Campaign 2012: Romney Wraps It Up

It’ll officially be Obama versus Romney now that Mitt has wrapped up enough delegates to secure his Party’s nomination.  There wasn’t much doubt after Rick Santorum pulled out prematurely.  Conservative Super PACs are prepared to spend $1 billion+ supporting the Mormon from Massachusetts.  The DCCC celebrated the milestone by issuing this ad:

Trump’s Birtherism isn’t keeping Romney away from the $2 million he was able to raise for him and he refuses to dismiss the craziness surrounding the issue.  It is time for Mitt to stand up to the radical extremists he embraced whole heartedly to gain the delegates.  He went all the way to the edge of the cliff of radical Republican politics to pander to Tea baggers and evangelical christians who think his Mormonism is a cult.

There’s nothing Mitt won’t say or do to become president.  The scary thing about the billion dollars is that this is above and beyond what Romney will raise and will come from a select few billionaires attempting to buy the White House.  80% of all Super PAC money has gone to support conservatives.  It has been raised by a very few people.

Romney has but two things on his resume qualifying him to run:  His tenure at Bain Capital and his term as Governor of Massachusetts.  He can’t run on that liberal record as Governor where his jobs record was scant and allegations about why he had his staffers sweep their computers clean and leave nothing for archives after his term ended leave questions about his integrity.  The Washington Post took a look at his record as Governor today:

Romney’s judicial nominees and his ill-fated effort to reform a politicized system offer a window into how he made some of his most important decisions as the state’s chief executive. As a Republican governor in a strongly Democratic state, he started as a good-government idealist, bumped up against an entrenched system and ultimately decided to work within it. And if, as Romney suggests, his time as governor is a key selling point for the presidency, his judicial appointments may be one of the most lasting legacies.

Though he once said people connected to state government would be at a disadvantage in seeking judgeships, Romney ended up appointing seven lawyers from inside his administration.

In his final 17 months in office, Romney pushed through a surge of judicial nominees, some with controversial records, others with the kind of political connections he had once condemned, records show. They included a former consultant for Bain & Co., the consulting firm where Romney made his reputation in business;a former Republican legislator rejected as too political by the screening panel, and a court clerk who had been reprimanded for asking a female co-worker to perform a lap dance at a strip club.

The road to the White House goes through Pennsylvania.  Our 20 electoral votes are critical so both campaigns will be here frequently.  Their surrogates will also pass through so, again, it’ll be an exciting time as the Keystone State again goes into the national spotlight.  Get out there with your video cameras and get more of the Obama monkey moments.  Let’s show the nation how racist and ignorant Romney’s supporters are.

News & Notes May 29, 2012

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend and remembered our brave veterans, especially those who never made it home.  Every Memorial Day I remember my Dad who served in the Navy during WWII on destroyers guarding convoys crossing the North Atlantic.

Mitt Romney embraced Birtherism today by sharing an event with Donald Trump.  Isn’t it time someone fired this misfit?

Tom Corbett is slashing funding for schools and now they’re attempting to pass a state takeover bill for “distressed” school districts.  This is a naked power grab by conservatives to bypass democracy and give them power to dictate terms to your local school districts by strangling them financially.  Don’t allow them to do it.

The American Working Families Action Fund is targeting Corbett in a new ad:

From their press release:  

“Tom Corbett could be the worst governor in the nation for serving the middle class,” said Bud Jackson, who chairs the organization.  “That’s why tomorrow American Working Families (AWF) Action Fund will launch a long overdue effort to shine a brighter light on Tom Corbett’s record of rewarding his corporate friends and campaign donors while making things harder for the middle-class.  Our paid media initiative will total several hundred thousand dollars and will include television ads in each Pennsylvania media-market.”

“Tom Corbett chose tax-breaks for gas drillers over health care for children and chose to take taxpayer-funded SUVs and give-out pay-raises for his staff while slashing Pennsylvania schools by more than $1 billion,” said Jackson.  “Corbett has already inflicted serious damage to the middle-class for generations to come.  Our messaging will draw attention to his record.”

Rush Limbaugh must be on Oxy again.  He says he’s created more jobs than both Obama and Romney.  Since the President has put over 4 million back to work I suppose Rush has five million maids out buying him ilegal prescriptions.  That’s a lot of Oxy but it explains his actions lately.

Income equality can be seen from space.

The Sandusky trial begins next week and the prosecution still cannot identify the boy allegedy molested in the showers and caught by Coach McQueary.  How do you prove a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt.  The AG’s office spent three years investigating and this was all they came up with to go to trial?  This is going to be a laughingstock and people will begin asking why they destroyed the reputation of a great university based on such flimsy evidence.  He’ll never get convicted and Tom Corbett has to answer for why it was such a shoddy investigation.  

Florida is trying to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.  This harkens back tot he 2000 voter purge by Jeb Bush.  Gov. Rick Scott is still doing his fraud act he perfected at taxpayer expense with Medicare funds by driving eligible voters from the polls.  I recall a SCOTUS decision (Bush v Gore) which decreed that disenfranchising voters is illegal.  I think it was based on Florida…

The Wisconsin recall election is next week.  Gov. Scott Walker can be ousted and working families can reclaim their rights but they need help.

They’re trying the same tactics here.  Protect teachers organizing rights!  These folks are always clamoring about loss of freedoms while they take ours away.  Ironic isn’t it?  Are you going to take it?

Bill Maher takes on Ted Nugent and the deranged Right.  Watch the video.

Retrospective: Days of Songs and Protests: What Happened?

As we celebrated Memorial Day with a look back at the folk songs protesting war and preaching peace I was taken back to the days of the ’60’s and 70’s.  Born in 1951 I was becoming an adult and as I began learning critical thinking I began questioning the values and beliefs instilled in me by my arch conservative parents.  The Vietnam War, when Nixon expanded it into Cambodia, became a flash point for millions of us in my generation.  With a brother nine years my senior who was into the Kingston Trio and other folk artists songs like Blowing in the Wind and Where Have All the Flowers Gone spoke to me.

My transformation from a Goldwater Republican to liberal Democrat supporting George McGovern was quick and gradual.  One doesn’t abandon their entire belief system overnight.  I remember wondering if I really wanted to trade rubbing elbows at the country club to rubbing them with ordinary working folks, the trade union types my elders always ranted on about.

College really transformed my view of things.  I met veterans just back from ‘Nam who were living at the Vets house not far from my fraternity at Penn State.  They told me stories of what was actually happening over there, programs like Operation Phoenix which had little to no media exposure but which exterminated countless Vietnamese civilians.  The worst of what they saw they only shared among themselves.  One of the things college does, especially at a major university like Penn State, is to expose you to people from many different backgrounds, races, creeds and beliefs.  I found my value system during those days questioning the conservatism on which I was raised and embracing liberalism.

My Mother never forgave me for becoming a bleeding heart liberal and we debated politics until the day she died.  I cringed every time she voted for George W. Bush or Bob Ehrlich (she lived in Maryland by then).  I recall those days when the little publications from The John Birch Society came in the mail.  To my parents everything was a conspiracy theory.  I think that’s why I am so quick to dismiss those who embrace such craziness.

The music of our generation led us.  It was the soundtrack of our lives.  Not just Woodstock but all that music did to teach us values.  I’ll always treasure Peter, Paul and Mary, Dylan, Joan Baez and the others whose music helped make me a better person.

In my lifetime we’ve been through far too many unnecessary wars.  In fact I can’t think of one which was truly necessary.  Part of the conservative mantra is to keep us afraid.  First it was the godless Commies.  After the Soviet Union collapsed from its own weight it was terrorists, gays and now progressives.  As a progressive gay man I especially have a target on my back.  Now we progressives are really Communists so it’s taken a full circle.

We had such ideals back then though.  We were going to change the world.  Instead Ronald Reagan completed a revolution and things have gotten progressively worse for everyone but the 1%.  My generation sold out.  Except for the hippies who settled in Taos and San Francisco they’re busy driving their Beemers, lamenting the losses in their 401(k)’s and hoping their adult kids eventually find jobs and move out.

What happened to them?  Life.  It got in the way of their ideals and goals.  Many of them are probably Republicans hanging out at those country clubs and spreading rumors about the dangerous Occupy Movement they would have part of fifty years ago.

The music takes us back though.  It reminds us of our youth because it WAS the soundtrack of our lives.  If you’ve lost your way, if you’ve misplaced your ideals listen to those songs Walter Brasch collected and a few more and embrace that inner revolutionary again.  This nation is not for the 1% it is for all of us.  No American should be left behind and NO American should die overseas for corporate America and the military/industrial complex.  It is time for peace and prosperity.

It wasn’t just the Folkies recording seminal songs.  This one stands out in my memory:

This video reviews the anti-war movement and music:

What happened during the last eleven years of war?  Where is the music of protest, of peace and of justice?  Where is the soundtrack this generation needs for consciousness raising?  If it appears will they keep the commitment or will life get in their way also?  Such is life I’m afraid.  I salute all those like Walt Brasch who kept the commitment and fought all their lives for peace and justice.  It isn’t easy.  The music still keeps us going though even after all these years.

What are your favorites?

Memorial Day: No More Wars

I once wanted to be a protest folksinger, going throughout the country to rally the people for social justice, but two things kept me from that. I couldn’t sing and there wasn’t much call for a protest clarinetist.

But there was journalism-which, I sometimes point out, became my profession because I wasn’t good at anything else. Nevertheless, many of the people at the forefront of social change have been journalists; the revolution of the 1960s, with journalists of an alternative media at the forefront, was built upon the base of a revolution two centuries earlier. Sam Adams, Ben Franklin, Tom Paine, and dozens of newspaper editors and writers helped unify a minority of colonists to rise up and create a new nation, founded in liberty and justice. Journalism seemed like a good place to learn more about people, government, and different cultures, while also fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. After all, wasn’t Superman a journalist?

I didn’t mind being exploited by long work days, low pay, and weak benefits. I was an idealist who would help effect change and improvement-even if I had to spend all day balancing demands of police reports and city council meetings, while also rewriting press releases and covering supermarket openings.

I also found myself in the company of greatness, of singers and musicians just starting out and others desperately holding on to their fame. While some journalists reveled at being able to attend parties with the rich and powerful, I preferred listening to and talking with the singers and musicians I met.

Later, I developed expertise in multimedia production, but that’s for another day.

Please, over the next weeks, search out and play some music of protest, of social justice, of the stories of those killed in war. Anything by Judy Collins is wonderful. Check out Pete Seeger’s “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” and “If I Had a Hammer,” Barry McGuire’s and P.F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction,” Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter’s “One Tin Soldier,” Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “The Universal Soldier, CCR’s “Fortunate Son,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” John Fogerty’s “Déjà vu,” Pink’s “Dear Mr. President,” Joan Baez’s “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” and some of Pink Floyd’s, Anti-Flag’s and Green Day’s songs. There are so many that weren’t included in this series, but deserve your time and thought.

A brief special dedication: This eight day series (yes, eight has a special meaning) is for every person who lost a friend or relative in war . . . and for every person who marched for peace so that some day we could celebrate Memorial Day with fewer and fewer flags on graves of those killed in battle. And it is also dedicated to Apryl, David, Sam-and, especially, Rosemary.

For today, the eighth and last day of the Memorial Day Week, I have three musical selections that sum up what Memorial Day should be about-if only we could shut up the politicians from their jingoistic crocodile-teared speeches that invoke God and America, and who seem never to really understand the sacrifice made by those whose lives were cut short because of war.

The advance in battlefield medical practices has led to fewer deaths. But soldiers are still coming home wounded, and thousands a year are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Better psychological evaluation is helping many. But, for Ira Hayes, his death was just delayed many years after he came home.

Peter LaFarge (1931-1965), a Navy veteran and folk musician who was a part of the Greenwich Village life in the ’50s and ’60s, wrote about the life of Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona, who was one of six Marines to erect the flag at Iwo Jima. Possibly today, in the atmosphere of hate that has tried to engulf Arizona, Ira Hayes might be stopped and searched for possibly being an illegal Mexican. This version of the “Ballad of Ira Hayes” is from Johnny Cash. Most people know he was active with groups less fortunate than most of us; few, outside his friends and family, also knew he didn’t support the Viet Nam War.

In today’s Act I, please listen to a ballad of a hero.

Act II: Many of the songs of the Civil Rights era had origins in the songs of West Africa and American slavery. Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972), a descendant of slaves, was the “Queen of Gospel,” and one of the more active Americans in the fight for civil rights. In her career, she won six Grammys, including one for Lifetime Achievement. She influenced more than a generation of singers. Dinah Shore (1916-1994), the daughter of immigrant Russian Jews, was one of the Big Band era’s most popular singers. During the 1950s and 1960s, her variety television show was one of the most popular on air-and also brought to a national stage many persons who were discriminated against by other shows and other media.

Please take a few moments to hear Mahalia Jackson and Dinah Shore sing a Gospel spiritual that long before the ’60s became an anti-war anthem.

Act III: Ed McCurdy (1919-2000), from Willow Hall, Pa., began his career as a romantic ballad singer, and then became a popular radio DJ, song writer, and folksinger in Canada His most popular song is “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” which became the official song of the Peace Corps. It has been recorded in more than 70 languages, and covered by almost every major folksinger of the 1960s and 1970s, and is still being sung today. John Denver (1943-1997) is well known for both his singing and songwriting. His causes were for the environment and the homeless. In this special video, John is at the Capitol Mall during a 500,000 person peace march against the Viet Nam War.

For Act III of the final day of the Memorial Day Week series, let’s hear John Denver’s version of Ed McCurdy’s dream about the end of war, and dream that the sentiment of this song may yet come true.

Thank you for listening

walt

War Is Not Healthy For Children and Other Living Things

Yesterday’s protest songs as selected by Walter Brasch:

Today’s column:

It was a Saturday afternoon in November. My wife, Rosemary, and I were with a four or five dozen other people in front of a county courthouse to protest what all of us knew would be the upcoming war in Iraq.

It wasn’t the first time we were protesting; it certainly wouldn’t be the last. But this time, our bodies were a lot colder than comfortable; our tempers were a bit shorter than civil.

Many persons driving past honked their car horns in support. But, in this rural county in Pennsylvania there were also dozens who drove past and who gave us the finger or shouted obscenities.

We were called many names for having the audacity to exercise our First Amendment rights to protest the Bush-Cheney rush to war in Iraq. “Hippie Communists” was just one of the comments directed at us, apparently by people who never met a Hippie or a Communist.

Several called us “unchristian.” I guess they thought the Quakers, Brethren, and Church of Christ members, among others in the protest, were part of some alien religious sect. I, of course, didn’t mind being called “unChristian”-I’m a Jew.

Many, with bumper stickers and flag decals pasted onto their car bumpers or trunks, a couple of whom also had Confederate flag decals, and never saw the irony, called us unpatriotic, that we were traitors. Apparently, if you don’t agree with certain pretend-patriots you must be a traitor. In our small group were war veterans; no one was anti-American. Rosemary and I during the first Gulf War in 1990-1991, were editors of Oasis, a newsletter sponsored by the Red Cross for families of combat troops. Now, as the nation again prepared for war, we resurrected the newspaper as Oasis II. Rosemary, had been a secretary many years and after earning her M.S. in labor studies continued as a strong supporter of labor; maybe someone thought working with the working class was unpatriotic. She was also a family services specialist for national disasters for the Red Cross; helping those still in shock from the disaster and who may have lost their houses may have also been unpatriotic. I was active in emergency management, and even on a Governor’s task force against counter-terrorism. But I guess protesting the government was somehow unAmerican, somehow unpatriotic. Our son, now on 80 percent disability, was a Marine who served during the first Gulf War. I guess since we didn’t want to see any more sons die or become disabled by what we thought was a senseless war, we were unAmerican.

The response by the mainstream media to protests throughout the country was as expected; they largely ignored the protests, no matter how large; when they did cover the them, it was more like tabloid coverage of any curiosity, expanded when a celebrity was involved. What they did do was to channel whatever lies were spewed by the Bush-Cheney administration. As a journalist, I was appalled but not surprised by the “super patriotism” of the media, nor the fact that many newspapers were killing my columns about the impending war.

The New York Times and Washington Post, both believed to be liberal newspapers, eventually apologized for their jingoistic coverage, for how they took the Administration’s handouts, with not much more than a superficial question or two.

Years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, and it was proven how many lies the nation was told by politicians and pretend-patriots, Rosemary and I still haven’t heard one apology from anyone in any of dozens of rallies who called us unAmerican, unpatriotic, traitors and Communists. Not one reader who wrote scathing replies to some of my columns that did get published, some in print, many on the Internet, ever apologized. We don’t expect any apologies. But we do expect that at the very least people who proudly wave flags, declare they are patriots, support Tea Party and ultra-right calls to “take back our country” (apparently from that foreign-born half-Black Muslim who somehow got the most popular votes of anyone in history), might at least see a connection between unqualified support of a government that sends young men and women into battle and then has a 3-day weekend of picnics and politically-correct patriotic speeches to honor those who died in battle.

John Prine (1946 – ), born in Chicago, is an Army veteran who became a letter carrier after his discharge. He, like many on the ’60s went into the Greenwich Village part of New York City to develop his music skills. He was influenced by the music of Hank Williams; Johnny Cash was one of Prine’s fans. He had millions of others.

Among Prine’s songs was a country classic, “You Never Even Called by Name,” co-written with Steve Goodman and recorded by David Alan Coe; and antiwar songs, “The Great Compromise” and “Saigon,” about a soldier with PTSD.

John Prine wrote “The Flag Decal” in 1971, an upbeat song about phony patriotism during the Viet Nam War. Like all good music, it didn’t die that first year. It has been brought out again and again to counter the Super-Patriots who absolutely positively know that anyone who disagrees with a conservative government (apparently it’s acceptable to disagree with liberals) must be unpatriotic traitors.

Please take a few moments on this, the seventh day of Memorial Day Week, to hear a song that exposes the phony patriotism of some Americans.

News & Notes May 25, 2012

Walter Brasch’s day 5 Memorial Day protest song compilation has three songs by Tom Paxton today:

Mitt Romney came to Philadelphia and got an earful at a charter school.  Did he really say smaller class sizes don’t lead to better outcomes in education?  This man has led a sheltered life.  Perhaps he really meant larger groups of bullies lead to shorter hair for gay classmates.  Or that smaller cars mean better rides on the roof for Golden Retrievers.

The prosecution of Catholic Church priests for hiding predatory priests and shuffling them around to molest more kids is still underway in Philadelphia.  Meanwhile the Church is initiating politically motivated lawsuits against the President’s contraception mandate.  They’d rather let people die than get birth control?  So says this article.  Remember, this is the moral authority many Democrats cite as their guidance on many crucial policies in Harrisburg.  Jo Ann Nardelli would be impressed.  Church hospitals are, in some communities (like Santa Fe) the only hospital in the area.  The Church should NOT be tax exempt.

Controversial Congressman Allen West says stay at home Moms are working Moms (we all know that) unless they’re on welfare.  Then they’re leeches on the public teet.  Oh my, what bigotry.

Maternity leave is a given in almost every country but America.  How is it we dare call ourselves civilized?  We let people die rather than provide universal health care, our child mortality rate is bad, our life expectancies are decreasing yet we pay twice as much for health care as socialist countries.  That’s yet another failure of capitalism.  If Mexico can afford to give 12 weeks of paid maternity leave maybe the U.S. can spare two?

Since the state has taken over the City of Harrisburg (canceling democracy for those citizens) they’re anxious for more.  Now, after slashing funding, they are out to take over school districts.  The Reading School District is set to fire 170 teachers, close five schools and shred hundreds of support personnel including teachers aides and security.  One thing you can say for Gov. gasbag:  he isn’t doing anything he didn’t say he was going to do.  Corbett did point to Chris Christie as his mentor during the campaign after all.  That was a strong clue he’d gut public education.

Unfortunately for the Governor he’s taking a huge amount of heat for his stubborn policies.  The fact he’s more loyal to Grover Norquist than the children of Pennsylvania tells us where his priorities lay.  Thousands took to the streets Wednesday across Pennsylvania protesting his policies.  is he listening?

He’s listening to his “kitchen cabinet,” those high ranking GOP operatives who told him he needs to do a better job of selling his austerity budgets.  Not, mind you, changing his failed policies but in how he and his staff sell them to the public.  As such he has decided to nominate his chief of staff to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.  This isn’t a staff shake-up mind you (I still have that ocean front property in Kansas for sale), just kicking the guy upstairs to make room for new blood.

Meanwhile the Harrisburg overseer named Corbett in court testimony as interfering with his work.

Questions are also being asked about David Unkovic’s successor and his cozy relationship with one of the Governor’s Cabinet members.  Something smells and it isn’t pleasant.

Jane Orie doesn’t want to reimburse taxpayers for her legal defense or the money she stole by using our offices, staffers and equipment to run her sister’s Supreme Court campaign.  Just because Tom Corbett allowed legislators to get away with it doesn’t mean Allegheny County should.  Pay up.  We want our money back.

It’s bad enough these public officials stole from us but we’re also paying for their legal bills?

The Susquehanna River is part of a new initiative by the Department of the Interior called America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Initiative.  As you readers know I’m an avid kayaker and the Lower Susquehanna is a beautiful place.  The Conewago area is full of eagles and other raptors.

Pennsylvania: Susquehanna River – Lower Susquehanna River Conservation Landscape Initiative

The National Park Service, other federal, state, and local agencies, and non-governmental organizations are expanding and improving and recreation and education opportunities and public access along the Susquehanna River, which is an important link to Pennsylvania’s natural and cultural heritage. On May 16, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated the Susquehanna River as a historic connecting trail and integral part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

The White House will be doing a Community Action Summit in early June to focus on the Hispanic community at Temple University.  I will be participating in my capacity as a Planned Parenthood Board member.

From HHS:  

In The First Four Months Of 2012, More Than 416,000 People with Medicare Saved an Average of $724 on Prescription Drugs and 12.1 Million Used a Free Preventive Service

Under the new health care law – the Affordable Care Act —  seniors and people with disabilities in Medicare have saved a total of $3.5 billion on prescription drugs in the Medicare drug benefit coverage gap or “donut hole” from the enactment of the law in March 2010 through April of 2012.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data today showing that, in the first four months of 2012 alone, more than 416,000 people saved an average of $724 on the prescription drugs they purchased after they hit the prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole,” for a total of $301.5 million in savings.  These savings build on the law’s success in 2010 and 2011, when more than 5.1 million people with Medicare saved over $3.2 billion on prescription drugs.

In addition, CMS announced that this year, from January through April, 12.1 million people in traditional Medicare received at least one preventive service at no cost to them – including over 856,000 who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit provided in the Affordable Care Act.  In 2011, over 26 million people in traditional Medicare received one or more preventive benefits free of charge.

Pennsylvania Greens endorsed Dr. Jill Stein for president at their recent state meeting in State College.  She’ll likely be my vote in November assuming she wins the national nomination.

News & Notes May 24, 2012

It seems some major Republican leaders, worried about Gov. Gasbag’s collapsing poll numbers, are planning a “come to Jesus” meeting.  Afraid he is doomed to a single term as protests over his austerity budgets claim media headlines across the state, they don’t plan on discussing the disastrous policy decisions but only his bad political response.  What response?  The man is afraid to even face the press much less the public.  

The Inquirer’s Amy Worden has a good article about Metcalfe’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood.  She does a good job pointing out the fallacy of his argument:  no public funds are used to pay for abortions.  That’s his rationale for the bill.  Of course, like the ASF regulatory bill last year he isn’t stupid, he knows this.  He uses this as political cover for his real agenda:  cutting off health care for women.

There’s a small ray of good news on the Voter ID front.  Sec. of State Carol Aichele says anyone born in Pennsylvania won’t need to pay for a copy of their birth certificate in order to obtain an ID.  Of course, that requirement made the law unconstitutional since anything which requires voters having to pay to vote is a poll tax.  Unfortunately if you weren’t born in PA (like me) you’re still out of pocket.

Four months ago ALEC held a conference in The Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, the state capital.  Two hotel employees, including a manager, assaulted an observer videotaping and took the camera.  They’re now facing criminal charges.

Today’s music tribute to the anti-war movement is Peter, Paul and Mary:

My blogging friend Ken Quinnel (now writing for Crooks and Liars) is hanging it up as a state blogger.  His coverage of Florida politics is ending because there’s just no financial support for those of us doing this.  I cannot recall the last time I had a request for advertising here.  candidates, Parties and groups expect coverage of their events but contribute nothing to the cause of doing so.

America didn’t do very well in the Amnesty International annual report.  President Obama’s record on human rights is actually worse than Bush’s.  He has escalated the war in Afghanistan, drone flights killing civilians, continued the outrage of Gitmo, and continuing torture policies.  Add in the illegal wiretapping of domestic citizens and the record isn’t one of which to be proud.

I love this next story. State Rep. Brian Ellis, a supporter of Act 13, had his district office occupied by citizens protesting contaminated water from fracking.  They brought him a gallon of bad water and took twenty gallons of his water for those affected.

Dem Committeewoman, Citing Her Bigotry, Flips to GOP

State Committeewoman Jo Ann Nardelli of Blair County resigned her position after defecting to the Republican Party.  She cited her Catholic faith and President Obama’s support of marriage equality as her motivation.  Nardelli is also anti-choice so she should feel more welcome with the open bigots in the GOP.  If she doesn’t support her own rights how can I expect her to support mine?

I do wonder how her statement that she is guided by her Catholic faith: “I respect all of you and all that I have achieved in the past. Due to personal matters and faith beliefs at this time, it is only fair to resign” will find consistency with an organization waging war on both women and the poor.  I thought Christianity called for healing the sick and feeding the poor?

Nardelli will miss the upcoming Democratic State Committee meeting in Valley Forge, the first since Obama came out in support of equality.  Instead she will pledge loyalty to Pope Nazi I of Rome whose moral obligation is to protect pedophile priests.  That’s what I call a moral failing.  Perhaps she should begin following her own guidance and morals rather than those of Rome and the GOP which only serve to harm people.  It’s one more ConservaDem gone.

Educational Tax Credits Are Often a Bait-and-Switch

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

A story in Monday’s New York Times explores the use of state tax credit programs to pay for “scholarships” for students who attend private schools. The story suggests that many of the students who receive such scholarships already attend private school and are not low-income.

To the extent that this is true, the political marketing of these programs as alternatives (for a select few students) to public schools in distressed communities is a “bait and switch.” Educational tax credits actually siphon taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools, reducing state revenues available for public schools.

Is this how the scholarships to attend private schools work under Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program?

Probably: there is no prohibition on EITC scholarships going to students already attending private schools; middle-class families are eligible to receive scholarships (the income limit for a family of four is $84,000); and there is no evidence that even this income limit is enforced. In fact, Pennsylvania’s Act 46 of 2005 prohibits the state from requesting from scholarship organizations any information other than the number and amount of scholarships that they give out. I guess we’re just supposed to trust the scholarship organizations to self-enforce the income limit.

The lack of definitive evidence on who receives scholarships under Pennsylvania’s EITC program is consistent with the overall lack of accountability in the program, which has now cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than a third of a billion dollars. EITC scholarships lack both financial accountability (how money is actually used) and educational accountability (who gets the scholarships and how scholarship students perform in school compared to similar public school students) – as we documented in a report last year. 

The New York Times story documents that Pennsylvania’s program works very well for some businesses, lobbyists, and lawmakers. The lobbyists set up scholarship organizations, solicit business clients whose donations actually make them money (because the state tax credit alone is worth up to 90% of donations and the federal tax write-off takes the savings well over 100%), and the lobbyists and key lawmakers then influence which schools (and students?) get the scholarships. Then there’s a photo op at the private school that local media write up as a demonstration of the business’s generosity and the legislator’s good work.

Everybody wins. Except perhaps the children whose public schools face funding cuts that much bigger because of the revenues lost to the EITC program.

News & Notes May 23, 2012

The Obama Bethlehem office had a good turnout for Harvey Milk Day.  Adrian Shanker, President of Equality Pennsylvania, spoke about the gains for the community from the Obama Administration.  Liz and Trish from the Pennsylvania Diversity Network were also there.  The Obama campaign launches its LGBT outreach with a conference call this morning.  In light of the medical marijuana crackdown how this impacts those living with AIDS is something which was not addressed on the call this morning.

Sen. Casey is under pressure to support marriage equality now that President Obama is on board.

Has Newark Mayor Cory Booker doomed any chance he had of gaining higher office.  He went on Meet The Press and criticized President Obama’s Bain Capital ads.  How is Obama using the issue different from his Republican rivals using it in the primaries?  This is a big deal and it is what he predicates his qualifications to be president on.  That demands examination.

The situation at Fukushima is getting dire.  Another earthquake now might jeopardize the lives of most people living in the northern hemisphere according to some experts.

There’s more data about why Tea baggers are so stupid:  they watch Fox News.  Of course this is a lifestyle choice so perhaps we can round them up, send them to electrified camps and wait for them to die.  That’s what Pastor Worley would recommend, I’m sure.

Speaking of Pastor Worley, now he’s saying that “forty years ago they would’ve hung (homosexuals), bless god, from a white oak tree.”  The problem with this is not only its bigotry but the ignorance from Worley that such things have happened.  How different is a white oak tree from the wood (faggots) used to burn gays alive during the Dark Ages or the fence to which Matthew Shephard was chained and left to die?  Having a pulpit is no excuse to exercise in hate speech.  Real people get hurt by things people like Worley say.

A new effort is underway to mandate that all state campaign finance reports be submitted electronically.  Pennsylvania may yet enter the 21st century in one way.  Fair elections require disclosure prior to election day.

Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable audience of any outlet, and they know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all.

Marcellus shale drilling consumed 1.5 billion gallons of our precious water last year.  There was so much gas produced that there is now a glut on the market and prices for gas have collapsed.  Royalty checks are also on the decline and some landowners may see nothing for those well pads located on their property.  Imagine living with a drill rig going 24/7 and getting nothing for it?

Bill DeWeese’s vacation from prison was short lived.  He was ordered to return yesterday pending the outcome of his appeal.  The naughty former House Speaker has had all of his offices and staff removed.

One of the stains on the Obama record is his militant assault on legal marijuana in states which have legalized its use for medicinal purposes.  So much for him being a liberal, much less a socialist lefty.

Keystone Progress reports that all Pennsylvania Democrats have left ALEC.  Why were they there in the first place?