Governor Candidates Take Questions

Last evening I watched the Q&A session sponsored by Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Networks.  Attending were Joe Hoeffel, Jack Wagner, Dan Onorato and Republican Sam Rohrer.  Tom Corbett and Anthony Williams didn’t attend.  Watching Rep. Rohrer take questions from a decidedly liberal audience was interesting.  He danced very carefully around questions with his omissions as meaningful as his responses.  When Audrey Ross of Planned Parenthood asked about access to family planning and birth control the virulently anti-choice evangelical dodged it nicely without revealing his true position.

Jack Wagner was bold enough to say he is pro life and anti-gay.  Dan Onorato also said he against same sex marriage.  Joe Hoeffel was the only pro-choice, pro-equality candidate on the stage.  I don’t understand how progressives can support Mr. Wagner.  His positions are directly out of the 19th century.  His response to a question about federal funding of AIDS programs was to pledge to audit it.  A late question about relegating juveniles to the adult corrections system completely went over his head.  He listened as the panelists patiently repeated it for him three times.  He still had no idea of the issue they were presenting.  Duh???  Wagner came off very badly.

Rohrer’s presence at this forum was puzzling.  He says often he doesn’t believe government should serve any purpose outside providing for the common defense.  He kept repeating his mantra of lower taxes except for sales taxes which he would raise.  Interestingly these fall disproportionatley on the poor and this audience reflected many concerns of the urban poor.  Many of the questions had to do with social services of which Rohrer opposes on a deep ideological level.

Joe Hoeffel had good answers and Dan Onorato looked good on several.  I just don’t trust Onorato.  If he and Corbett are the nominees I’ll be voting Green in November as I will if the top of the ticket is Specter/Toomey.  Democrats cannot keep expecting liberals and progressives in Pennsylvania to continue voting Democratic when they keep giving us reactionary candidates.  If the Pennsylvania Green Party were better organized and hid their tin foil hat members they might get competitive.  The opportunity is certainly here.

News & Notes February 26, 2010

The snow finally ended here and the sun is shining.  I began shoveling though most of the snow seems to have blown away.  Some spots are clear while others have a foot.  It all depends on it it blew away or where it wound up.

Sen. Jim Bunning threw another no hitter today.  This time he struck out all the unemployed people whose compensation expires Sunday.  He single handedly killed an extension while complaining he was missing a Kentucky basketball game. When confronted on his obstinacy his reply was “tough shit.”  My guess is that’s what he also expects these jobless folks to eat too.  Considering his support for the failed economic policies which caused their predicament perhaps all the unemployed people out there could mail him some of the waste from their dogs.

Blackwater first tried to hide their horrendous record and reputation by changing names.  Then they created a blind subsidiary to gain government contracts fraudulently.  There is no end to their treachery.  The real problem here isn’t Blackwater though but the privatization of government.  Since when did we decide to privatize national security and make it a “for profit” enterprise?

How low can the Catholic Church go?  In Brazil they are furious over an abortion for a 9 year old girl.  She was raped and impregnated by her step father and instead of being outraged by the molestation and rape the Church is upset about the abortion.  What more do we need to know about their warped priorities?  When I stop and remember how billions of people take their moral guidance from such folks it makes me shudder.

Sen. Bob Casey still hasn’t signed on to Sen. Bennet’s letter supporting the use of reconciliation to pass health insurance reform.  Twenty four Senators have signed on thus far.

The Canadian women’s hockey team got into the Olympic “spirits” a bit too publicly after winning the gold medal.  They celebrated by swigging beer and champagne on the ice while sucking on stogies.  Real class…

Congressman Jason Altmire, an erstwhile Democrat, was rated as right of center in new ratings issued today.  His staff sent a press release bragging about the honor.  Would someone please inform Jason that Democrats aren’t supposed to vote right of center?  That actually makes him a Republican.  There is some consolation, when he gets voted out of office this year he can drive Melissa Hart’s old VW home from the Congressional parking garage where it remains parked since she held the seat.

1,000 Words About Johannesburg

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

Been scratching our heads about how to write 1,000 original, inspiring, and exciting words on one of the most written about countries in the world. Instead of trying, we want to share with you a couple of things we saw and learned while we there.

As we traveled all the way south from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Johannesburg, South Africa, several Africans kept telling us how dangerous J’burg is. We heard the same sort of thing before visiting Nairobi, Kenya,”don’t step out at night and “don’t go anywhere without a taxi…” Yada, Yada, Yada.

But there was no question in our minds whether would visit or not. With a dozen meetings scheduled, nothing was going to stop us from going. And after two weeks weeks, despite the hype, and without compromising our experience, we didn’t encounter a single problem (we stayed in hostels and budget B&B’s), didn’t witness any car-jackings, were never robbed at gun point at an ATM, and never felt that our safety was compromised in any way. Every visitor we met while in the city had the same experience as us (uneventful, as far as crime).  

We are not saying don’t be cautious — or that crime is not a problem — but if fear is stopping anyone from experiencing this important city, or even the World Cup, our advice is stop reading this article and book that ticket.

When you arrive in Johannesburg, it’s hard not to notice how big this mega-city is– more than 10 million people and one of the 40 largest cities in the world. While it is the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap between the rich and poor is unlike anything we have seen (maybe with the exception of Kenya). We visited the slums of Germiston and Soweto, comparing the poverty to the decadence of the suburb Sandton and the East Gate Mall, the biggest mall in J’burg. How ironic that a city with so much wealth also has such extreme poverty, comparable or even worse to what we saw traveling in Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.

We wanted to share with you two interesting meetings/projects we visited on the ground:

We did a field visit to Johnson Matthey Catalysts in Germiston, South Africa, just outside of Johannesburg. There, nearly 600 workers pass through its doors every day to work on an assembly line making catalytic converters that are inserted in cars to reduce pollution, complying with South Africa’s auto environmental emissions standards. As we arrived, Percy Nhlapo, a trainer with the Solidarity Center, an AFL-CIO affiliated non-profit organization that assists workers around the world who are struggling to build democratic and independent trade unions, was leading a discussion with a group of workers to correct misconceptions about the HIV virus and urging participants to get tested. “HIV/AIDS affects everyone, educating workers is the first step in helping them prevent further infection, getting tested is the second,” said Percy. After the training, nearly all the workers voluntarily agreed to be tested.

At the testing area, we spoke with registered nurse Dorothy Majola. “I find this job so rewarding because it so important that people know their status, as soon as they know their status they can change their lifestyle and behavior, which it will allow them to live longer lives,” said Majola. The company, in coordination with NUMSA (the workers’ union) and the Solidarity Center, agreed to host the training, allowing workers to attend and get tested at the beginning and end of their work shifts. Through programs like these thousands of workers are voluntarily getting tested a year across the country.

The next day we met with Daniel Kamanga, the Director of Communications of Africa Harvest, and former Kenyan journalist, who 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. 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 for example, 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.

Finally, here are four other random final thoughts about “Jozi”:

(1) Spend an entire day at the Apartheid Museum, it’s brilliantly laid out using technology and multi-media, the visits take you on a powerful journey that will forever change the way your forever look at race relations and racism. It was one of the most powerful and emotional experiences of our lives.

(2) Take a biking or walking tour of Soweto, make sure you don’t just visit Apartheid landmarks (although you should definitely also do that), but ask your tour guide to take you through several villages and slum areas (we went looking at urban gardening projects).

(3) Where we stayed for a couple of days: we splurged ($35/night double en suite) on a quaint bed and breakfast on Sunberry street, in the heart of the bohemian town of Melville. Melville is full of alternative shops, two used bookstores, loads of pubs, and even a burrito barn. What we loved most about the B&B was the large kitchen for us to cook. We did a week binge of zero restaurants, cooking two meals a day, and enjoying the free wifi, free laundry, and even some free taxi rides.

(4) Visit the SAB Beer Museum, not sure what it says about a city when its number one tourist attraction is a beer museum. I’m also not sure what it says about us that we contributed to such a statistic (and had a blast!). The tour is advertised everywhere in Johannesburg–it’s a one and a half hour guided tour organized by SAB brewing (partners with Miller-Coors in the USA) complete with a 3D adventure, an IMAX-style movie, real life machinery depicting the beer making process, and lots more. Oh, and did we mention the tasting?

Cal Thomas’ ironic column

In today’s Reading Eagle, Cal Thomas writes the following column:

Standards for behavior out; acting on one’s feelings is in.

What Cal didn’t realize is just how ironic and how appropriate to his own situation his title really is.  While he spends most of the article wasting more print space on the Tiger Woods problem as his vehicle to deliver to readers another lecture on the apparent lack of morality and biblically derived ethics in the world or America today, I took upon his title of the article to reflect on Thomas’ own application of the notion he asserts.  

From what I’ve seen and read of most of Cal’s columns, he seems to employ to an epitomized extent the very notion of applying of what one feels is right to many of the issues he often raises with his weekly or daily syndicated diatribes and media appearances on the networks, especially Faux News.  

He has often expressed what are clearly his feelings about something that are not modeled on some standard of behavior, and fails to see that there is NO per se exclusive standard of behavior to go by now or ever.  I’m not saying ethics are bad and to throw your discipline out the window and just be a pile of whatever humanity you want and act like a complete idiot at whim.  However, his views, like mine, or anyone else’s are colored and tainted by our particular values and beliefs and such and because of that, standards of behavior, beyond some strictly codified laws and basic agreed to social constructs, are open to interpretation and rely on our unique humanity for their creation, continuation, and evolution.  

Not to belabor the Tiger Woods matter, but I think he should’ve been honest with himself from the get go and just confronted the fact that he wanted to be polyamorous  and should’ve been honest with the women he met, knew, and had affairs with.  This way, the ladies he fancied could know his truest intentions, but alas Cal’s standards of behavior, as with so many others, would say that being polyamorous is not the answer, but only fidelity is the answer.  I say, most resoundingly, bullcrap!  It is actually precisely these derived “codes” or “standards” of behavior that put people into positions that then become the basis for why they sneak around and act the way they do, which is how they really feel, until they are “discovered” and scorned for being who they are.  Then, you get the whole PR rescue job and mea culpa from them that is often insincere or outright lies, when they’d be much happier and better off to admit they are just who they are and can’t be anything else.  Unless someone wants to really change and feels the strong need to change for the right reasons, putting them to the measure of expectations that stem from Cal’s “standards of behavior” don’t really make it possible for some people to be happy in life and to be who they really are, without having great difficulty and static from those who feel compelled to be the judgers of all that is seemingly righteous.  

Again, I’m not saying we should not condemn or call out those who have done seriously reprehensible behavior and Tiger was wrong to sneak around and cheat and should’ve been honest with his wife, but the idea that he must now atone and force upon himself the need to change his true self simply to edify others or hold to something that didn’t work in the first place, is just as wrong to me.  

Ultimately, I feel that too many “standards of behavior” have a way of becoming a convenient vehicle to put unrealistic and restrictive expectations upon people in their daily lives that end up causing more scandal and begetting more suffering in the human condition than they help to avoid by adhering to them.  Humanity is never so ideal to fit into a neat muffin tin of prescribed behavior and lifestyles or choices.  We need some limits, yes, but moderation in the deepest sense must be applied to this as with any other aspect of life.  

Random Thoughts

A legislative staffer testified in this week’s BonusGate trial that then House Democratic Whip Mike Veon called him to the floor and told him to drive to Butler and pick up the nominating petitions for another House member.  We’re in the midst of another petition season currently and every candidate understands the timeline involved in getting on the ballot.  Every candidate receives a booklet with the deadlines when they initially file and get their blank petitions.  For some reason one numbskull forgot and a staffer drove from Harrisburg to Butler and back in just 3 1/2 hours.  Interestingly he was more concerned about getting a speeding ticket due to his testimony than the crimes he committed against the taxpayers.

The Sea World drowning of a trainer was tragic.  Why do we attempt to keep wild animals in captivity then fret when do what wild animals do?  It’s time to release them from captivity.  What can you do?  Stop attending these shows.

I thought yesterday’s health summit a tragic waste of time.  Nothing was accomplished other than exposing the lies and misstatements made by Republican after Republican.  Now everyone knows the GOP has no constructive ideas for reform and we can move on.

My article on the State Partnership Program is generating discussion around the blogosphere.  That was my intention.  Chris Bowers at Open Left wonders why the DNC felt it had to duplicate the mission of MoveOn.  Good question Chris.

With all this snow all winter I found myself watching the weather this morning and wondering if the numbers on the screen were for the temperature or the inches of snow due to fall.  That’s what we call a bad winter.

Did you catch Sen. John Barrasso’s out of touch comments at the health care summit?  I’m embarrassed for the fact he’s a Pennsylvania native.   How did anyone this stupid get through medical school?

As the state legislature begins wrestling with this year’s budget I’m not hearing much discussion about saving tons of money in two ways:  single payer healthcare and reforming our criminal justice system.  We keep putting people in prison for non violent crimes, keep hiring more judges, prosecutors, prison guards and building new prisons but we aren’t getting any smarter.

I keep wondering why Canadians are so much smarter than Americans.  Is it the cold weather or better schools?

Mark Singel has dropped out of the race for John Murtha’s Congressional seat.

Steve Wynn is taking over the failed Foxwoods casino operation.  Civic opposition and tough times for the Native American tribe have resulted in nothing being accomplished in getting the casinos built in Philadelphia.  Foxwoods has been in danger of losing its license for failure to perform.

The head of the Marine Corps came out against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  So much for that vaunted “integrity” of Marines.  They’d rather require gay and lesbian soldiers to have to live a lie than be honest and open about whom they are.  Why can such tough people be so afraid of a few gays?  If you want to invade America simply march your gay and lesbian soldiers in first and the United States Marines will turn and run.

Congressman Charlie Rangel is being slapped on the wrist for an ethics violation.  I’d forgive him if he’d taken me along on that Caribbean trip.

GM’s deal to sell the Hummer franchise collapsed and they will discontinue the brand.  It goes the way of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn.  With no Hummers left to hate will we lose any useful function for our middle fingers?

The Health Reform Summit

I’m watching the President’s health summit and I’m hearing Republicans saying we have a fundamental difference of philosophy:  Democrats want government to run health care and Republicans think the free market can.

Here’s the flaw with the GOP position:  the free market has controlled health care for decades and FAILED.

CNN’s coverage has been abysmal.  They allowed Mary Matalin free rein to repeat the term “jam down” in regards to reconciliation repeatedly.  She barely said anything else in between repeating her talking point. Since when is a majority vote jamming something down American’s throats?

No one countered her ridiculous talking point because there was no one on the air at the time representing the other position.  This is why no one takes cable “news” seriously any longer.

Casey supporting “Dirty Air Act”

This week we learned that Senator Casey joined with 8 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting that they do not regulate global warming pollution. The other Senators are Byrd (WV), Rockefeller (WV), Begich (AK), Sherod Brown (OH), Carl Levin (MI), McCaskill (MO), and Baucus (MT). View the letter at

This is shocking because the League of Conservation Voters just released their 2009 National Environmental Scorecard and Senator Casey had a 100% environmental voting record.  Why would Senator Casey indicate his support for such an extreme measure?

Please let Senator Casey know that his decision to support the “Dirty Air Act” will undermine the Clean Air Act and threaten America's ability to protect the environment for future generations.  


Independents are abandoning President Obama and the Democrats in droves.  The Tea Party folks are the same old right wing militia, anti-government, white supremacists who have feasted on conspiracy theories for decades.  They simply are getting more media attention from the cable networks who like the nice visuals provided.

Barack Obama has actually done a great deal as President.  He gets no credit for forestalling an economic catastrophe brought on by failed Republican economic policies, guaranteed equal pay for equal work for women,  saved the auto industry, restored the regulatory role of government to protect our food, water, children and safety, appointed people at the Justice Department who do not prosecute based on political affiliation, ended the War in Iraq and repaired the country’s reputation and standing in the world.

Perhaps we need to reminisce about the “good old days” of Republican control of government.  Big business got away with whatever they wished.  Mines collapsed on workers, China shipped poisoned dog food to us, Toyota cars weren’t scrutinized for defects, etc.  The biggest sin of all though was lying the nation into war.  Obama may not be willing to drag us into recriminations, prosecutions and such but let us not forget what George W. Bush and his Republican cronies did to this country.  You may not be entirely happy with Barack Obama but compared with Bush he’s a godsend.

9/11 Truth: How Think Tanks Took Control of U.S. Government @ Yahoo! Video

News & Notes February 25, 2010

The groundhog was correct, six more weeks of winter.  Will this snow ever end?

The White House is holding a summit on health care today.  Republicans have done nothing about this crisis and now health care is consuming 17% of our economy.  Their logic now tells them we cannot deal with the problem BECAUSE it is 17% of the economy.  That’s like having cancer and telling the doctor you don’t want any treatment until you’re terminal then complaining when you do become terminal.

Too many in Washington are tone deaf about health care reform, both Republicans and Democrats.  People don’t like this bill because it goes too far (the GOP argument) but because it doesn’t go far enough.  Americans want a single payer, Medicare for all plan with a robust public option as a fallback.  These plans have none of those so people aren’t supporting it, not because it’s too much.  I suspect these tone deaf politicians will get a robust public option wake up call in November.

The BonusGate trial continues in Harrisburg.  This litigation of corruption inside the State Capitol may go on until Easter at this rate.  The AG’s office provided testimony yesterday that a Veon staffer routinely ran errands for the Democratic House Whip such as getting his shoes shined, buying his cigars and campaigning for him on taxpayer’s time.  Witness after witness tells us how they campaigned for Rep. Mike Veon on state time but we’re to believe he knew nothing about this?

This was the culture in Harrisburg for many years and though only Democratic House members and staffers are on trial it happened on both sides of the aisle.  Attorney General Tom Corbett has these rats nailed but allowed his fellow Republicans off the hook.

WebcamGate roars along in Lower Merion.  The story has been front page in The Inquirer for days.  Today we learn the plaintiffs are $30,000 in arrears to PECO in spite of living in a $940,000 home.  They claim their income has dropped precipitously but why wouldn’t you dump the expensive home then and downsize?  

Republican hypocrisy knows no bounds.  Now they’re complaining about the use of reconciliation to pass health insurance reform.  Of course they used it numerous times including to pass the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

A new F&M poll shows only 25% of Pennsylvanians think Arlen Specter deserves another term.  The F&M polls are notoriously inaccurate but even at this number Specter’s days in DC are numbered.  Assuming the poll could be off by 5% that still means his goose is cooked.  On the other hand polls show him 17 points ahead of Joe Sestak.   I suppose the Congressman, a famous skinflint with campaign money, will wait until June to get his message out on television and radio.  Of course the primary is in mid May.

Sestak’s penchant for pinching pennies is coming back to haunt him:  Specter is accusing him of supporting a living wage but refusing to pay his staffers one.  Five campaign staffers have left the Sestak effort recently.  Joe has the money, I don’t understand why he doesn’t spend it,  hire a professional campaign manager with experience on these high level efforts, pay his good people so they stay and begin getting his message on the air.  At the beginning of his campaign PA2010 ran a column wondering whether his Senatorial campaign would do these things.  They argued, as did I, that if he failed to he would lose.  This is what we’re watching.  This is painful, I love Joe and think he’d be a great Senator.  He’s running a very bad campaign however.

We went to war when 3,000 Americans died on 9/11.  We’re losing 1,000/week because of a broken health care system but cannot summon the political will (or courage) to do anything about it.  Why are our priorities so screwed up?

The President announced a new task force on deficit reduction last week.  I’ll bet you all their proposals will center on cutting entitlement programs instead of reducing the Pentagon budget or the prison population.  We’re spending $2 billion a week on defense.  The next 50 nations combined don’t spend what we do on “defense” (I’m not sure it’s defense when we’re warmongers).

Mark Critz, John Murtha’s District Director, announced he is running to fill the late Congressman’s seat.  He has the support of Joyce Murtha, Jack’s widow.  Barbara Hafer and Mark Singel have both announced their candidacies.

ABC News wants to cut its staff by 20%.  Soon there won’t be any news, just entertainment masquerading as news.  By the way did you hear about Fox News’ new slogan:  “New and improved, now 100% fact free.”

Pat Toomey says he might vote yes on jobs bill.  The presumed GOP Senate nominee voted against every federal appropriations bill except Defense while serving as a Congressman.  He loves to say government cannot create jobs so why would he vote for a jobs bill?  Oh yes, Pennsylvanians won’t elect a Senator this year who votes against jobs for our massive number of unemployed voters.  I don’t believe him.

A new group is targeting Tom Corbett over the state’s infamous pigeon shoots.  These are “sporting” events where the bird are brought before “hunters” and released so they can be shot and killed right in front of the “men.” will demonstrate against the GOP Gubernatorial candidate for not enforcing the state’s laws against animal cruelty.

Dick Cheney was released from the hospital.  Isn’t this a good time to waterboard him?

A new arrest in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.  I don’t understand why the feds are prosecuting this.  Under the Obama doctrine of justice I thought it was understood that no one goes to prison, we simply put the past behind us and move on.  Oh, that only applies to war crimes?

Bad news about New York Gov.David Patterson.  The New York Times reports he used his power to protect a top aide accused of assaulting a woman.  The Palinesque scandal shows someone who isn’t fit to be Governor.

What is the City of Reading Doing?

We live in a state that has to deal with winter. Some year we have little or no snow and the city COULD bank any funds it has for snow removal for year that we have lots like this year. Do they? Anybody wanna hazard a guess?

Any one other simple question…what is the logic behind paying city employees to run around the city confiscating lawn chairs and other sundry items used to save parking places? Wouldn’t the money be better spent REMOVING THE DAMN SNOW?

“The reason is twofold: Reserving a parking space on a public right of way is illegal, and the city wants to make room to dig out more snow, according to Mayor Tom McMahon and Public Works Director Charles M. Jones.” (Reading Eagle 17 Feb 2010 ‘Reading to confiscate items used to save parking spaces’)

Was snow removed? ANYWHERE? Maybe in the government district (CBD) but not in the residential areas.

I understand that people get upset when they work for hours to clear their car so they can go to work only to have no place to park when they get home. So instead of the city helping their citizens they embrace a policy of trash collection?

When you have large snow storms you need to remove the snow, I know it costs money so you have to plan and planning is something the City consistently fails to do.

So anyway the city declares a state of emergency (ostensible meant to remove vehicles from major arteries for snow removal)…guess what…no snow removal.

Now another storm is coming and the large piles around the city have not been shifted and so if we get another 12 inches where will that go?

And another thing…7 or 8 plows for the 5th largest city in the state? Maybe it’s less now that one burst into flames. Seems like there should be more.

All this from a city whose employees thinks it’s OK to store documents in a recycling bin. Why am I not surprised???