Tuesday PA Political Potpourri

March 31, 2009

  • The following is from the office of Steve Santarsiero, PA’s State House Rep for District 31…

    HARRISBURG, March 30 – State Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero, D-Bucks, today announced plans to introduce legislation that would give counties such as Bucks the ability to streamline local offices for greater transparency and taxpayer savings.

    Santarsiero’s legislation would allow second-class counties to abolish the office of Jury Commissioner and consolidate the offices of Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts by way of county ordinance or ballot referendum.

    Further, the legislation would regulate the payment of benefits to county solicitors, assistant solicitors and row office solicitors by prohibiting such benefits for solicitors working fewer than 35 hours per week. Santarsiero said the bill also would make the process of retaining outside counsel more transparent.

    “These are tough times, with homeowners struggling to make ends meet,” Santarsiero said. “My bill would help counties such as Bucks save tens of thousands of dollars, directly benefiting taxpayers. I hope that there will be broad support for this measure in the state legislature and at home in Bucks County.”

    Santarsiero authored the bill in response to recent news that Bucks county solicitors received full benefits packages despite working far fewer hours than full-time employees. He currently is seeking co-sponsors for the bill in the House.

    Santarsiero’s main constituent service office is located at 2 N. State St. in Newtown. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the phone number is 215-968-3975. Additionally, staff is available in the Lower Makefield Township Building, located at 1100 Edgewood Road. Office hours there are noon to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.

    The 31st Legislative District includes Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Lower Makefield Township, Yardley Borough and part of Upper Makefield Township.

    I wonder how long it will take Bucks County Commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley Martin to start howling over this one? Good for Steve (to contact him, click here).

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  • Also, this comes from Michael Morrill at Keystone Progress; he put together a document listing the impact of the Obama stimulus plan on Pennsylvania…

    Companies in Pennsylvania poised to create jobs in clean energy industries if a cap is instituted on carbon emissions.

    $1.3 billion taxpayer dollars
    What Pennsylvania is now spending to subsidize multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies. The Obama budget ends these wasteful subsidies.

    Between $2.1 billion and $12.9 billion
    Could flow into Pennsylvania coffers if emissions permits were capped and auctioned.

    Number of Pennsylvanians who are losing their health insurance every day who could be covered if President Obama’s request to put aside money in the budget for health care reform is granted.

    Pennsylvanians are becoming unemployed every day because of the troubled economy left behind by the Bush Administration.

    4.7 million
    Pennsylvanians would see their taxes lowered permanently if Obama’s Make Work Pay Tax credit was made permanent.

    Average debt load for Pennsylvania college students, which would be lowered substantially by President Obama’s proposal to reform and expand Pell Grants and simplify federal student loan programs.

    What the typical Pennsylvania family will save if the tax proposals in President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget are enacted.

    0.6 %
    Percentage of the Pennsylvanians who owed estate tax in 2007(President Obama has proposed keeping the estate tax from expiring in 2010).

    This was prepared by Keystone Progress and Renew and Rebuild America, based on research done by Environmental Defense, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Project on Student Debt, and Citizens for Tax Justice.

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  • Finally, here is something of interest concerning PA’s Republican U.S. Senator (you knew there had to be some bad news in here somewhere, didn’t you?)…

    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has spent a career crafting an image of independence and integrity. On March 24 he sacrificed both when he turned his back on the working people in his state. Specter announced that he would not vote to allow the Employee Free Choice Act to receive an up or down vote on the Senate floor; a move that some consider fatal to the legislation. In a statement on the Senate floor he waxed eloquent about his belief that a difficult economic climate is no time for workers to receive a living wage.

    Specter received $235,350 in 2008 from Blank Rome LLP a self described “union avoidance” law firm.

    Read the whole article here:

    A hat tip goes out from Michael Morrill to Alan Hart from UE News for pointing us to this article.

  • “Big Bad” Norm

    March 31, 2009

    So in 2000 Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao tells Al Gore to give up his challenge for the presidency here, and in 2004 Bush lackey Andrew Card says here that his boss will give John Kerry “the respect of more time” before conceding (bastard), but in 2009, John Cornyn says here that the GOP is prepared to fight “World War III” to keep Al Franken from being seated in the Senate, a position he won fair and square (I don’t know the word for the type of egomania whereby a politician from another state thinks he has the right to tell Minnesota it deserves only one senator, maybe the type of egomania Rick Noreiga called out here, he being the guy who challenged Cornyn for his seat last year – Eric Boehlert of Media Matters has more here).

    Obama And The GOP Budget Blues

    March 30, 2009

    Can’t wait to see the numbers on April Fools Day (and no, I’m not making that up).

    Update 3/30/09: Sound and fury, signifying…you know what.

    A History Lesson For Darrell Issa

    March 27, 2009

    issa_cries_2003(I have to admit that I’d “well up” if I did something as ridiculous as Issa did here, though hopefully I’d know not to instead.)

    I really don’t know what else there is to say about how far the Republican Party has sunk in this country; all you need to do is read this to get a pretty good indication.

    It’s bad enough that they are preparing a counter proposal to the Obama budget on April Fools Day (here). It’s bad enough that the party can’t even post approval gains beyond the statistical margin of error from week to week, as noted here (yes, I know everything will tighten up more over time). And it’s also bad enough that they can’t escape the perpetual infighting that so frequently makes its way into the public forum (here).

    (OK, to be fair, I should note that the Dems have a bit of a “dirty laundry” problem too, particularly given the fact that the Senate Majority Leader seems to have no issue at all with being flayed in the media, but he seems to leap into umbrage mode at the slightest criticism from the constituency which has revived the party from a bunch of perennially losing DLC-simpatico Repug wannabes into the ruling majority, based on this…it would almost be worth it to see him actually lose next year.)

    Update: Gee, Harry, you’re a real “rocket scientist,” you know that? Maybe there was a reason why I did this (to be fair, though, Reid’s name wasn’t on the list).

    That was a rather lengthy setup, I’ll admit, to the story from The Politico yesterday, telling us the following…

    House Republicans (namely, Darrell Issa of CA) are pressing for a change in federal law that could force Michelle Obama and future first ladies to do more of their policy work in public. But Democrats warn President Obama may take the attempt personally “as an attack on his wife.”

    More transparency on the part of the first lady, huh? What an insignificant little toad you are, Issa. You have less than nothing, so all you can do is go after Michelle Obama instead.


    With this in mind, I decided to go back and take a look at some quotes from our former first ladies that could potentially apply to Issa and his ilk; I’m sure, were many of them still with us, they would communicate these sentiments to Issa, and probably some other remarks with much more direct language (most of the quotes came from here, including a bunch from Eleanor Roosevelt).

    Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands – remember all men would be tyrants if they could.
    Abigail Adams

    You watch Laura Linney’s portrayal of her in the HBO series, and believe me, you truly come away with admiration.

    It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business.
    Dolley Madison

    Others live on in a careless and lukewarm state – not appearing to fill Longfellow’s measure: ‘Into each life, some rain must fall.’
    Mary Todd Lincoln

    Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize.
    Elizabeth Harrison (wife of President Benjamin, as opposed to William Henry)

    A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

    Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little (applicable here to more than just Issa).

    What is to give light must endure the burning.

    When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.
    Eleanor Roosevelt (owner of all six above)

    I’ll be a wife and mother first, then First Lady.
    Jackie Kennedy

    I don’t think most people associate me with leeches or how to get them off. But I know how to get them off. I’m an expert at it.
    Nancy Reagan

    No snark on that one please – and finally…

    The first lady is, and always has been, an unpaid public servant elected by one person, her husband.
    Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson

    This information probably will not prevent Issa from doing something stupid again in the future, but maybe it will keep him out of the business of Michelle Obama and future first ladies (that’s probably as close to the White House as Issa will ever get).

    A Little Too “Green” For Our Economic Recovery?

    March 26, 2009

    So apparently, President Obama ruled out the possibility of legalizing marijuana as a means of job creation in his online “town hall” meeting earlier today, as noted here.

    “This was a fairly popular question — we want to make sure it was answered. The answer is no. I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said to laughter and applause from the live East Room audience of union members, teachers, business leaders and others.

    It seems part of the popularity of marijuana questions was fueled by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which urged people to vote for questions supporting the legalization of cannabis in a posting on its Web site.

    “Rather than rebuff the public’s calls for taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, the new administration ought to be embracing it,” Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, said in an e-mail. “According to two recent polls — one by Zogby and a separate California field poll — a majority of west coast voters support regulating cannabis like alcohol. This is not a ‘laughing’ matter.”

    First of all, Zogby polls aren’t really reliable (I’ll defer to Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos who can give a much more substantive explanation on this than I could). Second, this would concern me if the Obama Administration were inclined to try and overrule how states such as Oregon regulate the availability of cannabis as a means of medical therapy for cancer patients; this isn’t going to happen because he has already said the federal government won’t interfere (though that didn’t stop “the party of states’ rights” under Bushco from wreaking pointless havoc on this question).

    Third, can you imagine the field day Drudge, Fix Noise and their brethren would have if Obama gave even the slightest hint that he was promoting pot? And I’m not saying that should be the barometer for every decision, but that battle, if Obama ever chooses to fight it (and I don’t think he does), is one for another time and place.

    As I read about Obama’s response and the attendant media dustup, however, it seems that the question of legalizing pot versus decriminalizing it is getting blurred.

    With this is mind, this tells us about a bill introduced by Barney Frank and Ron Paul that would have eliminated federal penalties for the personal use of about 100 grams or less of pot (about 3.5 ounces) that died in the 110th Congress (a good idea, I think – pointless to waste precious law enforcement resources trying to prosecute someone “taking a toke” – as noted here, it would have led to the decriminalization of marijuana as opposed to the legalization, which is where your humble narrator stands on the subject). Also, this story provides background on the whole question of whether pot is a “gateway” to harder drugs, a “chicken versus the egg” conundrum that I don’t think will ever really be solved.

    And in other news involving potentially addictive substances, this bobcat walks into a bar…no, really.

    Update: I thought this was a good clarification.

    Update 3/31/09: I’ve never favored the legalization of drugs, but I have to give Jack Cafferty credit here for holding up our failed drug policies before “the cold light of day” – definitely something to think about.

    David Letterman Explains It All

    March 26, 2009

    More spot-on analysis from a guy who makes a hell of a lot more sense here than any of the Beltway chattering class…

    The Legacy Of “The Dragon Lady” Lives On

    March 25, 2009

    bush_chao_ap02051704135The following story appeared in the New York Times today…

    In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that…the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers.

    In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found.

    When an undercover agent posing as a dishwasher called four times to complain about not being paid overtime for 19 weeks, the division’s office in Miami failed to return his calls for four months, and when it did, the report said, an official told him it would take 8 to 10 months to begin investigating his case.

    “This investigation clearly shows that Labor has left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn,” the report said. “Unfortunately, far too often the result is unscrupulous employers’ taking advantage of our country’s low-wage workers.”

    I, among many others, have pointed out the fraud committed by Bushco’s former Labor Secretary at the expense of our workforce, and this is definitely not the first time a G.A.O. report has identified Chao’s negligence (this tells us that they found much the same story last July – one case ignored by Chao’s Wage and Hour Division involved disabled children who were allegedly being paid cash by a trucking company to operate large machinery in violation of child-labor laws; the official story is that investigators for the division could not locate the employer, though “(t)he G.A.O. had little trouble finding a company that appears to be the one cited in the complaint”).

    And Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller reiterates below in a column written last September…

    Chao went on to severely weaken the department’s Wage and Hour Division — which enforces overtime, minimum wage, and child labor laws. Wage theft has skyrocketed at the hands of this administration: An ongoing U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation has uncovered repeated cases where the agency refused to go after scofflaw employers who admittedly owed their workers back wages.

    So what does Chao have to say? As noted in today’s story…

    …(Chao) often defended the Wage and Hour Division, saying it had concentrated on larger, tougher cases, and secured back wages for more than 300,000 workers a year and collected more than twice as much annually as the division had done in the final years of the Clinton administration.

    As the Times tells us here, “the record collection of back wages is a result of companies’ rushing to settle with her department to reduce the likelihood of facing large amounts of damages awarded by juries in private lawsuits.”

    And this tells us how then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama sent a letter to Chao in an effort to get her department to “address her department’s mishandling of overtime and minimum-wage complaints and to instigate investigations into hundreds of additional cases” – we also learn the following from here…

    Even so, as the AFL-CIO’s general counsel, Jon Hiatt, observes, “My dream is that the first act of the new Secretary of Labor would be to identify top executives of companies that routinely violate wages and hours laws — and take them out of their offices in handcuffs. The deterrent value would be enormous.” In the 1930s, he points out, FDR’s War Labor Board pursued the prosecution of the top executive of the Montgomery Ward company for refusing to recognize a union — and he was indeed photographed being dragged from his office in handcuffs.

    Among other things, this makes it more imperative than ever that we keep trying to convince our elected representatives to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, despite the recent “cave” from Snarlin’ Arlen. New Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has barely had any time on the job at all, and I can only imagine what she’ll have to clean up (she certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt for now), but the EFCA signed into law will make it awfully difficult for characters like Chao to come along in the future and pull the same nonsense all over again.

    Cawley’s “Can’t Do” Spirit On The Stimulus

    March 24, 2009

    I want to thank Bucks County Courier Times letter writer Paul Lang, Jr. this morning for jogging my memory a bit on a recent quote from one of our illustrious county commissioners (sarcasm intended) – here is his letter…

    Regarding county Commissioner Jim Cawley’s quote, “I am far from somebody who is rooting for the (Democratic) economic stimulus package”: This comment is un-American and outrageous. I am an American first and want only the best for this country regardless of political party affiliation.

    As a registered Democrat, I voted for Barack Obama. If Cawley’s Republican choice, John McCain, had won the presidency, then I would be cheering and praying for McCain to succeed.

    Cawley should never be elected to any office anywhere again. He has shown his true un-American colors.

    Paul Lang Jr.

    And of course, that met with the predictable wingnut comment noise online, which Lang should wear as a badge of honor, actually.

    I believe the reason why I missed this is because the original quote from Cawley appeared in this column by J.D. Mullane about the current dilapidated state of Washington Crossing Park. And Cawley is entitled to his opinion, I realize, but in his capacity as a commissioner, I think his comments should be neutral at the very least, particularly given the fact that the Repugs are so tolerant of opinions which differ from their own, as we know.

    Well, for Cawley’s information, here is a link to an analysis from The Philadelphia Inquirer showing that Bucks County stands to receive millions in school district funding from the stimulus, as well as $600 million from the $48.1 billion in transportation stimulus funds for Greater Philadelphia (affecting many Bucks residents), as well as approximately $318 for highways in southeastern Pennsylvania, $120 million for highways in southern New Jersey, and $193 million for SEPTA (noted here).

    And as noted from here, the stimulus provides funding to…

  • (Protect) 972,000 Pennsylvanians from the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • (Match) unemployed individuals to job openings through state employment service agencies and allow Pennsylvania to provide customized reemployment services ($15.4 million).
  • (Extend) Bonus Depreciation and Small Business Expensing through 2009, allowing businesses that make capital investments to immediately deduct one-half the cost. Small businesses can immediately deduct 100 percent of the cost of these investments.
  • (Help) law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the Internet or other computer technology to sexually exploit children ($1 million).
  • (Improve) the response to violent crimes against women and to assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking ($6.4 million).
  • But of course, Cawley is “far from somebody who is rooting for the (Democratic) economic stimulus package.”

    This is typical for someone who, as noted here, refused to fund an Army Corps of Engineers study of the Delaware River, to the point where Patrick Murphy had to intervene or else Bucks would have lost out on critical federal funds for this project.

    And as noted here, Cawley told a group of people gathered in Bristol, Pa. that “county money pegged for a three-hole golf course and driving range can be spent only for recreational purposes” (just what Bucks needs – another golf course), even though the majority of the residents favor a skate park, but with a chunk of the $400,000 going to keep the struggling Bristol Township homeless shelter open (also favored by Bucks commissioner Diane Marseglia, with the third commissioner, Charley Martin, stating that he believes skateboarding is “a fad” – here’s some reading material on this for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind”).

    Finally, this tells us that the Bucks County Coalition for Voting Integrity was denied access to records on the purchase of new county voting machines, as well as the fact that the Bucks County Health Department refused to turn over records of its pool inspections to the Doylestown Intelligencer, which attempted to publish an investigatory report on the safety of Bucks County swimming pools some years ago.

    So of course Cawley has to oppose the stimulus because of what it could provide to families and the working middle class of this county; also consider the fact that Cawley’s playmate Charley Martin would never have been returned to office were it not for the intercession of clueless third party candidate Jay Russell working on behalf of the Repugs, as noted here – it’s clear that their grip on county government is slipping anyway.

    And if the stimulus succeeds, making it plainly obvious which political party wants to ensure prosperity in Bucks and the rest of this country and which one doesn’t, they’ll lose that grip once and for all.

    An AEI/NYT Obama Afghan Slam

    March 23, 2009

    In today’s New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes about how President Obama conducts himself in military affairs in comparison to Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History here and tells us the following…

    Mr. Obama’s critics accuse him of trying to minimize the role of commander in chief. Several former Bush advisers said they were shocked that he had sent troops to Afghanistan without a formal public explanation.

    “The contrast to Bush could hardly be more striking,” said Thomas Donnelly, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, calling it “L.B.J. and Vietnam-type behavior.”

    Oh, that’s a good one – leave it to this AEI idiot to conjure up some imaginary linkage between Obama, who inherited the Afghan mess, and LBJ, who escalated the Vietnam War based on the faulty recommendations of his advisors, borne of their own hubris and disregard for the consequences (and here is Donnelly’s bio, by the way – if you can find actual military service in there, please let me know, because I couldn’t track it down).

    I don’t agree with Obama’s plans to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but the plan to do so has effectively been leaked to the media already; I don’t know what constitutes “a formal public explanation” in Stolberg’s book (this from Brave New Films basically argues that sending the 17,000 is kind of a silly “centrist Dem” strategy that really isn’t likely to achieve a military objective – either you go with the McCain/Holy Joe scheme of sending a massive force, which we really don’t have to spare at this point anyway, or you “walk away from the table” and rely on regional diplomacy).

    Besides, the supposed lack of a “formal” explanation is hardly the issue here (Stolberg herself tells us that the Obama Administration is still in the planning stages on that). Dubya received the “formal” recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (focus on diplomacy, draw down in Iraq and redeploy to Afghanistan) in December 2006, but chose to do the exact opposite with the “surge” in January 2007 (as noted here, that ran counter to his policy as of June 2005 to withhold more troops, lest we “undermine our strategy of letting the Iraqis take the lead” – and what about the “formal” casualty count, as noted here?).

    Basically, what good does a “formal” explanation do when it is beholden to the whims of a commander-in-chief who ignores recommendations of his counselors and acts in opposition to his own professed policy (and by the way, as K.O. noted the other night, there is no “formal” mention of Iraq in Dubya’s bio as part of his library’s web site…all class).

    Obama still deserves the benefit of the doubt here IMHO, “formal” announcements or not. If he starts zig-zagging and contradicting himself on this issue and other matters as his predecessor did, THEN it would be OK to “pile on” as far as I’m concerned (and let’s keep the “Vietnam” comparisons in mothballs until then, please).

    Say “Bayh” To Senate Dem Integrity

    March 21, 2009

    And gee, let me guess; is this guy one of the “secret three”?

    Update 3/26/09: Leave it to Think Progress to provide the definitive Bayh takedown here.

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