Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This One Is Too Funny To Pass Up

WTF? OMG, LOL! CIA gives WikiLeaks taskforce naughty name

The CIA has launched a taskforce to assess the impact of 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables. Its name? WikiLeaks Task Force, or WTF for short.

Judge Correale Stevens To Swear In Pa. House

Steve Mocarsky of the Times Leader reports that Judge Correale Stevens, soon-to-be President Judge of the Superior Court, will perform the swearing-in ceremonies for the House of Representatives at the State Capital January 4, 2011.

“As a former member of the state House, it is a special privilege and honor for me to participate in the ceremony,” Stevens said on Tuesday.

Stevens, 64, of Butler Township, was invited by incoming Speaker of the House Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney.

Stevens in November was unanimously elected to a five-year term as president judge of the Superior Court beginning on Jan. 9. In 2007, he was retained on the statewide appellate court to serve a second 10-year term.

A former state representative, Luzerne County district attorney and Common Pleas Court judge, Stevens graduated from Penn State University and from Dickinson School of Law, engaged in private law practice and served as solicitor for the city of Hazleton before his election to the state House in 1980 and re-election to three additional terms.

After serving four years as district attorney, Stevens was elected to the county Court of Common Pleas in 1991. He was elected to the state Superior Court in 1997 and won a retention vote by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in 2007.

It is going to be an honor for Tarah Toohil and the rest of the incoming class to be sworn in by a hometown native. (SOP picked a better picture of Judge Stevens to be posted).

Congressman-Elect Tom Marino Announces Four Appointments


WILLIAMSPORT -- U.S. Rep.-Elect Tom Marino has announced the appointment of the four individuals who will fill his top congressional staff positions.

The appointments are effective Jan. 3 and will ensure the freshman congressman “hits the ground running” when the 112th Congress is sworn into office on Jan. 5, Marino said.

Lackawanna County natives Bill Tighe and David Weber will head Marino’s Washington and district operations, respectively. Tighe, formerly of Newton Township, was named chief of staff while Weber, who had served as Marino’s campaign manager, was appointed district director.
Drew Kent of Arlington, Va., was tabbed as legislative director, and Renita Fennick, Wilkes-Barre Township, will serve as Marino’s communications director.

“This is a solid team with a lot of energy and a good synergy,” Marino said. “I have the utmost confidence in each one of them and also am certain they have the skills and mindset to work together as a team.

“Most importantly, each of them knows that our mission is to serve the constituents of the 10th District,” Marino said. “The four of them share my sentiment -- and that is, that we must never forget who we are and why the good people of Pennsylvania sent us to Washington in the first place. We will work together with our varied backgrounds and experiences to make sure the voices of the people in the 10th District are heard in D.C.”

Barletta Announces Chief Of Staff Pick

The Times Leader is reporting that Congressman-elect Lou Barletta announced the appointment of Patrick Rothwell as his Chief of Staff.

Rothwell, who was born in Harrisburg and grew up in Massachusetts, has a tremendous amount of congressional experience. Most recently, he was chief of staff for the U.S. House Republican Policy Committee, where he was responsible for daily operations of the Republican leadership office.

Rothwell has worked in various capacities for other members of the U.S. House and Senate, including Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter, R-Mich., for whom he was legislative director; former Rep. Charles W. Norwood, R-Ga.; and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Patrick has a wealth of knowledge and experience in Washington, so he will be a great chief of staff,” Congressman-Elect Barletta said. “Patrick’s considerable talents will definitely help the people of the 11th District.”

Rep. McCotter, the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, added, “U.S. Representative-Elect Barletta is getting an experienced, hard-working person. While we are sorry to see Patrick leave our office, there’s no doubt Representative-Elect Barletta will be well-served with Patrick as his chief of staff.”

“I am honored to be rewarded with this tremendous opportunity to help Representative-Elect Barletta continue the excellent service he performed for 11 years as mayor on behalf of the citizens of Hazleton and extending that work to the entire 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania,” Rothwell said.

In addition Rothwell worked as a Manager of Government Relations at Van Scoyoc Associates from 2005 to 2006.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Congressman-Elect Tom Marino Announces Two Key House Committeses


U.S. Rep.-Elect Tom Marino, R-Lycoming Township, has landed positions on two key congressional committees.

Marino was notified Wednesday that he will join the U.S. House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees when the 112th Congress convenes next month.

U.S. Rep. Pete King of New York will chair the Committee on Homeland Security which oversees the Department of Homeland Security operations. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
Marino said he is pleased and honored to be selected to two committees that are close to his heart and mirror his experience.

“I don’t think there is anything more important than to serve on a committee that is dedicated to protecting our people and our land,” Marino said. “Our focus not only will be to prevent terrorist attacks but to eliminate the terrorists.”

The newly elected congressman from the 10th District believes his legal background, including his prosecutorial work, makes him an ideal match for the Judiciary Committee.

“My 18 years of experience will help me with this committee that writes criminal law, protects the law of the land and strives to keep our children safe,” Marino said. “This committee is often referred to as the guardian of the Constitution and I cannot think of a more noble mission.”
Marino is one of 10 members of the Judiciary Committee and one of two former U.S. Attorneys assigned to the panel that will focus on strengthening national security, protecting intellectual property, and preventing frivolous lawsuits, according to Chairman-Elect Smith.

Other members of the Judiciary Committee include Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana, who is considered as a possible presidential contender, and Rep. Tim Griffin, Arkansas, who a freshman who served as U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of Arkansas. Marino, 58, served as a U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

King said the priorities for the Committee on Homeland Security include: stopping the Obama administration’s plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees and try them in civilian courts; holding hearings on the plans to close Guantanamo; holding hearings on the attack at Fort Hood; and enacting additional border security legislation to curb illegal immigration.
Contact: Renita Fennick

Monday, December 20, 2010

"I would remind the president of the United States that he is not the leader of a party or an ideology. He is the leader of our country." "The most dangerous special interest is big government and president Obama is its lobbyist." "America's strength and salvation remains her free people, not a person." "We the people do not work for government. The government works for us." (House floor speech March 23,2010)- Representative Thad McCotter- Michigan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Congressman-Elect Lou Barletta Receives Committee Assignments

The Times Leader reported that Congressman-Elect Lou Barletta received his comgressional committee assignments.

HAZLETON - U.S. Rep.-elect Lou Barletta received assignments to two committees of the House of Representatives.

The incoming Republican representative of the 11th District will serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Education and Labor Committee when the 112th Congress convenes next month.

The incoming congressman “went to college to become a teacher. His wife is a teacher, and two of his four daughters are teachers,” said Kelly on Sunday of Barletta’s education background.

He added that Barletta and his wife had owned a construction company before he became mayor, and his father founded a road construction company.

“It seems like a logical fit” for him to sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Kelly.

In a prepared statement, Barletta said that because transportation is such a vital issue to the 11th District, “it will be a great asset for Northeastern Pennsylvania to have a congressman on this committee.”

Besides having educators in his family, Barletta pointed out that as a parent he has firsthand knowledge of how critical the country’s education system is.

“We have some excellent schools and colleges in this district and we need to make sure that government is doing everything it can to help them carry out their vital mission,” he said in the statement.

Education and transportation also play key roles in the economic recovery of the country, he said.

Jerry Lynott filed the report.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Marino Announces Committee Appointments

Yesterday was a big day for Congressman-elect Tom Marino. First he announced the appointment of Renita Fennick, executive director of the Luzerne County Republican Party, as his communications director. Bill O'Boyle of the Times Leader filed this report.

Renita Fennick, who has served as executive director of the Luzerne County Republican Committee for nearly two years, has been named Marino’s communications director.

Fennick, 50, of Wilkes-Barre Township, will be based in the 10th Congressional District and will travel occasionally to Washington as required.

Fennick said Marino “has a great message” and she said she is honored to be able to help him convey that message throughout the district.

“Tom is a man of integrity and honor and there’s no doubt that he will be one of the most hard-working representatives the 10th District has ever seen,” Fennick said. Fennick said her new job will be a challenge and she will miss working with the county GOP on a daily basis.

“It is difficult to leave the county Republican Party, yet very exciting to be part of this historic chapter in our nation’s history,” she said.

“I am very happy that Renita has agreed to join my staff as communications director,” said Marino, R-Lycoming Township. “Her experience, connections with local media, and eagerness to directly communicate with constituents will help me to keep the lines of communication open.”

Steve Mocarsky of the Times Leader reported that Marino received two key committee appointments.

Marino, R-Lycoming Township, was notified Wednesday that he will join the U.S. House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees when the 112th Congress convenes next month.

“I don’t think there is anything more important than to serve on a committee that is dedicated to protecting our people and our land,” Marino said in a press release. “Our focus not only will be to prevent terrorist attacks but to eliminate the terrorists.”

Marino, when he takes office on Jan. 5, will represent the 10th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Bradford, Tioga, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

Congressman-elect Lou Barletta will be announcing his committee assignments in the very near future. One committee will be key to plotting a course for Pennsylvania's future. Its area of oversight will address the growing needs of Pennsylvania. Exploring PPP's(public-private partnerships) will be on the agenda.

Barletta resigned his mayoral duties as of December 14th.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Urban Switching From Republican To Democrat

Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban announced he is switching his political registration from Republican to Democrat. In this Times Leader article by Jennifer Learn-Andes he cites lack of support for his latest candidacy within the Republican party and lack of unity among the Republicans for his main reasons to jump ship.

Let's tackle his claim- the lack of support for his candidacy. Anyone who paid attention this election knows that the independent voter determined this election, hands down, not Republicans. According to Luzerne County statistics there are 188,091 registered voters- 110,165 Democrats, 61,287 Republicans, and 15,933 Independents.

In this last election 15,775 Luzerne County Democrats and 15,457 Luzerne County Republicans cast a straight ballot. In case Urban wasn't paying attention that means he received overwhelming Republican support since his vote total was 18,863. House Representative John Yudichak, now Senator Yudichak, received 30,171 total votes.

In this report filed by Terri Morgan-Besecker the day after the election she made these observations. Urban performed much better in Monroe County, defeating Yudichak with 2,131 votes compared to Yudichak’s 1,697 votes. Urban also performed well in Carbon County, garnering 4,553 votes to Yudichak’s 5,122 votes

Obviously Urban's math doesn't pass the litmus test. Switching parties will almost certainly mean defeat for any future office he seeks. Tom Stish, Parker Griffith, and Arlen Specter. The homework lesson Urban failed to perform is evident in his presentation to the public.

I'll paraphrase Dale Carnegie. Politicians just do not want to admit to any wrong doing, and put the blame on everyone else instead of really looking at the situation. There you are; human nature in action, wrongdoers, blaming everybody but themselves.

GOP County Chairman Terry Casey aired a little dirty laundry in the article by stating the possibility that a few party leaders may have “overstepped their boundaries” by supporting Yudichak. Engineering an effective campaign effort gets the desired results not boundaries set by party bosses. Polling would have told Urban his weaknesses. That is how a politician tailors his messages during the campaign. But I guess Urban didn't ask anyone for advice. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Look at Yudichak's record as a representative and look at Urban's as a commissioner. Hands dow the voters pick the right person for the job. The days of straight party voting are long gone. And for now it appears so is Urban.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010's Top 10 YouTube Videos

Hazleton Creek Properties Receive Another Mine Reclammation Permit

This press release came from the Department Of Environmental Protection's website. SOP attended a meeting with representatives of Hazleton Creek Properties last week. The testing performed by the firm on a proactive basis provides sound information that the materials meet or exceed residential parameters. The detractors to this project never address the fact that remediation of this site is ridding it of many toxic substances that were dumped there over many years. With Todd Eachus out of the picture maybe we will see progress on a worthwhile, sustainable effort to develop 277 acres inside Hazleton's boundaries.

Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120



John Repetz, Department of Environmental Protection Southcentral Regional Office


DEP Approves Hazleton Creek’s Use of Coal-fired Electric Generating Waste in Mine Land Reclamation Project

HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection has approved a general permit application by Hazleton Creek Properties authorizing the beneficial use of waste material from coal-fired electric generating facilities to reclaim a section of abandoned mine lands in Luzerne County. The 277-acre site, commonly referred to as the Mammoth Pit, is bounded by Routes 924/309 and Broad Street in Hazleton.

“The work done under this general permit will improve public safety and the environment by eliminating approximately 1.2 miles of dangerous highwalls and reducing acid mine drainage from the abandoned mines,” said Todd Wallace, acting director of DEP’s Bureau of Waste Management.

Under the terms of General Permit WMGR125, Hazleton Creek Properties (HCP) will use up to 550,000 cubic yards annually of a mixture of dry flue gas desulfurization (FGD) waste and coal ash to reclaim 53 acres of the site. FGD waste is produced when a lime powder spray mixes with sulfur dioxide emissions in the air pollution control systems of coal-fired power plants. Coal ash is fly ash, bottom ash or boiler slag and is a byproduct from the burning of coal.

“The people of the Hazleton area have been living with this enormous hole in the ground for decades, the result of unregulated mining activities of the past,” said Wallace. “This permit will allow Hazleton Creek Properties to begin reclaiming a portion of the site and return it to productive use.”

This is the fourth permit regulating fill that DEP has issued for this project. Since 2006, HCP has been using regulated fill material such as concrete, bricks, blocks and dredged material to build rail sidings and access roads, and to cap two old landfills at the site. Two other permits issued earlier this year authorize HCP to accept dredged materials, coal ash, and cement and lime furnace dust, as well as construction and demolition fines for use as construction material. HCP has not begun operations under the terms of those two permits.

HCP submitted this permit application in June. DEP held an informational meeting Aug. 31 and accepted public comments through the end of September. General Permit WMGR125 and other supporting documents are posted at under the “Community Information” section of the Northeast Regional Office page, found by clicking on “Regional Resources.”

Judge Strikes Down Obama Healthcare Law

In this Times Leader report U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down Obamacare as unconstitional. His decision means that the Obama admininstration position regarding healthcare and the threshold to sustain itself as interstate commerce does not meet the litmus test based on past cases.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Here's What Happens When We Let Government Run The Auto Industry

From Sam Barer's Four Wheel Drift:

The Depressing Reality Of Camaro Production Numbers

GM delivered 46,378 new Camaros to dealers between January and June 2010. A darling of automotive press since the announcement of its return, the Camaro has actually turned out to be another case example, along with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, of how going retro is a really bad business decision.

The Camaro is a good performer on the road, but it isn’t from a business standpoint — although you’d never know by reading the mainstream and enthusiast automotive publications. Analyze the production and sales reports and compare to historical figures, though, and it becomes very clear.

The last generation Camaro’s final year was 2002. That year 42,098 units were produced during the entire run. While it might initially seem like the current Camaro is twice as successful, readers must keep in mind that the elder Camaro had to compete against its F-body fraternal twin, the Pontiac Firebird, of which 30,690 units were produced. The whole F-body car program had been slated for the buzzsaw years before, so production and sales in 2002 was done with minimal marketing support.

The current Camaro team has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and pr, plus additional hundreds of millions in product development…not to mention placement in seemingly every major automotive magazine each month for over a year. Still, the current Camaro is only 9,984 units ahead at the six-month point (on pace for 19,968 additional annual units) than the last gasp of the F-body car line killed for its poor sales. Even worse, in 1997 with a sagging coupe market (remember this is the era when the RX-7 and Supra left the American market?) and a four-year-old body style, the Camaro alone logged 95,812 delivery units, not to mention an additional 30,754 Firebirds over at Pontiac.

It is also safe to expect that four years into the new Camaro’s life, production figures will mostly likely amplify the failures of its product plan. Analysis of sales and production results from all manufacturers conclude that a retro car’s product lifecycle is much shorter, because the look appeals to fewer people as the novelty value wears quickly.

Meanwhile Honda logged 133,601 deliveries through June (on pace to 267K-plus annual units) of the real modern interpretation of the original low-buck, high-fun pony car for early-twentysomethings, the Civic. Hopefully Honda’s executive team in 2050 doesn’t pull a GM — or Ford, for that matter, and build cars that look like the 2010 Civic, because that’s what looks good to the 65-year-old executives, rather than the product’s actual target market.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tax The Wealthy

This article is from 2007 and appeared in the The Times located in London.

Buffett blasts system that lets him pay less tax than secretary

Tom Bawden in New York

Warren Buffett, the third-richest man in the world, has criticised the US tax system for allowing him to pay a lower rate than his secretary and his cleaner.

Speaking at a $4,600-a-seat fundraiser in New York for Senator Hillary Clinton, Mr Buffett, who is worth an estimated $52 billion (£26 billion), said: “The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

Mr Buffett said that he was taxed at 17.7 per cent on the $46 million he made last year, without trying to avoid paying higher taxes, while his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30 per cent. Mr Buffett told his audience, which included John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley, and Alan Patricof, the founder of the US branch of Apax Partners, that US government policy had accentuated a disparity of wealth that hurt the economy by stifling opportunity and motivation.

The comments are among the most signficant yet in a debate raging on both sides of the Atlantic about growing income inequality and how the super-wealthy are taxed.

They echo those made this month by Nicholas Ferguson, one of the leading figures in Britain’s private equity industry, when he criticised tax rates that left its multimillionaire venture capitalists “paying less tax than a cleaning lady”.

Last week senior members of the US Senate proposed to increase the rate of tax that private equity and hedge fund staff pay on their share of the profits, known as carried interest, from the 15 per cent capital gains rate to about 35 per cent.

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, acknowledged in an interview yesterday that there were justified concerns about the huge profits generated by private equity firms and that he worried that income inequality was “poisoning democracy”. He also said that he would be voting for the Democrat candidate at the next election. Mr Blankfein is the highest-paid executive on Wall Street, earning $54 million last year.

Mr Buffett, who runs the investment group Berkshire Hathaway and is widely regarded as the world’s most successful investor, said that he was a Democrat because Republicans are more likely to think: “I’m making $80 million a year – God must have intended me to have a lower tax rate.”

Mr Buffett said that a Republican proposal to eliminate elements of inheritance tax, which raises about $30 billion a year from the assets of about 12,000 rich families, would broaden the disparity between rich and poor. He added that the Republicans would seek to recover lost revenue by increasing taxes for the less prosperous.

He said: “You could take that $30 billion and give $1,000 to 30 million poor families. Or should you favour the 12,000 estates and make 30 million families pay an extra $1,000?”

In this November 22, 2010 article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal Buffet is still leading the charge on this issue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A New Direction For Our Educational System

Last Wednesday Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article about Governor-elect Tom Corbett's transition team. It is comprised of 17 committees charged to examine every state department, help formulate policy, choose key personnel, and recommend ways to cut costs.

"It's a wide spectrum of people," he added, including many who helped or worked for former Govs. Tom Ridge and Dick Thornburgh, as well as people who worked with Corbett years ago when he was in private practice as a lawyer.

Among them: Alan Novak, former chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the committee advising on agricultural issues; John Hohenwarter, Pennsylvania's lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who is a member of the group advising on energy and the environment; and David Hess and Brad Mallory, both former cabinet members in the Ridge administration.

In choosing the group that will advise him on education, Corbett included several staunch charter school advocates. They include Vahan Gureghian, a Gladwyne lawyer who operates the state's largest charter school, Chester Community Charter School in Chester.

Gureghian contributed $250,000 to Corbett's campaign and donated heavily to other Republican campaign funds as well, state records show. Gureghian was also named to cochair Corbett's working group on transportation and infrastructure.

Also on Corbett's education committee: State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat who is one of the most vocal proponents in the legislature for charter schools and school choice, and David Pollard and Joel Greenberg, both with Susquehanna International Group.

Susquehanna International's executives - Greenberg among them - gave an astonishing $5 million to Williams' unsuccessful campaign for governor in this year's primary because they liked his stance on school choice, particularly his support for the use of publicly funded vouchers to enable more families to pay for private education.

"When I look at the list of people he's chosen for education, no one jumps out who is an advocate for traditional K-12 education," said Lawrence A. Feinberg, a Haverford Township school board member and cochair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, which advocates for public education.

It looks like Corbett is going the path of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. Look at this report from CBS of New York- Christie Announces Sweeping N.J. Education Reform.

Determined to turn New Jersey’s education system on its head, Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday unveiled a tough-love reform package that will make classroom achievement — not seniority or tenure — the basis for pay hikes and career advancement in Garden State public schools.

Christie is turning his take-no-prisoner’s style to the classroom, demanding a top to bottom overhaul of how New Jersey students learn and teachers teach. And that means undoing tenure, seniority and other union work rules.

“We cannot wait. Your children are sitting in these classrooms today. We cannot wait to make it better,” Christie told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association has this statement on its website.

Each year, federal and state legislation and policy, and our elections process directly impact the work and lives of PSEA members. Year after year the PSEA advocates more money for education, not to impact outcomes to students, but to increase the pay and benefit package for its members. The current pension crisis facing Pennsylvania is in part due to a 25% increase to teachers that accompanied the 50% increase to legislators.

The PSEA lobbies intensively for its own position and benefit.

PSEA's Political Action Committee for Education (PSEA-PACE) supports pro-public education candidates in state and local elections. No PSEA member dues dollars support PACE.

PACE is a nonpartisan organization, funded by voluntary member contributions. PACE-recommended candidates are chosen by PSEA/PACE members, based on their positions and records on education, labor, and health care issues. Countless decisions made by elected officials affect your career. Contributions to PACE will make sure your voice is heard and help you to deliver the power of a great education in Pennsylvania.

Governor-elect Tom Corbett appears he has chosen the track to put students first.

In the Mounds View School District half days were eliminated from the calendar this year. In the Hazleton Area School District when AYP has been dismall half days were promoted as a way to improve educational objectives according to Superintendent Sam Marolo.

Students shouldn't have to take remedial classes when they enter college or need to change their major three or four times because they don't have a focused goal leaving high school, he said.

And teachers need more professional development, an area that has been lacking, Marolo said. Two half-day in-service sessions, which some parents may see as inconvenient, will allow the district to bring administrators and teachers onto the same page.

This issue demonstrates the validity of this article by David Kaplan of Fortune Magazine- One Size Can't Teach All. He opines on the merits of "No Child Left Behind"(NCLB) and Race to the Top, two initiatives on a federal level designed to improve education. It is no secret No Child Left Behind has failed miserably as a national policy.

If U.S. students were doing fundamentally better, we could dispense with a debate over Washington's proper place in education. But overall performance isn't improving, and "reform" has yielded unintended consequences. Some boosts in superficial "competence" are merely the product of lowered bars. "NCLB encourages cheating and gaming the system," says education historian Diane Ravitch. There's also much evidence that teachers "teach to the test" and thereby discount wide swaths of other curriculum like literature and history and music. Even if schools were confident enough to ignore test preparation and to assume good scores would take care of themselves, tests still take time to administer, correct, and report. Moreover, the obsession with quantifiable standards of both proficiency and progress fails to distinguish the different needs of schools in, say, poor urban areas from those in affluent suburbs.

Why, then, do we mindlessly continue to buy into a centralized approach? It makes sense that we have, for example, OSHA and FDA standards -- workplace safety and pharmaceutical efficacy are susceptible to easy measurement. Citizens of Maine and Montana ought to get identical protections. The same goes for national regulation of airspace, railroads, securities, mail, weather reports, and hamburgers. But public policy on education seems a classic instance in which local control is best. Apart from constitutional issues like desegregation, that means allowing states and communities to experiment with curriculum, assessment, and tenure. Indeed, the charter-school movement -- deified in Waiting for "Superman" -- is a splendid illustration of decentralization and experimentation.

Bureaucrats in Washington aren't stupid and they mean well, but they'd really have to be superheroes to design one-size-fits-all standards. After a decade of time lost and billions spent, the better course would be to pull back from the top-down. That would be the real revolution.

This Newsweek article says it all- Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers.
We, as parents, have to insist on a stoppage to the assembly line mentality of pushing children through school to graduation. It is incumbent upon our federal legislators to get out of the way and allow local strategies develop the game plan needed to put our students back on track with quality education eliminating the tolerance for low expectations.

When the PSEA gets behind a mission to improve education rather than benefits for its members Pennsylvania will see real progress in educational objectives. Why do teachers need tenure when they are unionized and have a grievance procedure? Why do parents feel helpless in suing a teacher because the union protects teachers with legal representation that many parents can't afford to fight?

The union must embrace teacher accountability by insisting on measuring teacher performance. If the union helps toward eliminating weak teachers from the system leading to better educational outcomes the hard working professionals insisting on strong academic records will be rewarded with more social prestige and higher salaries.

Friday, December 3, 2010

And You Want The Government To Handle Your Healthcare

From the HME Blog by Theresa Flaherty:

Bureaucracy is, as bureaucracy does

You may recall that I wrote a few months back that Maine was so bad at managing its food stamp program that it got some money to help fix the problem.

Here’s an example of the problem, as reported on

Leah L. Wright, 34, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Kennebec County Superior Court on one count of theft by deception and eight counts of aggravated forgery.

According to the indictment, Wright received $1,000 to $10,000 from the state Department of Health and Human Services from Sept. 28, 2006, to Feb. 1, 2010, by falsely stating that she was pregnant.

Do the math folks: Ms. Wright, one of our fine, upstanding citizens, I am sure, was allegedly pregnant for 40 months. And those folks at DHS apparently just kept feeding her food stamps.

Don’t even get me started on why a pregnant 34-year-old should qualify for food stamps in the first place.

So once again providers, rest assured that you are not crazy when it comes to fraud, waste and abuse. Government bureaucracy is and always will be, a bureaucracy.

Theresa Flaherty

Speaking of foodstamps look at this astonishing figure on the amount of households receiving foodstamps in August, 2010 vs. August,2009, a whopping 19.1% increase. Pennsylvania is at 14.2%. It mirrors the 11% increase in the poverty rate for our Commonwealth in 2009.

But don't worry Obama says we are in recovery. Shhh..don't tell him it's Christmas season and people get hired temporarily...let's surprise him.

Petrilla And Griffith Clash Over Sunshine Act

Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette

Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith feels the county commissioners violated the Sunshine Act during a recent meeting of the minds. According to this report from Jennifer Learn-Andes of the Times Leader Griffith is considering legal action to prove his point.

Griffith said he has evidence that all three commissioners met behind closed doors on Nov. 24 to discuss formulation of the county’s proposed 2011 budget.

The Sunshine Act says deliberation by a quorum of an agency must occur at a public meeting unless it meets certain exceptions, such as discussions about some personnel issues, contract negotiations, property lease/purchases and litigation.

Griffith said controller’s office Solicitor Tom Mosca is reviewing the matter and would file the legal action at no additional cost to the county. Violations of the act call for a fine of up to $100, he said.

Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla told Griffith that commissioners are permitted to meet “as long as there’s no deliberation and no decisions made.”

“It’s not a violation of the Sunshine Act for us to be together,” she said.

But Griffith said Thursday that he’s confident that deliberation occurred because commissioners discussed their plans to alter the county’s proposed budget. If he proceeds with legal action, Griffith said he will seek testimony from management officials who attended that closed-door meeting, including county Budget/Finance Chief Tom Pribula, who has resigned effective Dec. 8.

The Pennsylvania Newspapers Association wrotethree articles dealing with Misconceptions about The Sunshine Act.

When an agency as defined in the Act (for example, a school board or a board of supervisors) has a prearranged gathering attended or participated in by a quorum of its members, the gathering is a meeting. You can call it a work session or a conference or getting together at the diner after the meeting or a fact-finding session, but it's nonetheless a meeting in the eyes of the law. The gathering place is a matter of complete indifference under the Sunshine Act's terms. A meeting can happen anywhere inside or outside a government building.

Meetings may or may not be open to the public. Whenever a meeting occurs for the purpose of deliberation or taking official action, it must be open to the public and all the formalities associated with a public meeting - notice, public participation, minute-taking, etc. - must be observed by the agency. Deliberation is defined in the Act as discussion for the purpose of making a decision about agency business. Official action is also a defined term, and it encompasses a broad range of activity including making recommendations or decisions, creating policy and voting.

It is hard for the ordinary person to understand Commissioner Petrilla's position. Discussion about the budget is deliberation regardless of whether some conclusion(forget a vote) came from that discussion.

Don't Walk Don't Tell

A crosswalk sign in Spokane, Washington was obscured on December 2, 2010 and appeared to be giving pedestrians the middle finger.

Carolee Medico's MisGuided Attempt

Veteran reporter Jennifer Learn-Andes wrote an article yesterday that Luzerne County Prothontary Carolee Medico Olenginski filed a lawsuit in court challenging voter approved home rule’s elimination of her elected post.

The suit, filed by Prothonotary’s Office Solicitor Sam Stretton, argues that the keeping of civil records falls under the judicial system, and moving those duties to the executive branch would violate the state constitution.

“I’m not looking to save my job. I’m looking to protect the constitution and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches of government,” Medico Olenginski said Wednesday. .

And that is when the fight started.

While the argument can be made that the Prothonotary's office is involved in record keeping of the courts present law is quite clear that counties choosing home rule can abolish that elective office. The prothonotary is the chief notary.


(b) Home rule counties. As provided by 42 Pa.C.S. § 2701(b) (relating toscope and purpose of chapter), a county home rule charter may supersede the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 27. The following unofficial summary of local law is provided for the general information of the public and system and related personnel, and shall not be construed as an authoritative interpretation of any provision of law:

(1) Delaware County. Section 801 of the charter provides that the elected
Register of Wills shall be the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Division, and section 802 provides for the appointment by the Register, subject to the budgetary approval of the County Council, of a deputy or deputies and such other assistants as may be required. All other functions of the Office of the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas are vested in an Office of Judicial Support, which the County Council is required by section 425 of the charter to establish by combining the offices of the Clerk of the Courts and Prothonotary. Section 1213 of the charter provides that the separate office of Clerk of the Courts was abolished on the first Monday of January 1978 and that the separate office of Prothonotary shall be abolished effective the first Monday of January 1980.

The following section is contained in the approval of home rule for Luzerne County.

Section 12.04—Elective Offices Abolished. The following elective offices are abolished effective with the end of the terms of office to which the officeholders were elected in 2007 or subsequently appointed: County Commissioners, Clerk of Courts, Coroner, Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff, and Treasurer. The following elective offices are abolished effective with the end of the terms of office to which the officeholders were elected in 2009 or subsequently appointed: Jury Commissioners, Prothonotary, and Register of Wills.

According to these records contained in the Pennsylvania Archives the following information on the office of Prothonotary is noted.

Whereas the 11 elected county officials are enumerated in the Pennsylvania Constitution, their powers and duties are prescribed by statutes which are scattered throughout the county codes and general state laws. Consolidation of certain elected offices is provided by state law in the smaller class counties involving the offices of prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills, clerk of the orphans' court, and recorder of deeds.

Here is a link to the court order in Allegheny County that abolished the Office of the Prothonotary and placed its functions in the single appointed office of the Director of Court Records.

Lackawanna County reorganized under Home Rule that created the Clerk of Judicial Records that has the powers, functions, and duties previously assigned by law to the Office of Prothonotary.

After reviewing all of this documentation Carolee Medico Olenginski should drop her legal action immediately to save the taxpayers of Luzerne County the expense of her futile attempt to remain in office.

Legislature Pay Raise- Same Old Issue With A New Twist

Recent artilces and reports by the media told us that more Pennsylvania legislators and the governor are forgoing the pay raise slated for next year. Andrew Seder of the Times Leader penned this story on the topic.

The real problem for Pennsylvania taxpayers is the fact that their elected official are still taking the money from the Commonwealth's Treasury. I believe that is an important point for newly elected officials to consider. I know that their intentions are good but feel they need to look at the greater picture.

The last two elections were turning points in political history. The people want government to change. If they don't get it from one party they are fickle as hell. They will jump ship faster than greased lightning.

Consider the following:

1. Taking the COLA in any form still means legislators are taking it from the taxpayers in a time when Pennsylvania is facing a $5 billion deficit.

2. Forget the argument that it is a small, insignificant amount and won't make a difference in the Treasury. Leaders must lead by example regardless of the maginitude of the impact. At the very least the COLA amount for this year in its entirety between both chambers of our bicameral legislture is over $330,000.00. Last time I checked to the average voter that is a huge amount.

3. There are many Consumer Price Indexes(CPI). Price indexes are available for the U.S., the four Census regions, size of city, cross-classifications of regions and size-classes, and for 26 local areas. Due to differences in the CPI picked for calculating solons' raises(CPI for mid Atlantic states) our legislators received $7,751.16 more per seat since 2003 more than if the same CPI determinator used for seniors receiving Social Security was applied over the same time period. As a result, since 2003, the legislature received a total increase of $1,961,043.48. Leadership figures will bump that calculation slightly higher but safe to say over $2 million dollars. That's not chump change by any standard.

4. Taxpayers know that Legislators accepting the raise and donating it to charity still means the dollar amount used will go towards calculation of their pension.

5. Taxpayers know that the pension also has a COLA attached to it compounding the benefit of accepting a COLA and donating it to charity.

6. Taxpayers know that Legislators are getting the credit for donations to charities by those organizations rather than the taxpayers receiving the credit for their hard earned money.

It is time to turn off the COLA process for the next few years until their pay balances out with what it would have been using the CPI multiplier used by seniors. Next, unless they repeal the COLA, they should change the CPI used for calculating their COLA to the one seniors are forced to accept by the federal legislators.

Lastly they should always be mindful that California is a five hour flight but you can be there through the internet in 0.4 seconds. The new twist I am making is that it very easy to see what legislators in other states are making. The National Conference of State Legislatures complied this list of salaries and per diems for state lawmakers. Only California and New York surpass Pennsylvania in annual pay.

The Waccama Times reports on pension benefits for state legislators. Nine states – Alabama, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming – no longer provide pensions to state legislators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington, D.C.

In South Carolina, retired legislators earn an annual average of $19,605 in gross retirement benefits, based on July figures from the state retirement system.
Newly retired Keith McCall could receive a benefit near $90,000.00 according to the Post Gazette. Prior to retirement his salary was $122,254 as Speaker of the House.

With information like that Governor-elect Tom Corbett will have plenty of ammunition to support his campaign platform of reducing the size of Pennsylvania's legisalture as part of government reform.

Reducing the Size & Cost of Government – The size and cost of state government has grown out of control, and it is time to bring fiscal responsibility and accountability back to Pennsylvania. We must continue the forward momentum on streamlining state government by reducing the cost of how state government does business. Through technology upgrades, centralizing communications between agencies and lowering the overall administrative costs associated with running state government, we can return millions of dollars to Pennsylvanians. Tom Corbett has called for a 10 percent reduction in government administrative operations in all branches of government.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jurists Vehicle Costs In Pennsylvania

Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley penned an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the cost of vehicles and private leases for our Pennsylvania jurists. Below is an easy to read graphic about the problem.

Pennsylvania's top judges are among the nation's highest paid, with salaries ranging from $195,137 for the chief justice of the Supreme Court to $178,913 for other appellate judges, making their perks difficult for taxpayers to reconcile, said Greg Wrightstone of the PA Coalition for Responsible Government.

The Pennsylvania courts' car leases stand in stark contrast to courts elsewhere. In states surrounding Pennsylvania, top jurists get state fleet cars for court business only, or mileage reimbursement for business-related travel. No neighboring state permits them private leases.

Sally Updyke Mundy tops the class leasing a 2010 Mercedes Benz.

Congressional Swearing In Ceremony

SOP called the United States Congress switchboard[(202) 224-3121] this morning to find the date and time for the swearing in of the 112th Congress. Here is the answer.

"We don't know yet." Then I asked if the ceremony takes place in the halls of Congress. "We don't know yet, it varies, they haven't told us yet." And folks that is what is running this country.

An unofficial date is January 5th from a search of the net. Let's see. Most of us have to return to work January 2nd. Like the joke goes "And that is when the fight started."

Kathy Gill of gave us this unofficial information about the oath.

The Civil War led President Lincoln to develop an expanded oath for all federal civilian employees (April 1861). That July, when Congress reconvened, "members echoed the president's action by enacting legislation requiring employees to take the expanded oath in support of the Union. This oath is the earliest direct predecessor of the modern oath."

The current oath was enacted in 1884:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

The public swearing-in ceremony consists of Representatives raising their right hands and repeating the oath of office. This ceremony is led by the Speaker of the House, and no religious texts are used. Some members of Congress later hold separate private ceremonies for photo ops.

The Clerk of the House provides this information which is essentially the same.

As required by Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, Members of Congress shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support the Constitution. Representatives, delegates, and the resident commissioner all take the oath of office on the first day of the new Congress, immediately after the House has elected its Speaker. The Speaker of the House administers the oath of office as follows:

"I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Representatives elected in special elections during the course of a Congress generally take the oath of office on the floor of the House Chamber when the Clerk of the House has received a formal notice of the new Member's election or appointment from State government authorities. On rare occasions, because of illness or other circumstances, a Member-elect has been authorized to take the oath of office at a place other than the House. In those circumstances, the Clerk of the House sees to the proper administration of the oath.

The practice of assigned seating for members was abolished during the 63rd Congress in 1913. Now, Members may sit wherever they please. Generally, Democrats occupy the east side of the Chamber on the Speaker's right, while Republicans sit across the main aisle on the Speaker's left. The tables on either side of the aisle are reserved for committee leaders during debate on a bill reported from their committee and for party leaders.

It would seem from that information that the swearing in ceremony is held on the floor of the House immediately after the House elects its Speaker. No religious texts are used in the ceremony including the Bible or the Quran.

BTW, no wonder government is so messed up. The Democrats sit on the right and the Republicans on the left. I almost fell off my seat laughing.

Here is a picture of the electronic voting machine used on the floor.

Electronic Voting Machine

Recorded and roll call votes are normally taken by electronic device, except when the Speaker orders the vote to be recorded by other methods prescribed by the Rules of the House. In addition, quorum calls are generally taken by electronic device. Each Member is provided with a personalized Vote-ID Card which can be used to vote electronically. A number of vote stations are positioned around the Chamber. Each vote station has a slot into which the voting card is inserted and buttons marked "yea," "nay," "present." The stations have an "open" indicator, which is lit when a vote is in progress and the system is ready to accept votes. Members vote by inserting the voting card into the card slot and pressing the appropriate button to indicate the Member's choice.

Members, if they wish, may have their votes recorded by handing a paper ballot to the Tally Clerk, who then records the vote electronically according to the indicated preference of the Member. The paper ballots are green for "yea," red for "nay," and amber for "present." The voting machine records the votes and tallies the result when the vote is completed.

For more information on House Voting Procedures: How Our Laws Are Made: XI. Consideration and Debate, by the House Parliamentarian.

Another piece of trivia about the Hopper.

Representatives introduce bills by placing them in the bill hopper attached to the side of the clerk’s desk. The term derives from a funnel-shaped storage bin filled from the top and emptied from the bottom, which is often used to house grain or coal. Bills are retrieved from the hopper and referred to committees with the appropriate jurisdiction.

The hopper shown here became part of the House Collection of Art and Artifacts after it was retired. It was in use from 1991 to 2003.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Musto Arraignment Announced- December 15th

Last week Senator Ray Musto sought a postponement for his arraignment on federal charges of accepting cash and services in exchange for his influence as a public official.

The Times Leader is reporting that U.S. District Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt has set the date for December 15th at 11A.M. in the federal court in Scranton.

A biography on Judge Thomas Blewitt. Judge Blewitt handled this case involving child pornography that received some backlash over releasing the person charged on his own recognizance with ankle monitoring.

Musto has indicated he intends to have his day in court.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

When Will The Obama Administration And TSA Wake Up?

TSA body scans and pat downs are an issue that just won't go away. The Obama administration is once again demonstrating its lack of experience in dealing with the nation's problems. The recent TSA directives are NOT making flying any safer for Americans. Instead they are needlessly causing delays at the airport and aggravating a public that wants less and less government interference.

Look at the general aviation sector(private planes and jets) of air travel. General aviation land on the same runways and airports that commercial carriers use for passenger travel. There are no security checkpoints at the fixed based operators who tend to the needs of general aviation aircraft.

The TSA has a "secure voluntary" program for fixed based operators. TSA’s Secure Fixed Base Operator Program is a proof of concept, public-private sector partnership program that will allow FBOs to check passenger and crew identification against manifest or eAPIS filings for positive identification of passengers and crew on board general aviation aircraft. If you click on the link above you will find this question and answer.

The passengers and/or crewmembers do not wish to participate in this program. Is the flight prohibited from departing the Secure FBO location, or from entering U.S. airspace?
No. The Secure Fixed Base Operator Program is a voluntary initiative. No flight should be delayed or otherwise affected if an individual chooses not to participate in the program. Go figure. Who is the moron at TSA that came up with body scans and pat downs?

Hangars are not monitored where the planes are stored. In many cases one can drive onto the airport environment by simply punching in a code that is not unique to each pilot at a gate designed to keep the public out. There is usually only one code for the entire airport.

Turning a general aviation aircraft into a "bomb laden wagon" is simple. If Timothy McVie was able to load a truck with incendiaries terrorists would have no problem doing the same with small aircraft.

In 1994 Frank Eugene Corder flew a single engined Cessna into the White House. Despite being detected on radar the Secret Service was not able to stop the crash into the presidential mansion. Even if a private aircraft were detected in an airport environment there is simply no credible way of knowing whether it is a threat or not. This comment was made about the White House incident.

"The scenario for a crackpot pilot being able to do that is within reason," said Leo Janssens, president of the Ohio-based Aviation Safety Institute. "It's almost impossible to keep planes out of that area because it's so close to National Airport." It is definitely impossible to keep private aircraft out of the airport environment.

You can't take a file or scissors on an airplane. But those lucky enough to carry an American Express Centurion Card(also known as the American Express Black Card) have a tool that can slice anyone at any time. It is made of titanium. Holders are only required to put it through the scanner at the airport, not place it in their baggage for stowing underneath in the cargo hold.

The TSA has not solved one problem with body scanning or pat downs. What they did was convince more and more people that the government wants more control over our lives. Liberty and justice for all is out the window. If a teacher can be fired and arrested for groping a student what gives the government the right to ignore the law and take away our civil liberties?

Damon Root writes this assessment on body scanners and pat downs.

Air travelers now face a few bad choices: Submit to the body scanner, endure an invasive manual pat-down or accept an $11,000 civil fine. This is security theater at its finest. Congress needs to revisit these protocols completely—starting with a total halt to the obscenely expensive and jarringly ineffective full-body scanner.

Despite what their proponents would have us believe, body scanners are not some magical tool to find all weapons and explosives that can be hidden on the human body. Yes, the scanners work against high-density objects such as guns and knives—but so do traditional magnetometers.

And the scanners fare poorly against low-density materials such as thin plastics, gels and liquids. Care to guess what [Christmas bomber Farouk] Abdulmutallab's bomb was made of? The Government Accountability Office reported in March that it's not clear that a scanner would've detected that device.

Read this New York Post Op-Ed on the cost of the scanners.

If the ineffectiveness of body scanners is not enough to give the public pause, the cost ought to be.

An army of executives for scanner-producing corporations -- mostly former high-ranking Homeland Security officials -- successfully lobbied Congress into spending $300 million in stimulus money to buy the scanners. But running them will cost another $340 million each year. Operating them means 5,000 added TSA personnel, growing the screener workforce by 10 percent. This, when the federal debt commission is saying that we must cut federal employment rolls, including some FBI agents, just to keep spending sustainable.

Why cut funding for the people who actually catch terrorists to add more pointless hassles at the airport? (Going through a body scanner also takes longer -- the process is slower than magnetometers.)

Scanners clearly fail an honest cost-benefit analysis. Yet it's privacy that has the traveling public up in arms. Understandably so -- the message the TSA is sending us is: "Be seen naked or get groped."

We tell our children not to talk to strangers, but now a government functionary gets to fondle away just because he has a badge?

Since when are airplanes the only things terrorists want to blow up? Evidently the Obama administration didn't pay attention the last election.

Friday, November 26, 2010

2011- A Look Back And What's Ahead, Hold Onto Your Wallet

John Cole Times-Tribune Toon

It seems Pennsylvania government can't run from the "pay raise" issue. In 2005 legislators tried to ram through a "pay grab" mistakenly labeled a pay raise. As Pennsylvanians are learning once again legislators already receive an automatic pay increase every year authorized in a 1995 law.

The problem with the automatic pay increase is the index used for its calculation. Instead of the overall Consumer Price Index used for most in private industry and seniors receving Social Security Pennsylvania legislators figured out that the CPI for mid-Atlantic states runs slightly higher. As a result their automatic pay increases since 2003 gave them an additional 10% boost more than if the overall CPI were the benchmark.

In these trying economic times and a bloated, over-staffed state, Pennsylvania lawmakers should reject the pay increase until they resolve the budget deficit and pension crisis issues. As this article by Jan Murphy at points out the costs to Pennsylvanians over the "pension grab of 2001" will escalate due to recent legislation designed to lessen the impact.

The law is aimed at addressing the soaring costs of the state's public pensions systems. Here's a look at what it means: TAXPAYERS: It smooths out the anticipated spike in taxpayer contributions to fund the pension systems. But it costs taxpayers more in the long run. It is akin to refinancing a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year mortgage, which makes the monthly payments smaller but the overall amount paid bigger.

Critics such as the Commonwealth Foundation assail the added debt and say it doesn't address the looming crisis. Supporters say the new law is nonetheless a good start by saving costs on new workers. NEW EMPLOYEES: They now must have 10 years of service to become vested, compared with five for current employees. State employees must work until age 65 (instead of 60); school employees must work until 62 (instead of 60).

New workers receive a 25 percent reduction in retirement benefits. They also are barred from taking a lump-sum payment of their contributions upon retiring. CURRENT EMPLOYEES: These changes do not impact any school or state employees hired before Jan. 1 or incumbent lawmakers. Their benefits remain the same.

As Senator Lisa Boscola points out in her February, 2005 flyer Pennsylvanians have faced the following tax increases since 1997.
  • 1995 Automatic Pay Raise
  • 1997 Gas Tax Increase
  • 2001 Legislative Pension Grab
  • 2002 State Tax Increase
  • 2003 State Income Tax Increase
  • 2004 Occupational Privilege Tax Increase
The tax increases don't include what happened on the county and local level as well as our school district property taxes. In 2002 a COLA was added to the pension benefits as well.

The following stats are from the Berks Patriot Presentation by Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Pennsylvania has the 11th highest state and local tax burden, up from 24th in 1990. It is 43rd in job growth, 47th in population growth, and 48th in personal income growth.

People are moving out of Pennsylvania due to this horrendous environment. United Van lines reports 58% of movers are leaving Pennsylvania and Allied Van Lines reports that number at 60%.

As the American Conservative points out Pennsylvania has the highest Corporate Net Income Tax rate in the world.

The Commonwealth Foundation reminds us of the unemployment trust fund debt facing Pennsylvania taxpayers to the tune of $3 billion. Pennsylvanians will also be faced with paying back $800 million to the MCare fund due to a court order.

When the stimulus money runs out in 2011 Pennsylvania's bicameral legislature and Governor Tom Corbett will have a daunting task facing them to fix what is wrong.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I have to admit this. Despite those who thought otherwise I didn't believe Ray Musto was approachable by influence seekers. Call me naive, that's okay but I truly believed Musto to be better than that.

A report by the Times-Tribune has changed my mind. Today, Musto's attorneys' annouced a motion to postpone Musto's day in court. This action came despite yesterday's assertion by the Musto camp that he wanted his day in court. Bring it on and get it over with or not.

Mr. Musto should decide what strategy is best for him.. So far his horse is having trouble getting out of the gate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Times Shamrock Reports Grand Jury Indicts Ray Musto

In a somewhat shocking revelation to the political community the Times Shamrock is reporting that State Senator Ray Musto has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

State Sen. Raphael Musto was indicted by a federal grand jury today on charges that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from an unnamed company after supporting the company's efforts to secure state grants.

The company performed nearly $48,0000 in renovations on a building Mr. Musto owned in 2006 and billed him $25,000, according to the indictment. Mr. Musto issued a $25,000 check to the company, but representatives of the company then paid him $25,000 in cash, the grand jury alleged.

The company did an additional $10,000 worth of work on the building, but never billed Mr. Musto, according to the grand jury, and provided Mr. Musto with annual holiday gifts in 2005-2008 that Mr. Musto did not report on state financial disclosure forms, the indictment said.

The indictment identifies the company only as "Company A," but federal agents are known to have examined records in Pittston Twp. detailing renovations on a building Mr. Musto owned there. The company performing the renovations was Mericle Construction, owned by Robert K. Mericle. Mr. Mericle has already pleaded guilty in connection with illegal payments made to two county judges who lodged juveniles in two detention centers built by his company.

On April 22,2010 Michael Sisak, staff writer for Times Shamrock, wrote this piece about the link between Mericle and Musto.

The mystery surrounding a recent federal raid on state Sen. Raphael J. Musto's home and the subsequent seizure of Pittston Township building permits twisted toward clarity Wednesday as the township released documents tying the lawmaker to $40,000 worth of home renovations conducted by the construction wing of Luzerne County corruption figure Robert K. Mericle's real estate empire.

Mericle's firm, Mericle Construction, obtained building permits in February and May 2006 to perform $5,200 worth of roof repairs and $34,800 remodeling work on a Bryden Street house that has been in Musto's family for more than a half century. Musto, who inherited the property from his father in 1970, transferred ownership to his son, Raphael J. Musto Jr., in August 2006.

The property, which was rezoned from residential to commercial following the construction work, now serves as an office for Musto Jr.'s physical therapy practice, Physical Therapy Center Unlimited.

Ray Musto(real name Raphael John Musto) ended his 40 year political career by not seeking re-election this year. Musto started his ascent by winning a special election for the unexpired term of his father, James Musto, House of Representative's seat in 1971. In 1980 he won a special election to become Congressman of the 11th Congressional district. In 1982 he was elected to the Senate representing the 14th District of Pennsylvania.

On October 7, 2005 Congressman Paul Kanjorski honored Senator Musto on the floor of the United States House of Representatives for his Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon him by the Italian American Asssociation of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

Link to the Musto Indictment Paperwork from the Times Leader.

The announcement from the Citizen Voice's website.

Senator Robert Mellow Remarks In 2000

In the year 2000 Senator Joseph Loeper was charged with falsifying tax related documents. According to the Free Library here are Senator Robert Mellow's comments regarding that indictment.

Statement Issued by PA Sen. Robert J. Mellow Regarding Indictment of PA Sen. Joe Loeper

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ --

The following was issued today by the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Information Office:

Today, I am deeply saddened by events surrounding the indictment of Republican State Sen. Joe Loeper, the Republican leader. Over many years, Sen. Loeper and I have served as respective leaders of our parties and share a mutual respect.

This represents the third guilty plea by a Republican senator in three years. In 1998, it was Sen. Dan Delp of York County York County for misuse of taxpayer funds. Earlier this year, Bill Slocum of Warren County was convicted of dumping 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage into a pristine creek. Now, Sen. Loeper joins them.

This illustrates the problem with no checks and balances in Harrisburg and the dilemma that one-party control represents. On November 7th, the people of Pennsylvania will, hopefully, change the political balance in Harrisburg. On Election Day, voters will have an opportunity to make a difference in how politics and government are decided in Harrisburg.

We can no longer accept this kind of leadership. The people of Pennsylvania need honest representation and action on issues of substance such as providing affordable and accessible health care to seniors. We should also be providing leadership on smaller class sizes and meaningful tax relief for working families who are being squeezed by rising school property taxes. Furthermore, the legislature will be prioritizing and allocating funds from the tobacco settlement in the near future.

Republican scandals, controversies and indictments detract from these real issues. They also take away valuable energy and resources that should be used in solving real problems.

Lately, Republicans have been running for cover rather than running the people's business. I hope that Pennsylvanians are watching these events carefully and will decide to take the necessary steps to correct this problem on Election Day.

Sen. Loeper knows what is expected of him in light of the guilty plea. He should resign immediately. That way, we can put this episode behind us and concentrate on real issues that affect real people.

It's amazing how some words tend to bomerange when uttered in a "pristine" career.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Expect More Indictments Tomorrow

The Times Leader is reporting on a news conference scheduled by the U.S. Attorney's office for 2P.M. tomorrow in the federal courthouse at 235 North Washington Ave., Scranton to discuss the on-going investigation of public corruption in local and state government, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith.

It is worth noting that Smith made this observation back on August 30, 2010 as reported in the Citizen's Voice.

U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith sees no immediate end to the corruption probe that has led to the arrests of more than 30 people in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, including judges, county officials, school board members and government contractors.

"I can't say how long they will extend (it) because we frankly don't know,"

Smith said during a recent wide-ranging interview with The Citizens' Voice. "They'll go on as long as they need to go on."

The Standard Speaker is reporting that an elected official is the expected target of the probe.

Stay tuned.

PA. State Legislators Due Pay Raise Next Month

An Associated Press report by Peter Jackson featured in the Times Leader highlights the automatic pay raise scheduled for Pennsylvania solons next month.

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s top state officials, including legislators and judges, can look forward to a cost-of-living pay raise of 1.7 percent, officials said Monday.

Newly elected and returning legislators will get the increases starting Dec. 1, when the new Legislature opens for business, even though they won’t be sworn in until January.

Rank-and-file legislators’ salaries will increase from $78,315 to $79,623, while salaries for the four legislative floor leaders will rise from $113,468 to $115,364, officials said.

The raises, authorized by a 1995 law, are based on changes in the federal government’s Consumer Price Index for the mid-Atlantic states.

At a time when people are running out of their unemployment benefits and others can't find a job here's the real problem with this pay raise.

During this election cycle a flyer was sent to voters outlining history of the legislative pay raise from 2003 to 2010. In 2003 the salary of Pennsylvania legislators was $59,364.55. Due to a law passed in 1995 the Pennsylvania legislature pegged its yearly scheduled raises to changes in the federal government’s Consumer Price Index for the mid-Atlantic states. As a result the salary for Pennsylvania legislators in 2010 was $78,314.64. However if one were to use the Bureau of Labor and Statistics inflation calculator the legislative salary for 2010 should be $70,563.48 based on the $59,364.55 salary in 2003 using the Consumer Price Index as a benchmark.

Legislators using the CPI for mid-Atlantic States received $7,751.16 or almost 10% more than if the overall CPI for the country was the multiplier. On top of that figure is another $163 dollars per day every day they are in Harrisburg as long as the legislator doesn't live within 50 miles of the Capitol. However those legislators living within 50 miles can still claim the per diem if they attend committee meetings elsewhere in the state.

As many seniors found out the rise in the overall Consumer Price Index is used to calculate their raises for Social Security.

The Pennsylvania legislature only repealed its excessive grab in 2005. The scheduled pay raise due to the CPI calcualtion has remained intact. Maybe its time for the legislature to join the ranks of the senior citizens and feel their pain.

It seems our Congress and our Legislature know how to take care of themselves and not the electorate.

The Marshall Plan and Richard Nixon

Congressman-elect Lou Barletta's Future Office, Freshman Congressman Richard Nixon's Former Office

The year 1947. Richard Nixon is sworn in as a freshman in Congress. The first political dilemma he would face was a vote on The Marshall Plan.

We elect men and women to go to Congress and lead, not cower in fear. The timid reactions from too many of those who never show pause when asking for campaign money, or our vote, are now cautious and nervous as the health care vote approaches. Some of the freshman Democrats are acting like they saw the headless horseman in the forest and do not know if they should hunker down, or run and scream. These members, instead of looking to the health policy included in the bill, and the need for national reform, seem intent to just shake in their boots. Richard Nixon would surely have some advice for this Congress and their concerns over the upcoming vote.

First, Richard Nixon would remind congress what leadership is all about. After all, it was in 1947 when Nixon was sworn in as a freshman member, and soon thereafter faced his first major political dilemma. The Marshall Plan was designed to rebuild Europe and steer nations away from communism. It was a hated proposal by many Republicans who were not about to carry water for President Truman. But after listening to the words of Truman at a White House meeting, and then visiting Western Europe, Nixon was convinced the plan was essential for the nation, and the world.

Congressman Nixon took a poll of his district and found that 75% of his constituents were opposed to the Marshall Plan. But that did not deter Nixon from voting his conscience on the bill. He then worked over-time to educate and convince those who were opposed. In fact, he spent almost a month in California selling the Marshall Plan. In the face of just plain wrong information that voters thought to be true Nixon repeated over and over the need for the plan. Many have argued that this was Nixon’s finest hour in politics as he soared over partisanship and dealt with a needed national policy.

Number 67 was the "lucky draw" for Congressman-elect Lou Barletta according to Bill O'Boyle of the Times Leader.

That meant Barletta, the Republican congressman-elect from the 11th District, would have to wait for 66 of his 85 Republican freshmen colleagues to choose their offices. There are also nine new Democrats in the freshman class.

As it turned out, Barletta got the office he wanted all along.

Barletta’s new address will be on the top floor of the Cannon House Office Building at office No. 510. One floor directly beneath Barletta – in office No. 410 – will be Tom Marino, newly elected from the 10th Congressional District.

Barletta’s new office has history – it was the first office of freshman congressman and former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon in 1947. Others to have occupied the same space are Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Norman Mineta of California and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.

According to the Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives the November 05, 1946 election brought future history to the United States political scene.

The GOP gained 55 seats for a 246 to 188 advantage (with an additional third-party Member). Though Republican control of the chamber lasted only one Congress, the large class of 91 freshman Members who entered the 80th Congress (1947–1949), included a distinguished group of individuals—some of whom remained mainstays of American politics for decades. Among the first-term Representatives were future Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma and Frederick A. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania—the great-great-grandnephew of the first House Speaker. Others included future House Public Works Committee Chairman John Blatnik of Minnesota, future Senators Jacob Javits of New York and George Smathers of Florida, and Katharine St. George of New York, who became the first woman ever to serve on the influential House Rules Committee. The new class also included two future Presidents: John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Richard M. Nixon of California. Kennedy won election to a seat vacated by James M. Curley who had announced his intention to run (successfully) for a fourth term as mayor of Boston. In his Boston-centered district, Kennedy defeated perennial GOP candidate Lester Bowen with 72 percent of the vote. Nixon benefitted from the Republican electoral groundswell, engineering an upset victory over five-term veteran Democrat Jerry Voorhis in a suburban Los Angeles district with a 56 percent majority.

The 112th Congress freshman class has a mandate from the people. Smaller government and less invasion in our lives. It is up to them to educate the rest of Congress on the wisdom of following that path.