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The Pennsylvania Progressive

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

media.

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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Has Sen. Wagner Violated Recording Laws?

by: John Morgan

Thu Jul 16, 2015 at 11:11:43 AM EDT

Raging Chicken Press reported this week that State Senator Scott Wagner  (R-York) put smartphones on record status outside his Capital office to attempt to catch public sector union members tipping over his signs.  The neo-Nazi ideologue has been erecting anti-union signs outside his Harrisburg office to intimidate public sector workers.  Somehow some of them seem to have a tendency to tip over so he had cameras installed rather clumsily to catch the culprits he thinks are messing with him.

Of course recording anyone in Pennsylvania without their knowledge and consent is illegal.  We are what's called a "two party" state wherein both parties to a recording must consent to it.  Sen. Wagner has set up two recording devices in a public space to record whatever they capture.  This is a criminal offense and Sean Kitchen of Raging Chicken Press has filed an Open Records request for the videos to determine their content.  Sen. Jake Corman's office is defending the criminal conduct by citing 9-11.

What does Sept. 11th have to do with what seems to be a clear violation of public space?  If Sen. Corman is party to this activity he can be sued by anyone caught illegally on these recordings.

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The Iranian Nuclear Deal

by: John Morgan

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 14:00:05 PM EDT

The White House released details of its newly announced nuclear deal with Iran:

Key Excerpts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

Preamble and General Provisions

 The full implementation of this JCPOA will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of

Iran's nuclear program.

 Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any

nuclear weapons.

 This JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions

as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program.

 A Joint Commission consisting of the E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor

the implementation of this JCPOA and will carry out the functions provided for in this

JCPOA.

 The IAEA will be requested to monitor and verify the voluntary nuclear-related measures

as detailed in this JCPOA. The IAEA will be requested to provide regular updates to the

Board of Governors, and as provided for in this JCPOA, to the UN Security Council.

 The E3+3 will submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council endorsing this

JCPOA affirming that conclusion of this JCPOA marks a fundamental shift in its

consideration of this issue and expressing its desire to build a new relationship with Iran.

Enrichment, Enrichment R&D, Stockpiles

 Iran's long term plan includes certain agreed limitations on all uranium enrichment and

uranium enrichment-related activities including certain limitations on specific research

and development (R&D) activities for the first 8 years, to be followed by gradual

evolution, at a reasonable pace, to the next stage of its enrichment activities for

exclusively peaceful purposes.

 Iran will begin phasing out its IR-1 centrifuges in 10 years. During this period, Iran will

keep its enrichment capacity at Natanz at up to a total installed uranium enrichment

capacity of 5060 IR-1 centrifuges. Excess centrifuges and enrichment-related

infrastructure at Natanz will be stored under IAEA continuous monitoring.

(Note: Iran currently has about 19,000 IR-1 and advanced IR-2M centrifuges installed)

 Based on its long-term plan, for 15 years, Iran will keep its level of uranium enrichment

at up to 3.67%.

(Note: Prior to the Joint Plan of Action, Iran enriched uranium to near 20%)

1

 Iran will refrain from any uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment R&D and from

keeping any nuclear material at Fordow for 15 years.

(Note: Iran currently has about 2,700 IR-1 centrifuges installed at Fordow of which

about 700 are enriching uranium)

 Iran will convert the Fordow facility into a nuclear, physics and technology center.

 1044 IR-I machines in six cascades will remain in one wing at Fordow. Two of those six

cascades will spin without uranium and will be transitioned, including through

appropriate infrastructure modification, for stable isotope production. The other four

cascades with all associated infrastructure will remind idle.

 During the 15 year period, Iran will keep its uranium stockpile under 300 kg of up to

3.67% enriched UF6 or the equivalent in other chemical forms.

(Note: Iran currently maintains a stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched UF6)

 All other centrifuges and enrichment-related infrastructure will be removed and stored

under IAEA continuous monitoring.

More after the jump (click to continue):

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Iran Nuke Deal Finalized

by: John Morgan

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 09:01:37 AM EDT

A deal which will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons was finalized today.  Announced by President Obama today it is the culmination of intense diplomatic efforts which succeeded where a military intervention would not have.  Economic sanctions enforced by a large coalition of western nations brought Iran to the table and hard negotiating by Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry brought an agreement.

All the war hawks crying for force have been proved to be fools.  I remember Sen. McCain singing "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" to a Beach Boys melody while campaigning for President.  Morons like Sen. Graham wanted nothing more than war to enrich their defense contractor donors and stock portfolios.  War with Iran would have made Iraq a walk in the park.  Iran is larger, more populous and far more developed than Iraq and war there would have been a major disaster.  Kudos to those who believe in the power of diplomacy.

President Obama's statement this morning:

7:02 A.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not -- a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change -- change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.  This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership.  It's now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."  He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.

    In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers.  In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world.

    Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.  Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

    This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring.  Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.  Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges -- the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb -- and store them under constant international supervision.  Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade.  Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

    To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons.  Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon.  This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

    Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.  And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor.  For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

    Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments.  That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification.  Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran's key nuclear facilities.

*Iran [Inspectors] will have access to Iran's entire nuclear supply chain -- its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.  This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones.  Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.  Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.  That arrangement is permanent.  And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran's past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community's efforts to apply pressure on Iran.

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran's nuclear program -- both America's own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased in.  Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief.  And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.

All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution.  And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.  So there's a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.

That's the deal.  It has the full backing of the international community.  Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details, and my administration stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward.

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative.  Consider what happens in a world without this deal.  Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.  Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure.  And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.  We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program.  Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges.  Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.  And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.  In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran's nuclear program.

Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.  It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I've been President and Commander-in-Chief for over six years now.  Time and again, I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force.  It's the gravest decision that any President has to make.  Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force.  And I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest.  I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon -- which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. President would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.

Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.  Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully.  If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. President in the future.  And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal.  But on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal.  After all, the details matter.  And we've had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details.  And we're dealing with a country -- Iran -- that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years.  So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.

But I will remind Congress that you don't make deals like this with your friends.  We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction.  And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies.  So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn't seek it.  And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing.  Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems.  Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world's major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn't mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iran.  We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran's support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region.  But that is precisely why we are taking this step -- because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.

Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran's support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel's security -- efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before.  And we will continue the work we began at Camp David to elevate our partnership with the Gulf States to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL.

However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.  Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored.  But it is possible to change.  The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel -- that's a dead end.  A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.  We should seize it.

We have come a long way to reach this point -- decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions, and many months of intense negotiation.  Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort.

I want to thank our negotiating partners -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, as well as the European Union -- for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts.  We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team.  We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz.  And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our Secretary of State, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war.  He's now making this country safer through his commitment to strong, principled American diplomacy.

History shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles.  It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together.  Today's announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful and more hopeful world.

Thank you.

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Sestak Talks Healthcare

by: John Morgan

Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 14:06:57 PM EDT

Senate candidate Joe Sestak visited West Reading this morning to discuss healthcare.  He walked .42 miles from Reading Hospital to Chatty Monks cafe with about 30 supporters.  The distance reflects the 422 miles he walked across the Commonwealth this spring.  Joe spoke at length and in detail about the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and the beneficial effect it is having on people's lives.  The CBO estimates that it is already reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade.  16.4 million Americans have gained healthcare coverage under the Act though many more remain uninsured due to Republican Governors who refuse to enact Medicaid expansion through the program.

He also spoke about issues such as long term care and elder abuse and often compared details with his career as a three star Admiral in the Navy.  He criticized Sen. Pat Toomey for voting for war then against veterans health care.  You can't send our young people to war then not take care of them when they return.  That's the deal we strike with our military, a sacred covenant.  If we can't afford to care for our veterans once they come home don't send them in the first place.

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Sea Doo Builds Lemons

by: John Morgan

Thu Jul 09, 2015 at 12:17:44 PM EDT

Sea Doo builds lemons.  My sister purchased two new boats from Leisure Sport 'N Turf in Pottstown PA on Memorial Day weekend.  One was a leftover 2014 demo which has been fine.  It has proven to be a good tow vehicle for the brand new 2015 GTI 130 which refuses to run.  On Memorial Day weekend we launched it from the ramp at Hacks Point on the Chesapeake Bay and a mile later it died in the middle of the Bohemia River.  On the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.  Two weeks later we were finally able to tow it back to the launch ramp to tow it back to Leisure but I wound up getting caught out on the water in a severe thunderstorm.

Leisure Sport 'N Turf told us they'd found a loose connection and said the boat was as good as new.  Well, it was still brand new.  We re-launched it and on the first test run it died again.  I was going down the Elk River when it suddenly, and without warning, stopped running and refused to restart.  I was stranded for two hours due to yet another thunderstorm.  Fortunately this time I was able to swim the boat to a small beach at Elk Neck State Park.  I had to pull the boat against the current about 100 yards to avoid it crashing into some rocks.

We are, justifiably, afraid of this boat.  We don't trust it to strand us yet again and put us in danger of bodily harm.  It is unreliable, a lemon.  The dealer tells me that personal watercraft are not covered by Lemon Laws.  Why not?  Boats are covered but these are not considered boats.  My sister bought this boat in good faith.  We don't feel that BRP is acting in good faith.

I spoke with Sea Doo today about our dead boat.  Bombardier Recreational Products is the company name.  BRP says they will not replace the brand new watercraft we bought and which ha snow left me stranded on the Chesapeake Bay twice.  We have yet to log one hour of time on this vehicle because it keeps dying.  They are insisting that this time they've fixed it.  We heard that after the first time it died and we extricated it from the water and towed it 2 1/2 hours back to the dealer.

After the first time it died when we'd purchased it brand new Sea Doo told me they'd reimburse us for any expenses we incurred.  Now they're claiming they never said that.

We need a Lemon Law for personal watercraft.  I've been stuck on this boat twice and stuck in thunderstorms on the Bay twice with a brand new boat that refuses to run.   It has electrical issues.   Twice they've told us they found faulty wiring which caused the boat to suddenly crash and die without notice.  We don't believe them any longer and want a new boat.  We simply don't trust this boat not to leave us in danger of bodily harm again.

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Pawlowski, Fleck Shut Down As Feds Close In

by: John Morgan

Tue Jul 07, 2015 at 16:47:41 PM EDT

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has suspended his U.S. Senate campaign following a raid on City offices last week by the FBI.  Thursday his political consultant Mike Fleck also shut down his firm H Street Consulting.  Democrats had recruited Pawlowski to run against Joe Sestak in the Senate primary.  Now they, again, have egg on their faces as it appears he's headed for an indictment.

Allentown just completed the PPL Center, a local convention hall and hotel which hosted the Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting last month.  It was a horrible venue for such an event and I left early Friday evening and didn't return because the venue was so bad.  The entire thing was designed to be a launching pad for Pawlowski's campaign.  Oops.

Fleck has run the Mayor's political operations for some time and expanded south to Reading where his tendency to ignore election laws and regulations got that Mayor in some hot water recently.  Fleck has never seen an election law he respected.  I always advised candidates going against his clients to expect some last minute illegal shenanigans.  I was never disappointed.

This is yet another black eye for PA Dems who seem to be lost in the woods under Chair Jim Burn.  The decision six years ago to back party switcheroo Arlen Specter blew up in their faces when Sestak beat him in the primary.  In a big GOP sweep year Pat Toomey narrowly beat Sestak for the Senate seat when other Democrats lost in landslides across the Commonwealth.  Then last year they lost Tom Wolf so badly he created a shadow Party apparatus and simply ignored them.  So, in the space of six years the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has completely alienated their two top candidates:  the sitting Governor and their U.S. Senate candidate.  After disrespecting Sestak six years ago they dug their hole deeper by recruiting Pawlowski to challenge him this time.  Oops.  The only seat Ed is going to get next year is likely in a ten by ten cell shared with Fleck.

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