LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

**Past Published Letters to the Editor**

Legalized Bribery....

One can only stare in disbelief at the Trib editorial on August 21, "Lawmaker's Raises." The audacity of our Pennsylvania legislators is breath-taking. At a time when many of us are struggling, our lawmakers give themselves a 14% raise in a 2 year period. But that is only the beginning. In addition to their six figure salary, they received an average of $51 million a year on per diems. To be reimbursed for these travel expenses, the lawmakers do not need to provide receipts. Then there is their generous benefit package and expenses for multiple satellite offices.

As the Trib has reported, Pennsylvania has some of the most permissive campaign finance laws in the country. There are no limits on how much money donors can give candidates and no restrictions on how they spend that money. Also, there are no restrictions on gifts from lobbyists and others. We have legalized bribery in our General Assembly.

It is no wonder that our legislature is dysfunctional. They are not working for their constituents. They will not increase our minimum wage, safeguard our air and water, support public school financing reform, secure our voting rights, renounce gerrymandering and stop interfering in elections. We deserve better. We should demand better. Let's fix Harrisburg and vote them out.

                                                                                                       Joanne Garing

Double Standards for Accountability or Retribution....

The hypocrisy of the GOP is astonishing. They talked about Hillary Clinton's emails ad nauseam. Chants of "lock her up" are still echoed at rallies. The emails discussed innocuous matters already available in the public domain. In other words, the emails contained information that was classified, but the public knew of the information. For that the faithful followers of then candidate Trump wanted to "lock her up."

Let's compare that to the deliberate action of an outgoing president when he knowingly removed classified, top secret, documents from the White House and puts them in an unsecured room in his private residence that is also a golf club. Why would one brazenly commit such a serious breach of national security? What would a private citizen have to gain by confiscating government classified intelligence?

Many of these same Trump supporters are now chanting absolute outrage towards the FBI. The "law and order" party are accusing the FBI of tyranny, of abuse of power. The GOP party faithful seem to have two different standards when it comes to breaking the law. When a judge reviewed the overwhelming evidence leading to a search warrant to retrieve the documents in question, the chanters wanted to defund the FBI and do physical harm to agents, not hold the perpetrator of the crime accountable.

It seems their take on law enforcement and protecting national security only needs to be enforced when it is supportive of their ideals, agenda, and proclaimed leader of the GOP.

                                                                                                        Katie Forsythe

The Republican's Attempt to Change Our Constitution....

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is among the largest, most expensive legislative bodies in the country. At the same time, it is also one of the least effective in passing bills favored by its citizens.

Now it wants to by-pass the democratic process altogether with amendments to the state constitution. They submit these amendments in low turnout, off-year elections with little discussion, review, or transparency. They know the public almost always votes yes for amendments and they word the amendments accordingly. This is an unethical legislative grab for power. They are seeking single party rule by eliminating the checks and balances among the branches, and that is not how democracies function. The General Assembly is using these constitutional amendments to circumvent the bill-writing and vetting processes of bipartisan cooperation, compromise, and collaboration. They want to by-pass the Executive and Judicial branches of government because they are occupied by democrats. The resulting laws can be extremely radical, not represent the will of the people, and demonstrate undemocratic governance.

Do not let them succeed in this power grab. We want reproductive freedom, expansion of voting rights, separation and balance of governmental power, and no legislative meddling in our elections. Regulations may be undesirable to the lawmakers donor class but they are the safeguard of the middle class.

                                                                                                         Sandy Kramer

The Republican Response....

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, many in the Democratic Party called for "defunding the police." They believed cities could create non-violent solutions to social problems. This proposed solution was rejected by many cities.

The Republican response was not to recognize the need to address the racial inequality. Announcing "we are the party of law and order" supported by "we support our police" yard signs does not address the issue. President Trump's disregard for the lives of the Capitol Police was superseded by his desire to remain in office, resulting in 140 police officers injured. Five gave their lives.

Now, we are watching the theater of the absurd as some Republicans who supported or fear Trump are calling to defund the FBI. These Trump supporters take whatever side they feel they can to weaponize against Democrats and raise money for their coffers.

Representative Cheney, a conservative Republican, tweeted, "I have been ashamed to hear members of my party attacking the integrity of the FBI agents involved with the recent Mar-a-Lago search. These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk."

Many in the Republican Party are treating government as if it is a win-or-lose game. Government is not a game, but the people's business, where we either all win or we all lose.

It has become clear that some government officials and politicians are not interested in serving the American people but only in expanding their money and power.

Is the solution to publicly finance all elected positions?

                                                                                        Patricia Oliver

Questions on North Huntingdon's waiver procedure....

I recently became aware of a practice by the North Huntingdon commissioners to entertain requests for waivers of building permit fees from nonprofit organizations ("North Huntingdon rejects Norwin request to waive permit fee," June 13, TRIBLIVE). Intrigued by this practice, I submitted a Right-to-Know request for waivers requested since 2018.

On May 25, the Norwin School District requested to waive a building permit fee of $15,575 for the Hillcrest Intermediate District roof replacement. After some back and forth including unrelated discussion regarding a recent tax increase and the cost of school crossing guards, the application was still denied on July 20. 

The only other request made since 2019 was from Circleville Volunteer Fire Department for waivers of a zoning hearing board application fee, subdivision fee, land development fee, building permit fee and storm water line extension cost. Circleville VFD did not include a cost for the waivers. They claimed to provide social services at their building along with office space for businesses to expand. Their request was approved within only eight calendar days despite the lack of information provided.

There appears to be different protocols used to evaluate waiver requests, and that it is a method to reward friendly organizations

and punish those with whom the commissioners have a gripe. I believe our tax dollars are being used to play political favorites, which is a shame when such a program, if properly administered, could benefit our community.

                                                                                                    Diana Gray

Abortion, the Constitution and Religion....

The Declaration of Independence states that our Government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and the Constitution secures for us the blessings of liberty, meaning we are free from despotic control. However, our Supreme Court feels the states have a right to barbarically order women to bear children. They feel the states can deny women their reproductive freedom. I disagree. Ultimately, our Constitution gives power to the people. It provides for our welfare and liberty. No State shall make or enforce any law that shall abridge that liberty.

We the people have overwhelmingly decided that we want reproductive freedom. We do not want some religious bigots pushing their version of morality on us. Life begins at conception is a religious belief, not a fact. Some religions believe that life begins when the baby takes its first breath. We are not a theocracy. We are a pluralistic country with a lot of different beliefs. Our founders warned of the tyranny of religion. They were adamant in the belief of the separation of church and state in order to protect everyone's religious freedom. A fact our Supreme Court has forgotten.

                                                                                                        Julia Bojalad

GOP aims to take away rights....

Our Republican-controlled state Legislature can't accomplish everything it wants through legitimate legislative processes.

Senate Bill 106 will allow Republicans to amend the state Constitution to attack your right to privacy and undermine state election laws.

The most egregious and far-reaching change proposed by SB 106 is a declaration that the Pennsylvania Constitution  prohibits taxpayer-funded abortion or "any other right relating to abortion."

Taxpayer-funded abortions are already prohibited under state law. Eliminating the right to privacy for an abortion is another matter. It will allow Republicans to ban all abortions in Pennsylvania, potentially without exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

Constitutional amendments to state election law under SB 106 includes voter ID requirements, new election audit requirements and election of lieutenant governor.

Over the past four decades, the documented instances of election fraud in Pennsylvania are extremely small (less than 0.000002%). The facts are clear: Existing state laws have successfully protected the integrity of our elections.

The proposed changes to election laws through the state Constitution are a Republican solution in search of a problem.

Your vote this November is more important than ever. We must stop anti-democratic Republicans from taking away your rights.

                                                                                                        Michael Pardus 

Eradicating Our Personal Freedoms....

For the first time in our history, the Supreme Court is restricting our freedoms and rights rather than expanding them. A ban on abortions is a dystopian nightmare of state-enforced pregnancies. This abortion ban, while egregious, is just one of the latest in a series of Supreme Court decisions that undermine our freedoms. The Robert's Court has taken away our reproductive freedom with devastating consequences for women. Past decisions impacted our voting rights with Shelby County and Bush vs. Gore, our healthcare rights with NFIBNFIB vs. Sibelius, our consumer rights with AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion, and our labor rights with Cedar Point Nursery vs. Hassid. The latest ruling against the EPA saying we don't have theright to clean air but corporations have the right to pollute. This is only a partial list of freedoms restricted by this radical court that is determined to destroy our democracy.

The highest Court in our nation has lost all legitimacy. No longer do we have major decisions that are unanimous, but six-three decisions split along party lines. The judges are not neutral arbiters, but party partisans. We are supposedly a government of, by, and for the people. However, the Supreme Court decisions go against what the majority of Americans want and upholding the constitution they pledged to protect. The Court has lost all credibility. They are systematically dismantling our democracy.

Make sure your voice is heard by voting for a candidate in November that respects individual freedoms and reflects the desires of the people, not a particular minority or special-interest groups.

                                                                                                    Katie Forsythe 

The Truth About College Vouchers....

Representative Nelson's PA College Voucher Program, posted in the Trib on June 2, is ill conceived and ripe with omissions. It would take money away from Pennsylvania's public universities and give it to parents for any post secondary education or any other qualified education expenses. This program is ripe for fraud and abuse with little oversight or accountability. It will squeeze public education for private gain.

 

Republican Representative Nelson is a bit disingenuous when he states that tuition will be reduced. He knows if Pitt, Penn State and Temple lose their funding they will need to raise tuition. This will move in-state students in the wrong direction. In these times we need a better educated work force not a less prepared one. We should be enhancing public education not diminishing it. Voucher programs are a dagger in the heart of public education which has been a pillar of our economic growth. Do not let them destroy our public education for private gain. Ask your representative to vote no on HB2639.

                                                                                                   Sandy Kramer  

The Supreme Court Versus the Constitution....

After this most recent term of the Supreme Court, civics textbooks all over this country will need editing. The judicial Branch is now in charge of legislation and amending the Constitution. They dismantled our separation of church and state. They ended reproductive freedom. They invalidated gun safety laws and made future restrictions difficult. They severely limited the governments regulatory powers to slow climate change and to protect our air, water, and soil from pollution. They did all this mostly on a partisan 6 to 3 vote, proving that they are not working for the American people and to uphold the Constitution, but for their own personal ideology. They are restricting our rights and freedoms to benefit Big Corporations and Big Money.

 

This Court wants to dismantle our government's regulating abilities, abolish our social safety net, and the progressive improvements that started with FDR's New Deal and ended with Nixon's EPA. Voting rights, consumer rights, labor and union rights, and human rights are all on the line. If the Court can not make it illegal, they will make it very difficult to exercise these rights, as they have done with reproductive and voting rights.

                                                                                                     Joanne Garing  

The Big Lie....

Since the 1970's, Big Oil has known of the dangers of burning fossil fuels. They, like the tobacco industry before them, lied to the American public. Oil companies, with the Cato Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Koch family spent money and influence to persuade congress and the public that man-made climate change was a hoax. For decades, they stopped progress on conversion to green energy just so they could continue making money, disregarding the danger to our health and that of the planet.

Unfortunately, rather than listening to the scientists who were sounding an alarm about climate change, too many of us choose to listen to Big Oil's propaganda. Precious decades were lost. Now here we are in the midst of record droughts, flooding mudslides, oceans rising, water shortages, arctic warning, soil erosion, farmers unable to grow their crops and extreme weather all around. And Big Oil is still lying to us.

A better choice is available. We can choose to listen to science and to believe our own eyes. We can choose to mobilize to ensure a livable planet for our children. Ask our federal and state government to aggressively move toward green energy. Let's have discussions on how we change our culture: how and where we live, travel, shop, or eat to develop and promote a sustainable, livable planet. Let's ask Washington for a Marshall Plan for our planet.

                                                                                                    Patricia Oliver 

We Need Action On Guns....

Gun violence is now the leading cause of death in children ("Gunfire taking toll on children," June 1).

On May 24, 19 children were massacred in school...where we expect kids to be safe and cared for.

Enough!

We deserve to live in communities that are safe and secure, where all can thrive and prosper. Until this epidemic of gun violence ends, the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are lost to senseless killings.

The time has come when thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need action. 

Tell Congress that we have seen enough. We must ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunitions, reinstate universal background checks, enact red flag laws, close gun show loopholes and hold the gun industry and NRA accountable.

Let's band together to address the root causes of violence. Eliminate poverty and promote acceptance, kindness, equity and diversity. Enhance mental health care. Demand government investment in helping our communities thrive. Restore our ability to live in a safe society where we can shop, worship and attend school and gatherings without fearing for our lives.

Join Voice of Westmoreland on the nationwide day of action, June 11, Rally Against Gun Violence at 6:30p.m. at St. Clair Park, Greensburg.

                                                                                                    Diana Steck (published on 6/8)

Record Profits....

In 2021, oil and gas companies made billions in record profits and decided to give that money to executives and shareholders rather than help consumers by stabilizing gas prices. Exxon Mobil announced $23 billion in earnings in 2021, its highest in 7 years. Plus, Exxon is expected to generate $41 billion of net income in 2022.

Opportunistic price hikes and excess profits are also happening in other industries. Tyson Foods, the nation's biggest meat  processor, posted quarter profits up 48% from a year earlier due to price increases. Home Depot profits up 38%, ADM food up 55%, McDonald's up 59%, Keurig Dr Pepper up 83%. Our beef cartel profits in 2021 were 300% higher than in the previous year. Based on pre-pandemic levels, top U.S. corporations are raising prices on us even as near profits surge by a medium of 49%. Companies are using those profits for stock buybacks, executive compensation and bumps in dividends instead of helping their consumers by holding down prices. 2021 was the most profitable year for corporations since 1950. 

Tell Washington you support Senators Whitehouse and Warren's windfall profit tax not only on oil and gas companies but on those companies gouging the American consumer. This is how the rich get richer and inequality happens.

                                                                                                    Julie Bojalad

Accountability....

Senator Ward's leadership failure means you pay more for your medicine.

Pennsylvanians face unaffordable prices for their drugs. Pharma's record profits in 2021, estimated at $120 billion, have grown twice as fast as other business sectors. It is long past time for our state legislators to act now on SB 579, which establishes a Pharmaceutical Transparency Review Board. This year alone, the price of 784 prescription drugs have already gone up. The Pharmaceutical Transparency Review Board created by SB 579 is an important way to highlight how much more Pennsylvanians are charged for their drugs.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have introduced legislation that would create such an entity that offers transparency, accountability, and oversight. But, State Senator Kim Ward has allowed SB 579 to remain "stuck" in committee.

Conservative legislatures in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Louisiana, and Texas have already passed similar legislation. Why hasn't Senator Ward taken similar steps to protect Pennsylvanians?

Senator Ward must take action now to move SB 579 from committee. Her leadership failure requires an explanation, and an apology to all Pennsylvanians. It is now time for Senator Ward to protect her constituents and all Pennsylvanians from pharma profiteering

                                                                                                       Michael Pardus

It's About Time....

Guns are now the #1 killer of our children. Forget thoughts and prayers, we need answers and action. The overwhelming majority of Americans have been screaming for gun reform for years. We know what needs to happen: get weapons of war off the streets. We have four percent of the world's population and thirty-one percent of all public mass shootings. This year, as of May 25, we have had 27 school shootings and 200 mass shootings. Only three percent of Americans own 50 percent of the guns, and only 32 percent claim to own a gun. Enough of the tyranny of the minority. The problem is not mental health, the solution is not more guns or fewer restrictions.

We have at both the federal and state level, bills passed in the House but languishing in the obstructionist Senate that would protect our children. These bills include gun safely stored, universal background checks, Red Flag laws, prohibiting assault weapons plus certain ammunition. In Pennsylvania, we have 16 gun reform bills stuck in committee that cannot even get a debate, even with 90 percent public approval. Before you vote, check if the candidate supports the gun industry or our children. If they support the gun industry, VOTE THEM OUT.

                                                                                                       Joanne Garing

Clear and Present Danger....

Years ago, when Walter Cronkite presented the CBS news, you had a high degree of confidence that what you were watching was accurate. The reason for this was a little-known FCC policy called the Fairness Doctrine which stated that since the airwaves belong to the public, a certain percentage of their broadcasting time should be dedicated for public good, and also to "present controversial issues of public importance" in an "honest, equitable and balanced" manner. Hence, children's programming, public service announcements, and the nightly news. However, with the advent of cable television, Reagan's FCC cancelled the policy. Soon after that change, along came entertainment shows that were designed to sound and look like news but weren't, tabloid tv, Rush Limbaugh and political talk radio, cable news,  primetime shows, etc. The people's confidence in the news was shattered. Now, we have alternative facts, well-crafted half-truths, unsubstantiated accusations of fake news, and addictive conspiracy theories. Everyone is having a hard time telling truth from fiction. I find this to be the most important issue facing us today. According to the historian Arnold Toynbee, who compared the rise and fall of several ancient civilizations in his ten volume A Study of History, societies start to fall when the people lose their ability to tell truth from fiction.

In the Seth Rich trial, Fox News' Lawyers argued that nobody takes Tucker Carlson seriously (which was not the first time Fox has successfully argued in court it has no obligation whatsoever to tell the truth). If this is true, FTC should force Fox to label Carlson's show as entertainment instead of news. None of our freedoms including free speech are absolute. Freedom must be balance with morality and responsibility. This verity is epitomized in the saying: your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. developed the standard of clear and present danger to evaluate whether speech is protected, giving the example of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre as something that shouldn't be allowed. A witness in a trial is not allowed to use his freedom of speech to lie under oath. A grocery store is not allowed to use its freedom of speech to pass off rat meat as beef. And in these situations, nobody seems to be bothered that it is the government that gets to judge what the truth is.

                                                                                                       Mike Garing

We Will Never Know Just How Many Lives Were Lost....

We will never know just how many American lives were unnecessarily lost to Covid-19. What was gained by not acknowledging or addressing the scientific data and early warnings? Who benefited from spreading misinformation about mask wearing, how the virus is spread, calling it a hoax or just saying it was just going to disappear? The initial lack of response to this catastrophic pandemic will be felt for generations. Children who lost their parents, parents who buried their children, not to mention the far-reaching emotional and physical lasting- in-print that will follow people for the rest of their lives.

The fear, anger, and conspiracy theories that were instigated throughout the course of the pandemic (and continues to this day) gave fuel to the mistrust of what could have saved lives. What was gained to not lessen the loss of a million fellow Americans and how can you justify this? To the people who grieve the death of someone dear that might have been prevented had there been a plan at the onset of the pandemic, there is no justice.

If you do not want to look at the human loss, then look at the economic loss. The pandemic has greatly depressed our ability to lift ourselves out of the hole Covid has put most Americans in. It has resulted in a lower work force, product shortages, inflation and price gouging. Again, who is benefitting from this?

When history is written about this dark time on our nation, what will the take away be? How will the next generation deal with the consequences of how the pandemic was handled. 

                                                                                                       Katie Forsythe

Charter Schools....

George Will's article, "Crippling charter schools",Trib, 4/24/22, falsely states that "charter schools are the most accountable public schools." In fact charters make up 6% of public schools in Pennsylvania but account for about 25% of the lowest performing schools. They. have a large negative effect on the test scores of white students, and cyber charters have a larger consistent negative effect on all outcomes.

In 2021 Pennsylvania spent $3 billion of taxpayer money on charters with little oversight. They have no elected school boards, no budget audit and few regulations. Charters receive generous funds from the school districts but have few of their costs. Charters are a shell game, they may be non-profit but they hire a for-profit management company to operate the school. They game the system. They pilfer money and students from cash strapped district schools.

Pennsylvania's flawed and outdated charter school law is regarded as one of the worst in the nation. Governor Wolf has proposed a plan to save $400 million a year in the overpaying of charters. His plan would hold low-performing charters accountable and would increase their transparency. However, our state legislators again are refusing to cooperate and continue their obstruction.

Before you vote, find out where the candidate stands on vouchers and charters. Don't let them use our tax dollars to privatize our children's education just to make some millionaire even more wealthy.

                                                                                                    Julia Garing

Country Moving in the Right Direction....

It is encouraging to see so many articles in the Trib pointing to our country moving in the right direction. Work is beginning on repairing bridges and roads which provide good paying jobs. Several presidents tried to develop an infrastructure plan but failed. Joe got it done.

Unemployment is down, GDP is up, hourly wages are up. More people are able to look for better paying jobs! Consumer spending is up. Union activity is up, guaranteeing workers better pay and benefits. In the past few months, our economy has been performing at a rate better than most people expected.

We still have several severe problems to resolve: the Ukraine situation, inflation, climate change, COVID, and Big Money's attack on our democracy, but it looks like our country may have turned the corner. We are holding those who broke the law on January 6, accountable. We are growing the middle class from the bottom up and middle out.

After four years of flirting with authoritarianism, democracy is coming back and pressing forward. We are not home yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

                                                                                                   Sandy Kramer

Tax Cuts and Inequality....

In the 1950's, corporations contributed 32% to the federal revenue, in 2013 it was 10%, and currently it is 7%, equal to more than a 3/4 reduction rate. This reduction in taxes paid by corporations is due to the Reagan, Bush, Trump tax cuts for the wealthy-few plus corporations. Republicans supported those tax cuts with no concern about the trillions of dollars in losses for our government. Reagan's policies were the beginning of a long and steady rise in income and wealth inequality.

In the 1960's, we had a graduated corporate tax structure, where the low estimate on profit was 15% and the highest rate was 50%. Before Trump's tax cuts the lowest rate was still 15%, but the highest rate had been reduced to 35%. Then, Trump reduced the tax rate even further to 21% and completely eliminated the graduated tax structure. No matter how much money a corporation makes, they still pay only 21%. Keep in mind that corporations make their money from you, the American taxpayer, who does have a graduated tax.

 

However eager the Republicans were for tax cuts to corporations, they did not feel it important during this economic downturn to help the American middle class. The American Rescue and the Infrastructure Plans passed with little or no Republican support. It seems the Democratic policies are concerned with the middle class while the Republican policies are concerned with their donor class.

                                                                                                   Joanne Garing 

The Real Intention Of the Koch Brothers....

The Koch Brothers are part of the super-wealthy with a net worth of over $120 billion. They spent millions to influence our government and gave $20 million to get Trump's tax cuts passed. The money was well-invested, for in 2018 alone, they saved $1 billion in taxes. Their American For Prosperity, Freedom Partners, and dark money PAC, all try to shape policy toward their agenda of minimal taxes for the wealthy, minimal regulations for business and privatization of everything. The Kochs' are for unfettered, law of the jungle, free markets, while forgetting the many times in the last 30 years that the American taxpayer has had to rescue bad acting too-big-to-fail companies.

 

Now, they want to privatize our public schools. Make no mistake, their funding of school board candidates in Pennsylvania, accompanied by their cry of freedom, choice, and liberty from vaccination and mask mandates is just a cover, a smoke screen.  They are weaponizing book-banning and CRT to hype participation by the GOP base. Few people realize their ultimate aim is to privatize schools for profit.

Public education is part of what made America great. We should support and strengthen our public school and our teachers and guard against this political theatre.

                                                                                                   Gloria Gralewski

The Cost Of Subsidies....

Government subsidies can have a very positive effect; think miracle drugs, the computer and internet. However, some could use scrutiny. Take Elon Musk, who has received $4.9 billion in subsidies, is worth $266 billion and some years paid little or no taxes. Or Jeff Bezos, who is worth $198 billion. In 2018 due to the Trump tax cuts, Amazon paid no taxes while receiving a $129 million tax rebate. Amazon has received $4.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies during the past 10 years that helped build its monopoly.

Subsidies should assist new innovations or struggling industries, but should not help billionaires build monopolies. Maybe the American taxpayer should receive interest on subsidies just like a bank receives interest from its borrowers.

Then there are companies like Comcast which has received state, local and federal subsidies of billions over many decades. In that time it has gobbled up other cable and related companies to become a giant corporation. Comcast chose company growth rather than affordable cost for its services. If you object to Comcast's price gouging maybe it is time for cable to be treated as a utility. Maybe Americans should be, in some small way, compensated for the profitable use of its taxes just like a royalty on a patent.

                                                                                                   Julie Garing

The Cost of Fossil Fuels....

The Biden Administration's Infrastructure Plan that includes addressing the dangers of abandoned mines, is great news for Pennsylvania (Pa. mine cleanup funding seen as game-changer", Trib, Feb.8, 2022). For too long we have had to deal with the negative aftermath of mines. Abandoned mine runoff is the primary cause of water quality issues in PA. In Westmoreland County we have 732 miles of impaired streams representing almost 33% of the total. Our water quality is an urgent issue.

 

According to your article, $245 million for 15 years has been earmarked for PA. That equals over 43.6 billion for this project. This is a lot of taxpayer money being spent to clean up the toxic waste left by a very profitable industry. There should be consequences for a money-making company that pollutes our environment and simply walks away.

 

But wait, it gets worse. The American taxpayer subsidizes the fossil fuel industry. According to a report released by Penn Future, ("Buried Out of Sight: Uncovering Pennsylvania's Hidden Fossil Fuel Subsidies,") a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, in Fiscal Year 2019 $3.8 billion was barely enough to cover the cost of Pennsylvania's annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, costing approximately $296 for every person in Pa. More than half the value of the subsidies went to the shale gas industry to support fracking and other activities.

 

To summarize, we pay the industry to make money and then we use tax dollars to pay to clean up their trash that is putting our health at risk. This is corporate socialism, welfare to the wealthy at its worse. In 2012 the coal mining industry contributed $15.3 million to mostly Republican campaigns, only 4% of donations went to Democrats.

                                                                                                   Patricia Oliver 

Ukraine-History Rhymes But History Matters....

Mark Twain once said, "History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme."

Putin has said that one reason for his invasion of Ukraine is to "de-Nazify" Ukraine, which would be humorous on an Orwellian level if it was not so obviously a vile and malignant lie. It is Putin, for reasons we may never fully comprehend, who is following the Nazi's path to war in the 1930's, albeit on a much more rapidly accelerated timetable.

Anschluss with Austria Spring 1938? Check. See the "friendly takeover" of Belarus at the request of its dictator, Lukashenko. Demanding that a border area, the Sudetenland, filled with ethnic Germans be incorporated into the Reich to prevent a fictitious genocide? Check. See the recognition of the "independent separatist republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk. Full-scale military invasion of the rump state of Czechoslovakia in Spring 1939? Check. See the current invasion of what is left of Ukraine. All of this done in the blink of an eye.

What's next? Demand for a land corridor connecting Russia's Kaliningrad District, currently surrounded by the independent nations of Poland and Lithuania, replicating Hitler's demand for a land corridor connecting the Reich with Danzig? Perhaps. A nostalgic re-creation of a Greater Russian Empire, invading Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which like Ukraine, were part of the Tsarist Russian and Soviet Empires, with or without the use of the Russian equivalent of the word "Lebensraum?" Perhaps.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "It has been said of the world's history hitherto that might makes right. It is for us and for our time to reverse the maxim, and to say that right makes might."

Does might make right? Shall we accede to that noxious creed? That is why Ukraine, and History, matter.

                                                                                                   Eric Falk 

What Path will You Choose to Protect Our Freedom....

In the past, I thought the Republican party wanted to return to an idealized version of the 1950's and 1960's. Men were the breadwinners. A much lower number of women were employed outside the home in the workforce. However, recently I have begun to realize that what the GOP really wants is to return to the 1600's, a time when Galileo was placed under house arrest because of his forward-thinking remarks. Today, some threaten bodily harm to Dr. Fauci because he promotes what scientific knowledge dictates. A portion of our fellow citizens rail against getting vaccinated, even though doing so protects one's life and the lives of those around them. They attach more credence to talk-show opinion than proven data.

Banning books has surfaced again. If you do an online search going back even six months ago, the volume of attention to certain categories of literature has increased dramatically. The struggles for justice and even  the mention of our founding father's ideas often evokes pushback. Reality can be painful, and some of our fellow citizens are not ready to accept the truth of the past. Ignorance and prejudice flourish when facts and knowledge are hidden from access.

As for government, the GOP seems to suggest that the middle class cannot be trusted to supply useful and credible solutions for government issues. They promote a system that best enables the privileged to thrive affecting all those who are not part of that group. What path will you choose to protect our personal freedoms.

                                                                           Katie Forsythe