The Oklahoma City Memorial

I finally finished the video from my visit to Oklahoma City.  The Alfred P Murrah Federal Building was bombed in an act of domestic terrorism on April 19, 1995.  168 people were killed, among them children in a day care center in the structure.  The Memorial is simple but moving.  The bomb exploded at 9:02 AM.  One arch is inscribed 9:01 and across a shallow reflecting pond another is engraved 9:03.  Between them, on a grassy knoll, sit 168 chairs, one for each victim. That area represents 9:02 when the bomb exploded.  I’m not sure why the video didn’t end at the end, Windows Movie Maker in Windows 7 is very difficult to use.

Corbett on Fiscal Policy: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

With Pennsylvania facing a gian thole in its budget Gov. Rendell incorporated across the board budget cuts last week and he asked the remainder of the state offices to follow his lead.  The 1.9% cuts in discretionary spending are needed to restore fiscal balance as required by the state constitution.  The Governor’s Office does not control any of the other independent Offices such as Auditor General, Treasurer and Attorney General and they must agree to make their own cuts.

Though Attorney General Tom Corbett is criss crossing the state talking about fiscal discipline and the need to cut budgets he has remained silent on Rendell’s request for the AG’s Office.  Corbett calls for across the board cuts but he has asked for an increase in his budget every year.  This year he greedily requested a 12% increase as revenues have plummeted due tot he Bush Recession.  With Tom Corbett it is do as I say not as I do.

Gerlach Attacks Freedom of Religion

Congressman Jim Gerlach spoke and answered questions at a “town hall” meeting at Berks Technical Institute this week and said “I don’t think practically or morally its the right thing to do” when asked about the Islamic Community Center in New York City.  The “town hall” was moved at the last minute and no signs indicated its location but I was able to get Gerlach’s exact quotes on the issue.  While acknowledging the importance of freedom of religion he then said he thinks people of faith can be told where they can build their places of worship and their community centers.  I hate to tell you Jim but those two concepts are not compatible.  Freedom of religion means you, as a sitting Congressman, cannot say “I do think, from a moral standpoint, I think they should find another site to build it on.”  They own this former Burlington Coat Factory in a section of the city with an actual, real mosque, liquor stores, bars and many seedy commercial establishments which somehow don’t offend the sensibilities of the extremists calling it “hallowed ground.”

Perhaps Gerlach should do some research into the organization so he’ll discover the Islamic holy man building the community center (not a mosque) is quite progressive, condemns all violence and was appointed by President Bush to a position mediating tensions following 9/11 and actually aided counter terrorism efforts.  There is nothing evil or radical about this project except for those opposing it through fear, intimidation, lies and Islamaphobia.

In fact this campaign of hatred illustrates exactly why this center is needed and is needed there:  people need to be educated about the real philosophy of Islam, barriers need to be eliminated and understanding of Islam replace the unfounded fear of all Muslims generated by hate radio and television.  Jim Gerlach is stoking those fears and that hatred when he infringes on our constitutional protections to say it is immoral to build on that site.  What I find immoral are people such as the Congressman claiming to support freedom of religion with one breath then condemning it with the next.  This is a pattern I’ve seen with Gerlach over the years.  I attended a Medicare Part D town hall several years ago (his was the key vote for the plan) where he told a bunch of seniors it was heavily lobbied, he didn’t support the donut hole, and he likely wouldn’t vote for it if it came up again.  His was the vote for which GOP leadership held up the vote for 45 minutes until they twisted his arm enough he agreed to vote aye.  At the town hall this week he pontificated about the importance of job creation while he has voted against every job creation plan put forth this year.  He claimed jobs are created by tax cuts when all evidence is to the contrary.  He then assaulted the federal deficit (for which he supported for eight years) and said we should extend the tax cuts but must eliminate the deficit.  Those tax cuts, for which he voted, are a substantial reason for the deficit along with the wars he also supported.  Jim Gerlach cannot have it both ways, he cannot be for religious freedom then, as a sitting Congressman, say it is immoral to build on that site.  This isn’t how it works Jim.  You have to be consistent in your views and refrain from stupid statements.  You must cease contradicting yourself every time you open your mouth.  By the way the stimulus plan wasn’t $1.2 trillion, it did save or create 3,600,000 jobs and you voted against it.  Get your facts straight.  Gerlach claimed “very few jobs were created by it (ARRA) when he has seen jobs created right in his District.  Are you stupid or a liar Jim Gerlach?

Sestak Hits Toomey on Social Security

Just after George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 he unveiled his plan to privatize Social Security.  Rick Santorum embarked on a state wide tour of town halls to promote the dismantlement of our largest social safety net program.  700,000 senior Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security to keep them out of poverty and thousands more disable Pennsylvanians also rely on these benefits.  Republicans have sought to repeal Social Security since its inception and privatizing the system is their back door method of accomplishing this goal. At one of those town halls, at Drexel University in Philadelphia, young Republicans greeted Sen. Santorum with their real feelings:

This is the actual Republican position on the issue:  “Social Security has got to go!”  The private accounts simply allow their fat cat Wall Street friends to cash in at your expense.  According to the Sestak campaign privatized accounts would have cost the average Pennsylvanian $26,000 in October 2008 alone.  The Bush agenda would have drilled a $4.9 trillion hole in the deficit and Pat Toomey went on record support the idea.

As head of the Club For Growth Pat Toomey signed on to the idea and as the Allentown Morning Call recalls, “he was a spokesman of sorts” and organized an ad campaign to destroy our legacy.  Social Security just celebrated its 75th anniversary and the program is nowhere near the dire straights some would leave you to believe.  We can balance the books by ceasing to rob its surplus lift the cap on earnings.  As of now only your first $106,800 of income is subject to the withholding tax.  This means Wall Street hedge fund managers earning $1,000,000,000 per year pay taxes on only a fragment of that money.  Lifting the cap for these high wage earners would solve the fiscal problem permanently.  There would be no need to raise the retirement age to 70 as Republicans wish.

Pat Toomey is on the side of those wishing to obliterate your retirement safety net.  Social Security is one of the most successful government programs ever and you need to understand which candidates support it and which want you out on the street begging for nickels and dimes in your senior years.  Go here to find out if your Member of Congress or Senators support Social Security.  If they aren’t known please demand an answer and let us know here at The Pennsylvania Progressive via the comment section below.

America to Return Statue of Liberty

President Obama announced this afternoon that the United States has agreed to return the Statue of Liberty to France.  The European nation has requested that since America is no longer a place where “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

are welcome it wants her Lady returned.  This is a sad commentary about a people who once were proud to accept the poor, tired, wretched people turned away from their own homes, desperate for peace, prosperity and freedom, peoples for whom the call of liberty is so great they risked everything to arrive on our shores.  The French are so offended by the nativist, racist attitudes permeating America the sight of Lady Liberty in New York harbor offends their sensibilities.  They’re also still pissed about “freedom fries” since history has proved they were right about that all along.

News & Notes August 19, 2010

Fox News dropped all pretenses of being “fair and balanced” and gave $1,000,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association.  Now we’ll see if there remain any shreds of journalistic integrity there when they cover these races.  Fox would now be required to air a disclaimer every time they mention or cover a contested Governor’s race.  I’m not taking money on that bet.

I’m also not taking bets on the outcomes of this year’s Pennsylvania races.  It appears to be a clean sweep for Republicans.  Democrats are still too angry and upset at Obama to vote which means thousands more of them will lose their jobs and houses.  The Sestak campaign can’t keep staffers because they refuse to pay anything but slave wages, there is no coordinated campaign as we hurdle towards Labor Day and another State House member just got his office raided, this time by the FBI.

Newt is pontificating on the “ground zero mosque” which isn’t a mosque and isn’t on ground zero, proving he doesn’t have the mettle to be President.  Presidents have to make the tough, unpopular decisions sometimes simply because its right and because the constitution requires it.  How easily these Tea Party “patriots” are to toss their cherished constitution in the trash as soon as it doesn’t suit them.  Islam didn’t attack us, that was Al Qaeda.  Blaming all Muslims is like blaming all christians for Oklahoma City.  Perhaps we need to ban all churches.  While we’re at it didn’t Buddhist Japan attack us once?  Those English Anglicans were responsible for two wars, the Catholics started the Crusades and the Mormons, well we all remember the massacres around that religion don’t we?  Its a very steep, slippery slope these bigots are creating…

Target has apologized for giving $150,000 to a homophobic Republican Governor candidate but won’t offset it to pro gay rights groups.  That means the boycott continues.  A quarter million people have already pledged to continue the boycott.  Go to your local Target and tell the namager WHY you aren’t shopping there any longer.  It is important they know your honoring the boycott and why.

Dr. Laura is moving her racist, bigoted radio show to the internet so she can use the “N” word whenever and however she pleases.  The issue isn’t what medium she uses to spread her hatred, its the hatred.

In good news the last combat brigade left Iraq.  I remember something about being greeted with flowers and candy and Iraqi oil paying for the war.  Oh, and wasn’t there something about weapons of mass destruction and a nuclear bomb Saddam had ready to drop on an American city?  Gee, the years go by so fast my memory goes hazy remembering how Iraq attacked us on 9/11…

GM filed papers yesterday to issue an IPO under its new incarnation.  Old GM stock became worthless when the company filed for bankruptcy.  Buying new stock will continue to be a gamble until this firm shows consistent earnings and competent management.  Still, this is good news because Republicans were ready to throw all these middle class jobs over the cliff.

Brett Favre is starring in a remake of the classic film “Groundhog Day.”  This time its set in Minnesota.

The Phils are close to fielding the starting lineup again for the first time since May 21st.  In spite of all the injuries they are poised to win their division again.  Tonight will mark 100 consecutive sellouts.  Last season all but eight games sold out.  Isn’t it nice the Phillies topped selling out their fans with horrid teams? This illustrates how Philadelphia fans will support winners.  They have little tolerance for losers though, something Pittsburghers need to learn.  Big Ben is a loser.

Rod Blagojevich was convicted on just one of 24 counts because a holdout juror refused to budge.  It only takes one to obstruct justice so now the feds have to retry the former Illinois Governor.  If I were Blago I’d keep my mouth shut and not crow about being vindicated.  A hung jury is no vindication.  It makes one wonder if someone got to that juror.

Pat Toomey & Derivatives

Pat Toomey worked on Wall Street before serving in Congress.  Those are indisputable facts.  While in DC he was one of Wall Street’s biggest lapdogs.  FactCheck.org is taking Democrats to task for a commercial airing which ties Toomey to Wall Street deregulation and a defense of derivatives.  This archived CSPAN video however shows Congressman Toomey on the House floor supporting the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.  Without that legislation sponsored by Sen. Phil Gramm we likely wouldn’t have had the housing bubble and worldwide economic crash which was fueled by unregulated derivatives and credit swaps.  The text of his comments:

00:39:30 I RISE IN SUPPORT OF THIS RULE AND THE LEGISLATION.

00:39:35 THE MODERNIZATION ACT IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT FINANCIAL LEGISLATION TO COME BEFORE CONGRESS SINCE THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT MANDATED THE SEPARATION BETWEEN BANKING AND THE SECURITIES INDUSTRY IN 1933.

00:39:50 TODAY, THERE’S VIRTUALLY UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT AMONG ECONOMISTS, ACADEMICS, POLICY MAKERS AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THE MEN AND WOMEN CREATING AND PROVIDING FINANCIAL SERVICES ACROSS AMERICA TODAY THAT REPEAL OF GLASS-STEAGALL IS NECESSARY SO CONSUMERS CAN GET THE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THEY DESIRED AND AMERICAN FINANCIAL FIRMS CAN COMPETE IN THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE.

00:40:12 I’D LIKE TO — I’D LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT ONE PART OF THIS SWEEPING LEGISLATION.

00:40:17 I’M PARTICULARLY PLEASED THIS BILL INCLUDES AN IMPORTANT PROVISION CONCERNING CREDIT AND EQUITY SWAPS.

00:40:23 THESE SOMEWHAT OBSCURE PRODUCTS ARE ACTUALLY VERY IMPORTANT TOOLS USED BY BUSINESS, INCLUDING FINANCIAL SERVICE FIRMS, TO MANAGE A VARIETY OF RISKS THEY FACE.

00:40:32 THIS BILL REAFFIRMS THAT SWAPS CONTRACTS ARE LEGITIMATE BANK PRODUCTS THAT CAN BE EXECUTED AND BOOKED IN BANKS AND ARE ADEQUATELY REGULATED BY AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE REGULATED BY BANKING SUPERVISORS.

00:40:45 I’D ALSO LIKE TO CONGRATULATE THE MANY MEMBERS OF THIS CHAMBER WHO WORKED VERY HARD ON FINANCIAL MODERNIZATION, IN PARTICULAR I’D LIKE TO SALUTE CHAIRMAN LEECH AND RANKING MEMBER LAFALCE FOR THE OUTSTANDING WORK THEY’VE DONE TO SEE THIS LEGISLATION THROUGH TO COMPLETION.

00:41:01 I URGE MY COLLEAGUES TO SUPPORT THE RULE AND PASSAGE OF THIS TIME.

Talking the Talk

Barack Obama is good at talking the talk.  His problem is that he doesn’t walk the walk.  Candidate Obama hit all the key words, phrases and issues dear to liberals and progressives and convinced most of them he was one of us.  As he has failed to walk the walk as President the “professional left” feels betrayed and they are avoiding the polls on election days as if leprosy is spread there.  This is the single biggest problem Democrats have right now:  the credibility problem between the White House and those of us on Main Street.  Until the President awakens to the deep outrage over this betrayal Republicans will continue winning because Dems and independents have abdicated elections to those still voting.

Robert Gibbs’ slam of the “professional left” last week illustrates how out of touch they are about the sentiments in the country.  Obama got the left excited and involved.  Minorities and students turned out, worked, voted and engaged only to discover that President Obama was actually just another centrist corporate Democrat who fooled them.  He is a master of verbiage and most of the country fell for his oratory.  I didn’t.  I saw him as a pandering demagogue and voted for Cynthia McKinney instead.  I sure am glad I saw through this man but those who did not feel quite angry these days.

Obama supported DOMA in federal court, has not closed Gitmo and is pursuing human rights violations the same as Bush did and has actually expanded the GWOT.  He escalated Afghanistan, kept warrantless wiretapping and has continued policies for which he condemned his predecessor on the campaign trail.

Barack Obama talks the talk but he doesn’t walk the walk because he is NOT one of us.  We cannot simply listen to people, we must watch what it is they do.  President Obama has accomplished some tangible things, bailed out Wall Street, restored some economic stability and preserved Detroit’s Big Three.  All of these were done for traditional Republican constituencies however.  Labor has been stabbed in the back, little is being done environmentally while climate change wreaks havoc globally, jobs remain overseas and no one in the White House seems to have a clue.

Yes, there are reasons those of us on the “professional left” are upset.  People get that way after being betrayed.  They are angry, confused and outraged.  Robert Gibbs thinks he can dismiss us by insulting us to the national press?  How on earth did he think this would help?  If this is the best Barack Obama can do then prepare for President Palin.  At least with her we’ll know what we’re getting.

Fear Mongering Gets Crazy: Watch Out For Those Babies!

There’s an old saying that “you can’t make this up.”  It turns out you can.  Republicans are making up such strange stuff these days you have to wonder who’s ass they pull it from.  Maybe Michelle Malkin?  First it was the New York City “mosque.”  There are community centers all over the country including Jewish ones in most towns.  For some reason thought he ADL is opposing tolerance for Islamic centers.  My how religious tolerance conveniently disappears when its someone else’s ox being gored.

If we are to tolerate such religious intolerance perhaps we should examine the role of each religion in the use of wars and terror.  The Roman Catholics are responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition and child rape.  Too bad, let’s refuse to allow any more Catholic buildings.  The Anglicans, of course, fought us in two wars (1776 and 1812) so there go the Episcopalians.  How much hate has been spread by the Mormons?  They funded the Prop H8 referendum so let’s get rid of them too.

Are you seeing how easy it becomes to start going after every religion?  If you want you can fear monger anything.  Now Republicans are even going after babies.  Explain to me how babies suddenly became such threats to our security?

Sen. Lindsay Graham is fear mongering something he calls “anchor babies.”  Rep. Louie Gohmert is railing about “terror babies.”  Suddenly the biggest threat to America are diaper clad crying little people.  This is shameless fear mongering of a proportion bordering on the insane.  There are no terror babies and so few anchor babies that creating mass hysteria over them defines these public servants as megalomaniacs.

Though hundreds of thousands of children are born to undocumented immigrants each year few are the result of “drop and leave.”  Does Sen. Graham really think most Mexicans have the financial wherewithal to come here eight or nine months pregnant and have a child and then return south of the border?  A few do but they are actually quite unusual.  Most of these babies are born alla cross America to the people already here working illegally.  Since most of them are in their child bearing years, yes, they do have families.  Creating mass hysteria to undermine or repeal the 14th Amendment is a smoke screen for their real agenda:  getting rid of that pesky clause which guarantees every American equal justice under law.  Open discrimination then can become the law of the land for all these Southern bigots.

The terror baby myth really came out of left field.  Rep. Gohmert took to the House floor to warn us that terrorists are using the right to citizenship by coming here to have babies that can return as citizens to create terror attacks.  The problem:  no one has any shred of evidence to support such ridiculous claims.

You are more likely to die from your pet dog than from a terrorist.  Twenty-five Americans died in terror attacks last year.  Compare that with the number killed by guns, drunk driving, domestic abuse, smoking and other preventable causes and one must wonder why all the hysteria is created about terrorism?  Because the GOP can’t run on its failed ideology so it uses fear mongering for votes.  It always has.  Whether race based, warnings about Communists, gays or, now terrorists, they create these mythical monsters and the gullible American people allow themselves to be brainwashed with fear.  It works every time which urges the question:  how foolish are Americans?  After all, fool me once its your fault, twice its mine.  Republican voters keep falling for this gambit year after year.

News & Notes August 14, 2010

There was lots of news last week for August.  I remember the first couple of years I was blogging sometimes it was difficult to find much news in August.  With both the state legislature and Congress adjourned and most folks on vacation not much happened.  That changed in 2008.

The discussion about the “ground zero mosque” is one more fabricated issue to use fear to divide people.  First of all it isn’t a mosque, secondly it isn’t being built on ground zero.  Mosques have minarets and do calls to prayers.  This is an Islamic community center with a prayer room.  That’s it, and it is proposed for a lot which had a Burlington Coat Factory store.  Let’s get real and remember we have religious freedom in this country.  That also includes freedom FROM religion.  Many of our first settlers to this continent were fleeing just such religious bigotry.  Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks also.  What nineteen Muslims did on that infamous day no more indicts all Muslims than one of our drone attacks in Afghanistan condemns all christians.

Guantanamo doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being shut down.  President Obama has reneged on this key campaign promise and is also conducting unconstitutional military tribunals.  Someone please explain where all this hope and change went?

The absence of much real change is why Democrats aren’t voting.  Since the fall 2008 election they are staying away from the polls in droves.  Events like these this week are a key reason.

Dr. Laura used the “N” word numerous times in a conversation with a caller to her radio show this week.  This so called psychologist apparently has no clue about context.  She mocked her caller and all Blacks by ridiculing them when it was obvious she had no clue about the issue.  Context is everything when using such inflammatory words.

Tea Party candidates are losing GOP primaries after voters saw the likes of Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, not yet ready for daytime (much less prime time) candidates who have been ridiculed for their extremist views.  Now that Americans are awakening to the fringe positions of the Tea Party their fifteen minutes in the spotlight is glaringly coming to a conclusion.

Today is Social Security’s 75th birthday.  I suffered serious injuries at age 34 and without Social Security would have been in dire straights.  We forget the system also helps the disabled and orphans.  Republicans are bound and determined to kill Social Security, a program which provides 14% of our senior citizens with their only income.  Fixing the system is actually quite simple:  lift the caps on income which is taxed.

David Stockman, Reagan’s Budget Director infamous for the “starving the beast” philosophy which is responsible for our exploding deficits and debt, condemned Republicans for destroying our economy.  Pat Toomey, one of those responsible for the destruction, took to the radio airwaves today and went after Democrats for digging us out of the hole.  Pat, you’re the one who dug the hole, remember?  

The Pennsylvania Senate GOP caucus sent Gov. Rendell a letter proposing to cut education funding by $200 million to fund the broken pension system.  These are the same legislators who raised their pensions by 25% then refused to fund them adequately.  Now they want to do so on our children’s backs.

Dan Onorato is looking more and more like a Republican.  This week the anti-choice, anti-gay equality, pro gas drilling County Executive came out and supported school vouchers.  Privatization of public education is NOT the answer.

Judge Vaughn Walker lifted the stay on his Prop H8 decision and same sex marriage will be legal as of Wednesday in California.  An appeal by the folks who couldn’t muster any legitimate legal argument for their cause likely cannot file an appeal.  You must have legal standing to do so and they weren’t a party to the litigation.  The Judge’s decision was so well thought out, so based on law and the facts of the case I actually hope this goes to the Supreme Court.  Once upheld there marriage equality would be the law of the land.  Go ahead, make our day.