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September 2018

Friday Happy Hour: Wallaby Edition

1200px-Young_red_necked_wallabyThe U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, despite some last-minute Flakery, is poised to move Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh one step closer to the finish line.  To say that Thursday’s hearing was perhaps not the nation’s finest hour would be a bit of an understatement.  But on the flip side, it helped to further shine a light on the deep partisan divide our nation has on its collective hands as we approach November.

Despite the fireworks of the past week, the nation’s economic engine keeps firing on all cylinders, with the GDP topping 4.2%.  Consumer confidence continues to soar, which we kinda already knew because every other ad on Sirius/XM radio is about how your company can get free cash and fill open jobs, compared to 2008 when they were all about how to file for bankruptcy. 

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Amazon...and the Next Big Thing

Amazon_logo-8The other day my four-year-old son asked me if we could go to the toy store to buy a new game. In what I thought was a skillful move of parental deflection to avoid the purchase, I replied: “Sorry bud. Toys R Us is gone, remember?” The little guy’s comeback quickly put me in my place: “Dad! You have Amazon on your phone.”

Had Jeff Bezos heard the debate in my house that day, my guess is he would’ve chuckled a bit. I mean really think about it for a second. Did he ever imagine the startup company that he ran from his garage would eventually become negotiation fodder for a four-year old? I kind of doubt it. But given his company’s evolution, that may have been the only scenario Bezos wasn’t considering.

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Friday Happy Hour: Empty Tank Edition

Empty

President Trump spent some time in Shanksville this week, commemorating the 9/11 attacks on our country. It was a good reminder for everyone that there was a time when we all came together in the face of unspeakable horror and put aside petty, partisan differences. #NeverForget.

Hurricane Florence roared ashore in the Carolinas this morning, bringing an estimated 10 trillion gallons of rain water with it. For reference purposes, that is the amount of rain that the Carolinas normally get over an eight-month period, instead of the three days the storm is expected to linger over the region. Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the first responders who left the Keystone State to lend a hand.

President Trump took to the Twitters this week to dispute the number of lives lost in Puerto Rico during last year’s devastating hurricanes. Trump blamed the “inflated numbers” on the Democrats. Reached for comment, the Democrats said “Huh? We did what now?”

The fall session in the General Assembly will likely be dominated by the question of how to bring justice to the victims of widespread Catholic clergy abuse in Pennsylvania. Talk of opening a window of opportunity for victims to sue has caused sharp divisions between supporters of the window and those who say it is unconstitutional. A tragic situation is about to become a very heated debate, so get ready.  

Another issue that may see some life this fall is a plan to open up Pennsylvania’s primary elections to the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who are registered as Independents or to other third parties. Of course, amending election laws in Pennsylvania is about as easy as driving a toaster through a car wash. Everyone has their own ideas of what “reform” really means. For comparison, see “redistricting reform.”

For his part, Governor Wolf this week announced the formation of a new task force to help with the 2020 census. Wolf wants to ensure that every Pennsylvanian is accurately counted, probably because he is sick of seeing us lose a congressional seat or two every 10 years.

Despite moves to open up more competition for booze sales in Pennsylvania, the state’s Liquor Control Board posted record sales last year. Pennsylvanians dropped a cool $2.59 billion at state stores last year (we apparently like to drink around here), so if you ever question why some lawmakers want to sell the system, there are roughly 2.59 billion answers.

A group of civic-minded souls is suing the Commonwealth over what they call unbalanced budgets, which produced a weird scenario of the governor’s office and leaders of the opposition party in the General Assembly fighting on the same side. The complainants labeled the state’s budget process a “savage mess” which, while probably accurate, isn’t illegal. If messes were illegal, our desk would be in federal prison.

Governor Wolf’s gubernatorial rival, Scott Wagner, this week said that, if elected, he would sue drug makers over the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania. It is probably a good thing there aren’t caps on damages in the state, or that effort would be a long run for a pretty short slide.  

Lawmakers who like to hold town hall meetings in Pennsylvania continually discover one immutable truth: it doesn’t matter what you wanna talk about, the discussion will always land on property taxes. Residents of the Keystone State have now been conditioned to believe that eliminating school property taxes is as easy as posting a rant on Facebook and snapping one’s fingers. It remains inconceivable to them that the cure might be worse than the disease.  

Some rural Pennsylvania counties are starting to see the economic benefit of medicinal marijuana growing, processing and dispensing, we learned this week. Not only is the new law bringing medical relief to thousands of people, it is also bringing employment. Is there nothing medical marijuana cannot do?

Amazon will make its long-awaited announcement on where HQ2 will land before the calendar changes to 2019, we learned this week. Could it come to Pennsylvania? Make sure to check out the Triadvocate on Monday, where our own Todd Brysiak will posit some thoughts on that subject.

Milton Hershey would have turned 161 years old yesterday. In his honor, Hersheypark is reportedly considering building a 220-feet high hypercoaster, which sounds cool as hell.

Governor Wolf this week reported $414,000 in income last year, prompting his running mate, John Fetterman, to continue his relentless Twitter attack on Scott Wagner for not releasing his tax returns.  

Wagner, on the other hand, is pretty miffed that Governor Wolf seems a lot less interested in debates as then-candidate Wolf was in 2014. Wolf seems content to play some old-fashioned Dean Smith-style four-corners basketball until November.  

Speaking of elections, all 203 state house and 25 state senate seats are also up for grabs in November, and PennLive’s John Micek this week gave us all a nice little lay-of-the-land for all who are interested in such things (and we know you are.) Check it out here.

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we take you to Pittsburgh, where a bank robber forgot the first rule of bank robbery: make sure there is gas in your getaway car. That guy is what western Pennsylvanians refer to as a real jagoff.  

That’s what passes for news around here as summer winds down and we wait with bated breath for the return of the General Assembly. Come back next week, when we will be ready and waiting with a full tank! From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!


Friday Happy Hour: Stolen Spiders Edition

 

Spider

Despite the almost-daily string of controversies emanating from the White House these days (some real, others imagined and hyped to no end) the nation’s economy kept up its historic roll this week.  With 201,000 new jobs added in August, the country has now experienced 95 consecutive months of positive job growth.  With a mere 62 days to go before the midterm elections, our commander-in-chief may wanna start mentioning this a bit more often and bag the whole “fake news” spiel until 2019. 

Speaking on controversies, it was a double-whammy type of week for President Trump.  After weathering a hit from the release of Bob Woodward’s White House tell-all, an anonymous senior Trump administration official penned a scathing op-ed to the New York Times.  Lord help us all if the author was wearing Nikes at the time of the writing. 

Trump made some positive headlines in western Pennsylvania this week, as he honored a request from Shell Corporation to go easy on this whole steel import quota thing.   Royal Dutch Shell, as we’ve mentioned, is in the midst of building a cracker plant the size of Vermont in western Pennsylvania, and as such is using a boatload of steel and aluminum. Shell is already spending $6 billion on the plant and would very much not like that number to reach $7 billion, thank you very much.   

Health insurance premiums under Obamacare (yeah, that’s still a thing) are slated to go up by an average of 4 percent this year, which is a far cry from the huge hikes of the past two years.  There may be a reason why this campaign season is not being fought on the “repeal Obamacare” front.  We just can’t put our finger on it, though. 

Shares of Tesla dropped like a stone this week after founder Elon Musk was caught on video smoking weed. Wall Street traders dumped Tesla stock like it was hot garbage, then retired to their offices to fire up a joint and pour a glass of scotch. 

Our friends at Lyft (Shameless Client Plug 1) found themselves at the top of LinkedIn’s list of coveted start-up companies, we learned this week. While arch-rival Uber has spent the last few years tripping over its own app, Lyft has quietly captured 35 percent of the ride-share market. Slow and steady wins the race, people.

Prison safety dominated state headlines this week, as the state’s correction institutions remained on lockdown after corrections officers and inmates were sickened by coming into contact with synthetic drugs, including Fentanyl.  The crisis led the Wolf Administration to ban all printed mail from entering prisons, instead replacing them with scanned copies, among other security protocol changes. Corrections officers have a tough enough job with having to worry that some jackwagon mailed an envelope full of K2.   

When the General Assembly returns for business in late September, many southeastern Pennsylvania GOP members will once again push legislation to take firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.  If you are surprised that Republican lawmakers are getting ready to go toe-to-toe with the NRA, you need to read up on southeastern Pennsylvania electoral politics. 

Gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner went a bit, um, nonconventional this week, producing a video where he called literal bullshit on Governor Wolf’s trip to Puerto Rico. Wolf’s team was quick to point out that Pennsylvania is home to about 420,000 folks of Puerto Rican heritage, or 8 percent of the entire Puerto Rican population in the country.  Wagner would prefer that Wolf stay a bit closer to home, apparently.   

With apologies to Allen Iverson, who was “talkin’ ‘bout practice” lo those many years ago, we were “talkin’ ‘bout taxes” this week, as the Tax Foundation released a new report on Pennsylvania’s need to overhaul its tax structure.  It was like Christmas morning for tax policy nerds (we are looking at you, Triad VP Todd Brysiak), courtesy of our friends at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. 

When State Rep. Matt Gabler returns from active duty in Kuwait, you will need to address him as Major Gabler, we learned this week.  Gabler received a promotion this week, and all of us at Triad thank him for his selfless service and dedication.   

Pennsylvania’s farmers need many things to ply their trade (expensive equipment, good soil, occasional rain, etc.) but one might be interested to know that farmers also need access to high-speed internet and broadband services.  If you think farming isn’t high tech, you’ve been watching too many Hee-Haw re-runs. 

In our Shameless Client Plug 2, we send a hearty congratulations to our friends at the First Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, who this week received an $8 million redevelopment grant from the Commonwealth.  Alexander Hamilton’s central bank is about to become a treasured part of the rich cultural scene in the City of Brotherly Love!  

In our third and final Shameless Client Plug, we give a shout-out to our friends at Magellan Health for wrapping up another successful statewide conference on battling opioid and heroin addiction.  If you haven’t been watching what Magellan has been doing to battle this scourge, you should. This issue touches us all.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment this week, we shoot down the highway to the outskirts of Philadelphia.  We won’t actually go into the city, however, because somebody stole a metric ton of poisonous spiders and scorpions and other creepy crawlers from a local museum, and who the hell knows where they might be. The theft led to the Tweet of the Week from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who cautioned Philly Mayor Jim Kenney that Pittsburgh may have to build a wall and make Philly pay for it.

That’s what passes for news around here on another steamy Friday in Harrisburg.  Be sure to check in next week, when we will still be avoiding Philly like the plague.  From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!