist taking to Twitter and punching the Federal Reserve in the snout, blaming it for keeping a lid on growth. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is like the dog that Trump never wanted.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller took his spot in front of Congress this week, and for seven straight hours looked like an exasperated professor, knowing in his heart that not one of his “students” actually read the course materials before class.

The U.S. House did, however, take some time out from the investigation-o-rama to pass a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2025. We really enjoyed the Washington Post coverage declaring that the bill is “not expected” to pass the Senate. We all know that we are more likely to get hit by a meteor while riding a unicorn than see that bill become law.  

On a related note, a report was released this week showing that in Pennsylvania, women are twice as likely to live in poverty than men. Thousands of those women are making minimum wage. Not that there is any sort of connection between the two facts at all. So we will just leave that right there and move along.   

President Trump this week appeared at a young conservative event, and whoever was in charge of putting up the presidential seal has no doubt been fired from his or her job. Instead of the traditional seal, we were treated to a two-headed eagle clutching a set of golf clubs with the phrase, “45 is a puppet” written in Spanish, replacing “E Pluribus Unum.” Gotta give somebody an “A” for creativity.   

We take a moment out from our weekly report to let you know that some racist jagoff put white supremacist stickers on poles outside of a Pittsburgh state representative’s office this week. So we would politely remind said jagoff: Pittsburgh is #StrongerThanHate. Now back to our report. 

Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced that his administration will embark upon a plan to turn your state government into a more customer-friendly organization, with you, dear readers, being the customers. Your state government will soon be right at your fingertips 24/7, so get ready. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Department of Banking is coming at ya!

It was a busy week for our state auditor general, who kicked things off by reminding us that 1) we are old, 2) we are getting older, and 3) we really need to do a better job at overseeing the nursing homes in this state because we are all gonna end up in one eventually. 

The general followed up with a rather startling announcement that a district magistrate in western Pennsylvania has turned 880 would-be civil offenses (overdue library books, parking fines, etc.) into criminal offenses. Judge Dredd has since taken leave of her office, if not her damned senses.   

Ohio lawmakers have approved a legislative package that will keep the Buckeye State’s nuclear plants in business at a cost of $150 million. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania… yeah. Not so much.  

The State System of Higher Education has announced a tuition freeze at California University and some other state system schools, we learned this week. This is great news for Pennsylvania’s college students, who are currently lugging around more debt than most third-world nations.   

Legalized sports betting in Pennsylvania has given a nice little boost to the Commonwealth’s gaming revenue, which topped $3.3 billion last year. Up next is online gaming, which will further fuel those numbers. Ah, sweet sin taxes. Is there anything they can’t do?

Remember way back (about two weeks ago) when our own Todd Brysiak spun you all a yarn about the passage of the state’s first Telepresence Education Act, a law that is kind of near and dear to his heart? You don’t? Well, read this and get back to us. We will wait. 

Finished? Good. Now check this PennLive.com piece out about the state’s new Telepresence Education Act and see if you recognize the girl in the article. Hint: she’s a much more famous Brysiak.   

Shameless Client Plug alert! With the national spotlight fixed on how to secure our elections, here is a handy-dandy primer from our good friends at Elections Systems and Software. Did you know that every single machine that ES&S offers has a paper backup? Well you do now! Vote with confidence!

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you over to Madrid, where a man was arrested when police decided to look under his massive toupee, only to discover he was hiding a kilo of cocaine under it. Walking around with a kilo of blow under your wig while looking like a nervous Mr. Potato Head is never a good idea, kids. 

That’s what passes for news around here on this beautiful Friday in July! Make sure to check in next week from wherever you may be to get a glimpse of all the news you missed while knocking back some cold ones down at the shore. From all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!