News & Notes April 25, 2011

Nice weather is upon us at last!  I got a lot done around the house today and got the launch permit for one of my kayaks.  They are two year Fish & Boat Commission stickers so I alternate my two kayaks each year.  It seems that fewer and fewer places are handling them.  I have a few things to still do to get my trailer in shape then it’ll be back out on the water after a long, hard winter.

The firm which was preparing to defend DOMA for House Republicans announced today it will not do so.  Paul Clement, the attorney who took the case then resigned from the firm and will do the defense on his own.  The law firm was getting tons of bad press for defending discrimination and didn’t seem comfortable with the publicity.

Tea baggers seem especially upset over gas prices.  Entering the Gamesa plant  afew weeks ago to cover the President’s visit several of them were holding signs blaming Obama for the high prices.  Aren’t these the Ayn Rand aficionados who are all hell bent on free markets determining everything?  I suppose only until the free market hurts them?  Now they’re demanding governmental intervention.  Can you say hypocrisy?

A new WikiLeaks document dump is revealing what happened at Gitmo.  Interviews, dossiers of prisoners and other information is illustrating how sorry our efforts were under Bush.  One detaineee was a sheep herder, another was kept for years because he happened upon some Arabic documents.  It took us years to determine he didn’t even speak the language.  Future terror attacks resulting from Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and other atrocities will be blamed on other factors rather than our own pathetic policies.  The question will pour from lips everywhere?  “Why did they attack us?”

Chesapeake Energy finally got their exploding gas well under control in Bradford County.  One result is that gas companies have finally agreed to stop dumping toxic fracking fluid into our waterways and through sewage treatment plants unequipped to handle the substance.  All of our efforts are beginning to gain some success.  It is imperative everyone continue applying pressure.

Tom Corbett said he wants to make Pennsylvania the “Texas of natural gas” but even in Texas they tax gas extraction.  Texas even has its citizen’s opposition to fracking now.  Can we say “frack you Tom Corbett?”

The gas industry claims natural gas is a “clean” fuel but facts say otherwise.  Five millions of water are required to frack each well each time (each well can be fracked about a dozen times) and loads of methane gas are emitted.  Methane is especially bad for climate change.  Also factoring in the gasoline and diesel from all the rigs hauling water, sand and chemicals to each well and gas may be dirtier even than coal.

Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2), Howarth said, adding that even small leaks make a big difference. He estimated that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well-up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.

Sen. Jane Orie’s retrial has been scheduled for October.  Her lawyers are appealing to Superior Court with her argument that she cannot be tried again under double jeopardy.  That’s a bit ridiculous since it is apparent her team doctored evidence presented at trial.  You shouldn’t be able to cheat your way to an acquittal.

The next time someone tries selling you on Amway use this information on them.  Rich and Betsy DeVos are co-owners of the private company infamous for its pyramid schemes.  They sink millions into GOP campaigns, think tanks and religious right organizations.  Now they’re funding the efforts to privatize public schools.  SB1 is in a holding pattern in Harrisburg but it may still get a vote so boycott Amway.

The water problems plaguing Harrisburg last week have been blamed on beavers.  Now the Harrisburg Beavers are being blamed for every ill besetting that poor ‘burgh.  Someone has even begun a Twitter account in their name.  The fake Linda Thompson (the horribly incapable Mayor) account is blaming all of her incompetence on the furry creatures.

Rick Santorum says he will repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if elected president.  This is the same guy who also wants to tell you what sex acts you can and cannot do in the privacy of your home.  Isn’t that the ultimate “big government?”

I went into my local AT&T store this afternoon to complain about my iPhone tracking me and the people didn’t know what I was referring to and had nothing to tell me about how to disable the feature.  AT&T, are you listening?  I can’t hear you now.

Racist Governor Haley Barbour announced he will not run for president.  The GOP fields of clowns remains the same.

Apparently there’s a wedding this Friday for a couple known as Will and Kate.  Seems to be a big deal since the supposed cable “news” people are all agog over the event.  I wonder if the future princess will wear a white gown?  I mean, they’ve been shacked up for a year so I’m assuming she’s no longer a virgin?

I  heard a GOP radio commercial today claiming the Republicans didn’t vote to end Medicare.  Did they read their bill?

Happy _______________!!

Happy Spring Fertility Festival! Happy Easter or Passover or Happy __________________(fill in the the blank).

Whatever you call it, it started out as the spring fertility festival…hence the bunnies and eggs.

Recently I had occasion to go to a funeral for a friend and that trip convinced me more than ever that the supernatural is a myth….the Catholic church didn’t collapse as I walked into it.

Added to that as I left the church I couldn’t help take note that there was a cardboard egg-shaped notice on the bulletin…apparently the Easter Bunny was going to visit the Catholic church. I nearly burst out loud laughing.

The church spent hundreds of years destroying the pagan fertility festival and killing pagans and they finally hijaaked the holiday and replaced it with their own…Easter. So imagine my surprise to see (essentially) the poster creature for the old religion invited back as a special treat for the children. A little…odd.

Nevertheless Happy ________________ Day! Don’t eat too many eggs or chocolate bunnies. Have fun on the egg hunt and enjoy the baskets of goodies…just remember they are all symbols of a belief system that celebrated and cherished the planet, that was persecuted and destroyed by those who thought they were more enlightened.

Enlightened is relative.

I believe still that actions speak louder than words and the actions of those who abused the pagans (aka heathens) engaged in some actions over the centuries that are not exactly morally praise-worthy. Some, even today, struggle to do the right thing.

Hands Off My Healthcare!

Two years ago then Sen. Arlen Specter held a health care town hall in Lebanon, PA.  You’ll recall it because it was heavily televised after an angry tea bagger confronted him in a very threatening manner.  Americans For Prosperity was financing a lot of organized action against “ObamaCare” and Sarah Palin’s make believe “death panels” in an attempt to derail health insurance reform.  I was there that day after covering a small protest here in Reading.  The group Conservatives For Patient’s Rights officially sponsored the tour with this bus:

Now these same people are trying to get their hands on MY health care.  They have convinced Republicans in Congress to destroy Medicare, my health provider.  It’s bad enough they want 59 million uninsured Americans to die because they cannot get into line for medical care but now they want to throw millions of elderly and disabled Americans into that group.  

They have instituted real death panels in states like Arizona which is now rationing health care and deciding who on the transplant list will live or die.  They have taken the extreme, fictitious labels they gave to President Obama’s plan and made them real.

Now they’re coming after both my Social Security disability and my Medicare.  If you’re poor, chronically out of work or in long term care they also want to end your Medicaid.  That program pays for long term nursing care and assisted living for millions of senior citizens.  Once one’s assets are wiped because of our broken health care system Medicaid pays for their care.  62% of all Medicaid is paid out for these services.  Where will our parents go when this is no longer available?  On that bus?  No, under it.  Conservatives will use their billions from the Koch brothers and their Orwellian sounding names to run all of us under their bus.

That senior citizen who confronted Sen. Specter won’t be able to get any medical care after RyanCare becomes what we used to call Medicare.  I remember this conversation I had with a couple outside that community college in Lebanon:

Notice how he had no idea what HR 676 said, how single payer systems would work here and how he then refused to renounce his right to Medicare after condemning government run health care. Then last year I went to a Tea Party tax day protest in Reading with these signs and a portable BBQ grill:

I asked the tea baggers to have the courage of their convictions and burn their Medicare cards. I didn’t need to use a single match that day.

Paul Ryan’s plan would overturn the Affordable Care Act with its protections against patient abuse, something we actually do call “patient’s rights” and replace the well run program with a voucher system where seniors and disabled people would have to purchase health coverage from private insurers. Just like as in “ObamaCare.” I thought that was a horrible, evil program? It is which is why I was against the system devised by Congress with no public option.

We would be forced out of Medicare as we know it and given vouchers worth about half what coverage would cost, if we could even, actually receive such insurance. How do you get health insurance when you’re disabled or a senior citizen with existing medical conditions. Not many people age 65 or over have no pre-existing conditions. Even if healthy we’d be subject to the abuses reigned upon us by the private insurers when something does happen. “Oh, I’m sorry but you had acne as a teen so you aren’t covered for this cancer.”

Now, that’s a death panel. Tea baggers want to destroy what works, what costs us 3% overhead to manage and replace it with a system with 25% overhead and no protections. They want to rid us completely of Medicaid as Idaho’s Governor decided this week to do. They want Governor’s such as Jan Brewer in Arizona eliminating all transplant coverage. If you need a new heart, lungs or kidney you’d better start having bake sales today so you can pay for it later.

The American system of medical care has been broken for years and every passing year makes things worse. At least the disabled and elderly have had a safety net. The poor had some access and those trapped in long term care receive skilled nursing care. That is all at risk thanks to Congressman Ryan and his cohorts in the GOP. Now it’s time to turn the town halls against them. Keep it civil folks but go and have your voice heard this time.

Libya Escalation

President Obama escalated American intervention in Libya this week giving $25 million worth of equipment and then sending Predator drones in to support the rebels.  The first drone attack happened overnight.  Meanwhile Sen. John McCain who has never seen a Muslim he didn’t want to kill, traveled to Benghazi.  Why?  Isn’t Arizona dangerous enough?

The new moves against Ghaddaffi go well beyond the UN mandate and continue a disturbing pattern of escalation since the struggle there began.  Interestingly 73 Syrian citizens were gunned by Assad yesterday but I see no cry to go into that country “to protect the civilian population.”  Of course Syria doesn’t have oil.  Funny how this works…

Third and State This Week: Closing Loopholes, a Flawed School Vouchers Plan and More

This week, we blogged about closing tax loopholes on Tax Day, a deeply flawed school vouchers plan in the state Senate, Governor Corbett’s claims about property taxes in Texas, and much more.


  • On education, Steve Herzenberg wrote that despite amendments made to the Senate school voucher bill, it remains a deeply flawed and expensive new program, with little to no accountability.
  • On state budget and taxes, Sharon Ward shared her Tax Day op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she suggests that instead of grumbling about taxes this year, we start the work of closing tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the well-connected few. Meanwhile, Chris Lilienthal passed on Tax Day resources from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Demos’ Taxes Matter Project to provide a fresh perspective on how we think about taxes. And Michael Wood posted a video clip from a Monday press conference, hosted by Common Cause Pennsylvania, where he and good government advocates called on lawmakers to close tax loopholes before cutting schools, colleges and services for vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
  • Finally, on the Marcellus Shale, Michael Wood sets the record straight on what taxes Texas drillers do and don’t pay, in response to recent comments by Governor Corbett.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Scratches on the Blackboard of Animal Cruelty

by Walter Brasch

Take a pigeon.

         Now put that pigeon, along with thousands of others, into small coops that don’t give the bird much freedom to move.

         Don’t worry about food or water. It won’t matter.

         Take some of the pigeons-who are already disoriented from hours, maybe days, of confinement-and place a couple of them each into spring-loaded box traps on a field.

         About 20 yards behind the traps have people with 12-gauge shotguns line up.

         Release the pigeons and watch juveniles disguised in the bodies of adults shoot these non-threatening birds. Most of the birds will be shot five to ten feet from the traps; many, dazed and confused, are shot while standing on the ground or on the tops of cages. Each shooter will have the opportunity to shoot at 25 birds, five birds each in five separate rounds.

         About a fourth of the birds will be killed outright. Most of the rest will be wounded. Teenagers will race onto the fields and grab most of the wounded birds. They will wring their necks or stuff them still alive into barrels to die from suffocation.

         Some birds will be able to fly outside the killing field, only to die a slow and painful death in nearby yards, roofs, or rivers. A few will live.

         Now, do it again. And again. And again. All day long. At the “state shoot” in Berks County, about 5,000 birds were launched from 27 boxes on three killing fields.

         And, just to make sure that you’re a macho macho man, why not stuff a bird onto a plastic fork and parade around the grounds? How about wearing a T-shirt with language so nauseating that even Cable TV would have to blur the message.

         By the way, make sure you collect your bets. Illegal gambling, along with excessive drinking, is also a part of this charade that poses as sport. The shooters don’t make much, but thousands of dollars will exchange hands.

These are the same psychopaths who probably twirled cats by their tails, and used birthday money to buy BB guns to pluck birds from fences and telephone wires. In their warped minds, they probably think they’re Rambo, their shotguns are M-16s, the cages are bunkers, and the cooing birds are agents of Kaos, Maxwell Smart’s long-time nemesis.

This is what the NRA is defending as Americans’ Second Amendment rights. And why the Pennsylvania legislature has been afraid to pass a bill prohibiting pigeon shoots.

For more than three decades, Pennsylvanians have tried to get this practice banned. For three decades, they have failed. And when it looked as if there was even a remote chance that a slim majority of legislators might support a bill banning pigeon shoots, the House and Senate leadership, most of them from rural Pennsylvania, figured out numerous ways to lock up the bills in committees or keep them from reaching the floor for a vote. In 1994, the House did vote, 99-93, to ban pigeon shoots. But 102 votes were needed.

But now a bill to ban this form of animal cruelty may be headed for a vote in the full legislature. SB626, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Browne (R-Allentown), forbids the “use of live animals or fowl for targets at trap shoots or block shoot” gatherings. It specifically allows fair-chase hunting and protects Second Amendment rights.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally got a spine, and voted 11-3 to send legislation to the full Senate to ban this practice. Six Republicans and five Democrats voted for the vote; all three negative votes were from Republicans, including the Senate’s president pro-tempore. Many of those voting for the ban are lifetime hunters; many are long-time NRA members. They all agree that this is not fair chase hunting but wanton animal cruelty.

But, the NRA, with its paranoid personality that believes banning animal cruelty would lead to banning guns, fired back. In a vicious letter to its members and the media, the NRA stated that national animal rights extremists, whom they have also called radicals, are trying to ban what they call a “longstanding traditional shooting sport.”

         The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) disagree. In 1900, the IOC banned pigeon shoots as cruelty to animals and ruled it was not a sport. The PGC says that pigeon shoots “are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting.” Also opposed to pigeon shoots are dozens of apparently other radical extremists-like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. “Each pigeon shoot teaches children that violence and animal cruelty are acceptable practices,” says Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president for the HSUS.

The vote will be close in both chambers, mostly because of the financial power the NRA wields in the rural parts of Pennsylvania, and the NRA’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard screeches to its members. On his blog, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia), a member of the Judiciary committee, wrote that when he supported a ban on pigeon shoots in previous Legislative sessions, he “got more hate mail on this than any other issue I’ve been involved with.” He stated he “got e-mails from all over the state telling me that I obviously hated America and that God, who wanted the pigeons he created to be slaughtered as quickly as possible, was very disappointed in me.”

         Failure to pass this bill into law will continue to make Pennsylvania, with a long-established hunting culture, the only state where pigeon shoots openly occur, and where animal cruelty is accepted.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning reporter who attended several pigeon shoots. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and “clean” nuclear energy. The book is available at]


Barletta Confronted About Medicare Vote

Congressman Lou Barletta was harassed by constituents at a town hall meeting over his vote for Paul Ryan’s plan to eradicate Medicare.  My favorite part of the discussion was when Barletta said this:

“This plan does not do nothing to affect anyone 55 years or older,” he said. “When we start doing things that scare senior citizens, like politicians do that to get elected, I believe they need to find a different occupation.” But before Barletta could continue, 64-year-old Linda Christman raised her hand and argued that those under 55 would see an erosion of benefits. The exchange became heated as other constituents began yelling for the woman to “sit down”:

I wholeheartedly agree since this is exactly what Republicans like Lou Barletta did last year.  They ran thousands of scare ads playing on senior’s fears accusing Democrats of having cut current Medicare benefits (it was a lie).  Such fear mongering and lies make any candidate engaging in them unfit for public office.  Here’s where Lou Barletta did exactly that. So Congressman Barletta, when do we get your resignation?

Update:  Barletta’s office released a press release condemning the questioner because she is head of the Carbon County Democrats for Change.  You might recall a great video her group made last year called “Chickens.”  We ran it here.

Since when is it bad form for constituents to attend town hall meetings by their Congressman and ask uncomfortable questions.  I don’t recall the Tea baggers having such concerns when they stormed Sen. Specter’s meeting in Lebanon and threatened him.  This woman was doing her duty as a citizen but Lou Barletta can’t handle dissent?  He needs to get a new job.  After all, he said if a candidate runs for office by lying to seniors about Medicare he should get another job.  Lou, it’s time to get another job.

PoliticsPA has good video of the event.

Koch Brothers Instructed Employees on Voting

The infamous Koch brothers, Charles and David, financiers of the hard right wing, instructed 50,000 employees on whom to vote for in 2010.  The packet sent to their company personnel included a letter from their lobbyist.  Of course for whom one votes once in a secret booth is no one else’s business but coercion from a powerful employer is a line no compnay should cross.  I know because I was subjected to such coercion in 1980.  At the time I was employed by Kellogg Sales Company, the marketing arm of Kellogg’s of Battle Creek, MI, the giant cereal manufacturer.  They instructed me to vote for Ronald Reagan (I didn’t) in return for the candidate’s promise to drop a federal antitrust suit against the company for price fixing.  Six months after his inauguration Reagan had his Justice Department drop the lawsuit.  My work for Kellogg’s at the time included price fixing and led to a great deal of personal stress and soon after, my departure from the company.

No company should be allowed such control over an employee and any retaliation should be met with litigation.  This is but one more example of the horrors of the Citizens United decision.

Four upcoming Green Party of Phila. events:anti-fracking, public meeting, May Day, Move to Amend

A list of upcoming events (including an anti-fracking demonstration today) from the Green Party of Philadelphia (for facebook links, check out the GPOP’s facebook group).

Earth Day Demonstration Against Fracking

Date: Thursday, April 21, 2011

Time: 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Location: Dept. of Environmental Protection, 2 Main St., Norristown, PA

Notes: Demonstration at DEP to demand a ban on gas drilling. Stop polluting our drinking water as well as our waterways.

This demonstration has been called by the Green Party of Philadelphia and endorsed by Brandywine Peace Community, BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action, Citizens for Clean Water, Green Party of Delaware County, Green Party of Montgomery County, Protecting our Waters and Saint Vincent’s Peace and Justice Ministry.

For more info: Green Party of Phila. 215-243-7103 or

Green Party Of Phila. General Membership Meeting, 4/28/2011, 7:00 pm (open to public)

Date: Thursday April 28, 2011

Time: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Next reminder: The next reminder for this event will be sent in 7 days, 4 minutes.

Location: Calvary Community Center, Samaritan Room, 2nd Floor

Street: 4740 Baltimore Ave., 48th Street entrance, in West Phila

City State Zip: Phila., PA

Notes: Proposed agenda includes nomination of candidates seeking election in City Council (Districts 1 and 8) and perhaps a challenger to Mayor Nutter for Mayor. Please come out to meet potential candidates, listen to their platforms, and decide if they should run for public office.

May Day Rally & Family Celebration

Date: Saturday April 30, 2011

Time: 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Location: Elmwood Park Labor Monument

Street: South 71st Street and Buist Ave.

City State Zip: Phila., PA 19153

Phone: 215-243-7103


Join us to celebrate May Day, a day that is celebrated globally to honor all workers including those who were killed in the Haymarket Riot during the struggle for the 8-hour day. Sponsored by: The PA Labor History Society and PhilaPOSH.

Endorsed by: The Green Party of Phila.

One of the speakers will be Cheri Honkala, Green Party candidate for Sheriff of Phila. Admission is free!

Move to Amend with David Cobb


Thursday, May 5 · 6:30pm – 8:30pm


First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

2125 Chestnut Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

More Info

Come here David Cobb speak about the Move to Amend campaign, which seeks to amend the Constitution to abolish corporate personhood.

Learn more at

Cobb was the 2004 Green Party presidential candidate. Green Party Sheriff Candidate Cheri Honkala will also speak.

Bradford Well A Fracking Mess

Chesapeake Energy lost control of a gas well in Bradford County and it spilled toxic fracking fluid for 16 hours.  The combination of millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic materials contaminated a stream running into the Susquehanna River and seven families were evacuated.  A nearby farmer was told not to allow his cows access to surface water though I’m not at all sure how you tell cows not to drink the water on the fields.  Is there a special bovine language for that?

Will Range Resources, ExxonMobil and other energy companies plastering us with their propaganda about natural gas include scenes like this in their advertising?  The well pad in a remote area will contain six wells and one was being fracked when it exploded.  Toxic fluids escaped the immediate area and neither DEP nor the township were notified about the accident for hours.  Of course it isn’t likely that DEP will do anything anyway under Gov. Corbett.  Perhaps we need to bottle some of this fluid and serve it to the Governor with his lunch.  If it’s safe he shouldn’t have any adverse health issues.

DEP records show that Chesapeake has been fined seven times for a total of $61,101 over the last three years — which makes it tied with Range Resources for the second-highest number of fines in the state next to Chief Oil & Gas, which had nine.

This latest accident comes on the heels of a Congressional report released by Democrats last weekend.  This New York Times article says millions of gallons of toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground to produce this gas.  What is the logic behind using 5 million gallons of fresh water per well to collect gas?  water is becoming a far scarcer resource than natural gas but we’re using vast amounts from our aquifers, affecting homeowner’s wells, to extract the gas and then contaminate what water remains underground?  This is insane.  Some excerpts from the report:

The inquiry over hydrofracking, which was initiated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee when Mr. Waxman led it last year, also found that 14 of the nation’s most active hydraulic fracturing companies used 866 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products – not including water. More than 650 of these products contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or are listed as hazardous air pollutants, the report said.

Companies injected large amounts of other hazardous chemicals, including 11.4 million gallons of fluids containing at least one of the toxic or carcinogenic B.T.E.X. chemicals – benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. The companies used the highest volume of fluids containing one or more carcinogens in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

The report comes two and a half months after an initial report by the same three lawmakers that found that 32.2 millions of gallons of fluids containing diesel, considered an especially hazardous pollutant because it contains benzene, were injected into the ground during hydrofracking by a dozen companies from 2005 to 2009, in possible violation of the drinking water act.