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Introduction

Posted: 9:16 PM EDT Sep 02, 2014   Updated: 10:18 AM EDT Sep 03, 2014

The Think Tank is dedicated exclusively to thoughtful, civil discourse about the issues of our day. It is a forum for the genuine exchange of ideas. We encourage you to contribute or simply to read on for your own edification.

Submissions from local residents are evaluated and chosen by the editorial staff of 69 News Entries should be between 500 and 1000 words, and responses to editorials should be of similar length. Personal attacks will not be posted. Please email your submissions to thinktank@wfmz.com. A photograph of the author is requested for use on the Think Tank web page.

The President and the N-Word

Posted: 7:58 PM EDT Jun 29, 2015   Updated: 1:57 PM EDT Jun 30, 2015

Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University By Dr. Arthur H. Garrison, LP.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

On June 22nd, President Obama, while being interviewed on a local radio show, commented on the issue of race in America and said, “what is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives — you know, that casts a long shadow. And that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. Racism. We are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 2[00]-300 years prior.”

The firestorm to President Obama’s comments focused on his use of the N-word. His point was that racism is historical, it’s more than words, it’s implicit, subtle, and complicated. And all the commentary has been on his use of the word itself and why he can use it and other can’t.

But a more telling story is how and why the media ignored what he said before the N-word comment, that, “I always tell young people in particular: Do not say that nothing’s changed when it comes to race in America . . . It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours, and that opportunities have opened up, and that attitudes have changed. That is a fact.” The media, both conservatives and liberals, failed to report his comments in context. They both seek to sensationalize rather than report on what he said. They both use his race and race in general to support their objective. Conservatives reported his use of the N-word to portray the President as an angry Blackman who hates America and uses race to explain everything. Liberals, who use him when he speaks about racial injustice and complain when he doesn’t, reported his statement to portray the President as an honest Blackman speaking truth to power.

In explaining why he focuses on the cases of police shootings of young Black men, it was not to attack the police, but rather to foster a social valuation of the lives of young Black men. He explained, “What is required is a sense on the part of all of us that what happens to those kids matters to me – even if I never meet them. Because my society is going to be better off. I’m going to feel better about the America I live in. And over time, I’m confident that my children and my grandchildren are going to live a better life if those kids also have opportunity.”

The President explained in the interview, “So what I tried to describe in the Selma speech that I gave, commemorating the march there, was, again, a notion that progress is real, and we have to take hope from that progress. But what is also real is that the march isn’t over, and the work is not yet completed. And then our job is to try in very concrete ways to figure out, what more can we do?”

The inconvenient truth is that he is correct that it’s is short sighted to constantly use history as if America has not changed. For 246 years (1619-1865), slavery was on the American shores. For 100 years (1865 to 1965) Jim Crow Apartheid conditions reigned in America. But realize that 246 years of slavery and racism and 100 years of legal Jim Crow was stripped from the law in only 14 years (1954-1968). As the President observed, “That’s where we have to feel hopeful, rather than just say that nothing’s changed – we have to say, ‘Wow, we’ve actually made significant progress over the last 50 years.’” The nation that had racial segregation in 1968 elected and reelected an African American man 40 years later. No assertion is made that racism is eradicated, but this nation, in less than two generations, has turned around values that were more than two centuries old. America is better than she was and she is conscious that she has further to go. Few nations can match that.
 

Trust but verify

Posted: 3:40 PM EDT May 28, 2015   Updated: 4:10 PM EDT May 28, 2015

Patrick J. Bower, Vice President for Development By Patrick J. Bower, Vice President for Development, St. Luke's University Health Network

One of Ronald Reagan's most memorable aphorisms was the phrase "trust but verify."   He quoted this Russian proverb frequently during arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union during the late 1980s.  We would do well to remember President Reagan's sage advice -- especially in light of the recent and disturbing news that four cancer-related charities controlled by a Tennessee-based family have been accused of collecting $187 million in donations, while providing almost no services to the people they claimed to help.

In case you missed the story:

Leaders of these four alleged sham-charities promised to spend 100 percent of the proceeds on services like hospice care, transporting patients to and from chemotherapy sessions and buying pain medication for children. Yet it was reported that about 99 percent of the donated funds were used to pay telemarketing firms and the salaries of unethical charity executives who contracted with them. What little money these disreputable charities spent on services was used to mail so called "cancer boxes" filled with sample-sized portions of snacks and random personal care products to individuals.

If these allegations prove to be true, the actions of a few individuals could undermine public confidence and make it harder for legitimate cancer-related charities to provide the helpful services cancer patients and their families so desperately need.

During my 30-year career as a non-profit executive and fundraiser for health-related causes, I have developed my own version of Reagan's "trust but verify." This litmus test guides both my personal giving and my professional associations. Following it has helped ensure the hard-earned money and time I choose to give actually benefits people in need:

Keep Donations Local--Ask people who have had cancer about the organizations that have had the most impact on their care and support those organizations, either directly or indirectly.  While national charities may have slick fundraising materials, most of the contributions they receive will not be used to benefit people from our community. If you do chose to support a national charity or its local branch, ask them to document the percentage of the gifts that are used to benefit local people.

Be Suspicious of Telemarketers--While it's true you must spend money to make money, a fundraising cost of 50 cents or more to raise a charitable dollar should invite you to pause and ask questions.  Many professional telemarketing firms will use 90 percent or more of all charitable donations collected to pay for telemarketers. Be especially suspicious of charities you have never heard of or charities that do not provide documented services in your area.   

Ask Questions--Any legitimate charity will proudly document the services they provide.  Resist the urge to make a gift--no matter how worthy-sounding the pitch--until you understand how your gift will make an impact.  Visit the charity's web site and consult independent charity watchdog groups like   Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

In the Lehigh Valley, we are fortunate to have a number of highly-effective cancer charities that do a great job of meeting the needs of local patients and their families:

The Women's 5K Classic has become one of the largest races of its kind in the country.  Held each October, the dedicated volunteers who organize this event have successfully raised and distributed $2.5 million to local organizations engaged in the fight against breast cancer and other cancers impacting women.  

The Boutique at the Rink has a 40-year tradition of collecting and reselling gently used treasures in what is arguably the region's largest rummage sale.   Proceeds from this 100 percent volunteer-led, post-Memorial Day sale are used to advance cancer and hospice care in our local community and help make life better for patients and their families.

The Cancer Support Community, a relative newcomer on the scene, now provides more than 700 programs each year--all free of charge--to support cancer patients and their families on the journey to wellness and recovery.

Our Local Non-Profit Hospitals which include St. Luke's University Health Network, Sacred Heart HealthCare System and Lehigh Valley Health Network, have established cancer compassion funds to help patients with medications costs, transportation to chemotherapy and other life-enhancing services.

In recent years, donations to the St. Luke's Cancer Center have been used to bring new technology including Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) to the Lehigh Valley.  With IORT, women being treated for breast cancer receive one treatment of radiation in the operating room that often replaces the need to return to the hospital for the traditional 30-day course of radiation therapy.

Another new technology recently funded by charitable donations is frameless stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). Patients who previously had to have a metal frame bolted into their skull to receive radiation therapy for brain cancer can now receive their treatment using a soft, non-invasive mask-like covering that fits over the face.  Donations have also been used to support advances in hospice care, including the construction and ongoing operation of the region's only free-standing inpatient hospice house, a special place for patients in need of more supportive care as they approach life's end.  

Patrick J. Bower, Vice President for Development
St. Luke's University Health Network
484-526-4135

Leadership for a Better America

Posted: 1:48 PM EDT Mar 09, 2015   Updated: 9:21 AM EDT Mar 10, 2015

Joe Sestak By Joe Sestak

This week I officially launched my campaign for the United States Senate, driven by the strong conviction that, when we work together, we can help restore the American Dream for all.

For too long, ideology has paralyzed our government, and “trust deficit” is the phrase I use to describe the state of our union. I am entering this race because I want to change that, and we must start by holding our leaders, of both parties, accountable for their actions.

For the next few weeks, I will cross Pennsylvania on foot – all 422 miles, from New Jersey to the border with Ohio – to demonstrate that I intend to be a different kind of Senator, one who will walk alongside and be a reliable advocate for all communities.

As the precocious narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us – you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. So in that spirit, I want to earn the trust of Pennsylvanians – one step at a time.

We Pennsylvanians are rightly proud of our unique place in American history. For it was here, over two centuries ago, that our founders aspired toward a more perfect union – one that promises to promote the general welfare for all and secure the blessings of liberty for each.

These twin constitutional pillars have given us a practical pathway to govern, unlocking the talents of rugged individuals while ensuring shared prosperity for the common good. They have prodded us to strike that pragmatic balance to make government work for the people. And when we have succeeded in that, our nation has achieved great things as one.

Today, as we face an increasingly competitive global economy, we must do no less.

My views on leadership were formed, for the most part, during my 31-year career in the United States Navy, where I eventually reached the rank of a three-star Admiral. I saw how American leadership is most effective when it embraces and empowers the dual tenets of our unique national character: rugged individualism in pursuit of the common mission.

To ensure individual achievement, we provided every sailor career-long training and education, enabling each of them to contribute fully to our general overall military readiness. At the same time, we retained our sailors’ commitment because each had the opportunity to achieve individually the skills he or she valued as their personal contribution.

We, in other words, created ladders of opportunity, and our people were brave enough to climb them on their own. No doubt about it, I could not have successfully commanded the 15,000-sailor USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group if the military did not prepare and empower our people to serve a collective purpose.
It is an approach that brings unity to a mission, not divisiveness.

The success of our nation should be no different. Americans want a government that gives them the opportunity to apply their innate abilities, intellect, ambition, and persistence for their individual achievement, while ensuring a shared investment from our collective resources so that we all might benefit.

They want leaders who will lead the country based on facts and analysis, plot a course of action, and be held accountable for the results. Americans just want an effective government to do its job well.

And so –

Knowing that 28 million small businesses create 70 percent of all new jobs – shouldn’t we work together to ease their access to loans, lessen burdensome regulations, and keep corporate power in check?

Knowing that 66,000 of our bridges are structurally deficient, and that less than 10 percent of American households have access to high-speed optical fiber lines – shouldn’t Congress stop bickering and start funding a world-class infrastructure and broadband system so we can thrive among all nations?

Knowing that the $1.2 trillion in student loans account for more debt than auto loans and credit cards – shouldn’t we act now to address both sides of the college affordability equation by broadening access to federal aid (a program President Eisenhower started) while holding colleges accountable for skyrocketing costs?

Knowing that American workers and small businesses face stiff competition in the global marketplace – shouldn’t we work together to strengthen institutions, such as the Export-Import Bank, to help them excel around the world?

These are not abstract, philosophical questions; these are real, immediate challenges that people across our state confront every day. So this month, as I cross Pennsylvania on foot, I want to earn your trust and show that I have what it takes to help us confront these issues.

Joe Sestak is a former Navy admiral and U.S. congressman (PA-07). He is presently running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

The Election of 2014: The political landscape has changed, but that’s all

Posted: 11:13 AM EST Nov 05, 2014

Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University By Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University

In 2008, the Republicans lost not only the presidency, but the House and the Senate. The decimation was without equal in recent memory. The Democrats won, on paper, a veto proof majority in the Senate. But rather than crawling off the stage of political power, the Republicans licked their wounds and decided that they would start and maintain a political street fight with the Democrats, in general, and with Obama, specifically.
The Republicans, under Mitch McConnell, developed a singular strategy: to make President Obama a one term president. The Republicans lost the major political issue of the 2008-2009 political season, the passage of Obama Care, but developed a political ground force that would later drive them to success – the Tea Party. The Democrats won the Obama Care battle, but lost major amounts of political capital and political fighting spirit in doing it.
In 2010, with the credit going to the Tea Party, the once decimated Republicans took control of the House (winning sixty-three seats) and control of twenty-six state legislatures and twenty-nine state governorships which gave them control of state redistricting and the ability to make sure the Democrats’ agenda would be shut down in Washington. Through redistricting and gerrymandering, the Republicans have created a political lock on the House for the next decade.
In 2012, the Republicans lost the presidential election. The coalition that supported President Obama in 2008 came out in 2012 out of fear of the Republicans. The Republicans remained in firm control of the House and for two more years, the obstruction strategy of politics prevailed. The strategy was multifaceted. First, with uniform agreement, the Republicans advanced the narrative that nothing the federal government does is competent or useful. They fostered and maintained an anti-government mood within the electorate. Such a mood, by definition, hurts the party holding the presidency. Second, the Republicans exercised perfect political message discipline in asserting that they were not obstructionist and do nothings but rather they stood for principles that were not open to surrender for the appearance of cooperation. Third, they were relentless in projecting the narrative to their political base that Obama was at best incompetent and at worse, illegitimate and one step short of being criminal. Lastly, they made clear that the 2014 election was not about voting for Republicans, but it was about voting against Obama. The strategy worked.
The 2014 midterm elections leveled the Democrats. The Republicans picked up seven seats in the Senate and won twenty-three gubernatorial elections, including states like Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and South Carolina. The Obama one term strategist Mitch McConnell will take a new place among the top political leaders of the nation.
From 2008 to 2014, the strategy has been to oppose, resist and plan for the next election. The Republicans own Congress, but the crown jewel of politics is still in the hands of the opposition party. There is no reason the strategy will or should change. Politics is a game of power and winning. Governing is about policy and results. It’s the former that has borne fruit for the Republicans. The latter would only give the Democrats something to run against in 2016.
The political landscape has changed, but the politics of the landscape have not. Today, national politics is not about voting for something, it’s about voting against something. Fear, not hope, governs what people do at the poles. This was true in 2010, 2012 and now 2014. The next two years will be the same. For the Republicans, the political season of 2014-2016 will be about opposing Obama, House and Senate committee investigations, settling internal political power currents within the party, selecting a candidate to run in an open presidential contest and getting ready to defend twenty-four seats in the Senate.

Response to Ebola situation has been inadequate

Posted: 10:21 AM EDT Oct 17, 2014

Cong. Charlie Dent, (R)- 15th Dist. PA By Charlie Dent (R), U.S. Congressman representing Pennsylvania's 15th District.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have suffered and are impacted by this terrible outbreak.

A special debt of gratitude is owed to the health care professionals on the frontline, both here in the United States and in West Africa, delivering care to the sick.

I am increasingly concerned about the federal response to the Ebola outbreak. Several Americans have been infected with the virus, including two healthcare workers who were exposed while caring for a Liberian citizen carrying the disease.

Given recent developments, the execution of the containment strategy and protocols must be revisited. Moreover, a single point of contact to coordinate the federal response and communicate with the American public is an immediate imperative. While the CDC, FDA and other governmental entities have critical roles to play in the unfolding developments and response, the Surgeon General of the United States is the logical choice to fill this much needed role for greater coordination and better communication.

President Obama’s current nominee for Surgeon General has been held up in the Senate – and not solely by Republicans. A number of Democratic Senators have opposed the nomination as well.

The President, for the good of the country, should immediately put forward a nominee, preferably someone with an extensive knowledge of epidemiology and infectious disease control, who would engender broad bipartisan support.

Further, I recently met with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem where Ebola was discussed. The FDA must do everything it can to encourage and support the rapid development of life-saving, anti-Ebola drugs, vaccines and early detection methods.

Finally, with regard to travel restrictions, the President must consider temporary and targeted travel restrictions from impacted countries if leaders from the CDC, DHS, and other officials on the front line of this public health crisis believe that doing so would contain this outbreak and protect American citizens while not impeding efforts to combat Ebola at the source of the crisis.

Although this is a trying situation for our nation and the world, it is not time to panic.

I pledge to work with the Administration and my congressional colleagues to ensure that our health care providers, communities and nation have the tools they need combat the spread of Ebola.

Taking the fight to Ebola

Posted: 11:55 AM EDT Oct 15, 2014   Updated: 11:59 AM EDT Oct 15, 2014

Dr. Karen Rizzo By Karen Rizzo, M.D., 2015 president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and a practicing ENT physician from Lancaster

Many of us suspected that there would be a day when Ebola would arrive in the United States and indeed it has. A man who travelled from Liberia was recently diagnosed and died in Texas.

While not an epidemic in the United States at this moment, the first case diagnosed in our country is proof that Ebola could someday come to Pennsylvania.

That’s why we must be extremely serious about being prepared and taking appropriate precautions.

Blogger Gus Geraci MD, who serves as the consulting chief medical officer at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, raises a good point in his October 3 column.

He notes that it is important for our health care frontline to take thorough patient histories. Asking about travel history is extremely important because Ebola’s symptoms are similar to many common ailments like the flu.

It’s equally important that all members of the medical team are aware of suspicious cases. It takes a team to provide the best care and everyone who has contact with a patient should be aware of the symptoms and signs of Ebola.

In a letter to the editor appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brian Broker MD writes, “Waiting for obvious symptoms in infected people will not stop the spread.”

He suggests that our federal government may need to take stronger measures even before an infectious patient reaches our health care frontline. Certainly the first case in the United States signals the need for vigilance here, and abroad.

Shortly after Dr. Broker made his point, Reuters reported that the U.S. will implement extra Ebola screening at five airports with heavy travel from West Africa.

Even American communities connected to West Africa are raising preventive ideas

The Rev. Joseph Koroma, president of the Christian Association of Sierra Leone in Philadelphia, told WHYY FM that his group is encouraging its members to be “really, really proactive.” Koroma's church is discouraging close contact with those just returning from countries with cases of Ebola, even if those travelers are sure they weren't exposed to the virus.

All are good ideas. When it comes to fighting Ebola, there’s no margin of error.

Proactive measures like those offered by Drs. Geraci and Broker as well as Rev. Koroma are a step in the right direction.

Furthermore, it’s good to see our state political and health care leaders being equally proactive.

Pennsylvania Physician General Carrie DeLone MD and her colleagues at the state department of health have been working diligently to keep hospitals, physicians, and other health care professionals in the loop and educated about Ebola.

Both the Pennsylvania Medical Society and Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania are also involved in keeping their members up to speed on available information. Many healthcare facilities and professionals are training and drilling to handle Ebola.

So what are some things that you can do?

The answer won’t surprise you. You can do the same things that you would do to prevent the flu and other illnesses.

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs.
• If you’re caring for a friend or family member, avoid contact with body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva.

Of course, if you do travel overseas, avoid areas of known outbreaks.

And, if you can’t avoid travel to a known outbreak area, monitor your health closely and follow all the preventive tips above along with others recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Taking the fight to Ebola, either through frontline health care professionals, government agencies, or even our own houses and religious worship locations, will be key to protecting the health of Pennsylvanians.

And, in doing so, we may even prevent a few other illnesses.

President Obama: It's in our national interest in return to Iraq

Posted: 11:33 PM EDT Sep 12, 2014

Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University By Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University

One of the first lessons in studying policy making is that a single event can change everything. Vice-president Cheney and others in the Bush Administration wanted regime change in Iraq before they came to power but did not have the political means (opportunity) to implement that policy. September 11, 2001 created those means.

Thirteen years later, with the single event of two American journalists suffering a violent, senseless and publicized beheading at the hand of ISIL, an army of Islamists who want to form a caliphate reminiscent of a time shortly after the fall of Rome, President Obama now has the public and political support to authorize a wholesale air bombardment in Iraq and Syria to constrain and defeat them that he did not have three weeks before. Like the second Gulf War, serious debate on whether the U.S. should use force is not open for serious discussion. Fox, MSNBC, CNN and the national media are now on script supporting the need to attack ISIL. The debate now is about whether the plan described by President Obama on Wednesday night will be supported by the Washington politicians and the national news media.

But that aside, I find it interesting how easy it is for Americans today to decide that war is necessary. In the 1967 episode of Star Trek, A Taste of Armageddon, Captain Kirk has to deal with two planets, that have been at war for 500 years and have been able to do so because they fight with computers. To the two planets and this was the point of the episode, the realities of war had been removed from conflict. The war had no practical consequences that would require the end of the war. Kirk said of war, “death, destruction, disease, horror, that’s what war is all about. . . . That’s what makes it a thing to be avoided.”

Recent polls have shifted and now they show that more than 60% of Americans support bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria and close to 35% supports the use of air and ground forces to address ISIL. But less than 0.5% of the total population of America serves in the military. America as a whole has no real contact or personal connection with those who bear the weight of actually carrying out the realities of war. It’s easy to say America is under threat and “lets” do what is necessary to fight ISIL when the great majority of Americans have no financial, social or personal connection to the realities and harshness of war.

When Americans as a whole, and on an individual level, have no connection to the “death, destruction, disease, horror” of war, empty slogans and partisan politics are mistaken for leadership, courage and conviction. Vice-President Cheney, who drove the U.S. into the second Iraq War on intelligence that was wrong and supported the Wilsonian idea that a democracy can be established in Iraq with nothing more than American say so, is now held up by many as a foreign policy expert. This can happen when the 4,400 servicemen and women killed and the more than 32,000 injured in the Iraq War are a tiny minority of the total U.S. population.

It doesn’t take leadership, courage and conviction to say it’s time to send the less than 0.5% to war when the nation has been convinced to be afraid and horrified by murder and violence in a religious and sectarian civil war in the Middle East by sides that hate each other only slightly more than their unified hate for America and the West. Leadership would require a different approach.

In the 1985 movie, The American President, a staffer argues with the President that his opponents are casting him as unpatriotic and that saying nothing only allows the public to follow the opposition. He decried, “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. There’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

The President, amazed and resigned to a political truth, looks at his impassioned staffer and replies, “we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

Recent Cases of Officer Impersonation Show Need for Legislation

By Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon)

Posted: 8:18 PM EDT Sep 10, 2014   Updated: 6:29 PM EDT Sep 12, 2014

I recently authored House Bill 1357 which would define the impersonation of a law enforcement officer, while also outline the illegal use of sirens and lights by a person not authorized to do so. The bill was passed by the House, but at this time it remains with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There seems to be a disturbing trend in our area with reports appearing in news media about motorists being pulled over and harassed by people impersonating law enforcement officers.

In July a woman was pulled over near Palmerton by someone who was impersonating an officer.  A 62 year-old man from Weatherly was arrested for impersonating a sheriff and received ARD treatment.  In Penn Forest Township a man who identified himself as a state trooper approached two girls walking alone.  He had charges of impersonating an office dropped in a plea agreement.

In 2011, a woman told police that she was sitting in her vehicle when she was approached by a man who identified himself as an officer.  The woman left the parking lot while the man followed her in a truck that had flashing blue lights on the roof.  The man was not apprehended.

My legislation specifically addresses impersonating a law enforcement officer and increases the grading of the offense to a third degree felony, with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

This bill would amend the current law to require the seller of an emergency vehicle to remove any flashing lights or audible warning systems prior to selling the vehicle.  A person who sells a vehicle with visual or audible warning systems to a person who is not authorized to possess such systems commits a summary offense and upon conviction will be sentenced to pay a fine of $500 to $1000.

A person who sells a vehicle with visual or audible warning systems to a person who is not authorized to possess such systems and who knows or should have known of the person's intent to use the vehicle to impersonate a law enforcement office commits a misdemeanor of the third degree with a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a $2500 fine.

For many of us it is never a positive experience to be pulled over by the police, but motorists across Carbon County and the Commonwealth should have the peace of mind that the person pulling them over is actually a police officer.

I am hopeful that the Senate will soon take action on this very important legislation, addressing a rising, and disturbing trend across the region and Commonwealth.

If you have a question about this legislation or any other state issue, please call one of my district offices, either in Lehighton at (610)377-6363 or Albrightsville at (570)722-8700.

President Obama: It’s in Our National Interest to Return to Iraq

Posted: 11:52 AM EDT Sep 11, 2014

Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University

By Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University

One of the first lessons in studying policy making is that a single event can change everything. President Chaney and others in the Bush Administration wanted regime change in Iraq before they came to power but did not have the political means (opportunity) to implement that policy. September 11, 2001 created those means.

Thirteen years later, with the single event of two American journalists suffering a violent, senseless and publicized beheading at the hand of ISIL, an army of Islamists who want to form a caliphate reminiscent of a time shortly after the fall of Rome, President Obama now has the public and political support to authorize a wholesale air bombardment in Iraq and Syria to constrain and defeat them that he did not have three weeks before. Like the second Gulf War, serious debate on whether the U.S. should use force is not open for serious discussion. Fox, MSNBC, CNN and the national media are now on script supporting the need to attack ISIL. The debate now is about whether the plan described by President Obama on Wednesday night will be supported by the Washington politicians and the national news media.

But that aside, I find it interesting how easy it is for Americans today to decide that war is necessary. In the 1967 episode of Star Trek, A Taste of Armageddon, Captain Kirk has to deal with two planets, that have been at war for 500 years and have been able to do so because they fight with computers. To the two planets and this was the point of the episode, the realities of war had been removed from conflict. The war had no practical consequences that would require the end of the war. Kirk said of war, “death, destruction, disease, horror, that’s what war is all about. . . . That’s what makes it a thing to be avoided.”

Recent polls have shifted and now they show that more than 60% of Americans support bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria and close to 35% supports the use of air and ground forces to address ISIL. But less than 0.5% of the total population of America serves in the military. America as a whole has no real contact or personal connection with those who bear the weight of actually carrying out the realities of war. It’s easy to say America is under threat and “lets” do what is necessary to fight ISIL when the great majority of Americans have no financial, social or personal connection to the realities and harshness of war.

When Americans as a whole, and on an individual level, have no connection to the “death, destruction, disease, horror” of war, empty slogans and partisan politics are mistaken for leadership, courage and conviction. Vice-President Cheney, who drove the U.S. into the second Iraq War on intelligence that was wrong and supported the Wilsonian idea that a democracy can be established in Iraq with nothing more than American say so, is now held up by many as a foreign policy expert. This can happen when the 4,400 servicemen and women killed and the more than 32,000 injured in the Iraq War are a tiny minority of the total U.S. population.

It doesn’t take leadership, courage and conviction to say it’s time to send the less than 0.5% to war when the nation has been convinced to be afraid and horrified by murder and violence in a religious and sectarian civil war in the Middle East by sides that hate each other only slightly more than their unified hate for America and the West. Leadership would require a different approach.

In the 1985 movie, The American President, a staffer argues with the President that his opponents are casting him as unpatriotic and that saying nothing only allows the public to follow the opposition. He decried, “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. There’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

The President, amazed and resigned to a political truth, looks at his impassioned staffer and replies, “we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

Ferguson, MO: The Mixture of Race, Crime, Police Use of Force and the Utility of Riots

Posted: 11:29 AM EDT Aug 20, 2014   Updated: 11:29 AM EDT Aug 20, 2014

Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University By Dr. Arthur Garrison, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice at Kutztown University

On August 9th, Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. As soon as the killing was made public, every politician, platitude, accusation, argument, justification, rationalization and defense that exists in these types of situations was heard on T.V. and radio. Nothing was new. Then, two nights later, fully armed in riot and militarized SWAT gear, the police moved onto the protestors with tear gas, flash grenades and armed vehicles. There was nothing new in the police using force on what they perceived as African American rioters and looters. What was new was the equipment the police used to suppress them. On that night, the public was introduced to the fact that the U.S. military, since 9/11, has been providing local police departments with surplus military grade equipment.

After the police use of militarized force, the Governor of Missouri removed the Ferguson police as lead agency to deal with security and appointed the state police as the new agency in charge. The officer in command, Captain Ronald S. Johnson, was able to bring a sense of calm and control that reduced the tension on the street. Two days later, the Chief of the Ferguson police released a video showing Brown committing a strong robbery in a local grocery shortly before his confrontation with Wilson. The release of the video occurred during the same press conference in which the Chief identified Wilson as the officer who killed Brown. A few hours later, the Chief stated that Wilson did not know Brown was suspected of the robbery when the confrontation occurred. That night the police were met with a riot and wholesale resentment by the press.

From this point on, the case has been met with calls for special prosecutors and condemnation of President Obama for saying too little and saying too much about the whole incident. Attorney General Eric Holder has been praised and vilified for sending in the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and the FBI. Commentary has proved, again, that there is a significant difference between how African Americans and Caucasians see this entire case. African Americans assume racial bias on the part of the officer and intentional cover-up or mishandling of the case because the loss of Brown's life is of no consequence to the police. Caucasians assume that race has little or nothing to do with the case because police don't shoot African Americans for no reason. Further, conservatives asked, if black life is so important to the protestors and politicians, why don't they decry the death of African American youth that were killed in Chicago during the same period as the unrest in Ferguson?

There is no simple answer to any of this. But there is one thing that we all can agree on. Riots make society stop and ask why. Riots have utility. Riots are both cause and effect.

Martin Luther King said of riots,

"But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard."

Thomas Jefferson said of rebellion while reflecting on the proposed Constitution,

"God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion . . . .What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

It is interesting that it's King who teaches us that riots disrupt communities economically, socially and politically; while it's Jefferson who teaches us that riots are a toll of liberty, the remedy of the people and the creator of positive social and political change.

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