News & Notes November 5, 2011

I’ll be in Philadelphia today interviewing people at Occupy Philadelphia.

I went to see “Sex In An Epidemic,” a film about HIV/AIDS at the Greater Reading Film Festival.  The production reminds us all, and for young people, educates them, about how scary and frightening it was in the 1980’s when we knew little about the disease and its prevention.  As the void developed on the national scene to deal with the crisis local groups and heroes stepped forward to deal with it.  Bill Bender was that person in Reading.  A panel discussion following the film featured Bill, Director Jean Carlomusto (who used much of her personal archived film footage), Carolyn Bazik and Vanessa Domico.  The film will be broadcast on Showtime for World AIDS Day December 1st.  Check your listings for times.

Drug and alcohol is a huge problem.  Growing up with an alcoholic father I know how big an issue this is but Governor Corbett doesn’t.  He is refusing to create the Drug and Alcohol Department as mandated by the state legislature.  It is precisely the Governor’s job, and his duty, to carry out the laws of Pennsylvania but he is refusing to do so.  Corbett maintains the funds aren’t available but they are.  The Commonwealth has about a billion bucks in reserve which is not budgeted.

The State House passed a bill making local zoning null and void where it comes to gas drilling.  This is yet another example where money and powerful interests are dissolving our democracy.  If you and your local community do not have the power to pass and enforce your own zoning and ordinances we no longer have a democracy.  The state did this several years with the ACRE law which overrode local zoning on behalf of corporate factory farms.  Now the money the energy industry funneled into the pockets of our Governor and many legislators is paying off for them.

The result?  Contaminated water supplies in places like Dimock.  You might remember this small town in northeastern PA from the movie “Gasland.”  This is the place where residents can set their tap water on fire from methane contamination.  Cabot Energy polluted their aquifer and DEP (us) has been supplying their water.  Now Cabot wants to cease providing the life sustaining potion.  Their property values are nothing and the people are trapped there because they cannot sell.  Now their water supplies will be shut down too?  Hasn’t Cabot done enough damage?

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is being indicted on 40 charges of sexual contact with minors.  His “Second Mile” charity was supposed to be helping children not hurting them.  This is a bad stain on a fine university and my alma mater.

Today is Bank Transfer Day.  Move your bank accounts (including credit cards) to a local bank or credit union.  If you want to follow everything with Occupy Wall Street you can do so at Occupy Wall Street News.  In Oakland some cops began covering their names and badges so people couldn’t identify them for misconduct.  If you see any police doing this photograph or film them and go to an officer and file a complaint.  Then we’ll publicize their misconduct, their identities and their cover up.

We ask a OPD officer why he had his name badge covered…. from BLK PXLS on Vimeo.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, that union buster, went to Chicago to speak to a group of 1%’ers and was greeted by a bunch of teachers:

I think he got an education.

In Texas a Republican legislator got caught urging the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association not to “Jew them down.”  Larry Taylor has since apologized for the anti-Semitic remark.

80,000 new jobs were created last month, not enough to cover the increase of population meaning we’re still losing ground.  Mark Price, economist at PBPC calculates at this rate it’ll take 33 years to get back where we were pre-GWB.

News & Notes November 4, 2011

Occupy Oakland shut down the nation’s fifth largest port in a general strike.  Imagine what will happen when the successor to the Cat Food Commission uses its new Politburo powers to decimate our social safety net?  The Occupy Movement can shut down any major city in the country, perhaps all of them…

Occupy Philadelphia went to Comcast headquarters to protest the concentration of unbridled media power in the hands of this company.  Ten protesters were arrested.

Kathryn Boockvar has a new TV ad out highlighting her distinguished career standing up for the people.  Her opponent works against all of us on behalf of corporations.  Boockvar is pro-union, Covey anti-union.  Which one would support collective bargaining rights?

Thirty corporations have paid no taxes for three years.  These are some of the biggest corporate behemoths in the world.  In that time they have earned $160 billion.  If they want to be persons they should have the same responsibilities as persons, including being put to death for murder.  It is time to revoke the notion of corporate personhood:

The redistricting maps are out and are hoorendously in favor of Republicans.  This, of course, is the outcome of last year’s elections when liberals and progressives stayed away from the polls in protest.  So if you didn’t vote don’t complain.

Republicans in Congress to rest of the United States of America: F*CK YOU!

Yes, that’s right folks, that’s the direct inferrable sentiment that the Republicans in the U.S. House & U.S. Senate, along with some very misguided and idiots Democrats have to say to all of us tonight.  

Senate blocks $60B part of Obama jobs plan

They’d rather tell us to piss off, fuck off, or just plain drop dead, than to do anything of actual useful governing, when it comes to things as simple as making sure that the roads, bridges, and transit systems/modes of this country are funded well enough to keep them from literally falling apart and in likelihood eventually killing a lot of people from years of NEGLECT! by pinheads like the bozo’s in Congress right now.  

The roads, the bridges that everyone of us who walk, drive, bicycle, ride upon or use on a regular damn basis are being held fucking hostage on account of these political immature, pedantic malcontented fuck-nuggets.  All because they can’t bear to tax Billionaires, yes I said Billionaires, 0.7% tax to help fund this effort to keep the transit systems functioning so that these Billionaires and the rest of us can keep on safely getting to work to continue to help keep the Billionaires in the Billionaire range of status, monetarily speaking.  No, I am not kidding, read the damn article from or some other news outlet that will publish the same type of article and cover the same, undisupted FACTS about this latest bone-headed indecision and balk by the people who dare have the audacity to call themselves “OUR REPRESENTATIVES”

HA! Maybe in some parallel dimension where being in a state of delusional stupor counts for actual reality, but not in the time, place, space, or country I’m living in these days folks.  

Folks, sadly many of you voted for some these people last time around, many of you may even plan to vote for some of the same pinheads next time around.  I’m here to tell you that you are all completely NUTS if you keep sending these same, twisted, idiotic SOB’s back to Congress and actually expect them to do anything worthwhile and helpful to the people that even voted for them in the first damn place!  How many times do you have to get kicked in the teeth, screwed, fleeced, flim-flammed, boned, bent-over and done ugly, before you wake the FUCK up and vote for some real, everyday people, who aren’t political hacks, who aren’t out there for the paycheck and perks and not much else, who might just want to dare I say it…GOVERN?! gasp  

I hate to be harsh, I hate to be ugly about this, but honestly, if you aren’t also pissed off at how things are going or how badly those who are in office are handling things, then I’m sorry you must have checked in the mortuary or maybe you actually agree with the pinheads in Congress or you’re just trying to keep your own self afloat in the growing sea of crapola that seems to know no end in sight.  

People your votes have consequences, your role as citizens does not go away or become unimportant simply because you get tired of giving a shit because the people you elect still turn around do whatever the hell they want.  If you want that to stop, sad to say, you and I and everyone else has to actually do some real work and effort and put real, everyday people into office, who aren’t there for the freebies or to play patsy to every special interest that gave a few bucks to get into office.  You hate the way things work, you work to change it, you work with people and you change it.  Otherwise, you are helping to create the very culture of corruption by DOING NOTHING! and letting the idiots and thieves run the government into the ground.  

This is what the essence of some of the Occupy stuff gets to, not just in the case of business but in the case of the government as well.  However, it has to go beyond major protests and demonstrations, it has to get into real action, real voting, real policy changes once people get elected.  It is time to show our true power as citizens and to put an end to the unending train of criminal stupidity in Washington, in our own states, and communities.  Shake off your disbelief, shake off your indifference, shake off your numbness and your excuses and stand up and give a damn and don’t settle for the same old crap!  

Making great Pennsylvania cities smarter cities…

By now, you've probably seen those IBM commercials that end with the tag line "building a better planet." Those commercials reference IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge. This is a program whereby IBM will award $50 million worth of technology and consulting services to 100 cities around the world – 50 of them in North America. The program has been ongoing for the last two years, and the application process has just been opened up for 2012.

The Smarter Cities grant would be helpful in dealing with any number of challenges that Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Harrisburg face, ranging from from finding ways to streamline city administration to helping transit management through innovative technology applications. IBM sends experts to the winning cities to help them address major issues like traffic, public safety, economic development or sustainability – all things that could prove useful.

A program like this helps cities foster citizen engagement, services and efficiency through technology, resulting in an better standard of living citizens. It fascinates me because it marries two of my interests: public engagement and technology.

Pericles of Athens – who was perhaps the first mayor of a city – once said: "All things good of this earth flow into the City because of the City's greatness." IBM's Smarter Cities program helps cities foster citizen engagement, services and efficiency through technology, resulting in an better standard of living for the people of the city.

It fascinates me because it marries two of my interests: public engagement and technology, at a level that affects us immediately and regularly: the local level. And this isn't just theoretical.

Already, IBM teams have worked in Austin, TX , Boulder, CO, Mecklenburg County, NC, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Katowice, Poland and Chengdu, China.

An IBM team helped address disparities between East and West Austin by helping the city coordinate and prioritize infrastructure investments.

In Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett asked IBM to analyze how the city's emerging aquaponics industry could have a positive impact on the municipal food supply, industry, health, and growth. And IBMers worked with the City of Baltimore to analyze the disconnect between citizens and city services.

The catch is (and you knew there was one) that cities have to apply by December 16th in order to be eligible to win. Here's what it takes to join Austin, Rio, Baltimore and others:
1. Fill out the application here:
2. The proposal has to include the following criteria in order to be successful:
– Describe 1-3 potential problems or opportunities to address with the grant
– Provide clear, compelling evidence that the city is well positioned to utilize the resources offered in the Smarter Cities Challenge
– Outline how a grant of IBM talent and technology has the potential to substantially enhance the city's capacity to act on key issues
– Highlight recent efforts to develop innovative solutions to public problems, including any initiatives to implement new technologies or open data policies
– Demonstrate the city is ready to match IBM's investment with its own commitment of time and talent, including access to the city agencies and personnel relevant to the project

I know that any one of Pennsylvania’s cities can benefit from this; but the only way to do so is by applying. If you'd like to know more, you can watch a short video here:

(full disclosure: I'm assisting IBM with publicity surrounding the Smarter Cities challenge.)

Bad PA Employment News Keeps On Coming

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania peaked at 8.8% in April 2010 before steadily declining to 7.4% in May of this year. Then mounting public-sector job losses pushed unemployment back up to 8.3% this September.

Tuesday’s release of September unemployment data contained some good news in that the unemployment rate fell in September in 60 counties and in every metropolitan area in the state.

The figure below presents unemployment rates from April to September of this year in 16 metropolitan areas. As you can see, the good news of a sizable one-month decline in unemployment is tempered by the fact that unemployment in September remained higher than its April lows in every metropolitan area.

As I noted Tuesday morning, September’s good news on unemployment will be temporary if layoffs continue to outpace new job openings.

And on that front, The Central Pennsylvania Business Journal reported on Tuesday that an index (PDF) published by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, which predicts economic conditions over the next six months, is signaling that the Pennsylvania economy will be shrinking through the first quarter of 2012.

Are policymakers seeing this?

Covey Continues to Violate Election Law

Commonwealth Court candidate Anne E. Covey, in her cycle 5 campaign finance report, continues to violate Pennsylvania election law.  How could we elect someone to the bench who has contempt for the law?  Not only does she refuse to even sign her reports but they continue to be notorized falsely.  Perhaps she doesn’t sign them and her treasurer doesn’t get them properly notorized because of the inaccuracies within them.

Because Covey neglected to properly account for her finances her cycle 5 report continues to show an inaccuaret picture of her campaign’s finances.  Voters have a right to know the state of every candidate’s campaign finances and Covey has neglected to do so.

Tom Corbett gave her $5,000, Dominic Pileggi $2500, Jeff Piccola $1000, and tons of energy industry people and PAC’s.  Covey has accepted substantial funds ($9,000) from Marcellus shale gas drillers making one question her ability to impartially decide cases brought before Commonwealth Court regarding those issues.  She also accepted $3000 from Vahan Gureghian who was written up quite unfavorably recently for his penchant to sue anyone who runs against his favored candidates.  John Templeton, contributor to many extreme right wing causes, gave her $30,000.

Why isn’t she capable of following simple instructions on her reports, such as address or signatures?  Is she really this stupid?

I saw her attack ad against her opponent, a civil rights attorney.  She accuses Ms. Bookvar of aiding convicted felons.  I thought that once someone pays their debt to society they are free to assume their civil rights once again?  Does Anne Covey not believe the Bill of Rights applies to every free citizen of the United States?  If Covey doesn’t understand the concept of civil rights can she properly perform the duties of a Judge which require her to take an oath to uphold those rights as enumerated in our constitution?  This ad raises serious questions about her fitness for office.

Marcellus Shale Update: Giving Away the Store

While the Pennsylvania Senate has delayed a vote on a Marcellus Shale drilling fee, state House Republican Leaders are trying to build support for a fee plan that looks a lot like Governor Corbett’s proposal.

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center crunched the numbers and found that the Corbett plan would give Pennsylvania one of the lowest drilling tax rates among major energy-producing states.

The average Marcellus Shale gas well is projected to generate $16 million over its 50-year life. The Corbett plan would generate $160,000 in revenue per well – an effective rate of 1%. A comparable well in Texas would raise $878,500 – five times more than Governor Corbett’s plan.

We also looked at three other leading drilling tax and fee proposals before the General Assembly. The effective tax rates for those and the Corbett plan range from 1.0% to 4.7%.

Read the full fact sheet at our web site.

News & Notes November 1, 2011

It can’t be November already can it?  I hope everyone had a fun Halloween.  The trick or treaters were plentiful in our neighborhood.  I suppose so many places were still without power they focused where people had lights.  Our internet service finally came back this afternoon and I’ve been busy catching up.

The Pennsylvania Senate finally passed a law banning texting while driving.  It makes it a primary offense meaning police can stop and ticket you if they see you doing it.  Does this mean I can’t write the blog anymore while driving to Harrisburg???  The measure goes to Gov. Corbett for his signature.

Halloween was too tempting for some southern bigots not to take a shot at President Obama, figuratively.  The Loudon County (Virginia) GOP sent a mailer showing Obama with a bullet hole in his head.  I suppose having a history of lynching Blacks wasn’t quite enough for these rednecks.

Bank of America has caved into pressure and announced it will not invoke a $5/month fee to use debit cards.  Regardless countless people are closing their BoA bank accounts and moving their money to community banks and credit unions.  Of course this behemoth isn’t the only “too big to fail” institution to have received trillions of dollars in public funds to keep from imploding after engaging in extremely risky banking activities which crashed the global economy.  Their massive frauds have gone unpunished by the corporate Democrats in the White House.  All of the major banks deserve to lose their individual clients.

In spite of the facts and history New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, part of the 1% American plutocracy claims the banks didn’t create the mortgage crisis.  Who then invented these casino derivatives, bet against them and insured themselves against the inevitable collapse they triggered?  Is the man delusional?

Voting with your dollars is the most powerful thing you can do because it can be done daily.  Chick Fil-A is one of those chains which everyone should avoid.  First of all all chains remove money from your community which helps your local economy.  Shop and eat locally wherever possible.  Chick Fil-A is fervently anti-gay and its owner contributes heavily to extreme right wing causes.  In 2009 alone they gave about $2 million to anti-gay groups.  If it comes between eating more chicken or having a beef have a beef and eat elsewhere.

I’ll give yo a break from my pontificating so you can listen to this new video from Tom Goss:

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a dominionist who has pledged to replace our sectarian democracy with a Biblical government, is sinking because of his inarticulate performances at debates. (Michele Bachmann shares his views)  This video is from an appearance in New Hampshire where he simply rambles:

The Rachel Maddow Show (don’t you just live her?) put together this clip which is also interesting.

Mitt Romney, his son Tagg and his chief fundraiser are linked to the $8 billion Stanford Ponzi scheme where they have hired three top former Stanford executives to run a company for which Mitt invested $10 million as seed money.  The Stanford fraud is second only to Bernie Madoff’s as the biggest Ponzi schemes of all time.

While we’re on the subject of scoundrel GOP presidential candidates let us not forget the sexual harassment charges being exposed about Herman Cain.  It seems the Clarence Thomas-esque Cain was a naughty boy while running Godfather Pizza for the Pillsbury Company.  He ran the National Restaurant Association and settled two harassment suits (did he give offers they couldn’t refuse?) and has now seemingly violated the confidentiality provisions of those settlements.  He first denied the settlements took place (is this man capable of saying anything truthful?) before fessing up.  Now his statements free the women from their confidentiality restrictions.  This could get very interesting.

It’s difficult to believe the clowns comprising the Republican presidential field can get any more entertaining, disturbing or controversial.  Is this the best the fringe GOP can produce in 2012?

Part four of our series on the embarrassment of riches afforded us bloggers by these fools take sus to Michele Bachmann who is known for her frequent inaccurate remarks.  This time she falsely claims Iran has threatened to nuke the U.S.

MontCo GOP Fails to File Campaign Finance Report

The Montgomery County Republican Committee has failed to file the required campaign finance report for cycle 5 as required by state law.  This is especially interesting because the Commissioners team of Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown has given them $305,000 in the last month.  Where was that money spent, on what and to whom?  This is a major County Commissioner’s race and a substantial amount of campaign spending is being hidden from voters in MontCo.  It doesn’t bode well for the sort of ethics and management the people of Montgomery County could expect from a Castor/Brown majority.

From MontCo Dems:

“They are hiding something, and the voters of Montgomery County deserve to know what that is,” (Marcel) Groen said.  “Campaign finance laws are there to make sure the public knows from whom the candidates and the parties raise their money, and how they spend it.  To thumb your nose at the law and the voters like that is just plain wrong.”

              Groen said that the campaign of Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown made three contributions to the Montgomery County Republican Committee totaling $305,000 over the past month.  The first transfer of $75,000 took place on October 6.  Another $100,000 was transferred on October 11, and a final $130,000 was transferred on October 17.

              “With the Brown Castor campaign transferring that money to MCRC and then MCRC not filing their report, it amounts to a massive shell game on the voters of Montgomery County,” Groen said.  “I call on (Montgomery County Republican) Chairman (Robert) Kerns to file his report immediately and stop breaking the law.”

Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards have a new ad out:

Get Your Local Employment Data Here

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

This morning the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released data for September on employment and unemployment by metropolitan area in Pennsylvania.

As unemployment rates have been moving up over the last several months in most of the Commonwealth, much of the coverage this morning focuses on the fact that unemployment rates in September finally fell in many areas.

Of course, unemployment remains very high. In addition, as the table below illustrates, employment growth as measured in the survey of establishments (i.e., businesses), while positive for most metropolitan areas over the last year, has been negative in the last five months in 11 of 16 areas (employment declines are in red). (While the survey of households is used to measure unemployment rates, the survey of establishments is considered the more reliable indicator of job or employment growth. Over long periods, the two surveys almost always show the same trends.)

Unless job growth improves significantly over the next several months, September’s decline in the unemployment rate will be a brief interruption of the continued increases in unemployment.