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 About.com 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 PennLive.com 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.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Look Who Is In The Front Row

From the MSNBC Photo Blog.

Newly elected freshman members of the upcoming 112th Congress pose for a class photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on November 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. . This week the new members have been undergoing orientation before taking office in January.

Some interesting facts about this new class.

The Obama administration has the least amount of private sector experience of any presidential administration in the last 110 years.

According to the New York Times no fewer than 33 members of 2010’s congressional freshman class are “small business owners” and all of them are Republicans. That’s compared to just 11 in 2008 when Democrats made big gains. Fourteen of these freshman have also never held elected office before. Also a good sign.

Fourteen of them have never held elective office before.

At least nine invest in, sell, or rent real estate. Seven own farms or ranches. (One does both.) One man built his enterprise into a large company before selling it to a private equity fund.

Fox News Digital Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt joined Jenna Lee to list his tips for the incoming freshman class of Congressmen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An American Hero Laid To Rest

Bill O'Boyle of the Times Leader attended the funeral of Spc. Dale Kridlo, an American Hero, laid to rest today at Arlington National Cemetary. O'Boyle's historical memory of this day recalls those who attended this military honors service.

The service was held at 3 p.m. in section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. Four American flags were presented to the family, with Spc. Kridlo’s mother, Michelle Dale, receiving the flag that draped her son’s casket. The other three flags were presented to Albert Kridlo, the soldier’s father, and to his twin daughters, Madelyne and Zoe.

Presenting the flags was Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Commanding General, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. The presiding chaplain was Col. Steven Berry.

Also attending the ceremony was Deborah Mullen, wife of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and Pat Halliman, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent.

The military honors service included a casket team, firing party and a bugler. The participants were from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard.”

With Kridlo’s interment, Arlington National Cemetery is now the final resting place for 189 service members who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

The firing party fired three rifle volleys as the somber ceremony drew to a close. This is not a 21-gun salute, which is an honor reserved for the President of the U.S., former presidents, and foreign heads of state.

The family arrived earlier in the day and a procession brought the casket to the gravesite. As Spc. Kridlo was brought to the waiting bier, his family followed. His parents, children, brother and ex-wife occupied the front row. Maj. Gen. Horst delivered an address on the duty of a soldier and Chaplain Stevens led the crowd in prayer and offered a final blessing.

Before each flag was presented to the family, it was touched to Kridlo’s casket.

The ceremony was held adjacent to Spc. Kridlo’s grave because of wet conditions at the cemetery. The casket was interred after the service and after the family left the site.

Included among the crowd was U.S. Senator Robert Casey and U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, along with U.S. Rep.-elected Lou Barletta and Tom Marino.

“We wanted to come and pay our respects to a true American hero who lost his life serving his country,” Barletta said.

Also attending was Candice Ostott of the Arlington Ladies, an Arlington volunteer organization that sends a representative to every burial to assure that no soldier is buried alone.

Marino said he remembers when veterans returned from the Vietnam War and did not receive the reception that all returning soldiers deserve.

“Spc. Kridlo is another soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us,” Marino said. “He died to protect us and his country. He is the reason we are all allowed to live the way we do - free.”

Marino and Barletta expressed deep heartfelt sympathy for Kridlo’s family.

I can’t imagine what they are going through right now," Marino said. “We wanted to let them know that we are here if they need us. We’re just a phone call away.”

Barletta said the experience of seeing Kridlo buried at Arlington was both humbling and sobering.

Senator Robert Casey also attended the service.

Spc. Dale Kridlo's memory as an American Hero will never be forgotten. The ultimate sacrifice he gave in the name of the United States of America represents his gift of Humanity to all of us. Like virginity it can only be given once. God cannot return the most precious gift soldiers give to their country. May God grant him piece and look over his family. Thank you Spc. Dale Kridlo.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church Faced Human Shield To Stop Its Actions

Bill O'Boyle of the Times Leader reported the Westboro Baptist Church intends to protest at the funeral of American hero and fallen soldier SPC Dale Kridlo of Hughestown.

According to the church’s website, the protest will take place Wednesday at Kridlo’s funeral service at St. John the Evangelist Church, 35 William St., Pittston, scheduled for 9:45 a.m.

The web posting says the above message will be “preached in respectful, lawful proximity to the memorial of Spc. Dale J. Kridlo” on Wednesday at the church service.

The Pitch blog posted this story about Westboro's protest in Weston, Missouri.

Not every town is willing to let the funeral crashers of Topeka's homophobic church spoil a soldier's fare.

The people of Weston, Missouri, stood up to the Westboro Baptist Church, which had planned to picket the funeral of Sgt. 1st Class C.J. Sadell on Saturday.

Sadell was wounded in an ambush in Afghanistan on October 5; the 34-year-old married father of two died on October 24. Fox 4's cameras rolled as hundreds of the townspeople took to the streets.

"We got everybody here early so we could take up all the parking spots," Rebecca Rooney told Fox 4. "We did that so Mr. Phelps wouldn't have a contingency that was really close."

Who knew it only took getting all the best parking spots? The human shield, American flags and patriotic music worked; the Phelps family didn't stay long. Weston 1, Phelps 0.

WTOP.com relays a similar story about fighting back against Westboro's incomprehensible actions.

WASHINGTON - Area protesters Monday aimed to drown out demonstrations in Maryland and Virginia by a Kansas church known for its anti-gay speech at military funerals.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. were drowned out by counter-demonstrators shouting and honking horns during the church's planned protest at Woodbridge High School in Virginia.

Is it possible this church will face the same reception in Northeastern Pa?

Phelps believes it is his right of free speech to show up at Hero Kridlo's funeral. SOP believes it has the right to educate the public about counter protests against this hate promoting congregation.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Obama Sellout To China

AFP/Getty Image

In this Wall Street Journal article Sharon Terlep tells us that China plans to buy a 4% stake in the newly issued shares of GM(Government Motors).

NEW YORK—In a sign of the changing fortunes of the world's top two economies, China's biggest auto maker, SAIC Motor Corp., is negotiating to acquire a stake of about 1% in General Motors Co. worth about $500 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The U.S. auto maker also is prepared to sell more than $1 billion worth of shares to sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. Combined, the sales would give foreign investors roughly 16% of the shares to be sold next week under an initial public offering of stock, and give them a stake of some 4% in the Detroit auto maker. GM declined to comment on the investment talks.

The issue of overseas investors buying GM shares in the company's IPO has been a sensitive one for the U.S. government, which plans to reduce its 61% stake in the auto maker to around 35% through the IPO.

The investment in GM by government-owned SAIC would be the latest in string of deals giving Chinese companies stakes in big-name Western companies. In 2007. China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp. took a 9.9% stake in securities firm Morgan Stanley. Pacific Century Motors recently took over GM's former steering unit, now called Nexteer, and Shougang Corp. bought Delphi Corp.'s brake unit.

The U.S. Treasury has to walk a fine line. Attracting foreign investors will be a key to pulling off a listing of this size. But the Treasury has also had to weigh the possible political outcry if investors abroad are allowed to acquire a significant stake in GM, after U.S. taxpayers spent $50 billion to carry the company through bankruptcy reorganization, people familiar with the matter have said. The Canadian government also helped bail out GM, which has operations in Ontario.

In a previous article written November 2, 2010 by Terlep she told us that the government will lose money on its intial offering.

The initial public offering plan envisions the shares would be priced at $26 to $29 each, these people said. The actual price of the stock to be sold in the IPO would be set about Nov. 17, and the sale would take place the following day.

But for the U.S. to break even through sales of the rest of its stake, the share price may need to rise more than 60% from its initial level, to about $50.

The Obama administration is seeking to recoup the $49.5 billion that taxpayers poured into GM. Critics refer to the company as "Government Motors," and the U.S. ownership stake has tainted the company in the eyes of some potential car buyers.

GM last week returned $2.1 billion to the U.S. government, bringing the total amount it has handed back to $9.5 billion, through loan repayments, interest payments and dividends, the Treasury said.

It appears the Obama administration is helping the Chinese make a quick buck on the taxpayers dime. It's not like the government was having a problem selling shares of the new IPO.

Reuter's reports that there are $60 billion dollars worth of orders for the new shares, six times the amount it intended to raise.

NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - General Motors Co's [GM.UL] landmark initial public offering has already garnered $60 billion in orders, six times the amount it had planned to raise, in a sign of healthy investor interest for the massive automaker that was in desperate straits just over a year ago.

Just over a year after a politically unpopular $50 billion bailout that left the U.S. Treasury with a 61 percent stake, GM filed to sell about $10 billion worth of common stock and $3 billion of preferred shares. Such an offering would mark the second-biggest U.S. IPO ever after Visa Inc (V.N) and one of the largest, globally.

The full overallotment could take the total IPO amount to as much as $15.65 billion. It would also cut the U.S. Treasury's stake to just over 40 percent.

Pricing at the top end of the range would value GM at $43.6 billion based on 1.5 billion common shares. Assuming exercise of warrants that are in-the-money, the share count jumps to 1.8 billion and GM's value rises to more than $52 billion.

For U.S. taxpayers to break even, GM needs a market value of roughly $70 billion.

Eddie Day Pashinski "Are You Kidding Me?"

Some people just don't get it. Republicans swept the Pennsylvania House and the U.S. Congress this election cycle(cyclone). Democrats who took over Pennsylvania's House in 2006 quickly saw their advantage dissipate in a hurry.  One would think that any savy politician would be in tune with the wishes of the voters after the results of the November elections.

Per diems were a big issue in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's legislative use of per diems has an unanswered question looming over their correct application.

The I.R.S. hammered out an agreement in Massachusetts beginning in 2008, the state would include the per diem income on legislators' W2 forms. The state went further and in 2009 began withholding taxes each pay period on the per diems just as it does on legislators' regular income. The agreement did not include going back to any prior years in which a legislator might not have paid any state or federal taxes on the per diems.

The agreement was part of a broader pact prompted by the state's failure to withhold 2.9 percent in Medicare tax from lawmakers' paychecks since the mid-1980s. In that incident, the state agreed to go back just four years and use taxpayers' money from the general fund to pay the federal government $1.6 million for the deductions that were not taken from 2005 to 2008.

Both errors were discovered by state Treasurer Tim Cahill's office in 2006 when the state comptroller's office took over the handling of the legislative payroll from the treasurer's office.

Dave Kibbe, communications director for Cahill who became treasurer in 2003, said, "Once the state treasurer's office discovered this practice, which appeared to be long-standing, we took the lead in correcting it. The treasurer's office worked with the Legislature, the IRS and the state comptroller to resolve the issue favorably for the taxpayers of the commonwealth."

Here's what smiling Eddie "Day" Pashinski had to say about per diems in today's Times Leader article by Andrew Seder.

Pashinski said that though he’s aware there’s a push to end per diems and go to a straight receipt for reimbursement system, he’s not convinced that would save money as some contend.

He said that it’s likely new staffers would have to be hired to analyze receipts and make sure they’re valid.

I don't know why Pennsylvania legislators feel they are immune from the same action by the I.R.S. Just because they declared their per diems tax free doesn't mean they are on solid legal ground. If legislators are taking per diem for two minutes worth of work in Harrisburg I want to be there when they try to tell the I.R.S. it's a justified expense.

Just to keep the record straight. Pennsylvania's legislature size was doubled in 1873 from 100 representatives to 200.

Pennsylvania's legislative staff more than doubled from 1,430 in 1979 to 2,947 in 2003. There should be more than enough staff for Mr. Pashinski's needs, especially in light of the fact that Bonusgate proved many are hired for political work, not legislative needs.

Pennsylvania is only one of four full time legislatures in the country.

According to the Commonwealth Foundation "At 253 members, Pennsylvania's state legislature is the 2nd largest in the country, trailing only New Hampshire's 424-member body. However, as you know, New Hampshire has the epitome of a citizen legislature, where members receive only $100 per year for their part-time service."

Pennsylvania has gone back and forth with California for the crown of having the most expensive state legislature-the latest numbers put the Keystone State at number two on that dubious ranking. The 2009-10 budget includes $299 million for the legislature, up from $88 million in 1984-85.  Pennsylvania ranks third in legislative spending per capita, and first in legislative spending as a percentage of the General Fund, according to NCSL data.

The General Assembly's staff, which has grown from 1,430 in 1970 to 2,919 today, is the largest in the country. For perspective, Illinois and Ohio, the states closest in population to Pennsylvania, have 1,023 and 465 legislative staff, respectively-about one-third and one-eighth as many. Fewer legislators could result in a reduction of the number of staff (and translate into cost savings). However, increasing legislators' constituents would increase their responsibilities and workload, and could lead to more staff per legislator. Many staff are assigned to caucuses, committees, or other support areas-and may not be affected by a change in the number of lawmakers.

At $78,314, the annual salary for rank-and-file Pennsylvania lawmakers is the fourth-highest in the nation, trailing only the salaries of lawmakers in California, Michigan, and New York. However, the total cost of each legislator includes much more than salary. Benefits, including pensions, health care, and mileage, add up to tens of thousands in additional costs per lawmaker. The House and Senate collectively spent almost $4 million in per diems last year, according to Democracy Rising PA. And legislative leadership accounts that can be used for everything from public service announcements and newsletters to-at least until recently-bonuses total tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars.

In terms of compensation, Pennsylvania legislators are the 4th highest paid in nation at over $76,000 in base pay per year (trailing Michigan at $79,650, New York at $79,500, and California at $116,000 in 2008). In terms of support staff, the Pennsylvania General Assembly has the 2nd highest number of legislative staff (after New York, as of 2003) with over 11.6 staff members per legislator (an increase of 106% since 1978).

Given these facts, it is no surprise that Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is the most expensive operating legislature in the nation (even spending more than California’s $260 million and New York’s $220 million). In the current 2008-09 fiscal year, $332 million was appropriated for the operations of the House, Senate, and legislative support services. This is up from $88 million in 1984-85—an increase of 84% after adjusting for inflation.

Yet Mr. Pashinski states it will take more staff.

Pashinski earned a bachelors degree in Music Education at Wilkes University and a Master's Equivalency at Penn State University. Not for nothing but what qualifications does Pashinski hold to pronouce an expert opinion on the need and the size of the staff supporting our Legislature. On this issue Pashinski isn't listening to the voters.  Of course Pashinski was a protege of Todd Eachus.  Pashinski retired as a teacher and due to his recent relection will qualify for two pensions from the State of Pennsylvania.  During last year's budget debacle Pashinski took home $2054.00 in per diems. Must be hard to give that up when you are getting a pension plus $78,314.00 per year.

Pashinski once stated the need for checks and balances. "Nothing will ever replace honesty and good ethics," Pashinski said. "Mankind - it's like water. You put up a dam and water rolling down a hill will always find another way to go. That's why you always need checks and balances."

How do you have checks and balances when a legislator like Eddie Pashinski gets to decide whether he and others are entitled to per diems, the reimbursement amount, and the level of pension benefit for both his teacher's pension and legislative pension? Talk about flying under the radar. Is that Eddie I see?

You Know This Is For You!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You, Soldiers

Harrisburg Vote On Pension Bill Considered Generational Theft

Taxpayers vs. Pennsylvania State Government And Its Employees

From the Commonwealth Foundation:

Pennsylvania's largest public pension plans—Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and State Employees Retirement System (SERS)—are severely underfunded. But instead of reforming the defined-benefit pension system and paying down these liabilities, House Bill 2497 would defer pension payments and increase the unfunded liability by tens of billions of dollars in lost investments and interest. Simply put, HB 2497 is generational theft—forcing our children and grandchildren to pay for Harrisburg's fiscal irresponsibility and a union pension bailout.

Just How Large is the Pension Problem?

•Taxpayers paid $843 million in pension contributions to PSERS and SERS in Fiscal Year 2009-10. In Fiscal Year 2012-13 those contributions are scheduled to increase to $5.8 billion.
•This represents an effective $1,360 increase in state and local taxes per homeowner/household.
How Did We Get Into this Mess?

•Pennsylvania's generous public pensions are leveraged as political capital by politicians with powerful special interests, especially the state and school employee labor unions. Over time, these pensions have been financially manipulated to give the illusion of affordability and sustainability.
•Pensions for public school employees and state employees, including legislators and judges, will require higher taxpayer contributions beginning in 2012 due to:
◦Losses in the stock market in 2001-03 and 2008.
◦Reduced taxpayer contributions as a result of deferring pension payments into the future in 2003 (a mistake HB 2497 would repeat).
◦Generous benefit enhancements—a 50% increase for legislators and 25% for teachers—in 2001.
Why the Urgency to Pass this "Non-Reform"?

•Public employee unions helped craft HB 2497 and have spent millions in lobbying and campaign contributions to push this non-reform.
•HB 2497 offers some benefit changes that some may celebrate as "reform."
•HB 2497 offers short-term political benefits—lower pension payments—by allowing lawmakers to procrastinate making the necessary tough decisions about how to fund pensions.
•Those pushing the legislation hope to rush it through under lame-duck Gov. Ed Rendell, before a new administration—which would likely support real pension reform—takes office.
Key Facts about HB 2497

•HB 2497 retains the current defined-benefit pension system that is subject to political manipulation and deal making.
◦Politicians claim the bill would "save" money over the next 14 years—but these savings come from paying less into the fund. It is like "saving" money by not paying your monthly mortgage payment.
◦After 14 years of "savings," taxpayers will have to pay more from 2026-2042.
•HB 2497 dramatically increases the unfunded liability in the pension systems (as shown in the chart from PSERS).
•Taxpayer costs could be much higher because the estimated costs of HB 2497 are based on wishful thinking:
◦The plans will earn 8% per year on their assets (private sector pensions currently use assumptions in the range of 5-6%).
◦Policymakers will adhere to the schedule of increased future contributions, and not defer these once again.
◦There will be no benefit increases or Cost of Living Adjustments.
•HB 2497 would reduce the benefits under the existing pension plan for new hires.
◦While lower benefits reduce future costs, it retains the current system that is ripe for political manipulation. Policymakers can always retroactively improve benefits and defer liabilities.
•HB 2497 creates risk-sharing for new employees who will pay more into the funds with investment losses.
◦This would lower costs over time, but also opens up a dual benefit plan between existing and new employees that will be the focus of future union lobbying.

Pennsylvania's statewide pension plans for public school employees, state workers, legislators, judges and other government employees - the Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employee Retirement System (SERS) - will require significantly higher taxpayer contributions in the 2012-13 fiscal year and beyond.

The following spreadsheets provide a breakdown of these increased pension costs, based on SERS and PSERS latest projections to make them more understandable and tangible for the taxpayer.

SERS costs are paid 100% by state taxpayers through taxes such as the personal income, sales, and corporate income taxes. PSERS costs are split with about 54% paid by state taxpayers and 46% paid by school district taxpayers. On average, school district property taxes fall 69% on residential property and 31% on commercial property taxpayers.

For illustration purposes, the local property tax increase is represented in a per-homeowner basis to present the impact of these costs to a community. The state costs are presented on a per-household basis. Although the increased costs will be paid through myriad taxes on myriad taxpaying entities, it is ultimately individuals and families-not businesses or corporations-that shoulder the burden of all taxes.

School Property Tax Increase for PSERS
Residential $381 Commercial $171 TOTAL $552

Per Homeowner State Tax Increase for PSERS & SERS, Per Household
PSERS $418 SERS $390 TOTAL $808

Total Average Homeowner/Household Increase $1,360

Eachus's Harrisburg Home For Rent

Before the November election the Times-Tribune penned a story about homes owned in Harrisburg by state legislators including former House Majority Leader Todd Eachus. His spokesman, Brett Marcy, made these statesments over the controversy.

- Mr. Eachus, D-116, Butler Twp., and his wife, Ellen, own a two-story brick townhouse listed as commercial property with apartments at 225 South St., near the Capitol building.

They bought it for $125,000 on Aug. 30, 2005, and have a $100,000, 30-year mortgage on it. The previous owner paid $82,000 for it at a 1996 sheriff's sale. The property is also listed as a source of income on his 2008 financial interest statement.

Efforts to reach Mr. Eachus were unsuccessful, but his spokesman, Brett Marcy, said House rules do not distinguish among types of lodging.

"He incurs food and lodging expenses, so he deserves to be reimbursed for those expenses," he said.

"What you are getting at is whether this is permissible," he added. "The next question is whether it's right. We meet the threshold of whether it is permissible. He's following the rules."

Marcy never did comment on whether it was right.

The Pennsylvania Independent reported on Representative-Elect Tarah Toohil's comments over the controversy.

Ms. Toohil attacked her opponent for his per diem usage, particularly for using $27,000 in per diems to purchase a house in Harrisburg during a time when Pennsylvanians are struggling with an 8.9 percent unemployment rate.

She resoundingly defeated Eachus on November 2nd in what amounted to a stunning victory still talked about in Harrisburg. It will be recorded as one of the most amazing feats, rocking Harrisburg's political scene by coming out of nowhere and kicking the House Majority Leader out of office.

The picture above shows that Eachus put his house up for rent. It must be hard for him to afford a 2nd home when the taxpayers aren't footing the mortgage payments. Any bets on him returning any profit he makes on the sale right back to the state budget? Hmmm...look at it this way. I guess it is better than a sign outside a legislative office that says "For Sale."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Legislative Clout

Earmarks continue to be a never ending dual edged sword. In Northeastern Pennsylvania we've come to expect our fair share of state and federal tax dollars for projects that are vital. However, when it is not our municipality named as beneficiary we tend to say earmarks should be stopped "for the other guy". In this article by BORYS KRAWCZENIUK of the Times-Tribune he examines the possible loss to our region of the legislative clout traditionally attributed to the money flow in their districts.

In the legislative halls of Harrisburg and Washington, seniority matters.

Seniority means clout, and come January, Northeast Pennsylvania will lose a lot of both.

Six long-serving legislators, people who have served in the state General Assembly and Congress for decades, will leave office for good, defeated in re-election bids or simply retiring

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-120, Kingston, one of the re-elected veteran legislators who will begin her third decade in office, said "bringing home the bacon" will be a lot harder.

"Seniority matters in Harrisburg as it does in Washington. It just does," Ms. Mundy said.

Seniority is more than being able to get things done more quickly because of your stature, she said.

"It's institutional knowledge. It's knowing who to call and where to go," she said.

Mundy is somewhat right and wrong in her assessment. Going forward Pennsylvania is looking at a $5 billion budget deficit. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the "pet projects"? She might argue that her seniority means she will be able to wield a little clout but does that really?

Freshman representatives and congressmen are going to be at the same trough as Phyllis Mundy. First and foremost they are already looking at re-election. Parties who want to hold onto specific seats will make sure these freshmen get their "share" to protect the seat although the total amount of money available to each agency will be reduced.

To counter KRAWCZENIUK's point let's examine the amount of money brought in by Chris Carney in the last three years vs. Paul Kanjorski. As you know Carney was elected three years ago to the 10th district seat. Kanjorski was elected in 1984. He ended his career in a loss to Lou Barletta on November 2nd.

If you go here and check the earmarks for all 19 Pennsylvania Congressmen some interesting statistics emerge.

For 2008, 2009, and 2010 Carney brought in $32,096,000 worth of solo earmarks to $10,174,000 for Kanjorski. If you look at solo earmarks with others for the three years combined Carney beat Kanjorski $69,421,000 to $53,682,000. Some seniority edge.

If you take the entire Pennsylvania delegation(including changes in who occupies the seat) and rank them according to money brought in on solo earmarks Kanjorski is almost at the bottom of the barrel 2008- 16 out of 19 bringing in $2,955,000, 2009- 16 out of 19 but two Congressmen, Altmire and Platts took none so really 16 out of 17 bringing in $3,119,00, and 2010 14 out of 19 with Pitts credited with nothing so 14 out of 18 bringing in $4,100,000.

Krawzceniuk's writing
26 years in the House, the second-ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of its Capital Markets Subcommittee

So what were we really getting? Think about it. Cornerstone Technologies secured $10 million just slightly less than three years worth of district credit. When you add the $400 million loan guarantee for Abound Solar tell me his tenure wasn't more about his family and himself than his district.

Concession Speech Follies

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pennsylvania Government's Failure With Eachus's Turnabout

On election day House Majority Leader Todd Eachus lost his bid for reelection to newcomer Attorney Tarah Toohil. At his concession speech he had these words to say.

“Next week, I’m going to be going to the House floor, and I’m going to be Leader, and I’m going to focus on protecting the pension system and the obligation to our public citizens.”

Although Eachus was nowhere to be found he surfaced Friday in Harrisburg in time to help cancel the rest of the post election House sessions. According to this Associated Press report filed with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review outgoing House Speaker Keith McCall issued a memo announcing that the House would not have the lame-duck voting sessions later this month that were previously scheduled.

House Majority Whip Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said he argued against the decision to cancel the remaining session days when he discussed it with McCall and Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne.

"I thought it was the wrong approach, that we should go back and that we ought to address a couple issues, the pension issue, among others," said Dermody, who is running for Democratic floor leader in the coming session.

Dermody said the overriding factor in McCall's decision was opposition to establishment of a legislative fiscal office, which is a provision of the Senate-passed pension bill pending in the House. He called it an unfunded mandate, but said he would vote for the pension bill even if it contains the new office.

A main opponent of the fiscal office has been Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia.

His spokeswoman Johnna Pro said Friday that the pension bill does not pass constitutional muster because it contains the fiscal office, citing an Oct. 14 ruling by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau that the legislation violates the state's constitutional requirement that laws may not address multiple, unrelated topics.

"We're talking about creating a $4 million legislative agency with three dozen employees," Pro said. "We just don't agree with that."
Dwight Evans doesn't agree with someone looking over his shoulder. Mr. Evans...what was it about that $29 million that went to that charity in Philadelphia.

Karen Heller of the The Philadelphia Inquirer does a nice job of exposing another Harrisburg boondoggle involving the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.

While the state is bankrupt and deserving programs have been slashed, career politicians like Rep. Dwight Evans continue to siphon money for their pet projects.

According to the Darwyyn Deyo of the Pennsylvania Independent House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne) said Friday the pension bill was unconstitutional and would not be brought to the floor for a vote.

Since they cancelled the sessions before the election McCall and Eachus have given legislators who earn $78,314 per year minimum a two month vacation on our tax dollars.

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus says the Democratic caucus is still trying to decide what to do about a Senate bill that packages pension reforms with the creation of an independent fiscal office.

The message being sent to the citizens of Pennsylvania. Don't dare ask us for an independent review. And Eachus wonders why he was a target?

It is rumored...well more than that..he said after the results of the election.."I was cheated". No Mr. Eachus...the taxpayers are cheated if for two months our legislature is prevented from coming to work.

Shame on the media in Northeastern PA for not getting to the bottom of this.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Luzerne County Victory Party

Luzerne County Republicans will host a Victory Party from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, at Genetti Hotel & Conference Center, 77 E. Market St., Wilkes-Barre.

Special guests are Congressmen-Elect Lou Barletta, 11th District, and Tom Marino, 10th District.

Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served. D Charlie Hayes “The Commander” will provide music for dancing. Cost is $15 per person; $10 for Club GOP members. Anyone who joins Club GOP at this time will receive free admission. For more information, call 570-208-4671 or e-mail: events@luzernegop.org or go to the website, http://luzernegop.org

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Hazleton

The Times Leader is reporting the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the City of Hazleton in a case with its insurer, Scottsdale Insurance Company, over the payment of legal bills involving its Illegal Immigration Relief Act lawsuit.

In this very inaccurate statement Terri Morgan-Besecker writes:

A federal appellate court on Friday ruled an insurance company does not have to pay attorneys’ fees associated with Hazleton City’s battle over its illegal immigration ordinance, leaving the city on the hook for at least $2.4 million, and likely much more.

What is true is that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals relieved Scottsdale Insurance Company from any financial obligation in this court issue. What is totally untrue is that the city is "on the hook for at least $2.4 million, and likely much more."

No court has awarded any attorney fees in this case. Judge Munley ruled against the City of Hazleton with regards to the Illegal Immigration Relief Act which can be found a this link.

The Plaintiffs filed a separate action to recover attorney fees and cost titled Plaintiffs Petition for Fees and Costs . Since the appelate process has not concluded the actual award has not been established.

Let's look at one of the firms involved in the litigation and mentioned in the Plaintiffs Petition for Fees and Costs, Cozen O'Connor. The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel interviewed the Douglas B. Fox, Member of Cozen O'Connor and Chair of the firm's Pro Bono Committee on August 08. 2008 about its role in the case.

Fox: We are currently handling a high-profile case, Lozano v. Hazleton , involving a challenge to the Hazleton, PA., illegal immigration ordinances. Our team of six attorneys has dedicated thousands of hours to this case - our single largest pro bono matter to date. Lost in the rancorous debate over immigration policy is the fact that the Hazleton case does not seek to vindicate illegal immigration. Our clients simply sought to restore immigration enforcement to the federal government - where it belongs. We were successful after a two-week trial in striking down key elements of the ordinances, and currently, the case is on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A ruling is probably several months away.

The case has made national headlines and was highlighted by the National Law Journal as one of the most significant pro bono matters of 2007, with the tagline for their article being "What Lawyering is All About." And, that really says it all. Firm management deserves a great deal of credit for having the courage to take on an unpopular cause, one that many law firms would have shied away from. We have received many honors for our pro bono work, including in the Hazleton case. This kind of recognition for the quality of our pro bono lawyering is what makes me the most proud.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association gave Cozen O"Connor one such award in 2007.

Cozen O’Connor: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County (Nominated by H. Robert Fiebach, Esquire) Cozen O’Connor law firm is recognized as a “go to” firm in handling complex pro bono matters, particularly in the field’s Immigration/ Asylum Law and post conviction remedies. Pro bono service is an integral part of the firm’s culture. Cozen encourages all of its attorneys to devote at least 60-hours annually, allowing 50 of those hours to be treated as full production credits. In 2006, Cozen O’Connor’s Pennsylvania attorneys and paralegals devoted over 9,900 hours to pro bono matters. Firm attorneys also take leadership roles in public service and charitable organizations and sit on the Boards of Directors of pro bono services organizations. Additionally, the firm has developed its own charitable programs that serve the greater Philadelphia region.

If their work was pro bono why would they be entitled to a court award of their fees?

Look at the Plaintiffs Petition for Fees and Costs. There are five firms applying for attorneys fees. Cozen O'Connor has twenty one attorneys billing for fees.

Witold Walczak, attorney for the ACLU, filed for $324,400 worth of fees at a rate of $400.00 per hour. Lest we not forget that the ACLU has also represented the American Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nation of Islam. According to their website this is how they fund themselves. Member dues and contributions and grants from private foundations and individuals pay for the work we do. If that is the case why is their attorney billing Hazleton at a rate of $400.00 per hour?

Fifteen attorneys besides the 21 from Cozen O'Connor have filed for fees. The total listed on the Petition is $2,333,551.50 in attorneys’ fees and $45,492.70 in costs.

Clearly the size of the bill is intended to send a message to any government entity that wants to take action against the cost of illegal immigration to its community. It is funny that the American Civil Liberties Union will protect your right to free speech but punish the citizens of Hazleton for protecting its community. The elected officials will not be stuck with their bill. It is the taxpayers that will fund their burden should an award be given to the Plaintiffs. But, as stated, until that happens the news media should not be as reckless with its articles to the public.

Friday, November 5, 2010

New Leadership, New Thinking

On the surface the public sees the change in power, both in Washington and Harrisburg. Republicans gained control of both chambers in Harrisburg. On the national level they gained control of the House. But there is an important underlying fact in those gains. On the Democratic side there are many newcomers as well. The freshman class contains new thinking regardless of party affiliation. This class must realize that voter anger doesn't take long to develop. With the economy in such dire straits jobs must be the number one priority at this point. Before we turn to the government to create job growth we must ask government to stop hindering job creation.

In this Forbes magazine article Michael Noer makes this observation.

The most recent absurdity of the Great Recession is the $10 billion allocated by Congress to save 140,000 teachers' jobs in a bill nominally concerned with aviation safety. Well-intentioned though it may be, the measure is wrongheaded on two fronts. First, it's unclear that these jobs needed "saving"; indeed, some states are gleefully figuring out how to spend the unanticipated windfall. Second, federal stimulus spending of this sort can have only a short-term impact on employment. If we are serious about creating jobs, we need to rethink the problem from the start.

Government-backed paychecks come with a cost. The money to pay for the teachers or the extended unemployment comp or the public works project will, sooner or later, have to be extracted from the pockets of taxpayers. Anticipating that burden, taxpayers with money sit on it. Corporations shrink from hiring; consumers hesitate before buying.

This negative feedback explains how a stimulus program can backfire. Japan pays for training and other forms of help to those trying to scratch out a living but in doing so has swollen the population of "freeters," those under 35 without permanent jobs. Denmark, once hailed for its "flexicurity" system (state-subsidized programs offering temporary work to prevent layoffs, job training and up to four years of assistance for those without work), is lopping the program in half.

Here in America vast amounts of stimulus money and White House jawboning have done little to move the unemployment needle, frozen at 9.5%. Add in the people who have simply given up looking for a job and you get an unemployment rate of 16.5%. A third of this is a hard core of potential workers who have no realistic chance of finding a job in the foreseeable future.

The biggest question I hear is "How are they going to create jobs?" Most feel that the manufacturing jobs are gone for good. That position is a weak look at a complex problem. First, we need to make it more attractive for business to produce goods and services in the United States, rather than overseas, using U.S. workers, rather than foreigners. The skilled labor needed by many U.S. companies is not readily available in certain countries while readily available in others.

Just-in time manufacturing, most notable in the auto manufacturing industry, gives a glimpse to a foundation for spurring thoughts on the need to bring overseas jobs back.

Everyone will talk tax breaks. But tax breaks will only be effective if they are closely linked to real job creation. The stimulus package failed on that benchmark. There are those that say eliminating taxes creates profit and there are few that would sacrifice new found profit for labor.

Here is what the corporate leaders have to say to dispell that statement.

“A pro-manufacturing tax policy must first acknowledge that when Congress raises taxes, it makes manufacturers in the U.S. less competitive. Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25% or lower without imposing offsetting tax increases.” Result: 2 million new jobs before the end of this decade.”

“Enact tax provisions that will stimulate investment and recovery, including: Strengthen and make the R&D tax credit permanent. The Milkin Institute’s ‘Jobs for America’ analysis reported that increasing the R&D tax credit by 25% would enhance U.S. innovation, boosting GDP by $206 billion and creating 270,000 manufacturing jobs.”

“Allow businesses to accelerate depreciation of capital purchases more quickly. The Institute for Policy Innovation has estimated that every dollar in tax cuts for business depreciation adds about $9 in GDP growth. Over the past 60 years, there’s been a strong correlation between domestic job growth and business investment. Any policy that permanently allows businesses, particularly manufacturers, to expense capital purchases in the year they are made will go a long way toward putting more investment funds—and consequently more jobs—into the marketplace.

“Take the threatened tax increases off the table. The tax increases threatening businesses are huge, especially damaging to the thousands of small businesses which file as individuals. The automatic increases in tax rates on upper-income earners, dividends and capital gains are already a huge disincentive to business activity, and the Obama Administration’s proposals for additional tax increases aimed directly at business seriously compound the problem.”

“Impose a moratorium on new regulations. Many executive branch agencies, most particularly those within the Department of Labor, have embarked on what seems to be a vendetta against American businesses, threatening them with dozens of new and costly regulations.”

Regulatory Overkill: “Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelmingly beyond anything we have ever seen that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators,” Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue said in a speech last week before a Chamber-sponsored Jobs Summit. He called on the Obama Administration and Congress “to immediately put a stop to the cascade of new regulations that is the principal reason businesses are so reluctant to make investments and create jobs.”

“OSHA is particularly aggressive and offensive, proposing costly and cumbersome new regulations based on their assumption that businesses will ignore workplace safety unless and until they are inspected.”

“Moving toward a competitive tax structure that creates certainty for businesses by temporarily extending all of the tax relief passed in the prior decade and reducing the U.S. corporate tax rate. In one bold, swift move, this would substantially boost investor, business and consumer confidence and would infuse our economy with fresh momentum.”

“Controlling the rising deficits and debt by generating additional federal revenues and restraining spending. As much as $1.7 trillion in revenue could be generated over 10 years through numerous oil, gas and shale leases on our lands and off our shores.”

“Tax reform, along with spending restraint, sound money, free trade and a rational regulatory policy would lead to a period of exceptional prosperity and asset appreciation. There’s no better way to increase jobs than to create a pro-growth economic environment.”

Dr. Irwin Kellner offers this perspective about cooperation between Washington and the states.

There are other measures that Washington should consider as well. Since the federal government can run a deficit while states cannot (at least over an extended period of time), Washington should step up its grants to states and local governments. Most of their budgets are in the red because of the jump in such costs as Medicaid and pensions, so they are cutting spending and raising taxes, thus taking out of the economy much of what Washington is trying to put in. As soon as Bush enacted his tax cuts Fast Eddy Rendell couldn't move fast enough to raise our income tax in Pennsylvania. Where was the gain?

Lets start moving America forward. Let's bring back Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America". Only naysayers like Steve Corbett would call it Mourning in America.