News & Notes March 31, 2013

Our internet was out for several days so I’m catching up.  

Happy Spring Fertility Festival for all of those who celebrate the holiday.  May all the bunnies and eggs get you in the mood…

A couple of defense contractors tied to late Congressman Jack Murtha have finally been charged.  This scandal was enveloping the Congressman in the late days of his life before a botched surgery killed him.

Pressure is on Sen. Casey to finally support marriage equality.  He’s heard from prominent gay activists Mark Segal, Rep. Brian Sims and others this week.  Keystone Progress is collecting petition signatures.  Don’t hold your breath waiting folks.

Navy Seal Team 6 member Brett Schadle of Elizabethville died in a training accident in Arizona the other day.  He and another SEAL collided during a parachute jump.  We send our condolences to his family and thank them for his service.

Another Neanderthal Republican (is that term becoming redundant?) is on the loose in Harrisburg.  Rep. Tim Kreiger wants to make it impossible for those who object to religious symbols in public places to sue to have them removed.  Because of the threats of backlash and violence those filing such court cases do so anonymously.  Kreiger wants to force them to identify themselves so his fellow Neanderthals can harass and threaten them for supporting the separation of church and state.

North Dakota passed a bill outlawing safe, legal abortions.  The legislation defines life as beginning at conception and gives a fertilized egg the same rights as persons.  Gays and lesbians still don’t have those rights in North Dakota.  The bill is clearly unconstitutional and will be struck down by the courts.

In a decision last week the Supreme Court said cops can’t bring a drug sniffing dog to your dog to search for drugs.  It’s nice to see that some semblance of the Fourth Amendment remains.  The Justices have sliced and diced it so much that little of it remains intact.

East Penn School Board member Julian Stolz is again in hot water over his social media statements.  The man has been anti-public education for years so his outrageous and provocative anti-education rantings are no surprise.  His Twitter feed is littered with stupid and crazy stuff.  Now one father has taken offense and the result should be Julian’s final demise on the Board.  Unfortunately for Emmaus he’s running for Mayor.

Corporate Dem Ed Rendell is taking heat for supporting fracking.  He’s a corporate Democrat and always has been so why the surprise?

State Senator Gene yaw is leasing his land for fracking.  As if that weren’t bad enough he’s also Chair of the committee overseeing energy and environmental protection.  Some think it’s a clear conflict of interest.  For a Pennsylvania lawmaker?  That’s a first (said completely in jest).  At least he’s open and honest about being bought off.

State Sen. Rob Teplitz is gaining a reputation as a serious reformer.  Now he and Sen. Patty Kim, another newcomer to Harrisburg, want to stop automatic pay raises.  Following the huge public outcry when lawmakers raised their salaries by over 30% a few years ago someone got smart and passed an automatic COLA.  Now, even as budget cuts hurt people all across the Commonwealth our Reps and Senators continue grabbing the gold ring.  My advice to them:  ask Josh Shapiro how frustrating it can be to be a true reformer in Harrisburg.

President Obama has named the first woman to head the Secret Service.

Orie Melvin Resigns

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has finally resigned in advance of her sentencing in early May.  She and two sisters were convicted in the past year of using their state offices, resources and staffs to run Orie Melvin’s two Supreme Court campaigns.  Former State Senator Jane Orie is already in prison.  Janine Orie was convicted with Orie Melvin in February.  The House Judiciary Committee was already advancing impeachment proceedings when the resignation was announced this week.

This leaves the Supreme Court divided 3-3 on partisan lines so any deadlocks will uphold whatever Superior and Commonwealth Court cases wind up in tie votes.  Gov. Corbett must now appoint someone to resume the eight years of the ten year term now vacated by Justice Orie Melvin.  The State Senate must approve that nominee by two thirds vote meaning the 27-23 GOP majority must gain bipartisan support to approve the Governor’s choice.  This means that person must be a moderate, at least.

Superior Court Judge Jack Panella of Bethlehem ran against Orie Melvin but was handicapped by her illegal use of state employees on her campaign.  He should be the obvious choice since he was the only candidate for the seat who ran a clean, legal campaign.

Casey Not Supporting Marriage Equality

In a week where the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on both DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. remains one of only ten Democratic Senators not supporting marriage equality.  Equal rights are a fundamental American trait but the country remains divided between those who have all the rights and those who do not.  This two class system is one of sexual apartheid.  Though LGBT persons pay the same taxes as straight couples they are denied over a thousand federal rights given to the others.  These include Social Security survivor benefits, the ability to file taxes jointly, inherit pensions, etc.

When Casey ran for the Senate in 2006 much of Pennsylvania’s LGBT leadership supported him because he openly pandered tot he community reversing his long standing opposition to gay adoption and several other issues.  As of today though he is still opposed to equality.  This is shameful.  I didn’t support him in 2006 due to his long record opposing gay rights and engaged in several email arguments with some of those who believed Casey supported us.  Who’s crying now?  Sen. Casey needs to come into the 21st Century and stop supporting sexual apartheid.

Delaware Gets A National Park

The First State was the last one to get a National Park.  Yesterday President Obama signed a declaration creating five new National Monuments including the First State National Monument.  All 49 other states plus six Territories already had some part of the National Park system excluding our smallest one.  Today Delaware’s own, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Old New Castle with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Director of the National Park Service and Sen. Thomas Carper to celebrate the fact the Diamond State was recognized as the 400th member of the system.

The effort to bring a National Park to Delaware was a lengthy one and was done at no cost to taxpayers thanks to about 350 volunteers who spearheaded the project.  Sen. Carper joked that their original idea was for the Great Cypress Swamp in the southern part of the state was killed by hunters who use it frequently.  They then cobbled together a collection of historic sites and conservation areas, one straddling the border with Pennsylvania called the Woodlawn Conservation Area, to unite as one historic area.  Recognition was given to Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Meehan for his support of the project.

Old New Castle as the site of today’s event was meaningful.  If you ever wondered about that arc which serves as most of the Pennsylvania/Delaware border it was drawn as a twelve mile circle from the New Castle Courthouse.  The Delaware River flows quietly just two blocks from the Square outside the courthouse.

Five new National Monuments were originated yesterday including the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Maryland and the Taos Gorge National Monument in northern New Mexico.  I drove down through most f that last fall on a day trip I took to Chama, through the Cumbres Pass in Colorado, to Altonita, Colorado and then back down through the Gorge area to Santa Fe.

The Vice President:

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:

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U.S. Senator Thomas Carper:

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Before the event for the press:

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New Castle Courthouse:

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New Castle County Police Mounted Patrol:

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Some of Old New Castle:

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Tax Reform On Whose Backs

Mary Young wrote the following article last week in the Reading Eagle.

Another proposal to eliminate the school property tax was put on the table this week. I can’t say for sure, but I think it has a better chance of survival than any of its many predecessors. Momentum is building.

Sixty-two co-sponsors have signed on, or seven more than the last version in April 2012 and 35 more than the previous version in February 2011. The 62 include six from Allegheny County, an area that wasn’t too enthused about past proposals.

No Philadelphia lawmakers are on board yet, but some are expected to be soon, because a recent reassessment of property values is driving up tax bills there for a lot of people.

The city also stands to gain tons of money on its 1 percent sales tax surcharge, because the proposal would expand the tax to more items.

The numbers work. The proposal as it now stands would raise the personal income tax to 4.34 percent from 3.07 percent and the sales tax to 7 percent from 6 percent. The income tax was bumped up a little from the 2012 proposal after an Independent Fiscal Office study confirmed suspicions that the previous version came up short of fully funding public education.

These tax increases would be far less painful than the property tax because workers would pay only about 1.25 cents more in income tax out of each dollar they earn, and everyone would pay just one penny more in sales tax for every $1 they spend.

People and businesses would have more disposable income to spend and help stimulate the state’s economy, and would make the state more attractive as a location for new business and expansion of existing businesses, according to the IFO study.

The total number of taxpayer groups supporting the proposal now stands at 76, an increase of five since last year.

The Reading Eagle’s informal poll about the latest proposal drew 1,666 responses, with 89 percent in favor.

And, during a visit to Reading last week, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley said he and Gov. Tom Corbett are well aware that the school tax is based on the antiquated notion that a person who owns property has lots of money, and that they would support a change as long as the ultimate result would raise all the money needed for education.

Corbett also is now on the record as saying he would sign a law eliminating the school tax if one should reach his desk.

Contact Mary Young: 610-478-6292 or myoung@readingeagle.com.

As I have written before this is NOT the elimination of the property tax but as Mary Young does point out only the school property tax.  Yes, I know that that IS the largest portion of the property tax.  I also know when the businesses get their windfall they are going to take the profits and run!  Reinvest in this down economy …… BULL.

I have several other points that need to be made.

1)  How much money is Berks County going to lose in this deal?  I know you don’t understand the question so let me rephrase it.  If the money goes to a central pot in Harrisburg to be divided among the school districts, how much of the money collected from Berks County will not be returned to Berks County?  Right now all the money collected in Berks stays in Berks!!!!!  Our money finances our schools.  I find that to be a good concept for our young people in school.  We also may take funding cuts on top of everything else as we have in the last two years.  Does the fact that the bill says funding is to remain level really mean anything?  Not to Governor Gasbag, who will do what he wants like he has tried with the lottery and liquor stores.  As an aside I understand the most recent bill pertaining to the sale of the liquor stores no longer guarantees the money will go to education! In the words of Gomer Pyle “SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!”

2)  Regardless of how much the amount is, the support for this comes on the backs of the individuals and goes away from the businesses.  Yes another tax break for the richest of the population.  Believe it or not the business owner is more wealthy in most cases than the non-business owner.  No not in all cases is this true but in more cases than not!!!

3)  People when they realize they have been had (and they will feel that way because the property tax will still be there) are going to be really upset with those governing the state! Now for those of you that may have aspirations of running for house or senate seats this may not be bad.

Now let’s look at this proposal and think about it.  The sales tax goes up and those of us that struggle the most have to pay more both on things already taxed and newly taxed items while businesses get a tax break and increased profits.

On top of this those of us that work and earn money as wages and salaries will have to pay more in income tax again while those same businesses are enjoying the luxury of a tax break.  You say those businesses will reinvest in their businesses. I say BULL they will take the money and sit on it. All of this cost the kids in our schools educational dollars.

The last thing I want to say this time on this subject is the better the educational system the less we need to invest in prisons.    

Punxsutawny Phil Indicted in Ohio

Failed prognosticator Punxsutawny Phil has been indicted in Ohio and could face the death penalty.  On February 2nd, the famed groundhog predicted an early spring.  Amid snow flurries this morning I decided to organize a posse to visit the western Pennsylvania community where rumor has it the lying rodent is holed up.  According to this press account the weasel is protected by a police station next door to Gobblers Knob.  There must be a Dunkin Donuts near by (they’re everywhere after all) so let’s grab a few dozen donuts and distract the cops, grab the lying bastard and take him to Ohio to face justice.

State House Votes to Privatize Liquor

The State House voted 105-90 last evening to privatize the state’s Wine and Spirit Stores.  Pennsylvania has been in the liquor business since Prohibition.  While the Governor pledged that any funds obtained from selling licenses would go to fund education the House measure doesn’t promise that provision.  According tot he bill passed yesterday all of those funds go into the state’s general fund for distribution in whatever manner the legislature decides.

Pennsylvania stands to lose $500 million/year in revenues generated by the sale of liquor.  Also because the state sells all booze it automatically gets every penny of taxes without any enforcement expenses.  All of that will end if the Senate also enacts the bill and it goes to Corbett’s desk.  “Fiscal conservatives” need to explain how they intend to replace all of those annual revenues and fund an enforcement agency.  Critics also point to increased law enforcement costs as liquor becomes more available, especially to minors.  3,500 members of the UFCW stand to lose their jobs if the legislation becomes law.  This will only exacerbate the Governor’s dismal jobs record.

News & Notes March 22, 2013

Montgomery County is seeking to determine if it can pass a county wide non discrimination ordinance.

While DEP Sec. Krancer leaves his post (see below) a new center funded by both industry and environmental forces will set standards for fracking.The Center For Sustainable Shale Development will be funded by Shell, Chevron, Consol Energy, EQT, the Clean Air Task Force, the Environmental Defense Fund, PennFuture, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Group Against Smog and Pollution.  It will be based in Pittsburgh.

Stop and frisk is an unconstitutional practice of illegal searches.  Shame on Mayors such as Michael Nutter and Michael Bloomberg who use such tactics against their residents.  These searches are almost always carried out against people of color even though facts show whites use and deal as many drugs as anyone else.  Now an undercover recording shows an NYPD supervisor ordering his cops to stop and frisk young Black men.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich supports sexual apartheid.  While saying he supported civil unions but not marriage his office then walked back that stance.  Here’s the problem:  you can’t support equal rights for everyone then deny them to your LGBT community.  That’s why it’s sexual apartheid.  There’s one set of rights for straight people and another sub set for gays.

Gov. Corbett defended his infamous comment about ultrasounds on a radio show this week.  Next year just close your eyes and vote for someone else.

The House of Representatives has now wasted 54 votes trying to overturn ObamaCare.  Instead of preventing $83 billion in bailouts to banks they cut vital government services by $85 billion.  Now they voted to end Medicare so as to preserve tax breaks for the rich and for corporations like oil and gas companies.  Budgets show us our priorities and we know what conservatives value:  Big Business.  And what they don’t:  people.

The prison industrial complex is getting scary.  Here’s one of the chief problems with privatization of government services:  corruption.  Now prisons are using forced prison labor at slave wages.

More on Max Myers from Rachel Tabachnick.  His campaign died as swift a death as any I’ve ever seen.

Ten phrases liberals should never say and what terms we should use instead.  Instead of saying “capitalism” I now prefer the term “corporatism” because that’s where we’ve evolved.

John Boehner pulled a boner this week.  He let it out that we don’t have a debt crisis.  I’ve been saying that for four years.  What we do have is a jobs crisis and we’ve yet to address that because the Tea Party tail is wagging the national dog.

DEP Sec Krancer Resigns

A magnet for harsh criticism from fracking opponents, DEP Secretary Michael Krancer finally resigned today to go back to practicing law.  He became a lightening rod when he screwed over activists seeking to force the Department of Environmental Protection to actually protect Pennsylvania’s environment.  DEP has always been a source of controversy because, historically, it has worked more for corporate interests exploiting the environment than for citizens in protecting it.

Krancer was a controversial appointment from the beginning.  A one time appellate court judge nominee, he was appointed by Gov. Gasbag to make DEP a rubber stamp agency for Marcellus gas exploration and drilling companies.  He successfully fought an extraction tax which would have compensated Pennsylvanians for the removal of our commonly owned gas deposits.  Permits for drilling were given cursory examination while wells continued blowing up and contaminating water supplies.  DEP even stopped providing clean drinking water to communities like Dimock shattered by frackers.  He returns to Blank, Rome where he will do far less harm.  Don’t expect Corbett to appoint a successor who will be any better however.  He didn’t get the nickname Gov. gasbag for nothing.

News & Notes March 20, 2013

Have you filled out your brackets yet?  I’m going with the Las Vegas bookmakers to win it all.

The Mayor of Santa Fe David Coss announced there is nothing in New Mexico law barring same sex marriages so The City Different will begin accepting marriage license applications from same sex couples.  Santa Fe has the third highest number of same sex couples in the nation after San Francisco and New York.  As my readers know I visit Santa Fe every year and have found it to be very gay friendly.  The large arts community centered there along with its very liberal population make being an out gay man very welcoming.

The house opposite the Westboro Baptist Church has been repainted in a rainbow flag palette.  Karma.

Gov. Gasbag is the highest paid Governor in the country.  That doesn’t even count all the cash he’s taken from the gas industry.

A drone management center is coming to Horsham.  The operators will be operating drones all over the world from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 111th Ar Wing base.  There are domestic drones based at the Indiantown Gap National Guard base outside Annville.  Be careful sunbathing in your back yard this summer.

The head of Colorado’s prison system was gunned down at his home last evening.  Today the state’s Governor signed new legislation expanding background checks and limiting the size of magazines.  Colorado was the scene of two infamous mass shootings.

In related news Congressional Democrats have bailed on including a ban on assault weapons in its gun safety bill.  Can you still call it a gun safety bill without that?  No.

Gun nuts are fond of claiming we should enforce laws already on the books but they also oppose any new taxes to fund that enforcement.

Faux News named the victim of the Steubenville rape case.  Two girls have already been arrested for threatening her.

Hillary Clinton has come out in support of marriage equality.  58% of Americans now support equality.

Is Sen. Ted Cruz the stupidest man in Washington?

There’s no question that Rep. Michele Bachmann is the stupidest woman.  She simply keeps saying the most moronic things.  The Congresswoman tells so many falsehoods they could fill a book.  Last weekend at CPAC she spilled out a few more then ran from a CNN reporter seeking to question her about those statements.  She claimed that President Obama has five chefs working on Air Force One, two film operators on duty at the White House in case they want to make a movie, they have someone to walk Bo and the claim that the President was AWOL while “a war was waging in Benghazi.”  Bo has no designated walker and the chefs are actually just cooks preparing meals for the fifty passengers.

I was on a Keystone Progress conference call yesterday with Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (both running for Governor next year) about the effects of sequestration in Pennsylvania.  Pawlowski bemoaned the effect the cuts will have on both city services and teacher layoffs.  Stock up now for your summer grilling before meat inspectors get furloughed and meat becomes scarce.

A bill is advancing in Harrisburg which would make registering to vote easier.  Internet registrations would allow anyone who is online to be able to register to vote.  Amazingly it was sponsored by Republican Senator Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster.  A Republican from Lancaster knows about the internet?  Wonder of wonders…

Here’s a real surprise:  the leader of a Houston area Tea Party group is a fascist.  Tell me something I don’t know.

Prince Harry says he might “experiment with gay men” if his current relationship doesn’t work out.  Harry, call me when that happens!

The Dominican women who accused NJ Sen. Bob Menendez of soliciting sex with them were paid to lie.  Will the right wing go to no lengths to smear liberals?

Another charter school is corrupt.