Corbett is Doing His Best to Lose

Tom Corbett is doing his very best to lose the race for Governor.  Once comfortably ahead in the polls his mouth keeps getting in his way.  His actions aren’t far behind and his own politicization of the AG’s office makes one fearful of the kind of Governor he’d be.  It wasn’t enough he ticked off millions of unemployed Pennsylvanians when he called them fat and lazy.  Then he said there were plenty of jobs around according to want ads.  Ha she actually looked at those sparse help wanted sections?  There’s almost nothing to them these days as he’d know if he’d ever had to actually peruse them looking for work.  Corbett keeps giving legs to a story he needs to kill.

Then there’s the issue of his political lawsuit against hcr.  Keystone Progress has used the Open Records Law to demand his communications with Republican Party operatives behind the effort and he refuses to comply with the law.  You know this will turn into major attack ads come October don’t you?  The Attorney General refusing to abide by the law?  Now KP is appealing Corbett’s stonewalling.  What, exactly, is he hiding?

On top of all that, as if that weren’t enough, Corbett for Governor campaign materials were openly available at an Attorney General’s Office booth at a recent county fair.  PA2010 has the photo.  It is illegal, of course, to mix politics with your government job as Corbett keeps explaining to Judges as he prosecutes Democrats for doing what he himself does.  The proof is in the picture.

If Dan Onorato winds up being our next Governor it will be because Tom Corbett insisted on shooting himself at every opportunity.  He’s working his darndest to lose this race.

News & Notes July 29, 2010

I’ve had a very busy week and a very bad headache (as a result of the busy week) for two days.  There’s much to catch up on and comment about along with some news about several state campaigns.

First up was Sunday’s release on WikiLeaks of 92,000 Pentagon reports concerning Afghanistan.  Though I didn’t see anything I hadn’t known or knew before they did provide details and examples.  I’ve been questioning these issues for several years and have been asking first, what was the mission and, secondly, is it attainable?  I think these leaks illustrate the war and our missions are not attainable.  Why are we there?

A judge declared much of the Arizona immigration law unconstitutional yesterday.  Isn’t it funny how conservatives rally around the constitution when its about the Second Amendment then ignore the rest of the document when it doesn’t suit them?  All this anguish about immigration is hypocritical because Barack Obama is doing more about the issue than George W. Bush.  Deportations are up significantly, border control has been enhanced and a bill for comprehensive immigration reform is on the table.  Crime in Arizona is actually down though undocumented people tend to obey the law more than citizens and pay taxes into Social Security and Medicare without receiving any benefits.  The outcry is much ado about nothing.

Bankers received $1.6 billion in bonuses which were supposed to be illegal under federal law due to bailout funds going to their institutions.  That’s a lot of cash going to the very people who helped crash the economy.  Any bank getting taxpayer money had to limit the bonuses they paid and this rule was flouted and ignored to the tune of $1,600,000,000.  Where’s the Tea Party outrage over that?

Pennsylvania is one of 19 states in the finals for the Race to the Top education program.  Obama’s openness to school vouchers is disturbing and undercuts our traditional program of public education.  I am against any use of tax payer funds for private or religious schools.  Let them raise their own money.  Our schools are having a difficult time as it is, diverting their funds is not the answer.  Of course this is yet one more example of Barack Obama being a conservative.  There are actually quite a few, the federal bailouts to health insurers via the new law being the best.

Toomey Drinks the Tea

Pat Toomey embraced the Tea Party at an event in Doylestown where he accused President Obama of wanting to turn America into France.  Of course France is a pretty nice place to live and, after all, they were right about Iraq weren’t they?  Some folks simply can’t wrap their minds around the fact others are smarter and live nicer, better lives.  After all in France everyone has access to quality (better than ours according to outcomes) health care.  Toomey continues lying to people about Joe Sestak’s health care stance when he says the Congressman is for eliminating private health insurance companies.  The fact is the Joe Sestak does not support single payer and took considerable heat for that position in the primary.

Pat Toomey spoke to the Kitchen Table Patriots in Doylestown and professed to be one of them.  I have no doubt he is.  Toomey was the ultimate corporate Republican in Congress and has spent his time since spreading Wall Street money around to other like minded representatives of corporate America.  The group he spoke with is interesting and very radical.  They profess to uphold the constitution except when it comes to immigration, separation of church and state, regulation of interstate commerce, civil rights or limits on the concept of a unitary executive.  They want small government until they need it to clean up the Gulf.

These idiots don’t even comprehend the basics of political science, the definitions of fascism, socialism, Marxism, conservatism and liberalism.  They lump everything not their own ideology together and accuse their opponents of being all of them which is impossible.  The Bucks County Tea baggers to whom Toomey spoke have embraced a radical named Ana Puig who accuses Obama of being a Marxist.  The President isn’t even a liberal much less a socialist or Marxist.  Their level of knowledge and sophistication is scary if it isn’t simply purposeful in trying to confuse and scare their supporters out of their money.

Since Pat Toomey has embraced the Kitchen Table Patriots is he in agreement with them that Barack Obama is a Marxist trying to impose Marxism on America?  It certainly appears so and that should be scary to every voter in Pennsylvania.  Pat Toomey’s history shows he’s as radical as these Tea baggers and Ana Puig.

Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a “stop-work order” on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.

That's right: believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases.  Just as bad, Rockefeller's proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.  

Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA – at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! – that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster?  Really?

Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now.  For instance, in yesterday's Politico, two energy investors – one Democrat, one Republican – explained what's at stake in clear, compelling language.

We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.

The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.

[…]

Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.

Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won't be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly – and disastrously – backwards. What's truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever.  Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever, and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year, and every decade.   In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months.  As if all this isn't bad enough, we also could run out of water.

The American people know this situation can't go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would “[l]imit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas.” In other words, this is a case where good policy – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution – and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that – appear to align.  Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.

Don’t let them do it.  Call your Senators right now and tell them “hell no” to the “Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act.”  Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

News & Notes July 26, 2010

Kirk and I enjoyed seeing Beckett’s “Endgame” Saturday at the Berkshire Theater Festival.  Yesterday I was kayaking with some friends when a storm came on us about five miles short of our destination on the Delaware River.  Gale force winds blew us the final mile.  Interesting paddling conditions…

Netroots Nation concluded over the weekend and the seminal moment happened when Lt. Dan Choi gave Sen. Harry Reid his West Point ring.  Choi was discharged last week under DADT and Reid told him he’d return the ring when the law is repealed.  I hope Dan isn’t holding hi sbreath because this White House is so buy disenfranchising key Democratic constituencies the votes won’t be there soon.

Bill DeWeese was held over for trial today on BonusGate charges.  Now, when is Corbett’s trial for the Ories?  Harrisburg area reporters now spend more time in court covering politics than in the Capitol.

Tom Tancredo announced his candidacy for Governor in Colorado today.  This comes on the heels of news the regular GOP nominee got paid for plagiarizing writing he did.  Tancredo then got into an argument on the air with the state Republican Chair.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-08

This is the second in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.  Today, we examine Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional district — Bucks County, Montgomery County, and northeast Philadelphia.  Currently, the 8th CD is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Patrick J. Murphy (D).  Murphy is being challenged by Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Where does Rep. Murphy stand on clean energy and environmental issues?  In 2009, Murphy received a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Murphy also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), about which he correctly says, it “will create millions of new American jobs, limit the pollution that causes climate change, and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by investing in American-made clean energy.”  In addition, Murphy co-sponsored H.R. 890, the American Renewable Energy Act, as well as H.R. 2222, the Green Communities Act and H.R. 1778, the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program, among other excellent environmental legislation. Finally, Rep. Murphy touts the fact that “Bucks County is home to the fourth largest solar field in the United States – the largest east of the Mississippi River” and that “Nearly 1,000 people have been put to work building components for wind turbines and solar panels at the old U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills in Bucks County.”  

In contrast, Mike Fitzpatrick says he “oppose[s] legislation currently being considered by [C]ongress that would implement a carbon 'cap and trade' system.” Fitzpatrick also says he supports “a balanced national energy policy that includes safe, nuclear power, clean coal, responsible offshore drilling and economical, renewable energy.” When he served in Congress, Fitzpatrick received a 61% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2005 and a 73% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2006.  Fitzpatrick also was a co-cosponsor with Rep. Henry Waxman on the Safe Climate Act of 2006 – which would have cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – but now says he is against “Cap and Trade.”

We believe that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Shining the Light of The New Colossus Into Arizona

by Walter Brasch

           Two things are assured this coming week. One is that Arizona will do its best to put into practice its controversial anti-immigration bill. The other is that a federal district court will rule whether that law is constitutional.

           The Arizona law requires all law enforcement officials who stop anyone for any reason to determine if that person may be a legal resident. If the person can’t produce documentation, the police are required to detain the individual and to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

           The Arizona law is mostly based upon the fear by Arizonans that the state is being overrun by Hispanic illegals, and that the federal government isn’t curbing the problem. However, the Obama administration has increased both personnel and funding for immigration enforcement. Critics have also complained about President Obama’s recommendation for a one-time general amnesty for undocumented workers and their families who have no criminal records. That same proposal by George W. Bush, which included other immigration reform, was never enacted into law because of the opposition by the extreme right wing.

           Most law enforcement officers, including most Arizona police don’t like this law. It takes away time and resources; it also creates a barrier between police and undocumented workers, who often cooperate with the police in their investigations because they know the police will not notify ICE. There is no doubt that police will have a serious problem locating undocumented workers who could be witnesses. More important, police community relations will deteriorate under the new law.

           Contrary to the panic and fear demonstrated by certain citizens, contrary to the politician rants to get media attention, and contrary to the media which have under-reported the good that minority cultures bring to the nation but have exaggerated criminal activity, most undocumented workers are neither lazy nor are criminals. Most don’t use the welfare system or hospital ERs because they are afraid of being caught and deported.

           The federal lawsuit avoids the Constitutional issues of civil rights and due process violations. It asks the federal district court in Phoenix to rule that the Constitution reserves all immigration issues and enforcement solely to the federal government. No matter what the ruling, it is likely there will be an appeal, which will eventually reach the Supreme Court.

           Perhaps it’s time to reflect not upon the words not of myriad bloggers, pundits, and politicians, who have flooded the airwaves with their own opinions, mostly unsupported by facts, but upon the words of one American poet from more than a century ago.

           At the base of the Statue of Liberty, carved into bronze, is a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. It was written in support of a fund-raising drive to get enough money to build the pedestal. The sonnet is titled, “The New Colossus”:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

           Emma Lazarus was a relatively wealthy Portuguese Jew, whose family had emigrated to America and lived in New York City for generations. But in 1882, the year before she wrote her sonnet, she began working with masses of Russian Jews who had come to America to escape poverty and persecution. She helped teach them English and job skills. But in America, the Jews were discriminated against-often by the children of immigrants from other cultures who now worried that America was being overrun by immigrants.

           Perhaps Arizonans and the nation, most of whom are the descendants of immigrants, need to again hear the words that the descendant of immigrants once wrote-the words that America was a place of refuge for the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

My Kids Are Losers: Commentary on the Climate Debate

The climate bill blame game has begun. When I first started writing this post about the so-called death of the climate bill, I literally pointed the finger at just about everyone, including myself. The anger poured out, and I was frank in my assessment as well as unforgiving in the motives behind this latest setback.

After I was done with my self-loathing tantrum, the kids ran in the door from camp and I was swept up in the lovely reality of my family's banter. It is summer, so the pace in our home is a bit more relaxed in the evening. We aren't quite as quick to rush through dinner, toss the kids in a bath, and then march them off to bed. Ice cream and extra cuddles are relished, and I am reminded each year at this time why I do this job.

Later, after progeny were tucked in, I went back to my draft blog post to spruce it up. I reread my rage, disappointment, and irrational ramblings and was embarrassed. And I asked myself “What good is all this blame going to do?”

At the end of the day, it is my kids – and your kids – who lose when we implode. If you think kids have a lot to say about their parents now on Dr. Phil, can you imagine what our children will say in 50 years should we fail to get our act together?

The country should be ready for this. The facts are on our side. As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, it is clear that there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a smart clean energy and climate plan.

Unfortunately, the politicians just aren't there. At every juncture during this debate, a minority, led by the Republican leadership and supported by a few impressionable (I might say pathetic) Democrats, has obstructed the opportunity to solve America's energy problems, preferring to leave the worst polluters and the big petro-dictators in control of our energy policy, while tax-payers are forced to pay for their messes.

Oopsy… there goes that blame again. Let's focus on what we can do next.

Hope is not lost. Of course, the closer we get to the midterm elections, the more challenging passing a bill becomes. Still, it's not impossible. In fact, the Senate has passed almost every single bedrock environmental law in the fall of an election year or in the “lame duck” session following an election. Here are just a few examples:

o Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – 1996 Amendments: 8/6/96

o Food Quality Protection Act: 8/3/96

o Energy Policy Act of 1992: 10/24/92

o Clean Air Act of 1990: 11/15/90

o SDWA – 1986 Amendments: 6/19/86

o CERCLA (Superfund): House 9/23/80, Senate 11/24/80, POTUS 12/11/80

o Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA): 10/21/76

o Toxic Substances & Control Act (TSCA): 10/11/76

o SDWA: 12/16/74

o Clean Water Act: 10/18/72

o Establishment of the EPA: first proposed 7/9/70, established 12/2/70

o National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): 1/1/70

o The Wilderness Act: 9/3/64

As this list demonstrates, the Senate and the environmental movement are no strangers to passing major legislation right before – or just after – an election.

I don't want to overpromise success. This is an uphill battle. But if you and I show up to every town hall, rally, spaghetti dinner, and other rituals of election year and fight for our kids… fight for our country… fight for our America… we can turn the tide. Without that kind of passion, we will all lose. That's an outcome we must try hard to avoid, on behalf of people, communities, large and small businesses – oh, and our kids, sleeping peacefully or playing happily around the country.

In the meantime, we must also protect what we already have, like a plethora of state laws and the federal Clean Air Act. I recommend reading David Doniger's blog on Switchboard today that really outlines how we can make progress with the tools we have right now.

In coming weeks and months, we must continue to push forward for a strong, clean energy and climate bill, just like we have done countless times in the past. I am done with blame. History is on our side. Are you?

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Gas Well Explodes, 2 Dead This Time

Another Marcellus gas well exploded and this time two workers were killed.  DEP responded promptly this time because, apparently, someone notified them in time and I have to wonder how many more wells are going to explode, how many houses will follow as gas seeps up through the ground from fracking and whether the ground water near this explosion is now poisoned.

The EPA is conducting some public hearings on hydro fracturing and 1200 people showed up for one in western Pennsylvania to listen to oil and gas industry spokespeople claim no one has ever proven gas has contaminated ground water.  That is correct bit consider why:  since Dick Cheney’s energy task force exempted them from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act the EPA has no authority to test the air, water or ground for contaminants, the industry doesn’t have to tell us what they’re putting into this fracking fluid (it isn’t water after you infuse it with hundreds of toxic chemicals and substances), and science isn’t exact enough to prove beyond a doubt any direct causal relationship.

Of course it doesn’t take a genius to understand that people live for hundreds of years on using water supplies then cannot directly after wells are drilled.  It doesn’t take a genius to know if there’s enough gas in your water you can light it on fire the gas came from somewhere new, perhaps that well across the road…

Some of Mark Critz’s brilliant campaign people were on Facebook this week claiming no wells have been contaminated and that its all about “jobs, jobs, jobs!”  Yes, theirs.  What good are jobs when all the people are being poisoned?  The jobs won’t help much once we’re all dead.  If wells aren’t being contaminated by this drilling why is DEP providing replacement water to hundreds of people?

Congressman Joe Sestak is now calling on the EPA to investigate and prevent water supply contamination.  Though he sees the economic benefits from gas exploration he thinks it must be done safely and responsibly:

“There is extraordinary economic potential associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources,” said Congressman Sestak. “However, as the oil spill in the Gulf reminds us, there is also great risk. It is, therefore,  critical that this study is detailed and completed in a transparent manner. I encourage the EPA to create a thorough and scientifically based study, and I suggest that they do so in as expeditious a manner as feasible, given strong economic pressures and rapid development already taking place, especially in Pennsylvania.”

In his comments, the Congressman outlined key points which the study must address: the impact of many wells in a small area, as is already the case in Pennsylvania; the effectiveness of municipal wastewater treatment systems in handling the fluid drawn out of the wells; standard engineering controls and safety practices related to the drilling technology; and the risks posed by abandoned wells, acknowledging that more than one-half of the location of Pennsylvania’s abandoned oil and gas wells are unknown.

“Communities in Pennsylvania are facing significant amounts of drilling in relatively small areas,” said Congressman Sestak in his comments. “They were approved and initiated prior to this study, and created, I believe, in an expeditious manner that is potentially harmful. While we must understand the impact of fracking in individual wells, this study must also consider anticipated high-density drilling in relatively short periods of time to account for the cumulative effects of drilling on a region’s drinking water supply.”

Along with these comments, Congressman Sestak has joined Senator Casey in support of the FRAC Act, which would restore Safe Drinking Water Act protections for drilling operations using fracture drilling. In addition, after a blowout and explosion at a drilling site in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania last month, Congressman Sestak wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to urge improved safety measures to protect Pennsylvanians from the potentially detrimental effects of hydraulic fracturing noting that oversight was inadequate and putting workers at risk.

Individuals or organizations wishing to contribute written comments to the EPA regarding the proposed hydraulic fracturing research study can do so from now until September 1, 2010 by emailing comments to hydraulic.fracturing@epa.gov or by mailing them to:

Jill Dean

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Mail code 4606M,

Washington, DC  20460

News & Notes July 23, 2010

Tomorrow Kirk and I are going to Stockbridge Massachusetts for our annual summer stock trek.  This year the Berkshire Theater Festival is staging Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame.”

Congress got some work done this week after West Virginia replaced the late Sen. Byrd.  Unemployment for the long term unemployed finally passed saving many people from the streets.  Joe Pitts, among Republicans, voted against providing a safety net for working people after voting for the failed policies which threw them out of work.  Is that “compassionate conservatism?

Congress also passed Wall Street reform and some are critical because you may not be able to use your debit card to pay for your lattes any longer?  Who doesn’t carry enough cash to pay for a cup of coffee?  How lazy have we gotten?  Use cash anyway as a method for screwing the banks and helping your small business people.  Every time you swipe a card it costs them money and raises prices for everyone.  Only banks profit from this activity.

A friend in Iran is having trouble getting a visa for academic travel.  This is a consequence of sanctions because of that regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.  While unfortunate the people there do have a choice:  obey their oppressive government or change it.

NPR journalist Daniel Schorr passed away this morning at age 93.  He continued broadcasting well into his golden years and his voice and insights will be missed.

Netroots Nation is in Las Vegas this week.  I’m not there again, its too expensive.

Some folks are talking about Andrew Breitbart’s slander and libel against Blacks and Black organizations possibly being criminal.  We already know the people he used to destroy ACORN are criminals:  James O’Keefe not only violated Maryland’s wiretapping law he perpetrated a fraud.