Kane Divorce Raising Questions

State AG Kathleen Kane is in trouble.  Not just from Seth Williams, the Philly DA is called her out as a liar or that investigation into whether her office revealed secret grand jury testimony.  Yes, she might get indicted for that one but her filing for divorce last week raises some interesting questions.  Her campaign still owes her husband $1,700,000 according to her 2013 year end campaign finance report.  She hasn’t filed any reports this year so it’s obvious she hasn’t paid him off yet.  That would have generated a new report.

So what happens to her stated plans to run for re-election.  Forget for a minute that she’s dead candidate walking.  How viable is she as a potential candidate?  Her ex can very possibly bankrupt her campaign committee with a simple lawsuit for repayment.  She didn’t raise any funds this year and has about $592,000 cash on hand according that year old campaign finance report.  Since she hasn’t filed a report since then this means her committee hasn’t raised or disbursed any funds.  Her 2014 year end report should reflect this if she’s following the law (a big if with this official).

So how does she run for re-election with no money?

How does anyone in their right mind contribute to her campaign knowing they’re really just sending money to her ex?

Is anyone still willing to contribute to her efforts after all this bad publicity?

How many opponents are waiting to pounce knowing she’s politically crippled?

There’s no such thing as an amicable divorce.  The fact Chris Kane doesn’t have an attorney makes me think she blindsided him with this lawsuit.  If I’m him the second thing I do is hire a civil litigator and go after my money.  That bankrupts her campaign.

Questions, questions.

The Fracking Boom is a Fracking Bubble

by Walter Brasch

Gas prices have plunged to the low $2 range-except in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, the prices at the pump are in the mid-$2 range.

That’s because Gov. Tom Corbett and the legislature imposed a 28-cent per gallon surcharge tax. Until 2019, Pennsylvanians will be paying an additional $2.3 billion a year in taxes and fees-$11.5 billion total-to improve the state’s infrastructure. In addition to the increased tax on gas at the pumps, Pennsylvania motorists will also be spending more for license registrations, renewals, and title certificates.

For far too many years, the state’s politicians of both major parties, preaching fiscal austerity-and hoping to be re-elected by taxpayers upset with government spending-neglected the roads, bridges, and other critical problems.

What the state government doesn’t readily acknowledge is that much of the damage to roads and bridges has come from increased truck traffic from the fracking industry.  

The state roads, especially the section of I-80 that bisects the northern and southern halves of the state, were already in disrepair, as any long-haul trucker can attest. The addition of 40-ton fracking trucks on two-lane roads, highways and the Interstates, has added to the problem.

“The damage caused by this additional truck traffic rapidly deteriorates from minor surface damage to completely undermining the roadway base [and] caused deterioration of several of our weaker bridge structures,” Scott Christie, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation, told a legislative committee in 2010. Since then, the damage has increased in proportion to the number of wells drilled into the state.  There are about 7,100 active gas wells in the state, with the cost of road repair estimated at about $13,000 to $25,000 per well.  The fracking truck traffic to each well is the equivalent of about 3.5 million cars on the road, says Christie.

Although corporations drilling into Pennsylvania have agreed to fund repairs of roads they travel that have less than two inches depth of asphalt on them, the fees don’t cover the full cost of repair.  Had the state imposed an extraction tax on each well, instead of a much-lower impact tax, there would have been enough money to fund road and bridge repair without additional taxes for motorists. Every state with shale oil but Pennsylvania has an extraction tax.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who supports fracking, says he wants the state to begin to impose those extraction taxes. The politicians, who benefitted from campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, claim the industry-and all its jobs-will leave the state if the taxes are too high.

There are several realities the oil/gas industry knows, but the politicians, chambers of commerce, and those who believe everything politicians and corporations tell them don’t know or won’t publicly admit knowing.

First-As long as it’s economical to mine the gas, the industry won’t leave the state, even if they have to pay a 5 percent extraction tax, which is at the low end of taxes charged by other states.

Second-Tthe expected $1 billion in extraction tax per year, even if the legislature approves, should not be expected. The industry has already found most of the “sweet spots,” and production will likely fall off in 2015, leading to less income to the state and to leaseholders.

Third-Like a five-year-old in a candy shop, the industry salivated at the newly-found technology and gas availability and overdrilled the past four years, leading to a glut and falling prices. End of the year prices are about $3.17 per million cubic feet, down almost 30 percent from November.

Fourth-Falling prices have led to drilling not being as profitable as it could be.

Fifth-The OPEC countries have not lowered their own production of oil, and the reason for the lower  gas prices at the pumps is not because of the shale gas boom, but because of the plunging price of oil per barrel, which has declined by about 40 percent since Summer. Once oil prices fell beneath about $70-73 per barrel, American shale frackers found themselves unable to compete economically.

Sixth-To compensate for lower prices in the United States, the megacorporate drilling corporations have begun to find alternative ways to make money. One way is to build a massive maze of pipelines, and send natural gas to refineries in Philadelphia and the Gulf Coast, changing the gas into the extremely volatile liquefied natural gas (LNG), putting it onto ships, and exporting it to countries that are willing to pay more than three times what Americans are paying for natural gas. However, there is an unexpected twist. The OPEC low-cost oil has led to a severe drop in Russia’s economy and value of the ruble. Gazprom, the Russian-owned world’s largest gas supplier, is now forced to drop its own prices to be competitive, and has been developing plans to provide gas to Europe and Asia, especially China where American gas is headed, at a price that makes it uneconomical to do long-term contracts.

Seventh-The banks and investment lenders are getting testy. Because of overdrilling, combined with inflated estimates of how much gas really is in the Marcellus Shale, corporations have found themselves in trouble. Many corporations have begun cutting their drilling operations; others have already left the state, burdened by debt to the lending institutions; some corporations have sold parts of their operations or declared bankruptcy.

Eighth-The jobs promised by the politicians, the various chambers of commerce, and the industry never met the expectations. Gov. Tom Corbett claimed 240,000 additional jobs. The reality is the increase in jobs is about one-tenth of that; more important, most of the full-time jobs on the rigs and well pads are taken by workers  from Texas and Oklahoma who have extensive experience in drilling; most of the other jobs are temporary, and layoffs have already begun.

Ninth-The fracking boom for Pennsylvania is more like the housing bubble.  At first, the availability of mortgages looked like a boom. However, a combination of greedy investors and lending institutions with almost no governmental oversight, combined by a client base of ordinary people who were lured into buying houses with inflated prices they couldn’t afford, led to the Great Recession.  Those who didn’t learn from the housing bubble guaranteed the fracking boom would become a fracking bubble.

Tenth-The continued push for fossil fuel development, and more than $4 billion in governmental subsidies, slows the development of renewable energy, while escalating the problems associated with climate change and brings the world closer to a time when global warming is irreversible.

Finally, but most important-The fracking industry doesn’t acknowledge that this newer process to extract gas, which has been viable less than a decade, is destroying the environment, leading to increased climate change, and putting public health at risk, something that dozens of independent scientific studies are starting to reveal. It was a 154-page analysis of public health implications, conducted by the New York Department of Health, and based upon scientific and medical studies, that led New York this month to ban all drilling-and infuriate many politicians and some landowners who were expecting to make extraordinary wealth by leasing mineral rights beneath their land to the gas companies. Of course, they didn’t look to their neighbor to the south to learn the wealth promised was never as much as the royalties delivered and that many landowners now say they should never have given up their mineral rights and the destruction of the land and farms that came with it.

Until prices stabilize, Americans are paying lower prices for gas at the pump; Pennsylvanians are also paying lower prices, but not as low as the rest of the country.

And the politicians and industry front groups continue to foolishly claim there are no environmental or health effects from horizontal fracking, only blue sky and rainbows of riches.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and the author of 20 books, is a specialist on the effects of fracking. His critically-acclaimed book, Fracking Pennsylvania, is now in its second edition. The book is available from Greeley & Stone Publishers; Amazon; Barnes & Noble; or local independent bookstores.]

   

Kane Isn’t Able

Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s political career is dead.  The once rising star made a major miscalculation when she revealed an undercover sting operation begun by her predecessor would not lead to further action by her team.  She called it a failed investigation fraught with racism and said it was unprosecutable.  Philadelphia DA Seth Williams took that failed case and has already indicted two of its targets and has a grand jury investigating more.  State Representatives Vanessa Lowery Brown and Ronald Waters are currently facing the music.  So much for a case which was unprosecutable.

As if this isn’t enough she had to testify before a grand jury investigating leaks from her office about secret grand jury testimony which her office made public.  Then Williams revealed that numerous statements she made publicly about the investigation she dropped were lies.  Not that this surprised me because I outed her as a liar in the Democratic primary election when she ran for this office.  I hate to say this but I told you so.

Restoring Trust In Police

Relations between African Americans and police have been bad ever since, well, who really knows when it began.  Maybe during slavery when Blacks were forcibly returned to bondage after escaping their horrid situations.  Maybe during segregation when local cops who were also members of the Klan looked away or participated in massive civil rights violations.  Maybe those same cops who helped lynch Blacks and cops today who don’t think twice before killing Blacks.  It’s been a long, dark history of bad relations which is manifesting itself in the civil disobedience and rioting we’re witnessing as a result of too many killings and not enough justice.

How do we begin to mend these relationships, how do we police the police and how do we begin to build trust in the Black community?  Stop and Frisk has been a major factor in distrust and the mass incarceration of Blacks and the targeting of the Black community for drug enforcement when we know drug use is evenly split among all classes and races have both contributed to the problem.

Police forces are responsible to the community.  Voters must elect responsible Mayors and town council members who will oversee, hire and train their police forces properly.  One of the problems in Ferguson has been the apathy of the African American population in this regard.  With only a 15% voter turnout in its last Mayoral election they abdicated their responsibility to elect a Mayor who would see to their concerns.  Now they have an oppressive police department which thinks it has a license to kill any Black man it sees walking down the street.  It not only thinks so, it did.  With impunity.

Officer Darren Wilson not only got away with murder he is now a millionaire as a result (thanks ABC).  So the message sent is that a cop can become a millionaire by shooting to death any Black man he wants.  We just reinforced this perception and made the matter worse.

The first step, as I see it is for citizens to get involved locally.  First of all we need to vote and educate ourselves as to each candidate.  Go to campaign events, call in and question them during TV appearances or in public places and ascertain what their attitudes are regarding community relations and police oversight.  The police serve US and unless we hold them accountable (and those to whom they report) we are part of the problem.

Find out how your community police would react to a Ferguson situation.    Is your local force militarized and how would they respond?  Be proactive about this, not reactive.  By that I mean start NOW by asking questions.  Don’t wait until a Michael Brown is killed in your community and it becomes Ferguson.

The White House stepped up today with a program of its own:

FACT SHEET: Strengthening Community Policing

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country have highlighted the importance of strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect.  As the nation has observed, trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.

In August, President Obama ordered a review of federal funding and programs that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs).  Today, the Obama Administration released its Review:  Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition, and the President is also taking a number of steps to strengthen community policing and fortify the trust that must exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

White House Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition

Today, the White House released its review which provides details on the programs that have expanded over decades across multiple federal agencies that support the acquisition of equipment from the federal government to LEAs.  During the course of its review, the White House explored whether existing federal programs:

provide LEAs with equipment that is appropriate to the needs of their communities,

ensure that LEAs have adequate policies in place for the use of the equipment and that personnel are properly trained and certified to employ the equipment they obtain, and

encourage LEAs to adopt organizational and operational practices and standards that prevent misuse/abuse of the equipment.

The report finds a lack of consistency in how federal programs are structured, implemented and audited, and informed by conversations with stakeholders, identifies four areas of further focus that could better ensure the appropriate use of federal programs to maximize the safety and security of police officers and the communities they serve:  1) Local Community Engagement, 2) Federal Coordination and Oversight, 3) Training Requirements, and 4) The Community Policing Model.

Consistent with the recommendations in the report, the President instructed his staff to draft an Executive Order directing relevant agencies to work together and with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to develop specific recommendations within 120 days.  Some broad examples of what process improvements agencies might implement as a result of further collaborative review include:

Develop a consistent list of controlled property allowable for acquisition by LEAs and ensure that all equipment on the list has a legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose.

Require local civilian (non-police) review of and authorization for LEAs to request or acquire controlled equipment.

Mandate that LEAs which participate in federal equipment programs receive necessary training and have policies in place that address appropriate use and employment of controlled equipment, as well as protection of civil rights and civil liberties.  Agencies should identify existing training opportunities and help LEAs avail themselves of those opportunities, including those offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

Require after-action analysis reports for significant incidents involving federally provided or federally-funded equipment.

Harmonize federal programs so that they have consistent and transparent policies.

Develop a database that includes information about controlled equipment purchased or acquired through Federal programs.

Click HERE (>http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/federal_support_for_local_law_enforcement_equipment_acquisition.pdf<) for the White House’s review of Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition.

Task Force on 21st Century Policing

The President similarly instructed his team to draft an executive order creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and announced that the Task Force will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who also serves as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, and Laurie Robinson, professor at George Mason University and former Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.  The Task Force will include, among others, law enforcement representatives and community leaders and will operate in collaboration with Ron Davis, Director of DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. The Task Force will build on the extensive research currently being conducted by COPS; will examine, among other issues, how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust; and will be directed to prepare a report and recommendations within 90 days of its creation.

Community Policing Initiative

The President also proposes a three-year $263 million investment package that will increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs), add more resources for police department reform, and multiply the number of cities where DOJ facilitates community and local LEA engagement. As part of this initiative, a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to States/localities who purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage.  Overall, the proposed $75 million investment over three years could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras. The initiative as a whole will help the federal government efforts to be a full partner with state and local LEAs in order to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.

 

The Pennsylvania Republican Party split

The latest shake up within the Pennsylvania Republican Party leadership in the legislature shows just how fragile the party is, and that there is a splintering of Republican politicos. I am talking about Jake Corman defeating Dominic Pileggi for the Senate Majority Leader position in the state Senate.

Corman’s win shows that the Republican Party is going to become harder lined. Now I can hear those going on about how the PA GOP won the Senate and the House here in Pennsylvania, and to some Republicans they may feel that the party has a right to take a hardline conservative approach to policymaking. However, the state GOP should also factor in that they no longer have a rubber stamp within the Governor’s mansion.

The fracturing of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania can be seen as good for Democrats and bad for Republicans. It shows that the state GOP is vulnerable and that not everyone is willing to get along and play nice when it comes to state Republican Party leadership wishes, which further shows that the state GOP is vulnerable and that Governor elect Wolf has a chance to get victories on certain policy agenda points since not everyone is on the Senate Majority Leader Corman band wagon. So it may be that Senator Pileggi becomes a quick ally to Governor Elect Tom Wolf.