PA Tax Collections Strong So Far, September Will Tell Us More

A blog post by Michael Wood, originally published at Third and State.

Here is another look at General Fund tax collections in the first two months of Pennsylvania’s 2011-12 Fiscal Year. As you can see, collections so far this year have exceeded pre-recessionary levels – a positive sign.

General Fund Tax Collections July and August

Revenue collections for September will be released as early as late Friday. September collections are important to monitor because they include quarterly corporate and personal income tax payments. They should give us a much better idea of what to expect in future months.

So far, so good.

High Unemployment Leads to More Student Loan Defaults

A blog post by Sean Brandon, originally published at Third and State.

The U.S. Department of Education recently released 2009 fiscal year data on the number of students defaulting on college loans. In a press release, the Department noted that the national default rate rose from 7% in 2008 to 8.8% in 2009, affecting loans for all types of colleges and universities. The default rate rose from 6% to 7.2% on loans for students at public institutions, 4% to 4.6% at private institutions, and 11.6% to 15% at for-profit institutions.

Among the states, Pennsylvania has the third highest number of higher learning institutions (behind California and New York) and a student default rate of only 6.6%, which is considerably better than the national rate. However, Pennsylvania is no exception when you compare the relationship between the unemployment rate and the borrower default rate.

Earlier this month, Rortybomb blogger Mike Konczal compared the default numbers of subprime mortgages with for-profit college loans. In his analysis, he drew attention to the relationship between unemployment and default rates.

The Keystone Research Center recreated one of Mike’s graphs below. It is quite clear that as unemployment rises, the number of students defaulting on their loan payments also goes up. Pennsylvania is the label highlighted in red. 

The tough economic conditions have been particularly hard on young college graduates. According to an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper, “between 2007 and the most recent 12 months (August 2010 – July 2011), the unemployment rate rose from 8.7% to 14.7% for young black college graduates, from 6.6% to 13.5% for young Hispanic college graduates, and from 5.1% to 9.2% for young white college graduates.”

Too many of today’s graduates are left holding a diploma but not a job. As a result, they are unable to pay back the money they already spent getting the degree that was supposed to help them get a good job.

In order to make loan payments more affordable, the Obama administration initiated the income-based repayment plan (IBR), which has capped the monthly payment at an amount based on family size and income. For many young graduates without income, however, the IBR plan does very little.

The best way to lower the student loan default rate is to bring down the unemployment rate. Lawmakers need to incentivize companies to hire young graduates. If the unemployment rate rises in the next few years like it did in the last three years, then hundreds of thousands of young graduates will default on their student loan payments each year.

Orie Trial Set For February

The corruption trial of State Sen. Jane Orie is now set for February 13th after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected her appeal of double jeopardy.  She also waived a preliminary hearing of forgery and perjury charges emanating from her original trial which was halted during deliberations.  Orie’s defense presented altered documents designed to impeach the testimony of her former chief of staff’s testimony the Senator had used her state offices, staffers and resources for campaigns.  Allegations she ran the State Supreme Court campaign for her sister Justice Joan Orie Melvin on the public dime now have her in the dock.  The new trial was set for Monday but the charges are being consolidated into one trial and it will commence in February.

Banning the First Amendment

by Walter Brasch

Parents demanded it be banned.

School superintendents placed it in restricted sections of their libraries.

It is the most challenged book four of the past five years, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

“It” is a 32-page illustrated children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, with illustrations by Henry Cole. The book is based upon the real story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins, who had formed a six-year bond at New York City’s Central Park Zoo, and who “adopted” a fertilized egg and raised the chick until she could be on her own.

Gays saw the story as a positive reinforcement of their lifestyle. Riding to rescue America from homosexuality were the biddies against perversion. Gay love is against the Bible, they wailed; the book isn’t suitable for the delicate minds of children, they cried as they pushed libraries and schools to remove it from their shelves or at the very least make it restricted.

The penguins may have been gay-or maybe they weren’t. It’s not unusual for animals to form close bonds with others of their same sex. But the issue is far greater than whether or not the penguins were gay or if the book promoted homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. People have an inherent need to defend their own values, lifestyles, and worldviews by attacking others who have a different set of beliefs. Banning or destroying free speech and the freedom to publish is one of the ways people believe they can protect their own lifestyles.

During the first decade of the 21st century, the most challenged books, according to the ALA, were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, apparently because some people believe fictionalized witchcraft is a dagger into the soul of organized religion. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was the 10th most challenged in 2010. Perhaps some parents weren’t comfortable with their adolescents having to make a choice between werewolves and vampires.

Among the most challenged books is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the vicious satire about firemen burning books to save humanity. Other books that are consistently among the ALA’s list of most challenged are Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier), Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Forever (Judy Blume), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), regarded by most major literary scholars as the finest American novel.

Name a classic, and it’s probably on the list of the most challenged books. Conservatives, especially fundamental religious conservatives, tend to challenge more books. But, challenges aren’t confined to any one political ideology. Liberals are frequently at the forefront of challenging books that may not agree with their own social philosophies. The feminist movement, while giving the nation a better awareness of the rights of women, wanted to ban Playboy and all works that depicted what they believed were unflattering images if women. Liberals have also attacked the works of Joel Chandler Harris (the Br’er Rabbit series), without understanding history, folklore, or the intent of the journalist-author, who was well-regarded as liberal for his era.

Although there are dozens of reasons why people say they want to restrict or ban a book, the one reason that threads its way through all of them is that the book challenges conventional authority or features a character who is perceived to be “different,” who may give readers ideas that many see as “dangerous.”

The belief there are works that are “dangerous” is why governments create and enforce laws that restrict publication. In colonial America, as in almost all countries and territories at that time, the monarchy required every book to be licensed, to be read by a government official or committee to determine if the book was suitable for the people. If so, it received a royal license. If not, it could not be printed.

In 1644, two decades before his epic poem Paradise Lost was published, John Milton wrote a pamphlet, to be distributed to members of Parliament, against a recently-enacted licensing law. In defiance of the law, the pamphlet was published without license. Using Biblical references and pointing out that the Greek and Roman civilizations didn’t license books, Milton argued, “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable create [in] God’s image,” he told Parliament, “but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God.” He concluded his pamphlet with a plea, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

A century later, Sir William Blackstone, one of England’s foremost jurists and legal scholars, argued against prior restraint, the right of governments to block publication of any work they found offensive for any reason.

The arguments of Milton and Blackstone became the basis of the foundation of a new country, to be known as the United States of America, and the establishment of the First Amendment.

Every year, at the end of September, the American Library Association sponsors Banned Book Week, and publishes a summary of book challenges. And every year, it is made more obvious that those who want to ban books, sometimes building bonfires and throwing books upon them as did Nazi Germany, fail to understand the principles of why this nation was created.

[Walter Brasch was a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor before becoming a professor of mass communications, with specialties in First Amendment and contemporary social issues. His current book is the mystery novel, Before the First Snow, a look at the 1960s, and how issues unresolved during those years are affecting today’s society.]

         

Pa. State Revenue Growth Strong in 2011-12, Despite Missing Official Estimates

A blog post by Michael Wood, originally published at Third and State.

Some state policymakers are concerned that Pennsylvania tax collections are trailing official revenue targets for the first two months of the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. However, Pennsylvania’s revenue collections for July and August are running well ahead of the same two-month period in 2010-11.

While actual tax collections are below official estimates, some of that underperformance may be attributed to a change in the way those revenue estimates were made, as the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center explains in our recent Revenue Tracker. <!–break–>The 2011-12 estimates predict a larger share of annual revenue coming in during the first half of the fiscal year than revenue estimates of the past several years. If 2011-12 collection patterns are similar to most recent years, such a change may make budget “shortfalls” more common in the first half of the fiscal year, followed by surpluses in the second half.

Fiscal Year-to-Date Tax Revenue through August Shows Significant Growth from 2010

September, one of the five big revenue months of the fiscal year, will give us a better idea of the strength of the economy and the effect of this change to the revenue estimates.

News & Notes September 28, 2011

I got moved to the new house over the weekend but am still ferrying carloads of small things so my schedule is kind of busy right now.  The desktop system isn’t set up yet so I’m dependent on my laptop and the dining room table.  Hopefully by next week I’ll be somewhat back to normal.  It doesn’t appear there’s a way to disassemble the old desk/hutch so I’m shopping for something new.

Michelle Bachmann says she’d eliminate all taxes as president.  That means she’d eliminate all government.

Rick Santorum is moving ahead of Bachmann and some of the other dwarfs in the Snow White GOP field.  Have people forgotten he wants to establish a Big Government to intrude into your sex life and tell you what you can and cannot do with your partner in bed?  Santorum believes every sex act must be vaginal intercourse without contraception so we can continue overpopulating the planet.  Remember he’s a member of the Roman Catholic cult Opus Dei.  He would report to the Pope.

Could next year’s election be stolen?  It turns out Diebold electronic voting machines can be hacked with $10 worth of materials.  A majority of Pennsylvanians will vote on machines which can be hacked to rig an election.  No wonder half of us no longer even vote.  The system is becoming more and more corrupt.

New census data out shows 130,000 same sex married couples and 514,000 living in long term relationships but unable to wed.

It also shows the poorest city in America is our own Reading, PA.  It surprises no one here that Reading now has the highest percentage of residents living in poverty.  One need only drive through the City to see the condition of its residents.  Crime is skyrocketing and anyone who has been able to flee Reading has already.

In the “tell me something I don’t already know” department a BBC interview is getting attention for the blunt words said about the economy:

I’ve been saying for a while that anyone with money in the market is a fool because the game is rigged by Wall Street insiders.  It is obvious to me a collapse of global proportions is coming because Washington has failed to regulate bankers.  They have failed to do that because Goldman Sachs runs our government.

Lawrence O’Donnell is covering the occupation of Wall Street and the police brutality against protesters:

The baseball season ends today and the Phillies are the best team of the year and enter the playoffs the favorite to win the World Series.  Unfortunately for Pirates fans they’ve endured their 20th consecutive losing season.  The Phils sleepwalked through an eight game losing streak where it appears they allowed St. Louis to sweep a four game series to screw the Braves.  If so those of us who attended those games deserve our money back.

The Eagles, coronated as the “Dream Team” all summer are also sleep walking through their schedule.  I don’t think this is what was meant by “dream team.”  They won’t win until they get an offensive line.

Have you seen the Taco Bell commercial where they brag about using “select grade” beef?  Select is the lowest grade of beef you can buy.

The new season of “Survivor” is on and my readers know I’m a long time Survivor fanatic.  There’s another interesting cast this season and I’ve yet to choose a favorite.  I do like Jim, the marajuana dealer from California.  The Hantz kid is riding his uncle’s coattails but he’s no Russell.  He screwed Coach last week so he’s history.

Gov. Corbett continues to hide from Pennsylvanians, not making public appearances or conducting press briefings.  We all know what he’s trying to hide and this simply makes it obvious.

While in New Mexico last month I did a bit of research into hydrofracking in The Land of Enchantment.  They’ve had it for thrity years with far fewer problems than we’ve had in a short time period.  I went to the office of the State Land Commissioner, a state wide elected office there to make an appointment to talk to some experts.  They not only accommodated me they had me wait a few minutes until two gentlemen came out of a conference room in front of me, answered a few questions and then escorted me up a flight of stairs.  there they introduced me to New Mexico’s state geologist who gave me half an hour on the spot.  Would that happen in Harrisburg?  Never in a million years.

By the way the geologist said if any officials from Pennsylvania want to come to Santa Fe and see how it’s done (effective regulation and taxation) they’re welcome.

Pennsylvanians Rally For Women’s Rights

Hundreds of Pennsylvanians rallied in the Capitol Rotunda today in support of women’s rights.  Estimates of 500 emphasized the largest crowd I’ve seen at an event in Harrisburg.  We’ve Had Enough was organized against Senate Bill 732 which would impose onerous and unnecessary standards for abortion facilities.  The effect would be the closing of many women’s clinics and a shrp increase in costs of abortion services.

Conservative anti-choice legislators saw the horrors of the Gosnell Clinic as a vehicle to severely restrict women’s rights.  SB 732 imposes regulations which require women’s clinics to adhere tot he same standards as ambulatory surgical clinics, places you go for knee, gall bladder, tonsils and other same day operations.  Having knee surgery isn’t the same as having an abortion and abortion clinics which perform procedures one day a week don’t need full time RN’s on staff.  They also don’t need elevators and 400 square foot operating rooms.

SB 732 is designed to make it so expensive for women’s clinics to comply that they’ll go out of business.  When Texas imposed similar regulations the massive state lost all but two of its clinics.  Imagine just two abortion clinics for a state the size of Texas?  Pennsylvania would be no better.  The only places eligible to perform abortions would be major urban hospitals.

As Ellie Smeal said today this is class warfare because only wealthy women would be able to afford to have abortions.  The poor, many of whom depend on facilities such as Planned Parenthood (I’m a Board member by way of disclosure) not just for abortion services but for their obgyn needs and cancer screenings.

The rally was kicked off by Dr. Parker, an abortion provider, speaking about the health and safety of clinics in Pennsylvania.  Admitting the Gosnell Clinic was a horror he said that’s no excuse to shut down all the clinics in the Commonwealth.  The Gosnell situation was a failure of the state health department to inspect and uphold current standards.  It was the exception for which every other women’s clinic is now being punished.  Dr. Parker said “we will allow the actions of one rogue doctor to jeopardize the health of women in Pennsylvania.”  He also said if abortions become dangerous in PA it will be because of SB 732.  A return to back alley abortions will actually kill women and mothers.

A woman who moved here from Minnesota told her personal story.  Sarah Trombler-Gimple told how she got an unplanned pregnancy and made the decision to opt for an abortion.  She mentioned the great care she received at the Allentown Women’s Center and said “I never questioned the quality of my care because of the size of the room I was in.”  She reminded the crowd that “Never again” means never going back to back alley abortionists.  That is the situation SB 732 would create meaning clinics like Gosnell’s would become the norm rather than the exception.

Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale rocked the crowd with an inspiring speech about faith and reproductive rights and called the war on women a class war.  She said “abortion is sometimes a necessary moral choice.”  La Tasha Mayes of New Voices Women of Color spoke to the need for women’s health services in her community.  Minority women especially will be impacted by SB 732 because of their lack of health care coverage.  They disproportionately represent those who receive services at our Planned Parenthood clinics and depend upon us for the reproductive health care.  The loss of women’s clinics also means lack of access to birth control, diagnostics, cancer screenings and routine ob gyn exams.

Ellie Smeal recognized Kate Michelman who was also in attendance and reminded us that Pennsylvania has produced national leaders for women’s rights.  Instead of creating jobs and working to revive Pennsylvania’s economy conservatives launched a war on women.  They want not only to eliminate access to abortion but also to birth control:  “this is class warfare on middle and lower class women. They have thrown down the gauntlet and we won’t forget who was with us and who was against us.”  Smeal said we should be opening additional clinics instead of closing them.  There are areas of our state without women’s clinics and many women must drive distances to access services.

Many State Reps and Senators also attended the rally to show their support.  Josh Shapiro took a great photo of the crowd:

Here are pictures I took of the event:

Dr. Parker:

Sarah Tromble-Gimple:

Ellie Smeal:

As if all this weren’t enough )had you really had enough?) word just came in from Cecile Richards of yet another attack on Planned Parenthood today.  Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is demanding documents from every single Planned Parenthood facility for his Congressional oversight committee.  Richards’ email:

But you know as well as I do that this isn’t about fiscal responsibility. This is about harassment and intimidation of America’s leading provider and advocate of women’s health care. This is about an effort to undercut Planned Parenthood and undermine Planned Parenthood health centers’ ability to provide essential care to the women, men, and teens who rely on them. This is about a pattern of politically motivated attacks designed to eliminate Planned Parenthood once and for all.

Have you had enough?  One way to fight back is to contribute to what we do and support our efforts to fight for you.

I was commiserating this afternoon with others on the front lines fighting our progressive battles.  Sometimes I feel we’re fighting a losing battle, that we’re losing ground to the forces of evil.  It gets one burned out at times and rallies like today’s remind me of why we fight and for whome we’re fighting.  As I look up at all the faces of all the women, men, children and others who turn out at these events I am reminded it is for them that I, and we, fight these battles.  It reminds me we can never let them get us down, defeat us or get us burned out.  This is class war and if we let up they win.

Recessions Drive Up Poverty Rates

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

This will come as a little or no surprise to most people, but poverty rates rise following recessions. The economists at the Keystone Research Center recently put together this chart to make that point, using poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), going back to 1980.

Recessions Drive Up Poverty Rates in PA and the U.S.

(Click on the chart to make it larger.)

The Census also released data from its American Community Survey (ACS), which we highlighted last week and fellow blogger Stephen Herzenberg discussed recently on Radio Smart Talk (skip ahead to the 40-minute mark for Steve’s segment).

The ACS provides a larger sample size than the CPS, allowing us to drill down to the state and local level with more confidence. We have tables detailing poverty and uninsured rates by Pennsylvania metro area and county (with populations of 60,000 or more), as well as health insurance coverage by type and age range, at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s web site.

News & Notes September 25, 2011

A Marcellus shale gas company (Chief Gathering LLC) is suing three families in Luzerne County for blocking a pipeline.  The people are opposing the construction through their development on covenant grounds.  Energy companies have gotten aggressive using litigation to steamroll their way through the Commonwealth.  This isn’t the way to gather public support for something many oppose.

Speaking of gas it appears wells drilled on state forest land procured with federal dollars may be illegal:

The law establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund protects public park, forest and recreation lands acquired or developed with the program’s money from “conversion” to non-recreation use, like oil and gas wells, without prior approval by the Park Service. If such a conversion occurs, the state must buy land of at least equal value to compensate, and it must use any revenue from leases or royalties on such conversion lands for conservation and recreation purposes only.

A lot of wells in rural Pennsylvania have been sunk on our public lands.

Congressman Lou Barletta http://www.timesleader.com/news/Barletta__lsquo_raging_rsquo__over_loan_rate_09-22-2011.html”>is angry over the 6% interest rate being charged by the Small Business Administration for loans to those cleaning up following last month’s storms.  This is the same Congressman who has steadily cut government programs.  You can’t have it both ways Lou:  either government is good or it’s bad.

Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll.  I actually saw a car last week with a Cain bumper sticker.  How crazy must you be to support this man much less advertise your stupidity to others?

Speaking of the insane Republican presidential field did you see the “deer in the headlights” look of Rick Perry at the last debate?  He was barely able to string coherent sentences together.  Suddenly Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum is looking like a contender in this sorry field.  Obama’s only hope of a second turn is the extremism on the GOP side.

State Senator Jane Orie has lost an appeal attempting to delay her retrial on public corruption charges.  Her day in court is scheduled for October 3rd.

Powerful State Representative Dwight Evans has been unmasked as a ruthless Mafia type backroom politico by Mayor Nutter’s office.  Anyone who has spent any time in Harrisburg already knows this but front page headlines in The Inquirer reveal how he forced a private company to back out of a contract it won to convert MLK public school to a privatized one.  Here’s yet one more example of how privatizing government and public services is an invitation to corruption.  The non profit Evans supported has provided him with campaign contributions, surprise, surprise.

On Protecting The Innocent, Or, Is There A Death Penalty Compromise?

I don’t feel very good about this country this morning, and as so many of us are I’m thinking of how Troy Davis was hustled off this mortal coil by the State of Georgia without a lot of thought of what it means to execute the innocent.

And given the choice, I’d rather see us abandon the death penalty altogether, for reasons that must, at this moment, seem self-evident; that said, it’s my suspicion that a lot of states are not going to be in any hurry to abandon their death penalties anytime soon now that they know the Supreme Court will allow the innocent to be murdered.

So what if there was a way to create a compromise that balanced the absolute need to protect the innocent with the feeling among many Americans that, for some crimes, we absolutely have to impose the death penalty?

Considering the circumstances, it’s not going to be an easy subject, but let’s give it a try, and see what we can do.

Let’s Fix An Error Dept.: Apologies are in order, because in our last story we identified The Riverside Church in Manhattan as the place where George Carlin learned to be Catholic – and that could not have been more incorrect.  Bad research was the culprit here, and it’s something that we’ll obviously be working to improve. So, once again: sorry, and my bad.

Now if all the states want to limit the imposition of the death penalty to just the guilty (and after what we just saw in Georgia, that’s no longer 100% certain), one way you could do it would be to make it a lot harder to prove guilt – and that’s what we have in mind for today’s proposal.

As you may recall, we convict today with a “burden of proof” that is described as “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”; as we now know, it is possible to prove guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt, even when there’s a whole lot of reasonable doubt to be found.

In Davis’ case, he was given a chance on appeal to prove his innocence, and despite this conclusion from the Judge hearing the case…

“Ultimately, while Mr. Davis’s new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors…”

…Davis was still executed.

So the way I would get at this problem would be to change the burden of proof in these cases: if you want to execute someone who is facing an aggravated murder or other capital charge, instead of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”, I would require “guilt beyond all doubt”.

If you can’t get to guilt beyond all doubt, but you can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you could impose no sentence harsher than life without parole.

If this proposal had been in effect in Davis’ case, there could have been no execution after he argued that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, because that would have erased “all doubt”; after that he would have had the rest of his life to demonstrate that he was wrongly convicted.

There are going to be a few reasons people might not like this proposal, and I’ll try to address some of them briefly:

Right off the bat, many will complain that because of the new burden of proof it will be virtually impossible to have executions at all; I would tell those folks that if that were to occur…then the system is working. The entire purpose of this plan is to make executions an extraordinarily rare occurrence and to move just about everyone on Death Rows nationwide to a “life without parole” future.

Beyond that, many will say that capital punishment is morally unacceptable under any circumstances, and to those folks I would respond that y’all make a pretty good point…but at the moment there are a lot of Americans who do not hold that moral position – and they have strong feelings too – and unless we can move them to a different point of view, then the best chance we have to prevent the innocent from being executed is to find some sort of compromise like this one.

(Don’t believe me about that “strong feelings” thing? How many of the readers here would be OK with the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden, if he were proved “beyond all doubt” to have been the person behind 9/11?)

A similar line of thought is expressed in the idea that we are seeing more and more voters who do oppose capital punishment, and with a bit of patience, this problem will go away.

After what happened to Troy Davis, I think there’s more urgency now than there was in times past, and that’s because we now see that at least one State will quickly kill a prisoner in order to “clear the case”, suggesting to me that patience is not as good an option as it was before.

Finally, I suspect many will feel that the effort to pass a proposal like this one would distract from the effort to end the death penalty, which is, again, a pretty good argument.

To those folks I would respond that we may get some states to end the death penalty today, but there are a lot of other states that are not going to want to give up the death penalty for some time to come (remember the people who cheered Rick Perry’s execution record?), and if we aren’t going to be able to end the death penalty completely, then I think we have to offer some sort of compromise; a compromise based on the concepts of “killing the innocent isn’t The American Way” or “you could still execute Osama” could appeal to voters who simply won’t give up on the death penalty altogether.

So that’s what we have for you today: even though I personally would prefer that we end the death penalty and just go to life without parole for all these crimes, I don’t think we’re going to achieve that in a lot of states; with that in mind I’m proposing a compromise that would protect the innocent by ending virtually all executions, even as it allows an extraordinarily difficult to reach exception that could satisfy those who absolutely do not want to see the application of the death penalty come to an end.

It’s an imperfect compromise, I’ll admit – but in a big ol’ swath of America that runs from roughly Florida to Idaho, it may be the best compromise we can make right now, and right now, in those places, that might have to be good enough.

Entirely Off The Subject Dept.: We are still trying to get signatures for the petition to change the name of Manhattan’s W 121st St (one block from Seminary Row) to George Carlin Street, and we need your help; you can sign right here. The goal is to reach 10,000 signatures by Monday, so…get to it.

Does God send natural disasters as punishment?

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