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The Pennsylvania Progressive

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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!

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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):

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 971 words in story)

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

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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The Business of Wall Street

by: John Morgan

Tue Jun 23, 2015 at 21:42:03 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

     If you don't mind working hard-and partying even harder-why not get a business degree, take a couple of state and federal tests, and become a Wall Street trader?
     These are the people who are the current crop of Gordon Gekkos-you know, the pretend-fictional character portrayed by Michael Douglas in Wall Street. The men spend thousands of dollars on suits, ties, and cocaine. The women spend thousands just to own a closet of Jimmy Choo shoes.
     But their existence is shrouded by a coop they call an office or cubicle. Their tools are multiple phone lines and computer screens.
     The chase for money-and perhaps the excitement in getting people to give up a chunk of their earned income after hearing a finely-tuned pitch-drives these college graduates.
     But, the rewards are high.
     Last year, Wall Street paid $28.5 billion in bonuses. That's an average of $172,000 per person. Some got more. Some less. But, overall, those who worked on Wall Street made, just in bonuses, about $172,000. Summer interns in investment banking earned about $6,000 a month for their summer. The salaries and compensation rise significantly after they get their business degrees and begin a career of the search for the holy grail. In their case, the holy grail is nothing less than a pile of luxuries that the rest of us only know about because of ads in Fortune Magazine.
     Why these people earn 6, 7- and 8-figure incomes is because business and the greed for piling up stock options, not service to mankind, dominates the American workforce. More important, they know they can not just enter the gray area of ethics but step over it; almost none of them were fined or jailed for leading the country into the housing crisis and Great Recession that began near the end of the Bush-Cheney administration.
     Now, let's take a look at the rest of us. The ones who don't get corporate welfare, government bailouts, and golden retirement bonuses.
     Last year, about one million Americans worked full-time for minimum wage. Their combined earnings were about $8 billion. A full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earns about $7.25 an hour. That's about $15,080 a year. The nation's poverty threshold is $11,770. Thus, the worker, if she or he has no dependents, earns only about $12.70 a day more than the poverty guidelines.
     If the worker has one dependent, the poverty guideline is $15,930; thus, the worker is earning less than what the federal government says is a poverty wage.
     Now, let's pretend the employer is generous and pays $10 an hour-that's $20,800 a year. Figure rent, utilities, car expenses to get to the job, car and health insurance, and the usual local, state, and federal payroll deductions, and the worker would have to borrow the funds to go to a movie and buy a soda and popcorn.
     But, business owners say they can't afford to increase minimum wage. It'd ruin the economy they say. It'll bring down capitalism, they claim. $7.25 an hour-maybe even $10 an hour-is fair. But, a minimum wage of $15 an hour-like what Los Angeles recently passed-and which won't take effect for five years-well, that's just unreasonable.
     With the support of the local Chambers of Commerce, employers declare that raising wages would mean an increase in retail prices. What many small business owners don't fully understand is that their customers are usually from the lower- and middle-classes. When wages are depressed, purchasing is diminished. By paying their own employees sub-standard wages, the owners, no matter how good employers they may be, cause fewer purchases for all community businesses.
     For megacorporation retailers, the situation is slightly different, one based upon a corporate philosophy of "maximizing profits" and paying bigger dividends to investors than wages to the people who actually do the work.
     At Walmart, the six Walton family owners have a combined worth of about $160 billion. Management just raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and then complained it was costing $65 million a month. Assume even a $1 billion a year increase for Walmart's workers, that would still leave a net profit of about $15 billion a year.
     McDonald's CEO Dan Thompson earned $9.5 million last year; his full-time workers earn an average of $16,000-$19,000 a year. A pay increase would affect the owners of 30,000 franchise locations, but increase the price of a double quarter-pounder cheeseburger only pennies. Anyone willing to pay $6.79 for a fast-food burger probably won't notice a $6.85 charge.
     A study conducted by Dr. Kathleen Maclay of the University of California revealed that American taxpayers contribute about $7 billion a year in welfare payments to the low-paid workers in the fast-foods industry. In contrast, McDonald's had about $5.7 billion in net profits in 2013.
     Back on Wall Street, brokers and traders would be apoplectic if all corporations improved wages, benefits, and working conditions. There would be less return on investment, and clients might not invest as much. Clients who don't invest as much also means the Wall Street Zoo will receive less income, since much of their own wages are determined by commissions.
     So, Wall Street needs to make sure they hustle customers and keep them pouring money into corporations.
     It's just "good business practices." After all, they and the million-dollar company executives they support deserve it. They studied business in college.

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ObamaCare Is Helping Pennsylvanians

by: John Morgan

Tue Jun 09, 2015 at 17:20:12 PM EDT

The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, is helping Pennsylvanians as the Supreme Court readies a major decision which could eviscerate the health program.  Congressional Republicans filed suit and SCOTUS is prepared to rule on that litigation before the end of this month.  If it rules that subsidies are illegal millions of people could lose the coverage they've now had for a year and a half.

This is such a stupid lawsuit even GOP Sen. John Thune saw fit to condemn and end to the subsidies as he condemned the ACA.  He got pilloried on Twitter for his stupidity but stupidity hasn't prevented millions of Americans from voting these morons into office.  Perhaps what we really need is a plan which prohibits stupid people from running for office.  With all this talk of bringing literacy tests back for voters we should require one for office seekers.

The White House sent this fact sheet today showing how ObamaCare has helped Pennsylvania:

After Health Reform: Improved Access to Care

·         Gallup recently estimated that the uninsured rate in Pennsylvania in 2014 was 10.3 percent, down from 11.0 percent in 2013.

·         Prohibits coverage denials and reduced benefits, protecting as many as 5,489,162 Pennsylvanians who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including 656,877 children.

·         Eliminates lifetime and annual limits on insurance coverage and establishes annual limits on out-of-pocket spending on essential health benefits, benefiting 4,582,000 people in Pennsylvania, including 1,769,000 women and 1,136,000 children.

·         Expands Medicaid to all non-eligible adults with incomes under 133% of the federal poverty level.  153,468 more people in Pennsylvania have gained Medicaid or CHIP coverage since the beginning of the Health Insurance Marketplace first open enrollment period.

·         Establishes a system of state and federal health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, to make it easier for individuals and small-business employees to purchase health plans at affordable prices through which 427,454 people in Pennsylvania were covered in March 2015.

·         Created a temporary high-risk pool program to cover uninsured people with pre-existing conditions prior to 2014 reforms which helped more than 7,106 people in Pennsylvania.

·         Creates health plan disclosure requirements and simple, standardized summaries so 7,586,200 people in Pennsylvania can better understand coverage information and compare benefits.

After Health Reform: More Affordable Care


·         Creates a tax credit to help 348,823 people in Pennsylvania who otherwise cannot afford it purchase health coverage through health insurance marketplaces.

·         Requires health insurers to provide consumers with rebates if the amount they spend on health benefits and quality of care, as opposed to advertising and marketing, is too low.  Last year, 90,485 consumers in Pennsylvania received $5,198,874 in rebates.

·         Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for preventive services like immunizations, certain cancer screenings, contraception, reproductive counseling, obesity screening, and behavioral assessments for children.  This coverage is guaranteed for more than 6,127,383 people in Pennsylvania including 2,511,285 women.

·         Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for 1,801,768 Medicare beneficiaries in Pennsylvania for preventive services like cancer screenings, bone-mass measurements, annual physicals, and smoking cessation.

·         Phases out the "donut hole" coverage gap for 297,058 Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries in Pennsylvania, who have saved an average of $948 per beneficiary.

·         Creates Accountable Care Organizations consisting of doctors and other health-care providers who share in savings from keeping patients well while improving quality, helping 289,927 Medicare beneficiaries in Pennsylvania.

·         Phases out overpayments through the Medicare Advantage system, while requiring Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 85 percent of Medicare revenue on patient care.  Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown by 152,265 to 1,009,759 in Pennsylvania since 2009.

After Health Reform: Improved Quality and Accountability to You

·         Provides incentives to hospitals in Medicare to reduce hospital-acquired infections and avoidable readmissions.  Creates a collaborative health-safety learning network, the Partnership for Patients, that includes 157 hospitals in Pennsylvania to promote best quality practices.

We're not done.  Other legislation and executive actions are continuing to advance the cause of effective, accountable and affordable health care.
This includes:

·         Incentive payments for doctors, hospitals, and other providers to adopt and use certified electronic health records (EHR).  In Pennsylvania more than 53.2 percent of hospitals and 41.8 percent of providers have electronic health records systems.

·         A new funding pool for Community Health Centers to build, expand and operate health-care facilities in underserved communities.  Health Center grantees in Pennsylvania now serve 680,017 patients and received $189,115,545 under the health care law to offer a broader array of primary care services, extend their hours of operations, hire more providers, and renovate or build new clinical spaces.

·         Health provider training opportunities, with an emphasis on primary care, including a significant expansion of the National Health Service Corps.  As of September 30, 2014, there were 208 Corps clinicians providing primary care services in Pennsylvania, compared to 62 clinicians in 2008.


 
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The Politics of Disaster Relief

by: John Morgan

Sat Jun 06, 2015 at 16:57:35 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

     More than 150,000 Texans sent a petition to the White House, demanding the union allow Texas to secede.
     This was not 1861 when Texans wanted out of the union. This was two years ago.
     Among those who threw around the idea of secession was conservative Republican governor Rick Perry, who has re-entered the race for president-not of the Confederate States of America, but of the United States of America.
     About a month ago, the U.S. military announced a two-month long large-scale drill, known as Jade Helm 15, to begin July 15. The training exercise will spread over Texas and four other states.
     But that's not what a large chunk of Texans-and especially a chunk of rabid patriotic right-wing talk show pundits and almost all of the Tea Party believe. They put on their tin foil caps-apparently to stimulate their two brain cells-and determined the military training exercise is a prelude to the U.S. seizing Texas and stripping its citizens of their guns and their Constitutional rights. Not that many of them ever read the Constitution. And, certainly, not federal and Supreme Court decisions.
     They said the military, in civilian clothes, would be blending into the local populations of more than 15 cities in preparation to imposing martial law.
     Normally, when you have paranoia this deep, it's time to allow open admissions to the psychiatric wings of major hospitals. But, the new governor, Greg Abbott, a conservative Republican, like the governor before him-and the governor before him-ordered the Texas National Guard to monitor the exercises to make sure that the damn Yankees didn't emasculate Texas statehood. No one knows how much that decision to mobilize the National Guard will cost Texas taxpayers.
     While complaining about the Invasion, Texas suffered from heavy rains and floods. Almost three dozen died. Hundreds have lost their homes. The Red Cross and numerous disaster relief organizations are in Texas to help. They don't care what the victims' social, religious, or political beliefs are. They care about helping people who need help.
     Gov. Abbot and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz-Texans, Republicans, and on the far right side of conservative politics-have begged for federal assistance, including a large dose of federal funds. Both Cornyn and Cruz had previously voted against giving federal assistance to New Jersey and the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
     President Obama responded quickly, and ordered humanitarian assistance for the people of Texas. That assistance includes significant manpower and federal funds. The President didn't say-like Cornyn and Cruz had once said about New Jersey-there wasn't enough money to help Texas. The President didn't say-like Cornyn and Cruz had once said-that even if there was enough money, they wouldn't vote for assistance until the President yielded to them on a completely unrelated political matter. The President didn't even worry about whether Texans liked him or not, even though a majority of that state's politicians think of him as incompetent, evil, and-horrors!-a firebreathing Muslim who is the anti-Christ deploying forces to take their guns and all their rights. He made sure the people got the help they needed.
     When the people of another state experience tragedy, like the people of New Jersey and Texas did, perhaps Sens. Cornyn and Cruz will remember this is, still, a United States of America, and will not make inane political speeches and block federal disaster funds.
     [Dr. Brasch covered numerous disasters when he was a reporter; after leaving newspapers, he was involved with emergency preparedness and emergency management. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed best-seller Fracking Pennsylvania]

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RIP Beau Biden

by: John Morgan

Sat Jun 06, 2015 at 16:53:40 PM EDT

Delaware bade farewell to one of its own today.  Last weekend Beau Biden, son of VP Joe Biden and a two term Delaware Attorney General, died of brain cancer. The front runner for the Gubernatorial race next year he succumbed to this virulent cancer just short of two years after being diagnosed.  Being a former Delawarean I followed Beau's career ascent with interest.  I've covered his father numerous times as Vice President and Joe was also my U.S. Senator for the 18 years I resided in Newark.  I've always had admiration for the Bidens and Beau looked to have an impressive future.  The fact this cancer robbed us all of him so soon, at age 46, is a loss to all of us.

I have to wonder if his service in Iraq caused his illness.  The use of depleted uranium is causing many illnesses in both American service people and Iraqis.  Biden spent 14 months serving in Iraq with the Delaware Air National Guard.  He signed up for service after 9/11.  He leaves a widow and two children.

President Obama eulogized him today at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington.  The famous Italian Festival begins this week and the sense of revelry will definitely be muted this year.

Delaware is a small family.  Originally the Lower Three Counties of Penns Woods the First State broke off in colonial times and has had its share of remarkable leaders.  Pennsylvania, with 67 counties has lagged behind IMHO.  In a state where everyone knows everyone I recall a time when I was driving north from Dover and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's state car (always identifiable by its license plate Delaware 1) was speeding.  We were going pretty much the same direction and when it pulled into the state Democratic headquarters in Stanton I pulled in behind and commented tot he Governor that her driver (a State Trooper) had been speeding and that it set a bad example.

There aren't a lot of places where you can do something like that.  Gov. Minner was friendly and apologetic and she knew that in such a small state word of something like that could spread quickly and she reprimanded her driver before I departed.

I recall many times seeing Gov. Pete DuPont's Lincoln Town Car on its way to Dover from Wilmington when I was frequently driving the same route down Route 13.  In a big state like ours it's difficult to imagine how intimate politics can be in a place like Delaware.  Joe Biden served the state for 36 years as U.S. Senator and in that time many, many Delawareans were touched by him and his family.  He frequently eats at the Charcoal Chef which also a favorite haunt of my grandparents who lived in Wilmington.  He raised his family after losing his first wife and daughter in a car accident.  I never passed through that intersection (which I did frequently) without thinking about them.

Losing Beau before his time has affected everyone in Delaware and everyone who has lived there for any period of time.  He promised to be someone who might even surpass his father's accomplishments and was well on his way on his own terms.  Not only will Delawareans miss Beau Biden but we all are at a loss for his passing.

My heart goes out to the Biden family.  May Beau rest in peace.

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A Nation of Millennial Entitlements

by: John Morgan

Thu May 28, 2015 at 16:55:16 PM EDT

by Walter Brasch

A student sued Misericordia College because she failed a nursing class. Twice.

She said she suffered psychological problems. Those problems included anxiety, depression, and poor concentration skills.

The college had agreed to allow her to retake the final examination last summer.
It set her up in a stress-free room, gave her extra time to complete the test, and did not provide a proctor. The professor said the student could call her by cell phone. That professor was in another building monitoring another test.

The student again failed the required course.

So now she's suing. She claims the professor didn't answer her numerous cell phone calls. She claims this made it more stressful. She claims it wasn't her fault she failed. It was the professor's fault. The college president's fault. And several others' fault.

So she sued, claiming the college violated her rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

That lawsuit acknowledges she had average to below average grades.

Let's pretend that a federal court agrees with her, and she gets so many accommodations that she now passes that course and somehow earns her nursing degree.

Let's also pretend that when she takes her nursing boards, the state gives her extra time, in a room by herself, without a proctor, makes one available by cell phone to answer questions-and, perhaps, allows her to have whatever notes and textbooks and learning aids she needs to pass that exam.

Assume all this. Now, here's the next question. Would you be comfortable having a nurse who can't handle stress? Who admits she can't concentrate? Who barely passed her college courses and requirements for a license?

Society should make accommodations for persons with disabilities-as long as those disabilities don't directly affect others and reduce the quality of care. Perhaps the student could be a nurse-educator, helping others better understand the need for vaccinations or how to care for young children. If that's the case, why even test for state boards and get the R.N. added to the B.S.N. degree? Perhaps, with psychological help, the student might be able one day to handle the stress of testing and clinical nursing.

Perhaps, the student could become an administrator. But, would nurses be willing to work for someone who suffers stress attacks and has never worked in patient care? Would teachers be willing to work for principals who never taught a class? Would firefighters be willing to take orders from a battalion chief who was never on a fire line or who rescued victims?

There are persons in the health care professions who are blind or deaf or who are paraplegics, and who perform their tasks as well as anyone else. But, almost all of those with physical disabilities probably studied hard, may have even exceeded the expectations and abilities of others who don't have physical disabilities, and are working in areas that don't impact patient care. A neurosurgeon with epilepsy, for example, would be rare, but a medical researcher, psychiatrist, or rheumatologist with epilepsy or mental or physical issues might be highly functional and, possibly, contribute far more than any neurosurgeon.

John Nash, who probably had far more psychological problems than the nursing student, still managed to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton, become a tenured professor at M.I.T., and earn the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on game theory. His story, told in A Beautiful Mind, has a subtle underlying theme-even with his mental issues, he didn't expect society to grant him extraordinary accommodations.

In college, many students resort to excuses to demand special treatment. They complain about the amount of writing required. They complain the professor distracts them because she is too beautiful, too ugly, or wears dated clothes. Black students complain that their White teachers are racist; White students complain that their Black teachers are racist. They claim to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and gobble adderall as if it were M&Ms, taking away time that teachers, counselors, and physicians can work with those who truly have ADHD and who, for the most part, don't use that diagnosis as an excuse.

In a grade-inflated environment, where a "B" is now the "new average," propped up by many professors not holding to rigorous academic standards and the college more interested in pleasing parents, who pay the tuition and fees than in enforcing rigorous academic standards, the student graduates. Perhaps we need to ask who might be more valuable to society-a plumber, an electrician, or a farmer, against an unemployed English major who can write compositions about ethereal subjects or a lawyer whose goal is to amass thousands of billable hours and a country club membership on the way to a partnership.

Our society is saturated with people with college degrees who complain they didn't get the "A" they wanted, and now whine it isn't their fault they have so much debt and no job.

Many of our millennial children believe they are entitled to have what they believe their needs are. After all, the media skewer them with ads, photos, and stories of people who "have it all." Isn't it just logical for teens and those in their 20s to hear the siren call from the media and want the bling that others have?

When all the ephemera are stripped away, we are left with a college generation that believes they are entitled to that high grade, that job, that upscale lifestyle.

Somewhere, there might even be a clinical nurse whose own problems, or perceived problems, affect someone's health.

[Dr. Brasch was an advocate for the mentally and physically disabled, long before he had to use a handicapped parking placard. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.]

 

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