Herr Slams Pitts for Honoring Alleged Wiretapper

Congressional candidate Lois Herr went after Joe “He’s the” Pitts today for his affection towards James O’Keefe.  This is the “journalist” claiming “the truth will set me free” after being arrested trying to wiretap the phones of Sen. Landrieu.  O’Keefe previously made undercover videos of various ACORN offices including one in Philadelphia where they threw him out.  Funny how that one never made Fox News.

I’m disappointed Mr. O’Keefe picked on the Senator’s office in New Orleans instead of ACORN headquarters.  Why go to the Crescent City and ignore his favorite people?  I can only imagine how the ACORN folks might have dealt with this man who pretended to be a pimp at their Baltimore office.  He may have discovered what happens to bad pimps…

Last November Congressman Pitts (PA-16), a long standing member of the subversive group The Family, co-sponsored a resolution honoring James O’Keefe.  Oops, in hindsight maybe that wasn’t a good idea.

Lois’ letter today to Mr. Pitts:

The Honorable Joseph Pitts

United States Congress

420 Cannon House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Pitts:

Like almost all Americans, I was disturbed and appalled by the news yesterday that James O’Keefe and three others had been arrested by the FBI for attempting to wiretap Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans.  Sen. Landrieu is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

As you certainly know, O’Keefe was the mastermind behind salacious “hidden-camera” tapes made at affiliates of a community organization last year.  In the tapes, he posed as a pimp, accompanied by a woman posing as a prostitute, in attempts to entrap employees of ACORN.  It has since been revealed that Mr. O’Keefe’s released tapes of these encounters were heavily doctored, and that his activities have been underwritten by a shadowy group of ultra-conservative funders.

According to the FBI, O’Keefe and his confederates “told a member of Senator Landrieu’s staff that they were telephone repairmen, and they requested access to the main telephone at the reception desk.”  After being directed to the General Services Administration’s office in the same building, they attempted to gain access to the building’s phone closet.  The felony charges against O’Keefe carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

I am certain you are aware of Mr. O’Keefe, because two months ago, you co-sponsored a House resolution (H.Res 809, http://thomas.gov/cgi-bin/quer… honoring Mr. O’Keefe for displaying “exemplary actions” and stating that he was “owed a debt of gratitude by the people of the United States.”

At this point, it is important to the people of Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District that you clarify your position on Mr. O’Keefe and his activities by answering the following questions:

Do you agree with the sponsor of House Resolution 809, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), who yesterday said yesterday that O’Keefe is still worthy of praise, despite the serious charges against him?

Do you believe H.Res 809 should be withdrawn?  Do you regret or repudiate your co-sponsorship of it?

Will you condemn those such as Andrew Breitbart, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, who raised money to further O’Keefe’s activities?

Do you agree that if these charges are borne out against Mr. O’Keefe and his confederates, they constitute no less a potential breach of national security than if the perpetrators were agents of a foreign power or terrorist group?

Do you agree that if these charges are borne out against Mr. O’Keefe and his confederates, they constitute no less an assault on democratic institutions than the Watergate activities of Richard Nixon’s Administration in the 1970s?

Rep. Pitts, I believe you are an honorable man and a patriot who loves his country.  Please join me in condemning in the strongest possible terms any attempt to subvert any part of our government.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Lois Herr, PA-16

I’m betting Lois doesn’t get a response.

Health Reform Needed to Lower Costs, Bring Peace of Mind

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a member of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN). Today, PHAN put out a news release responding to an anti-health reform rally at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Read below and please pass it on.

HARRISBURG, PA (January 27, 2010) – Health care reform is needed to rein in unsustainable costs and give hardworking Pennsylvanians greater freedom to care for their families and themselves, according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN).

Members of PHAN, a coalition of 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania, addressed the need for health reform, while several Pennsylvania state representatives and their supporters staged an anti-reform rally at the Pennsylvania Capitol Wednesday. The rally promoted state legislation that would hamper federal reform efforts from taking hold in the Commonwealth.

Without health reform, many more Pennsylvanians and their families will join the ranks of the uninsured, as the economy stagnates, people search for work and health care costs continue to rise.

“It’s getting tougher to afford quality health care, no matter how hard we work, even when we take responsibility for our health and make good decisions for ourselves and our families. But we can build on our health care system with uniquely American ideas to provide quality, affordable health care for everyone,” said Georgeanne Koehler of Pittsburgh, a member of SEIU who has worked to pass health reform. Her brother, Billy Koehler, after losing his job and his health insurance, died last March because he couldn’t afford to replace a heart defibrillator battery.

Over the past decade, nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians have lost employer-sponsored health insurance, sending more people onto public health plans or forcing them to join the ranks of the uninsured. U.S. Census Bureau data put the current uninsured rate in Pennsylvania at 1.2 million – a jump from 8.3% of the state population in 2000-01 to 9.7% in 2007-08.

More Pennsylvanians would have found themselves uninsured were it not for public coverage options, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Between 2000-01 and 2007-08, the share of the Pennsylvania population with coverage through Medicaid and CHIP grew from 10% to 14.3%.

“Many faith groups continue to urge members of Congress to keep up the current effort for meaningful health reform,” said Rev. Amy Reumann, Director of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania and a member of PHAN. “We believe reform remains necessary to address some of the deep problems with our current health system. Reforming health care is a moral issue as long as people continue to die needlessly for lack of access to care and others remain uninsured and without necessary health services.”

Health reform will allow Pennsylvanians to choose the private health plan that works best for them at an affordable cost. Providing affordable coverage to the uninsured is also the first step to reducing health system costs. Right now, the cost of treating uninsured patients – who go to hospitals when they are sicker and more costly to treat than those with insurance – adds to the cost of insurance premiums. A basic insurance plan will provide uninsured Pennsylvanians with access to preventive care that will save money as well as lives.

“Health care reform bills that have passed the U.S. House and Senate will also pay for themselves and reduce the deficit over the next 10 years,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Important insurance market reforms, like ending coverage bans for pre-existing conditions, are also needed, Ward said.

“Insurance companies should not be able to deny you coverage when you get sick or refuse you care because of your age,” she said. “Health care reform will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you will always have quality, affordable health care – no matter what happens with your job or your health.”

Seniors will also benefit from reforms aimed at expanding Medicare to cover more preventive health procedures and closing the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription drug coverage.

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) is a coalition of 50 groups from across the Commonwealth working to improve access to quality health care through the expansion of health insurance coverage. Learn more at www.pahealthaccess.org.

News & Notes January 27, 2010

Lots of things happened this week while I was chasing around the state covering campaigns.  I hope you enjoy the videos, there’s some good stuff to watch.  I like doing the videos because you get to see and hear the candidates instead of just my take on them.  You’re seeing what I’m seeing.

Two Pennsylvanians will be in the First Lady’s box this evening for the big SOTU speech.  Jeffrey Brown from Philadelphia owns ten Shop Rite supermarkets.  Tina Dixon from Allentown works at the Lehigh Valley Health Network.  She met the President when he visited Allentown last month.

Former “Loyal Bushie” Tom Marino will run for Congress in the 10th.  This is Chris Carney’s seat and the man whom Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales directed as U.S. Attorney will run in the GOP primary.  We know the prosecutors who weren’t fired (including Marino, Pat Meehan and Mary Beth Buchanan) survived because they did the Bush Administration’s dirty work.

Gregg Kravitz has left Manan Trivedi’s Congressional campaign to run against Babette Josephs for the State House.  I have relatives in this district and love the work Babette does for us in Harrisburg.  I see no need for any Democrat to challenge her.  She’s an especially devoted supporter of the LGBT community.

Sec. Ray LaHood announced more grant money for Pennsylvania.  Red Rose Transit in Lancaster receives $2.45 million in stimulus funds for a facility renovation and expansion project.  It is imperative we invest in mass transit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Sandra Day O’Connor and the Green Party have weighed in recently on the disastrous Citizens United decision by an activist conservative court.  The former Justice says it will threaten judicial independence and the Greens issued a statement calling for a constitutional amendment affirming that “We the People” means humans and not corporations.  The Greens say the ruling will make the Republican and Democratic Parties “into subsidiaries of top corporations.”  Gee, I thought they already were.

Communities and organizations continue to offer possible debates for Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak.  Joe is willing Arlen isn’t.  The latest poll puts Specter 14 points  behind Pat Toomey.  He beat Toomey six years ago by pivoting to the right.  This year he’s trying to outflank Joe Sestak to the left.  If he wins in May and pivots right again will his head wind up spinning completely off from his neck?  That could result in some wicked whiplash folks.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced its latest Races to watch list.  It includes three contests here in Pennsylvania, the 6th, 7th and 15th Districts.  We all know the open Sestak seat and Gerlach’s 6th are in play but John Callahan’s prodigious fundraising in the Lehigh Valley finally has that seat in play.

Beau Biden decided not to run for the Senate in Delaware.  Our southern neighbor was counting on the VP’s son to make a bid to succeed his father.  In what is developing as a very bad year for Democrats this was a wise decision.  

Teabaggers are rallying in Harrisburg against government health care.  Andy Hoover of the ACLU Tweets that he saw several elderly Americans holding signs protesting government health care.  What are the odds they’ve renounced their Medicare?  I wouldn’t take that bet after doing this interview in Lebanon last August.

Republican Rep. Baker is already sponsoring a bill in Harrisburg to exempt Pennsylvania from national health care reform.  I hope he doesn’t have any uninsured or underinsured constituents.  Maybe he can pay their medical bills with his WAM or per diems.

The PA House voted yesterday to ban handheld cell phone calling and texting while driving.  I’d have posted on my way home from Harrisburg but Josh Shapiro would have killed me for testing while driving.

On a similar front the House Judiciary Committee says “sexting” should be a misdemeanor instead of a felony.  The argument that teens shouldn’t be scarred with a felony record for being stupid is a tough one with which to argue.

Congressman Joe Wilson is doing the Facebook response to the President’s speech tonight.  Rumor has it he already finished the two word rebuttal.

ACORN is all upset about James O’Keefe’s arrest trying to bug Sen. Landrieu’s office.  Yes, they are shedding tears in New Orleans because they’d been hoping to catch him on their premises and show him what pimps really do.

Health inspectors revisited the Capitol cafe today and found more problems.  More rodent droppings remain.  What did they expect when the only rodents they evicted were the four legged types?  I’m waiting for Gene Stilp to trade in his pink pig for a giant rat and a sign “rats for sale” which he’ll erect in front of the Capitol.

The New York Times has an article on the Specter/Sestak/Toomey Senate race, published yesterday.  I was interviewed for this piece.

Journalism’s Role in Educating Africa About What it Eats

This is the second in a two-part series of my visit to Africa Harvest in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Daniel Kamanga, the Director of Communications of Africa Harvest, and former journalist, says that journalism in Africa has to overcome many challenges, including a general lack of coverage on agriculture issues-let alone a deeper understanding about who is funding agricultural development in Africa. “No one knows who Bill [Gates] is in Africa,” lamented Kamanga. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the biggest and most influential funders of agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. (See Filling a Need for African-Based Reporting on Agriculture).

“You can’t have a revolution in Africa if people aren’t briefed,” says Kamanga, referring to the call for a Green Revolution in Africa by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Although agriculture makes up about 98 percent of the economy in Kenya, it’s barely covered in the country’s newspapers. And there are not any agricultural editors at any of the newspapers on the entire continent.

But it’s not just a question of reporters having more knowledge, according to Kamanga. It’s also a matter of compensation. African journalists are typically paid very little compared to journalists in other countries. In Burkina Faso, reporters receive just 160 dollars per month. As a result, many journalists see bribes as a way to supplement their income.

Yet with newspaper and media consolidation, fierce competition for advertisers, and lackluster economic conditions in Africa and all over the world, it’s a trend that might only get worse.

Joe Hoeffel Launches Bid for Governor’s Mansion

Joe Hoeffel launched his campaign for Governor yesterday by visiting Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.  I attended the event in the Capitol Rotunda where he was joined by an array of State Representatives and introduced by Kate Michelman.  It’s actually easier for me to travel to Harrisburg (and much cheaper to park) than Philadelphia.  My journey to City Hall reminded me why I rarely go to Philly to cover events.  Between the Schuylkill Expressway and sky high parking rates I’ll opt for the ride to Harrisburg any time.  I did miss the Lincoln University Marching Drumline however.

I’ve covered Joe Hoeffel for several years.  He is a real, actual progressive instead of one who may be pretending to be so for political calculation.  Joe has been there for us for years and has a strong, clear record on our issues.  The fact he chose Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro Choice America, to introduce him goes to his solid credentials as a strong advocate for women.

The remainder of the event is below the fold…

Is The AFL-CIO/White House Healthcare Compromise Dead?

A few weeks ago labor leaders met with President Obama and worked out a compromise which didn’t really sound very good for workers but was, probably, the best labor could do.  To review, Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the rich to pay for true health care reform.  After relinquishing the issue to the conservative, corporate owned Senate the bill which emerged, with the President’s support, taxes working families instead.  The AFL-CIO was livid after organizing their massive rank and file to campaign for Obama because it was John McCain who advocated taxing working people for health care.

The health insurance reform which emerged is,as I’ve written here, a very bad plan which will come back to haunt Democrats.  The 40% tax on union health plans will never materialize to pay for the subsidies.  Companies and individuals will water down their coverages to avoid paying such a heinous tax rate.  This will result in more, not less, medical bankruptcies, sorrow and death along with continued foreclosures due to unpaid medical expenses.  Guess who rightfully will get the blame for this?  Yes, Democrats.  Labor leaders sat down with the President and worked out a compromise after the bills were passed.

The problem now is Massachusetts.  Scott Brown was elected to Ted Kennedy’s former seat on the promise of being the 41st vote to filibuster the health insurance bill and, thusly, kill it.  Since the AFL-CIO deal was ironed out after the bill’s passage there seems no way to go back and insert its provisions into the bill.  None of the possible scenarios to pass a bill include any method for incorporating the compromise.  It appears to me that labor is screwed.

Fox’s Undercover Videographer Caught Tapping Phones

Four men were caught trying to tap the telephones in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s New Orleans office.  One is James O’Keefe, famous for making the illegal undercover video of ACORN last year for Fox News.  It is a federal crime to attempt to tap a Senator’s telephones in an official Senate office. It is widely believed that O’Keefe was hired by Fox to make the undercover videos for the network which ran them ad nauseum and just about destroyed an organization doing amazingly good things for the poor.  Republicans don’t like ACORN because it is highly effective and registers thousands of African American voters.

If O’Keefe is tied to Fox News in this case it may well be the demise of the Republican propaganda channel.  This could be as bad as Watergate, a scandal which began similarly when a group of hapless “burglars” tried tapping the phones of the DNC.

Dow-Ford Will Challenge Holden in PA-17

Sheila Dow-Ford told me this afternoon she is, indeed, going to challenge Tim Holden in the Democratic primary for the 17th Congressional District.  The attorney and education advocate was in the Capitol for Joe Hoeffel’s Gubernatorial announcement and we had a few minutes to chat.  Holden has a record which is far from acceptable for a Democrat and his close allegiance tot he Blue Dog coalition has encouraged him to vote to torture human beings and to vote NOT to provide human beings with health care.  Holden cites as justification for his inhumane attitudes the fact illegal immigrants might actually gain access to medical care, even in dire life and death situations, and he is categorically opposed to such subhumans being treated humanely.  People like Tim Holden don’t deserve to sit as a Member of the House of Representatives, especially as Democrats.

I understand some Democrats will be upset and believe this will give the 17th seat to State Senator Dave Argall.  So be it.  Members of Congress don’t get our votes and our support by fiat, by the fact they belong to any political party, or because they feel entitled.  Congress isn’t an entitlement program.  These people are accountable for their actions and their votes.  Tim Holden has established a record of voting against us on critical issues, a lack of any core set of moral beliefs, and a disdain for anyone who dares disagree with his votes.   He doesn’t deserve our support.

Sometimes it is necessary to look at the big picture.  If we keep enabling bad behavior guess what we’ll keep getting?  Bad behavior.  Defeating Congressman Holden will send a clear message to other Democrats, a message desperately needed to be sent, that they ARE accountable to us.  That they throw us over the cliff at their peril, that if they refuse to listen we will defeat them.

Dow-Ford visited the Kutztown Area Democratic Club January 10th and I wrote this article about her and included video.

Spending Freeze is Bad Policy, Bad Politics

President Obama went on TV and said he thinks a focus too much on policy and not process is the Democrats’ problem with voters.  As usual Democrats have it wrong.  This is why they keep getting voted out of office: they don’t understand how to govern and always screw it up.  Good policy is always good politics provided you can get that message to the public.  Obama has failed at this task and the voters don’t understand why his policies are good and necessary.  He has failed to speak with them about his objectives and convince them of the essential nature of his economic program.  Instead he is switching to bad policy.  Ask the GOP how bad policy affected them in November 2008.

We’re in a deep recession.  Some call it the Great Recession but I call it the Bush Recession because we must remind the people who caused this catastrophe.  This is called “messaging.”  Democrats might want to try it sometime.  In a severe downward economy business aren’t spending and consumers aren’t spending.  Spending stimulates the economy and if done well spreads dollars throughout to many others.  For example a grant is provided for road construction.  That contractor pays his workers who, in turn, spend their paychecks at the market, for the plumber, maybe for a new car.  Now the grocer, plumber and car dealer have dollars they use to pay their workers and, perhaps, get an electrician to fix those shorts in their dens, buy a new refrigerator, or take a short vacation to the Poconos.  Now those people have dollars they spend and on and on.  All this stems from that original spending by the government.

In a downturn the government is the spender of last resort, they are the prime for the economic pump to use a good analogy.  When the pump runs dry someone has to prime it to get water flowing again.  Money in the economy works exactly the same way.  Businesses can’t spend, partly due to bankers more interested in their own massive wealth than providing credit, consumers don’t spend because they aren’t working or are terrified of losing their jobs, and the government is the only remaining sector able to prime the pump.

President Obama is now going to turn off the pump.  After priming it successfully for the last year he is going to submit to political pressure from Republicans and fringe elements and try to bring the federal budget into a little control.  This is exactly the opposite of what good economics demands and it will result in a new, deeper recession which will be his and his alone.

Granted there was little long term strategic planning for last year’s stimulus.  There was no time for that due to the urgency of the emergency.  Money and grants went where they delivered the biggest bang for the buck and began priming the pump.  More could have been done but the President and Democrats in Congress traded more stimulus for Republican support which never materialized.  For some reason Democrats are like Charlie Brown.  No matter how many times Lucy promises she won’t yank the football away he always for her spiel.  Democrats keep diluting good policy and making it weak because they fall for the GOP’s promises of support.  Each time they, again, yank the ball away.

The situation is too serious to allow bad policy to lead to bad politics.  Another deep dip will doom Obama to one term.  He said he’d rather be a good one term President than a mediocre two termer.  When, Mr. President, do we begin to see the good?

The task force for deficit reduction is the Republican’s dream.  They want nothing better than a forum designed to gut Social Security and Medicare rather than our huge defense spending.  We spend more on national defense than the next fifty countries combined.  We don’t need hundreds of military bases around the globe which force us to support despots and criminals.  This is bad policy and makes us hated, despised and subject to attack.  Closing these overseas bases as we did many domestic ones is good policy and detours money to butter instead of guns.

Guns or butter?  George W. Bush doubled the Defense Department budget without considering the cost of two wars.  It is a question of guns or butter.  He slashed thousands of good, productive government programs which aided and protected the poor, disabled, minority Americans subject to rampant job discrimination, inadequate schools and slum housing.  Now President Obama says he will freeze that spending instead of choosing butter over guns.

Who did we actually elect last year?  He seems like just another incompetent Republican to me.  I’m glad I voted Green.