News & Notes September 28, 2012

This is the first day I’ve been up and around all week.  I’m thankful for modern antibiotics.

Did you see the latest Mitt Mistake?  I look forward each week for his newest implosion.  This time Mother Jones got an old video of him explaining how Bain Capital “harvests” companies for profit.  What an interesting choice of words.  He didn’t say “save” or “rescue” or “revive.”  In other words his goal was to get these firms fat enough to butcher and sell off.  He wasn’t out to create jobs or accomplish anything of a plus to society.  Should his new nickname be Mitt “The Butcher” Romney?

The Obama camp is hitting Mitt hard:

Voters in PA-8 are upset over comments Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick made to a Tea Party group.  He said we need more people who sign the front of paychecks than those who sign the backs of them.  He went on insult women by saying only men start businesses.  This a double down on Mitt’s 47% remarks but this time those who work for a living are called out as less than worthy.  Fitzpatrick seems to forget he’s one of those who signs the back of a paycheck.  Voters can remove that on privilege November 6th.

Indications are that Commonwealth Court Judge Simpson only intends to nullify a small part of the Voter ID law.  Appellants should then take this back to the Supreme Court.  Why isn’t anyone taking this law to federal court?

Isn’t it interesting how Republicans, guilty of most of the election fraud perpetrated, are constantly accusing Democrats of stealing elections?  Psychologists call it projecting:  transferring your sins onto your opponent.  I call it mental illness.

In yet another step towards equality the Department of Homeland Security will take into account same sex relationships when deliberating on deportations.  A same sex couple will be considered a family under the new policy.

The latest right wad outrage is a report on Drudge saying that Obama is giving free phones to the poor.  The program was actually started by George W. Bush.

Confused About Voter ID? You’re Not Alone

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The eyes of the nation are truly turned to Pennsylvania as the ACLU is back in court today challenging Pennsylvania’s strictest-in-the-nation Voter ID Law. The Commonwealth Court is hearing evidence to determine whether the new Department of State voter ID will do the trick to ensure that anyone who needs an ID can get one, for free, in time to vote in November. If the state fails to make that case, the judge could issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

Early evidence seems to indicate that could happen. As has reported (subscription), Judge Simpson indicated Tuesday he will consider an injunction and has asked lawyers to be prepared to provide input on its scope and force. 

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released a report on this topic exactly. The report, Moving Target: Pennsylvania’s Flawed Implementation of the Voter ID Law, asks the question: "How is PennDOT handling the new Department of State ID?" The answer, in layman’s terms, is simple: Not so good.<!–break–>

Seven months after the law was enacted, PennDOT offices still do not all have information about the Voter ID Law, including a poster prepared by the Department of State and basic fact sheets for voters to take.

Worse, we went looking for information about the new Department of State voting ID, and we couldn’t find any. The only information that was available was a press release on the topic issued on July 20 — and to get it you had to ask for it.

PBPC partnered with SEIU staff who conducted observations and interviews in 44 PennDOT driver's license centers between Sept. 10 and 17. They asked PennDOT staff what voters had to do if they wanted a voter ID and if a person who lacked certain documentation could still get an ID.

Across the state, in one-third of the cases, the staff never mentioned the Department of State ID. In close to half the cases, PennDOT staff gave information that was wrong, including telling observers that they would have to pay for the PennDOT ID.

In the most surprising finding, PennDOT staff indicated they would discourage people from getting a Department of State ID because it could only be used for voting purposes. Well, yeah, that was the whole point.

Many PennDOT staffers were genuinely interested in helping people get an ID, but the line staff, information officers and examiners were confused, couldn’t answer questions and had to get help from supervisors to provide even basic information. 

One staffer summed it up well: “We got training for what that was worth, but it’s all confusing because they keep changing things."

So guess what happened? Department of State officials announced Tuesday that they were changing the rules again. An admission that the process is still too hard for voters to get the ID.  

The grounds keep shifting and voters will pay the price. We recommend that the state delay implementation until they can get the procedures in place and everyone who needs it can get an ID. If they won’t do it, Judge Simpson should.

News & Notes September 26, 2012

I got stung by a couple bees last week and am in a lot of pain.  I’m allergic to bee stings and every time I move it’s excruciating.  I won’t be very busy until this heals.

The Republican State Leadership Committee modified its attack ad against Kathleen Kane but not by much.  The father of a rape victim cried foul over the original piece saying Kane wasn’t involved in their case.  Still, her dishonesty is coming home to haunt her.

Judge Simpson told lawyers arguing the Voter ID law he will hear arguments Thursday about an injunction.  The state Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Commonwealth Court Judge with instructions to file an injunction.  Meanwhile requirements have again been lessened.  Has anyone told PennDOT employees yet?  They haven’t seen the  original memos as yet.

A voter registration official with a Colorado clerks office was registering only Romney voters.  As a public employee she should be required to register every voter regardless of party.  I don’t know what the law is there but in Pennsylvania this would be illegal.  Every person registering voters is required, by law, to register everyone and submit every form to a county elections office.  ACORN was vilified for complying with these laws.  They knew they had some fraudulent voter registration forms and they segregated them from the others and notified elections officials they thought they were bad.  For that ACORN was accused of election fraud when they were not only complying with the law but bending over backwards to root out fraud.

Mitt Romney is having another bad week.  He went to talk to Latino voters last week with a spray on tan then said he doesn’t understand why airliners windows don’t open.  How stupid is this man?  What do you think will be his next big mistake?

Someone needs to explain to Mitt that one cannot just go to an ER for medical care.  They don’t give chemo there, for example.  If you can’t pay they’ll deal with your emergency situation then send you home.  They don’t have to treat you at all.

Pennsylvania Tea baggers, those fringe extremists who clench copies of the constitution they never read, are going to challenge Supreme Court Justices up for retention next year.  The constitution clearly upholds the fundamental right to vote and all six Pennsylvania Justices said so last week.  That isn’t enough for these morons who think we should disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of legal voters to stop a problem which doesn’t exist.  Therefore they’ll target Ron Castille and Max Baer next year.  Judicial retention elections are the least controversial we have so I doubt they’ll have much effect.

Senate Republicans defeated a veterans job bill last week 40-58.  You’d think 58 votes for a bill which would put 1 million of our war veterans to work would be a passing vote.  Not so in Republican Land.  They obstruct every single bill by filibustering meaning 60 votes are required to pass anything.  The same Senators who spent $1 trillion in borrowed money for a war of choice in Iraq said we can’t afford to take care of those who fought that war.  The bill was paid for and didn’t add to the deficit.

No one loves us any more.  We used to be a battleground swing state and every major candidate swung through along with their surrogates.  With an 11 point Obama lead we’re written off as a Blue State and ignored.  I expected to be running around covering these events and, instead, am sitting around the house healing my wounds.  At $4/gallon its for the best.

A group called Choice at Risk will be coming to our fair state to accentuate the risks to women’s rights in this election.  Sponsored by Unitarian Universalists they’ll be in Philly Thursday at the church at 2125 Chestnut Street.  Friday they’ll be in Germantown at 6511 Lincoln Drive and then next week in Harrisburg Wednesday at 1280 Clover Lane.  Friday Oct 5th they’ll get to Pittsburgh at 605 Morewood Ave. then Murrysville at 4326 Sardis Rd.  They all begin at 7 PM.

Daryl Metcalfe: 47% Are Lazy

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-ALEC) thinks if you’re one of Mitt Romney’s 47% you’re lazy and don’t deserve the right to vote.  I guess he missed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling this week in which six Justices said voting is a fundamental right.  Metcalfe doesn’t think you deserve to vote if you’re in the PA National Guard, stationed in Afghanistan and not earning enough to pay income tax.  He thinks if you worked all your life and  now are in retirement you’re too lazy to go get an ID and don’t deserve to vote.  If you’ve been seriously injured at work because Pennsylvania refused to regulate workplace safety he thinks you don’t deserve the right to vote.  He thinks if you were born born Black, have been discriminated against in the job market and couldn’t get a good education because Pennsylvania won’t adequately fund public schools you’re really just a lazy bum who doesn’t deserve to vote.  Daryl says if you’re a working woman earning 77 cents to each dollar a man in your same position makes you’re just a lazy bastard who doesn’t deserve to vote.

Who does this moron thinks deserves to vote?  Only those neanderthals who think as he does.  He’s obviously a moron because he doesn’t comprehend that constitution he and his fellow tea baggers are always carrying around but never bother to read (other than the Second Amendment).  Every right we have derives from the right to vote.  When you disenfranchise someone you threaten every other right they possess.  These rights didn’t come from god they came from the framers and writers of our constitution.

The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal and that all deserve the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Just not if you’re one of the Romney/Metcalfe 47%.  Gee, I missed that somewhere in our laws.  

No government has the right to force me to obtain a government issued ID.  Gov. Corbett actually stated last week that he thinks every one of us should carry ID at all times.  I have news for Corbett and Metcalfe:  Pennsylvania is not a police state and your efforts to make us one will be remembered.

Fact Checking the Corbett Jobs Record…and Some Unsolicited Advice

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

The Corbett administration has a new summary of Pennsylvania’s recent job performance. Today’s news that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is as high as the national unemployment rate underscores, however, that the state’s recent jobs record is not  good. Let’s take a closer look.

PA vs. U.S.: The Corbett jobs summary notes that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is below the national rate – and it was when the summary was first released. This was not a new trend: the Pennsylvania rate was a point or a point-and-a-half below the national rate for most of the four years before Governor Corbett took office. A year ago, the gap between the Pennsylvania and U.S. unemployment rate was still statistically significant. (See Table A.) But the gap between the two rates – the “Pennsylvania advantage” – has been shrinking steadily since 2010 until the Pennsylvania rate finally climbed to the U.S. level in August 2012, both equaling 8.1%.

Private-sector Job Growth: While the administration touts private-sector job growth in 2011, the numbers reflect a national trend, rather than a unique Pennsylvania story. 

The U.S. economy has had 30 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. In fact, Pennsylvania’s rank for the percent growth in private-sector job growth has fallen from 8th in 2010 to 36th in the 12 months ending in July 2012. One of the reasons that Pennsylvania’s private-sector job-growth ranking is down is the deeper cuts in public employment in Pennsylvania compared to other states. Deep cuts to Pennsylvania public schools and colleges led to a loss of 14,000 education jobs alone in 2011.

These layoffs impact the classroom and Main Street too. Unemployed teachers, like unemployed factory workers, don’t have money to spend, which affects the broader economy. 

Manufacturing Job Growth: Manufacturing jobs growth improved in 2011, but again reflects national trends. In fact, Pennsylvania’s manufacturing job growth since early 2010 is slightly below half the national increase. (See The State of Working Pennsylvania 2012.) 

New Hires in Marcellus Shale: Not this one again. The administration is touting natural gas industry growth by citing the number of new hires. As we’ve explained repeatedly, new hires are not new jobs (most new hires replace people who quit or are fired). In fact, the number of new hires is basically a meaningless number. Statewide there were 580,400 new hires during the 2nd quarter in Pennsylvania, while total non-farm employment rose between the 1st and 2nd quarter by less than 300 jobs. In other words, the only reason to cite new hires is to make the job gain seem substantially larger than it really is. 

The gas industry has led to some job growth in Pennsylvania, just not on the scale claimed by the industry. Between the 4th quarter of 2008 and the 4th quarter of 2011, employment in the core Marcellus Shale industries grew by 18,000. That gain was largely wiped out by the loss of 14,000 education jobs in just one year. Even using the most generous estimates, employment in the Marcellus Shale in direct and ancillary industries in the 4th quarter of 2011 (as published by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and industry) was 238,400 – about 4.2% of total state employment.

Here’s the unsolicited advice: Twenty months into Governor Corbett’s first term, there is still time for the Governor to pursue policies that will improve Pennsylvania’s job performance. There are multiple options that have strong bipartisan and business support. For example, investing in transportation infrastructure as recommended by the Governor’s own transportation commission. 

In manufacturing and workforce development, the administration is also saying some of the right things. But talk is cheap: we need actual investment in skills and innovation if our job performance is going to improve relative to other states and the nation.

Attacking American Sovereign Soil Diminishes the Rights of Religion

by Walter Brasch

The terrorists who attacked the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, claimed the attacks were retaliation for the publication on You Tube of an anti-Muslim film. That YouTube video was a 14-minute trailer for a one-hour film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that was not only a vicious bigoted attack against Islam but also of no artistic merit.  

One of the extremist political parties in Egypt plucked the trailer from obscurity and used it as part of a newscast, inflaming the people of Egypt, who mounted a demonstration against the U.S. embassy. Within a week, the trailer had more than 10 million hits on YouTube.

An attack upon the consulate in Benghazi that followed the one in Cairo led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador, a member of his staff, two Navy SEALS assigned to the mission, and 10 Libyan guards who defended the consulate.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly condemned the attacks. Mohammed Magarief, president of the Libyan National Assembly, apologized to the United States for the attack, and vowed to bring the killers to justice.

The man who gave the order that led to the execution of Osama bin Laden sent in Marines and the FBI and vowed to work with Libya to “bring justice” to the killers.

Several persons accused of the murders have been arrested.

The attacks on American sovereign soil may have been planned and then carried out by a small group of terrorists to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11; the video was merely an excuse for the attack.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens was highly respected by the people and new governments in the Middle East. He and the U.S. helped promote the Arab Spring that had led to the overthrow of dictators and the creation of governments that could lead to more freedom for the people. Large spontaneous demonstrations by Libyans showed the world they were furious at the content of the video, but that they also despised the attack and continued to support the United States.

Dozens of smaller demonstrations began appearing within a day throughout the MidEast; many were merely moments of opportunity for thugs and terrorists to cause damage by invoking their disgust of the film; some were attacks to secure or maintain perceived leadership in the region.

Nevertheless, no matter what the reason for the rioting, the people were legitimately mad at the depiction of the prophet Mohammad and the no-star film that reeked with the slimy viciousness of hate.

The people, not the terrorists, in comments to the media, said they were reacting because President Obama did not take action against the film makers. They believed he should have at least ordered the arrests of those responsible for making the film.

For a culture that existed for millennia in having leaders who would have taken such an action, it was not an unreasonable demand. A part of their culture is the integration of religion and government, just as it was a part of English culture and that of colonial America at one time. As much as some fundamentals in the U.S. may wish it were still a part of American culture, it is not. The First Amendment not only establishes a separation of church and state, but guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press; allows people the right to redress the government for their grievances, and to peacefully assemble to protest.

President Obama said that the United States rejects “all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.” He emphasized, “Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.” Hillary Clinton was just as forceful: “Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Long before the attack in Libya, as rioters had begun to mass in Cairo, the embassy tweeted “Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages [by rioters] will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech and criticizing bigotry.” It was a message that defined the ideals of a nation that had created the First Amendment. But, in a “shoot first and aim later” blunder while events were still unfolding and the U.S. was responding to the attacks, Mitt Romney, without the facts and the timeline of events, fired an angry polemic, politicizing the murder of American diplomats. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” he said. Romney, whose own religion has been viciously attacked by members of his own party, probably should have done what the President and Secretary of State did-condemn violence and religious bigotry. And then shut up.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton could not allow government action against the filmmakers, as the protestors wanted. The Founding Fathers demanded freedom of speech, the press, and religion to allow all views to be heard, even if it meant protecting even the vilest messages of hate, as long as they did not advocate violence or the overthrow of government. It is a fundamental part of what they wove into the fabric that became the United States of America.

[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and a specialist in First Amendment issues. He is the author of 17 books; the latest is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]


The Manufacturing Jobs Score by President Since 1948

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

After former President Bill Clinton claimed the “jobs score” was better in Democratic presidential administrations than in Republican ones, Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa and I did some research to see how presidential administrations scored on manufacturing job creation since Harry Truman. Our findings are published on AlterNet this morning.

We thought it was important to do this analysis because manufacturing jobs are typically family-supporting jobs – in other words, good jobs. Manufacturing also plays a critical role in the growth of overall living standards, a point on which there is bipartisan consensus.

What’s the punchline? Democratic administrations (seven since 1948) on average add around a million manufacturing jobs every four years. Republican administrations (nine since 1948) lose about a million manufacturing jobs every four years.

We think these findings will be especially salient in battleground states such as Pennsylvania where voters in manufacturing-intensive regions make up a large share of swing voters.

For more, read our full piece on AlterNet.

PA Supreme Court: Delay Voter ID

In a victory for democracy the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the lawsuit attacking Voter ID to be remanded back to Superior Court to render a new verdict delaying implementation of the requirement disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.  Now perhaps we can go to federal court and get it declared unconstitutional.

Freed to Violate Penn State Rules at Fundraiser

David Freed, GOP candidate for Attorney General is showing a shocking disregard for rules.  He will have a tailgate fundraiser this Saturday at the Penn State/Temple football game.  Penn State does not allow its facilities to be used for political events like these.  Greenlee Partners is hosting it for him in violation of PSU’s rules and regulations.  Suggested donations are $500/couple.

How does violating the rules and regulations of  a public institution qualify one to be Attorney General?  I think it disqualifies Mr. Freed.

Romney Condemns 47% of Country as “Moochers” and “Freeloaders”

Mitt Romney keeps opening his mouth and sinking his failed campaign.  Insiders have formed a circular firing squad and are shooting each other over who’s to blame for this implosion of a presidential effort.  I have a clue for them:  the problem is your candidate.

At a high dollar fundraiser Mitt was caught demonizing 47% of America calling them moochers and freeloaders living off the government.  He claimed that since they don’t pay income taxes they’ll vote for Obama to keep their entitlements.  The video:

The damning part:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

I’m one of those 47% Mitt claims are deadbeats feeding off the government.  See, I had the unfortunate calamity of suffering  ahead injury in 1984.  I had six bad concussions in about a three year period which turned my brain to mush.  This happened because my employer maintained unsafe working conditions so I qualified for workers compensation.  Unfortunately my employer at the time wasn’t trustful or honorable and refused to file the paperwork with their insurance carrier CIGNA.  At the end of my rope I tried going back to work (they also conveniently fired me when I filed the injury claim) and made things worse when now I couldn’t speak or hear anything in my left ear.  Twice I went eight months between workmans comp payments as we had to keep taking CIGNA to court.  Thankfully I had  a great landlord who knew he’d get his money as soon as I got mine.  Through a twenty five year rehab process I did wind up homeless for 2 1/2 years while awaiting SSDI after my workmans comp ran out.  I still have headaches, the current bad one has been with me for four weeks.  This is why I can’t work.  This is why I’m one of those “moochers” and “freeloaders” Mitt condemns.

I didn’t ask to get hurt.  I didn’t ask to lose significant cognitive function.  I didn’t ask to lose my short term memory at age 34.  I had paid into Social Security since I was 18 however so I did qualify for benefits.  Social Security is an insurance program we all opt into when we first begin working.  Unfortunately i’m one of those who had to use it and it’s been enabling me to exist somewhat.  I can’t afford my own home though and lived in some very decrepit places (think cheap, cheap) and in campground s for a while.  Luckily I have family which helps a great deal.

Being a “moocher” and a “freeloader” isn’t fun.  In RomneyWorld I get housing, food, health care and a great life bleeding those who work and pay taxes.  I get no housing, no food stamps and my health care is taken care of by Medicare with a 20% co-pay.  As a workmans comp injured worker I should have gotten my medical care paid for by CIGNA for life.  Didn’t happen.  My employer cut corners, I got hurt and they got off scot free.

So life as a moocher isn’t good.  I used to work 15 hours a day and after I couldn’t work any longer I went into a deep depression.  I loved working and not being able to hurt as much as the cluster headaches which never abated.  I did overcome these issues and rehabilitated myself to the extent I can do what I do.

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I agree.  I’ve learned a lot through my struggles and I’m OK with where I am.  Until Mitt Romney insulted me that is.  I’d love to be able to work again.  My SSDI ends at the end of next year when I turn 62 and I really need to find a part time job to maintain enough income to keep the blog going.  Who’s going to hire an old man with constant cluster headaches?  

A man who won’t release his own tax returns so we’d know if he’s one of the deadbeats also gets a $72,000 tax credit for his dancing horse but feels he has the balls to criticize those of us who really don’t have any choices in our situations.  But let’s look at the others who he says don’t pay income taxes.  A bunch of these are retired folks who paid them all their lives but are no longer working.  Another large group are military veterans, many of who cannot function because of their service to our nation.  In gratitude for their selfless service we relegate many of them to the streets.  Many are the working poor who, because we refuse to pay a living wage, don’t earn enough to pay income taxes.  This was a trade-off made by Republicans in return for giving the really really rich tax cuts.  To salve their consciences and get those cuts through they agreed to exempt the working poor.  My how generous that was until they then decided to make them the scapegoats.

The working poor actually pay more in taxes proportionately than Mitt does.  About 15% of what they make goes to payroll taxes which fund Medicare and Social Security.  They also pay regressive sales taxes which take a higher proportion of their money than they do from the rich.  Add in local head taxes and property taxes 9even the poor pay them through their rent) and there really isn’t anyone in this country who doesn’t pay taxes.  Anyone paying payroll taxes is sending a higher percentage of their income to Washington than Mitt.

So who’s really the tax deadbeat here?  ironically though Romney says those 47% are automatic Obama voters he has that wrong too.  See the states which take more from Washington than they pay in are the real moochers.  We call them Red States because they vote reliably Republican.  Poor folks are actually very common in the South where racism prevents business people from hiring anyone of color (that isn’t limited tot he South by the way).  Bad schools are also common in poor areas because of our fundamentally flawed method for funding them.  The myth that throwing money at a problem not solving it is belied by the fact that students at well funded schools compete with students anywhere else in the world.

Paying teachers a professional wage actually attracts better teachers.  reducing violence in schools by hiring security actually increases learning as do books, supplies, meals, and small class sizes.  Unfortunately all these cost money.

We all pay taxes and conservative condemnation of those who have had unfortunate things happen to them (like being born Black) is unworthy of someone asking for our vote.  This is race baiting actually because of the assumption that those who “mooch” are Blacks siphoning the hard earned bucks from white people.   News flash:  if you’d hire them they wouldn’t be on welfare.  Romney has played the race card all summer with his commercials accusing Obama of coddling welfare queens.

Work brings dignity and not being able to work is tough.  I try doing what I can and starting this blog has provided me with something I can do when I’m up to it.  It doesn’t bring in any money but at least I think I’m doing what I can to better society by providing a service.  I’m doing what I can and I sincerely wish I could do more.  I’m sorry for Mitt Romney, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who is a clueless bastard undeserving of support from any of the 100% of Americans who actually have empathy, who have an ounce of humanity in their souls.

By the way, even though I’m in Mitt’s 47% Obama didn’t get my vote.  His very underlying assumption shows how stupid this man really is.  If all those he just insulted in those deeply red states are also offended they shouldn’t vote Republican.