The Zimmerman Trial

The defense is expected to rest today in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial in Florida.  This man is claiming self defense after stalking the young Black man, making racial slurs about him, presuming him to be a criminal then accosting him while carrying a loaded gun.  But he claims self defense.

How does the aggressor get to claim self defense?

PA Legislature’s Mafia Session Continues With Payday Loan Bill

First they legalized murder and yesterday they took a big step towards legalizing loan sharking.  I think we can honestly call this the Mafia Session after our lawmakers passed the Castle Doctrine legalizing murder and now passing payday lending aka legalized loan sharking.  The state is already in the numbers and gambling businesses so perhaps the conservative strategy here is to put the mob out of business in this perverse manner.  Will they legalize prostitution next?  Wait, we already have that rampant in Harrisburg due to our campaign finance laws, what there are of them.  Our Senators and Representatives already prostitute themselves for campaign contributions and lobbyist freebies.  The problem is the rest of us pay for them.

The payday lending bill passed yesterday was sponsored by supposedly moderate Republican Chris Ross of Bucks County.  His perverted logic goes like this:  since some state residents can access this on a limited basis through the internet we should bring these predatory lenders back into the state in storefronts so they can destroy countless more families and working poor.

Payday lenders are allowed to charge up to 369% interest (some of it in “fees.”)  Once sucked in people can barely pay the fees and interest and, never able to pay off the principle, get mired in a vortex from which there is no escape.  Predatory lenders created much havoc leading to the economic collapse of 2008 through such stores and allowing them to return will hurt hundreds if not thousands of Pennsylvanians.  I was walking the halls in Harrisburg Monday trying to talk with legislators about the harm in this bill but lobbyists for the industry were everywhere.

Maybe voters need to put horses heads in the beds of a few of our legislative leaders to remind them that crawling into bed with the mob isn’t a good idea.  Come November give them a deal they can’t refuse:  retirement.

As Sponsors Leave ALEC Pennsylvania Legislators Remain

The right wing legislative think tank ALEC is under fire for spreading the NRA agenda in state after state.  The organization develops proposed laws for state legislatures and has members in most of them who then introduce and push these reactionary acts.  Have you wondered why so many Republican controlled states all began passing the same or similar laws after the 2010 election?  They were all developed by ALEC and introduced across the country where the GOP was in control.  These include anti-union, anti-women, anti-family, Voter ID, immigration, and the so called Stand Your Ground (here it is called the Castle Doctrine) law which resulted in the murder of Trayvon Martin.

ALEC has been under pressure because of its passage of that aw in Florida and sponsors are pulling their financial support as a result.  There’s nothing like massive consumer backlash and negative publicity to convince a corporation to end support for wing nuts like Rush Limbaugh and organizations such as ALEC.  Coca-Coal, Pepsi, Intuit, Kraft and others have now pulled their money from this group.  Don’t spend your money with any corporation which remains.  This is a classic example of how voting with your dollars every day can enact the change we can believe in.

Here in Pennsylvania none of our ALEC state legislators have moved away from their ALEC masters however.  The primary reactionaries are ALEC head Rep. John Evans of Erie, Mike Turzai and Daryl Metcalfe.  Turzai and Metcalfe are simply insane fascists who have considerable power in Harrisburg and are behind the radical agenda being passed.  They have help though in Reps Matt Baker, Steve Barrar, Sandra Major, Robert Godshall, Paul Clymer, Kate Harper, and Charlie McIlhenny along with Senators Stewart Greenleaf, Jeff Piccola and Bob Robbins.

Keystone Progress issued a report today listing all of them and their other supporters:

   Rep. William Adolph (R, Delaware)

   Rep. Karen Boback (R, Columbia, Luzerne, Wyoming)

   Rep. Scott Boyd           (R, Lancaster)

   Rep. Jim Cox (R, Berks)

   Rep. Gary Day (R, Berks, Lehigh)

   Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R, Cumberland)

   Rep. Matthew Gabler (R, Clearfield, Elk)

   Rep. Richard Geist (R, Blair)

   Rep. Mauree Gingrich (R, Lebanon)

   Rep. Glen Grell (R, Cumberland)

   Rep. Seth Grove           (R, York)

   Rep. Marcia Hahn (R, Northampton)

   Rep. Sue Helm (R, Dauphin)

   Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R, Butler, Venango)

   Rep. Thomas Killion (R, Chester, Delaware)

   Rep. Jerry Knowles (R, Berks, Schuylkill)

   Rep. Nick Kotik (D, Allegheny)

   Rep. Mark Mustio (R, Allegheny)

   Rep. Tina Pickett (R, Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna)

   Rep. Kathy Rapp (R, Forest, McKean Warren)

   Rep. Harry Readhsaw (D, Allegheny)

   Rep. Stan Saylor (R, York)

   Rep. Curtis Schroder (R, Chester, Delaware)

   Rep. William Todd Stephens (R, Montgomery)

   Rep. Jerry Stern            (R,Blair)

   Rep. John Taylor (R, Philadelphia)

   Rep. Marcy Toepel (R, Montgomery)

   Rep. Tarah Toohil (R, Luzerne)

   Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R, Bucks, Montgomery)

   Sen. Leanna Washington, (D, Montgomery, Philadelphia)

Murder on A Florida Street

George Zimmerman thought Florida’s Stand Your Ground NRA backed bill gave the racist in him a license to kill.  Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old walking home from a 7 Eleven was his victim.  Trayvon had the audacity to “walk while Black” through Zimmerman’s community.  Of course it was also Martin’s community and Zimmerman stalked, hunted, and shot him as if Trayvon were a wild animal instead of a teenager buying Skittles and iced tea on his way home.

When the National Rifle Association pushed Florida to adopt the legislation legalizing murder (similar to our new “castle doctrine” law) I wrote that I wouldn’t consider traveling to Florida again because the law made it a dangerous place.  Since then the spate of legal murders like Martin’s have made that a fact.  Anyone who goes to Florida is risking their life.

The facts of this case are plain:  a teenage high school student decided to go to his local convenience store for a snack.  Zimmerman, NOT a member of the neighborhood watch group (erroneously reported as such on NPR) drove past him and called police to report a suspicious person.  His crime:  walking while Black.  Zimmerman told police “they always get away with this.”  Well, yes, people get away with walking down streets in America all the time.

He then followed Trayvon even though police explicitly told him not to.  He confronted the young man and murdered him.  He then invoked the state’s Stand Your Ground law and claimed self defense.  Since when does a 250 pound man in a car feel threatened by a 140 pound teenager carrying Skittles?  Zimmerman was carrying a 9mm handgun.  The Sanford, Florida police department told witnesses who came forward to say the boy had called for help were told by cops that that wasn’t true.  The police cover up of this crime has been as outrageous as anything else related to it.  The Department of Justice is now investigating the Martin murder as a hate crime.

There must be justice for Trayvon Martin.  These NRA laws are nothing more than legalized murder for racists.  Welcome to the 21st century version of lynching.

News & Notes January 26, 2012

Confusion is reigning over the Commonwealth today as many candidates are discovering they no longer live in legislative districts redrawn and rejected by the state Supreme Court.  This entire operation has been a debacle for Republicans.  They delayed and squandered time and resources gerrymandering the state House and Senate districts until very late in the game then watched it all fall apart late yesterday.

Candidates had no idea in which district they resided until late last year and began announcing, organizing and gathering nominating petition signatures this week and now many no longer are eligible to run.  What a massive waste of time, money and effort because the Reapportionment Commission was too lazy to do its job properly.  Instead of performing an intelligent map they got tied up in partisan politics and so the people got screwed.  I’m not blaming Republicans entirely for all of this because Democrats share equally.  Rep. Frank Dermody, a Democrat, voted for the plan as a member of the Commission and Rep. Babette Josephs, then Chair of the State Government Committee, killed a bill which would have required a nonpartisan citizen’s commission to draw the maps.  Had Democrats been in control they would have gerrymandered too.  If ever there was a time to rejuvenate support for a new system this is it.

Matt Cartwright officially announced his primary challenge to Congressman Tim Holden Tuesday.  This is the second consecutive election the corporate Blue Dog Democrat has been primaried.  How many Cartwright supporters will have their jobs threatened by Holden?  That was his ruthless tactic against Sheila Dow Ford two years ago and told us much about his lack of character.  I’ve gone from having Holden as my Congressman to Joe Pitts and, frankly, don’t see much difference.

If you enjoyed the teddy bears explaining quantitative easing last week they’re back talking about bank bailouts:

Reading is turning into the Wild West thanks to the Castle Doctrine.  A store owner opened fire and a bicycle rider shot two attackers on a trail just outside the city killing one of them.  Since when does a citizen have the right to be judge, jury and executioner all at once?  The use of deadly force in a robbery is a travesty.  What if some of these bullets had hit innocent bystanders?

Faux News has been creating outrage about light bulbs for months.  Angry about losing their “liberty” to buy the most polluting lighting possible so as to accelerate global warming (hasn’t Texas suffered enough?  Well, it’s Texas so perhaps not) the propaganda artists at Faux have been telling people they won’t have the freedom to buy their incandescent bulbs.  Media Matters went light bulb shopping to debunk the BS:

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer is off to a rocky start.  City Council won’t reopen his budget to hire his new staff including a Communications Director through whom all media contact must pass.  This means I can no longer chat with my neighbor who works for the Mayor.  Heaven help someone suspect he’s telling me something…  I keep remembering Spencer’s ownership by the Mascaro Brothers and wondering if the mob mentality of omerta is at work here.

The interesting revisionist history being conducted by the four remaining GOP presidential contenders has been fascinating.  Now Rick Santorum is saying he never called for Congressional intervention in Terri Schiavo’s medical care.  I distinctly recall those events because they effected the life of my oldest sister.  In fact Sen. Santorum rushed back to Washington after doing a fund raiser hosted by Outback Steakhouse to push through a resolution to that effect.  Liar, liar pants on fire Rick.

Poor old Mitt Romney, demonized for being the candidate of the 1%!  He finally released some tax returns and it turns out he doesn’t have a job.  Instead he earns $21 million/year from investments.  He has bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and pays about 14% in taxes.  That’s a lower rate than everyone actually working for a living.  He’s afraid Obama will use it against him.  Conservatives killed the estate tax and lowered the capital gains tax (paid on investment income) so much they’ve created this huge gap between the rich and poor.  Complain though and they’ll accuse you of class warfare.

Sen. Mensch Guilty of Disorderly Conduct

State Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) was found guilty this afternoon of disorderly conduct for displaying a handgun at another motorist on I-78 in Berks County on March 9th.  The Pennsburg lawmaker is a co-sponsor of the Castle Doctrine bill in Harrisburg which would allow motorists in such situations, should they feel threatened, to actually shoot the other driver.

A real estate manager from Easton who also commutes daily to Harrisburg testified he was passing a large truck going eastbound around 5 pm when another SUV pulled up directly behind him, apparently irate at his being in his way.  When the victim pulled into the right lane Sen. Mensch pulled alongside, slowed down and showed that he was holding a Glock pistol in his hand.  The frightened Easton man immediately called 911 and spoke to them until State Police arrived at the Love’s convenience store at the Shartlesville exit in Berks County.  Ironically both drivers exited at the store, Mensch to gas up and the victim for a his usual break.

Sen. Mensch testified that he was actually texting while driving and not holding a gun.  He thought the other man was tailgating and following him when, in reality, he was being instructed by police to get the registration number of Mensch’s state vehicle.  Before getting his gas Mensch testified he took his Glock and put it in the small of his back under his suit coat in fear of what might happen following the then recent shootings in Tuscon.  

Press from at least eight outlets sat in the courtroom while a parade of five character witnesses paraded tot he stand for the defense.  None were able to mitigate the powerful testimony of the victim and the corroborating 911 telephone calls.  Interestingly all through the prosecution case the Senator sat at the defense table nodding up and down affirmatively as evidence against him was presented.  He then took the stand and, as Magisterial District Judge Andrea Book judged, lied to the court about his version.  

Following the verdict Mensch said he was shocked and disappointed but wouldn’t answer any questions.  He plans on appealing to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas but faces a $300 fine.  The Berks County DA’s office answered numerous questions after the hearing and said they thought all of the character witnesses testified truthfully.  I asked if he thought any of them had a vested interest in helping the Senator and he seemed annoyed at my query.  In his cross of the witnesses, one a Green Lane police chief, one the President of DeSales University and another a local newspaper publisher, he seemed to be pointing out their vested interests in being on good terms with the State Senator.

Sen. Mensch’s obvious arrogance on the stand worked against him when early on he described the victim as “dallying in the left lane.”  It was easy to see this man getting angry at anyone blocking his way and doing something obnoxious in return.  Apparently he did and now he will pay a price for it, both financial and, likely, politically.

News & Notes November 29, 2010

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, did some shopping and enjoyed the variety of good football over four days.  Well, except for Eagles fans and us Nittany Lion alumni.  

My high school class met Saturday evening for our 40th reunion.  I was on the committee planning the event (which is why I was really busy the past few weeks) and reconnecting with old friends and having a wonderful time in the process all year was enormously satisfying.  I hadn’t been to a reunion in thirty years due to my medical issues so this was extra special.  Thanks to everyone who attended, especially those who traveled distances.  

Wednesday the President’s Deficit Commission releases its final report if they can come to a super consensus.  That isn’t likely.  These are, for the most part, draconian solutions.  I’ll have more on this over the course of the week.

I must mention how confident I am that the FBI is able to thwart terror attacks of their own making.  How impressive!

Today launches Pennsylvania’s deer hunting season so be aware of frantic does jumping out of the woods if you live in a rural area as I do.  The number of hunters is declining rapidly and soon schools may have to rethink closing the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I began seeing TV commercials from some of the TBTF (too big to fail) banks taking credit for working with homeowners.  What a joke, these institutions aren’t doing much at all.  Millions of homeowners have complained that these leeches won’t work with them all the while they’re creating and submitting fraudulent court documents to evict millions.  Why brag about saving 200,000 when you’ve thrown millions out of their homes?  Meanwhile now these huge financial institutions are attempting to collect on the $200 million they pumped into the year’s elections.  Lobbyists in Washington are working to convince Congress to legalize the MERS system which defrauded homeowners, investors and taxpayers.  I asked Congressman Paul Kanjorski about this at an event shortly before election day:

I got an iPhone a few weeks ago, what are some cool and useful apps?

Gov. Rendell vetoed the radical “castle doctrine” bill over the weekend.  I’m not sure how effective this action will be with Republicans taking over complete control of state government in January but, at least, the legalization of murder will be delayed somewhat.  Under the proposed law a person could shoot anyone they felt threatened by if they were on their property.  Under historic law you could not shoot to kill unless there were no other options available, no means of escape.  This castle doctrine is simply an extension of our national policy of “shoot first, ask questions later” which has made America a rogue nation.  So much for a “civilized” society.  Thank you Governor.

Two months after lightning hit the house and fried my desktop computer we still await settlement of the claim from Erie Insurance.  For some reason they keep delaying paying this claim.  We’re certainly fortunate the house didn’t burn down because its getting awfully cold outside.  Rethink your coverage if you’re with Erie.