Friday Happy Hour: Warren Zevon Edition

Rattler

By far the biggest news since our last missive was that Penn State defeated Pitt 17-10 last Saturday, giving certain Team Triad staff members bragging rights over certain other (ahem, Brendan Schubert and Sydney Kockler) staff members. #WeAre 

Note to President Donald Trump: when you find yourself in a bit of a bind, DO NOT send Rudy Giuliani on television to clean it up. Unless by “clean it up” you really mean “dump gasoline all over it, set it on fire and throw it in a dumpster.” 

From Hong Kong to Berlin, from Dublin to New York and beyond, millions of earthlings are participating in a worldwide climate strike today to raise awareness of climate change. Suffice to say this issue has now gone from policy discussion to movement.  

Today, will mark the final day of power generation at storied Three Mile Island, as natural gas and a volatile energy market finally achieved what anti-nuke protesters could not over the past forty years.  As the final droplets of steam evaporate at the giant cooling towers, so goes the carbon-free power that lit up over 800,000 Pennsylvania households since 1974. 

A report was released this week showing Pennsylvania college students are currently lugging around the 2nd-highest average student debt load in the nation.  #WeAre #NotDoingSomethingRight.  

Relief from that debt may be on its way, however, for folks who become first responders, as a bill to forgive their debt is moving through the General Assembly. Baby steps (doo doo doo-doo doo-doo) baby steps (doo doo doo-doo doo-doo).  You’re welcome.   

This week in Rather Astounding Statistics, we bring you the unbelievable 12%: the number of Pennsylvanians who currently do not have enough food to eat.  Seeing as how we are in the longest economic expansion in the nation’s history, that number seems jaw-dropping to us. If you read that number and thought “we should definitely cut SNAP benefits”, you are misreading this entire paragraph. Start over.   

Speaking of stats, since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Pennsylvania’s uninsured population has shrunk by 5%, holding steady at around 6%.  If you read that number and thought “we should definitely blow up the system and start over”, see the preceding paragraph.   

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden got a bit feisty with each other in Philly this week, battling over who is a bigger friend of organized labor.  It was sort of an “I know you are, but what am I?” moment between septuagenarians.  It ended with Biden telling Bernie his dad could definitely beat up Bernie’s dad.  

Environmental groups are all kinds of salty that, in their judgment, the Wolf Administration is not using the proceeds from the nationwide Volkswagen settlement to push electric vehicles more aggressively.  Considering the fact that only 10% of the entire fund has been awarded, maybe we all need to pump the brakes, so to speak, on the criticism.  

Next week, both the House and Senate will start hearings on what should be done to curtail gun violence.  It is against that backdrop that a bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference this week to push for a Red Flag Law in Pennsylvania to help curtail gun-related suicides. Seems reasonable, which means its likely to be mired in arguments about completely unrelated issues for the foreseeable future.   

Our friends at APSCUF this week announced an agreement on a four-year contract with the State System of Higher Education, thereby freeing the faculty up to keep educating the next generation of amazing Pennsylvania graduates.  Judging by the ages of many of the Climate Strikers today, reversing climate change looks to be Job One for them.  

We also send a shout-out this week to our friends at Aqua PA for consummating a rather sizable merger with the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority. Nicely done! 

Readers of Pennlive.com and political nerds everywhere are in for a treat, as the venerable John Baer announced this week that he is joining the Pennlive stable of top-notch journalists. Congratulations John, you may now resume beating elected officials about the head and shoulders. 

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week we take you to Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.  Local officials in Guthrie this week stopped a man and woman for driving a stolen car and also found a rattlesnake, a canister of Uranium, an open bottle of whiskey and a handgun, which coincidentally is also a lyric from a Warren Zevon song. Send lawyers, guns, whiskey, uranium, a snake and money, the shit has hit the fan.

That’s what passes for news around there on a simply resplendent Friday in the heart of your state government.  Come back and join us next week!  You bring the rattlesnake; we will bring the whiskey! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend. 


Friday Happy Hour: Mockingbird Edition

Mockingbird

The nation paused Wednesday to remember the more than 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on 9/11, the deadliest attack ever on American soil. Vice President Mike Pence came to Shanksville to visit the Flight 93 memorial, where the words “Let’s Roll!” still ring today. Remarkably, this year’s high school graduating class will be the first one whose students were not yet born when the terror attack happened.  #NeverForget.

Before we roll on any further, we would like to point out that a full moon will rise tonight. Today is also Friday the 13th. What’s the worst that could possibly happen, right? Moving right along…

Ten Democrats took to the stage Thursday night in the 58th presidential debate of 2019, or as we now call it “another night where everyone beats the snot out of Joe Biden.” Preceding the festivities, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell took a whack at Elizabeth Warren in the pages of the Washington Post, calling her a hypocrite for her Road-to-Damascus-like conversion on campaign contributions. The man still knows how to grab some headlines!  

Coming on the heels of a potential multi-billion-dollar nationwide settlement over the marketing of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma may have thought it was out of the woods. Not… quite… yet. Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced yesterday that he is suing Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, on behalf of the Commonwealth. Quite a large domino you knocked over, Mr. AG.   

The Commonwealth Court has ruled that a lawsuit filed by gun owners over some new Harrisburg gun ordinances can proceed. While gun-control advocates spend a whole lot of time worrying about what is (or in most cases, isn’t) happening on the federal and state levels, the real battleground seems to be local governments and the courts. Lots of elected officials love local control until the locals actually try and control something.   

On that note, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spent some time in Washington this week banging his head against the pavement, trying to convince the Senate GOP leadership to act on gun control measures.   

The continuing uncertainty over trade with China is starting to smack the Pennsylvania manufacturing industry around, as that sector has shed more than 8,000 jobs since January. If ever there was a giant red flag in the windshield for Team Trump 2020, this would be it. 

Lawmakers are rallying for the passage of a bill that would extend the same health and safety regulation currently enjoyed in the private sector to Pennsylvania’s public sector workers. You might ask why those workers don’t currently have those protections, to which we would answer, “We haven’t the foggiest idea.”  

Speaking of state employees, if you are one of them and you were expecting an early retirement buyout offer in the near future, you may wanna rethink those plans. Ain’t happenin’, Captain. Prepare to go to work Monday.   

If you really wanna watch some legislative fireworks, attend the next public hearing on the legalization of Sunday hunting. Man, the people on either side of that issue are quite entrenched! At this point, we predict that the General Assembly will legalize marijuana long before Sunday hunting.

Speaking of marijuana, despite the fact that the medical version of it is quite legal in Pennsylvania, one county judge has decreed that parolees cannot partake of it. This seems, well, weird. If you are on parole, you can’t take medicine? Does this prohibition also apply to opioids and painkillers?

The Commonwealth Court this week ruled that one state lawmaker’s lawsuit again the Mariner East pipeline construction cannot proceed because said lawmaker has no standing to bring the suit. The court’s written decision was not what one would call ambiguous, to be kind.

One does not usually equate Emlenton, Pennsylvania, with Las Vegas, but hey! Here we are! A truck stop in Emlenton is the first in the Commonwealth to have legal video gaming terminals to help weary travels kill some time and maybe win some loot. And, of course, grab a good meatloaf sandwich while they are there. 

Our Shameless Client Plug this week goes out to Lyft, who is rolling out a program that will help residents of low-income housing areas to get low-cost rides to the grocery store. The program begins in Philly but will expand into other areas soon.   

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to Mississippi, where a school district has banned the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” because the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.” You know what else makes people uncomfortable? Mississippi.  

That’s what passes for news around here as we feverishly (and we are not kidding) prepare for the return of the General Assembly next week! If you need us, we will likely be here all weekend, so stop by and maybe bring some lunch? From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!  


Friday Happy Hour: Freddie Mercury Edition

Freddie Mercury

Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the East Coast as it takes what feels like a month-long journey to Greenland (which the United States may or may not own by the time it gets there.) If you are so inclined to help your fellow humans (and we are), may we suggest logging on to Project Hope and making a small donation?

Meanwhile, if you are looking for some must-see TV, turn off Netflix and tune in to coverage of the British Parliament. Gary Busey lookalike Boris Johnson and his Brexiteers are making Congress look like a well-oiled machine.  

The Trump trade war with China is starting to hit Pennsylvania farmers right square in the soybeans, we found out this week. War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing (say it again!)

This is the perfect opportunity to remind our dear readers that our own U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is not a fan of trade wars or tariffs. And by “not a fan” we mean “hates them with the fire of a thousand suns.” 

Two weeks ago, we told you that Governor Wolf was very serious about reforming the charter school system in Pennsylvania. In case you doubted our word, he reiterated that stance this week by imposing a new fee on charters that would be used to resolve payments disputes between charters and school districts. This particular war will most definitely end up in the hallowed halls of the General Assembly, on that you can bet.

Erie was in the news quite a bit this week, as County Council publicly called on the state to say yes or no to its long-sought community college plan, which has been in the works since 2017. A shiny new community college will go a long way toward helping workforce development in the great northwest.  

Meanwhile, national political pundits have listed Erie County as one of the top 10 counties that will decide next year’s presidential election. You hear that, Erie? Prepare to be positively crushed under 6 million TV ads next year! Maybe take some time away from the television and go to Waldameer or something.

A group of lawmakers from southeastern Pennsylvania have launched an effort to require Pennsylvania to derive 30% of its power from solar by 2030, which seems like an entirely more reasonable approach than a $20 trillion climate change plan that will eliminate fossil fuels by next Wednesday. 

Pittsburgh is also looking to shine up its energy efficiency street cred by requiring that all city owned buildings (current and future) be net zero carbon users in the very near future. The Steel City has come a long way since once being described as “hell with the lid off.”

The Wolf administration continues to tour the state touting the benefits of the governor’s RestorePA plan, which would drop a metric crap-ton of new money into repairing the state’s infrastructure. The timing of the latest push coincides with Hurricane Season, which in Pennsylvania often is called “my basement is flooded again” season.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is preparing to roll out a new app that will let you pay your tolls from your phone. Considering you can now buy pretty much everything under the sun from your phone, this seems like a logical next step for America’s Favorite Toll Road.   

Lawmakers continue to tour the state to ascertain the current state of affairs when it comes to access to high-speed internet in rural areas. This just in: it still sucks. Moving right along…

In addition to having Hersheypark, Chocolate World, the Giant Center and myriad other amazing attractions, Hershey also has, at least for this week, Bug-o-Rama, where you can go to see hissing cockroaches, scorpions and all manner of insect. For some ungodly reason.   

There are people in this country who have gone to 30, 40 and even 50 Trump rallies since he took office.  The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating look at what is the political equivalent of the Deadheads, crisscrossing the country, but probably with fewer psychedelic drugs in tow.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you back to the U.K., where a man found himself staring at a likeness of deceased Queen front man Freddie Mercury in a pork chop that he was frying. Not content to just preserve this modern-day miracle for all of mankind’s enjoyment, the man ate it instead. Rest assured if it were Paul McCartney on that piece of pork, it would be in a museum by now!

That’s what passes for news around here on this gorgeous Friday in September! From all of us here at Triad, have a great weekend, even if you drafted Antonio Brown in your fantasy football league!


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.