Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Louis "Alleged" DeNaples Indicted; Slots License Pulled

Louis "Alleged" DeNaples, owner of the Poconos Mount Airy casino, was indicted today for lying about his ties to organized crime. (And, even that piece of crap wannabe paper in Scran'en had to take notice.) The Gaming Board has already suspended his license but is permitting the Casino he owns to continue to operate.

Friday, January 18, 2008

PA House Republicans Looking to Increase Taxes on Individuals

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has once again taken up the issue of school real estate taxes. Debate will resume when House members return to session on Monday, January 28.

The central bill under consideration is House Bill 1600, sponsored by Representative David Levdansky (D-Allegheny). This legislation is intended to reduce school property taxes substantially without broadening the sales tax base; however, Representative Sam Rohrer (R-Berks) will offer an amendment to that bill which will expand the sales tax to professional services.

But, somewhat ironically in a bill intended to reduce the tax burden on individuals, Rohrer's bill will exempt businesses from the new tax on professional services. So, businesses that need to hire a lawyer, for example, will not have to pay the sales tax. But, everyone else, that is to say, you and me, who might need, say, a lawyer for criminal, divorce, custody, estate, personal real estate issues, etc., will be subject to payment of the sales tax. (Representative Rohrer's original piece of property tax reform legislation, upon which the amendments are based, is HB 1275.) (Oh, yeah, contingent fee (personal injury) cases are also excluded.

Taxpayer groups (umm, real-estate-tax-payers groups), are putting much pressure on House members to accept the Rohrer amendment. To contact your rep and voice a concern over this latest attempt to impose a penal regressive tax on the middle and lower classes, you can use the House email list.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Having Fun Yet?

Your erratic correspondent may have been away from the keyboard, but he has been keeping an eye on the goings. This aging body hasn't seen the likes of this season since possibly, and briefly, the tragic 1968 campaign. Even then, many fewer eyes were focused on the contest, and even they had not bothered to turn their gaze until much, much later.

It's probably fair to say that more people have cared longer about the 2008 contest than any ever before. While a large part of the interest is issue-driven, I am crediting something else entirely -- if not the re-bloom of democracy, at least the whiff of its flower. The popular interest has been there through polls suggesting the leading issue to be Iraq, and then Health Care, and then Iraq, then Health Care, and now (and likely through November) the economy (it's always the economy). These critical issues, addressed with some certain measure of difference by the two parties, has no doubt contributed to the unprecedented long attention span. But there is more needed to explain the continuing attention.

With no heir apparent on either side, the field was wide open for the likely (Hillary and Rudy) and the unlikely (Huckabee and Obama). The result has been an engaged and engaging debate over policy and procedure in both parties. Sure, each side has an ideological touchstone, but creative and new solutions have been served up by those who have come and gone over the last two+ years.

Both parties offer something approaching real dialogue about ideas, and actual debate over world-views. The overall quality of the campaigns are higher than we generally recall, and the depth of the respective fields is surprising. Paul, Kucinich, Huckabee, Biden, Richardson, Hunter, are all articulate advocates on the issues they have made their own and they have all moved and lifted the debate, in sometimes small and in sometimes larger ways, over the last year. The lower tier candidates have excited significant portions of the populace (including many new to the process, young and old), challenged the "designated" candidates, and expanded the scope of the discussion. (Except for Gravel), it has therefore been unfortunate that some of them they have been sliced off the debate stages.

Personally, I'd rather see Obama or Edwards on the Democratic ticket in November. But there was something exciting about the results in New Hampshire. You can count me among the doubters of Omentum. I fully expected Hillary's superior, more experienced organization, to pull out of the apparent nosedive of the last two weeks. I have, reluctantly, suggested that the calendar may well be too short for She Who Must Be Nominated to be stopped.

How and why did New Hampshire happen? I dunno. (But I find it interesting that, among all the explanations that are being thrown around out there, no one is looking into the possibility that the polls were fubar.)

That said, I'll direct you to her GOTV machine. Her performance in NH shows what a highly-experienced team can do in a close contest -- and make no mistake, Hillary's team has been doing this, mostly for a Clinton, for a few decades now. Hillary and Bill know the routine, and know NH, in ways to which the most savvy of the Obama team can only aspire.

Hillary knew where her strength lay. That's why we saw women and middle-class labor voters driven out to the polls in huge numbers by the Hillary GOTV team.

Now it is off the the South and West. Much different voter profiles in both and different mixes of candidate appeals. Out West, will Bill Richardson be a factor? He may well and, if does make an impact, I'd have to guess that his support will be drawn from Hillary.

Keep in mind, also, that Obama lost among registered Democrats in both Iowa and NH -- his support came from cross-overs and independents. Between now and February 5, there are far fewer states which allow crossing-over or who give independents a voice.

In the South, what can Edwards do? The only rationale for Edwards remaining in the race is not to win it -- but to show enough strength in the South to allow him to insist on a role at the convention. I haven't studied the cross-tabs on this, but I would speculate that Edwards will draw from Obama more than Hillary.

The interplay and possibilities are endless, and that's what makes it fun (and I haven't even gotten to talk about the complications on the other side). Having a two and a half-headed contest, for at least another three and a half weeks, can only serve to continue to refine the Democratic message, upgrading the discussion, pulling in more first-time participants in the process.

So, if you're not having fun, well, hope you're enjoying Skating With the Stars . . . the rest of us will let you know how it plays out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Of Heroes and Kings . . . .

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Smoke, Meet Fire: State Charges DeNaples Priest with Perjury

The Scranton Catholic Priest who testified on behalf of Louis "Alleged" DeNaples was arrested today on charges of lying to the Grand Jury investigating DeNaples. According to AP reports, Joseph Sica, the priest, was charged with lying to the grand jury when he testified that he didn't have a relationship with mob boss Russell Bufalino.

Photo Credit: "Alleged" DeNaples and Sica, Pocono Record file photo