Thursday Mashup (6/14/12)

June 15, 2012
  • So the Federal Election Commission is going after Former Senator “Wide Stance,” huh (here).

    Here is my question: why not the Department of Justice?

    As TPM tells us…

    The case stems from the Idaho Republican’s embarrassing 2007 arrest by an undercover cop in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom stall. The cop said Craig made sexual advances toward him by tapping his feet under the stall divider.

    The senator quietly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct three months later. But after his case hit the media, Craig reversed himself and hired a team of attorneys to get his guilty plea thrown out.

    On Monday, the FEC alleged that Craig used campaign donations from supporters as his own personal piggy bank to try to reverse his plea. The commission said he paid $139,952 to the Washington, D.C. law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and another $77,032 to the Minneapolis firm of Kelly & Jacobson.

    “These legal costs were not made in connection with his campaign for federal office or for any ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in his connection with his duties as Senator,” FEC lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

    Sooo…Craig will not have to undergo the criminal prosecution meted out to another disgraced former Senator?

    Craig won’t be called “a cheating, lying, disgraceful, husband…and human being,” as a certain ex-North Carolina senator was here?

    Why not? Is it because John Edwards was accused of squirreling away $1 million in campaign funds for Rielle Hunter and the baby he fathered with her, and Craig is accused of using only about $200,000 of his campaign funds for his self defense?

    Really, do the dollar amounts matter? If that’s all that determines whether or not someone rich and powerful is prosecuted in this country for alleged illegality, then we’re worse off than I thought.

    No, this just confirms that the John Edwards trial had very little to do with matters of law. However, it had everything to do with trying to create salacious headlines and “news” tidbits about a photogenic individual guilty of admittedly seamy conduct in an attempt to manufacture a guilty verdict that lawyers for the Department of Justice, due to lack of evidence or incompetence, could not actually win on their own. And I’d really like to hear someone try to explain why Larry Craig should not be prosecuted in a similar manner (maybe because Craig looks like your granddad after too many highballs and the notion of sex with men in bathrooms is too icky for Eric Holder, and he’d like to keep it out of the headlines any way possible?).

    God Bless America.

  • Also, this item is a bit “off the beaten track” for me, but I feel like I should respond anyway (never stopped me before :-))…

    Making good on its threat, the new leadership of the Philly Pops filed a motion Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking to end the organization’s relationship with Peter Nero, its music director of 33 years.

    Nero’s contract, the Pops said in its filing, is “simply too economically burdensome.” The Pops “can no longer afford to compensate Nero at the levels provided for in the employment agreement while simultaneously hoping to continue its existence in the future.”

    The Pops has begun the search for a replacement for Nero for the 2012-13 season – even as tickets have already been sold for concerts billed as being led by Nero – and will import guest conductors for lower fees, the filing states. The motion requests an expedited hearing in court, with a rejection of the contract by June 30.

    Nero is fighting the move.

    “We don’t think it’s Peter that needs to go, but the board that needs to go,” said Nero’s lawyer, Albert A. Ciardi 3d. Ciardi said he had only briefly looked at the motion, but was preparing a strategy that would keep “Nero performing with the Pops. We don’t believe they have a very good business justification for doing this.

    “Peter is the Pops, and the Pops is Peter.”

    If successful, the rejection would end an institutional personification that has been Philadelphia’s answer to other rarefied pops partnerships such as Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops and Erich Kunzel’s Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Nero has characterized the move as a “takeover attempt” of the ensemble he has led since its founding in 1979 by impresario Moe Septee.

    The move to oust Nero, 78, comes after an unsuccessful attempt to renegotiate his contract in the middle of its term. The Pops has sought to impose a 40 percent pay cut on Nero, whose most recent annual compensation was $513,000, according to Frank Giordano, the Pops’ president and chief executive. Nero has disputed that figure, saying it included office space, storage, transportation, and other expenses related to his job as both conductor and the artistic chief.

    The effort is being led by Giordano, who started as a volunteer before beginning to pay himself a $1,000-per-week salary in January.

    How noble on Giordano’s part, until you read the following later in the story…

    One solution, which (Walter D. Cohen, chairman of the board overseeing Philly Pops) said he argued for at the board meeting, would be delaying the hiring of a new chief operating officer to save money. Giordano has prepared a budget for next season that calls for hiring that additional administrator, plus raising his own salary to $91,000 a year. Cohen called that “a problem.”

    Uh, yeah – I would say that a raise for the COB of about 910 percent while this same person cries poor mouth over the compensation owed to Philly Pops’ most recognizable talent constitutes “a problem” also.

    For another point of view on this, I give you the following from here (concerning the original bankruptcy filing by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association in a story dated from May 2011…it should be noted that the Pops is in bankruptcy as a result of formerly being part of the Association)…

    The Philadelphia Orchestra is not insolvent and it is nowhere near insolvent. According to its IRS filing, it ended Fiscal 2009 with an endowment of over $129,000,000 (down from $143,580,000 the year before) and this sum is more than three times its liabilities as of the filing date of the Chapter 11 proceeding. To the extent that there is a genuine problem it is cash flow. A cash flow crunch, and a nasty desire to stick it to the musicians who make the music which is the alpha and omega of the orchestra’s reason for being is what’s motivating this bankruptcy filing…

    The 700 pound gorilla in the room is the Orchestra Association’s obligation to the musician’s pension fund. This was an obligation it negotiated and now wishes to go back on. In common parlance (and at the risk of insulting Bryn Terfel) it wishes to welch on its debt. The orchestra argues “this is worse than it appears.” And indeed it is, but not in the way the orchestra claims.

    Management no longer wishes to have any part of the agreement it solemnly entered into. The pension obligation is roughly $3,000,000 per year, and if it withdraws from its obligation it is contractually committed to make a one-time $25,000,000 payment to the pension fund. The Orchestra Association argues on the one hand that by welching on this and other debts it can save $40,000,000 over five years. This is fascinating in that management’s last audited financial statement estimated pension costs over the next five years at $16,340,000. It is little wonder that the musicians’ union does not believe the Philadelphia Orchestra Association’s numbers since they are simply made up.

    Worse, years ago the Orchestra Association went to the musicians and in effect said “Look, we have a cash crunch. Please allow us to issue an IOU to the pension fund instead of cutting a check.” The union agreed and a series of memoranda of understanding were entered into, creating an unfunded pension liability. That accrued pension liability, which was $18,984,000 at the end of FY 2009, was $22,895,000 at the end of FY 2010 according to the Orchestra Association’s audited statement. So if I am reading this right, the orchestra is in the hole to the pension fund to the tune of $22,895,000 as of the end of FY 2010 and, if it opts out of the agreement, it owes another $25,000,000 on top of that (instead of $3,000,000 or so per year going forward). It is this debt that the Orchestra Association wants the Bankruptcy Court to say may be skipped out on. In fact, it was the short-sighted, greedy decision by the Orchestra Association to try to avoid this debt that motivated the bankruptcy filing. The musicians bailed the Orchestra Association out by accepting $22,895,000 in IOUs instead of cash on the barrel-head and this is the thanks it gets. Sort of restores your faith in human gratitude, doesn’t it Mr. Scrooge?

    The lesson for any group covered by a pension plan when the non-sovereign employer (that is, an employer not possessed of the power to lay and collect taxes) says “We need to create an unfunded liability due to our cash situation” is “Absolutely not unless you bond the obligation.” One assumes that the musicians’ union will know for next time.

    Of course, throughout all of this the orchestra members have done 100% of what they were contractually obligated to do: Play music to the best of their estimable, world-class abilities. The Orchestra Association had 100% of their effort and 100% of their skill, on time and in the manner required. The Orchestra Association responded to this by providing zero good faith and zero professional competence.

    Oh, and by the way, it looks like the Orchestra Association also exceeded its limits on “fees and expenses for public relations during the past 15 months as it worked its way through the Chapter 11 process,” as Peter Dobrin of the Inquirer reports here (in addition to his coverage on the Peter Nero story).

    And who was one of the beneficiaries when the limits were exceeded?


    Brian Communications, that’s who (a PR company founded by the former head of the Inquirer and Daily News, which is expected to be paid $780,000 through the end of the bankruptcy process, according to a forecast provided to The Inquirer).

    Sooo…$780,000 in PR for Tierney is OK, but $513,000 for a world renowned talent like Peter Nero is a problem.

    Tell you what – how about if they take some of Tierney’s dough, use it to “comp” Nero the amount the Board doesn’t want to pay, and if Tierney still wants the money he’s owed, he can earn it cleaning the mouthpieces of the woodwinds and the brass instruments, and maybe tidying up in the orchestra pit at the Kimmel too.

  • Finally, turning to our backyard, I haven’t said anything about the PA State House race in the 31st district between incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero and Repug challenger Anne Chapman, so please allow me to do so here.

    As noted in this story from a couple of months ago…

    “I believe that my campaign message resonated with the voters who are tired of the burdensome taxes, the waste in government and the piling up our debt,” Chapman said in an interview with BucksLocalNews.com.

    Spoken like a card-carrying member of the bunch that ran up the debt in the first place – continuing…

    She lauded her campaign manager Rob Ciervo, a Newtown Township supervisor, for his continued hard work on her behalf during the primary election cycle. She also thanked her donors and the voters who came to the polls and gave their support.

    And for a reminder about “Self” Ciervo, I give you this

    Chapman, a described life-long conservative, entered the race to promote and enact job growing intiatives (sic), reform to save tax dollars and end property taxes. She said that her ideas are met with concrete solutions.

    She said House bills such as the Property Tax Independence Act will eliminate pesky property taxes by providing a “more equitable tax that would be fair to all and based on ability to pay.”

    “The act would fund our schools by an increase in the sales and usage tax of one percent on non-essential items and a less than one percent increase in state income tax, which would fund our schools in a revenue-neutral way and adjust for changes in pupil enrollment,” she explained.

    To her knowledge, she said the act would share the responsibility for funding schools with residents and out-of-staters who visit and use products and services in Pennsylvania.

    Really? As noted in a recent Santarsiero mailer (can’t find an online link yet)…

    The proposal (HB 1776) would raise the personal income tax by 0.94%. So, as an example, for a family with a household income of $100,000, state income taxes would rise by $940.

    Under the bill, the state sales tax would increase from 6% to 7%. Even worse, the bill would expand the sales tax to include many goods and services that are not currently taxed. For example, clothing over $50 would now be taxed at 7%. Moreover, all food and beverages other than some meats, milk, cheese, eggs, produce and certain cereals would be taxed at 7%.

    (Also), individuals and families would have to pay a tax on most legal, accounting, architectural and even parking services, while corporations would be exempt from doing so.

    Despite its authors’ claims, HB 1776 does not eliminate property taxes. Property taxes would still exist for county and municipal services. They also would remain to pay for school debt. The bottom line is that about 30% of your property taxes would remain, in addition to the new taxes listed here.

    And speaking of that, here are items that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Non-prescription medicines
  • Most toiletries
  • Newspapers and Bibles
  • Textbooks (another burden for our students)
  • Candy and gum
  • Services rendered in the construction industry, including home repair and remodeling (which would undoubtedly hurt our already-ailing housing market)
  • Flags of the USA and Pennsylvania (presumably you could buy a flag of a foreign country without paying a tax)
  • Caskets, burial vaults and grave markers/tombstones (a new twist on the “death tax”)
  • And here are services and activities that would be taxed at 7% under HB 1776:

  • Barber/hair styling (what, no tanning beds or yachts, Repugs?)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Pet grooming
  • Veterinary services
  • Sporting events (Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, Sixers, etc.)
  • Golf, tennis, bowling, skiing, fitness, facilities, etc.
  • Theatre, movies, music, dance
  • Museums, parks, zoos, historical sites
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychologists services
  • Chiropractors
  • Air and ground transportation
  • Television
  • Waste disposal
  • But wait, there’s more!

    One of the big reasons why our property taxes are high right now is because the state does not adequately fund its share of costs for school districts like Pennsbury and Council Rock (despite a constitutional mandate to do so). To fix that problem, we need to change the formula by which state funding is given to school districts so that we get our fair share.

    Unfortunately, HB 1776 would give the sole authority to decide educational funding to Harrisburg.

    Hey, Simon Campbell and his minions in charge of the Pennsbury School Board may be nuts, but at least they’re our nuts, people!

    If state revenue for all the new taxes mentioned above falls because of a downturn in the economy, our schools will get shortchanged even more than they do already. How does HB 1776 propose to address that problem? It lets school districts impose a new, local Personal Income Tax (on top of any existing local Earned Income Tax and the state Personal Income Tax).

    Under HB 1776, most residents of the Newtown-Yardley area will pay more in taxes. At the same time, we would lose local control over our school boards and the quality of our schools. That is not a good bargain.

    Oh, but Anne Chapman and Rob Ciervo like HB 1776. What could go wrong?

    Only everything.

    Please click here to support Steve for another term, so sanity will prevail in PA-31 for the foreseeable future.


  • Wednesday Mashup (6/6/12)

    June 7, 2012

  • Yep, if there’s someone who knows about despotic leaders generating something akin to a cult following (in this case, a certain deceased head of al Qaeda killed at the order of Number 44), it’s Dana Rohrabacher.

    And by the way, I’m hardly a fan of the Chinese. And sure, go ahead and try to kill the clean energy sector of our economy, something else that actually generates revenue besides, you know, junk food, Walmart and Fox “News” (anybody besides me see a thread there?).

  • Next, as I live and breathe, it looks like Bucks County, PAs senior law enforcement official poked his head out of his proverbial hole and, not unlike a celebrated rodent in our beloved commonwealth, cast a blind eye towards at least six more weeks of malfeasance (theater of the mind here, people).

    For, as noted here

    A two-year investigation of voter fraud during Bucks County’s last congressional contest is unlikely to result in criminal charges, District Attorney Dave Heckler said Tuesday.

    Only a handful of interviews remain in the case, which centers around absentee ballots submitted during the November 2010 general election.

    County board of elections employees rejected almost 900 ballot applications during the match between then-incumbent Congressman Patrick Murphy and the successful challenger Mike Fitzpatrick.

    County investigators have determined that indeed “there were ballots with fraudulent signatures on them,” said Heckler. But there’s little evidence of a conspiracy by a political campaign, he added.

    Republicans had called into question a get-out-the-vote effort organized by state Democrats on Murphy’s behalf. They claimed Bucks residents were pressured into applying for absentee ballots they did not want or signing applications for family members.

    Democrats, including Murphy, denied any wrongdoing.

    Don’t you love it? A bunch of baseless aspersions cast at Democrats for alleged fraud, even though nothing was ever proved.

    And get a load of this in particular…

    “Certainly, there was some criminality at a low level of people, and that was mostly what the board of elections had suspected,” said Heckler. “The part that is still an open question in my mind is whether there was some instruction and design here, or whether these were just some people out there roaming the countryside…”


    I give you Night of the Living Democrats, according to Heckler (I’ll grant that the whole “PA Voter Assistance Office” bit from the Murphy campaign was a bit of a ham-handed attempt to coordinate votes, but the goal was to make sure every voted was counted, and no illegality took place).

    Also in response, as noted here (from a prior post by yours truly just before the 2010 election – second bullet)…

    In a news release, Murphy’s campaign said the board of elections remedied errors on Republican ballot applications but not those of Democrats.

    As evidence, the Democrats provided a copy of an absentee ballot application submitted by a Republican woman from Bensalem who used her married name, although she is registered under her maiden name, and failed to include her date of birth. Board of elections workers added the woman’s maiden name and approved the application.

    In contrast, the Democrats provided copies of applications submitted by Democrats from Levittown and Fairless Hills who put incorrect dates in the field for date of birth.

    The Democrats “didn’t get the same special treatment,” as the Republican voter, the news release says.

    (Board of Elections Director Deena Dean) said the campaign staff’s allegations are absolutely false.

    “No one has been tampering with any ballots and I’m offended by that,” Dean said.

    Dean explained that a ballot application with a woman’s maiden name is permissible. A voter who has married and changed his or her name but has not updated his or her voter registration may sign an affidavit at the poll. Dean did not explain why the application was approved without a date of birth.

    Of course she didn’t, because she didn’t want to admit that then-head of the Bucks County Commissioners Jim Cawley and Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin told her to do that (no, I don’t have proof of that charge, but if something wasn’t afoot, why did Bucks County Republican Committee Vice Chairwoman Pat Poprik drop her challenge to the absentee ballot applications?).

    Besides, Heckler (to no one’s surprise) utterly failed to note anything whatsoever about the so-called “Ciervo/Fitzpatrick Letter,” in which then-Repug State House candidate Rob Ciervo and now-U.S. House Rep. Mikey The Beloved told Bucks County voters (on Ciervo’s letterhead)…

    …“Mike Fitzpatrick and I need your help” and instructing voters as follows concerning their absentee ballot applications: “If the application is for a student who will be away in November, be sure to use their college address to ensure they receive the ballot in a timely manner.” This, then, introduces the possibility that the college address, as opposed to the actual voting residence address, could be entered onto the ballot application.

    So the application is filled out with the college address, sent to the Bucks County Board of Elections…and then it is tossed because it doesn’t match the address to which the absentee ballot application was originally sent.

    Welcome To Voter Caging 101, ladies and gentlemen. Your instructors are Dr. Ciervo, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Cawley and Mr. Martin.

    I suppose this is about what you would expect from Heckler, someone whose career in criminal justice has trended decidedly backward (though his career as a craven Republican Party hack is in full flower).

  • Finally, please allow me to delve into the world of sports for a moment.

    The Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils are scheduled to play Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, with Los Angeles leading three games to none (this would have been a history making final anyway since this is the lowest that the final teams had both been seeded; the Devils were a Number 6 seed in their conference and the Kings were the Number 8 seed in theirs – I seem to recall Pittsburgh beat Minnesota about 20 years ago when the former North Stars were a low seed, but Pittsburgh and Mario Lemieux were seeded near the top).

    Basically, though I respect the Devils, I’m tired of seeing them win championships (and that’s not just sour grapes because they beat the Flyers). I think it’s great that the Kings are so close, and I sincerely hope they get it done.

    And for no small reason, I hope that happens because of this guy.

    When the Flyers traded Jeff Carter last year to basically clear salary to weight themselves down with stones to for eight years sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, I was a bit upset, since Carter is a great “finisher.” Still, I think they did well to get forward Jakub Voracek, and center Sean Couturier, who they ended up drafting with the pick they got for Carter, looks like a “keeper.”

    However, I think trading Mike Richards was utterly a mistake, even though I think Brayden Schenn has a big “upside” also, and as far as I’m concerned, you can make the case that, if Claude Giroux doesn’t end up as team captain, I’d give the “C” to Wayne Simmonds, the other player acquired in the Richards trade.

    But let’s just point out one example where the team missed Richards this year – do you honestly think that, with Richards in the lineup, they would have lost every single game they played against the New York Rangers? Don’t you think that, in at least one of those games, he would have managed to score a shorthanded goal or make a play that would have made the difference?

    The Flyers gambled that defenseman Chris Pronger would remain healthy for the whole year and give them the grit and leadership they would need without Richards. And that’s a gamble they lost, and who knows whether Pronger will ever be back.

    Oh, but if you listen to the sports radio loudmouths in this town, their attitude for the most part is “well, Richards didn’t have a good year last year, and he was surly, and they ended up not missing his goal scoring – the Flyers main problem last year was defense.”

    The last point is a valid one (and seriously, people, do they really need Jaromir Jagr for another year?). But as far as I’m concerned, the rest of it is just sour grapes from our local sports media because Mike Richards wouldn’t kiss their ass.

    Oh, but Richards partied too much off the ice with Carter. Here is my response – did that affect Richards’ play on the ice (Carter can fend for himself)?

    I suppose I’m in the minority a bit when it comes to defending Richards, but as far as I’m concerned, all of the partying stuff is something that a guy his age will eventually grow out of (maybe he already has). I just know that Richards played with busted shoulders and various other broken body parts, usually shadowing some of the best players on the other team such as Boston’s Zdeno Chara. And that’s what I remember, and that’s why I hope he ends up drinking from Lord Stanley’s bowl.

    Besides, if the Flyers had signed a quality goalie like Antti Niemi two years ago (who was then a free agent after being cut loose by the Chicago Blackhawks, a team for which he helped win a Cup against the Flyers), they wouldn’t have had to move both Richards and Carter to sign the “Russian Tragedy” anyway.

    (Oh well, looks like the Kings will play for another day.)


  • A McConnell Lesson In “Priorities”

    October 29, 2010

    Just another reason to support Democrats next Tuesday…

    (Oh, by the way, PA-08 residents, you might want to look at this.)


    Monday Mashup Part One (10/25/10)

    October 25, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times basically copped out yesterday in the matter of an endorsement for the PA-08 congressional race, writing one column supporting Patrick Murphy and one column supporting Mike Fitzpatrick (here). And as you may have guessed, the “endorsement” of Fitzpatrick basically consisted of “he’s not Patrick Murphy.”

    If, God forbid, this district is ever represented in Congress by a Republican again, I will watch to see if an editorial endorsing both candidates is ever forthcoming (with the Dem endorsement basically being that he/she is not a Repug). And I’m sure I won’t see it.

    And get a load of this in the “pro-Mikey” screed…

    Rather than stand on his own record since January 2007, Murphy’s strategy has been to berate Fitzpatrick for his performance in Congress in 2005-06 and has even bashed him for his service as a county commissioner well over a decade ago.

    Memo to the Courier Times editorial board: is there some statute of limitations out there beyond which a candidate cannot be criticized? If so, I don’t know of it.

    And keeping up with that theme, we have this from Courier Times reporter Gary Weckselblatt, who, as far as I’m concerned, has been carrying water for Mikey throughout this campaign (noted in a particularly astute Letter to the Editor here).

    Today’s article tells us, in part, the following…

    AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been the biggest outside spender in the 8th by purchasing $628,000 worth of radio ads.

    Their theme has been to hit Fitzpatrick for “giving himself a $20,000 raise” while he was a Bucks County commissioner. In actuality, the $20,000 came over a 10-year period as part of annual cost of living adjustments.

    Give me a break, people!

    How many of us have jobs in the public sector where we are awarded annual COLAs of $2 grand? And that doesn’t even take yearly raises into account!

    And get a load of this from the pro-Mikey editorial…

    More importantly, we’re not sold on the Democratic program for the nation. Give the Dems credit for averting an immediate economic disaster. But their game plan has come at an enormous financial cost that most people can’t begin to fathom. Unemployment remains high. And the centerpiece of the first half of Obama’s term in office, health care reform, was so badly botched that many Democrats who supported it, Murphy included, have shied away from it as they seek re-election.

    Oh yes, click here to find out how much Murphy has “shied away” from health care reform (and if you support him, click here to help elect our congressman for another term).

  • 2) Staying with the Courier Times, Rob Ciervo, running against Steve Santarsiero for the latter’s PA-31 House seat, laid it on thick as follows today (from here)…

    This year (Steve) joined with the Democrat majority to borrow $600 million to fund pork barrel projects like $10 million for an Arlen Specter library and $20 million for a luxury spa and golf resort in Chester County.

    This is a typical trick from “Republic” Party candidate “Self” Ciervo, blaming Steve for appropriations to other districts in this state (the last time Ciervo wrote something for the Courier Times, he blamed Steve because the Philadelphia school district received a bigger appropriation than the Pennsbury or Council Rock school districts in Bucks – sorry I cannot locate the link).

    I’m sure that, given the chance, Ciervo would hold his breath and turn blue if an appropriations bill for Bucks County wasn’t passed aside from one for the rest of the state, thus creating more gridlock for him to complain about.

    Also (from Ciervo’s column today)…

    Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, I voted against building two new township buildings in Newtown Township and voted against taking on any debt to do so.

    Really? Not according to this letter.

    Update 10/27/10: In response to Mr. Booth, I think this criticism is bogus, but I’ll allow it anyway.

    And as noted here, Ciervo sought a tax increase for the preservation of open space in Newtown before he bothered to complete a report on the subject (Steve has favored municipal cooperation within Bucks which, while cheaper, also makes a lot more sense).

    Also (returning to Ciervo’s column again)…

    If (Steve) had done what he actually promised, such as eliminate wasteful spending and make our state competitive for job creation, I might not be running for state representative at all.

    From Steve’s web site (here)…

    Since taking office in January 2009, I have been working to bring jobs into the Yardley-Newtown area while fighting to protect the jobs that we already have.

    Earlier this year I succeeded in getting a major international marketing firm to relocate to Lower Makefield, bringing with it over 200 jobs to our community. At the same time, I fought the New Jersey Legislature over its proposal to require that all New Jersey public employees live in the Garden State. As a result of my efforts, New Jersey lawmakers finally agreed to exempt current employees from the new rule, saving over 3,000 families in the Yardley-Newtown area from having to choose between their jobs and their homes.

    But we need to do more.

    That’s why in a second term I will work to create a system of tax credits to small businesses to help them expand and create more jobs. Those credits will compliment the bill that I proposed this year – and which was passed and signed into law in July – that will make more credit available to small businesses as they grow.

    I also will work on a series of targeted tax incentives to attract biotech and alternative energy companies to Pennsylvania. These incentives will include the creation of “Green Enterprise Zones” designed to offer tax abatements to companies in the alternative energy and green technology sectors who pledge to stay in Pennsylvania for the long haul and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.

    Finally, when the economy begins to improve and revenues to the state pick up, we need to continue previous efforts to lower the corporate net income tax rate to help make Pennsylvania more competitive with other states. At the same time, we should phase out the corporate stock and franchise tax for the same reason.

    Ciervo also criticizes Steve for not “stand(ing) up to the special interest groups like the teachers union,” though, as the Courier Times noted in it’s editorial endorsing Steve today…

    We disagree with the Democrat on teachers’ right to strike, which he supports, although Santarsiero makes a strong case for a negotiation process that would start earlier and end with arbitration, with teachers barred from striking if they do not accept an arbitrator’s decision, and a district’s state money held in escrow if the school board does not accept the arbitrator’s decision.

    Another thing…let’s not forget that Ciervo is another “teabagger” in these parts (here), and also, let’s not forget the following (here)…

    Mike Gallagher, a Newtown Township Supervisor, was recently arrested and charged with a DUI. Not only is Gallagher still a Newtown Township Supervisor, he is being supported by follow Republican Supervisor Rob Ciervo in his decision to remain on the [board], which oversees the Newtown Township police force.

    Also, as noted in the comments, Gallagher tried to threaten the arresting officer, though Ciervo continues to support Gallagher (just another case of Repug “do as I say, not as I do” self-entitlement run amok).

    Please click here to support Steve and keep Ciervo in Newtown for as long as the township wishes to tolerate his presence.

  • 3) Finally, this story tells us the following…

    ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rallied Republican candidates in Florida on Saturday by pillorying President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms and economic policies — and she also used her speech to plug her new TV reality show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

    I don’t have much to say about this, except the following:

    I double-dog-dare Palin to come up here and make an appearance for Pat Toomey!

    Particularly since, as noted here, “No-Corporate-Tax Pat” is backing away from Palin’s protégé “Yes Wiccan!” O’Donnell here, saying in part the following…

    Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Toomey said he does not agree with O’Donnell’s idea that states should not be bound by the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing a religion.

    “This is nothing that I’ve ever spoken about or agreed with,” Toomey said.

    However, as noted here…

    In a question on the separation of church and state, Toomey tried to clearly demonstrate that he understands the First Amendment separation of church and state _ an issue in O’Donnell’s race _ but went on to suggest that it shouldn’t be used to ban all involvement between religion and government.

    As an example, he said parents of children in poorly performing public schools should be able to send their children on the public dime to private schools whether or not they have a religious affiliation.

    It really isn’t a good idea for Toomey to talk about school issues anyway, seeing as how, as noted here…

    Toomey pioneered dangerous interest rate swaps “In the years that Toomey ran sales and trading at Morgan Grenfell, the company brokered a number of interest rate swap deals with municipal governments (called “local councils”) in the United Kingdom. (Although Toomey was based in New York, he also managed the firm’s derivatives business [11] in Tokyo and London.) In the UK, municipalities are generally funded by the central government. But under Margaret Thatcher, their funding had become sharply limited, and many were searching for alternative, off-the-books methods of funding their operations. Morgan Grenfell and other derivatives dealers stepped into the breach, brokering deals with and between various municipalities. Interest rate swaps-where the two parties in effect bet on whether interest rates are going to go up or down-were especially popular. Many of these deals were in effect loans-the councils would receive large sums up front and pay them back over time based on interest rate differences. Of course, if the interest rates went the wrong way, you could end up owing far more than you initially anticipated.”

    Toomey’s interest rate swaps were dangerous and risky. “During the campaign, Toomey has referred to the products he worked with [12] as “non-risky” “common derivatives,” different from the “toxic” mortgage-backed derivatives that some believe caused the financial crisis. “That’s not true,” says Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland and former CFTC official. “It just so happens that the 2008 meltdown involved credit default swaps, but interest rate swaps and currency swaps can be as risky as anything else. These swaps are very, very risky.”

    Toomey’s interest rate swaps cost Pennsylvania (schools and local) communities millions. “Toomey’s defense ignores the recent history of interest rate swaps, which led to fiscal problems for many American towns, cities, and states across the country in recent years. The US never had a House-of-Lords-type decision forbidding municipalities from making these sorts of deals. So just as Morgan Grenfell had in the ’80s, US banks pressed local governments to agree to swap deals to bring in extra revenue. And this time, many of the banks allegedly paid kickbacks [13] on the deals. (The kickbacks are the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.) In Pennsylvania alone, 107 school districts reportedly [14] entered into swap deals-”gambling with the public’s money,” according to the state’s auditor general. Some have since paid millions of dollars to Wall Street banks to get out from under the deals. Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Missouri, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon all recently lost money on similar swap deals, according to the [14]Wall Street Journal [14].”

    Click here to help elect Admiral Joe Sestak to the Senate next week, and thus send Toomey back to Wall Street, who I’m sure will greet him with open arms, and probably a blank check as well.


  • Two For Steve Against “Self” Ciervo

    October 18, 2010

    This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today…

    Steve Santarsiero is the type of state legislator we need in Harrisburg. With our struggling economy, frequent stories of corruption and bad behavior by politicians, and the flood of negative political advertising it is tempting to think “throw the bums out” and vote against all incumbents. Don’t do it.

    I have watched Santarsiero first as a Lower Makefield supervisor and now as a state legislator for District 31. He has always done what he believes is right and not what is politically expedient.

    In Lower Makefield he was the driving force behind televising the board of supervisors meetings, opening up the process of appointments to boards and commissions, pursuing green energy alternatives and fighting commercial development which would negatively impact our lives.

    In Harrisburg he has led on fiscal responsibility by example, not taking per diems, a government car, or public health insurance. He has proposed a bill that would require all representatives to pay toward their health care and supports the recommendation put forward by the grand jury investigating corruption in the legislature. After last year’s budget stand-off Steve proposed a bill that would cause legislators to lose their salary for every day past the June 30 deadline that a budget is late.

    One state legislator cannot change Harrisburg alone. But we cannot afford to lose one who is sincerely trying to bring responsibility and sanity to our state government by replacing him with someone who cannot match his record.

    Doreene Kaplan
    Lower Makefield, PA

    …followed by this letter…

    My family has lived in Newtown Township for 18 years – the past six in a new development called Wiltshire Walk. Shortly after moving in, my neighbors and I discovered the ill-willed plan to build the massive (2,000 employees) Brandywine office complex next door and feed the traffic right through the middle of our neighborhood.

    We were even more devastated to read in the traffic study that our neighborhood street was slated to become a bypass to the Newtown Bypass. The residents in the older neighborhood behind us did not have to worry about the impact of traffic, because they had their public road closed – no surprise that I would later learn of their close ties to the local Republican “good ole’ boys.”

    I first met Rob Ciervo when he was a resident who publicly and fully supported the high-density Brandywine development, despite the fact that it would have meant our kids dodging thousands of cars coming through our neighborhood every day and residents having another light and more congestion on the Bypass. I still have the e-mail he sent my husband and I convincing us Brandywine was not so bad. Then we learned he was the manager for a local supervisor campaign and that the campaign’s party took two large contributions from a VP of Brandywine. No wonder he was trying to promote their destructive plan!

    I have watched how Rob has conducted himself over the years – especially during his campaign for supervisor in 2007. I have never seen anyone twist or bend the truth more than he does. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and he uses it well to craft his spin into sound bites that will get him elected. His partisan antics as supervisor have divided the community rather than uniting us for the common good.

    Rob also claims that because he was born and raised here that somehow makes him a superior candidate. Well, we had a Newtown native in charge here for years – Skip Goodnoe – who was instrumental in the local Republican good ole boys putting party interests over those of residents. They sugar-coated their detrimental plans to sell them to the public or, even worse, shoved them down our throats when we protested – as was the case with Brandywine. Protecting the community’s heritage was not Skip’s priority despite being born and raised here. Sometimes people who move here appreciate and fight harder to keep the unique character we love about our town.

    This is why I find it easy to say no to Rob Ciervo and cross party lines to say yes to Steve Santarsiero. As a Lower Makefield supervisor for six years and state representative since last year, Steve has proven to me that:

    – He can be trusted to do the right thing on behalf of residents to ensure our quality of life.
    – He works hard for everyone – not just those in his own party.
    – He is willing to fight for reform in Harrisburg, even if it means going against his own party leadership.

    That’s the kind of leader I can wholeheartedly support.

    Jen Dix
    Newtown Township, PA

    And to help Steve, click here.


    Monday Mashup (6/14/10)

    June 14, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times ran a Guest Opinion today from Rob “Self” Ciervo, running as a Repug against incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero for the PA-31 State House seat (here).

    Among Ciervo’s supposedly innovative ideas is to cut the staffing of each state representative’s office (which I’m sure will do wonders for response to constituent requests) and cutting down the number of mailers allowed per state representative (Ciervo states that Santarsiero has sent out five over the prior year, but I honestly cannot recall that many – by the way, I’ll await word on how many campaign mailers have been sent from Repug PA House reps Frank Farry, Gene DiGirolamo and Paul Clymer during that time, as long as Ciervo has brought this up).

    Ciervo also states as follows…

    No state senator or representative should be allowed under any circumstance to hire an individual who was paid to perform political tasks for any campaign the two years prior to their appointment. This is one of the main problems with our legislature; Harrisburg politicians hire their campaign staff to be on the state payroll. Santarsiero did just this by hiring all three of his paid campaign staff from the 2008 campaign to the state payroll immediately after winning election. How will we know they will not continue to do political campaigning for him, perhaps unpaid, while they are supposed to be serving the residents of our area?

    That’s a pretty low, baseless attack against Steve’s staff, with no proof of any wrongdoing of course.

    Ciervo also says that any state employee under 50 should have his or her pension benefit “frozen and transferred into a 401(k) style defined contribution retirement account,” which makes me wonder what other industry or category of worker in existence has been subject to such a draconian measure (I realize we have a pension issue in this state, but the public employees have paid their fair share while the state has been neglectful in paying its matching amount, as noted here).

    And as noted in the prior linked post, Santarsiero voted in favor of a bill to amend payment of unfunded actuarial liability to PA pension plans (again, not that Ciervo would ever acknowledge that…curious that the Courier Times published this from Ciervo the day after they gave column space to that nitwit Simon Campbell for his monthly rant against the Pennsbury teachers union – their contract expires on the 30th, Simple Simon; are you gonna move “off the dime” and do the job you were elected to do, or goad them into a strike instead…dumb question, I know).

    This is all part and parcel for Ciervo, who accused Steve of voting against funding state colleges (here – not true), and who trivialized Steve’s efforts on behalf of PA residents working for the state of New Jersey who face the very real issue of forced relocation to keep their jobs (here).

    I can hardly wait for more bold ideas in Ciervo’s next Guest Opinion, such as placing a quota on the number of Post-Its, ballpoint pens and notepads allocated to each State House rep. And how about mandating that each member of our legislature hold up one or two fingers as appropriate for a “bio break,” Rob?

    (And by the way, to contact Steve, click here.)

  • Update 6/15/10: Gee, I wonder if Teabagger Rob will endorse Steve’s idea of a constitutional convention, one of the many worthy suggestions from Santarsiero’s Guest Opinion today (here)?

  • 2) Also, I give you J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times (here)…

    June 12, 1987. President Reagan delivered one of the great speeches of the Cold War era. Two years later, the hated wall came down, endng “the brutal division of a continent.” The columns behind him are real, by the way.

    I guess that last sentence is a dig at Obama and his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party Convention in 2008 (here).

    While Mullane is not factually incorrect for a change, his insinuation that The Sainted Ronnie R had one damn thing to do with the collapse of the former Soviet Union is laughable (yes, I know this is familiar territory, but J.D. is the one resurrecting this piece of mythology, not me).

    For, as Madeleine Albright, secretary of state to President Clinton, put it here, “attributing the end of the Cold War to Ronald Reagan is like attributing the sunrise to the rooster’s cackle.”

  • 3) And speaking of Repug presidents, Laura Ingraham over at Fix Noise took a short at Number 44 also with the specious claim that he was “fundraising off the Gulf spill” (here).

    She continues…

    Did President Bush ever raise money off of 9/11?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that he used it in his campaign commercials when running for president in 2004, as noted here, with some relatives of the victims claiming that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History was “exploiting the tragedy for political gain.”

    I guess John Kerry is too honorable of a man to do what I’m suggesting he should have done, but if I were his campaign manager in 2004, I would have run an ad showing 43 sitting dumbfounded in that Florida classroom next to film of the WTC, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA crash sites while the attacks were in progress, with the words, “it happened on his watch” onscreen, and absolutely nothing else.


  • Steve Santarsiero Deflects A Garden-State Ciervo Slam

    March 16, 2010

    PA-31 State Rep. Steve Santarsiero communicated the following recently…

    Last week I sent a letter to New Jersey legislators urging them to reconsider the proposal that would require all state, county and local government employees, as well as teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees in the state, to reside in New Jersey within four months of employment for new hires and two-and-one-half years for existing employees.

    I am calling on these legislators to ‘grandfather’ in current employees, exempting them from this residency requirement.

    This proposal would adversely impact many families in the Newtown-Yardley area, potentially putting them in a position of having to move or lose their jobs within two and a half years. It could have a devastating impact on our local economy. It is a question of fairness, and it is simply not fair to change the rules midway through the game.

    I encourage you to join me in calling on the New Jersey legislature to reconsider this residency requirement. Click here to sign the petition.

    For all of the latest information about issues in state government that affect you, please check my Web site often. And as always, please contact me if I may be of further service to you or your family.

    This was covered in the Bucks County Courier Times recently here, and in response, Santarsiero’s Repug opponent “Self” Ciervo said:

    “Steve is grandstanding,” said Ciervo. “He should be focusing on things he has control over and doing the job he was elected to do. This proposed bill in New Jersey is going nowhere and is just grandstanding by some politicians over there.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that, Teabagger Rob. As this nj.com story tells us, the bill enjoys the support of Repug Gov. Chris Christie, who has commenced trying to balance the state budget on the backs of the poor, sick and elderly, to say nothing of the public schools (here…memo to progressives everywhere – this is what happens when you sit on your hands during an election cycle).

    And I don’t think it would be prudent of me to hold my breath waiting for Ciervo to call out a fellow Repug on this (the NJ relocation bill, I mean).


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