Oppose SOPA

One day soon none of your major internet sites may be available for you.  If the SOPA law passes Congress most major websites may close down or severely limit your interaction and content.  The Stop Online Piracy Act would allow major content providers like ABC, NBC, Comcast, etc to sue any web host who has copyrighted material on the website.  This applies even if someone else uploaded or put the content there without their knowledge.

Now I’m all for protecting copyrights.  I spend a lot of time and money covering campaigns, candidates and events only to see people rip off my pictures and videos without permission but there already exist remedies for this.  Any copyright holder can demand payment from someone infringing their rights and/or sue.  We don’t need a broad ranging law like this which will have a chilling effect on websites.  I’ve been threatened by lawyers for content on my blog put there by others.  I have no legal liability for that.  Under this new law I, and every other owner of websites, would be liable.

What does this mean?  No more uploading your pictures, videos or other content to sites like facebook, Twitter, AOL, Google, Yahoo (even mail accounts), YouTube or the various photo hosting sites.  The major ones are discussing taking one day and freezing their websites to get people’s attention about SOPA.

Here at The Pennsylvania Progressive I would have to disable all comments and diaries for example.  Contact your federal legislators and let them know you oppose SOPA.

News & Notes December 30, 2011

Only one more day in the year.  It seems like just yesterday I was saying we were in August and the year was flying by.  Maybe it just seems it as I get older and older.

The Carbon County Dems are hosting Tim Potts of Democracy Rising at the Inn at Jim Thorpe January 24th at 7PM.  Jim Thorpe is a lovely little town if you’ve never been there.

Double Happyness Travel of Huntingdon Valley has been shut down by the Dept. of Transportation for numerous safety violations.  The bus company provided cheap fares at the cost of cutting corners on maintenance and fatigued drivers.  There’s a reason these cheap bus lines are cheap:  they cut corners and not the ones at intersections.  This is one more example of government working for you.

Lisa Sasinoski, who worked for Joan Orie Melvin in both capacities in Superior Court and Supreme Court, says she knew she was breaking the law by working on political campaigns at the office:

“It’s my understanding you’re not even allowed to have yard signs,” Ms. Sasinoski said. “I knew it was wrong, and we shouldn’t be doing it.”

But she continued, “I really felt like there was no other choice.”

What a broad indictment of Justice Melvin.

The City of Santa Fe requires that all workers be paid a living wage.  Somehow it doesn’t affect the number of jobs however.  This year the wage goes over $10/hour.  Conservatives are constantly crying that higher wages mean fewer jobs though all economic and labor data show otherwise.  It is yet another of their mythical talking points which is a lie.  Twelve states are enacting minimum wage increases in 2012 but Pennsylvania is NOT one of them.  It’s time to begin recapturing the real wages lost to inflation and bring workers into the 21st century.

Range Resources spends lavishly trying to brainwash us about its good citizenship as it pillages our countryside for natural gas.  One small community upstate is fighting back after the company destroyed one of its roads.  They certainly got Range Resources’ attention.

The federal law granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies which are intercepting your calls, emails, financial transactions and internet activity for the Department of Homeland Security is constitutional according to a federal appeals court.  Congress passed the protections after consumers threatened to sue for violations of civil rights.  The constitution bars any such searches without probable cause and warrants.  President Obama has continued the illegal program begun under George W. Bush.  Doing so is an impeachable offense.

State Senator Mary Jo White is retiring.

Six State Representatives who were elected to other offices will see their replacements be elected in special elections next year.  Some of the districts were moved cross state as part of the redistricting process.  This is proving to be a touchy point since the successors may live nowhere their constituents.

Geisinger Health System will no longer hire workers who smoke.  Applicants will be tested for nicotine.  With health costs out of control this seems sensible.  Smoking costs all of us tons of money but the tobacco companies remain uncontrolled.  If we began getting as outraged over tobacco deaths as we did over terrorism we might get our priorities straight.

Russia slammed the U.S. for our hypocrisy over human rights.  We feign indignation and outrage over other nation’s human rights records while neglecting our own sorry record.  While Gitmo remains open along with secret torture sites overseas, while we continue executing innocent prisoners, pass laws declaring our intention to hold citizens indefinitely without trial and tap telecommunications without warrants our record on human rights is as sorry as the country’s we condemn.  Let he is without sin cast the first stone seems to be Russia’s message.  It’s funny how they’re taking the moral high ground over a supposed “christian nation.”

Speaking of American immorality people have been warning about the stealing of our elections since evidence began popping up about it in regards to electronic voting machines.  Now we have proof it was actually done:

Ole Newt sure has been getting ganged up on with his sorry, lengthy record of corruption, unethical behavior and flip flops.  Back in 1992 this ad was run against him for bouncing checks at the House bank:

As Rick Santorum is surging from behind (doesn’t that just bring certain images to mind?) in Iowa voters there need to be reminded he belongs to a secret Catholic cult called Opus Dei.  They not only want to outlaw contraception but all forms of masturbation.  Any sexual activity not likely to produce children would be against the law under a President Santorum.  While he goes around decrying the evils of Sharia law he’d impose the same thing (but called Christian law).


Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

by Walter and Rosemary Brasch

In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them.

We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of  breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.”

We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, foxes, and coyotes, none of whom attack humans, have no food or commercial value, but are major players in environmental balance. But, we knew that the hunting industry would prevail since they see these canines only as competition.

We wanted to see the Pennsylvania legislature stand up for what is right and courageously end the cruelty of pigeon shoots. But, a pack of cowards left Pennsylvania as the only state where pigeon shoots, with their illegal gambling, are actively held.

For what seems to be decades, we have written against racism and bigotry. But many politicians still believe that gays deserve few, if any, rights; that all Muslims are enemy terrorists; and publicly lie that Voter ID is a way to protect the integrity of the electoral process, while knowing it would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority citizens.

We will continue to write about the destruction of the environment and of ways people are trying to save it. Environmental concern is greater than a decade ago, but so is the ignorant prattling of those who believe global warming is a hoax, and mistakenly believe that the benefits of natural gas fracking, with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy, far outweigh the environmental, health, and safety problems they cause.

We will continue to write against government corruption, bailouts, tax advantages for the rich and their corporations, governmental waste, and corporate greed. They will continue to exist because millionaire legislators will continue to protect those who contribute to political campaigns. Nevertheless, we will continue to speak out against politicians who have sacrificed the lower- and middle-classes in order to protect the one percent.

We will continue to write about the effects of laying off long-time employees and of outsourcing jobs to “maximize profits.” Until Americans realize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” we’ll continue to explain why exploitation knows no geographical boundaries.

The working class successfully launched major counter-attacks against seemingly-entrenched anti-labor politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. But these battles will be as long and as bitter as the politicians who deny the rights of workers. We will continue to speak out for worker rights, better working conditions, and benefits at least equal to their managers. We don’t expect anything to change in 2012, but we are still hopeful that a minority of business owners who already respect the worker will influence the rest.

There are still those who believe education is best served by programs manacled by teaching-to-the-test mentality, and are more than willing to sacrifice quality for numbers. We will continue to write about problems in the nation’s educational system, especially the failure to encourage intellectual curiosity and respect for the tenets of academic integrity.

Against great opposition, the President and Congress passed sweeping health care reform. But, certain members of Congress, all of whom have better health care than most Americans, have proclaimed they will dismantle the program they derisively call “Obamacare.”

During this new year, we will still be writing about the unemployed, the homeless, those without adequate health coverage-and against the political lunatics who continue to deny Americans the basics of human life, essentials that most civilized countries already give their citizens.

We had written forcefully against the previous president and vice-president when they strapped on their six-shooters and sent the nation into war in a country that posed no threat to us, while failing to adequately attack a country that housed the core of the al-Qaeda movement. We wrote about the Administration’s failure to provide adequate protection for the soldiers they sent into war or adequate and sustained mental and medical care when they returned home. The War in Iraq is now over, but the war in Afghanistan continues. The reminder of these wars will last as long as there are hospitals and cemeteries.

We had written dozens of stories against the Bush-Cheney Administration’s belief in the use of torture and why it thought it was necessary to shred parts of the Constitution. We had hoped that a new president, a professor of Constitutional law, would stop the attack upon our freedoms and rights. But the PATRIOT Act was extended, and new legislation was enacted that reduces the rights and freedoms of all citizens. At all levels of government, Constitutional violations still exist, and a new year won’t change our determination to bring to light these violations wherever and whenever they occur.

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been minced by the reality of petty politics, with the “Party of No” and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America’s improvement. We can hope that the man we elected will realize that compromise works only when the opposition isn’t entrenched in a never-ending priority not of improving the country, but of keeping him from a second term. Perhaps now, three years after his inauguration, President Obama will disregard the disloyal opposition and unleash the fire and truth we saw in the year before his election, and will speak out even more forcefully for the principles we believed when we, as a nation, gave him the largest vote total of any president in history.

We really want to be able to write columns about Americans who take care of each other, about leaders who concentrate upon fixing the social problems. But we know that’s only an ethereal ideal.  So, we’ll just have to hope that the waters of social justice wear down, however slowly, the jagged rocks of haughty resistance.

[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery novel. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]


DePasquale Explains Vote on Redistricting

At last Thursday’s event in Allentown I asked State Rep. Eugene DePasquale how he thought his vote for the GOP Congressional redistricting plan might affect his support in the Lehigh Valley.  It is one of the areas in Pennsylvania upset over being split.  Traditionally the entire Lehigh Valley has been kept in a single district but now Easton and other areas of Northampton County have been sectioned off into PA-17.  Charles Dent (PA-15) has represented it in the past.

The Republican Congressional redistricting plan gained considerable bipartisan support from Democrats because several powerful incumbents decided they liked the make-ups of their new districts and forced their local legislators to side with Republicans in Harrisburg.  It was passed in the State Senate without a single public hearing and after its first two readings were waived.  DePasquale was one of 36 Democrats to vote for it in the State House.

His explanation that he voted his District sounds fair and he added, off camera, that if someone feels they don’t wish to vote for him for Auditor General because of this vote that is their right.

The attitude that legislators are in Harrisburg, or Washington, for that matter, to vote their Districts is sad.  If that were the case we wouldn’t need elections or legislators.  We only need switchboards and robots sitting at desks pressing buttons according to feedback.

We elect these people to represent the values and beliefs we feel we share.  We send them there to decide matters for the greater good, not only our little corners of the world.  On a vote such as this we’d like them to look at the big picture and decide if the map represents the best interests of Pennsylvanians, not only those in York.  I like DePasquale a lot but I was disappointed in both his vote and his explanation.  Will I withhold my vote next November because of this?  As he said, that is my right.

Eugene DePasquale Announces for Auditor General

State Representative Eugene DePasquale, a progressive from York, officially announced his candidacy for Auditor General.  Thursday he came to Allentown and sat down with some local officials to discuss the issues.  In attendance were Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski, Easton Mayor Sal Panto, Allentown City Councilman Mike Schlossberg, political consultant Mike Fleck and others.

News & Notes December 28, 2011

Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative who infuriates progressives, announced his retirement yesterday.  Successors are rumored to be Scott Kleeb or Bob Kerrey.  Kleeb ran once before in Nebraska and Kerrey is a former holder of the seat who now resides in New York.  Either way this will be a tough seat for Democrats to hold.

A truck accident near Salladasburg resulted in fracking fluid spilling onto Route 287.  Seeing how fast these drivers run these trucks on rural roads in the northern tier I’m just surprised this doesn’t happen more frequently.  The risk of spilling toxic chemicals into our streams, rivers and lakes isn’t worth the energy.

Not all Christmas carolers were welcome at Bank of America this season:

At Planned Parenthood we’re proud of the services we provide and for those who stand with us.  Here’s a message from Cecile Richards:

The Iowa caucuses are next Tuesday.  I predict low turnout as Republicans cannot find any presidential candidate to support.  This field is so ridiculous few can take any of them seriously but it does accurately reflect the current state of the GOP.  These are the types left in that lunatic fringe movement.

I don’t understand all the hoopla over Bill Maher’s Tebow Tweet.  If these “holier than thou” athletes are stupid enough to think their god takes sides in football games and determines the outcomes then they, conversely, have to believe he made them fail.  Wake up people, it is your own efforts and failures which determine the outcome.

Grand Jury Details Orie Sisters Corruption

The Allegheny County grand jury presentment against Janine Orie paints a picture of Justice Joan Orie Melvin which shows her unfit to continue sitting as a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  The extent of the corruption and illegal activity done in her judicial chambers, in her name and on her behalf, illustrates a pattern of criminality dwarfing any done by some sitting in prisons as the result of BonusGate.  One does have to wonder how Tom Corbett neglected this level of corruption in the highest echelon of state government.

Joan Orie Melvin, as a sitting Judge on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, employed her sister Janine Orie to run her office and staff as a political campaign operation to such an extent they had to take legitimate judicial work home to do on their own time (unpaid) because they couldn’t complete it during the day.  Janine Orie spent as much as three hours a day, on taxpayer time, running Orie Melvin’s 2003 Supreme Court campaign directly from her judicial chambers using state staff and resources.

A good number of legislative staffers and former State Representatives have been convicted and sent to prison for the same corrupt deeds.  The extensive testimony of former and present staffers, one of whom was fired when she refused to continue violating state law, indicts Janine Orie, and by association her sister, paints a picture of an office out of control.  State Sen. Jane Orie comes off as some sort of spoiled brat screaming at staffers when they refused to break the law.

How does Joan Orie Melvin sit in judgment against others when she is a crook?  In 2003 all of her judicial staff were ordered to work the polls on election day even though state law prohibited them from engaging in partisan political activity.  Another law specifically prohibits judges from engaging in ANY partisan political activity unless it is in the year they are running for office or retention.  It is never legal to use state paid staff and state provided resources for political purposes.  

Justice Joan Orie Melvin needs to either publicly explain her sister’s extensive use of taxpayer resources for her campaigns or resign from the Court immediately.

News & Notes December 27,2011

Someone in our household developed a substance abuse problem over the weekend.  Far be it from me to point any paws but I suspect the presence of two catnip toys in a certain cat’s stocking was the cause.  Someone is enjoying being really, really relaxed this week, aren’t you Schroeder?

As gleeful as some are over a proposed Illinois bill targeting Joe Walsh for being a deadbeat Dad it’s clearly unconstitutional.   That document lays out the criteria for Members of Congress and no state can tamper with them.

The Second Mile’s insurance company says it is nor liable for Jerry Sandusky’s legal bills.  This court fight will be interesting.

I need to catch up on several things I sort of put aside over the long holiday weekend.  I didn’t have much time for blogging and I figured no one was taking time away to read online either (at least I hope you had better things to do).  First up is Joe Sestak’s speech on American exceptionalism.  Republicans plan on making this their theme for 2012.  My take on it is somewhat different, more on that as we get through the year.

Delaware Riverkeeper is very good at keeping us up on everything affecting that waterway:

Also last week, the EPA issued new rules governing the burning of mercury laden coal.  It is widely believed that mercury emitted from coal fired power plants causes autism.  We know these plants cause asthma:

Ron Paul’s evil twin was bragging about his newsletters in this video too:

Alabama’s draconian immigration law is going to cripple the state’s economy.  Why is it these southern crackers never learn from their mistakes?  Now they’re proposing using prison labor on the farms because none of those proud racists will lower themselves to do farm work.  Isn’t it funny how conservatives scream about immigrants coming to take their jobs then when they chase them away none of them will take those jobs?

The GOP’s war on voting is taking its toll around the nation.  People are being denied ID’s to vote, now in Tennessee.  This is a perfect example of the type of election fraud conservatives have been screaming about, except it is them doing the dirty deed, as usual.  Not everyone has their birth certificate.  I only got mine two years ago because I wanted to get a passport.  Most Americans really have no need for the document unless they are traveling internationally.  What if your home burns down and it’s lost?  It isn’t always easy for someone to obtain a copy and that requires an expense which makes it a poll tax.

Newt Gingrich has focused his campaign more on getting his signature on books for customers than getting voter’s signatures on primary nominating ballot petitions.  I agree with him this failure is as as catastrophic as Pearl Harbor (said with tongue firmly in cheek) because his campaign has also bombed.

Rick Santorum also failed to make the ballot.  This is more embarrassing for him because it’s his home state.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unjustly discriminates against LGBT couples.  Gays and lesbians are second class citizens who pay additional taxes for fewer rights.  How crazy is this in a land which claims “equal justice under law?”  CNN Money did an analysis showing LGBT couples pay as much as $6,000/year more than straight couples allowed to marry and file jointly.  If we get fewer rights we should be paying fewer taxes, not more.