Friday, August 28, 2020

Team Triad is sending our collective prayers to the folks in Louisiana, Texas and the Deep South in general this week as they were hammered by Hurricane Laura after narrowly escaping wholesale destruction from Hurricane Marco. The National Weather Service now predicts that we might run out of storm names this year, which is awfully comforting. Man, 2020. Enough already.  

Alexey Navalny, longtime chief nemesis and general thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin, was “accidentally” poisoned and flown to a hospital in Germany, where he is expected to recover. Navalny is scheduled to accidentally fall off the balcony of a hotel later this week.   

The Republican National Convention was held this week, and although there was plenty of entertainment, we learned that Donald Trump is not only president, he is the bodyguard of western civilization. Iron Man must have retired while we were otherwise occupied.    

The week’s festivities ended Thursday night with the president giving a barnburner of a speech on the White House lawn. The speech was rather lengthy, with experts predicting that at least four million ballots were cast by mail nationwide while he was still speaking.    

We also learned this week that there is an outside chance that the earth will be struck by an asteroid on Nov. 2, the day before the General Election. Because, of course, 2020.   

Speaking of mail-in ballots, there is kerfuffle on the horizon in Pennsylvania over those ballots, which is being fought in the courts and, soon, the legislature. First up, the House and Senate GOP laid out their plans on election reforms, and they do not like drop boxes or extended absentee application periods. Too much chance for election fraud, they say.    

Governor Wolf, meanwhile, is proposing an expansion options for counties to count mail-in ballot, as well as an extension of the deadline to count such ballots. So now that the lines are drawn, the legislature will get down to business in the next week, and the impact of what they do COULD decide the country’s next president. So yeah, no pressure.   

Wolf also released his fall agenda, and amidst the ongoing cacophony over emergency declarations, COVID-19 testing, restaurant closures, school openings and election fears, few people even batted an eye that the governor called for the legalization of adult-use marijuana. In normal times (pre-March 2020), this would have been a big deal. Now people barely notice as they cast their eyes to the sky, waiting for an asteroid covered in murder hornets.   

When we say that people “barely notice” we are excluding legislative Republicans, who most certainly notice everything Wolf does. As for weed legalization, their response was essentially, “Nope. Next question?”   

One of the stranger fights we saw unfold this week occurred when Wolf asked the legislature to extend the moratorium on evictions. The GOP response was to question the governor on whether or not he could just unilaterally do it, much like he has done with everything else. Folks on both sides: it’s a pandemic, and people might get tossed out into the streets, which I think we can all agree is a smelly idea. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t turn this one into a political football or a game of “gotcha.”   

A plan that would allow local governments more taxing options to fund public transportation is picking up steam. In a vacuum, this may be a good idea. In 2020-2021, when recession-rocked county and local budgets might need tax increases just to keep the doors open, it might be a tougher slog. But we will file this one under the million and one things we will hear about for the next great infrastructure debate.   

Speaking of infrastructure, did you see our friend Bob Latham on the TV machine discussing how to fund it? If not, you can catch that here!   

If you tend to spend a lot of your time on Twitter, you might be tempted to believe that Pennsylvanians of all stripe are just FED UP with Governor Wolf over his administration’s pandemic response. You would therefore be shocked to learn that in the latest statewide poll, residents think Wolf is doing a good job by a 54% to 38% margin. Those are not bad numbers in this hyper partisan land in which we live.  

We have heard quite a bit over the past few years about the yawning gap in high-speed internet access that exists between rural and urban Pennsylvania. Did you know, however, there is another gap that exists when it comes to who can log on and how quickly? In Philadelphia, 18,000 public school students don’t have such access in the decidedly non-rural streets of Philly.   

Some rag called the Big 7 travel magazine or something or another has ranked the Pittsburgh accent as one of the least sexy accents in all the land. To which we say: get ahtta tahn, yinz jags.   

Over on the Triad socials this week, check out our own Daena Ortenzio’s thoughts on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Extra points if you do so while listening to David Bowie’s Suffragette City.  

In our We Can’t Make This Up segment, we take you to Switzerland, where an entire town was covered by a fine chocolate coating after a factory mishap discharged cocoa into the air. In a totally unrelated story, Hershey Park will unveil its newest roller coaster, Chocolate Rain, next year.  

That’s what passes for news around here as August draws to a close and the stretch run to the election kicks in. From all of us at Team Triad, have a great weekend!