News & Notes June 7, 2012

I was down with one of my bad cluster headaches yesterday, sorry for not being able to write.  I finally gave up and took a Vicodin.

If you watched the film “Gasland” you recall streams out west where methane was bubbling to the surface.  Now you don’t need to go all the way to Wyoming just go to Bradford County to see the phenomenon.  There’s no danger to our water supplies though everyone, just keep walking.

A bill in the legislature would put limits on charter school tuitions.  These privatized, for profit enterprises have little to no accountability.  They aren’t subject to NCLB and are underperforming public schools even though they admit few if no special ed students.  They underpay their teachers and at a rally in the Rotunda Monday I heard one of their leaders complaining about having to fund teacher’s pensions.  Let me cry for you Argentina…

Here’s a bit more evidence our Governor is an idiot.  The state just concluded a three year extension of the contract for state liquor store workers.  It includes a clause guaranteeing their jobs if the system is privatized.  The Governor doesn’t think so.  Hmmm.  Should Tom Corbett be peeing in a cup or should we have insisted on IQ tests before that election day?  Kudos to Wendell Young IV who is looking out for his union rank and file.  It appears he outsmarted the Governor.

Scott Walker survived a recall election in Wisconsin though Democrats did take control of the State Senate in that once progressive state.  Gov. Walker is trying to destroy public sector unions.  It appears the sentiment of the voters was that he needs to do something even more egregious to deserve being removed.  Like a federal indictment?  That seems imminent for Walker.

Donald Trump says he will sue the former Miss Pennsylvania who resigned yesterday.  Calling the national pageant rigged she cast aside her crown.  Too bad it wasn’t attached to Trump’s wig.

We spend vastly more on our military than even China which is several times larger.  The obscene Defense budget can and should be at least halved if things are so out of hand The Pentagon has two Hubble type telescopes just sitting around collecting dust.

Have you read this NY Times piece about President Obama’s secret kill list?  Before rushing out willy nilly to knock on doors for OFA please realize his torture, detention and rendition policies differ little from GW Bush.  The unconstitutional domestic wiretapping also continues.

Meanwhile Dr. Jill Stein has garnered the Green Party presidential nomination.  There are alternatives to the two corporate owned Parties.

The Sandusky jury has been selected and has a distinct Penn State flavor.  That’s expected for Centre County which is why this trial should have been moved.  This report says the former defensive coach wrote love letters to alleged victim #4.  This is pathetic.  Testimony begins Monday.

These laws allowing medical professionals to deny treatment due to personal religious beliefs should mean they should not be allowed to practice.  In New Jersey a man was denied medicine by a doctor because he had AIDS.  What happened to the creed “first do no harm?”  If doctors and nurses refuse to treat people they should find other professions.

John Perzel and Bill DeWeese are cellmates.  A favorite Tweet I saw called them the Speakers of the (Big) House.  Can you imagine the conversations they’ll have?  DeWeese refused to book with Mike Manzo who turned state’s evidence.  You’d think after being House Speaker he’d be accustomed to living among rats.  He’d likely have bored Manzo to death vocally anyhow.

Any moron who still thinks Faux News is “fair and balanced” is unbalanced themself after they were caught producing and airing their own campaign ad against Obama.  That’s what political operatives do, not “news” organizations.

News & Notes May 19, 2012

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally suspended Justice Melvin after she turned herself in on nine criminal charges Friday.  She will continue getting her $195,000 salary plus benefits.  Included in the counts is one for official oppression, perhaps the most serious charge a Judge can face.  It means she abused her position of power against another person.  Staffers testified about being fired or shunned after refusing to do political work on state time.

Justice Melvin cleverly wore a flag pin and cross for her day in court.  Never trust anyone who feels they must display their faith or their patriotism.

Former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese was released from prison pending his appeal.  He was convicted of using state resources for political work, a practice which was all to common and has sent many politicians to jail.  Joan Orie Melvin and her sisters ignored all the high profile prosecutions for this while they assumed they were above the law.  How the mighty fall who are filled with arrogance and hubris.

Another example is that of former presidential candidate John Edwards.  His case went to the jury this week.  I doubt he’ll be convicted:  not enough evidence was provided that money to pay off his pregnant mistress actually went through his campaign finance accounts.  That would have to be proven for charges to stand.  Still, the man did some despicable deeds.  His campaign message of Two Americas and his focus on the plight of poverty in this nation were commendable and preceded the Occupy movement.

Facebook stock went on sale yesterday.  I have to admit I’m a facebook addict.  I get much of the material for these columns via social media.  Those standing to become very, very rich from the IPO took measures to insure they didn’t pay their fair share of taxes and that got the attention of Sen. Bob Casey Jr.  He and Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to prohibit people like Eduardo Saverin, who renounced his citizenship to avoid paying those taxes, the right to re-enter the country.  It’s all about rights and responsibilities…

Another Birther Congressman claims, after being caught, he simply “misspoke.”  Maybe he should have “thought” first.  The problem is that requires an ability to think critically and requires some degree of intelligence.

Birthers got up in a huff this week after Breitbart.com (of course no one can trust anything posted their for factual value) published a memo from an Obama publisher.  The memo said he had been born in Kenya.  A bit of fact checking would have found this:

“This was nothing more than a fact-checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time,” Miriam Goderich, who worked for the literary agency Acton & Dystel, told Yahoo News. “There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.”

 

On the bright side if all these conspiracy theorists keep spending their time trying to prove the unprovable they aren’t trying to convince us to invade more countries based on lies.

Here’s the danger for conservatives who try and drag Rev. Wright into the presidential campaign again:  it makes Romney’s Mormonism fair game as John Aravosis did yesterday.

The OAG hasn’t had much scrutiny despite some missteps, especially in the Sandusky case.  The Pennsylvania ACLU is taking Attorney general Linda Kelly (she replaced Gov. Gasbag) to task for not investigating the NYPD for civil rights violations against PA Muslims.

The AP reported that the NYPD had monitored about 250 mosques, universities and businesses, without any evidence of wrongdoing.  In February 2012, the AP reported that the NYPD was monitoring Muslim college students at over a dozen universities far beyond the New York city and state limits, including at the University of Pennsylvania.  In light of these disturbing reports, the ACLU-PA, in coalition with 20 civil rights, student, faith-based, and civic groups, sent a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly requesting that her office undertake an immediate investigation of the NYPD’s surveillance of law-abiding Muslim communities in Pennsylvania.

The Attorney General refused our request.

Here’s a refreshing look at equality:

Congressional Republicans broke their budget agreement with the White House by passing an alarming defense bill.  Why we’re spending gargantuan amounts on the Pentagon while cutting programs for the poor is defenseless (pun intended).  Breaking an agreement they required after holding the country’s debt hostage shows they cannot be trusted.

A bit of reality talk about the economy and “job creators:”

No consumers (meaning people with good jobs and discretionary income)=no jobs.

More on the economy:

News & Notes February 7, 2012

Komen VP Karen Handel resigned today after destroying the breast cancer charity.  Recruited by former Bush Administration spokesman Ari Fleischer, she admits she was responsible for the policy excluding Planned Parenthood from cancer screening funds.  CEO Brinker, a Bush Administration funder and former Ambassador, claimed on television last week that that wasn’t the case.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation has no credibility at this point and no one is believing their fairy tale that they’re reversed their policy condemning poor people to death from breast cancer.

Rick Santorum is still pushing the myth that abortions cause breast cancer in spite of their being no scientific basis for the belief.  Haven’t we had enough stupid, anti-science Presidents?

Here’s one woman’s reminder of what breast cancer is, and is not:

Speaking of stupid Republicans Congressman John Fleming of Louisiana takes the cake this week.  He posted an article from The Onion on facebook that said Planned Parenthood was building an “abortionplex.”  The piece from last May satirically joked about a facility being built in Kansas.  Everyone, except Rep. Fleming, of course, knows The Onion is a fake news site which writes satire.  None of their stuff is true.

CNN contributors keep getting into trouble for saying bigoted things.  Perhaps the “news” network is trying to hard to be Faux News?  Sunday Roland Martin Tweeted this:  “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!”

The David Beckham underwear ad didn’t even show the front of the man’s briefs for crying out loud, why would anyone turn that commercial into an opportunity for gay bashing, bullying and violence?  Frankly I don’t see why anyone worships that man’s body.  Of course I hate tattoos and think they debase the human body so Beckham does nothing for me.  He obviously did for Martin however, the man should be banished from the airwaves for his hate speech.

Bill DeWeese is insisting he will remain a State Representative even after his conviction yesterday on five felony counts.  This is a common condition known as delusion.  Instead of resigning now and saving taxpayers the cost of a special election he will stubbornly stay in Harrisburg until his formal sentencing on April 24th.

AFSCME sent me this neat video of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.  You’ll recall her standing on a tarmac shaking her finger in President Obama’s face recently.

News & Notes February 6, 2012

I drove into Reading City Hall this morning for a Sen. Casey event.  I had to deal with a double parker on Mineral Spring Road then another right in front of City Hall who decided to pull forward just as I was going around him.  No wonder no one goes into Reading…  I circled around and found a parking space on the street and, foolishly, only brought 4 quarters for the meter thinking that would be enough for an hour.  It bought me forty minutes so I headed home.  You don’t EVER want to get a parking ticket in Reading…  No wonder no one goes into Reading…

Speaking of City Hall, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer made a classic mistake right off the bat.  He forgot the old homage that you never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  The Reading Eagle excoriated him yesterday in an editorial for his reneging on a promise for an open and transparent administration.  Right away he issued a policy putting a gag order on all city employees.  No talking to the press means getting nothing but bad press.

Republicans in Harrisburg are discussing having two primaries this year, one in April for federal races and another in July or August for state House and Senate seats.  The Supreme Court decision overturning reapportionment has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the election season.  I know one guy whose thirty minute campaign may be the shortest on record.  Half an hour after he started his campaign the decision came down and he found he was no longer in the district.  Moving a primary to the summer would screw all the candidates out working now getting on the ballot.  

Bill DeWeese remains a free man as the jury remains out in his corruption trial.  Perhaps the loquacious former State House Speaker can teach linguistics and vocabulary while serving his time.

This just in:  DeWeese is guilty on 5 of 6 counts.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, a master of using social media, discovered his primary opponent set up a facebook page so he began asking colleagues why they were friends with her.  It turns out Numa St. Louis had put people on her page without their permission.  That’s a huge gaffe, something you simply don’t do with social media.  Would she also add them as co-sponsors on bills without permission?  She wouldn’t last long in Harrisburg…

Right wing talking heads are saying Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms and so shouldn’t receive funding from the Komen Foundation.  That’s incorrect.  Some PP clinics do do mammograms and rest do breast cancer exams and provide referrals for mammograms.  The head of the Komen Foundation siphons $5 million/year from the “charity” to pad her own pockets before any of it goes to women.  Only 20% of SGK monies go to research.  I guess he needs all that money for her extensive plastic surgery.

Congressman Mark Critz is getting key labor endorsements in his primary runoff against Congressman Jason Altmire.  Republicans put the two incumbents into the same District during reapportionment.  Both are extremely conservative Democrats.  The good news is that one will be out of Washington.

Perzel to Plead Guilty?

Philly.com is reporting that former House Speaker John Perzel will plead guilty to corruption regarding the ongoing BonusGate prosecutions.  The plea, expected Wednesday, follows several of his former key aides pleading and agreeing to testify against the Philadelphian who finally lost his seat to Democrat Kevin Boyle last year.  Perzel, along with Bill DeWeese, shared the Speaker’s Chair during an era of intense political corruption in Harrisburg.  Attorney General Tom Corbett rode the cases all the way to the Governor’s Mansion.

News & Notes July 26, 2010

Kirk and I enjoyed seeing Beckett’s “Endgame” Saturday at the Berkshire Theater Festival.  Yesterday I was kayaking with some friends when a storm came on us about five miles short of our destination on the Delaware River.  Gale force winds blew us the final mile.  Interesting paddling conditions…

Netroots Nation concluded over the weekend and the seminal moment happened when Lt. Dan Choi gave Sen. Harry Reid his West Point ring.  Choi was discharged last week under DADT and Reid told him he’d return the ring when the law is repealed.  I hope Dan isn’t holding hi sbreath because this White House is so buy disenfranchising key Democratic constituencies the votes won’t be there soon.

Bill DeWeese was held over for trial today on BonusGate charges.  Now, when is Corbett’s trial for the Ories?  Harrisburg area reporters now spend more time in court covering politics than in the Capitol.

Tom Tancredo announced his candidacy for Governor in Colorado today.  This comes on the heels of news the regular GOP nominee got paid for plagiarizing writing he did.  Tancredo then got into an argument on the air with the state Republican Chair.

DeWeese Cops the Fifth

Former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese took the Fifth Amendment yesterday in a session in Judge Richard Lewis’ chambers.  Mike Veon’s lawyers wanted to call him to the stand in the defense of the former Whip on trial for use of public resources for political purposes.  The BonusGate trial is in its sixth week and the defense is going through witnesses quickly.  I’m not sure what good it is parading character witnesses to the stand for politicians.  Do these attorneys really think the jury is going to be impressed by that?  These are politicians for crying out loud.

Still, the defense is trying to show campaign work wasn’t done inside the Capitol though the prosecution made that fact abundantly clear.  Whether Mike Veon is directly connected with all of it remains the question for the jury.  The staffers are dead meat.  The fact Veon was a hands on manager goes against him while testimony has shown DeWeese didn’t involve himself in details other than to instruct his staff to find lobbyist to take him to dinner.  These legislators were paid by the taxpayers for their meals while in Harrisburg.  DeWeese’s actions obtaining freebies wasn’t criminal.  Unethical but not criminal.  Still, he is also under indictment and copping the Fifth was probably essential.  DeWeese filed nominating petitions yesterday to run for re-election.

Mike Manzo Still Doesn’t Get It

Bill DeWeese’s former Chief of Staff finally finished his fifth day of testimony in the BonusGate trial of Mike Veon and others.  I’ve been following the trial via the Post_Gazette’s gifted Tweeter PgPoliTweets.  Very good stuff but I don’t know how she Tweets so fast and so accurately!  On the stand this morning Mike Manzo told of how House staff was so large in DeWeese and Veon’s offices that without the campaign work they’d have simply sat around and “played solitaire.”  He still doesn’t understand the waste of taxpayer money or why using constituent email addresses for political work was bad.  Let me explain.

Having twice the necessary staff costs taxpayers MONEY Mike.  Since, as you admit, there wasn’t enough legitimate legislative work for all these people they weren’t needed.  It is, and was, illegal to use public money and resources for political campaign work.  The answer was, and is:  fire the unneeded staff and save the taxpayer their salaries, benefits and bonuses.

As for the emails, it’s amazing how few people understand the ethics of using email addresses.  If someone in your District contacts you via email about a problem or issue they are NOT asking to be put on your campaign email list.  In fact using such addresses amounts to spam.  Every time one of these morons does this to my personal email account I report it as spam (are you listening Sen Specter?)  My blog email, of course, is for any elected official, organization or campaign to send me press releases.  My personal email account is off limits.  Sending someone unsolicited email is SPAM.  Unless they gave you express permission or you asked for their permission, using these addresses constitutes SPAM.  Mike Manzo doesn’t comprehend this basic function of the internet.

That isn’t the worst of his problems however.  Mr. Manzo may well return home today to find all his belongings on the driveway.  He had testified vaguely last week about the timing of his affair with a former beauty queen for whom he found a “make work” state job working on a campaign.  He sort of implied it ended around the time he got married.  Oops, today he testified it lasted well into his marriage.  Well into, for like three years.  I don’t want to be Mike Manzo today.  If he thinks five and a half days on the witness stand was bad he “ain’t seen nothing yet.”  I hope those domestic violence call centers are well staffed today in the Harrisburg area…

This has been an entertaining trial to follow and several journalists have been Tweeting it regularly.  You can also follow it daily in the state’s major newspapers.

DeWeese Implicated In New Probe

Former State House Speaker Bill DeWeese is under investigation again.  This time it has to do with a half million state contract given to Gravity Web Media.  Originally conceived of as a grant  their request was denied for not following the proper guidelines.  Mike Manzo, who has been on the witness stand in Mike Veon’s BonusGate trial for four days and was DeWeese’s Chief of Staff, is also implicated in this probe.  A non profit company called Greene County (DeWeese represents part of Greene County) Industrial Developments applied for the $500,000 grant and was denied.  Somehow DeWeese’s office intervened and the money was given to Gravity Web Media without ever signing a contract.

No contract, no oversight, this has BonusGate written all over it.  How did the web company gain access to the $243,000 it has already spent, channeled through the Greene County non profit?  Do you think, maybe, this outfit did campaign work?  I wonder how many campaign web sites were designed by these people at public expense?  The story as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has BonusGate written all over it.  Tom Corbett is now investigating this deal.  Gravity Web Media received money from the House Democratic Caucus.

Manzo testified last week that the legislative slush fund was used to bankroll political activity, pay bonuses to staffers running campaigns and numerous other prohibited political activities.  All four legislative caucuses dealt in this corruption but only House Democrats are being prosecuted by the Attorney General while he’s running for Governor.  Some Republicans have been indicted but not for these same offenses because Corbett gave them two years to destroy evidence.

I’ve been calling for an end to these slush funds for several years.  There is no accountability for how this money is spent because the Auditor General is not allowed to audit these public funds.  It is illegal to use public funds for political or campaign activity.  The leadership of both parties use these legislative budgets as iron clubs to threaten their rank and file and keep them in line.  This is the biggest problem in Harrisburg.  Reformers are elected and get to Harrisburg to discover they either have to toe their Party line or be severely punished.  If their Majority Leader or the Speaker, who controls all these funds, decides they aren’t team players they lose their staffs, offices and any access to re-election help.  This either corrupts them or so frustrates them the good ones leave.  Guess who remains?  People like Bill DeWeese.  We get what we deserve when we do not demand better.