Mayor Gray Publicly Endorses Creation of Comcast/Time Warner Super-Monopoly

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

While some mayors are making it a priority to provide high-speed wireless Internet access to all or to court alternative broadband providers like Google to bring truly high-speed broadband Internet to their communities, Lancaster city mayor Rick Gray is throwing his support behind two mega-corporations his constituents truly and justly hate. (For starters, the companies are incredibly powerful proponents of killing the freedom of the Internet by ending Net neutrality.) Let me introduce them by way of a recent report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index:

High prices, slow data transmission and unreliable service drag consumer satisfaction to record lows, as customers have few alternatives beyond the largest Internet service providers. Customer satisfaction with ISPs drops 3.1% to 63%, the lowest score in the Index.  … Customers rate Comcast  and Time Warner Cable even lower for Internet service than for their TV service. In both industries, the two providers have the weakest customer satisfaction.

And yet, on Thursday, Mayor Gray joined fifty-one other city mayors to sign a letter which, in my paraphrase, says, “Go, corporate oligarchy, go!” and in actuality spews a load of corporate double-speak that our mayor should be deeply ashamed to have put his name to. You can read the letter for yourself (pdf).

I want to be very clear that putting more power in the hands of Comcast and Time Warner is a terrible idea for Lancaster city, especially for its citizens and its businesses. I call on Lancaster city council to pass a resolution that makes this argument — in clear opposition to Mayor Gray — against a merger of these two corporate monopolies into a single super-monopoly.

If you agree with me, please sign the petition, share this blog post, and comment below.

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

Here’s the Military Gear the Defense Department Has Sent to Lancaster County Police

The New York Times is disclosing what military equipment has been given to state and local law enforcement agencies through the United States Defense Department. Here’s what law enforcement agencies in Lancaster County received.

The Times reported in June:

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

Thanks to data acquired and disclosed by the Times on Github, I am able to report that no less than $11,000 worth of that military equipment has been sent to Lancaster County since 2008, including thirteen of those machine guns and 196 of the magazines. (None of the armored vehicles or aircraft yet.)

A full accounting of what has been received by agencies in Lancaster County, PA is below the photo gallery.

NSN (National Stock Number) Item Name Qty Acquisition
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE 196 $9.31 2/21/2013
1240-01-411-1265 SIGHT, REFLEX 3 $328.00 2/21/2013
3413-01-428-6623 DRILLING MACHINE, UPRIGHT 1 $3,993.32 4/30/2012
5120-00-293-1439 VISE, MACHINIST’S 2 $422.41 3/15/2012
5180-00-357-7770 TOOL KIT, REPAIRMAN’S 1 $2,012.00 4/4/2012
5820-01-512-3227 RECEIVER-TRANSMITTER, RADIO 6 $329.15 9/24/2013
6545-00-656-1094 FIRST AID KIT, GENERAL PURPOSE 6 $87.29 7/5/2012
6545-00-656-1094 FIRST AID KIT, GENERAL PURPOSE 6 $87.29 7/12/2012
7110-DS-SAF-E000 5 DRAWER SAFE 3 $800.00 4/20/2012
8415-01-461-8341 SHIRT, COLD WEATHER 10 $60.45 4/20/2012
8415-01-461-8356 SHIRT, COLD WEATHER 25 $60.45 4/20/2012
8415-01-530-2157 ELBOW, PAD 25 $11.79 4/20/2012
8415-99-359-9160 MASK, SAFETY, ALL TEMPERATURES 30 $21.25 9/24/2013
8465-01-328-8268 GOGGLES, SUN, WIND AND DUST 25 $23.81 3/15/2012
8465-01-393-6515 MAT, SLEEPING, SELF-INFLATING 10 $44.39 4/20/2012
8465-01-505-4762 DRINKING SYSTEM 24 $36.79 4/13/2012
8465-01-524-7226 SUSTAINMENT POUCH 6 $15.58 4/4/2012
8465-01-524-7226 SUSTAINMENT POUCH 25 $15.58 4/4/2012
8465-01-525-0577 FIGHTING LOAD CARRIER 13 $43.75 3/15/2012
8465-01-525-0606 POUCH, M4 TWO MAGAZINE 25 $5.44 3/27/2012

Today on WITF-FM: My Voice

This is just a really quick post to let you know that Craig Layne of WITF interviewed my boss and me for today’s Money Works radio segment. The piece ran at 5:35 and 7:35 this morning, and it will run again at 5:44 p.m. today.

But you don’t have to time it, you can just listen to our explanation of near-user marketing right on

And if you don’t know about where I work, the radio segment is a quick introduction. After six years in business, we just moved our office to downtown Lancaster. And we love it. (Duh!)

Foodie-ism in Lancaster County

Have you ever rolled your eyes at Anthony Bourdain, or am I the only one?

Well, at least there’s me and B.R. Myers, a vegan and brilliant literary critic, who tears into foodie-ism with zeal in “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies” in this month’s Atlantic.

The essay is great fun. Omnivore blogger Cliff Bostock writes, “The essay is every bit as hyperbolic and sermonizing as the foodie movement he attacks, but it is nonetheless a great read.” New York Times food critic Glenn Collins highlights it as what he’s reading this week.

Myers has read the latest by Anthony Bourdain, Kim Severson, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and he couldn’t be happier that that reading assignment is over.

He finds that all of today’s foodie writing flows from the spring of Pollan’s “moral logic,” which, in Myers’ reading, goes like this:

The refined palate rejects the taste of factory-farmed meat, of the corn-syrupy junk food that sickens the poor, of frozen fruits and vegetables transported wastefully across oceans—from which it follows that to serve one’s palate is to do right by small farmers, factory-abused cows, Earth itself.

It’s not the first time Myers has critiqued Pollan. He identified the danger in Pollan’s line of thinking in September 2007:

Pollan is free to present his appetite as a sort of moral-o-meter, the final authority for judging the rightness of all things culinary. He shoots a wild pig, for example, hugely enjoying the experience. We even get a spiel about how hunting makes people face the inevitability of their own death.

This is nonsense, says Myers. What has become socially acceptable as being a “foodie” is nothing more than elitism and gluttony. What’s new is that “for the first time in the history of their community,” these gluttonous elitists are left “feeling more moral, spiritual even, than the man on the street.” There’s no guilt about eating so much, so well, and at such cost. No one sees that there’s a problem with being so fixated on food, thinking about it all the time, or pursuing it as basely as Bourdain does:

Bourdain starts off his book by reveling in the illegality of a banquet at which he and some famous (unnamed) chefs dined on ortolan, endangered songbirds fattened up, as he unself-consciously tells us, in pitch-dark cages. After the meal, an “identical just-fucked look” graced each diner’s face. Eating equals sex, and in accordance with this self-flattery, gorging is presented in terms of athleticism and endurance. “You eat way past the point of hitting the wall. Or I do anyway.”

Francis Lam opens his rebuttal to Myers with an admission: “Look, I hate ‘foodies’ as much as the next guy.” Hannah Wallace, who writes about food for The Faster Times, is on board, too:

Myers has a point: many so-called foodies are elitist and would rather brag about their latest meal at Per Se (and eating ortolan, apparently) than work to make organic fruits and veggies affordable and accessible to low-income communities.

And Robert Sietsema, lashing back against Myers in the Village Voice, has to admit as well that there’s some truth in what Myers says:

Foodism is an unstoppable cultural phenomenon that has outgrown its metaphoric britches. Just like any other human endeavor, its manifestations must be submitted to sane judgment on a case-by-case basis. Good ideas and bad ideas abound, and it’s the job of the thinker, writer, and dining enthusiast to submit these ideas to analysis, and, yes, moral judgment.

Well, here I am, being a thinker and writer, wanting to submit these ideas to analysis and moral judgment. (I’d be more of a dining enthusiast if I could afford more frequent enthusiastic dining.) And what I want to ask is this: As the ranks of foodies grow in Lancaster County, how will our community change?

There is a growing focus in our community on food.

There are blogs: We have Keely Childers Heany’s Note to Self blog on Susquehanna Style. Kathlene Sullivan’s Food-Love-Lancaster blog on Fig. Carl Kosko’s Lancaster Culinary Journeys. Holly High is blogging her way through the Mennonite Community Cookbook on 7 Sweets and 7 Sours, in a Central PA version of Julie & Julia. Every so often we get a fresh post from Ten Pints.

There are institutions, beginning with the sporadically active Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local. There are local community-supported agriculture coops (CSAs). There’s Expressly Local on King Street. My friend Antonia Hinnenkamp has East King Culinary. Amy Crystle offers weekly bundles through Everyday Local Food (I’m a happy customer).

Apparently there are even local listservs about food.

And then there’s the growing national attention on Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine—witness the August 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.

It’s easy for me—and, I expect, most readers of this blog—to imagine how much good could come of all this: Better, more nutritious food for all segments of our community, with a positive effect on the environment. More healthy options for dining out. Protection for the traditional agriculture that is such a part of our area’s heritage.

But Myers’ Atlantic article, cheerless as it is, causes me to pause for a moment. I think of John J. Jeffries, which is wonderful but, you cant deny, elite. I rewatch the Fox 43 segment on Susquehanna Style‘s Silver Spoon awards, which gives eating a red carpet treatment. I recall the Buy Fresh Buy Local $60/person dinners. And I wonder if Myers is right to bring up a concern. If we stopped thinking and conversing about this, couldn’t this all devolve into a circle of local elitists congratulating themselves for all the good they’re doing by eating delicious and expensive food?

I’m an American, and therefore an optimist, so I think we’ll see positive outcomes rather than the negative ones that are possible. Still, as foodie-ism continues to erupt in our community, it makes sense to me for us to recognize how precarious a position we’re in. Are we talking about food that’s better for people and the environment, or a convenient disguise for elitism and gluttony?

What about you? Do you share any of Myers’ concerns, or is this a whole lot of buzz about nothing?

Lancaster County Marriages: Who Needs ’Em?

Time magazine coverThe cover story in the current issue of Time, “Who Needs Marriage? A Changing Institution,” shares the results of a new Pew Research Center study on how, as a nation, our attitudes toward marriage have changed over the past fifty years.

There are a lot of statistics in the article that cannot be broken down to the local level, but there was one question I knew I could answer: What percentage of adults in Lancaster County were married in 1960, compared to 2008?

I asked this question because it was surprising to me to learn that, nationwide, only about half of all adults are currently married, down from more than two thirds in 1960. (We’re counting adults as individuals 20 years of age or older.) I was curious to know what those numbers were for Lancaster County, to compare how we stack up to the nation as a whole. Here’s the answer.

Table: Percentage of Adults Who Are Currently Married

United States Lancaster Co.
1960 68% 78%
2008 52% 62%

It’s uncanny how Lancaster County has remained exactly ten percent higher in this regard over the past half-century. We may be moving slower, but we’re following the same trend as the nation as a whole.

This leads me to a reader poll: Is marriage obsolete? When Time asked this question in 1978, “when the divorce rate was much higher than it is today,” 28% said it was. In this new study, that number has grown to 40%. What do you say?

[poll id=”14″]