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The Pennsylvania Progressive

Kane Law License Suspended

by: John Morgan

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 10:37:53 AM EDT

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 5-0 yesterday to temporarily suspend the law license of Attorney General Kathleen Kane.  Men, women, Republicans and Democrats saw enough reason to make this decision pending the outcome of criminal charges levied against Kane for perjury and other offenses.

I see no persecution of Kane due to her gender in any of this.  I fail to see how the porn emails have anything to do with it either.  She is a pathological liar with a penchant for vengeance against her perceived enemies and it is these character faults which have gotten her in trouble.  It is all of her own doing.

Gov. Tom Wolf has called on her to resign and now progressive Rep. Steve Santarsiero has joined that effort:

"In light of the gravity of the charges brought against her and today's action by the Supreme Court, which makes it impossible for her to practice law, I am calling on the attorney general to put the interests of the Commonwealth first and resign her office," Santarsiero said. "The citizens of Pennsylvania need an Attorney General who can prosecute serious cases.

"Attorney General Kane has a right to due process.  She will have her day in court.  But her right to defend herself against criminal charges has to be separated from the need to have a chief prosecutor who can fully perform her duties."

It is time for Kane to step down at least temporarily pending the outcome of her case.  Now without a law license she doesn't hold the constitutional qualifications to be in the position.  She cannot conduct her official duties and defend herself against a felony charge adequately.  One of these will suffer and considering her epic failure as AG I'm ready to guess it will be her job that suffers.  Pennsylvania might be better off with her attention diverted elsewhere but we actually do need a full time Attorney General.

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Questionable Calls in the Sports Department

by: John Morgan

Thu Sep 17, 2015 at 09:58:17 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

With the opening of the high school football season, local newspapers and TV stations have again been running lists of what they believe are the top teams.

Most lists rank teams in the "top 10." One Pennsylvania TV station, whose on-air number is 16, runs the "Top 16."

There are several problems with these lists. First, we don't know how they got those rankings. We don't know who makes up those lists or what criteria were used. It could be a sports editor and her grandfather. It could be a bunch of station personnel sitting at a bar, throwing back vodka slammers and team names.

Even if we know how the lists are compiled, a second major question arises. Why? Yes, why? Why does it matter? Aren't won-loss records good enough? Shouldn't the only rankings that matter be who enters and wins in the playoffs?

Some newspapers have a half-dozen staffers and a couple of subscribers make predictions of the upcoming high school, college, and pro football games. Winners get prestige and, sometimes, gift cards from local advertisers.

Some newspapers run the odds on upcoming games, apparently so their subscribers have basic, although seldom accurate, information to assist them with bets. While betting on college and pro games is fairly common, and mostly illegal, should anyone be betting on high school games?

Several sites rank teams from throughout the country. USAToday runs a pre-season ranking of the Top 25 football teams. With one million boys playing football on 14,000 teams, does anyone think anyone, even those with access to a super-Cray computer, can accurately define the "top 25." USAToday during mid-summer also does a composite score of four national sites which determine the "Top High School Prospects." These are, supposedly, the "top 100" high school players, and top recruits for a college football scholarship.

The rankings don't stop with football. USAToday also ranks the "top 25" teams in almost every sport, including girls lacrosse and boys soccer.

Do these rankings and predictions give the sports departments something to fill time and space? Do they make the sports editor appear to be powerful or intelligent? Are the lists something to allow fans to believe their team is good enough to be ranked? Or to complain that their team was cheated and should be ranked No. 3, instead of No. 17?

Related to rankings are the persistent countdowns of the "Best Play of the Week" and "Athlete of the Week." These TV clips are loaded in favor of quarterbacks throwing balls to receivers or running backs sidestepping two tackles to score from 20 yards out. Usually overlooked is a great block that springs the running back loose. Or, maybe a quarterback sack that stops the other team's momentum. But, every week there's some play that someone-we don't know who-and we certainly don't know the criteria-decides for the rest of us.

On Saturdays, we shouldn't care who was ranked or what the best play was from the night before. We should care that the teenage boys did their best, played hard, and enjoyed their time on the field.

After all, it's only a game.

[Dr. Brasch began his journalism career as a sports writer and then as a sports editor before turning to public affairs/investigative reporting and in-depth feature writing. He is the author of 20 books. His latest is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster.]

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Pawlowski Should Resign

by: John Morgan

Fri Sep 11, 2015 at 10:38:09 AM EDT

Yesterday's plead agreement in which Bethlehem developer Ramzi Haddad pled guilty to charges of bribing Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski illustrate a corrupt city Administration in denial.  The FBI raided city halls in Allentown and Reading this summer and the dominoes are beginning to fall.  The DOJ will take down several of the players in each city before going after Mayors Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer.  After they have enough cooperating witnesses the charges will fall on both of them for corrupt activities.

Ed Pawlowski should not wait to vacate the office of Mayor.  Yesterday's information shows a Mayor who was clearly on the take for his U.S. Senate run and we should all be grateful his campaign never really got off the ground.  Agreeing to accept $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for lenient City oversight of Haddad properties not only violated ethics but may have put Allentown residents at risk.  It's time for Ed to go gracefully.

As for Spencer the Reading Mayor has already been implicated in making an $1800 bribe to City Council President Francis Acosta to waive inconvenient campaign finance ethics laws.  Acosta also pled guilty and resigned his seat.  Spencer needs to resign so Reading can get past this scandal.

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News & Notes September 8, 2015

by: John Morgan

Tue Sep 08, 2015 at 10:22:32 AM EDT

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton has committed treason yet again pledging fealty to a foreign leader while undermining his own.  It's time for the DOJ to file charges.  Imagine the field day the DSCC will have when he runs for re-election.

Kathleen Kane has protested the actions taken against her by the state Supreme Court to strip her of her law license.  That would force her out of office before any possible impeachment or criminal conviction would.  Her argument is that doing this now deprives her of her due process rights.  For once I agree with Kane.  Let's allow the legal and political processes to proceed before taking this action.  Yes, she's completely incompetent, a vindictive pathological liar whose faults have landed her in deep hot water.  Her AG's office is totally dysfunctional but she was elected to office and the proper channels must be followed in removing her from that office.  This is about the rule of law.

The situation in Rowan County Kentucky is also about the rule of law.  Kim Davis swore an oath as a public official to uphold the law and she refused to do so.  Now it's landed her in federal prison for contempt of court.  This is about the rule of law.  We are not a theocracy.  If Davis wishes to live and work in one she should move to Iran.

Most of the GOP presidential field has rushed to her side supporting her patently illegal actions. How can one credibly run for President and swear to uphold the constitution after openly opposing the rule of law?  After all, the President's job is enforcing and upholding the laws of the land.

Donald Trump's racism is creating a divide in this country between morality and immorality.  While we sit and watch European nations openly welcoming refugees from Syria Trump and his allies would be there burning them at the stake.  These aren't Christian people and we aren't a Christian nation according to our words and deeds.

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The Boss Who Fought for the Working Class

by: John Morgan

Tue Sep 08, 2015 at 08:31:07 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

He was born into poverty in New Hampshire in 1811.

His father was a struggling farmer. His mother did most of the other chores.

He was a brilliant student, but the family often moved, looking for a better life-a couple of times so the father could avoid being put into debtor's prison.

At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and became a printer's apprentice, sending much of his wages to help his family.

For several years, he worked as an apprentice and then as a printer, his hands covered by ink, his body ingesting the chemicals of that ink.

He worked hard, saved money, helped others achieve their political dreams, became the editor of newspapers, and soon became an owner.

In the two decades leading to the Civil War, Horace Greeley had become one of the most powerful and influential men in America. His newspaper, the New York Tribune, was the nation's largest circulation newspaper.

But instead of becoming even richer, he used his newspaper as a call for social action. For social justice.

In 1848, as a congressman fulfilling the last three months of the term of an incumbent who was removed from office, Greeley introduced legislation to end flogging in the Navy, argued for a transcontinental railroad, and introduced legislation to allow citizens to purchase at a reduced price land in unsettled territories as long as they weren't speculators and promised to develop the land.
The Homestead Act, which Congress finally passed 13 years later, helped the indigent, unemployed, and others to help settle the American west and Midwest.

But in his three months in office he also became universally hated by almost everyone elected to Congress. The social reformer in his soul had pointed out numerous ethical and criminal abuses by members of Congress; his party didn't ask him to run for a full term.

He called for all American citizens-Blacks and women included-to be given the rights of the vote.

In 1854, Greeley became one of the founders of the Republican party. For more than two decades, he had been a strong abolitionist and now the new political party would make the end of slavery one of its founding principles. He was one of the main reasons why his friend, Abraham Lincoln, whom he helped become president, finally relented and two years after the civil war began, finally issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

More than 225,000 Americans (of a nation of about 35 million) bought his relatively objective and powerful history of the civil war, making the book one of the best-sellers in the nation's nine decade history. In today's sales, that would be about two million copies.

Unlike some editors who pandered to the readers and advertisers, he maintained a separation of editorial and advertising departments, and demanded the best writers and reporters, no matter what their personal opinions were. Among those he hired were Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Karl Marx. And at a time when newsrooms were restricted to men, he hired Margaret Fuller to be his literary editor.

He believed in a utopian socialism, where all people helped each other, and where even the most unskilled were given the opportunity to earn a living wage.

He demanded that all workers be treated fairly and with respect. In 1851, he founded a union for printers.

When his employees said they didn't need a union because their boss paid them well and treated them fairly, he told them that only in a union could the workers continue to be treated decently, that they had no assurances that some day he might not be as decent and generous as he was that day. The union was for their benefit, the benefit of their families, and their profession, he told them.

In 1872, Horace Greeley ran for the presidency, nominated on both the Democrat and Liberal Republican tickets. But, his opposition was U.S. Grant, the war hero running for re-election on an establishment Republican ticket.

Weeks before the electoral college met, Horace Greeley, who lost the popular vote, died, not long after his wife.

The printers, the working class, erected monuments in his honor.

And everyone knew that the man with a slight limp, who usually dressed not as a rich man but as a farmer coming into town to buy goods, who greeted everyone as a friend, who could have interesting conversations with everyone from the illiterate to the elite, was a man worthy of respect, even if they disagreed with his views. For most, Horace Greeley was just a bit too eccentric, his ideas just too many decades ahead of their time.

On this Labor Day weekend, when not one Republican candidate for president believes in unions, when CEOs often make more than 100 times what their workers earn, when millionaires and billionaires running for office pretend they are populists, when even many in the working class seem more comfortable supporting the policies and political beliefs of the elite, the nation needs to reflect upon the man who knew that without the workers, there would be no capitalism.

[Dr. Brasch has been a member of several crafts, arts, and trade labor unions. He proudly sees himself not as among the elite but as a part of the working class. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster]

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Blog Update

by: John Morgan

Tue Sep 08, 2015 at 08:30:10 AM EDT

My host company Soapblox is shutting down effective October 15th.  They are migrating all of us to Wordpress and I'll be setting the blog up there via a new host.  if you're using to visit here nothing will change except the appearance of the blog.  Wordpress doesn't support all of the features of Soapblox so diaries will be a thing of the past.  No one has used that feature here for two years though so I doubt we'll miss it.

This may have some growing pains so please bear with us as we make the transition.

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Canned Pleasure: The Thrill of the Kill

by: John Morgan

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 09:03:38 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

     Would you like to go to Zimbabwe, kill and behead a lion, just like that dentist from Minnesota or the physician from Pittsburgh recently did? They paid about $50,000 each for that experience.

     How about a black rhino, an endangered species? A professional hunter from Dallas, Texas, won a $350,000 lottery to stalk and kill that animal in southern Namibia. In the 1950s, there were about 70,000 black rhinos. There are now fewer than 2,400, most of them killed off by the human predators.

     If giraffes are your thing, you can go to South Africa and, like a woman from Idaho, kill the world's tallest animal, pose with it, and post it onto your Facebook page.

     But, let's say your anemic bank account can't provide you with the funds for a two-week safari, because that rebel flag you just bought to mount on your broken-down pick-up cost too much.

     For a few thousand dollars, Great White Hunters-complete with rented guides, dogs, and guns or bows-can go into a fenced-in area and shoot an exotic species. In most canned hunts, the animals have been bred to be killed, have little fear of humans, and are often lured to a feeding station or herded toward the hunter to allow a close-range kill. In some of the preserves, animals are drugged or tied to stakes. Some of the "big cats," recorded in investigative undercover videos by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fund for Animals were declawed, placed in cages, and then released; the terrified and non-aggressive animals were then killed within a few yards of their prisons; some were killed while in their cages.

     For less than $3,000 you can go to Snyder County, Pa., and kill an elk, a deer, or a wild boar. You don't even need a hunting license or worry about hunting out of season. The animals are fenced in on a private preserve.

     The club recently placed full-page ads in local newspapers, and promises that for your $1,000 to $3,000 thrill, you get a guaranteed success, lodging, meals, and even a color photo of you and what is euphemistically known as a trophy.

     If pheasants are your thing, you can head out to the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pa. This is where Dick Cheney and some of his shooting buddies stood and killed more than 400 just-released birds, which they blasted onto their dinner plates for a lead-scented meal. In the afternoon, having hardly raised a bead of sweat, the good ole boys slaughtered dozens of equally tame mallards that had been hand-raised and shoved in front of waiting shotguns for the massacre. By the time Cheney flew out of the area, the mallards were plucked and vacuum-packed, ready for flight aboard the taxpayer-funded Air Force 2.

     The pheasant hunt was a year after the Mighty Dick sent shotgun pellets into the face of a 78-year-old hunting companion, whom he thought was a quail.

     Prefer pigeons? Although they're not a "canned hunt," there are still a half-dozen target shoots in southeastern Pennsylvania, where club officials release the birds within 20 yards of contestants, making a kill even easier than hitting metal ducks at a carnival's shooting gallery. You can't even eat the pigeons-by the time you pick the shotgun pellets from the bird, there's no meat left.

     Many of the animals on canned hunts are surplus animals bought from dealers who buy cast-off animals from zoos and circuses; the animals sold to the preserves are often aged and arthritic. Dozens of preserves have bought black bears, zebras, giraffes, lions, boars, and just about any species of animal the client could want, solely to be killed, photographed, and then skinned, stuffed, and mounted.

     Most "kills" on the "farms" are from animals bleeding out. Animals suffer from minutes to hours, says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States. Canned hunting, says Prescott, "is about as sporting as shooting a puppy in pet store window." Most sportsmen agree with her.

     The concept of the "fair chase" is embedded into hunter culture. The Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club (bowhunters), two of the three primary organizations that rate trophy kills, refuse to accept applications from persons who bagged their "trophy" on a canned hunt. The Safari Club does allow persons to seek recognition, but only under limitations that most preserves can't meet.

     These pretend-hunters have dozens of reasons why they do what they do. The word "conservation" often appears dripping from their meat-filled lips. Some claim they are doing it to conserve wildlife by eliminating the weakest among the species. But, since animals have done rather well at preserving the balance of nature, why would humans want to alter it?

     The big-game safari killers, who can afford a southern African hunt that costs more than the yearly wages of most Americans, say that the fees go to conservation efforts to save the animals. If that's the reason, why not just take that huge roll of 100s, donate it to the preserves, take a tax deduction and get a suitable-for-framing color photo of a living animal?

     Whatever their reasons to mask their recreation, there is only one reason why they do what they do. They enjoy massaging a phallic symbol and taking a life.

     [Walter Brasch, an award-winning journalist, is the author of 20 books; the most recent one is Fracking Pennsylvania. He also believes in shooting only inanimate objects, especially clay pigeons, which he misses more than he hits.]


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Their Cheatin' Souls: Short Circuiting Ethics in America

by: John Morgan

Fri Aug 07, 2015 at 07:45:02 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

     New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he had nothing to do with having air removed from game balls.
     The NFL, following an investigation, says he did. It gave him a four game suspension, which he is appealing. That four game suspension could cost him somewhere between $2 million and $4 million of his $14 million 2015 salary. If he plays well with others, doesn't get into any more trouble, and injuries and retirement don't stop his career before he becomes 40 years old in 2017, he will earn $31 million for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
     The NFL also fined the Patriots $1 million and required the team to forfeit its first round draft pick next year and 4th round pick the year after.      Of course, Brady also forfeited his cell phone. Before it and its 10,000 messages could be confiscated in the investigation, he destroyed it and got a new phone. Multi-millionaires can do that.
     But, the issue here is not so much Brady or the Patriots. It's an endemic problem of cheating.
     In school, children spend more time learning how to avoid learning than they do learning subject matter. This can be by looking over someone else's shoulder during a test or copying information from an online story for a paper.
     By the time they get to college, their ways of evading knowledge becomes more refined. They can use their grants and loans to buy term papers written by others. On tests, they can flash hand signals to a buddy two rows away or secretly text each other for answers. They can wear baseball caps to hide their wandering eyes. They can even buy copies of the tests. Some professors give the same tests every year, and fraternities and sororities assist their brothers and sisters by having a current test bank of knowledge. There are hundreds of ways to cheat, and even the best professors don't know all of them.
     And then the students graduate, their resumés floating into corporate headquarters, like parade confetti. Most of these capsulized on paper lives are fluff and puff.
     Although most workers don't cheat, there's enough who do.    
     Eleven teachers in Atlanta were convicted this year of racketeering for changing student answers on standardized tests to make overall scores higher. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation reported about 180 teachers and administrators probably changed student scores; 35 of them were indicted, with 23 accepting plea bargains; 12 went to trial and only one of them was found not guilty.
     The reason there was cheating by the adults, who probably didn't "notice" when the children openly cheated, was money-based. Scores that flatlined each year or went down from the year before would have led to less funds. Higher scores led to increased budgets, which led to increased teacher merit pay. The superintendent of schools herself was accused of being the gang leader; her motivation may have been not just to make her district look good but to receive the bonuses for increased student performance. Unfortunately, teacher cheating isn't confined to Atlanta, nor is cheating only a part of the educational system.
     In factories, short cuts lead to products with defects. In some cases, corporate management knows there are defects but ignores the consequences, figuring that the cost of recalls and lawsuits is still less than the profits. In corporate language this is known as "mitigation." It sounds so much better than "greed."
     Wall Street and financial institution greed and lies, combined with a serious lack of enforcement by government regulatory agencies, led to the nation's great recession, which began the last couple of years of the Bush-Cheney administration. Trying to justify why they short-circuited ethics and the law, many of the guilty whined that they were in a high-pressure job to perform, that others did it, that they thought it was all part of the corporate culture; the whine that if they were ethical, they wouldn't make as much money as expected, and probably wouldn't be promoted or possibly fired for not meeting production goals.
     Some politicians also cheat. In their case, the cheating could be by accepting gifts from lobbyists or making promises that no one believes will be kept. But, for politicians, the cheating is often to get campaign funds and benefits that might help grease a re-election, which will lead to an even further need to cross ethical lines.      You don't have to be a corporate executive, go-go stock manipulator, politician, or even a student to cheat. Just fill out your yearly IRS 1040. Just as there are hundreds of ways students cheat, there are hundreds of ways taxpayers and corporations can cheat on taxes, with the average taxpayer believing it is perfectly acceptable to try to keep as much of every dollar earned as possible. Thus, fudging deductions and under-reporting income have become routine in many households. The IRS believes unreported income-which can be a few hundred dollars in restaurant tips or "under the table" job income to a few hundred thousand dollars stashed in a Cayman Islands bank-could be more than $4 billion a year.
     Of course, cheating may be beneficial to others-if spouses didn't cheat, the entire country music industry could fall.
     Nevertheless, If Tom Brady did cheat in deflategate-and we're not saying he did-he was just a part of a culture that is slowly losing its ethics and values in order to get results.
    [Dr. Brasch is a journalist/social activist, and the author of 20 books. His latest book is Fracking America, an overall look at the process, effects, and numerous social issues of horizontal fracturing.]

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Kane Is Charged

by: John Morgan

Thu Aug 06, 2015 at 12:30:35 PM EDT

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was officially charged today for criminal conduct.  The charges are perjury, official oppression, obstruction of justice and contempt of court.  These are especially heinous charges for a state AG who is supposed to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth.  They stem from a Montgomery County grand jury investigation.  Kane was trying to seek revenge against a former prosecutor in her office who went to work for Philadelphia DA Seth Williams.  It escalated when Kane decided to drop an investigation into political corruption against several Philly area State Representatives.  All were caught on video accepting bribes.  She was caught lying about a supposed affadavit she had which didn't exist when justifying her decision.

I caught Kane's campaign lying repeatedly during her primary election contest versus Patrick Murphy.  I wrote about it at the time and her campaign communications director called me and continued to lie to me.  I wrote about that also.  One of the facets of being a blogger like me is that I get to meet and take the measure of many candidates for office.  I also interact regularly with public officials.  My gut has always been very good at determining who is good and who is bad.  It screamed at me that Kathleen Kane was as bad as they get.

I have not been at all surprised at her actions as AG.  Her two biggest faults are her extreme vindictiveness and her inability to tell the truth.  Both have resulted in these serious charges.  Official oppression means she used the power of her office to go after someone unjustly. The allegations are that she then lied about it under oath.

Ironically news that a grand jury recommended charges be brought against her were also leaked to the press.  To be fair I hope that disclosure is equally investigated and prosecuted.

Kane's AG office has been a cesspool of failure since she took over.  Constant turnover and questionable personnel decisions have loomed over her prolonged incompetence.  She is the first Democrat to be elected Attorney General in Pennsylvania and, after her, there likely will never be another.  Republicans will use this as a weapon against any future Democrat seeking the office.  These ads write themselves.

Hopefully justice will be served.

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The Spencer Corruption Saga

by: John Morgan

Thu Aug 06, 2015 at 12:13:25 PM EDT

As Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer sits facing imminent arrest for public corruption I hope he enjoys his current vacation.  It is obviously the precursor for one he'll be having quite soon:  a lengthy stay in a federal prison.  Alright, so that won't feel like a vacation.  He is the obvious person identified in Department of Justice documents as "elected official #1 in yesterday's conviction of City Council President Francis Acosta.  Elected official #2 is reportedly Acosta's wife Rebecca President of the Reading School Board.  Who else would he funnel bribe money through?  The charge yesterday was that Spencer gave Mrs. Acosta's campaign $1,800 in exchange for Mr. Acosta getting a city ethics law repealed preventing the Mayor from collecting illegal campaign contributions for his failed re-election campaign.

I examined the campaign finance reports for April, the period covered by the payment according tot he FBI document, and neither candidate reported the exchange of money.  No disbursement of $1,800 to any elected public official exists in Spencer's report and no expenditure to Mrs. Acosta is reported.  Her report doesn't disclose any such contribution for that period.  These omissions would be a violation of Pennsylvania election law though that's the least of their worries at this time.

Did both campaigns consciously omit the transaction?  Spencer's campaign treasurer is/was his chief aid Eron Lloyd.  Interestingly his reports also had a glaring deficiency.  His ending cash balance of $23,343.39 mysteriously became a cash forward balance of just $12,665.54 in his next report.  This was corrected in an amended report dated June 19th but I can't imagine how the error occurred.  Spencer's campaign was using NGP Van software.  I've used NGP software before and all you do is continuously input your contributions and expenditures and it spits out your report when it's due.  If you submitted a report with this error in it, even if it's off by a few cents, the software will alert you that two figures are not compatible.

If you end one reporting period with $23,343 cash on hand you have to begin the next one with same amount.  Their report reduced it to $12,665.  For the software to allow that expenditures of about $10,678 happened somewhere.  Maybe $1,800 of it went to Rebecca Acosta?

I've known Mayor Spencer for quite a while.  While I like him personally I never liked him as a public official.  As City Council President prior to being elected Mayor he was a crony of State Representative Tom Caltagirone with whom I've had disagreements.  When Spencer was attempting to ram through the sale of Antietam Lake and the surrounding land to MB Investments it was obvious he'd been bought off somehow.  Another City Council ally of the sale mysteriously wound up with a nice new house.  No one could ever prove the corruption but we all smelled it.

City Council members Donna Reed, Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz and Jeff Waltman united to block that deal.  The land was finally sold to Berks County and developed into a park.  At one fateful meeting at the Berks County Services Center I recall Spencer referring to John Fox, the Mascaro lawyer, as "our attorney."  Following the faux pas he quickly left the Commissioners Chambers in embarrassment.  It was further evidence he was in their pay.

It's funny how chickens sometimes come home to roost.  After becoming Mayor Spencer attempted to get around the City Charter and other rules.  Honest City Council members called him on his illegal shenanigans and it all resulted in prolonged legal battles.  For a city unable to provide basic services and in Act 47 the expenditure of a million dollars in legal fees was inexcusable.

I'm also intrigued by Spencer's relationship with retailer Albert Boscov.  Boscov is also a major developer in Reading and recently was awarded a contract to renovate four city owned properties along Penn Street.  Developer Alan Shuman, someone with far more experience developing properties, was denied the work.  Boscov is finishing construction of his new Doubletree Hotel in downtown Reading, something for which he obtained tax abatements for.  He gave a $70,000 loan to Spencer's re-election campaign.  Is this pay to play?  I suppose we'll find out all the answers once the indictments are handed down.

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Democratic Corruption Going Wild

by: John Morgan

Thu Aug 06, 2015 at 08:35:04 AM EDT

The corruption among elected Democratic officials in the Commonwealth keeps growing.  Yesterday Reading City Council President Francis Acosta pled guilty to conspiracy to accept a bribe.  Today Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to face charges.

Two of Kane's biggest personal faults are coming back to haunt her:  her vindictiveness and her inability to tell the truth.  She will be accused of leaking grand jury testimony in order to damage the reputation of someone she disliked and then lying about it under oath.  Kane lies about everything and her penchant to get back at those she dislikes has turned her office into a disaster area.

In Reading an FBI a few weeks ago led to the first domino falling in Acosta.  A man who seemingly came out of nowhere to get a seat on City Council then get elected as Council President, he agreed to try and repeal an ethics law designed to restrict corruption.  The campaign finance caps prohibited anyone receiving no bid city contracts from contributing more than a set amount to a campaign.  Mayor Vaughn Spencer (obviously "elected official #1 in the indictment) faced a tough re-election campaign due to a failed first term and needed to have the ethics law repealed.  According to Acosta's plea agreement he agreed to contribute $1800 to "elected official # 2" if Francis would repeal the ethics law.  He introduced a resolution to do just that but Council members with integrity successfully fought the action.

It appears that Mayor Vaughn Spencer will soon join Acosta in federal prison.  He accepted $84,000 from four persons who were limited by that law in what they could contribute to his campaign.  The Mayor routinely violated laws and ordinances during his term leading to constant battles with Council.  The legal fees from those fights amounted to more than $1 million for a cash strapped city unable to provide basic services.  He and Acosta are both cronies of State Representative Thomas Caltagirone who has run the Berks County Democratic Committee from behind the curtain for years.  One of his staffers ran Acosta's unsuccessful campaign for Mayor four years ago.  He and Spencer go way back.

The common denominator in the corruption in Reading and Allentown goes to consultant Mike Fleck.  This seems to have begun with the investigation of former Treasurer Rob McCord who pled guilty earlier in the year.  Fleck was his consultant in his failed campaign for Governor following Mayor Ed Pawlowski's withdrawal from the race.  The Allentown City Hall offices were raided recently by the FBI and it has been reported that Fleck wore a wire against both Mayors before disappearing.  

I've known Fleck since he appeared on the scene running various Democratic campaigns.  No campaign he ran was legal and above board.  I even warned people running against his candidates to expect shenanigans.  There always were.  It's no wonder that someone who had no regard for election laws would also violate other laws.  In the cases of McCord, Pawlowski and Spencer, this just goes to prove the old adage that when you sleep with stray dogs you get fleas.

When we combine these corruption scandals with the recent indictment of Congressman Chaka Fattah Pennsylvania Democrats have much work to do to clean up their act.  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party even hired Fleck's consulting business for a time before severing the relationship.

Consultants are big business in politics.  They are paid well to manage and strategize campaigns for candidates.  A bad consultant, and they are legion, can do irreparable harm as Fleck has.  Shortly after the FBI raids in Allentown he dissolved his business and fled.  Acosta's fall is simply the second domino to fall (after McCord) in what appears to be a succession of Democratic Mayors heading to prison.

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The Anatomy of a Smear

by: John Morgan

Wed Jul 29, 2015 at 09:56:40 AM EDT

New smear videos aimed at destroying Planned Parenthood were selectively edited to make it appear the organization was collecting and selling fetal tissue from abortions for profit.  It's possible to create videos using readily available editing software to create any message one desires.  Right wing groups have been fraudulently doing this for years.  They destroyed a great organization called ACORN and have targeted Planned Parenthood for some time.

Let's look at this realistically instead of the sensationalized approach being taken by many on the right wing.  Planned Parenthood does NOT sell fetal tussue for profit.  Yes, some is collected to be used for medical research but Planned Parenthood only collects it's costs for doing it and sending it to labs.

Even the videos purporting to show that the organization does this show no evidence for its claims.  The original footage of the edited videos are available for anyone to watch.

Protests have been organized by anti-choice crazies and calls to defund Planned Parenthood have been gaining steam.  Investigations into a practice no one has shown any evidence of are being threatened.

Let's get real folks.  This is a hoax created by people out to destroy Planned Parenthood.  Only 3% of the medical procedures done by the organization are abortions.  The vast majority of women (and men) coming t its health centers are there for routine medical evaluations, exams and treatments.  One in five American women have used Planned Parenthood as a health care provider.  For many uninsured women Planned Parenthood is their only choice for health care.

Who are the people who recorded and edited this attack?  They are rabid anti-abortion extremists.  The Center For Medical Progress is a right wing group and one member of its Board is Troy Newman from Operation Rescue.  One of its members, Scott Roeder, assassinated Dr. George Tiller.   This organization has used violence against abortion providers including attempted bombings.

These people are violent extremists who will stop at nothing to destroy Planned Parenthood and their highly edited videos show that the organization has done nothing illegal though they have attempted through their selective editing to do so.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates (I was a Board member for quite a while though I no longer serve the organization) issued this statement:

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) is an extreme activist organization whose sole mission is to

prevent women from accessing health care and to destroy Planned Parenthood.  The board members of

this group believe that abortion is "genocide," and employ people who went to jail for attempting to

bomb a women's health clinic. They are also connected with the man who murdered abortion provider

Dr. George Tiller.

CMP has used footage obtained through deceit and unlawful behavior, including possible violations of

state recording laws, federal tax laws and falsified state identification.  Then, they concoct wildly false

stories through selective editing.  We expect this video will be no different in that regard; however,

footage yet to come is expected to represent an extreme violation of patient privacy by including

footage of post-abortion fetal tissue neither patients nor health care professionals authorized be filmed.  

When your network decides whether to consider this story newsworthy, or whether to use any of this

footage at all, we urge you to keep this in mind: The extremists who entered Planned Parenthood labs

under false pretenses violated research protocol, and, worse, violated the privacy of patients

involved. Those patients' privacy should not be further violated by having this footage shared by the


The storage and examination processes that CMP used to get this footage are medically necessary. It is

necessary medical professionals ensure an abortion is complete so that patients do not get an infection.  

When tissue is donated for medical research, these steps are also necessary for the donations to be

completed.  It is also medically necessary that researchers evaluate the laboratory procedures of a

medical provider for safety standards and best practices.  

Some of the conversations and protocols that occur in medical settings and among professional peers

can sound jarring when taken out of context.  While this can be difficult to hear or watch, it should not

be used as an excuse to defund Planned Parenthood.

CMP gained access to Planned Parenthood facilities under false pretenses and filmed without securing

approval from the Planned Parenthood staff being filmed or the patients whose privacy is compromised

by this secret videotaping.  The material should not be aired.

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Tough Times For PA Democrats

by: John Morgan

Tue Jul 28, 2015 at 08:58:46 AM EDT

It's been a bad year for Pennsylvania Democrats.  The FBI raid on City Halls in Reading and Allentown seem to have ensnared Mayors Vaughn Spencer and Ed Pawlowski in pay to play corruption schemes, the State Attorney General is facing potential criminal charges for leaking secret grand jury information and is accused of failing to prosecute Philadelphia area lawmakers in a probe which was successfully concluded by a rival DA.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has garnered multiple convictions against State Representatives Ronald Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Harold James.  Vanessa Lowery Brown and Louise Willaims Bishop are also facing charges.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Ed Reed may be the biggest prize of all for prosecutors though as he faces hundreds of counts for purchasing artifacts with taxpayer funds then keeping them for himself.

All of these corruption cases involve members of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Did someone spike the punch at recent State Committee meetings?  It certainly seems to be contagious.  Of course public corruption inflicts officials of both major political parties but at the present time the state GOP has to be licking its lips at the stain being given to Democrats.

It begins at the top where AG Kathleen Kane is obviously over her head.  She can't keep staff or even the attorney she hired to represent her against criminal charges.  It seems she has a bad vindictive streak she is unable to control.  She also has a bad habit of lying-something I exposed during that election.

So what doe Democrats here do to clean up their act?  Losing consultant Mike Fleck is a first step since he disappeared after wearing a wire against former clients Pawlowski and Spencer.  The Philadelphia lawmakers charged and convicted say much about the sad state of Bob Brady's "machine" there.  No one in Philly can breathe without first clearing it with Brady and no one gets elected without his blessing.  Mush of this scandal must lay at his doorstep.

Update:  Yet another black eye.  Congressman Chaka Fattah has been indicted for accepting an illegal loan for $1 million.  Yet another Brady crony.

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PCCC Looking to Collect Resumes

by: John Morgan

Fri Jul 24, 2015 at 16:49:05 PM EDT

PCCC National Resume Bank 2015 -- Resumes Needed for Positions Nationwide

Are you looking for a job on a progressive campaign this cycle?

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is holding a national candidate training July 30-August 2.
At the training, we will present the candidates with resumes of progressive campaign professionals they can contact about working on their campaigns this cycle.

If you are looking for a job on a progressive campaign this cycle and would like to be included for consideration, click here to upload your resume!

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McGinty to Enter Senate Race

by: John Morgan

Thu Jul 23, 2015 at 12:24:23 PM EDT

Democrats desperate to derail Joe Sestak's career have apparently succeeded in recruiting Katie McGinty to run.  Sestak angered Dems when he ran against GOP turncoat Arlen Specter six years ago.  He won that race then lost a narrow race to Pat Toomey in 2010 when a big Republican wave swept them into offices they still hold.  Ed Pawlowski was the first challenger recruited but he went down in a ball of flames following an FBI raid of his offices a few weeks ago.  McGinty is their latest pawn.

McGinty is Tom Wolf's Chief of Staff in the Governor's Office and leaves at a critical time because negotiations on the state budget continue.  This isn't a good time for Wolf to lose his COS though he has several strong potential replacements.  Mary Isenhour, TJ Rooney, David Sweet and John Hanger are considerations for the job.

Katie ran poorly statewide in her only previous experience as a statewide candidate.  Running for Governor against Wolf and others she placed a poor fourth.  He chose her to run his statewide campaign then appointed her COS.  The Fresh Start campaign failed in electing down ballot candidates and, in fact, the GOP expanded its hold on Harrisburg leading to the present budget crisis.  How an inexperienced and failed candidate can successfully challenge Sestak at this point show the desperation of state and national Democrats to get even with him.  The result is they may well lose a Senate seat they should be primed to win.

Toomey is very vulnerable after a rabidly partisan voting record and voting support for the austere Ryan budgets.  He goes around Pennsylvania telling people he supports their causes then votes against them in Washington.  As a first term Senator this is when he's most vulnerable.  If he wins re-election it will be very hard to unseat him as a twelve year entrenched incumbent.

Democrats seem blind to this in their tunnel vision about Sestak.  Vengeance is more important than victory.  They must deny Joe the seat more than deny it to the GOP.  The former Congressman and Admiral has already been campaigning for two years and on July 4th he said he had 600 volunteers distributing campaign material at parades.  Even if national Dems pour money into Katie's campaign and create a media war Joe has shown his media ads can be devastating.  Then he has that large ground operation established...

McGinty's claim to fame statewide was her tenure as DEP Secretary under Ed Rendell.  A pro-fracking candidate for Governor she received significant money from the energy industry.  She also served in the Clinton Administration.

I simply don't understand why Democrats would choose to deplete Sestak's cash reserves in a contested primary and leave Toomey in a position to win.  She has just ten months to build a staff, craft a message (I supported Specter!) and overtake the Admiral.  The thinking here is that he'll shoot her down.  Unfortunately the effort may bring us six more years of Pat Toomey in the Senate.  Stupid.

Update:  Mary Isenhour has been named the new Chief of Staff.  I'd be surprised if Rooney didn't take her previous job.

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