Thursday, April 24, 2008


Sorry, can't help it.

Barack Obama had it right when he pegged small-town Pennsyltuckians. They just didn't like hearing it. They're poorer than the average, less educated, and they don't like those who tell them so in any form. Like many Americans, they can't take criticism. If one calls it as you seen, as they used to say in PA Dutchland, you're "too big for your britches" or "uppity."

But the codger vote isn't much of a winning hand. The young college-educated didn't vote for him in the Pennsy hinterland (with one exception) because they don't live there. When they can, they move out to places like Research Triangle Park in North Carolina ...

See that big splotch for Obama in the middle of Pennsyltucky? That's the Penn State University/State College vote, the young and middle-aged educated and over-educated vote. No heevahavas allowed!

See the Obama splotch near Harrisburg? That's Dauphin County, specifically the voters in Steelton (who are African American) and Hershey, the educated core built around the Penn State School of Medicine.

They didn't go for Obama in any of the counties DD outlined in past weeks. It was always a waste of time to expect much in such locales. And maybe the Democrats just don't need much of that vote to win a general election. Maybe they just need every bit of the core voting now for Barack Obama.

The mainstream media made a big deal of Obama dissing what they call "lunch pail" Americans. It was quite a presumption to see evening news pundits on network and cable TV, supposedly sticking up for the Pennsyltucky commoner, a citizenry they've never had anything in common with.

Although DD has spent more than half of his life in the hinterlands of Pennsy, I have nothing in common with the people who live there. That was made abundantly clear forty years ago.

However, forty years ago Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley was still humming. And ALCOA's aluminun extrusion plant in Cressona, Schuylkill County, was the largest in the world. And Pine Grove, PA, had a garment industry. If you worked in any of these you could raise a middle-class family without the benefit of a college education. That was where there were "lunch pail" Americans.

But there have been no lunch pails in Pennsy for a long time. They were gone before DD left. And they'll never be coming back. And no stipends or government grants for educations at local community colleges, as John McCain intimated in Youngstown, Ohio, later in the week will fix it. Community college educations don't get you worthwhile jobs in any new economy. Four year college degrees, the kind of which many cannot afford, are the only ticket out. Chits from community college education don't hack it.

(Example: Let's say someone is angling for a job in the health professions because this is where they have read demand is solid. If you have a four-year nursing degree, a four-year biotech or medical tech B.S., you can do something. If you have a two-year chit from a community college, you can be an "assistant" in the medical and health professions. This translates as: Poorly paid "bedpan technician." DD taught introductory microbiology for a short time at a community college in Pennsyltucky. No one who went through that program would be considered qualified to even take up any menial lab tech job open to those with training stemming from a Bachelor of Science degree. This was harsh but it was the way the professions worked in the late Eighties and it isn't any different now.)

Pennsy is in the rearview mirror.

It is almost the equivalent of a benign Third World nation, one where the middle-aged are still allowed to own property. This is their only non-depreciating asset. And living is not too bad around a couple big centers of education and urban development.

It's possible that Pennsylvania might be a metaphor for the upcoming general election. Will the people looking to the comfort of the past outnumber in vote those who are looking to the future? Are the codger-n-Republicrat-barfly vote the hinge?

Maybe not this time.

As for not being down enough with huntin' and fishin' and religion and patriotism, these were all just rationalizations for the mainstream Pennsy voter to say what he or she really thought -- that a black guy scares them.

Hunting was an excuse to go out and get drunk while away from the wife, to shoot your dog if you were overzealous and trigger happy, to pawn off some crappy venison sausage on your non-hunting neighbor if you got lucky and bagged a deer. Wow, yeah, bring on the pheasants filled with pellets! Tasty!

Gunning in Pennsy was about neat stuff like the Hegins Pigeon Shoot. The shoot was all about gambling and drinking and beating up animal rights protestors. (See here and here for first-hand accounts. DD was so there!

As for religion, in Pennsyltucky they often practice their faith superficially. Faith is not a blanket indication of richness in spiritual matters.

In Schuylkill County, with its Catholics (of which DD is one) and Protestants of varied denominations, Sunday meeting was an exercise in attendance. The more you went the more gold stars you earned. And with enough gold stars, by golly, maybe Jesus will take notice!

However, if you're an elitist you better not have the temerity to question anyone's faith.

Additional notes:

Bebe Blazfemi added a comment during our Blogger black hole moment. It came in over the transome and addressed a past write up on Hazleton, the town in Pennsyltucky from whence Obama Girl comes. It's in Luzerne County. Luzerne didn't go for Obama.

"Wow, I don't think I could have summed it up better," write the commenter. I 'did time,' as I call it, in Schuylkill County - my high school years, and 'be different and be damned' was definitely the motto. I don't know anyone that doesn't still live there who doesn't share my, (and your,) view about it. My relatives are from there, but I'd been moved there from NE Philly. I now live in 'Center City' Philly and couldn't be happier."

The latest from the Reg.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that some American scientists think terrorism can be defined by equations and a priori vulnerability factors. Close study of terrorist action and behavior is too dull for many in the US counter-terror business, so it's better to have numbers; insurance men, newspaper reporters and government officials like them, and Benchmark Analysis for Quantifying Urban Vulnerability to Terrorist Incidents delivers plenty.

Written by University of Arizona math professor Walter W. Piegorsch and two others colleagues and published in a recent edition of the journal Risk Analysis, the study came with a ready-made hook. Boise, Idaho, it is claimed, is among the ten cities in the US most vulnerable to terror. This guaranteed some terror beat coverage in the US newsmedia and, as is usual when some study claims to spot deficiencies in terror defense, thrilled local government officials interested in dunning more taxpayer money from the Feds.

See here for the full read.


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