The Pennsylvania Progressive
...all rights reserved...

(HOME)


[mobile]

Contributors
John Morgan
Blog Owner, Editor, Publisher

PA Eagle Eye
Contributing Writer
Walter Brasch
Contributing Writer
Jamoca
Contributing Writer
Great Auk
Site Administrator

About
Contact: PAprogressive(at)Gmail(dot)com

Recommended Diaries
- No Recommended Diaries at this time

Recent Comments

Search




Advanced Search


Progressive Allies
Common Sense 2
Act Blue
DaylInsights
Beaver County Blue
Democracy For America
Pennsylvania For Democracy
The Nation
Progressive Democrats of America
Truthout
OpEd News
Misled Into War: A Timeline
BuzzFlash
Lefty Blogs
The Advocate
Democracy For Berks
Kutztown Area Democratic Club
Pennsylvania Diversity Network
Upper Bucks For Democracy
People For the American Way
The Raw Story
Tredyffrin Township Democrats
Public Citizen
CREW
The New PA 16th
Progressives For Pennsylvania
Casino Free Philadelphia
Air America Radio
Progressive Majority
Democratic Talk Radio
AlterNet
Dems '08
Equality Forum
Human Rights Campaign
Equality Advocates
Green Party of PA
Americans Against Escalation In Iraq
Northern Chester County Dems
Eastern PA PFLAG

News and Resources
WGPA Radio
The Accountability Project
Politics PA
The Real Sam Rohrer
BBC News
PennLive News Flash
National Public Radio
Federal Election Commission
Fact Check.org
Open Secrets
Coalition For Voting Integrity
PA Commissions, Elections, Legislation
Project Vote Smart
Iraq On The Record
The Cook Political Report
Neighborhood Networks
Public Radio Capitol News
Money Line
Fair Trade
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Philadelphia Inquirer
CNN
MSNBC
Harrisburg Patriot News

Upcoming Events
- No upcoming events
- Add Event

The Pennsylvania Progressive

Packing Heat in the Brothers' 'Hood

by: John Morgan

Sat Jul 26, 2014 at 17:23:01 PM EDT

Note:  I'll be heading out to Santa Fe, NM Sunday morning until September 10th.  John

by Walter Brasch

A group of white gun-rights advocates plan to sling rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons onto their bodies, and walk through a Black neighborhood in Houston.

What could possibly go wrong with that?!

The march through Houston's Fifth Ward is planned for August 16 to "educate" Texans about their rights to openly carry firearms.

To deflect criticism that the march is racially-insensitive, the testosterone-enhanced group, apparently with straight faces to hide its freeze-dried minds, says all it wants is for racial equality.

It says because the state charges $250 for a gun permit, it unfairly discriminates against Blacks who have twice the poverty rate as Whites, and that's why the Whites are going to march in a Black neighborhood.

Not only are these civil rights leaders going to "help" the Blacks, they even found a Black to march with them.

That Black is Maurice Muhammad, who believes it's acceptable to kill police officers, and who has openly called for a race war in the country.

The leader of the march is C.J. Grisham, who won't be carrying a concealed weapon. Whatever he carries will be out in the open. That's because he has a criminal record that forbids him from carrying a concealed weapon. His conviction stems from an incident in 2013 when he carried an AR-15 on an urban hike with his teenage son-because, you never know when a herd of feral kittens will attack you. His hike occurred not far from Fort Hood where, in 2009, an Army officer launched an assault that left 13 dead and 30 wounded.

A police officer stopped Grisham; he resisted. In Texas, it's legal to openly carry semi-automatic assault weapons; it is not legal to resist arrest and attack police officers.

Grisham was so upset that his most sacred of all rights-the right to openly be stupid-was violated that he created Open Carry Texas. A jury later found him guilty of interfering with the duties of a police officer. He was fined $2,000, the maximum penalty.

Between arrest and conviction, he and his newly-formed posse decided that because Texas allows the open display of weapons of semi-mass destruction they would just go to a few department stores and restaurants, carrying their big boy toys. As expected, customers panicked, and store managers asked them not to take their guns to town. Naturally, CJ and his hole-in-the-head gang had to explain their rights under Texas law, leading to headlines and a PR disaster. A couple of months later, because sometimes it takes awhile to realize the implications of mental derangement, OCT announced it wouldn't unleash its arsenal on Chuckie Cheese. Grisham told the Dallas News the reason was because "the gun-control extremists had hijacked our photos, and it was taking away from the focus of our mission."

Apparently, Grisham didn't mind terrorizing Texas citizens; he did mind that liberals had pictures of what he was doing. Nevertheless, for those who miss being terrorized by nimrods showing off their phallic symbols, they can just show up at the Almeda or Galleria malls near Houston every Saturday morning.

Grisham continued his somewhat uncivil protest at a Veteran's Day celebration at the state capitol in Austin. The Texas legislature and the executive branch oppose all them gal-dang lib'ral gun control freaks who cite statistics like how the more than 330,000 Americans were killed in the first decade of the 21st century, more than 20 times greater than all the deaths in 22 countries that are closest to the U.S. in wealth and population. They dismiss statistics that reveal there is a 22 times greater possibility of death by firearms if a home has a gun as opposed to one that doesn't have a gun. They sneer at the facts there are more pre-school children are killed by guns than police officers killed in the line of duty.

These heavily-lobbied legislators believe everyone has a constitutional right to carry and shoot off their mouths or someone else's legs. But, they also believe there shouldn't be any guns in the Texas capitol. It's a survival issue-if the press, visiting school children, and cantankerous legislators all had guns, within a few months there would have to be new elections to replace those who gave their lives for the cause of gun rights advocacy.

The cost to taxpayers of interim elections is a problem for a state that has willingly accepted being under siege by the Tea Party whackadoodle brigade whose mantra of "no guvmint; no taxes" is its justification for whatever it's trying to justify.

Grisham was politely told three times by police to remove his handgun; three times he explained, in a way that family newspapers can't reproduce exactly, how he had his rights. Grisham is now trying to convince the Texas legislature that openly carrying handguns, just like in the Wild West, is also the citizens' rights.

Would there be the same level of Second Amendment concern if a Black or Hispanic gang strapped on weapons and marched through white suburbia- just peaceful-like, y'know. Just to help educate the folk about the right to carry guns.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, is author of 20 books, including Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall view of the health, environmental, political, and economic issues.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Obama Executive Order Will Expedite Infrastructure Initiatives

by: John Morgan

Thu Jul 17, 2014 at 19:21:55 PM EDT

I sat in traffic on I-95 outside Wilmington, DE this afternoon following a short address by President Obama where he signed an Executive Order at the Port of Wilmington.  The Order creates a new federal "Build America Investment Initiative promoting public-private partnerships (PPP's) for infrastructure improvements nationwide.  He chose the Port because it afforded him the backdrop of a closed I-495 bridge which currently is closed to traffic.  Hence the back-up I was in on 95.

Audience photo DSCN3379_zps31bc996d.jpg

The bridge, which carries 90,000 vehicles a day is causing headaches in Northern Delaware as the bypass around Wilmington is forcing those 90,000 cars and trucks onto regular I-95 instead.  This is the major east coast north/south artery and all I could do was sit there after visiting Capriotti's sandwich shop on Route 141 for a sub after the event.  The sub shop is opposite the Delaware Air National Guard field where Air Force One landed and took off.  One perk of being Barack Obama these days is that he didn't have to get stuck on I-95's traffic as he traveled on to New York for some evening fund raisers.  I did see three Secret Service men in Capriotti's getting nourishment, likely clued in to the place by the Vice President.  POTUS had lunch at The Charcoal Pit on Concord Pike before heading to the Port of Wilmington.  That is one of the VP's favorite haunts, as it was for my grandparents who resided in Wilmington.

President Barack Obama photo DSCN3386_zps6fc02171.jpg

The new federal initiative announced this afternoon is designed to improve communications and smooth planning for PPP projects in transportation.  Congress has stalled in passing a new, comprehensive transportation bill, something that usually is filled with tons of pork for home Congressional Districts.  When the late Congressmen Shuster (the present one's father) was Chair of the House Transportation Committee he used the bill to build a four lane highway to his home in south Central Pennsylvania.  Others have used it to build highways that greatly enriched properties they owned.  Such is the nature of our democratic system.  Delawareans just want their bridge fixed and re-opened.

I-495 repairs photo DSCN3396_zpsf2e4f96a.jpg

The I-495 bridge was closed a bit over a month ago after tons and tons of soil dumped there by a contractor destabilized the bridge supports.  Workers are jacking up the bridge and shoring things up so it doesn't collapse under the weight of those 90,000 vehicles per day.

President Barack Obama photo DSCN3370_zps68beea61.jpg

The video:

From the White House:

Today, the President will deliver remarks at the Port of Wilmington in front of the I-495 Bridge in Delaware. With 90,000 cars moving over it per day before repairs began, this bridge is a key example of the importance of infrastructure, which keeps the economy moving, spurs innovation, and bolsters our national competitiveness. At the port - and in this Year of Action - the President will announce a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center - housed at the Department of Transportation - to serve as a one-stop shop for cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure.

The President's visit and announcement today are a part of the Administration's continued push to highlight the importance of investing in our nation's infrastructure so that we can build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. The steps announced today continue the momentum the President has made using his executive authority - his pen and phone - to invest in modernizing our infrastructure, including speeding up the permitting process for major infrastructure projects to create more jobs.

The President supports the steps that Congress is taking in the short-term to avoid a lapse in the Highway Trust Fund, and he will continue to push for long-term solutions for our nation's infrastructure and the American economy.

***

Investing in a 21st century American infrastructure is an important part of the President's plan to build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans.  Modern and efficient infrastructure - whether moving goods to our harbors and ports or connecting people to services or gigabits to our offices and homes - helps small businesses to expand, manufacturers to export, investors to bring jobs to our shores, and lowers prices for goods and services for American families.

The President has been very clear that we need to do more to improve our infrastructure in order to create jobs, provide certainty to states and communities, help American businesses, and grow our economy.  He has put forth a long-term proposal that would do just that and pay for it by closing unfair tax loopholes and making commonsense reforms to our business tax system, while providing the certainty of reliable federal funding to states and communities.

And while the President is encouraged that Congress is heeding these calls by taking action in the short-term to prevent transportation projects across the country from grinding to a halt, the President will continue to act on his own to promote American economic growth where there is need or opportunity.  And right now, there is a real opportunity to put private capital to work in revitalizing U.S. infrastructure.

That is why today, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum to launch the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth by engaging with state and local governments and private sector investors to encourage collaboration, expand the market for public-private partnerships (PPPs) and put federal credit programs to greater use.  Starting with the transportation sector, this initiative will harness the potential of private capital to complement government funding.

Ø  As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center:  Housed at the Department of Transportation, this center will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects.  Additional details are below.

Ø  Build America Interagency Working Group: To expand and increase private investment and collaboration in infrastructure beyond the transportation sector, a federal inter-agency working group, co-chaired by Cabinet Secretaries Lew and Foxx, will do a focused review with the best and the brightest from the public and private sector.  This group will work with state and local governments, project developers, investors and others to address barriers to private investments and partnerships in areas including municipal water, ports, harbors, broadband, and the electrical grid. The effort will include a particular focus on improving coordination to accelerate financing and completion of projects of regional and national significance, particularly those that cross state boundaries.

Ø  Infrastructure Investment Summit:  As part of the drive toward innovative infrastructure solutions and to highlight the opportunities for infrastructure investment, the Treasury Department will host a summit on Infrastructure Investment in the U.S. on September 9, 2014.  This session will bring together leading project developers and institutional investors with state and local officials and their Federal counterparts, and will focus on innovative financing approaches to infrastructure, and highlight other resources that support project development.

***

Build America Transportation Investment Center: Housed at the Department of Transportation, this center will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects. This center will provide:

Ø  'Navigator Service' for the Public and Private Sector: Through hands-on support, advice and expertise, the center will make DOT credit programs more understandable and accessible to states and local governments and leverage both public and private funding to support ambitious projects.  The center will also provide private sector developers and infrastructure investors with tools and resources to identify and execute successful PPPs.

Ø  Improved Access to DOT Credit Programs: The center will encourage awareness and efficient use of existing resources at the Department, including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.  TIFIA provides long-term, flexible financing to highway and transit projects that feature dedicated revenue sources.  Each dollar of Federal TIFIA funding can support about $10 in loans, loan guarantees or lines of credit.  In many cases, the lower cost of capital and flexible terms offered by TIFIA are critical factors in determining whether a PPP is a viable and cost-effective option for a project. The center will also focus on the use of key DOT programs including the Private Activity Bond program (PABs), and the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF).

Ø  Technical Assistance: The center will share best practices from states that are leading the way on private investment to states that have not yet adopted innovative financing strategies, encouraging a more robust national market. Today, the top six states for PPPs have nearly two-thirds the value of all U.S. PPP projects. Twenty states have no PPPs in transportation at all. The center will provide technical assistance to help remove barriers to ensure the public and private sector can come together to complete projects that make sense. Through a website and on-demand technical assistance, the center will provide information about DOT credit programs, case studies of successful projects and examples of deal structures, standard operating procedures for PPP projects and analytical toolkits. It will also help interested investors better understand how DOT credit and grant programs can be used together to support project development.

Ø  Information to Reduce Uncertainty and Delays: The center will work in partnership with the interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement center to provide visibility for local and state governments, project sponsors and investors on the permitting process.

Case Studies and Additional Background

The Build America Investment Initiative taps into the opportunity to increase the pipeline of effective public-private-partnerships and other innovative financing mechanisms:

Ø  High Demand: Institutional investors, both domestic and international, recognize the strength of our economy and want to invest in America. In 2013, the U.S. was the top destination for foreign direct investment with over $230 billion.  The global investment community has over $83 trillion dollars with a growing appetite for infrastructure. That is potentially hundreds of billions of dollars to fund the building of U.S. public-private infrastructure.

Ø  Proven Approaches: Some states and communities have established successful PPPs and have developed strong institutional knowledge of how these projects are best structured and managed.  Expanding that know-how to other states has the potential to increase the flow of capital by tens of billions of dollars over the next few years. Today, for example, the top five states in PPPs have nearly twice the per-capita value of projects as the next 20 best states - and if those states caught up, it could mean up to $30 billion worth of infrastructure projects.

Building on Models of Success: Some states and localities across the country have developed successful track records utilizing PPPs and other innovative financing approaches for infrastructure projects.  The Build America Transportation Investment center will use the lessons-learned from these leaders to help other communities and private project sponsors understand and better use federal financing programs and to structure deals that incorporate best practices and avoid pitfalls.

THE GROW AMERICA ACT      

The Highway Trust Fund - which funds a significant portion of the construction and capital repairs of our surface transportation system - is projected to be insolvent by the end of the summer barring Congressional action.  In addition to preventing the Trust Fund from expiring in the short term, the President has clear that we need long-term action and predictable funding to provide certainty to states and communities, help American businesses, and grow our economy.

Ø  In spring 2014, President Obama transmitted to Congress his vision for a long-term solution.  The GROW AMERICA Act, a $302 billion, four-year transportation reauthorization proposal provides increased and stable funding for our nation's highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems, ends the cycle of short-term, manufactured funding crises and builds confidence in the public and private sector.

Ø  The Administration's proposal is funded by supplementing current revenues with $150 billion in one-time transition revenue from pro-growth business tax reform.  In other words, the President's proposal is fully paid for without increasing the deficit. The President's proposal will also keep the Trust Fund solvent for four years and increase investments to meet the transportation priorities and economic needs of communities across the country.

Ø  The proposal also contains a series of legislative proposals to improve the return on transportation spending and improve safety, including a title on improving project delivery, and the federal permitting and regulatory review process.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Passing Gas to the Consumer

by: John Morgan

Sat Jul 12, 2014 at 06:53:42 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits.

Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five-BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell-earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it's hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283.

"We have been subsidizing oil companies for a century. That's long enough," President Obama said more than a year ago. The Senate disagreed. Forty-three Republicans and four Democrats blocked the elimination of subsidies. Although the final vote was 51-47 to end the subsidies, a simple majority was not enough because the Republicans threatened a filibuster that would have required 60 votes to pass the bill. A Think Progress financial analysis revealed that the 47 senators who voted to continue subsidies received almost $23.6 million in career contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, the 51 senators who had voted to repeal the subsidies received only about $5.9 million.

For a couple of decades, the oil industry blamed the Arabs for not pumping enough oil to export to the United States. But when the Arab oil cartel (of which the major U.S. oil companies have limited partnerships) decided to pump more oil, the Americans had to look elsewhere for their excuses. In rapid succession, they blamed Mexico, England, the Bermuda Triangle, polar bears who were lying about climate change so they could get more ice for their diet drinks, and infertile dinosaurs.

This year, the oil companies blamed ISIS, a recently-formed terroristic fringe group composed primarily of Sunni Muslims, who have opposed Shia Muslims for more than 14 centuries. Think of the Protestant-Catholic wars in Ireland. Because ISIS was laying a path of destruction through Iraq, the oil companies found it convenient to declare that oil shipments were threatened, and then raise prices, salivating at their good fortune that terrorists had come to their financial assistance during the Summer holidays.

However, because the oil companies have laid a thick propaganda shield upon the America people to make them believe that fracking the environment and destroying public health, while yielding only temporary job growth, will lead to less dependence upon the Arab nations and lower costs to Americans, the Industry has to come up with some excuses to drill the taxpayers.

Through deft journalistic intrigue and a lifetime of investigative reporting, I was able to obtain insider information from the ultra secret Gas and Oil Unified Greedy Excuse Maker sub-committee (GOUGEM). I have not been able to verify the transcript, but in the developing tradition of 21st century journalism, that doesn't really matter.

"We have a problem," declared the GOUGEM Grand Caliph "We have run out of excuses. Last year, we had to find excuses not only for the Summer vacations, but also to justify our surreptitious funding of the Benghazi investigation."

"There must be a hundred different ways to nail Obama for this year's increase," declared the Sunoco representative.

"What if we claim that Obamacare caused gas prices to go up for ambulances," said a newly-appointed representative from the Hess Corp.

"Tried it last year, but we couldn't get much traction," said the Grand Caliph. "Only Fox, Limbaugh, and some guy broadcasting through a tin cup from his room at Bellevue picked it up."

"Afghanistan!"  shouted the Marathon representative. "We've gotten good mileage from blaming the war for the cost of gas."

"Yeah," said the Tesoro rep sarcastically, "while we've been reaping enough excessive profits to build a water park at every one of our executives' McMansions. I'm afraid the American people after 13 years have finally caught on to that scam."

"If not Iraq and Afghanistan," how about a new war? We invade Switzerland," the ConocoPhillips rep suggested, "and claim we're protecting the world from weapons of mass Swiss Army Knives. Every Republican and a few Democrats will back us on that."

"It only works if there's oil in Switzerland," said the Shell rep, "and since we haven't developed the technology to frack the Matterhorn, we'll have to find another reason to raise gas prices."

The BP rep suggested that the oil companies claim gas price increases were necessary because the price of Dawn detergent, used to clean oil-slicked marine mammals, went up.
The Chevron  rep said they could blame the Treasury Department for their underhanded tactics in locating the companies' tax-free stash in the Caymans.  "How could anyone complain about us needing more income to pay our lawyers?" she declared.

The Valero rep wanted to blame the Veterans Administration. "We say we had to wait so long to get permission to raise gas prices that we had to do it ourselves," he brightly said, and tagged that suggestion with the explanation that the companies could then claim they were being self-sufficient and not dependent upon the government. "The conservatives will love us," he righteously declared.

After a few moments of idle chatter, something committees have perfected, the Exxon Mobil rep spoke up. "We don't need an excuse."

"You been inhaling too many fumes?" the Shell rep asked.

"Slip on a grease spot in one of your garages?" asked the Murphy Oil rep.

"We've always had an excuse," the Shell rep whined. "Without an excuse, the motorist might not buy our gas."

"Oh, they'll buy," said the Exxon Mobil rep confidently. "We've bought out and eliminated most of the alternative fuel sources, public transportation is in the pits, and no one walks. That leaves cars, and they all run on what we decide they run on."

"So what's your point?" asked the BP representative.

"It's as simple as 1-2-3," the Exxon representative stated. "One. We're Big Business. Two. We've already bought the Republican-controlled Congress. Three. We don't need to justify anything."

By unanimous agreement, the gas bag cartel declared there would be a 10-cent a gallon hike by the end of Summer-and no excuse.

[Dr. Brasch's latest books are the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow, a journalistic novel; and Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the health, environmental, economic, and political effects of horizontal fracturing.]

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Gasbag Signs Smoke and Mirrors Budget

by: John Morgan

Fri Jul 11, 2014 at 08:52:27 AM EDT

Gov. Corbett finally singed the budget pushed through by Republican majorities in the House and Senate though he showed his innate ability to tick off his own Party members by using his line item veto generously.  Gov. Gasbag cut funding for the legislature as a message that he wasn't happy they hadn't gutted state worker and teacher pensions.

When conservatives use the word "reform" they actually mean "eliminate."  That's what pension reform does and the Guv's plan actually would have cost taxpayers more in the long run while gutting the retirements of thousands of Pennsylvanians.  These pensions were negotiated in good faith by unions in lieu of higher wages.  The Commonwealth refused to adequately fund them (as required by law) until it has become a crisis situation.  Corbett's solution was to simply screw these workers.  A new 401(K) system would just result in higher salaries and other benefits for school districts as teachers sought to recoup these lost wages.  Meanwhile the current system would still have to be funded, somehow, along with the new one.  That would wind up costing more than if we simply funded the current pensions as required by the contracts to which we agreed.

The Governor gave the finger (literally and proverbially) to the State House and Senate by cutting its budget significantly.  No need to worry though since they're sitting on over $150 million in unused prior appropriations.  Heaven help the House and Senate have to do what every other state agency has had to since 2008:  do more with less.

Other items cut in the line item veto gut funding for state parks, medical assistance, lobbying disclosure, gun checks and other important functions of state government.

This is already a smoke and mirrors budget because it depends on one time sources of income which won't exist.  The Pennsylvania constitution requires a balanced budget but we didn't have one this year.  Because of Corbett's vast mismanagement of the state economy, at a time when the national economy is doing well, has resulted in significantly decreased revenues.  He cut corporate taxes and refused to close loopholes.  Jobs aren't being created and we're losing hundreds of millions in potential tax revenues of natural gas extraction.  We still don't tax smokeless tobacco for instance.

This is not a balanced budget because the state liquor store system is not going to be privatized. Corbett didn't have the votes for that in this session or last and he certainly won't get any cooperation from the House and Senate after cutting their own budgets.  This clueless blonde has never learned from his mistakes and refuses to develop any relations with the state legislature even though it is controlled by his own Party.  In a way we're fortunate he's so incompetent because a lot of potential damage to the citizenry was avoided due to his incompetence.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The Post Office Isn't a Dead Letter

by: John Morgan

Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 14:11:01 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

     Unless your life is centered upon an iPhone, an iPad, and an iEverything else, there is a possibility you may have actually bought a postage stamp, written a letter, and mailed it.
     Contrary to popular opinion, snail-mail isn't dead. Every day, the U.S. Postal Service handles about 660 million pieces of mail, and delivers them to about 140 million homes, businesses, and government offices.
     However, there are a lot of people who wish the Postal Service was a dead letter. Here's some of their claims-and the truth.
     They claim the Postal Service is a burden upon us hard-working taxpayers.
     Here's the truth. The Postal Service is a quasi-government agency that doesn't take taxpayer funds.
     They claim the Postal Service is losing money.
     Here's the truth. That's only because Congress in 2006 made it pre-fund health and pension benefits for 75 years. No other government agency or private company is required to do that. As a result, the Postal Service spends about $5.5 billion a year to meet an unreasonable demand by Congress. Last year, the Postal Service lost about $5 billion. Do the math.
     Here's another reality. The Postal Service has made innumerable changes to improve its financial situation. It laid off 28,000 workers-layoffs are something the right wing loves. But, the Postal Service also wanted to close 3,700 smaller offices to save even more money. That's when Congress got its panties in a knot, and squelched any attempt to close and consolidate rural offices or have larger nearby offices absorb them. After all, you can't close a rural local Postal Service in a Congressional district where the member of Congress has the need to get votes for re-election. That's also why Congress had a collective stroke when the Postal Service adeptly outfoxed it by laying out a plan to cut about $2 billion of costs a year by cutting Saturday service, except for certain services, including delivery of medicines and express mail. Congress, which has spent most of the past six years gazing at their navels and then became blinded by staring into TV lights, didn't want any of that nonsense and protested, forcing the Postal Service to reverse its proposed Saturday schedule.
     The Postal Service has also proposed saving about $4.5 billion a year by stopping door-to-door delivery to about 35 million homes, and replacing it with a more efficient delivery to curbside mail boxes or clusters, such as what exist in apartment buildings. While saving money, there would be a huge disconnect that goes well beyond finances. The average homeowner, even if complaining about the Postal Service for any of a few dozen valid reasons,  usually respects the individual letter carrier who stops by daily, has a brief chat, and moves on to another house. Letter carriers also provide a service few other public servants can-they notice things. If a door is wide open and no one is at home, they may call police; if the resident is always on the porch when the mail is delivered or if mail piles up for two days, the letter carrier might also call police, just in case the resident had a medical emergency. There can be no price too high for the vigilance and the camaraderie these unionized governmental employees provide.
     Nevertheless, the right-wing claims the entire Postal Service staff are overpaid, from your local letter carrier to the postmaster general, who earns about $276,840 a year, significantly below the salary of any CEO with similar responsibilities. The Tea Party-"Don't Tread on Me Cuz We're Rabid"-mob thinks everyone in government service is overpaid. Pick apart the scab that is the right-wing, and you learn they want to turn the Postal Service into a private enterprise without those pesky unions that help assure workers have fair wages, benefits, grievance rights and, most important, decent working conditions.
     Under a private enterprise system, it's quite possible the cost would no longer be upon only those who buy postage and other Postal Service services, but also upon those who receive mail. Persons who live in isolated and rural areas may have to pay larger fees than those in urban areas to receive mail. A private enterprise might increase its profits by accepting advertising-do you want an ad smeared onto your first class letter?-and "donations" from corporations to expedite certain mail to certain individuals. A private corporation, such as what some of the right-wing propose, would probably be more concerned with shareholder dividends than customer service. To maximize profits, the executive staff might resort to another private enterprise way to maximize profits by outsourcing the mail delivery to exploited workers in a third world nation.
     Although the Constitution mandates a lower postal rate for publications, which the Founding Fathers believed was necessary to further the spread of information, the private corporation or corporations that slice up the delivery of mail might even go as far as to want to repeal that Constitutional clause; after all, second class media mail isn't all that profitable and, far more important, the semi-literates who yell for privatization probably don't think there's a need for all them lib'ral left wing propaganda pieces, like Time and Forbes anyhow.
     The Whackadoodle Wing, which has a morbid fear of anything that wasn't created in the previous century, ironically cackles that the Postal Service is behind the times, that it falls well behind the technology of FedEx, UPS, and Ma Hoggworth's All You Can Eat Diner and Firearms Exchange. The truth is the Postal Service, after lagging behind private industry, has upgraded and modernized its technology, and is adapting to the loss of first class mail revenue, which has been declining for the past decade because mankind took a bite of the Apple.
     Nevertheless, no matter how much efficiency and technology the Postal Service implements in the next decade, it will never match what happened in 1775. That's the year Ben Franklin became the first postmaster general and created what, at that time, was the most efficient system in the world for delivering mail.
     If Franklin could see the country today, he would make a few suggestions to improve the Postal Service that others may not have thought about, but would probably approve what his creation had become. He would also recall the pettiness and politically-based lies that enveloped the Dark Ages of the early 19th century American politics, and might shed a tear of how far political pettiness and hatred had developed in the past decade.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Education Advocates Continue Capitol Sit In

by: John Morgan

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 18:01:18 PM EDT

Public schools in Pennsylvania have lost over $2.5 billion in revenues since Tom Corbett became Governor.  A billion of this was due to his budget cuts and another $1.5 billion has been lost to charter schools.  Charter schools do not have any oversight, regulation or state controls.  Several charter school owners are under investigation or indictment for fraud and embezzelment and charter school students do not have to take PSSA tests.  Teachers don't have to be certified and cyber charter schools which have drastically lower costs get the same amount of funding per student as brick and mortar public schools are suffocating our public education system.

Education advocates are fed up and have been conducting a sit-in at the Capitol since last week.  Over the weekend they were on the steps out front while the building was closed.  House Republicans have passed a smoke and mirrors budget which isn't balanced because it relies on revenues which won't exist.  The Governor is holding public school students and teachers hostage to his demands that the budget gut teacher pensions.

Pensions have been a negotiated part of teacher compensation plans and school districts have contracted to pay these in lieu of higher wages.  Remember that teachers are substantially underpaid for college graduates (and many have advanced degrees).  These fixed rate pensions have offset some of that wage gap.  The state has neglected to fund these pensions for years and now that the piper is come calling the Governor's solution is to cheat these public service sector workers.  Worse, his solution will only cause higher pension costs down the road. To fund two separate pension systems at once and having to eventually pay vast amounts to the old system as new teachers stop paying into it will be disastrous for future budgets.

The same for Corbett's demand to privatize the state store system.. In return for a one time infusion of cash (which would be far lower than he projects) the state will then lose half a billion dollars every year thereafter.  That is the profit these stores earn for us annually and which goes straight into the general fund.  That lost half billion will only make future budgets harder to balance and force tax increases.  This is especially tough for those of us who don't drink.  Why should I pay higher taxes rather than have those who do drink contribute profits voluntarily?

Neither idea has the votes to pass the legislature so the Governor is trying to force them through.  His bad economic management has resulted in sharply reduced tax revenues already, for cing this $1.5 billion hole in this year's budget.  Interestingly that corresponds directly tot he $1.5 billion in corporate tax cuts he gave out supposedly to create jobs.  This Republican myth that tax cuts create jobs is outright stupid.  All date shows the opposite.  In Corbett's case his tax cuts for business have resulted in Pennsylvania sinking to 49th in the nation in job creation since he took office.

Let's balance the budget the easy way:  repeal those tax cuts, add an extraction tax on natural gas to fund education and let's restore services for the disabled by taxing smokeless tobacco and e cigarettes and ending the 1% of sales tax business get to keep.  In this day of electronic bookkeeping and electronic funds transfers businesses don't have expenses related to remitting sales taxes.  Closing the Delaware Loophole too would make the state flush.

These education advocates sitting in are getting attention but can they stop this ridiculous budget from going through?  We'll see but meanwhile think seriously about whom you'll vote for this November.  Governor Wolf also needs a good legislature with which to work for the next four years so we can right this ship before it sinks.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Radical SCOTUS Eviscerates Our Rights

by: John Morgan

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 17:26:18 PM EDT

The radical right control of the Supreme Court turned the nation sharply right again today with its two final decisions of the term.  Both 5-4 votes they eviscerated more of our rights.  In the Hobby Lobby case they determined that closely held companies have the right to impose their extreme religious beliefs on their employees health care coverage.  The small, family owned stores decided they didn't want to comply with the ACA mandate that their health care cover their employees birth control.  99% of all American women use birth control at some point in their lives.  Many use it because they could die if they get pregnant.  Women have been dying during birth since the dawn of man.  It isn't a matter of choice for these women, it means life or death.

The Supreme Court decided today that their right to life is trumped by their employer's radical religious agenda.  This opens all sorts of slippery slope consequences as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.  If your employer in such a company doesn't believe in immunizations, blood transfusions or other common medical practices they now have the right to impose those beliefs on you, their employee.  Be very careful if your employer is a Christian Scientist:  they don't believe in medical care for anything.  These folks actually allow their children to die of common viruses rather than seek treatment.

Now, when you interview for a job you'd better ask hard questions about your potential employer's religious beliefs before accepting employment offers.  I imagine this decision will make it very hard for such companies to attract and keep good employees.  I certainly hope so.  The rest of us need to be sure never to transact business with them.

In the second case home health care workers represented by SEIU in Illinois sued because they want to freeload on the system by accepting the negotiated benefits the union gets for them without paying union dues in return.  SCOTUS said they don't.  This decision is a significant loss for unions.  These workers, who are earning higher wages because SEIU negotiated them now don't have to pay dues to SEIU in return for this largesse.  This makes them freeloaders.

Elections have consequences and who we elect President has a direct effect on our everyday lives due to such radical right wing decisions by five Supreme Court Justices.  Chief Justice John Roberts (GW Bush appointee), Samuel Alito (likewise GW Bush), Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Thomas have shoved the nation far rights with sweeping decisions the past few years.  Worse, the two GW Bush Justices are quite young and could serve for decades.  Scalia and Thomas are getting long in the tooth and we have to hope they either die soon or decide to retire.  That isn't likely until, if ever, a Republican gains the Oval Office again.  It is imperative to restore balance to the Court before these five drive America into third world status.  Or before a populist revolution takes their heads.  I'd be very fearful of that latter possibility if I were them or the Koch brothers.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Senate Committee Says Pigeon Shoots are Animal Cruelty

by: John Morgan

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 18:20:14 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

 HARRISBURG, Pa.--The Pennsylvania State senate may vote on a bill this week that will make it a first degree misdemeanor to kill a cat or dog "for the purpose of human consumption." The penalty is a fine of $1,000-$10,000 and a maximum imprisonment of five years. Attached to the bill is an amendment proposed by Rep. John Maher (R-Upper St. Clair) to finally end the decades-old practice of organized live pigeon shoots. The amendment was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Willow Grove), the committee chair; and Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Chambersburg).
     Following a second reading on Friday, the bill was scheduled for a vote, Sunday evening, but was delayed because the Senate is still grappling with the 2014-2015 budget bills, due by July 1.
     The Judiciary committee, Thursday, had voted 9-5 for the amendment, and 10-4 to send the bill to the full Senate. Voting against the bill to ban killing and eating dogs and cats, and to ban pigeon shoots, were Sens. John H. Eichelberger Jr. (R-Hollidaysburg ), John R. Gordner (R-Berwick), Gene Yaw (R-Williamsport), and Joseph B. Scarnati III (R-Brockway), the Senate president pro tempore. Gordner later claimed he voted against the bill because he objected to how the amendment was added at the "last minute." However, the amendment, following long-time Senate rules that have applied to legislation for decades, had been circulated to members at least 24 hours before the vote. In the committee meeting, Gordner did not speak out about what he considered to be a problem with "last minute" amendments, and quietly voted "no" on a voice vote. Sen. John C. Rafferty (R-Collegeville) had voted against the pigeon shoot amendment, but voted to send the full bill, with amendment, to the Senate. Also voting to send the bill to the Senate were all five Democrats and five of the nine Republicans.
     The vote to advance the bill came following a furious last-minute lobbying effort by the NRA, which has consistently supported pigeon shoots. The leadership, as opposed to most of the membership, wrongly believes that banning animal cruelty by guns is a "slippery slope" that not only violates the Second Amendment but will lead to gun control bans. Pennsylvania is the last state where pigeon shoots are legally held.
     "The Judiciary committee took the first step to ending this horrifying and cruel practice," says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who has been campaigning to end this practice for almost three decades. "The public favors replacing live pigeons as targets with clay pigeons," says Prescott, who does not oppose trap or skeet shoots.
     More than three-fourths of all Pennsylvanians want to see an end to pigeon shoots, according to a statewide survey by the independent Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Co. About four-fifth of all residents say the practice is animal cruelty.
Organizers of this blood sport place pigeons-many of them emaciated-into small cages, and place people with 12-gauge shotguns only about 20 yards away. The spring-loaded traps open, and the shooters open fire. Most of the birds are shot standing on their cages, on the ground, or flying erratically just a few feet from those who pretend they are sportsmen.
     Even at close range, the shooters don't kill the birds. About three-fourths of them suffer a lingering death, according to data compiled by the HSUS. If the birds fall within the shooting range, teenagers will get the birds, wring their necks, stomp on their bodies, and usually stuff them into a barrel; some of the birds will slowly die from asphyxiation in the barrel.
     The teenagers and the clubs that sponsor the shoots consider the birds to be litter. Birds that do not fall on the shooting fields will fly into rivers, streams, and private property, to die a lingering and painful death. Most cannot be saved by HSUS animal rescue staff.
     At some of the shoots, as many as 5,000 birds will be killed or wounded. The remaining shoots, all in southeastern Pennsylvania, are also marked by an excess of drinking and illegal gambling, none of which is enforced by state police.
     Shoot organizers have also been accused, but never brought to trial, for assault and threats against civil protestors from SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), humane societies, and others. DAs in Berks and Bucks counties, adjacent to Philadelphia, have refused to pursue citations filed by humane police officers, who have charged individuals with animal cruelty.
     Pigeon shooting, despite what the NRA and the shoot organizers claim, is not a sport. The only time it was considered a sport was in the 1900 Olympics. Following that competition, the International Olympic Committee declared pigeon shooting was animal cruelty, and banned it from the Olympics.
     Most hunters agree that organized pigeon shoots are a scar upon legitimate hunting. The Pennsylvania Game Commission declared pigeon shoots not to be fair- chase hunting. The birds cannot be used for meat, nor are their feather useful for any commercial enterprise.
     For more than three decades, leaders of the Pennsylvania legislature, most of whom have received funds from the NRA political action committee, have blocked passage of previous bills to ban pigeon shoots. Tom Corbett, in his successful campaign for governor in 2010, received $4,500 in direct contributions and almost $390,000 in in-kind contributions from the NRA Political Victory Fund. The last time a free-standing vote came up was in the House in 1989.
     In addition to the Humane Society of the United States and SHARK, both of which the NRA calls radical extremist organizations, supporting the end of pigeon shoots are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
           [Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and author of 20 books, the most recent, Fracking Pennsylvania.]

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

News & Notes June 25, 2014

by: John Morgan

Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:04:42 AM EDT

Pennsylvania isn't doing our part in preserving the Chesapeake Bay.  This vast estuary is a favorite for many in south central PA.  So much so the locals in northern Maryland refer to them as the "Pennsylvania Navy" coming down every weekend.  Now Sen. Toomey along with four Members of the PA Congressional delegation (including Rep. Scott Perry from the south central region) have signed on to a protest of new restrictions on pollution.  How shameful.

Tom Corbett is so disliked he can't even congratulate Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins without getting booed.

In the "not exactly a news flash" segment natural gas money is pouring into Gov. Gasbag's re-election campaign.  Of course that's why I nicknamed him that four years ago.

Fortunately there is one man willing to balance those scales a bit.

In other fracking news retired state Health Department workers claim the Corbett Administration silenced them about the health dangers of fracking.

"There was a list of buzzwords we had gotten," Stuck said. "There were some obvious ones like fracking, gas, soil contamination. There were probably 15 to 20 words and short phrases that were on this list. If anybody from the public called in and that was part of the conversation, we were not allowed to talk to them."

In yet more bad news for Corbett the Kane investigation into his management (as AG) of the Sandusky investigation revealed total incompetence.  Because the Attorney General's office essentially sat on the investigation for a couple of years more boys were molested.  A search warrant after the first complaint was filed and police began investigating the former coach would have revealed the extent of his behavior.  Though it was concluded that no evidence of political calculations were involved in the delays it was political because the delays were caused by his overtly political prosecutions of BonusGate.

I'm not saying those who used state resources for political efforts shouldn't have been prosecuted, they should have, but the manner in which Tom Corbett did it was very political.

President Obama finally took steps against Uganda for human rights violations against LGBT persons.  Certain Ugandan leaders are now barred from entering the U.S. and:

The Obama administration will also discontinue or redirect funds for programs with the Ugandan Police Force, the Ugandan Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute. The White House also cancelled an American-sponsored "aviation exercise" in the East African country. -  

Sen. Toomey was also targeted by members of Keystone Progress recently:

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran beat his Tea Party challenger in a run off election yesterday.

The United Methodist Church reinstated the credentials of Pastor Frank Schaeffer of Lebanon.  The Appeals Court over ruled the trial outcome following Schaeffer's officiating at his son't gay marriage ceremony.

In other gay news Allegheny County has adjusted its benefits policy to cover same sex partners and spouses.

Isn't it interesting that almost all actual voter fraud is perpetrated by Republicans?  22 states have now restricted voting rights, mostly for Democratic voters, based on claims of widespread voter fraud.  Perhaps Wisconsin Gov. Scott walker should explain how his supporters cheated in his recall election.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

News and Notes June 23. 2014

by: John Morgan

Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 13:44:19 PM EDT

PA Dems re=elected Jim Burn to a four year term as Chair Saturday.  I've lost all respect for the man after he refused to step aside for Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf's choice.  Much as I dislike Katie McGinty and all the energy money she takes she was his choice to lead the Party in November's general election, a privilege most Governor candidates get to make.  I went kayaking instead of going to Camp Hill.  I'm sick and tired of being kicked out of Democratic Party "open" meetings while to give them coverage and get stories.  It's a waste of my time and money.

I've written about Social Security for years, always pointing out that it has nothing to do with the deficit.  In fact the federal government owes Social Security trillions of dollars, not the other way around.  Regardless Republicans have cut its budget to the extent that they're being forced to close offices.  Now many seniors will have to drive (if they can) longer distances to obtain benefits they've paid for over many years.

President Obama issued an Executive Order last week providing employment discrimination against LGBT persons by any federal contractor.  Kudos.

Now we have to pass an ENDA bill nationally and here in Pennsylvania.  No person should be evicted or refused service at a business due to their real or perceived sexual orientation.  From the ACLU:

House Bill 300 and Senate Bill 300 would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression."

"Even after the historic achievement of marriage equality in Pennsylvania, the struggle for full equality is far from over," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "When Pennsylvanians go to work, they expect to be judged based on their performance.

"But LGBT workers in the commonwealth can still be fired simply for who they are. It is past time to pass this bill and bring a greater level of fairness in the workplace, in housing, and in public services."

The PHRA prohibits discrimination in employment, in housing, and in "public accommodations," such as restaurants and hotels. Seventeen states include legal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination laws, and four additional states include protections based on sexual orientation. In Pennsylvania, 34 municipalities have similar ordinances.

The legislation was introduced this legislative session with a record number of co-sponsors from both parties, with 96 co-sponsors in the state House and 25 in the state Senate. Meanwhile, polling again shows more than 70 percent of Pennsylvanians support this type of legal protection.

"The people of the commonwealth support fairness in daily life," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The public is leading the way for lawmakers on this issue."

HB 300 is currently in the House State Government Committee. SB 300 is in the Senate State Government Committee.

According to HHS the Affordable Care Act has saved 15,000 lives and $4 billion in health care spending:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that new preliminary data show an overall nine percent decrease in hospital acquired conditions nationally during 2011 and 2012.  National reductions in adverse drug events, falls, infections, and other forms of hospital-induced harm are estimated to have prevented nearly 15,000 deaths in hospitals, avoided 560,000 patient injuries, and approximately $4 billion in health spending over the same period.

The Affordable Care Act is also helping reduce hospital readmissions.  After holding constant at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011 and decreasing to 18.5 percent in 2012, the Medicare all-cause 30-day readmission rate has further decreased to approximately 17.5 percent in 2013.  This translates into an 8 percent reduction in the rate and an estimated 150,000 fewer hospital readmissions among Medicare beneficiaries between January 2012 and December 2013.

These improvements reflect policies and an unprecedented public-private collaboration made possible by the Affordable Care Act.  The data demonstrates that hospitals and providers across the country are achieving reductions in hospital-induced harm experienced by patients.  These major strides in patient safety are a result of strong, diverse public-private partnerships and active engagement by patients and families, including efforts from the federal Partnership for Patients initiative and Hospital Engagement Networks, Quality Improvement Organizations, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration on Community Living, the Indian Health Service, and many others.

 

I don't understand how some folks who call themselves "pro life" can oppose laws which actually save lives.

The White House is hosting a summit today on working families.  Opening remarks this morning were from Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.  Other participants include SEIU, Claudia Goldin, Economics Professor at Harvard, the Center For American Progress, Rep. Martha Edwards of Maryland, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and closing remarks from the First Lady and Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America.

Meet The Press simply isn't  the show it used to be since David Gregory took over.  I won't even watch it any more.  Sunday he allowed Sen. Paul to repeat debunked lies about Benghazi without challenge.  Shameful journalism.

A scientific study confirms that liberals and atheists are smarter.  I suppose this explains why conservatives don't believe in science.

The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values.  The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years."
"Evolutionarily novel" preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess.  In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are "evolutionarily familiar."

Gov. Corbett says an on time state budget isn't likely to pass by June 30th.  For someone who has ballyhooed the fact he has passed a budget on time every year this is but one more black eye for the vulnerable sitting Governor.  I love the fact he spent $3 million in campaign ads this spring and moved his approval number all the way from 29% to 30%.  Interestingly the Guv has given $1.5 billion in corporate tax breaks intended to create jobs.  Our current fiscal deficit is $1.4 billion.  His tax breaks haven't created any jobs.  We rank 49th in the country in job creation so they obviously aren't working.  Instead of making the state budget worse by privatizing the Wine and Spirit Stores and gutting pensions let's simply repeal those tax cuts.

Meanwhile the Republican Governors Association made an illegal million dollar contribution towards Gov. gasbag's re-election in violation of Pennsylvania election law.  Sheldon Adelson gave the money despite the fact he owns the Sands Casino in Bethlehem.  Casino owners are barred from making political contributions in Pennsylvania.

Radiation from Fukushima continues polluting the Pacific Rim.  Tuna being caught are so radioactive they cannot be consumed.

Surprise, surprise, we're listed as the fifth most corrupt state.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Hansen on the State Senate Ballot

by: John Morgan

Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 13:00:48 PM EDT

Write-in candidate Jack Hansen received 1506 votes for the 24th State Senate District in the election may 20th.  Now certified by all three counties (Bucks, Berks and Montgomery) encompassing the District, he is an official candidate.  Obtaining ballot status this way is more difficult than going through the normal nominating petition process.  It requires 500 write-in votes instead of going door to door (in freezing weather) and simply obtaining signatures.

Bob Mensch is the incumbent Senator there and he's a right wing mess.  Arrested a couple years ago for flashing a gun at another motorist on I-78 in Berks County in a road rage incident he showed his temper.  He didn't think the other driver was going fast enough.  The only thing which can be fast enough about Bob mensch is the thought of him out of office.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Scientists Predict Increased Rain, Floods for Pennsylvania

by: John Morgan

Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 09:37:27 AM EDT

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvanians will experience increased rainfall and floods if data analysis by a Penn State meteorologist and long-term projections by a fisheries biologist, with a specialty in surface water pollution, are accurate.

Paul Knight, senior lecturer in meteorology at Penn State, compiled rainfall data for Pennsylvania from 1895-when recordings were first made-to this year. He says there has been an increase of 10 percent of rainfall during the past century. Until the 1970s, the average rainfall throughout the state was about 42 inches. Beginning in the 1970s, the average began creeping up. "By the 1990s, the increase was noticeable," he says.  The three wettest years on record since 1895 were 2003, 2004, and 2011. The statewide average was 61.5 inches in 2011, the year of Tropical Storm Lee, which caused 18 deaths and about $1.6 billion in damage in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and devastating flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, especially along the Susquehanna River basin.

Dr. Harvey Katz, of Montoursville, Pa., extended Knight's data analysis for five decades. Dr. Katz predicts an average annual rainfall of about 55 inches, about 13 inches more than the period of 1895 to 1975. The increased rainfall isn't limited to Pennsylvania, but extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Both Knight and Dr. Katz say floods will be more frequent. The industrialization and urbanization of America has led to more trees being cut down; the consequences are greater erosion and more open areas to allow rainwater to flow into streams and rivers. Waterway hazards, because of flooding and increased river flow, will cause additional problems. Heavy rains will cause increased pollution, washing off fertilizer on farmlands into the surface water supply, extending into the Chesapeake Bay. Sprays on plants and agricultural crops to reduce attacks by numerous insects, which would normally stay localized, will now be washed into streams and rivers, says Knight.

Pollution will also disrupt the aquatic ecosystem, likely leading to a decrease in the fishing industry because of increased disease and death among fish and other marine mammals, says Dr. Katz.

Another consequence of increased rainfall is a wider spread of pollution from fracking operations, especially in the Marcellus Shale.

Most of the 1,000 chemicals that can be used in drilling operations, in the concentrations used, are toxic carcinogens; because of various geological factors, each company using horizontal fracturing can use a mixture of dozens of those chemicals at any one well site to drill as much as two miles deep into the earth.

Last year, drilling companies created more than 300 billion gallons of flowback from fracking operations in the United States. (Each well requires an average of 3-5 million gallons of water, up to 100,000 gallons of chemicals, and as much as 10 tons of silica sand. Flowback is what is brought up after the initial destruction of the shale.) Most of that flowback, which once was placed in open air pits lined with plastic that can tear and leak, are now primarily placed into 22,000 gallon steel trailers, which can leak. In Pennsylvania, drillers are still allowed to mix up to 10 percent of the volume of large freshwater pits with flowback water.

In March 2013, Carizo Oil and Gas was responsible for an accidental spill of 227,000 gallons of wastewater, leading to the evacuation of four homes in Wyoming County, Pa. Two months later, a malfunction at a well, also in Wyoming County, sent 9,000 gallons of flowback onto the farm and into the basement of a nearby resident.

Rain, snow, and wind in the case of a spill can move that toxic soup into groundwater, streams, and rivers. In addition to any of dozens of toxic salts, metals, and dissolvable organic chemicals, flowback contains radioactive elements brought up from deep in the earth; among them are Uranium-238, Thorium-232, and radium, which decays into radon, one of the most radioactive and toxic gases. Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, after cigarettes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of well samples collected in Pennsylvania and New York between 2009 and 2011 revealed that 37 of the 52 samples had Radium-226 and Radium-228 levels that were 242 times higher than the standard for drinking water. One sample, from Tioga County, Pa., was 3,609 times the federal standard for safe drinking water, and 300 times the federal industrial standard.

Radium-226, 200 times higher than acceptable background levels, was detected in Blacklick Creek, a 30-mile long tributary of the Conemaugh River near Johnstown, Pa. The radium, which had been embedded deep in the earth but was brought up in flowback waters, was part of a discharge from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility, according to research published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Increased rainfall also increases the probability of pollution from spills from the nation's decaying pipeline systems. About half of all oil and gas pipelines are at least a half-century old. There were more than 6,000 spills from pipelines last year. Among those spills were almost 300,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil from a pipe in Arkansas, and 100,000 gallons of oil and other chemicals in Colorado.

Increased truck and train traffic to move oil and gas from the drilling fields to refineries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has led to increased accidents. Railroad accidents in the United States last year accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of the spills were in wetlands or into groundwater and streams.

A primary reason for increased rainfall (as well as increases in hurricanes, tornadoes, ocean water rises, and other long-term weather phenomenon) is because of man-made climate change, the result of increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel extraction and burning. It's not a myth. It's not a far-fetched liberal hoax invented by Al Gore. About 97 percent of the world's climate scientists agree we are experiencing climate change, and that the world is at a critical change; if the steady and predictable increase in climate change, which affects the protection of the ozone layer, is not reduced within two decades, it will not be reversible. Increased rainfall and pollution will be only a part of the global meltdown.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and emeritus professor. He is a syndicated columnist, radio commentator, and the author of 20 books, the latest of which is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the effects of horizontal fracturing. He is a former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor and multimedia writer-producer.]

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Wheatley Not Suitable For State Vice Chair

by: John Morgan

Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 12:05:25 PM EDT

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf has selected Katie McGinty as his choice to lead the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and Rep. Jake Wheatley to be Vice Chair.  Traditionally the sitting Governor or Gubernatorial candidate gets to appoint the State Chair who is then elected by State Committee.  He/she gets to have the team they want going into the general election and on.  Current Chair Jim Burn however is refusing to go quietly and next weekend the PA Dems will wind up fractured because of Burn's decision.

The selection of Wheatley as Vice Chair is interesting due to his anti-public education record and a past felony conviction in Michigan.  From PennLive:

Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., D-Allegheny, pleaded guilty in 1992 to felony larceny and misdemeanor assault charges related to a fight in the parking lot of a Pontiac, Mich., shopping mall when he was 20 years old. He served two years of probation, and two newspapers reported in early 2003 he had the charges expunged shortly before he was sworn in.

He told the New Pittsburgh Courier in 2002 that he threw two punches and took someone's coat, calling it a heated argument that turned into a brawl.

Wheatley, now 38, also was charged with assault on a female in Guilford County, N.C., in 1995, but that charge was dismissed, according to the district attorney's office. A 1996 misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in Guilford County had been "dismissed with leave" in 1998 after Wheatley did not appear in court, said Joe Davis with the Guilford County District Attorney's Office in a recent interview. But on Oct. 27, after the AP raised questions about the case, the charge was fully dismissed, Davis said. Wheatley did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Why is he even in the State House?  Past Supreme Court decisions have determined that anyone convicted of a felony is to be barred from any elected office in the Commonwealth.

Wheatley has also voted for Republican anti-education bills supporting vouchers and, just this week, to deny seniority to teachers in the layoff process.  Republicans in Harrisburg have eviscerated K12 public education to such an extent that Mr. Wolf has a 20-25 point lead over Tom Corbett in the race for Governor.  Allowing our experienced educators to be layed off in spite of their seniority and in violation of negotiated contract agreements is shameful.  Some are already hesitant in supporting Wolf over education issues so backing Jake Wheatley for the post of Vice Chair will only exacerbate those misgivings.

I contacted the Wolf campaign for comment and their decision is to stick with Wheatley.  The Vice Chair must be male if Katie McGinty is Chair and they wanted someone from western PA and someone who could add some diversity to leadership.  They say the Representative is embarrassed by his past but has moved past those times.

Of course not all his transgressions are in the distant past.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The Phillies Are Not Phigments of Imagination

by: John Morgan

Sun Jun 15, 2014 at 15:06:38 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

Newspapers are often a "court of last resort" for our readers whose problems can't be dealt with elsewhere.

Thus, it was no great surprise to receive a letter from a young girl who was confused about the Philadelphia Phillies. In her short life, she had never seen the Phillies.

Her little friends, so she wrote me, said that the Phillies were a figment of her imagination, a team that was made up so that there would be something to anchor the National League basement. She says she was told that sportswriters went along with it because they always wanted to write fiction and needed something to do between calls from irate Little League parents.

Well, Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the cynicism of reporters and the skepticism of a nation with no direction. They think nothing can be that bad unless it was made up. But, Virginia, the truth is that there are Phillies and, unfortunately, they are that bad. But, it wasn't always that way.

The first game ever played in the National League was played in 1876 in Philadelphia. Of course, the Philadelphia team didn't last a season, but if it did, it would have been a great team. In 1883, the Phillies showed up and never left-even if it seems that way now and then. In fact, since 1900, the Phillies have earned six of the top 20 spots of the worst records of any baseball team. That may or may not be why the Phillies tried to disguise themselves under aliases-the Philadelphia Quakers (1883-1889) and the Philadelphia Blue Jays (1943-1949). The Quakers, of course, are a peaceful people who don't believe in battle; blue jays can be vicious. Neither name helped the team.

Your little friends may tell you the only reason the Philadelphia A's and Connie Mack of the American League eventually left the City of Brotherly Love, whoich has the most rabid sports fans in the nation, was because they were tired of competing for tickets against a team that sold about as many tickets for losing as did the A's for winning. But, you must believe that even in losing, the Phillies are real.

Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in their seven league championships, in the Whiz Kids of' '50, or the great collapse of '64 when they were leading the league by six games with just two weeks to go, and then finished in a tie for 2nd. Only a Philly could pull that off. You might as well not believe in the Phillies of '80 who won the World Series, the only time in a century that happened.

Not believe in the Phillies? You'd have to not believe in Mike Schmidt, maybe the greatest third baseman ever; you'd have to forget Garry Maddox, the "secretary of de-fence" who covered the outfield better than snow in February. You'd have to give up believing in Ed Delahanty, the first Philly to enter the Hall of Fame, or Chuck Klein who entered the Hall with a .326 average and statistics that would choke even the Nielsen ratings.

If there were no Phillies, there would have been no Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of baseball's greatest pitchers, who was sold because the owner needed the money. You'd not hear about Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts or Tug McGraw, no Richie Ashburn, Bob Boone or Del Ennis, no Larry Bowa, Granny Hamner, Jim Konstanty, or even "Puddin' Head" Jones. Not believe in the Phillies? You might as well not believe in John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Bunning, Curt Schilling, and Lenny Dykstra.

If there were no Phillies, there'd be nowhere for Jimmy Foxx, Pete Rose, and Dale Murphy to have gone at the end of their careers.

You'd have to forget about managers Dallas Green and Paul Owens. And, you'd have to not believe in Charlie Manuel, the manager with the most wins for the Phillies and who led the team in 2008-the year after it racked up its 10,000th loss in its history-to its second World Series title, only to be fired three years later.

Not believe in the Phillies? How could someone not believe in Harry Kalas, the Voice of the Phillies for almost four decades.

Not believe in the Phillies? You'd have to not believe that owners are poor judges of talent who can take great teams and trade them away, and then spend millions for a pitching staff that proved it could be competitive at the Little League World Series.

Not believe in the Phillies? You'd have to suspend your disbelief that a beer and hotdog can cost $11.50, and the cheapest seat, with a view of-well, actually, nothing-is $20.          Your little friends with their little minds can't comprehend the vastness of a team that is again about a decade or so out of 1st. In this great playing field of ours, we are but mere synthetic fibers on the Astroturf of life, unable to grasp the universe, let alone the origin of the Phanatic.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Phillies. It exists as certainly as injuries, dropped balls, and parking lot jams. No Phillies? Thank God it exists, and will exist forever. A decade from now they may even again win a championship, and continue to make glad the heart of frustrated fans everywhere.

Somewhere, Virginia, the sun is shining bright. But, there is no joy in Citizens Bank Park, for the anemic Phillies have once again struck out.

[Assisting on this column was Francis Church of the New York Sun. Dr. Brasch's latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigative analysis of the economic, political, environmental, and health effects of fracking throughout the country.]

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Pennsylvania Women's Health Caucus Unveils Phase 2 of Legislative Agenda

by: John Morgan

Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 11:33:41 AM EDT

News from Harrisburg:

HARRISBURG, June 3 - Members of the legislature's bipartisan Women's Health Caucus today unveiled the second phase of their "Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health," which includes seven new pieces of legislation.

The caucus is co-chaired by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and Sens. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, and Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

Frankel said, "I'm pleased that we are continuing to build on the original Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health to represent an even wider cross-section of issues and concerns facing women today. This is truly a comprehensive collection of bills based on what women want in regard to their own health and issues we can address to help women in the commonwealth live longer, healthier lives."

Schwank said, "The issues women face, and that are vital to us, our families and our communities, are as different from each other as our faces and lives are. These bills reflect real differences in women's lives. But we need to work on them together because success will improve all our lives."

McIlhinney said, "The purpose of social programs is to help families acquire the basic necessities of life until they can afford to meet these needs on their own, but current program guidelines can make reaching this goal difficult or even impossible when working families lose access to valuable benefits based on minor increases in income. Ensuring access to services such as health care, child care and nutritional assistance is an essential component of protecting the overall health and welfare of women in Pennsylvania."

The bills in phase two of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health include:

·       Patient trust: H.B. 2303, to be introduced by Frankel; Senate version to be introduced by Sen. Mike Stack, D-Phila. This legislation would protect patients and providers from inappropriate, unscientific legislative intrusion into medical decision-making. It would protect the patient-provider relationship from statutory directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with the standard of care.

·       Requiring a "cliff effect" study: S.R. 62, sponsored by McIlhinney, would require the nonpartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the "cliff effect," where working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for various programs that allow them to work such as child care assistance, transportation, food stamps and free and reduced school lunches. The phenomenon often creates disincentives for poor families to achieve self-sufficiency.

·       Creating a task force on women veterans' health care: S.R. 262, sponsored by Sen. LeAnna Washington, D-Phila./Montgomery; House version to be introduced by Reps. Pamela DeLissio, D-Phila./Montgomery, and Kevin Schreiber, D-York. The task force would submit a report by Nov. 30 on health-care issues unique to women veterans, along with the quality of and access to care for women veterans.

·       Increasing Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits: H.B. 2305, sponsored by Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery. This legislation would increase the maximum TANF grant amount to 50 percent of the poverty guidelines published annually in the Federal Registry. Grants to families under the TANF program have not been increased in over 24 years, while inflation has dramatically eroded their buying power.

·       Exempt more earned income from TANF income limits: H.B. 2306, to be introduced by Rep. Michelle Brownlee, D-Phila.; Senate version to be introduced by Schwank. This legislation would raise the exemption from 50 percent to 75 percent to encourage people to work, acknowledging that low-income working families' expenses use up a large percentage of their take-home pay. At the current level, families in Pennsylvania often find themselves in roughly the same spot financially after they start working as they were before they started working, taking into account taxes, transportation, clothing and child care co-payments.

·       Ensuring fair pensions for widows of state and municipal employees: H.Bs. 2307 and 2308, to be introduced by Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks; Senate versions to be introduced by Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila./Montgomery. This legislation would require that a public employee obtain spousal consent for any benefit payment structure that does not provide at least a 50 percent survivor benefit to the employee's surviving spouse. The federal government and 27 states have a spousal consent requirement to protect spouses, usually women, from being blindsided after a spouse's death when they discover that they are not entitled to any of their deceased spouse's pension benefit.

·       Protecting all employees from sexual harassment: H.B. 2300, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh; and S.B. 475, sponsored by Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. These similar bills would end the exemption from state sexual harassment law for those who employ three or fewer people.

Bills from phase one of the Women's Health Caucus agenda that have advanced include:
·       Equitable protections for domestic violence victims: H.B. 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery. This legislation would ban municipal ordinances that penalize crime victims for calling for help. This bill passed the House 197-0 in January but has been delayed by an unrelated issue in the Senate.

·       Stop intimate partner harassment (ban "revenge by invasion of privacy"). The Senate version, S.B. 1167, sponsored by Schwank, passed the Senate 49-0 in January and awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation would ban publishing any photo or video identifying another person, who is naked or engaging in a sexual act, without that person's consent.

More information about the phase-one bills can be found at http://is.gd/PaWomenPhaseOne.

The Pennsylvania Women's Health Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of legislators partnering with interest groups and advocacy organizations seeking to develop and implement legislation and social policy that protects and respects a woman's right to make private, personal medical decisions.

So glad to see my State Senator Judy Schwank making a positive impact in Harrisburg!

Discuss :: (0 Comments)
Next >>
Active Users
Currently 0 user(s) logged on.

Menu

Make a New Account

Username:

Password:



Forget your username or password?


Recent Diaries
Therefore Be It Resolved
by: Jake Gellar-Goad - Jan 20
1 Comments

Pennsylvania Blogs
ACLU PA
PA 2010
Drexel Dems
Kill Gerrymandering In PA
2 Political Junkies
A Big Fat Slob
A Smoke Filled Room
Above Average Jane
Beer Leaguer
A Lehigh Valley POV
Gort42
Carbon County Democrats For Change
PA Labor Movement
PA Dems
Declarations of Pride
Diondega 412
Erie Gay News
Erie Pressible
Fact-esque
Froth Slosh B'Gosh
Future Majority
Green Dog Dem
Jesse White
Keystone Politics
Left Of Centre
Lehigh Valley Ramblings
Pennsylvania Independent
Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates
MainLine Peace Action
Making Sense With Don L
Metroblogging Philadelphia
Montco DFA
NEPArtisan
Harrisburg Politics
Philly Future
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents
Progress Pittsburgh
PSoTD
Suburban Guerrilla
Thomas C Waters
The Liberal Doomsayer
Young Philly Politics
The Lehigh Valley Political Blog
All Spin Zone
PA WaterCooler
Truth, Justice & Peace
Wilkes-Barre Online

State Blogs
The Albany Project
Article XI
AZNetroots
Bleeding Heartland
Blogging For Michigan
Blue Commonwealth
Blue Hampshire
Burnt Orange Report
Buckeye State Blog
Calitics
Prairie State Blue
Square State
My Left Nutmeg
Florida Politics
Forward Kansas
Free State Politics
Hillbilly Report
Indigo Journal
Left In Alabama
Left In The West
Loaded Orygun
Turn Maine Blue
Blue Mass Group
Michigan Liberal
Nebraska Netroots
Minnesota Progressive Project
New Dominion Project
New Nebraska
Blue Jersey
Blue Oklahoma
Show me Progress
Green Mountain Daily
West Virginia Blue
Blog Roll
AmericaBlog
Attytood
Bad Attitudes
Border Jumpers
Inlandz
Bloggernista
Booman Tribune
Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan
Brainshrub
Caffection
Crooks and Liars
Culture Kitchen
Daily Kos
Deer Jane
Delaware Liberal
Down With Tyranny
Firedoglake
Group News Blog
Hullabaloo (Digby)
Feministe
GovernMentality
Kid Oakland
Marisacat
Media Matters
Politics of Mesothelioma
Mid Atlantic Labor Blog
My Left Wing
MyDD
Oliver Willis
Nourishing the Planet
Orcinus
Organized For Once
Open Records
Pandagon
Pam's House Blend
Politico's Ben Smith
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Queah's Blog
Rubber Hose
Senate Guru
Swing State Project
Talking Points Memo
Talk Left
Terrorism News
The Brad Blog
The Gist
The Bilerico Project
The Huffington Post
The Jaundiced Eye
The Quaker Agitator
Think Progress
Iraq Today
Informed Consent
WIMN

Subjects

Powered by: SoapBlox