News & Notes January 31, 2011

Joe Hoeffel announced this morning that he will not run for re-election as Montgomery County Commissioner.  He astutely allied with fellow Commish Jim Matthews to be in the majority following Bruce Castor’s implosion four years ago.  That began when he ran Matthews under the bus for accepting campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher.  That story broke here on The Pennsylvania Progressive.  Hoeffel had gotten into some hot water when it was revealed that he and Matthews routinely met for breakfasts.  That was an apparent violation of the sunshine law because they formed a quorum of the County Commissioners by meeting.

Josh Shapiro, Hoeffel’s former Chief of Staff when he served as a Congressman, announced he will run to succeed Hoeffel.  Josh is a State Representative and a leading reformer in Harrisburg.  He is a brilliant young man who impresses everyone.  He has a great future and will make a fantastic Commissioner.

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Tucson gun sales there continue unabated.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent undercover agents to a recent gun show in Phoenix where they were able to purchase firearms in spite of telling dealers they wouldn’t pass a background check.  New York, like many other cities, is wrought with gun violence perpetrated by criminals able to buy guns and extended magazines at gun shows and from unscrupulous dealers.  Yes, guns kill people.  Countries which severely restrict gun sales and ownership have a fraction of the gun deaths we do.  That’s proof that it isn’t the people but the guns.  Let’s begin taxing ammunition heavily and we’ll cut the number of senseless deaths substantially.  I like Chris Rock’s idea:  if bullets cost $5,000 apiece these fools will think twice before pulling the trigger.  Nothing in the constitution says anyone has a right to ammunition.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided to decide on the role judges play in determining whether minor girls can obtain permission for abortions from the courts.  The state’s Abortion Control Act, one of the most restrictive in the nation, requires such permission if a young woman cannot obtain parental permission.  The issue of parental consent is a hot button issue.  Responsible parents understandably want to be involved but in too many cases they are the problem.  Until we live in a perfect world where incest doesn’t occur this is a serious issue.  Young women should not be forced to obtain permission from an abusive and incestuous parent for an abortion.

A federal judge in Florida ruled the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  So far some judges have agreed and others disagreed.  Until this is ruled upon by the Supreme Court nothing will be settled.  While I feel the Interstate Commerce Clause provides sufficient legal basis for the law I’ve never felt comfortable with the Act forcing Americans to buy insurance from private corporations with no public option alternative.  This amounts to a giant governmental underwriting of private business at taxpayer’s expense.  That is a purely Republican position and it mystifies me why they’d oppose such legislation.  The mandate is the part of the health insurance bill I dislike so this thrills me.

Demonstrations continue throughout Egypt today while the government successfully shut down Al Jazeera.  The Arab network had been broadcasting video of the revolution sweeping the country against President Hosni Mubarack.  Here is a picture Tweeted from Cairo today:

a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/20915586@N00/5405178073/” title=”Cairo Demonstration by morgan_2408, on Flickr”>Cairo Demonstration

I wonder where Fox News sent their correspondents?  Back in 2009 they broadcast this map of the Middle East:

Fox's Egypt

President Obama will speak at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State Wednesday at noon.  I have White House press credentials but a major winter storm set to hit us tomorrow night may make that impossible.  Didn’t anyone in Washington check the forecast first?

The Koch brothers, major financiers of the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation held their annual Billionaire’s Caucus in Rancho Mirage, California to be met by hundreds of protesters.  They were met by police in riot gear.  Isn’t it nice to know the Koch brothers billions are going for a good cause???

House Republicans in Harrisburg backed off a vote today stripping Democrats of a member on each committee.  Protests over the weekend and a press conference by good government groups in the Rotunda this morning may have given them pause.  They got tons of bad publicity over the weekend.  Democrats robo called for support yesterday.

15 thoughts on “News & Notes January 31, 2011”

  1. Kirk…your concerns are very real and appreciated.

    Hope is the only option left for those who seek to avoid a total breakdown of the fragile Middle East situation.

    While no one suggests that we should be singing hosannas to the Egyptian President for any devotion to democratic values, the facts are clear:

    His government has continued to pursue a peaceful rapport with Israel, as well as a friendly relationship with the U.S. since Mubarek’s assumption of power some 30 years ago.

    In spite of great pressure from millions of his own people, the same Mubarek has refused to lend any support for the Sunni Muslim Hamas or other Palestinian radicals for those same 30 years.

    The asinine blogger who has never spent time in this volatile region of the world and yet assumes the role of a “Middle East expert” while pontificating for Mubarek’s ouster does tend to wear on one who has not only spent time over there but has met and interviewed many of those on both sides of this long systemic and near enigmatic disharmony between two civilizations.

    Having been there does not make me any kind of an expert as some back here apparently pretend to be.

    All of what I have learned is only enough to make one more fearful of the many possible outcomes of this present crisis spreading through a nation of 80 million of which ninety percent are Muslims.

    Matt Thomas  

  2. regardless of how they treat their own people. It’s always a balancing act and people can differ in their judgments in any particular case.

    Certainly, it’s safe to say that we have not always been wrong, considering the alternatives at the time. It’s equally safe to that we have not always been correct. Perhaps most accurately, sometimes we have been “correct” for too long. We tend to support unpopular oppressive rulers after their positive attributes have surmounted their negative.

    There is a debate to be had about the wisdom of continuing to support Mubarak any longer. A huge part of that debate, as you indicated, is who or what will replace him. Using the word “Muslim” to describe potential replacements is of little use. We need to learn about the individuals; the movements/political parties they represent; what they stand for; and who supports them; etc.

    I heard a report from an expert (name forgotten) who impressed me with his calmly delivered opinion that The Muslim Brotherhood is not nearly as radical as it once was and still widely is perceived. I don’t know enough to accept or reject that; which is why I, for one, have a great deal to learn. Perhaps there are some options which are both popular with the Egyptian people and with whom the US can work.  

  3. I am cheered that in all candor, you do know better.

    We may disagree on the core meaning of pragmatism for to myself, this is a word that runs from the high road of a Tom Paine’s Common Sense, far and away downhill to the expediency of those who have attempted to justify their own appalling conduct by way of a bogus rationalization that others may possibly do more evil then themselves.

    Nevertheless, one must applaud your passion for those things that are for “…the good of the country and its people.”

    I am left a bit bewildered by your comment that the foreign policy of “Bush the Younger” most profited the giant corporations…elevating “the good of big business and the wealthy class above the good of the country and its people.

    While your foregoing analysis of the younger Bush and his policies is right on target, are you not just a mite troubled by the recently annunciated pro-business policies of Barrack Obama and their remarkable resemblance to the anti-middle class agenda of the very same G.W. Bush?

    Matt Thomas        

  4. While I see the pragmatist as someone who is practical as opposed to idealistic, you are entitled to your own definition and I therefore applaud your claim to altruism.

    At the same time, it is my contention that pragmatism is most often embraced (or one might say resorted to) by those who wish to justify actions that are often far less than idealistic.

    I have always held that man’s furthermost talent is regrettably found is his ability to rationalize away evil-doing, or at the very least, practices and actions that cannot pass muster by way of any civilized moral code.

    In the most innocuous stage, an unconscionable pragmatist may take the form of someone who sells a seriously defective product to a hapless customer:

    “Hell…if I don’t take this sap there’s plenty of others guys out there who will.”

    Or worse, what of those those banks and other lenders who approved mortgages for families who were clearly not in any way prepared to sustain the financial burden imposed…then these same fellows going on to package and sell off these toxic mortgages to unknowing investors?

    “Families are desperate for housing…my job is to provide them with the resources…it’s up to them to make good on their obligations.”  

    One finds even worse examples in history:

    In Pennsylvania, over some 70 years, hundreds of “pragmatic” anthracite mine owners had employed children as young as seven or eight years (including my own grandfather) for 12 hours a day in coal breakers where thousands of young lungs were poisoned by coal dust while yet other children were frequently maimed and occasionally crushed to death by these breaker’s massive grinding machinery.

    Of course, there were again “pragmatic” reasons given by these same coal barons for their willingness to employ children as laborers:

    “Are not these employment practices necessary to allow us to remain competitive…are we not indebted to turn a generous profit for our stock holders? In any case, many of our own miners or their widows are grateful for the income these boys contribute to their own family’s welfare.”

    And perhaps worst of all:

    An extreme example of such “pragmatism” was the Nazi government’s euthanasia programs in the 1930s where unknown thousands of mentally challenged persons, including many children, were euthanized in line with their government’s rationalization that they amounted to nothing more than “non-productive members of society, thus serving the state as no more than an unnecessary burden on its limited resources.”

    I’ll leave you with an official statement by one of  Pennsylvania’s most prolific pragmatists:

    “These men don’t suffer. Why, hell, half of them don’t even speak English.”

    – George F. Baer, President of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal & Iron Company.

    Testimony before the Anthracite Coal Commission on miners working conditions. (1902-03)

    Matt Thomas

  5. Well Lee, we may never find ourselves in complete agreement on this issue but you have managed to nudge me a mite in the direction of your position.

    At the very least, you have presented powerful arguments in defense of good old American pragmatism. A sideshow to this:

    Since you’re in the Reading area, are you aware that the mansion of the same George F. Baer (a willing tool of the celebrated investor J.P. Morgan) now serves as the Hawthorne Home for the elderly located at Hill Road and Mineral Spring Road just east of Central Catholic High School?

    Matt Thomas  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *