Friday, October 02, 2015



The deadline for registering for Pennsylvania's November 3 elections is MONDAY 10/5.

This election is for local school board, municipal and judicial races, three open seats on the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court. There also are two other state appellate court openings — one each in the Superior and Commonwealth courts.



Thursday, October 01, 2015

Where's Berno?

Yesterday, MSNBC reported that Bernie Sanders had stunned the political world by reaching one million individual donors before anyone had since Abraham Lincoln did it in 1863.

A couple of weeks before they had released their latest poll on the 2016 race in which they polled voters on how the Democrats stood up in head to head battles. They measured the Democratic candidates against Trump, Rubio, Bush & Cruz.

Except, the Democrats they measured were Clinton and Biden. Although the same poll took the temperature of voters feelings towards Sanders, he wasn't treated as a candidate in the poll.

This anti-Sanders media bias has been noted before, and I find it hard to explain. Clearly, the decision makers are either not journalists or are not making decisions like journalists.

Then I thought, well, maybe it's just me. So this morning I took a look at the MSNBC website and did some searches. I looked for stories airing on some of their top political shows -- Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell, and Rachel Maddow from 9/1 to 10/1 & mentioning Trump, Clinton, or Sanders.

I was astounded. While the results are not overly carefully vetted, what I did was try to eliminate general campaign stories or stories from the perspective of one candidate (commonly, how Hillary is handling/reacting/dealing with Trump or Sanders), and tried to count only the stories that effectively focused on the substantive message of one candidate.

In the month of September, here's the total tally of pieces that focused on the substance of particular candidates:

SANDERS -- 5 to 11 (most did not focus on him)
TRUMP -- 143

I looked at MSNBC because of the progressive bent of the hosts. I would have thought Rachel Maddow would have had a higher percentage of Bernie spots. But she only did 4 spots on Bernie in September. Compared to 15 for Hillary and 35 on Trump.

Chris Matthews, zero spots that focused on Benie, nine on Hillary, and 30 on Trump.

Morning Joe gave Bernie 6 spots, the most of any of them. But he gave 29 to Hillary and an astounding 42 to Trump.

Bernie is polling about twice Trump's numbers -- and that's with about 30% of the respondents not knowing who he is -- but he's getting about 8% of the coverage of Trump. If MSNBC and the others did their jobs right, more people might know Bernie better.

This bias is disturbing and I find it hard to understand. Some may say its for ratings, others for political reasons. I think its a little of both. For the most part, MSNBC seems to like playing nice with the Democratic establishment. That translates into promoting Trump, who has really hurt the image of the Republican Party, and Hillary. Morning Joe's love affair with Trump is simply ratings bait.

We're letting the newsmedia control the debate and pick the candidates.

MSNBC has routinely given Trump gavel-to-gavel coverage of his rallies and speeches. Hillary interviews have been heavily promoted up and down the schedule. But the guy who is doing amazing grassroots things, drawing the biggest crows, and challenging one of the most secure sure-thing nominations we've seen recently, is all but ignored. It really is shameful.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Huck n Jim be back

Rejoice, Rejoice.

Huck and Jim be back blogging.

If you don't know Huck and Jim, well you just be ig'grant.

Years ago, Huck 'n Jim preclaimed the Republican marriage with the Tea Party signaled the death of the Grand Old Party. It was recallin' that and watchin the Summer of Trump that got me typin fingers all itchy again to come back affer all dem years. And it turns out, same was wise Huck and Jim.

Your all better off spending a minute over there than five here. So goes and checks him out, I'll be here later.

The Pope's Still Catholic

Well, the Pope's plane lifted off and I swear one of the networks followed the flight on LIVE! TV in order to document the dumping of the toilets over the Atlantic.

Okay, maybe I imagined that.

But what I didn't imagine was the fawning and excessive coverage of the guy's visit. This is one of the few instances (well, I can't think of any other, so let's say the only instance) where FOX got it right. Looking to listen for news playing in the background while cleaning or cooking, I actually had to tune to FOX News during the Pope's visit.

The guy gave three major speeches, with maybe seven to ten quotable sentences in each. The head of Russia was here this week and we didn't see as much as two minutes of his UN speech; yet these same "journalists" decided that we needed to spend entire afternoons watching an old guy in a white dress shake hands, kiss babies, and implore the sick and infirm to pray for HIM.

Wait. Really!? For HIM? He's got the top job in his profession, retirement security, 70 million people who believe he's infallible, and all the babes he wants (maybe not that), yet he's telling kids in wheelchairs that HE'S the one who needs divine intervention!? Guy needs some perspective.

The bad choice of wall to wall coverage aside, its the fawning, particularly from the liberals (sorry, progressives), that I don't get. Let's put aside, and not mention again, that this is a well educated, apparently intelligent guy who believes in an omniscient invisible man in the sky directing traffic.

Sure, the Pope made some nice points lecturing our Congress, President, and all of us, on how to behave in a civilized society which pretends to be majority christian.

But what is liberal about this guy? (Here's where FOX got it wrong, as per usu.) That he accepts climate change and environmental stewardship? The entire world accepts climate change, except for us, and environmental stewardship has been a catholic doctrine as long as I can recall (and I was raised catholic in the 50s & 60s).

Speaking of doctrine, can you, can anyone, identify ANY significant catholic doctrine this guy has changed? You cannot because he has not changed anything.

This Pope is, believe it or not, like it or not, a doctrinally conservative catholic. So, while he says and does Jesus-like things, that's only remarkable for the contrast with so many of his predecessors and his subordinates who shun Jesus-like statements of forgiveness and tolerance, and when was the last time you saw a Bishop in poverty?

But the doctrine?

This is a Pope who railed against marriage equality as “a destructive pretension against the plan of God” , a Pope who at best failed to make the same kind of public lecturing truth to power appeals when leftist clergy lives were at stake (and at worst was a collaborator), and a Pope who enthusiastically backs catholic doctrine on abortion, the insane anti-scientific life at conception claims, the opposition to ordination of women, and of course, the war on gays. Publically saying "who am I to judge" gay catholics, while sending letters opposing legislation to equalize their civil rights as the work of the devil, is what most people (outside the fawning American press and public) would call hypocritical.

This Pope is Catholic, in every sad sense of the word. I'm happy to have my news back.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tips for the Republicans

Abortion is here to stay.
Obamacare is here to stay.
Same Sex Marriage is here to stay.

There's nothing you can do about it (and you know it).

Want to start winning and actually participating in the political dialogue again?

Forget the things you know you can't change.
Ignore the people in your party who want you to center your policies, your campaigns, your candidates on the things you know you can't change.
Run serious candidates who want to talk seriously about the serious issues we're facing.
You'll be amazed how the talk of Clown Cars goes away and people start taking you seriously again.

You're welcome.

QUICK! While they're not looking . . .

Thanks to the House for all this Planned Parenthood us a chance to round up all the guns while the wingnutz are distracted!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Okay, Can We All Move On Now?

I said it a month ago, and again a week ago -- Trump will not win a single primary and by St Patrick's Day he will be a distant amusing memory.

I was wrong.

He may be a memory by Martin Luther King Day.

Does this really need analysis? He is an empty suit in the political arena. In a field of 16 he picked up 25% support, give or take. When there are four, maybe five, serious candidates in the race, it was kind of easy for a guy with 100% name recognition, specializing in bombast and pandering to the low-brow crowd, to get the attention of every fourth voter early on.

Now all that is over. He's hit his zenith and, simultaneously, brought the Republican's 2016 cycle to its nadir.

Now. Can we please move on from this distraction and start dealing with the substantial weaknesses of the serious candidates?

How Democratic Votes are Diluted in Pennsylvania

The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly is battling the newly-elected Governor over, well, just about everything.

This is a Governor elected by about ten points, which is the generally accepted definition of a landslide.

But, we hear from an echoey chamber -- the Republicans gained seats in the General Assembly in that same election, so the new Governor should defer to the will of the voters.

Yeah. But not quite.

Pennsylvania is so Gerrymandered that last year the Republican State Senate candidates received about 53% of the vote statewide. Yet they won nearly 83% of the contested seats. That's right -- they walked away with almost 1/3 more of the available seats than they should have in a balanced district setup.

On the House side, where the districts are smaller and hence harder to Gerrymander, they still managed to overcompensate. In State House elections in which Republicans did not run unopposed, they received just over 52% of the vote statewide. Yet, they were awarded with nearly 70% of the contested seats.

Essentially, the Republicans had a bout a 4-point margin over the Democrats in the GA elections. Not a serious foundation to build a case against the policies of a Governor who won in a landslide.

Methodology -- I looked at all contested 2014 GA races which had a nominated D & nominated R running. I ignored write-in races. I rounded all candidate totals to the nearest 100 votes -- eg. 15,453 votes became 15,500 votes. I then totaled the votes received by R & D candidates and compared the total statewide percent vote received by Rs & Ds with the percent of seats won by each party. I ignored third-party candidates.

Here are the raw numbers.

Senate - 16 seats
13 (82%) won by Rs with 609,200 total votes (53.6%)
3 (18%) won by Ds with 527,000 total votes (46.4%)

House - 83 seats
56 (67.5%) won by Rs with 844,400 total votes (52.7%)
27 (32.5%) won by Ds with 757,700 total votes (47.3%)

This kind of result is, by the way, why the move is on to award electoral college votes by district.

By Gerrymandered district.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

If Trump Wrote the Gettysburg Address

Thank-you Gettysburg (waving to the crowd)! Hiya! Hey there (waving at some guy in the front), you made it, good to see you (waving at another guy over to the side)!

Wow, lookit this turnout! It’s something isn’t it?

I tell you everywhere I go the crowds are getting bigger and bigger – thank-you, thank-you!

But yet you read some of them Democrat papers and they make it sound like McClelland is surging and they're going to sweep in and end the war -- they're just gonna give up and give in folks (boos from the crowd), then they're gonna reverse the Emancipation Proclamation and go back to the status quo "antebellum" -- that's what they say. What kind of word is that anyway?!

And their leader -- that McClelland, what an idiot. I fired the guy and there was a good reason for it. I know what I am doing. What a dope.

The Democrats got their hands full with that Copperheads crowd too, lemme tell you. I say let them go at one another – that party is falling apart with those Jefferson strict construction Copperheads and the War democrats. Lemme tell ya, though, the army LOVES ME!!

They loved it when I told McClelland YOU’RE FIRED! They loved it when I freed the slaves!

SO now the army, they all love Lincoln.

Speaking of the army, isn’t what they did here terrific?

But hey, before I get started n that -- them Copperheads – you know where they get most of their support — yeah, down here, he’s got it (pointing at some guy, maybe)– FROM IMMIGRANTS, all those Germans and Irish that came over on them boats. And you know most of them are Papists – Catholics.

Now I love my Bible as much as the next guy, its my favorite book. But those leaders in Germany and in the, waddyacallit, Irish, they know what they’re doing. It’s really the Brits you know behind this – their not sending us their best and brightest you know. They’re getting rid of their troublemakers and if it keeps going like this we’re all going to be speaking German. So we gotta put a stop to this stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Germans and the Irish people – I’m sure they’re mostly good people and I have hundreds – or thousands of them working for me in the army. And they love me too – the whole army does. So now we gotta go face a failed, fired general that the Democrats are running against me – can you believe they went with that guy. What a LOO-ZER!

You know who aren’t losers – all the brave guys in these graves around here.

You know, it really hasn’t been all that long since this great country was formed – 4 score something – but you know, we’re gonna finish this job and make it great again. And you know this country was made great by liberty and equal men all created.

Now we have this terrible terrible war thing going on and I am here to tell you, this country can’t take a lot more of this. It's a test for us, and we're gonna pass that test so big it'll make your head spin. We living gotta finish what these dead guys started doing for us.I know the war hasn’t been going so great all the time, but we got new generals in there and the way I’m gonna lead them, we’re gonna have so many victories, your’re gonna get tired of victories. No, you won’t, I know.

You know what they did here was pretty terrific. I mean it was amazing what they did here and that’s why we’re here today. We should be and I’m gonna make this war great for us again .

We really can’t make this place any greater than it is because what they did was pretty great, it was unbelievable, unbelievable all right. No one cares what everyone here said today, the important thing is that we get this stuff they did here and we keep it going and we’ve got some terrific plans and strategies – they are going to blow you away, believe me!

So we’re going to take their unfinished work and finish it off with some really really good ideas that we’re going to be releasing over the next month or so, don’t you worry about that.

And then after that this country is gonna be great again!

h/t picture thanks to Chad Merda

Missed you guys. Be right back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Giving up the Ghost

During the last couple of years, analog ventures, disappointments, and joys have conspired to alternately interfere with the time needed to do this, the desire, or the inspiration. Finally time to recognize that this game has ended. So long, and thanks for the fish. (final h/t to G)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Open Invite to Participate in PHAN Weekly Policy Calls

From the old in-box:

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) is a state-wide coalition that fights for state-level and national health care reforms to improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians. Since the passage of the national reform package, they have been leading efforts across the state to increase education around the benefits of reform.

Their weekly policy call series is open to everyone and is a great way to access information about specific aspects of reform and how it will impact you. Calls hosted by PHAN take place every Wednesday evening at 6:00 PM.

Today, the call is on Rural Health and Health Care Reform with Jon Bailey, Director of Research and Analysis at the Center for Rural Affairs.

This line-up for upcoming calls is as follows:

6/23- High Risk Pools and adultBasic - Hear about PA’s proposal for High Risk Pools, including who will be eligible and what the coverage will entail. Also, get updates on the fight to save adultBasic and 43,000 Pennsylvanians from losing their health care coverage.

6/30 - Maternal Health and Health Care Reform – with Letty Thall, Public Policy Director of Maternal Care Coalition.

7/7 – Messaging and Health Care Reform – Bring your questions on specific aspects of reform to this call. Learn from PHAN staff about how to talk about health care reform to others including specific messaging techniques.

For dial-in instructions, to RSVP, or questions, contact Athena at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Specter Likely to Pull it Out

Although I would not be the least surprised if Joe Sestak wins today's primary battle against Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination in the 2010 US Senate race, I expect the end of the day will see Specter hanging on by as many as four points.

Neither candidate has polled a majority since the race began in earnest (which is a Philadelphia suburb), leaving a swath of undecideds out there right up to yesterday's most recent poll. Generally, undecideds in these kinds of races tend to break for the challenger, and I suspect that will also be the case today.

Offsetting that, however, is the GOTV. Any one of Specter, the Obama machine, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, the Ed Rendell machine, and the Pennsylvania Unions may boast of enjoying one the most effective GOTV forces this side of Mason-Dixon. Together, as they are for Specter, it is an awesome juggernaut that can situate Specter to compensate for the undecideds going to Sestak.

Up against that is the weak Sestak statewide campaign, which didn't even manage to put an office in all of the key regions, much less a GOTV effort. This morning Sestak's campaign distributed a list of party locations for this evening. I think they have half a dozen in the entire state, most within 100 miles of Philadelphia. Nothing in the Northeast beyond the Lehigh Valley -- the Poconos, Wilkes Barre, Scranton, Northern Tier, all but ignored tonight and throughout hte campaign.

But for the snippet of video showing a creepy Specter boasting about switching parties to "enable me to get re-e-lect-ted", Sestak's family-run campaign would have left him where he was a few months ago -- down 20 points to a mean spirited, Iraq-supporting, Anita Hill bashing, Thomas-supporting, Kagan-opposing-now-supporting, half-deaf, party-switching, octogenarian Republican recovering from cancer.

This race should not have been close. Sestak should have had it sown up months ago. The main reason he didn't was his stubborn insistence of using his family to run their first statewide campaign. Ignoring offers of assistance, office space, and personnel tendered by Democratic faithful before he even announced a final decision to run, his campaign has been the poster child for why one needs to switch staff when moving from a local district race to a statewide effort.

Of course, Sestak's anemic debate performance didn't help -- but an experienced staff could have better trained him for the event.

So, when Sestak is suddenly out of a job, it won't be Arlen Specter's fault, or President Obama's, he can just look around the Thanksgiving table for the reasons.

By the same token, if he does manage to hold off Specter and win this, no credit is due to his campaign staff. If they knew how to do their jobs, this would not have been a nail-biter depending on poor turnout in Philadelphia for success.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Wilkesberry Banning Cell Phones for Driving, Riding, Walking

From this morning's local rag (this speaks for itself):

Wilkes-Barre moving to ban use of cell phones while driving, riding, walking

WILKES-BARRE - Hang up your cell phone or risk getting pulled over. That's the choice Wilkes-Barre drivers and others face in less than a month after the City Council passed one of the most comprehensive cell phone safety ordinances in the country last night.

No longer content waiting for the state to act, city council last night adopted an ordinance banning the use of hand-held devices while "operating a motor vehicle, bicycle, riding on a skateboard or other self-propelled device, or walking on public sidewalks" in Wilkes-Barre, joining four other cities across the state that put similar laws in place over the past six months.

The Wilkes-Barre ordinance goes further than the others in comprehensively covering cell-phone use while operating any moving vehicle, which is defined to include "self-propelled devices" such as bicycles, skateboards, and roller-blades. Most controversially, the ordinance also bans cell-phone use on city sidewalks unless the user "remains stationary during the entire call".

Council Vice Chairwoman Kathy Kane said her motivation in pursuing the ordinance was to allow the city to curb a nationally growing problem of distracted drivers fiddling with their cell phones and make up for the lack of statewide restrictions. As for the expansion of the coverage to non-motor vehicles and walking, Kane said "it has been conclusively shown that cell phone use distracts the user and operating a bicycle while distracted can be just as dangerous as a vehicle. The United States Military bands military personnel from using cell phones while walking, as do major employers such as Sanofi. This is because of the serious safety concerns and we should be equally concerned for the safety of our citizens."

Responding to assertions that the motor vehicle coverage may not be consistent with state law, Kane told us "I think it's enforceable." "Will people like it? Probably not,", said Kane, the major proponent of the new law, "but we want to stop people from doing it. It's a real hassle, and maybe if they know if it's enforced they'll stop."

Wilkes-Barre Solicitor Tim Henry said police would begin stopping drivers, riders, and walkers on April 18.

Under the ordinance, drivers, riders, and walkers would be banned from talking, dialing, answering, text messaging or browsing the Web on their cell phone. The use of hands-free mobile devices such as Bluetooth headsets would be permitted. Unlike other towns in the state, users could be stopped and cited for simply using their phone instead of getting fined only when involved in accidents or traffic offenses such as speeding.

Mr. Henry said his office reviewed ordinances from other communities to decide which provisions could be adapted for Wilkes-Barre, including Allentown and Luzerne, which passed its ordinance in August 2009 and levies a $75 fine for violations.

"We took a look at theirs while crafting ours, of course, so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Henry said. "You get to see some ideas that other people had and take the best ideas from each one and incorporate it that way."

Just how much motorists could be fined remains undecided. From Ms. Kane's perspective, fines should be escalating and need to have sufficient bite to convince violators to deter chatting while driving.

"Personally, I think the higher the better," she said. "Young people don't care if it's $20 or $25."

The Council adopted fines $75 and $150 for first offenses with a grace period in effect before police officers begin handing out tickets.

"Council advised the police department for the first 30 or 45 days to pull somebody over, warn them, tell them about the ordinance," he said.

Contact the writer:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Georgia AG to Gov: Health Reform Lawsuit Hogwash

Georgia's Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker refused to comply with a request from Republican Governor Sonny Perdue to join with other (all Republican) Attorneys General in their lawsuit against the Federal Government over the recently-enacted (LOVE saying that) health insurance reform.

Putting it much better than yours T (there's a shocker), General Baker let Sonny know just why the litigation is so wrong-headed. His correspondence was recently released:

In short, this litigation is likely to fail and will consume significant amounts of taxpayers' hard-earned money in the process.

Throughout the history of this nation, our courts have been reluctant to overturn legislative acts unless a clear constitutional violation is shown. While your letter does not suggest specific claims in the proposed litigation, I will address two that have been raised publicly regarding the law. Some believe that the law's requirement that all individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. I believe such an argument is highly unlikely to succeed. In fact, earlier this month, an appellate court decision rejecting such arguments was issued in the only case I am aware of to be litigated on this topic to date.

As you may know, then-Governor Mitt Romney proposed and signed into law in2006 a bill thatrequires all Massachusetts residents to purchase health insurance. [Egads. Mittens!? Really??!] A suit was brought against theCommonwealth by a plaintiff who alleged that the requirement violated his rights under the Fifth,Seventh and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution and various provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution. In Fountas v. Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, 2010 Mass.App. Unpub. Lexis 223 (Marchs, 2010), the Massachusetts Court of Appeals rejected all of those arguments.

I also understand that some believe that the Act's expansion of eligibility for Medicaid violates states' rights by requiring the state to spend additional money to insure more people. While there may be disagreement with that provision as a matter of budgetary priority and policy, I am sure you are also aware that Medicaid is a joint federal-state program in which Georgia's participation is voluntary and in which federal funding provides approximately 60% of our state Medicaid funds. The right of the United States govemment to require action by states as a condition of receiving federal funding has been litigated repeatedly, including in the United States Supreme Court, and is well established in our nation's constitutional law

* * *

For the reasons stated above, I cannot in good conscience file a lawsuit against the United States that I believe has little or no chance of success and will undoubtedly consume significant state resources in atime of severe budgetary crisis.
Poor Mittens. What is he to do? After doing the right thing in Massachusetts (at the time he said it should be the model for a national reform), he now turns around and condemns an essentially similar national reform. So the Baggers and Wingnutz will shun him for what he did as Governor, and the moderate and liberals will laugh at him for his duplicity. And he sooooo wants to be President.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rethugs Thugs and Outliers

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Chuck Schumer waived off David Gregory's invitation to pile onto the Republicans over the insults, threats, and acts of violence directed at Democratic Members of Congress in reaction to the health insurance reform law. Senator Schumer correctly noted that those behaving reprehensibly represented "outliers" of those opposed to the new law, and that it would be wrong to tar all the rest.

We'll leave aside for the moment the sad fact that no one within eye or ear shot of the various acts and slurs lifted a finger to stop the "tiny fraction", or even wagged a finger, much less collared them for processing by the authorities. And as to the cover of darkness brick throwers, no one to whom those yahoos have boasted has yet to drop a dime.

Schumer passed on the opportunity to use this question to assess the responsibility of the Republican Party leadership for the series of violent and extreme actions we've seen directed at Democratic Members of Congress recently. He may have thought it impolitic after lecturing Lyndsey Graham on the Republican threat of refusing to work with Democrats on the other pressing issues before Congress.

But hearken back to the days of the Obama-McCain campaign. Recall those accusations against the now-President? How McCain would egg on the crowd by asking them "Who is the real Barack Obama?" and wait for their answer -- "Terrorist!" Throughout that summer and fall the Republican standard-bearers allowed their supporters to shout "Treason!" or "Kill Him!" at their rallies. Instead of throwing them out, or correcting their supporters, McCain and Palin paused to enjoy the huzzahs of the crowd. (McCain, unevenly and only halfheartedly, sometimes murmured objections, infrequently enough to make them ineffective.)

With the top of the ticket giving them cover, Republican leaders told their faithful that Senator Obama was "a terrorist's best friend". After the election, Republican leaders, like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, gleefully attend the Tea Bagger rallies, prominently featuring racist and violent signs and pictures attacking the President and Democrats. They encouraged the claims of socialism, that the President was leading an attack on freedom or ushering in totalitarianism. No correction, no objection, no call for serious discourse. They delighted as the Baggers, with Republican Congressional encouragement, disrupted town hall meetings for the very purpose and effect of preventing reasoned discourse.

Two years into this ugly campaign, Michele Bachman now tells supporters to consider policy disputes an armed conflict, in which she is "a foreign correspondent behind enemy lines". Warning about "nefarious things" going on in Washington, she shrilly laments for the very existence of the country: "the people . . . .are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country." And, after seeing violence directed at Democrats in Congress, Bachman exhorts "the people" to prepare for war: "I want people . . . armed and dangerous . . . we need to fight back . . . having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."

Under what scenario is this sort of talk tolerated from a Member of Congress? Under what circumstances would that member's party leadership not condemn and disown the comments?

Sadly, in today's Republican Party -- we have witnessed a two-year campaign in which incitement has become not only an acceptable way to whip up the base, but and essential element of the opposition strategy.

Michele Bachman can get away without criticism from her leader, because just a week before that he referred to a supporter of health insurance reform as a "dead man": [He's] a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati."

And, while the reform legislation was passing the House, Iowa Congressman Steve King took the bullhorn at a Tea Bagger rally to issue these calming works about what needs to be done with the Democratic majority: "Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!" (King is the same guy who essentially justified the nut who flew a plane into the IRS building in Texas.)

Those Tea Baggers who spat on Congressmen, hurled epithets and slurs at them are indeed outliers and don't represent the greater majority of the opposition. But they were given cover, and permission, to act out by the Republican leadership tolerance of this sort of thing for the last two years -- by the creation of an appearance of the propriety of such conduct, by the indirect and direct expression that this kind of action is necessary to preserve our freedoms, to save our country. In a more sane environment, those surrounding these "outliers" would denounce them, would oust them from their midst to avoid being tarred with their brush. Just as in more sane times an outlier Congressman would be taken to task for intemperate words.

But when the minority leader of the House suggests a colleague is a 'dead man' who can't go home; when a member of Congress grabs the bullhorn before an angry mob with vicious posters and ugly chants, and exhorts them that the only way to deal with the opposition is to "beat them to a pulp", we are not in sane times.

After seeing the horrifying dividend paid on their two-year campaign, John Boehner went to the airwaves to recruit the brick throwers, the spitters, the gun shooters, to work for his campaign. Does anyone really need to say that he missed the point?

In a more sane environment, he would have asked those with knowledge of these criminals to turn them into authorities. He would have urged the Tea Baggers to cleanse their ranks of the loonies, the racists, and the violent among them. In a more sane environment, Sarah Palin would have been shamed into taking down her graphic of rifle crosshairs on the Democratic Congressmen who supported the health insurance reform legislation. Instead, she is cheered for defiantly calling on her following to "RELOAD!". And they do.

The Republican Party leadership condones, encourages, and participates in this rhetoric of violence in response to policy differences. That political disputes ought not be addressed in civil discussion on the issues is further underscored by their second strategy -- preferring process arguments, procedural complaint, and atmospherics to discourse. Their legions, and particularly the outliers among them, are hearing that there is no use talking, there is nothing to talk about, that dangerous and fearful things are happening, and that the discourse is no way to deal with the Democrats. They then see their heroes using gun sights to target Democrats, calling for them to be beaten to a pulp, exhorting them to reload.

In all these ways and many more, over the last two years the Republican leadership has ,directly and indirectly, in manners veiled and plain, granted cover to the worst of their fools to behave in the worst of ways. And while the actors are themselves to blame for their actions, the Republican reaction to those violent and threatening outliers continues to be tone-deaf and some, like King and Palin, seem to take delight in incitement. When they do, it is for people like Cantor, Boehner, and McConnell to let them know that that is not how the loyal opposition behaves in a mature democracy. Instead, they recruit the angry to work on their campaigns, make up stories about angry gunshots through their own windows, and keep repeating slogans suggesting a national Armageddon is upon us.

Leaders don't act that way on the national stage -- outliers do.

Robert Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation team have recently gathered over 50,000 signatures on a Petition to the Republicans to take ownership of this insane environment and to encourage them to take more serious action to quell the violence of the Tea Baggers. Here's a suggestion to the Republicans, start with policing your own ranks.

All of which leaves me to wonder, what punctuation would fit the title of this piece?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bloggers, Pols, and Wannabes Overwhelm Rooney's

About 100 NEPA Bloggers, Politicians, Candidates, staffers, and groupies of all, descended on Rooney's in Pittston last night for the umpteenth OT Blogger Happy Hour organized by Gort, but the first to attract such widespread attention. Most interesting, the print media was there to cover the bloggers.

Phyllis Mundy was there, gracious as always. Rumor has it John Yudichak was also in attendance. I did see a suit with a haircut, that might have been him. Democratic-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen's paid and volunteer staff was there in force, but the Sestak folks were apparently too busy with their campaign to become the Senator from MSNBC to send anyone by. Commissioner (why doesn't anyone listen to me) Steve Urban, Mayor (is that a City Contract or a Donation Card in Your Pocket) Tom Leighton, and many others put in appearances.

The valiant staff at Rooney's clearly had no idea what they were getting into. They smiled and tirelessly tried to keep up with the beer, wine, and food orders. Expecting not much, we were pleasantly surprised with the good food, beer and wine selections.

The NEPA Bloggers seem to have come of age.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coverage Kerfuffle

Yesterday I was thrice told that Senators and Representatives exempted themselves from the just signed health reform law.

This is yet another example of the exasperated and desperate simply making things up to stir the pot. Actually, the bill (page 157) requires Members of Congress to participate in the exchanges:

(i) REQUIREMENT- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are–

(I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or

(II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).
Okay, kids? Can we now agree that the claim you heard in the echo chamber -- that Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi are not subject to this reform -- is just another made up "fact" about the health insurance reform law? So, how many more lies and distortions are you going to believe and blather on about until you embarrass yourself again? Didn't you ever hear this saying?

Now, there is some confusion about how far down the Congressional line this applies -- it is clear it will apply to Congressional personal staff. But, it looks like some Committee professional staffers might be excluded from mandatory participation. STOP THE FREAKIN' PRESSES!!! The Architect of the Capitol and committee lawyers might be able to "keep the insurance they have". Damn, the bastard kept another promise.

I'd like to see direct Congressional employees in this thing, as well as the President and White House staff. But if this is the best argument against the bill law, well, do I need to point out how weak it is?

This is another example of the strategery here -- talk about anything except the substance. Talk about the process (but never mention that the law passed with a majority of both chambers and a super-majority in the Senate), raise distraction, embrace distortion, but never ever talk about the 750,000 who filed bankruptcy last year because this law had not been enacted, or the 150,000 babies born with birth defects last year who will now be insurable, and for heaven's sake, don't let small businesses hear that they are getting up to 35% in tax credits for every dollar they spend on health insurance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When You're Dead, Lay Down

I took the title of this piece from a line someone tossed out on the Republican lawsuits and threats after yesterday's wonderful signing ceremony (I think it was Paul Begala). Whoever said it, it was good advice.

President Obama was still handing out pens when the Republican attorneys general filed their complaint. (I guess, unlike John Boehner, they had had plenty of time to learn what was in the bill and prepare their complaint.) The lawsuit was filed in State Court in Florida. (You'll soon see it removed to Federal Court.)

The complaint tells us that the health insurance reform legislation, which -- it bears repeating -- was approved by a Senate super-majority and a majority in the House -- is "an unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals . . . by mandating that all citizens and legal residents of the United States have qualifying healthcare coverage or pay a tax penalty." (Paragraph 2.)

The complaint was prepared by David Rivkin and Lee Casey, partners in the D.C. office of the law firm Baker Hostetler LLP. They previously served in the Justice Department under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Their arguments were previewed in a Washington Post piece last summer.

I am going to try to resist the legal jargon and case citations, but before we jump into the Constitutional arguments, one has to understand two points:

i. under the Constitution's "Commerce Clause" the Federal Government has the authority to regulate commerce and to enact all laws "necessary and proper" related to that power; and,

ii. the 'tax and spend' clause (there really is such a thing) gives the Federal Government the power to levy taxes for the "common Defence and general Welfare of the United States".

Okay, the Republican attorneys general argument goes like this:

1. "[T]he [health insurance reform] Act compels said persons to have healthcare coverage, whether or not they wish to do so, or be subject to sanction. . . . The Act is directed to a failure to engage in activity . . . . Such inactivity by its nature cannot be deemed to be in commerce or to have any substantial effect on commerce, whether interstate or otherwise. As a result, the Act cannot be upheld under the Commerce Clause". (Complaint, para.64-65.)

2. The act imposes a penalty -- a tax -- on people who don't purchase health insurance. The Republican argument is that the tax isn't Constitutional because "It is to be levied upon persons for their failure or refusal to do anything other than to exist and reside in the United States" -- that is, a coercive tax penalty on "inactivity" is unconstitutional.

The Commerce Clause argument is too cute. In a weak high school debate, it might score a point. In the grown-up world, it fails. The fundamental flaw (and there are many other flaws) is the conceptual blinder required to view "inactivity" as not having the ability to affect interstate commerce.

Individuals not purchasing health insurance have as great and substantive impact on interstate commerce as individuals purchasing the coverage -- it is the lack of coverage which precipitates the crisis. Estimates are some 750,000 personal bankruptcies are filed annually caused by the lack of any, or of adequate, health insurance. That, alone, is quite enough to establish the interstate commerce nexus for Constitutional purposes.

And this is not an unexamined area of the law. The Federal Courts uniformly reject precisely this "inactivity" argument. For example, Federal law requiring former sex offenders to register have been upheld against a claim that the Commerce Clause could not regulate "non-activity" (ie, not registering) and the Federal law criminalizing the failure to make child support payments was also upheld against the same claim that the Commerce Clause does not regulate "non-payment".

Remember when the Supreme Court struck down the Federal law making it a crime to carry a gun in a school zone? It did so on Commerce Clause reasoning that the act of carrying a gun in a school zone was not an activity which, if repeated elsewhere, would have an effect on interstate commerce. While it is a case that Rivkin & Casey like to point to, the obverse of the reasoning undermines their argument -- it is incontestable that the failure to have adequate health insurance -- the "decision not to act", if you like -- has a direct and substantial impact on commerce.

The taxing powers claim similarly fails. First, remember that the Congress can adopt any tax enacted to support any of its enumerated powers. Therefore, if the legislation passes muster under the Commerce Clause, then the taxing provisions are Constitutional. Second, the general tax and spend powers are interpreted very broadly and even if some exceedingly activist Court ignores the interstate commerce nexus, the power to tax for the general welfare is broad enough to sustain the Act. The assertions in the complaint that it is a coercive penalty and not a revenue-producing tax is another word play that has no legal implication -- from a Constitutional law perspective, there is no difference between a coercive tax and a revenue-producing tax.

The Republican attorneys general should just lay down (and encourage John McCain to join them).

Monday, March 22, 2010

NEPA Blogger Meet Up This Friday, Candidates Welcome

From Gort:

The next blogger meetup will be Friday March 26th at Rooney's Irish Pub 67 S. Main St. Pittston, PA 18704 starting at 5PM. There is big bar area with tables off to the side and plenty of free parking across the street where the Tomato Festival is held. It's easy to find just drive north on River Street from W-B and it's on the left.

It looks like we will have a good turnout. So far I have received confirmation from about 15 campaigns for Congress, State Senate and State House that the candidate and/or supporters will be attending. That includes Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Pastafarians.

Our political bloggers from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties will be there along with our readers, commentators and people who are just interested in local politics.

This is an informal mixer with no speeches scheduled. There is no charge for admission.

Senate to House: You can Trust Us Here's a Signed Document

Over half of the Senate has signed a letter to the House promising to support the House reconciliation package. And we all know, if you have a signed document in your possession, you can't go wrong (h/t Tim Farley):

Time for Thank-yous

If your Representative voted as you wished in yesterday's historic advance, it is very important that you call and express appreciation for the vote. It is important because you want your Rep to listen the next time you call and because you want your Rep to understand that what they do is being watched and is important to you. Besides, when someone does something that you ask them to do, a simple "thank-you" is just polite.

To contact your Representative, call the general switchboard at(202)224-3121, or enter your zip code in the Congressional Directory maintained at

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kanjo has announced support


UPDATE: Kanjo got asterisk manager changes that benefit Geisinger Insurance and Scranton Orthopaedic. More later as details become known.

Kanjo rescinds, back on the fence; Stupack has tentative agreement with WH

Latest from our little bird inside the beltway loop -- Kanjorski's unease about voting against the interests of a corporation that has given a million bucks to his pet projects, operates a PAC that has been very generous to him (in the last cycle, no one in Congress got more from the Sallie Mae PAC than Paul Kanjorski), and with executives who have opened their wallets for him, has apparently caused him to retract and place himself back into the "undecided" column. And those hundreds of thousands of residents of his district that would be benefited by this legislation, they just don't stack up to millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, we are told that Stupack is polling his little gang to measure agreement to a White House deal that appears to solve their faux abortion issue. Stupack has been dealing with White House lawyers since yesterday evening and those close to the talks appear confident that Stupack and his gang will end up in the 'Yes' column.

Deal Done, Kanjo on Board

Kanjorski has informed the White House that he is now a definite yes. We're assuming some sort of deal favoring Kanjo's corporate sponsor, Sallie Mae, was struck. But we'd like to think all of those constituent phone calls to his DC office helped win the day.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carney Moves into the 'Yes' Column

Congressman Chris Carney (PA-10), announced late this afternoon that he will be supporting Health Insurance Reform when it comes up for a vote in the House. Carney supported the House Bill, but was undecided on the Senate Bill and reconciliation package. In recent days he has expressed exasperation and a bit of anger towards what he called "unconscionable" and "entirely misleading" anti-Health Insurance Reform television ads targeting him, which were financed by the astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity.

Weighing a Vote -- Kanjo Protecting Sallie Mae over District 11 Residents?

With the report that Kanjorski told the President that he will probably vote NO on Health Insurance Reform because the Congressman objects to the impact of the included student loan reform effort on the Billion-Dollar Sallie Mae, which employs a few hundred in his District, we thought it a good time to take a look at what was on the other side of these scales.

A small percentage of Sallie Mae's employees work in the Hanover Industrial Park, in Kanjorski's District. Most of them are low-paid telephone collections/customer "service" workers. Even if Sallie Mae is right that many of them would lose their jobs as a result of the student loan reforms included in the health insurance reform legislation, even those jobs seem to pale in comparison to the impact of the pending legislation on the District residents.

Here's what the Congressional analysis of the impact for the 11th District shows:
  • Improve coverage for 420,000 residents with health insurance.
  • Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 190,000 families and 14,000 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
  • Improve Medicare for 133,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
  • Extend coverage to 27,000 uninsured residents.
  • Guarantee that 8,200 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
  • Protect 900 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
  • Allow 52,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
  • Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 7 community health centers.
  • Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $42 million annually.
(The House has done a similar analysis for each District.)

There are 190,000 families in Kanjorski's District who would qualify for health insurance subsidies under the pending legislation. 190,000!

But Kanjorski is joining the Republicans to say NO to the 190,000 families in his District who would finally be able to secure health insurance for their families. To protect a few hundred jobs.

There are 8,200 uninsured individuals in Kanjorski's district who have pre-existing medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and can't get health insurance. That would end under the act, but Kanjorski thinks protecting a few hundred Sallie Mae jobs are more important than those eight thousand unfortunate citizens in his District who had the bad judgment to become ill.

In a single year, 900 families file bankruptcy in Kanjorski's District due to health care costs. That tragedy would be all but eliminated -- if not for Kanjorski's determination to protect a few hundred Sallie Mae jobs.

There are 133,000 Medicare beneficiaries in his district. The legislation improves their benefits by providing free preventive and wellness care, improving primary and coordinated care, and enhancing nursing home care. The bill also strengthens the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its
solvency from 2017 to 2026. And you know what Kanjorski thinks? Too bad, he wants to protect Sallie Mae jobs.

And there's more, you can read the details in the report.

You should be forgiven if you are thinking that stacking a few hundred Sallie Mae jobs against these hundreds of thousands of people in his District seems a little, well, UNbalanced. Because, in truth, Kanjorski IS NOT balancing those hundreds of thousands against a few hundred Sallie Mae jobs -- he is balancing them against MORE than a few hundred thousand of Sallie Mae's DOLLAR$.

If you are in the 11th, it is time to call your Representative and let him know that balancing the lives of hundreds of thousands against Sallie Mae's millions is not why you sent him to Washington time and time again.

Call Rep. Kanjorski's office at (202) 225-6511. But don't stop there. Make it your mission today to get 5 friends or neighbors to call, too.

Kanjo Tells Prez: "I'm (probably) voting 'No'!"

A source with information received directly from the White House has told us that Kanjorski has told the President that he is firmly in the Republican column on the health insurance reform initiative. [See UPDATE below] Contrary to recent reports in the Washington Post , Firedoglake, and Ben Pershing's Blog, among others, Kanjorski reportedly told the President there was little no room for movement on his vote.

Kanjorski's movement to the "No" column was NOT the result of the faux abortion issue. Instead, Kanjo's decision to oppose health insurance reform was dictated by the interests of the large private student loan lender, Sallie Mae, which has a facility in his district. Kanjorski has long-ties with the folk at Sallie Mae, something he's boasted about in the past. A 2008 piece on Kanjorski's deep-ties to Sallie Mae laid it out pretty well:
Sallie Mae has rewarded Kanjorski for his support in other ways as well. According to federal campaign finance records, the loan giant has contributed, through its PAC and from individual company officials, nearly $70,000 to the Congressman's campaign coffers over the last decade. In addition, the Sallie Mae Fund, the company's charitable arm, has made generous contributions to one of the Congressman's pet causes: donating $1 million in 2003 to the Wilkes-Barre Catholic Youth Center, which provides daycare and overnight care to children from primarily lower-income and minority families. Kanjorski has long championed the center and fought to get federal funding for it. In Sallie Mae's news release, the center's executive director "expressed deep gratitude" to the Congressman for helping to secure the loan company's donation.
Stephen Burd, The Higher Ed Watch Blog. The House added "The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act" to the reconciliation bill on health insurance reform. The reform measure allows students to borrow directly from the federal government instead of from Sallie Mae or other lenders. Currently, the federal government loans money to Sallie Mae, which in turn makes a tidy profit by re-lending our tax dollars to college kids.

Kanjorski, by supporting one of his large corporate financial backers, is threatening to turning his back on the rank and file, the middle class, the laborers, and all of the individuals suffering for lack of access to health care.

We spoke with a Kanjorski spokesperson who did not deny that Kanjo is a no. Instead, speaking about the Kanjorski conversation with the President, the spokesman said only, "I am not aware of that conversation." When asked, did the Congressman tell the President that he will be voting no, the spokesperson responded again, "I am not aware of such a conversation." Asked if the Congressman is going to vote no, "As far as I know, the Congressman is undecided."

As an apparent result of Kanjorski's conversation with the President, this morning the Organizing for America folks sent out an email to their supporters in Kanjo's district. In that email they warned that Kanjorski's vote can't "be taken for granted" and urged recipients to "pick up the phone and call Rep. Kanjorski's office at (202) 225-6511. But don't stop there. Make it your mission today to get 5 friends or neighbors to call, too."

The same source also reports that Kanjorski isn't going to bother to tally the calls to his District offices or 800 numbers -- the only calls he's counting are the ones to his DC office. Odd choice, but when a guy is going to cast a vote based on how it affects his corporate sponsor, one wonders why he's counting at all.

If he follows through, Corey O'Brien will be getting a check from me on Monday.

UPDATE: My source contacted me this afternoon to say that Kanjorski was firm in refusing the President's request to commit to yes and told the President that he was strongly leaning "No" -- he did not, apparently, come right out and say he was firmly in the 'No' column, but that he was likely to be a 'No' vote. We were also told that many Kanjorski District voters were unable to get through to his Washington office because it was so busy with callers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Bus Came By, So Let's Get On!


Here's a chance to support Melanie's Marchers. They've arranged for buses to ferry supporters to join the marchers for the last mile or so of the trip. If you can take a day and get your butt to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the 24th, you can join the last leg of Melanies March and come to the 2:00 event on Captiol Hill with Senators Casey and Specter.

For information on catching the Philadelphia bus, go here; to ride the Pittsburgh bus, go here.

Can't make the bus, there's more that you can do from home, check it out.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Support Melanie's March for Health Insurance Reform

A couple of days ago, a group of activist citizens set out from Philadelphia on foot. Their destination is Washington, DC, where they hope to arrive and lead a rally for health insurance reform on the day before President Obama's Health Insurance Reform Summit. They've named their march "Melanie's March to the Finish Line", in honor of Melanie Shouse. Melanie lost a long battle with breast cancer. She died after not being able to obtain critical health care because she couldn't obtain affordable insurance.

Melanie was a tireless worked on President Obama's campaign and an advocate for health insurance reform. All of the marchers in Melanie's March have similar personal stories driving their advocacy.

I can't make it any easier for you . These marchers are pushing themselves phsyically and mentally to help make things better for you -- can't you take a few moments to help them right from your home, right now?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marching to the Finish Line for Melanie, While Kanjo Marches Backwards

Kanjo owes his career to unprincipled pandering for votes. He spent last year obfuscating his position on health insurance reform. Almost daily one would find Kanjo flipping or hawing on support for reform, depending on which donor or voting group to which he was speaking.

Now, facing a challenge from his younger doppelganger, Corey Who'brien? (also willing to say anything, even if it sounds like nothing, to get a vote or a dollar) in the Demo primary, Kanjo is not only backing off his ultimate support for health insurance reform, but blaming the White House for his own lack of leadership on the issue -- as if the White House was responsible for unprincipled hacks like Kanjo stalling progress on the measure while they covered their ample political asses. Here's the take-away that a local Wilkes-Barre editorial board offered after their sit-down with Kanjo:
[Kanjo] blamed the Obama administration's inflexibility in veering from the health care debate and Democratic leaders' inability to overcome infighting and political grandstanding for a logjam . . . .
The Citizen's Voice, 2/18/2010

Not sure if Kanjo is the Pot or the Kettle here, but his butt is definitely singed . . . .

And he waddles back from his ultimate support for health insurance reform and high praise for the leadership, citizens of Pennsylvania are struggling through cold and snowy streets, challenging their own bodies to challenge the Democrats to grow a pair,and show the leadership we need for pass health insurance reform now. Kanjo can do with both. One might expect Kanjo's disappointing display might be disheartening to the dedicated souls trekking from Philadelphia to Washington DC for the cause of health insurance reform. But the men and women in Melanie's March to the Finish Line are not easily dissuaded by the gutless likes of Kanjo.

Nor are those working tirelessly behind the scenes of the movement for health insurance reform, like the indefatigable Katy W. (our newest fan), who we hear is just doing a bang-up job as Healthcare Navigator at PUP.

These marchers, and the men and women behind the cause, are trying to make a difference. Kanjo, he's just trying to keep his job.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Melanie's March" on Washington Leaves from Philly Today

From PHAN in today's inbox:

Health Care Reform Activists to Walk
From Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
Eight-Day March Will Stop In Delaware, Maryland, Washington.
Marchers Will Deliver Message to Congress: People Are Dying. No More Delays.

Philadelphia, PA - At noon on Wednesday, February 17, hundreds of health care reform activists and supporters will kick off "March to the Finish Line for Melanie" - an eight-day walk from Philadelphia to Washington, DC to call on Congress to finish the job on health care reform.

The march will honor one health reform advocate who recently lost her battle with breast cancer after her insurance company refused to pay for the treatment her doctors said she needed.

During her illness, Melanie Shouse was a tireless campaigner for health care reform for all Americans, and the marchers will be bringing Melanie's message to Congress that not one more person should have to suffer or die for lack of health care in our country.

The "March to the Finish Line for Melanie" group will arrive in Washington, DC the day before President Obama's Health Care Summit. As the summit is set to begin, the marchers - and supporters expected to number in the hundreds - will be there to tell lawmakers enough is enough!

They will deliver the message that Members of Congress have had plenty of time to discuss and debate health care over the past year, and now it's their job to make it happen. It's time to get it done and get it done right. Congress must deliver the change people voted for.

The March starts on Wednesday, February 17 with a noon rally at the Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia and proceeds through University City and Southwest Philadelphia, ending the first day with a vigil at Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park. The group will hold rallies in Wilmington and Baltimore and host meet-ups for local residents in small towns along the way. Supporters and press can track the walk online at

Members of the press are invited to join the group at any point along the route and interview walkers - some of whom have personal stories about the difficulty of securing access to affordable health care in America today. They will be accompanied by an RV with Internet access.

WHAT: "March to the Finish Line for Melanie" - A Walk from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. for Health Care Reform

WHO: Pennsylvannia citizens and activists from Health Care For America Now, Families USA, SEIU, Catholics United, The AME Church, Health Rights Organizing Project, Interfaith Worker Justice, National Physicians Alliance, Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, UFCW, and Raising Women's Voices (List in formation).

WHEN: TODAY, February 17, 2010 to 2 p.m. (Walk will end in D.C. at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24).

WHERE: Starting point is Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th St., Philadelphia

For more information:

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) is a coalition of 50 groups from across the Commonwealth working to improve access to quality health care through the expansion of health insurance coverage. PHAN organizes health care consumers, works to raise public awareness of the need for health system reform, and supports public policy proposals that will provide affordable access to quality health care for all Pennsylvanians. To learn more, go to

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Joe Wilson's Habit

Apparently, Joe Wilson makes it a habit to label truths he doesn't like lies.

On C-SPAN, Talk of War Gets Awfully Belligerent

Facts can be such difficult things.

Donate to Wilson's Democratic opponent here: Rob Miller for Congress Because revenge really is the best revenge.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pastor Asks God to Give President Brain Cancer

(h/t SANFU-ed)

It Really Is This Simple

Simple question, simple answer.

CNN / Opinion Research Corporation
8/28-31/09; 1,010 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(CNN release)

Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?

55% Favor
41% Oppose
Time for the President to Lay off the footwork and throw a punch!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Playing Citizen for Big Blue

Last month, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, asked permission to raise its rates by up to 49%.

The "non-profit" health insurance company, headquartered in Wilkes Barre, recently attracted a policyholder suit for accruing a "surplus" of over $400,000,000.00 -- while increasing premiums. That lawsuit was thrown out (because the judge said that policyholders didn't have the right to contest the "nonprofit's" accumulation of profits). In apparent response to the fallout over the "but it is not a profit" disclosures, the NEPA insurer has been spending down the surplus, by doubling its "administrative expenses" over the last five years.

Among those increased administrative expenses are the efforts to defeat health insurance reform, including strong arming employees to play "citizen" and help defend those tremendous profits, err, "surpluses" (which, we are certain, will start to rebuild once all this silliness over reform has passed). Thus, this "confidential" memo by the Big Blue's CEO to the employees, teaching them how and what to say to targeted legislators (don't be alarmed -- I've disabled the 'take action' buttons). The woman that received this missive happens not to live in the Districts of the Congressmen mentioned, but clearly understood that her boss wanted her to use the "right" zip code so that she would appear to be in their District:

To: Enterprise Employees
From: Denise S. Cesare, President & CEO
Subject: Health Care Reform: An Invitation To Stay Involved
Date: September 1, 2009

As you will recall, earlier this summer I asked you to consider contacting Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators on health care reform – an issue certain to have a dramatic effect on our Enterprise and our customers. I am pleased to note that an overwhelming 65 percent of our employees responded to this message and told our Senators that, while we agree that the time is right to reform our health care system, control costs and provide coverage to all Americans, the creation of a new government-run health plan should not be part of the solution.

I am again asking for your help, this time with our service area members of the U.S. House, Congressmen Chris Carney (D) and Paul Kanjorski (D). If your home zip code falls outside the districts of these Congressmen, we are asking you to send the same type of message to your members of Congress as dictated by your home zip code – our message still applies. Contrary to reports earlier in the summer, the U.S. House and Senate were unable to pass health care reform bills prior to the August recess. The fact that the path to reform has slowed and become a more deliberative debate is a direct result of citizens across the country – including us - getting actively engaged in this issue and speaking out.

Health care reform remains at the top of the legislative agenda and there is certain to be specific legislation under consideration this fall. Since Congress returns to session just after Labor Day, now is an ideal time to take action and contact members of Congress.

We will continue to advocate that all Americans have health insurance and for market reforms including a level playing field with no pre-existing condition exclusions or medical underwriting. At the same time, we continue to believe that a government-run health plan would be problematic for numerous reasons, some of them outlined below:
o Millions of Americans are likely to lose the private coverage they enjoy today. Millions are likely to move to the government plan that will have many price advantages such as lower provider reimbursement rates based on the Medicare model and exemption from federal and state taxes. These factors will lead to lower premiums in comparison to the private market, making it nearly impossible for private plans to “compete.”

o The government plan would underpay providers, leading to severe access problems. Provider underpayments will lead to access issues within the health care system such as long wait for services, or trouble finding a physician to provide such services. As provider’s revenues decline from lower payment structures under the government plan, facilities may be forced to suspend hiring of physicians and staff, and even close facilities.

o The government plan would undermine much needed delivery system reforms critical to controlling costs. History has proven the government can be slow to innovate and implement changes due to restrictive legislative and regulatory processes. Conversely, the private sector is free to innovate within a highly competitive marketplace. As one example, our Blue Health Solutions program has produced dramatic results in reducing healthcare expenditures and in improving employee health by engaging members in an active approach to managing their health and well-being. A government-run plan would not have the same cost control flexibility.

I am asking you to consider taking immediate action. If you are an Enterprise employee based in Pennsylvania, please click here to voice your concerns to your member of Congress. Once on the site, go to the updated “Featured Alert” and click on the “Take Action” button. Enter your home zip code and press “Go!” You will be taken directly to a custom letter that will be sent directly to your local member of Congress. Simply sign your name and fill in pertinent information, and hit “Send.” Your letter will arrive immediately via e-mail to the appropriate Congressional office. Please note: If your home zip code falls outside the districts of Congressmen Carney or Kanjorski, please continue to send the letter to your local member of Congress as dictated by your zip code – our message still applies.

If you are a BCNEPA employee who is NOT based in Pennsylvania, click here to send a message to the members of Congress in your state. Simply enter your zip code in the box on the left-hand column, and then fill in the required information to send the pre-populated letter. If you have trouble accessing the above information, please contact Arielle Phillips of our Government Affairs Department at .

Thank you.

Sigh. Among the misrepresentations being fostered by the insurance companies to protect their profits, sorry, "surpluses":

Millions of Americans are likely to lose the private coverage they enjoy today. -- Under the House bill, the public option is initially limited to small employers and people without any coverage whatsoever -- a number growing by over 10,000 a day. This is one of the compromises already placed into the program in the spirit of bi-partisanship. It is designed to give hte profit/surplus-makers time to adjust their offerings. Like good capitalists, they will. After all, I haven't seen FedEx having a problem competing with the Postal Service.

The government plan would underpay providers.
-- Where to start. First, nothing in the plan sets rates. Second, provider participation in the government health insurance option would be voluntary. Third, I don't see Medicare or the Veteran's Administration running short of providers.

The government plan would undermine much needed delivery system reforms critical to controlling costs.-- this is just argument by iteration, and I am not even sure what it means. But I do know that Medicare has administrative expenses of 3-7%, while the private insurers had admin costs of up to 30% and are paying executives millions in annual compensation.

Big Blue, spoon feeding its employees and teaching them that if they input a zip code from a target Congressional District, they will look for all the world like a "citizen" from that District, "alarmed" about a series of reforms that will cut into their profits and multi-million dollar salaries.

Time to mow the astroturf.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On Getting Fooled Again

Witnessing the spectacle of the town halls and the irrational anger towards the reform of health insurance, I was more often left shaking my head in disbelief.

"They" didn't get it, "they" were spouting absurd arguments which bore no relation to reality. There was something familiar in all of this.

I suspected that, for most people, their opposition to health insurance reform was the product of indignation fueled by ignorance. The recent NBC News poll on the Health Insurance Reform initiative confirms that suspicion -- when you strip out the Republican misinformation and misdirection campaign, 53% of respondents favor the House plan currently on the table.

But, you wouldn't know that from reading any of NBC's own coverage of its own poll.

One would think this was the most newsworthy item in the poll -- the opposition to the proposed Health Insurance Reform initiative is based purely on misinformation and when people are presented with the facts, they favor the program. Indeed, when presented with the facts, only 29% are "strongly opposed" to the Democratic plan (roughly the same fringe element who still think the previous occupant was a great President).

First, let's take a look at the poll question in question:

12. Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle-incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan? (IF "FAVOR/OPPOSE," ASK:) And do you strongly or only somewhat (favor/oppose) this plan?
Favor: 53%
Strongly -- 35%
Somewhat -- 18%
Oppose: 43%
Somewhat -- 14%
Strongly -- 29%

The same poll found a number of misconceptions about what the proposals on the table would and would not do -- and those misconceptions figured in the NBC news coverage of its own poll:
*** Rampant misinformation: One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true.
The same poll confirmed that a combined 60% wanted to see the system overhauled and more than that thought the Republicans were doing a bad job on the issue. Yet, NBC news has failed to highlight the most newsworthy bit in its poll -- we are (again) making decisions as a nation based on Republican-led and inspired misinformation (anyone recall when 70% believed that Saddam was behind 9/11).

Talk about burying the lead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Second of July!!

It is July 2, which means it is time for my annual tilt against the History you learnt.

This may be news to those of you not history majors (or my children, who had to listen to the story every year for the last couple of decades)-- but, the Continental Congress did NOT declare independence on the Fourth of July. That actually happened on July 2, 1776. (The vote was 12-0, New York abstained.)

Months before, Richard Lee and John Adams had arrived at the Continental Congress prepared to argue for independence, fully aware that those sentiments may not be entirely embraced by the gathering.

In early June, Lee proposed a resolution severing colonial ties to the British:

"Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Adams seconded the Lee Resolution.

Initial debate on the Resolution revealed a majority in favor, but a significant number of the colonies yet unsure or lacking appropriate instructions on independence. Congress was adjourned to allow time for the representatives to obtain instructions from their colonies, and for lobbying.

In the meantime, anticipating adoption of the Lee Resolution, a committee was conscripted to draft the argument for independence and the justification for what was, clearly, a treasonous and seditious act. In short, they were assigned to draft the new Union's first talking points memo.

Appointed were John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson. Franklin, concerned that Adams was a little too much the aggressive litigator, suggested that Jefferson put together a draft. Adams, nothing if not self-aware, readily agreed and lobbied the reluctant Jefferson to accept the role. Jefferson, borrowing heavily from George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights, produced a rough draft. He then presented it to Adams and Franklin, who made some changes to the document before it was sent to the committee, which approved it without further change.

Congress reconvened on July 1, 1776 and the Lee Resolution was adopted July 2, 1776.

It is thus on the Second of July, 1776 that the Colonies Declared themselves Free and Independent States -- the true birth of our Union. That day, Adams famously wrote home how the date would be celebrated through history with picnics and fireworks:

The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Immediately after declaring independence from England, the Congress took up Jefferson's Committee Report. They reviewed, debated, and revised it in sessions on July 2, 3 and 4. On the morning of the 4th, they adopted the Declaration of Independence.

It was sent to the printer the following day and the first signatures were affixed in August, 1776, when most members of Congress were present to sign the document. But the final signature would not be set for over five years.

So, you all go off and enjoy the Fourth. I'll start raising my glass(es) to Jefferson, Lee, Adams, Franklin and the rest of the gang today. (All this and more at the National Archives .)

(PS. On July 7, the NY Assembly voted to instruct the delegation to vote in favor of the Lee Resolution, making the vote for independence unanimous.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pennsylvania Senate Proposing to Eliminate ALL Funding for Legal Services

The Pennsylvania Senate introduced SB 850 as their proposed 2009-2010 state budget on Friday, May 1st. That legislation is poised to be voted on, and adopted, by the Senate tomorrow, Wednesday, May 6th. SB 850 eliminates all state funding (all $3,172,000 of the state's appropriation) for civil legal services. Access to justice is fundamental to a civil society. The reduction of funding for legal services at a time of substantially increased need due to current, severe economic recession is remarkable.

Please call your state senator immediately. Implore him/her to restore the state appropriation for civil legal services. Tell him/her that access to justice for the poorest among us is not an appropriate "bargaining chip" for budget negotiation. Need contact information for your State Senator, go here (the search tool is in the upper right hand corner -- serach by zip code or county).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Big Fat Slob is Cleaning His Room

and going on a diet . . . . be seeing you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Inaugural Address for Our Time

For many reasons, including the encouragement of the man himself, the ghost of Lincoln hovers above the Mall today. There is a certain visceral satisfaction to seeing today as the fulfillment of that arc of History. But more frequently coming to my mind as I anticipate today's spectacle, is another Historic election.

At an earlier time, but not that much earlier, a progressive Democrat was hoisted on the shoulders of his fellow-citizens. They carried him Washington, ending a long regime of Republican control. Facing an increasingly destabilizing international scene, his main pressing task at the outset was to lead his Nation out of the economic devastation wrought, in some significant measure, by the Republican's laissez-faire approach to market regulation and the irrational over-investment which it encouraged.

When FDR took office in March of 1933, he rode into office on the strength of the new Democratic coalition which he cobbled together -- the poor, the labor movement, northern city dwellers as well as Southern whites. Taking office in the full flower of the Great Depression and promising change in outlook, philosophy, and emphasis, re-reading his first inaugural I can imagine the words being spoken in the cadences of the man who will be speaking on that same National platform today:
This is a day of national consecration. And I am certain that on this day my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency, I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impels.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation is asking for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing great -- greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.

Hand in hand with that we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land.

Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products, and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, the State, and the local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities which today are often scattered, uneconomical, unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities that have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped by merely talking about it.

We must act. We must act quickly.

And finally, in our progress towards a resumption of work, we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order. There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments. There must be an end to speculation with other people's money. And there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.

These, my friends, are the lines of attack. I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the 48 States.

Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time, and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy. I favor, as a practical policy, the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment; but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.

The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not nationally -- narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States of America -- a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery. It is the immediate way. It is the strongest assurance that recovery will endure.

In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor: the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good. This, I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us, bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image, action to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors. Our Constitution is so simple, so practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen.

It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations. And it is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly equal, wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us. But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But, in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis -- broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me, I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded, a permanent national life.

We do not distrust the -- the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.

In this dedication -- In this dedication of a Nation, we humbly ask the blessing of God.

May He protect each and every one of us.

May He guide me in the days to come.