Barletta Confronted About Medicare Vote

Congressman Lou Barletta was harassed by constituents at a town hall meeting over his vote for Paul Ryan’s plan to eradicate Medicare.  My favorite part of the discussion was when Barletta said this:

“This plan does not do nothing to affect anyone 55 years or older,” he said. “When we start doing things that scare senior citizens, like politicians do that to get elected, I believe they need to find a different occupation.” But before Barletta could continue, 64-year-old Linda Christman raised her hand and argued that those under 55 would see an erosion of benefits. The exchange became heated as other constituents began yelling for the woman to “sit down”:

I wholeheartedly agree since this is exactly what Republicans like Lou Barletta did last year.  They ran thousands of scare ads playing on senior’s fears accusing Democrats of having cut current Medicare benefits (it was a lie).  Such fear mongering and lies make any candidate engaging in them unfit for public office.  Here’s where Lou Barletta did exactly that. So Congressman Barletta, when do we get your resignation?

Update:  Barletta’s office released a press release condemning the questioner because she is head of the Carbon County Democrats for Change.  You might recall a great video her group made last year called “Chickens.”  We ran it here.

Since when is it bad form for constituents to attend town hall meetings by their Congressman and ask uncomfortable questions.  I don’t recall the Tea baggers having such concerns when they stormed Sen. Specter’s meeting in Lebanon and threatened him.  This woman was doing her duty as a citizen but Lou Barletta can’t handle dissent?  He needs to get a new job.  After all, he said if a candidate runs for office by lying to seniors about Medicare he should get another job.  Lou, it’s time to get another job.

PoliticsPA has good video of the event.

Endorsements For Congress

My endorsements for the U.S. House of Representatives are all from eastern Pennsylvania.  All but one are pro choice the exception being Paul Kanjorski.  I endorse him because of the critically important work he is doing on financial reform.  His vast experience and knowledge in these complicated policy areas has never been more important for the economic health of this nation.  His leadership the past two years shepherding Wall Street reforms through his House subcommittee has led to sweeping new controls on bankers.  The Kanjorski Amendment allowing the break up of the “too big to fail” banks could be strategically important in this vast foreclosure/investor fraud litigation beginning to sweep our state court systems.

Chaka Fattah is hero to all Pennsylvania liberals.  Our staunchest and most consistent ally in Washington also has the character to go his own way as his conscience dictates.  He is not part of the Philly machine.

Patrick Murphy is in another tough fight against former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.  Veterans and LGBT folks have no stronger friend in Washington.  He has led the fight against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and his gravitas as an Iraq War veteran has added greatly to those efforts.  

Bryan Lentz is seeking Joe Sestak’s former seat.  Another Iraq War veteran he is solidly progressive and a leader.  In the State House he has forged his own path and bucked Party Leadership to vote his conscience.  That isn’t easy to do but no one picks a fight with such a straight shooter as Lentz.  He will bring much needed character to Washington.

Yet a third Iraq War veteran is running in the 6th CD.  Manan Trivedi is the son of Indian immigrants who went to medical school then plied his trade serving in Iraq as a surgeon.  Now he is running against conservative Jim Gerlach.  Its time for a Democrat and a real progressive in a Democratic District.

The Lehigh Valley hasn’t seen a seriously funded Democrat in ages.  Charlie Dent runs as a moderate though his voting record, like Gerlach’s, is anything but.  John Callahan has raised enough money to give Dent a serious challenge.  In spite of a bad campaign manager with no knowledge of the 15th CD he is coming on stronger in debates and is a solidly pro choice endorsement.

Update:  And Lois Herr in the 16th!

Sons of Immigrants in NEPA

Northeastern Pennsylvania was settled by immigrants who came principally from Ireland, wales and Poland.  You can travel through coal country and see pierogi restaurants, Irish bars and bakeries selling Welsh cookies.  The Wilkes-Barre area is a hub of what once was a formidable coal mining industry.  Once upon a time though the Irish, Welsh and Polish immigrants competed for jobs and settled within their own ethnic neighborhoods and competed in everything.  Welsh boys fought Irish boys while their fathers fought for jobs in the mines.

Today I’m reminded of those days as I traveled back to Nanticoke Monday for a Kanjorski for Congress event.  I was actually wishing for a Joe Biden appearance because we three represent the sons of those three groups.  Joe Biden is descended from Irish immigrants in the Scranton area, Kanjorski from Polish immigrants in Nanticoke and me from Welsh immigrants in Plymouth.  Nanticoke and Plymouth were (and I assume, still are) archrivals.  As three sons of area immigrants Joe Biden, Paul Kanjorski and I are on the same side these days.  We three are fighting collectively for worker’s rights, freedoms and welfare.  There are no divisions from those old days when the three groups fought each other rather than the business elites who kept everyone down.

We also represent the success of several generations of our immigrant families.  Biden has risen to be Vice President of the nation, Kanjorski a powerful and influential Congressman bringing sorely needed jobs to a depressed area and me, I humbly write and cover their successes.  We all are united in one goal:  not allowing immigrant basher Lou Barletta take all of this away.

Lou made himself famous by regular appearances on the infamous Lou Dobbs show on CNN where together they bashed immigrants and warned Americans of the threat these people posed to the American Dream.  Well Wall Street killed the American Dream under Ronald Reagan and anyone who thinks it still exists is either a gifted athlete or a fantastical dreamer divorced from reality.  These two wound up with blood on their hands when three high school football players in Shenandoah took their words to heart and beat a Mexican man to death for being Mexican.

Lou Dobbs and Lou Barletta are the worst sort of demagogues who prey on immigrants for their own political and financial fortunes.  They care not for whom they hurt.  Now Lou Barletta wants Paul Kanjorski’s House seat.  The son of Polish immigrants who has risen to such heights is being threatened by someone who has forsaken his own immigrant past to condemn others.  Are we going to allow this?  Are we going to look at all those sons and daughters of Welsh, Irish and Polish ancestry whose grandparents dared cross the ocean in search of a better life to fall to the fear mongering of a devilish demagogue?  Not if Joe, Paul and I have anything to say about it.  We’re proud we’re from Northeastern Pennsylvania, proud of what we’ve accomplished and proud to hold the flag we share together regardless of our origins.  Send Paul Kanjorski back to Congress where he can finish his fine work.

Kanjorski Responds On Foreclosure Fraud Crisis

I asked Congressman Kanjorski about the foreclosure fraud crisis and what Congress might due to avert another financial meltdown, whether the Kanjorski Amendment might be invoked and whether “all options will be on the table means legalizing MERS.  His response was that Congress must address the crisis when it reconvenes after the election and that “all options will be on the table.”

Clinton/Kanjorski

Todd Eachus, House Majority Leader, introduced Dan Onorato to kick off the event about 90 minutes late.  The Allegheny County Executive promised to preserve water quality from big gas drillers although he has accepted over $400,000 from them.  Northeastern Pennsylvania has been hit hard by contaminated water aquifers.  The people of Dimock famously light their tap water on fire so that received a big hand.  Today Gov. Rendell issued a moratorium on gas drilling on state lands.  

Congressman Kanjorski called Lou Barletta a “failed Mayor” for raising taxes and bringing toxic waste into Hazleton.  He asked his supporters to use social networking to help get out the vote next Tuesday.  He reminded those here that he has brought many jobs to the District and when the area needs something “I can pick up the phone and call the President.”

Bill Clinton said “the Congressman has given him another reason to come back to Northeastern Pennsylvania and I’m glad for that.”   He recognized Onorato for being “Hillary’s leader over there.”  He reminded those in the gym that Pittsburgh is one of the least affected cities in the country during this recession.  “every Republican in the country wants this to be a referendum about you’re being angry.”  It isn’t, he said, “because making important decisions when you are mad is always a bad decision.”  He reminded everyone how the Congressman saved 5,000 jobs at Tobyhanna Army Depot and how he is working to bring new jobs for a training center.

He also mentioned the coming train from Scranton to Hoboken for the thousands of commuters in NEPA who work in New York City.  He mentioned the important financial work being done by the incumbent in Congress.  The Kanjorski Amendment in the financial reform bill allows the government to break up the “too big to fail” banks if they again threaten the country’s economic health.  As the current foreclosure crisis looms and, again threatens a financial meltdown his work may become extremely important.

“Elections are looked upon as “fixing things but it isn’t always easy to fix things.  The other side is making this a referendum on how you feel.  What the Tea Party people say they want is a balanced budget, a smaller government and that is exactly what I provided as President.

“The Republican story goes like this…Ok, we left the country in a big hole, but the Democrats are going to choke the country.”  They say the government is the problem but the problem is the government is doing too little to fix things, not too much.  “What we’re asking you to do is give us two more years, half the time you gave the other side to dig the hole.”  “The other thing you can do is actually look at the facts.”

Bill Clinton Rallies the Support for Kanjorski

I’m at Nanticoke High School for the Bill Clinton rally in support of Congressman Paul Kanjorski.  The incumbent is in a close contest with immigrant basher Lou Barletta.  The gym here is electric and filling with locals in support of their endangered Congressman.  Polls show Barletta ahead though I don’t have much faith in polls this year.  They were off considerably in the spring and as more and more people go cell phone only they are becoming less and less accurate.

The former President has been hard on the campaign trail for Democrats this year as has Vice President Biden who will be in Wayne tomorrow morning (I’ll be there) for Bryan Lentz.  Expect even bigger names here before the week is out.

Kanjorski released this statement prior to the event:

“I am extremely honored to have President Clinton here to campaign for me again this year, and I look forward to bringing him to my home town,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “Nanticoke is where I grew up, where I began my career in public service, and where I still live with my wife, Nancy.  I look forward to having Northeastern Pennsylvanians from across the region join President Clinton and me in Nanticoke.”

The President is running about an hour late, normal I suppose for “Clinton time.”

News & Notes September 3, 2010

Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman finally came out of the closet this week.  Mark Segal of Philadelphia Gay News calls him out for his past:

Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and co-chair of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, who ran what was arguably the most hate-filled homophobic campaign in American political history, came out last week in a slick public-relations campaign-type interview served up by The Atlantic magazine. His actions as head of the Republican Party created antigay laws, including antigay-marriage constitutional amendments in numerous states, gay baiting, harassment, hate crimes and even LGBT youth suicides. We have not seen his type since Roy Cohn. This man has no shame. But that is not the end of the story.

I couldn’t agree more.  Coming out doesn’t negate his sorry, inexcusable actions against his own community.  Mehlman is a gay Uncle Tom.

The right wing noise machine is already calling the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich “the biggest tax increase in history.”  perhaps they shouldn’t have put an expiration date on them when they were passed if they weren’t meant to be temporary.  These cuts created a huge hole in federal revenues and are one of the principle contributors to the deficit.  You cannot fear monger on the deficit and support the extension of these cuts simultaneously.  Allowing the cuts (which benefited the richest 2% of the country) to expire isn’t raising taxes.  Passing a specific bill raising taxes is raising taxes.  Several turncoat Democratic Senators are now saying they support a continuation of tax cuts for the rich.  These traitors to working people and the middle class need to find new jobs.

Here’s why:  more and more Republican Senatorial candidates are going on record saying they want to repeal Social Security.  This time they aren’t even trying to hide their agenda behind “privatization” but are simply saying the program for our elderly, disabled and orphans must be ended.  Their argument is that we can no longer afford it.  Of course their argument is based on the federal deficit which Republicans created expressly as a basis for getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and welfare programs.  They want to make their cake and eat it too.  I fear this extremist position may stoke class war.

Another oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday.  Meanwhile BP, which proved beyond a doubt it cannot be trusted, says that without new drilling permits in the Gulf it will not be able to pay the reparations they promised.  Sounds as if they’re headed to bankruptcy then.  BP pledged in countless television ads they would make everyone affected whole.  Of course this was nothing more than a PR campaign but this time let’s hold them to their word.  BP is simply trying to scare the U.S. into, once again, trusting the unworthy.

Pat Toomey said his idea of gun control is a steady aim.  I’m sure that’s real comfort to the surviving relatives of every Pennsylvanian killed by gun violence, especially our police.  Has this cold and uncaring man lacking any empathy for others realize what happened recently in Pittsburgh when a deranged man driven crazy by folks like Toomey killed four police officers?  This man doesn’t deserve any support.

President Obama is considering cutting Social Security, enacting more tax cuts and extending the Bush tax cuts.  He has eliminated a second stimulus plan which doesn’t make economic sense.  remind me again that he is a Democrat, you could have fooled me.  Actually he fooled millions of Democrats into believing he was one of them.

No wonder Pennsylvania Democrats are staying away from the polls like they are carriers for cooties.  I see five or six PA Congressional Districts turning red this year.  Critz, Dahlkemper, Altmire, Kanjorski, Carney, Murphy and the open Sestak seat are all in danger of going Republican.  If Dave Argall manages to raise any money Tim Holden could join them.  I predict another bloodbath for Democrats in November, two in a row.

The only bright spot I see is Joe Sestak who is now defining Pat Toomey for voters in the fashion he did Arlen Specter last spring.  Barack Obama will come campaign for him September 20th.

News & Notes July 6, 2010

I’m back from court where my nemesis who threatened to “put a bullet in my head” plead guilty and will be on probation for a year during which he can have no contact with me.  The DA was asking two years probation but I agreed to one due to the fact Judge Yatron is a personal friend and I didn’t want to tie up his courtroom with a continuance.  At least it is over.

The state budget remains in limbo.  Of course its only July and not October so I’m sure there’s no sense of urgency in Harrisburg.  Republicans are insisting on an independent audit commission which seems like a good idea.  Too many of these budget numbers are pure fiction.  Last year the Commonwealth ran up over $1.1 billion in debt when unbalanced budgets are unconstitutional.  Let us also enable an audit commission to audit the state legislature’s operations however.

June 30th marked the end of the latest FEC filing period and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz raised $425,000 and has $3,300,000 cash on hand.  This is after giving over $33,000 to other candidates.  During this election cycle she had contributed in excess of $1,000,000.

Republicans in the Senate are blocking both a jobs bill and extension of unemployment benefits.  They seem to believe hundreds of thousands of non existent jobs are out there for people but then refuse to do anything to help create jobs.  I just don’t believe voters are going to reward this behavior in the fall.  The problem is that Democrats are refusing to vote and motivated Republicans and their Tea Party cohorts will.  If you don’t participate you get what you deserve.

Pat Toomey is trying to explain why he supports Wall Street bonuses but not bonuses for our troops in harms way.  He is no friend of small business either.  On the other hand Joe Sestak conducts a small business summit every year so his business constituents can cut through red tape and secure government contracts.  I’ve covered them and have seen their effectiveness myself.

Some Republicans are saying some very stupid things.  John Boehner pulled a boner when he said we should raise the retirement age to pay for wars.  I think raising the age to qualify for Social Security is something which needs to be done but not to pay for ill advised wars.  People are living longer and working longer than when SSS was initiated.  We must balance the funds there but raising the eligibility age must be to continue making the system solvent.  Republicans want to do it to fund wars they began and refused to fund.

Speaking of wars Michael Steele really proved himself a fool when he accused President Obama of starting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan and called it a war of choice.  The Afghan War was begun by George W Bush, not Barack Obama and was the response to 9/11.  Does Mr. Steele not know anything about our national security, is simply an idiot or is he trying to woefully misinform the American public?  I’d like an answer to that.

Congressman Paul Kanjorski has been working diligently on financial reform bills and wrote an OpEd last week about “too big to fail.”  An excerpt:

Rarely have I encountered such outrage as that expressed by my constituents who believed that TARP was a “bail-out of Wall Street.” The very titans of the financial system who caused the economic collapse were seen as being rewarded with tax dollars while my constituents were losing their jobs, losing their pensions, and losing hope.

Then-Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke insisted to Congress that rescuing the existing financial system was the only way to avoid a decades-long depression likely to be even more painful than the Great Depression of the 1930s, as the people of the United States would have to painstakingly reconstruct a financial infrastructure from scratch. We needed to act in order to ensure that workers continued to get paid and families could use their ATM cards.

How soon we forget how narrowly we averted a complete and total economic meltdown.  The President gets no credit (and Bush must also be given credit for TARP) for saving us from catastrophic ruin.  

Lancaster County Commissioners are voting to eliminate that county’s Human Relations Commmission in an effort to cut its budget.  HRC’s are an important safeguard in any community against hatred, bigotry and violence.  Lancaster’s efforts mark it as being indifferent to the needs and safety of its own citizens and should be condemned.  Congressional candidate Lois Herr issued this statement:  “t is outrageous that Lancaster County would step back from supporting individuals in their quest for equal treatment under the law.”

Gov. Rendell has his hand stuck in the pork barrel.  The new budget, while cutting funds, yet again, for libraries, includes funding for two new libraries honoring Arlen Specter and John Murtha.  The Specter building would be on the campus of Philadelphia University (disclosure, my brother is President of their alumni association) and the other located in Johnstown.  Jack Murtha is still bringing pork to Johnstown even from the grave.  I think we have screwed up our priorities.

The tunnel project in Pittsburgh is getting Dan Onorato in a hole.  The massively over budget “Little Dig” is connecting downtown Pittsburgh with its stadium area across the Allegheny River.  Onorato allowed the project to go through even though residents preferred an extension of light rail to the university area instead.  It isn’t like anyone actually goes to Pirates games do they?

I was surprised how many people in Santa Fe know about our issues with gas drilling.  Many of them alluded to the new HBO film “Gasland” which is obviously having an impact.  Gas drilling was easily the topic discussed me most with people I met.  The Delaware Basin River Commission has halted all drilling in the river’s watershed to protect the water.  The fracking process could endanger our sources of water making property values non existent.  Wayne County is seeing conflicts among those who want drilling and those opposed.  Consider that Lake Wallenpaupack is in this county and provides much of its economic activity.  Should the lake become polluted they will suffer greatly.

As if all this isn’t bad enough now gas companies want to be able to take your land via eminent domain.  The Supreme Court ruled in the last few years that private land can be taken this way and provided to private corporations for “for profit” purposes.  That decision was portentious and means your rights as a land owner are less than the rights of corporations who the Court says are also “persons” with inalienable rights.  More rights than you have it seems.  So a gas company can take your land, poison your water and there’s nothing of which you can do about any of it…except vote.

News & Notes June 10, 2010

Stonewall Democrats are conducting a poll of 30 pro equality federal candidates for particular support this year.  Patrick Murphy, Manan Trivedi and Joe Sestak are all part of the final group.  Each person voting gets ten votes so please visit this website and support Pennsylvania candidates who strongly support the LGBT community.

Paul Kanjorski has been selected to conduct negotiations with the Senate to forge a compromise bill on Wall Street/financial reform.  While some Republicans continue calling for corporate bailouts (BP this time???) and objecting to a bill to keep teachers teaching, Kanjorski said this at today’s first session:

Mr. Chairman, today we begin our long-anticipated conference to harmonize the House and Senate versions of Wall Street regulatory reform.  Feelings of anger, frustration and rage justifiably hang over this proceeding because of the recklessness of financial whiz kids, the greediness of Wall Street bankers, and the short-sightedness of our economic regulators.  Congress must respond by fundamentally changing the way that Wall Street operates.

While excess consumption may have fueled the fire, the blaze that became a devastating financial inferno began with Wall Street’s exotic financial instruments and excessive risk-taking.  Because financial titans pushed our entire economic system to a catastrophic cliff, Congress had to take drastic action.  Our work ensured that average Americans could continue to use their ATM cards and small businesses on Main Street could continue to pay their workers.

Critics invoke the word bailout to disparage the emergency action taken in late 2008.  But the stabilization of an economic system really amounts to a rescue, not a bailout.  Fair-minded experts agree that the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other similarly targeted initiatives have saved the American way of life.  And while we have not yet recouped all of the money loaned by TARP, we have recovered much of the funds.  We also have solid plans for collecting the rest.

Once we pulled back from this economic precipice, Congress immediately began working on a plan to comprehensively reform the rules of the road for bankers, securities brokers, insurers and hedge fund advisers, and to empower regulators with new tools.  In this regard, our most important task in the weeks ahead will be to end the too-big-to-fail problem.

My too-big-to-fail amendment in the House vests regulators with the authority to prevent financial institutions — those whose demise threatens the entire system because they are too large, interconnected, concentrated, or risky — from ever reaching such a precarious position.  For this mechanism to work properly, the simple majority vote by the Council in the House’s bill must prevail over the Senate’s multi-layered and complex two-thirds majority vote requirements.

The enactment of a strong Volcker rule will also help to end the problem of too big to fail.  Its provisions to bar proprietary trading and to prohibit investments in hedge funds are a surgical version of the Glass-Steagall Act.  Together, they will essentially resurrect the barrier between commercial and investment banking that resulted in a stable financial system for 70 years.  And while we will still allow the mixing of banking and insurance activities, my Federal Insurance Office will effectively monitor this sector for potential risks going forward.

The UN passed sanctions against Iran and only Brazil and Turkey cast negative votes.  This illustrates a solid world wide opinion that the Persian nation must cease building nuclear weapons.

BP’s stock has now dropped by half since the Gulf spill.  This means the value of the company has dropped by $95 billion.  I suppose that extreme cost cutting for the sake of profit wasn’t such a good idea after all.  Putting money before safety, before worker’s lives, is costing them billions.  Pay me now or pay me later.

Joe Sestak is holding a town hall on Marcellus Shale drilling Saturday in Dallas, Pa.  It is at 2 PM at Misericordia University.  Pat Toomey, at the same time, will be chanting drill, baby drill at an undisclosed location.  Just look for his burned and oil soaked clothes for a hint though.  One word of advice Pat:  stock up on bottled water.

Senate Passes Financial Reform

Scott Brown defected from his Republicans colleagues this week and voted for cloture on the financial reform bill which will establish curbs on Wall Street and end any future bailouts of banks.  The Massachusetts Senator must consider the liberal slant of his constituents if he wishes to be re-elected and so he has broken with his Party leadership on some important legislation.  Bob Casey voted yes but Arlen Specter, still licking his wounds I presume, didn’t vote.

The bill goes a long way towards preventing another financial collapse which resulted in a huge economic meltdown.  It isn’t a perfect bill but none is.  Republicans are trying to exempt car dealers from regulations involving credit and consumers should be outraged over the issue.  Auto dealers are universally hated, with much justification, for ripping people off when they sell cars and trucks.  Most consumers use dealer arranged financing and most dealers are as crooked as the day is long and will soak them for every penny possible.  To do this they frequently break the law, ignore the rules and go laughing (literally) all the way to the bank.  Its time for some tough regulation.

The bill still has to go through some amendments and then to a conference committee to reconcile it with the House bill.  Hopefully by mid-summer it will be law, almost two years after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the precipitous decline began in the global economy.